Posts Tagged ‘ Gaza ’

Israeli defense minister resigns over Gaza cease-fire deal

November 14, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister abruptly resigned Wednesday in protest over a cease-fire reached with Gaza militants, in a move that rocked the Israeli political scene and seemed likely to bring about early elections.

Avigdor Lieberman said the cease-fire amounted to “surrender to terrorism” after two days of heavy fighting, and that he could no longer serve a government that endorsed it. Lieberman had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the most intense round of rocket fire against Israel since a 50-day war in 2014, but appeared to have been overruled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His resignation delivers a major blow to Netanyahu’s coalition government and sparked immediate calls for early elections. Lieberman said he hoped that in the coming days a date would be set for a new vote. The opposition parties joined his call.

The government still has a narrow one-seat majority in the Knesset without Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu faction, but is unlikely to survive until the next elections, currently set for November 2019.

The party of another Netanyahu rival, Naftali Bennett, has already announced that if he is not appointed defense minister it will also quit the coalition — a move that would trigger early elections. Given Bennett’s sometimes rocky relationship with Netanyahu, it is far from certain he will be given the powerful defense post. Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, said “the countdown has begun” to the end of Netanyahu’s term in office.

Lieberman’s resignation will take effect in 48 hours and Netanyahu will take over the defense portfolio on an interim basis. Netanyahu currently also serves as Israel’s foreign minister. Netanyahu had come under heavy criticism for agreeing to the cease-fire, especially from his own political base and in rocket-battered towns in southern Israel that are typically strongholds of his ruling Likud Party.

Angry residents took to the street Tuesday chanting “Disgrace!” at what they saw as the government’s capitulation to violence and its inability to provide long-term security. Many have openly vowed to never vote Likud again.

“We are third-class citizens here in Sderot and the communities on the border with Gaza,” complained David Maimon, a local resident. “It’s a shame. Instead of helping us and letting us live quietly, they let us suffer.”

Recent months have seen sporadic rocket attacks as well as militant infiltration attempts and a wave of incendiary kites that have destroyed Israeli crops. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. But Lieberman and Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Netanyahu defended his actions at a memorial ceremony in the Negev desert for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. “I see the big picture of Israeli security that I cannot share with the public,” he said. “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire and they know well why. I cannot detail our plans for the future. We will dictate the time and circumstances that are right for Israel and are right for the security of our people.”

“In times like these, leadership is not doing the easy thing. Leadership is doing the right thing, even if it is hard. Leadership is sometime facing criticism,” he added. Lieberman said the cease-fire deal, coupled with a decision to allow Qatar to deliver $15 million in aid to Gaza last week, were too much for him to bear.

“We are buying quiet in the short-term at the cost of severe damage to our security in the long-term,” he said in his resignation announcement. “The weakness we displayed also projects itself to other arenas.”

A gleeful Hamas said Lieberman’s resignation marked a “political victory for Gaza.” “Lieberman’s departure is recognition of defeat and failure to confront the Palestinian resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement. “Gaza’s steadfastness sent a political shockwave.”

The Israel-Gaza frontier remained largely quiet overnight after the heavy fighting of recent days. But on Wednesday afternoon, Gaza’s fishermen’s union said a 20-year-old fisherman was fatally shot on the beach near the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

The Israeli military said it opened fire under standard procedure after the man ventured too close to the border. Hamas had no immediate reaction. During this week’s fighting, Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel in a 24-hour period, while the Israeli military carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. In Israel, one person was killed in a rocket strike and three were critically wounded.

With air raid sirens wailing throughout southern Israel and the explosions of airstrikes thundering in Gaza, the two sides had appeared to be on the verge of their fourth war in a decade. Instead, Gaza’s Hamas rulers abruptly announced a cease-fire and Israel’s Security Cabinet ended a seven-hour discussion with a decision to hold its fire.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and U.N. mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

Hamas has staged near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007. The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and Israel refuses to lift it unless Hamas disarms, a demand rejected by militant group, which is pledged to Israel’s destruction.

Demonstrators each week have approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed. Israel says it is defending its border against attackers, but it has come under heavy international criticism for shooting unarmed people.

Advertisements

Israeli fire kills 6 Palestinians at Gaza protest

October 13, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian health officials say Israeli forces have shot dead six Palestinians, four of them in a single incident, in one of the deadliest days in months of mass protests along the security fence separating Gaza and Israel.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Friday that four were killed in one location, where the Israeli military said it opened fire on a crowed of Palestinians who breached the fence and approached an army post. No Israeli troops were harmed, the army added.

Two other Palestinians were killed in other protest locations, the ministry said, adding that at least 140 Palestinians were wounded by live bullets. Since March, Hamas has orchestrated near-weekly protests along the fence.

