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July 29th 2010
Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

29 July 2010 | ISM Gaza  

Five International Solidarity Movement volunteers participated in a demonstration against the bufferzone near Nahal Oz border crossing, east of Gaza City on Wednesday (July 28th).

The march had a big turn out of over 200 people and was organised by the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone, an umbrella group which includes organisations representing farmers and local people living near the border. Members of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), a grass-roots organisation heavily involved in the protests against the buffer-zone, waved prominent large white flags.

An Israeli army jeep and a large armoured Israeli vehicle were already in position as the demonstrators approached a ridge 150 metres from the fence, where they stood, waving flags and chanting well inside the ‘no go area’ or ‘buffer-zone’ unilaterally imposed by Israel, covering land 300m from the border fence along the entire frontier with Israel. Violent attacks by the Israeli military on anyone in the area have been a consistent occurrence – frequently live ammunition has been used against peaceful demonstrators and even farmers harvesting crops. According to the Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) the ‘buffer zone‘ contains over 30% of Gaza’s most useful arable land.

As the demonstration progressed three more jeeps and two tanks arrived. Five soldiers in firing positions were visible outside the vehicles.

Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

In the beginning of the demonstration the majority of participants marched to about 300 metres to the border where the speeches were made, with demonstrators that included a large group of women, carrying banners condemning the occupation and the siege.

Although in the previous demonstration in Nahal Oz the protesters there were heavily fired upon, this time the watching Israeli snipers did not fire. Some youths advanced to within 100m of the border fence, near to where 21 year old Ahmed Deeb was shot and killed by an explode-on-impact bullet or ‘dum dum’, at a Nahal Oz demonstration on the 28th April this year. That demonstration was non-violent as was Wednesday’s but the continuous use of live ammunition by the Israeli Occupation Forces has caused frequent deaths and numerous injuries for farmers and their families, scrap collectors and demonstrators.

Abu Walid Mahmoud Al-Zaq of the Popular Struggle Front and coordinator of the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone was pleased with the turn-out and helped re-group the crowd when the demonstration had finished, fortunately without injuries.

He explained the importance of continuing to demonstrate despite the risk of live fire: “We will support the farmers who have to work their own land in the buffer-zone in spite of the regular violent attacks on them and their families – we will refuse to let the access to our land be controlled by the brutal policies of the Israeli Occupation Forces.” He also said he invites anyone who can to join a buffer-zone demonstration.

Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) report that the fertile farmland located around the buffer zone was in recent times the source of half of the food needs of Gaza’s population. Purely due to Israel’s siege of Gaza’s borders and their continuous attacks, farming has now become a very unproductive industry. Of the 175,000 dunams of cultivable land, PARC reported that 60 to 75,000 dunams have been destroyed during Israeli invasions and operations.

The level of destruction from the last Israeli war on Gaza alone accounted for the destruction of 35 to 60 percent of the agricultural industry, according to the UN and World Health Organization. Gaza’s sole agricultural college, in Beit Hanoun, was also destroyed. Oxfam notes that the combination of the Israeli war on Gaza and the buffer zone renders around 46 percent of agricultural land useless or unreachable.

Between January and April this year there have been 50 people injured and 14 killed in attacks on the buffer zone. In the past twelve months there have been at least 220 Israeli attacks with 116 coming since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR, as of April 30th).

Journalists killed by Israel while reporting in Gaza were remembered at an award ceremony in Gaza City yesterday; family members and co-workers received a plaque in their honour.

Abu Walid Mahmoud Al-Zaq of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), the group organising the event – on their 43rd anniversary – presented awards in memory of ten journalists.

One of those was James Miller, a British documentary-maker killed in Gaza in May 2003, whose award was accepted on his behalf by current members of the International Solidarity Movement working in Gaza.

One Palestinian journalist honoured was Fadel Shana’a, killed along with eight other noncombatants, by a flechette shell fired by an Israeli tank, clearly seen by Fadel’s own footage of the shell being fired before he was killed a few seconds later.

After the first missile that killed Fadel, the clearly marked Reuters vehicle in which he had been travelling took a direct hit from a second tank, killing two children and another civilian close by, and injuring twelve others, including five children. Wafa Abu Mezyed, 25, a Reuters sound technician, was also injured.

On 13 August 2009 the IDF closed an investigation into Fadel Shana’a’s death, without taking disciplinary action against the tank crew that his own video clearly showed killing him.

