Gaza news

Egypt arrests two Gaza fishermen

(AFP) Sep 14, 2013

Egyptian naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza Strip’s southern coast and arrested two of them, the Islamist movement Hamas that rules the Palestinian enclave said.

Hamas “condemns the fire from Egyptian gunboats toward Palestinians within Palestinian waters, and the arrest of some of them,” movement spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

A local security source said Egyptian navy forces opened fire at two fishermen in waters off the southern Gaza city Rafah and arrested them, noting there were no injuries in the incident.

This was the second time in recent weeks that Egyptian forces have opened fire at Gaza fishermen and made arrests. On August 30 two Palestinian fishermen were wounded and five others arrested by Egyptian navy forces, according to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007

And on Thursday, two Egyptian army tanks crossed an initial border fence leading to Gaza for the first time.

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Rafah crossing closed for fourth consecutive day

Sep 14, 2013

“Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah crossing with Gaza closed for a fourth consecutive day on Saturday.

The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Egypt, Barakat al-Farra, urged Gazan students enrolled in Egyptian universities to send their details to the embassy in Cairo so that arrangements can be made to obtain special permits to allow students to cross into Egypt.

The ambassador told Ma’an that his team will contact Egyptian universities to try to delay examinations for Palestinian students who are not able to cross into the country.

The crossing is the only way most Palestinians in Gaza can enter or leave the territory. Israel imposes an air and sea blockade on the enclave, and its border is closed to Palestinians.”

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Egypt tanks cross fence leading to Gaza

Sep 13, 2013

(AFP) — Two Egyptian army tanks crossed an initial border fence leading to Gaza for the first time on Thursday, witnesses said, but did not enter the Palestinian territory itself.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers neither confirmed nor denied the incursion, but said no Egyptian tanks had entered the besieged Strip.

The tanks “crossed the first Egyptian border fence along the corridor between Egypt and (Gaza), and drove along the road running next to the cement wall” that Egypt built, the witnesses said.

They said it was the “first time Egyptian tanks have been in this area, although they didn’t cross into the Palestinian side,” adding that soldiers on top of the tanks had masked faces.

A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas government, Ihab al-Ghassin, said that no Egyptian tanks had crossed onto the Israeli-blockaded territory.

Hamas’s interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said the movement’s “security forces denied entry to any Egyptian tanks,” but gave no further details.

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Israel exploits Egypt turmoil to increase attacks on Gaza farmers

Joe Catron, Sep 12, 2013

Farming in the Gaza Strip’s “buffer zone” is hazardous under the best circumstances. Israeli troops routinely shoot live ammunition at Palestinian farmers in the free-fire area, which stretches hundreds of meters into the besieged territory from the barrier separating it and Israel, and invade their fields with tanks and bulldozers.

But Israel’s aggression against civilians in the area has escalated since the Egyptian army deposed elected president Muhammad Morsi and installed a new government on 3 July, according to Gaza’s farmers.

“After the coup in Egypt, the Israelis began shooting more heavily,” said Abu Jamal Abu Taima, a farmer in Khuzaa, a village in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza.

Abu Jamal is the mukhtar, or elected leader, of the Abu Taima family, 3,500 refugees from Bir al-Saba — a town in present-day Israel called Beersheva — now scattered among the farmlands outside Khan Younis.

He and two dozen other farmers from the family spoke to The Electronic Intifada during and after a meeting they held in Khuzaa.

“Egypt was the guarantor of the last ceasefire agreement [in 2012],” he said. “Now the Israelis are free to do whatever they want.”

“Just a few months ago, there was no gunfire. Now there is. We aren’t even in season yet, but they have already started to shoot.”

Morsi’s government brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups on 21 November last year, ending eight days of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip and retaliatory fire from groups in the territory.

As part of the agreement, Israel reduced the “buffer zone,” which it had imposed in 2005, from 300 meters to 100 meters, according to the the Israeli military’s civil administrative unit, COGAT.

Targeted

In May this year, following months of conflicting claims about the size of the area by COGAT and the Israeli military’s spokesperson, COGAT stated that the “buffer zone” remained at 300 meters (“IDF: ‘Forbidden zone’ in Gaza three times larger than previously stated,” +972 Magazine, 12 May 2013).

But farmers say Israeli gunfire has extended the zone even further.

“According to the ceasefire, farmers could reach nearly all their lands,” Abu Jamal Abu Taima said. “These days, the Israelis are shooting farmers at 500 meters [from the boundary].”

He is not the only farmer who attributes the shift to turmoil in Egypt.

“After the coup, the Israelis expanded the area farmers couldn’t reach to 500 meters,” Abed al-Rasoul Abu Taima said. “Anyone coming closer to the separation barrier will be shot.”

Other farmers say they have been targeted even further from the barrier.

“The Israelis shot at me at 800 meters,” Zakaria Abu Taima said. “I was preparing to plant when they opened fire. I hid in an iron pipe, but the bullets came right through it.”

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented one Israeli shelling attack, twelve shootings, and seven incursions — resulting in a death and seven injuries, including two children — in the “buffer zone” during July and August.

Since the beginning of September, Israeli forces have undertaken at least two further incursions to level farmland.

Many other attacks, especially shootings that do not result in deaths or injuries, are never reported, according to farmers.

“It’s curious now, when you are talking about these limited incursions,” said Khalil Shaheen, head of PCHR’s economic and social rights unit.

“Violations define the restricted area. Officially, according to COGAT, the de jure area is 300 meters. But de facto, it depends on the incursions.”