The Israeli military said 14,000 Palestinians thronged the border fence areas Friday.

Turkey to provide $1 million in aid to embattled Gaza

18.05.2018

JERUSALEM

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) will provide $1 million in emergency aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan, according to TIKA officials.

Bulent Korkmaz, TIKA’s Palestine program coordinator, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that recent Israeli atrocities against unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza had prompted outrage in Turkey, leading Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to order an immediate aid disbursement.

The aid will include the distribution of food packages throughout Ramadan to 12,000 Gazan families and hot fast-breaking (iftar) meals to 1,000 families each day, Korkmaz said.

He added that the aid would also include the provision of medicine and medical equipment worth $200,000 to hospitals in Gaza.

According to Palestine’s official statistics agency, the poverty rate in Gaza reached 53 percent in 2017, with at least 250,000 people — of the strip’s roughly two-million-strong population — facing unemployment.

An ongoing Israeli blockade, imposed since 2006, is believed to be the primary reason for the economic stagnation.

Ramadan this year comes amid heightened tensions in the Palestinian territories.

On Monday, scores of Palestinian demonstrators were martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli troops near the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/todays-headlines/turkey-to-provide-1-million-in-aid-to-embattled-gaza/1150201.

Qatar opens courts in Gaza

September 17, 2018

The Qatari envoy yesterday inaugurated the Justice Palace complex in the central Gaza Strip.

Qatari Ambassador Mohamed Al-Emadi, head of the National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, launched the 11 dunam (2.7 acre) site which cost $11 million to build and comprises the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court, as well as Appeal, First Instance and Reconciliation courts.Abdul Raouf Al-Halabi, president of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary in the Gaza Strip, praised Qatar’s efforts to complete the project and its continued support to the Palestinian people.

“I am pleased on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. We welcome your presence here,” he said.

Al-Halabi explained that this project is a major Palestinian landmark, “to begin through this moment the first stage of the march of judicial development in the Gaza Strip.”

He thanked the Qatari Ambassador and his team for their efforts and support to complete the project.

The National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza is carrying out a number of projects in the Gaza Strip as a part of $407 million grant from His Highness the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180917-qatar-opens-courts-in-gaza/.

Norway demands Israel explain seizure of boat bound for Gaza

July 31, 2018

Norway has asked Israel to explain the legal grounds for detaining a Norwegian-flagged fishing boat seized while activists tried to sail with aid to the Gaza Strip, Norway’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said its diplomats in Israel had been providing consular assistance to five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers and crew detained onboard the vessel Kaarstein on Sunday. Two Israelis on board were quickly released.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” the spokesman for the Norwegian foreign affairs ministry in Oslo said. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Torstein Dahle, head of the group Ship to Gaza Norway which organised the shipment, said it was the first Norwegian aid vessel to attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The captain had been struck on the head by Israeli soldiers who ordered him to sail for Israel, but no one was seriously hurt, Dahle said.

“This is a peaceful boat; it’s impossible that it can threaten Israel’s security,” he said.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has fought three wars against Israel in the decade since taking power there.

Israel, citing security concerns that include fears of Hamas weapons smuggling, maintains a naval blockade of Gaza, and along with Egypt also restricts imports by land.

The territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly the stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel at its founding in 1948. Under the blockade, Gaza has suffered an economic crisis creating what the World Bank describes as a “collapse in humanitarian conditions” including access to clean water, medicine and electricity.

Numerous activist ships have been prevented from reaching Gaza in recent years. An Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla in 2010, in which ten activists were killed, caused a serious rupture in relations between Israel and Turkey, one of Israel’s few friends in the Middle East.

Audun Lysbakken, leader of Norway’s opposition Socialist Left party, called on the foreign ministry to protest against what he described as Israel “hijacking” the Norwegian boat in international waters.

Among those detained is Mikkel Gruner, a Danish citizen who lives in Norway and is the Socialist Left representative in the municipal council of the Norwegian city of Bergen. Lysbakken said the activists had legal rights to protest against Israel’s blockade, demanding the release of Gruner and the others.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180731-norway-demands-israel-explain-seizure-of-boat-bound-for-gaza/.

Gaza residents pray near Israel, as Muslims mark major feast

June 15, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza worshipers knelt on prayer rugs spread on sandy soil, near the perimeter fence with Israel, joining hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world Friday in marking the holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan.

The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday is typically a time of family visits and festive meals, with children getting new clothes, haircuts and gifts. In the Middle East, celebrations were once again marred by prolonged conflict in hot spots such as Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.