Collecting the award on his behalf was cameraman and friend Sameer Al-Boje of Palmedia.. He expressed happiness that there were organisations showing appreciation for – and raising the profile of – the invaluable and often perilous work of journalists and cameramen in the occupied territories.

cameraman Sameer Al-Boje of Palmedia receiving the award in honour of Fadel Shana'a

When asked of the dangers he continues to face in Gaza he told us, “They don’t outweigh the importance of getting the real story out as to what is happening to the Palestinians.”

“When I entered this job, I knew that Israel doesn’t care about Palestinian journalists and that they would be happy to shoot them – there is no protection for the media here in Gaza because Israel does not want us to get this kind of news out.”

Sameer called on international organisations to do more to ensure safety for journalists in the course of their important work: “I feel its dangerous every time I go out there. We are not provided with any freedom of the press and media rights taken for granted in other countries. This is what we need if we are to continue sending out the real news of what’s happening in Gaza.”

Like the Palestinian Red Crescent, Palestinian journalists continue to be the first at the scene in the most dangerous times in Gaza, and so much of the footage the world sees is recorded by people well aware that they could become the next news story or grim statistic following the next Israeli attack in the continuous barrage.

A poster of Ihab Al-Wehadi killed 9th January during Operation Cast Lead

The full list of the journalists deservedly honoured at the ceremony
  • Basel Faraj, a cameraman, died January 6th 2009 from injuries sustained in an air strike on Gaza Decmeber 27th 2008. His killing was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
  • Ala’a Mortaja, died during Operation Cast Lead.
  • Hamza Shaheen, photojournalist for the Shihab News Agency, died December 2008.
  • Fadel Shana’a, a Reuters camerman, killed April 16th 2008.
  • Hassa Shaqora, killed March 2008.
  • James Miller, killed in Rafah on 2nd May 2003. Watch a video about his death here.
  • Ihab Al-Wehadi, (pictured right) cameraman for Palestine TV, killed with his wife and mother on 9th January 2009 during Operation Cast Lead when Israel shelled their apartment in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.
  • Mahamed Herzallah, details unknown.
  • Bilal Deeba, details unknown.
  • Omar As-Silawa, details unknown.

9 year old Samah in a 'semi critical' condition after being severely injured by a nail bomb blast on Wednesdey

“She came in through the front door and it wasn’t clear she was injured. Suddenly a lot of blood came from her nose and she vomited, all of the family saw this — her little brothers were very scared. She had just been playing in the front of the house.”

That is how Nihed el Massry describes what happened to her daughter, nine-year-old Samah Eid al-Massry, after the Israeli army reportedly shelled and fired four bombs into and around a residential area in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip on 21 July. Samah is now being hospitalized in serious condition, suffering from extensive blood loss and very low haemoglobin. She was hit by shrapnel and flechettes from a nail bomb that landed 100 meters away, causing internal bleeding to the chest and severe head trauma. Nails are now embedded throughout her body. Shells containing flechettes are illegal under international law if fired into densely populated civilian areas. Three other children were wounded in the attack. and Samah is one of four children injured in the attack.

Two young men were killed; Muhammad al-Kafarneh, 23, suffered severe shrapnel injuries to the back and chest and Kasim al-Shinbary, 19, was wounded by nails embedded in his skull and shrapnel his back. It was unclear earlier whether they were resistance fighters or if they were civilians — the Israeli military called them “militants,” certainly not applicable the four children aged four to 11 injured in hospital whose parents were found weeping over their loved ones in al-Shifa hospital last night in Gaza City.

Four-year-old Haitham Thaer Qasem, injured by an Israeli nail bomb

Haitham Thaer Qasem, a four-year-old boy and an only child, was sleeping on the hospital bed, occasionally gasping for breath through the apparatus around his nose. He had suffered deep nasal trauma, and flechette darts from the bomb were still embedded in his tiny body, through his back, right elbow and right leg. He was 200 meters from the impact of the bomb. In his hospital ward his mother was standing off to the side, quietly crying while one of Haitham’s aunts at his bedside explained what had happened:

“We had asked Haitham to get shopping for her from the market, then we heard the bombings and somebody came to our home and told our family that he was in the hospital and was injured in the bombing. We came quickly to the hospital.”

Meanwhile, Samah’s doctor explained that the girl’s blood loss was a major concern. Her injuries are exacerbated by the fact that she, like three of her brothers, already suffers from the blood condition Thalassemia and the drug to treat the condition, Exjade, is scarce because of the Israeli blockade. She was clearly in pain and confused, trying to remove the nasal tubes. Her mother showed us the bandages on her chest. Her Doctor, Mohamed Abu Hassan described her situation as ‘semi-critical’:

“She was in very bad condition when she arrived — it’s difficult for children and very traumatic to insert a chest tube for small children — very painful. Blood was mainly coming from the chest. We will have to perform surgery and we will further explore her abdominal pain.”