Israel’s attacks in the “buffer zone,” especially those beyond 300 meters, discourage farmers from growing trees or building structures, like electrical pumps or wells.

“They don’t allow farmers to plant trees or build infrastructure,” said Dr. Nabil Abu Shammala, director of policy and planning at the Palestinian ministry of agriculture and fisheries. “They claim this is for reasons of their security.

“Agricultural activities in this area face many kinds of risks. Farmers avoid it not only because of gunfire, but also the destruction of land and infrastructure,” he added.

“We are afraid”

Amid the current rise in Israeli attacks, the potential destruction of their land particularly worries Gaza’s farmers.

The threat of Israeli bulldozers leveling fields has convinced many to delay the start of their fall planting.

“We are afraid to reach our land because, after we plant, the Israelis may come and destroy everything,” explained Abdul Azia Mahmoud Abu Taima.

“It’s regular for the bulldozers to level our land every week,” said Abed el-Aziz Abu Taima. “No one can stop them.”

When asked about the bulldozers used to raze their fields, farmers described the distinctive triangular treads of Caterpillar’s weaponized D-9 bulldozers.

“Caterpillar is the main weapon of destruction for the Israelis in the ‘buffer zone,’” said PCHR’s Shaheen. “They haven’t changed their company policy, despite all the information they’ve been given on the use of their machines here.

“After the farmers heard that they could access their lands up to 100 meters, they planted them. Now they cannot reach them. They lost their harvest. Israeli bulldozers levelled it.

“It’s very important to show what Caterpillar is doing, and that they know what’s happening.”

Under current circumstances, farmers face a delayed season with heightened dangers and an uncertain outcome.

“We are waiting until November to begin planting,” Zakaria Abu Taima said. “Usually, we would have started by now.”

“Of course we will plant,” remarked Abu Jamal Abu Taima. “But before we harvest, the Israelis may come with their bulldozers.”

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Gaza fishers and farmers: nowhere to go

Sep 13, 2013, Kevin Neish

We had a meeting with some leaders in the Gaza commercial fishing industry, to hear their stories and see if or how we can assist them.

Gaza Strip fishers have historically been some of the poorest families here, especially as many are not refugees, and so do not receive UN assistance. Their lot has been made that much worse with the attacks and restrictions imposed on them by the Israeli forces. Since the July Egyptian coup, the Israelis have ignored the Nov 2012 ceasefire that was brokered by the previous Morsi Egyptian government. There’s been a sad litany of recent violations against Palestinian fishers:

the arbitrary reduction of the fishing area from six nautical miles to five.

the Israelis are now holding weekly military exercises within Palestinian waters. Yesterday morning activists watched as an Israeli gunboat cruised along, only 500 meters off the coast of Gaza City.

the Israeli navy usually just shot at ships’ hulls, but are now shooting at the fishermen themselves.

Gaza fishers are being shot at three miles, two miles and even just one mile from shore. Two fishers from Shadi Camp were recently shot by Israeli forces while well inside the new five-mile limit.

a safety related, permanently anchored, Palestinian light ship, marking their safe fishing limit, was just stolen by Israeli forces.

Even with all these provocations, the Gaza government is still striving to keep the ceasefire alive, going as far as to pass their own law, to arrest any fisher crossing the six-mile ceasefire limit. And we activists have not been encouraged to accompany the fishers, in case our presence may encourage fishers to “push the envelope” and challenge the Israelis.

The trickle down effects of all this on fishing families eventually hits the youth the hardest, with no funds for education, clothing, proper nutrition and ultimately no next generation at all, as there is no work, accommodations or finances for young fishermen’s families to get started.

And the farmer’s lot is no better, as we found out at a recent meeting in Khan Younis, with farmers who own land close to the Israeli “buffer zone.

Even though it is time to plant, these farmers are not even attempting to approach their fields due to Israeli sniper fire. The November cease fire, supposedly guaranteed that farmers could work their land, up to 100 meters from the border, but the Israelis only honored that for three months, and now shoot at farmers 800 meters from the border. And even if they do manage to get plants in the ground, they cannot tend and water them due to the danger. Even if they could do this, the Israeli bulldozers and tanks are flagrantly crossing into the “buffer zone” and destroying their hard work in minutes. So now their plan is to wait until the fall rains come, so the crops will not need as much dangerous personal attention from the farmers, and ISM will be there, to at the very least, document any ceasefire violations. But, at a minimum, three crucial months of farming some of the most productive land in Gaza, are being lost, in a country desperate for food. And with the tunnels to Egypt now cut off, the Palestinians are left to buy overpriced, second-rate produce and junk food from Israel.

As well, they now have to buy Israeli fuel at double the cost of Egyptian tunnel fuel, so everything from taxi rides to the farms to bread for their families has gone up. And Gaza is going from having power cuts of eight to twelve hours a day to only having power for 4 hours a day. Besides the personal impossibilities of managing a household of refrigerators, freezers, well water pumps, washing machines, computers and such, on just four hours of electricity, think of the hospitals. The famous recent instance, of a Gaza doctor during a power outage completing an operation using the light of his cell phone, may soon not be so unusual.

It would seem the Israeli military is trying to goad Gaza into striking out at them, and then the “retaliatory” Israeli attacks would begin. And then this one-way ceasefire would truly end, with rockets and missiles flying in both directions, and the Western media will suddenly, but belatedly, take notice of Gaza. There is a desire for peace over here, if someone from the “outside” would just offer some support.

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