In the Gaza Strip, some worshipers performed the traditional morning prayers of the holiday in areas several hundred meters (yards) away from the heavily guarded fence with Israel. Friday’s prayers marked the continuation of weeks-long protests against a blockade of Gaza, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the 2007 takeover of the territory by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Since late March, more than 120 protesters have been killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire in the area of the fence.

Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader, joined worshipers in an area east of Gaza City. At one point, as the faithful bowed their heads on their prayer mats in unison, a young man on crutches — presumably injured in previous protests — followed the ritual while he remained standing. Some activists later approached the fence, burning tires.

Protest organizers said they planned to release large numbers of kites and balloons with incendiary materials rags throughout the day Friday, in hopes they will land in Israel. Such kites with burning rags attached have reportedly burned hundreds of acres of crops and forests in Israel.

Protest organizer Mohammed al-Tayyar, a member of a group calling itself the “burning kites unit,” said Friday larger balloons with greater potential for damage would be released after 10 days unless the blockade is lifted. Israel’s defense minister has said Israel is determined to stop such kites and balloons.

The protests have been organized by Hamas, but turnout has been driven by growing despair in Gaza about blockade-linked hardships; unemployment now approaches 50 percent and electricity is on for just a few hours every day.

Hamas has also billed the protests as the “Great March of Return,” suggesting they would somehow pave the way for a return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants — about two-thirds of Gaza’s residents — to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or fled in the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation. Haniyeh told reporters after Friday’s prayers, which were also being held outdoors in another location east of the town of Khan Younis, that protests would continue.

He said a recent U.N. General Assembly resolution blaming Israel for the Gaza violence “shows that the marches of return and breaking the siege revived the Palestinian issue and imposed the issue on the international agenda.” The resolution also said Israel had used excessive force against Palestinian protesters.

Israel says it is defending its territory and civilians living near Gaza. It has accused Hamas of trying to use the protests as cover for damaging the fence and trying to carry out cross-border attacks. Israel and Egypt argue that the blockade is needed to contain Hamas which has a history of violence and refuses to disarm.

In Jerusalem, senior Muslim cleric Muhammad Hussein told tens of thousands of worshipers that a plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, expected to be unveiled by the Trump administration, is unfair and “aims at the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.”

President Donald Trump has promised to negotiate the “ultimate deal” but the plan’s reported, though unconfirmed parameters have been dismissed by the Palestinians as siding with Israel. The Palestinian issue also loomed large in Iran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing worshipers Friday, praised citizens for showing up at massive rallies last week in support of the Palestinians on Jerusalem Day. That day was initiated by Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Israel.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an Eid al-Fitr message that he believes the “land of Palestine will be returned to owners of the land with the help if God.” Iran and Israel are bitter foes. In Syria, President Bashar Assad attended Eid prayers in the town of Tartous, part of an area that has remained loyal to him throughout seven years of civil war. The coastal region is home to Syria’s minority Alawite population that has been the core of Assad’s support. Assad, an Alawite, traces his family’s origins to Qardaha, a town in the mountains nearby.

Tens of thousands of men from the coastal region are believed to have been killed fighting for the president since 2011, according to Syrian monitoring groups. Assad is now in control of Syria’s largest cities and its coastal region.

In Afghanistan, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani touted a three-day holiday cease-fire with the Taliban, calling for a longer truce and urging the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. The Taliban agreed to the cease-fire but leader Haibaitullah Akhunzada reiterated his demand for talks with the U.S. before sitting down with the Afghan government.

Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Jericho, West Bank and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed reporting.

Hamas extols Turkey’s swift response to Gaza massacre

16.05.2018

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania

Hamas on Tuesday expressed its appreciation for Turkey’s rapid response to Monday’s massacre committed by Israeli troops against peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency during a visit to Mauritania, where he will take part in a pro-Palestine conference, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the support of the Turkish government and people for the Palestinian cause.

“The Turkish people hit the streets immediately after Monday’s massacre; this was very encouraging,” he said.

According to Abu Zuhri, Turkey’s role is of especial importance as the country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Israel’s ambassador to Ankara left Turkey on Wednesday — at the latter’s request — shortly after the deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag announced Monday that the Turkish government had declared three days of mourning in solidarity with Gaza’s martyrs.

“We appreciate the Turkish role and hope to strengthen this interaction with the provision of needed humanitarian relief to Gaza, which continues to remain under siege,” Abu Zuhri said.

He also called for opening hospitals to help treat Gaza’s injured, urging Turkish organizations to provide support to struggling Gazan families.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred — and hundreds more injured — by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the border.

Monday’s demonstration had coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary — an event Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe” — and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which also took place Monday.

Since the Gaza rallies began on Mar. 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government said the ongoing border protests constituted a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law did not apply.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/hamas-extols-turkey-s-swift-response-to-gaza-massacre/1147798.

Advertisements