The al-Massry family has been affected by Israeli attacks before. Samah’s four-year-old brother Ryad was injured during Israel’s three weeks of attacks on the Gaza Strip during winter 2008-09 when more than 400 Palestinian children were killed.

“Our house was hit during the war, a neighbor was killed inside and our son suffered severe head injuries. He wasn’t cared for and because of this his sight is now permanently damaged.”

As we left Samah, she had begun to cry, moaning in serious discomfort and confusion. There were two more injured children in the hospital from the attack, also from the Al Massry family in Beit Hanoun: Azzam Mohammed al-Massry, 11, who a severely fractured left elbow and Ebrahim Wasseem El-Massry, 4, with light injuries to his abdomen.

The Abu Said family house, scarred after a nail bomb attack

The previous week in Gaza, we visited the Abu Said family, who were mourning Nema, a 33-year-old mother of five who was killed by a second round of Israeli shelling as she went outside frantically looking for her youngest son after the first round. Three more family members were injured by the flechette shells, many of the darts remaining permanently embedded in their bodies.

The notion of justice for Palestinians is a distant one so long as these crimes are allowed to be dismissed as footnotes by those supporting, or blindly ignoring them. But those who meet the families and the victims of these atrocities will never forget, just as people around the world are opening their eyes to the root cause of these tragedies.

John Lydon, Public Image Ltd, previously opposed the South African Apartheid Regime

Besieged Gaza,
Occupied Palestine,
July.18.2010

Dear John Lydon,

We are academics and students from Gaza representing more than 10 academic institutions therein. Our parents and grandparents are refugees who were expelled from their homes by the nascent Israeli army in the 1948 Nakba. We have since lived in the ghetto of the Gaza Strip refugee camps, like the more than 6 million Palestinian refugees all round the world. They still have their keys locked up in their closets and will pass them on to their children. UN resolution 194 guarantees our right to return our villages. Many of us have lost our fathers, some of us have lost our mothers, and some of us lost both in the last Israeli aggression against civilians in Gaza.

In recent times we have been living in what has come to be a festering sore on humanity’s conscience—the brutal, hermetic, medieval siege that Israel is perpetrating against us, the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. We urge you to respond to the call of an unprecedented coalition of Palestinian grassroots groups, trade unions and NGOs who in 2005 asked the world to boycott apartheid Israel until it complies with international law. We call up on you to join the other artists of conscience who have said enough is enough, by refusing to perform on the main stage of the Heineken Music Conference Festival in Tel-Aviv in Israel on August 31st 2010.

In the 1980s, you like many other artists responded to the call from the anti-apartheid campaign to reject South African Apartheid and with Public Image Limited you recorded the song, ‘Rise’ against the ugly racism and torture faced by the blacks of South Africa.  Israel, the other Western affiliated regime which exercises the same racism, land dispossession and murderous atrocities, is still going strong today, receiving more support from Western Governments than that was enjoyed by the South African Regime in the 50s and 60s. Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid has been condemned by Anti-Apartheid heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils—amongst others—who have described Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians as ‘worse than Apartheid.’

You have said on a BBC interview, ‘You cannot separate yourself from the audience because of political powers that be’. But like other bands you drew the line on Apartheid South Africa. We are now asking you to do the same with Israel, to respond where governments have failed to a country that has been rewarded even more than the South African Apartheid regime despite its continuing oppression based on racism and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people.

Even Apartheid South Africa did not bombard civilian areas with white phosphorous and dime bombs killing more than 1400 people in 3 weeks over the new year of 2009, including 434 children, leaving 17000 houses, schools and hospitals severely damaged or destroyed. Judge Richard Goldstone, a name you must be familiar with, called this “a war crime and crime against humanity.”

As anti-apartheid activists used to say, supported by conscientious people all over the world, there was no negotiation with the brutal racist regime of South Africa. As with Israel, it has become apparent that the normal avenues to seek justice and human rights have failed and, therefore, we are left with one option: BOYCOTT. You must also be familiar with wise words of Archbishop Desmund Tutu: “if you choose to be neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

We hope that once again you will choose to stand on the right side of history and maintain the pressure already set by an increasing number of musicians refusing to perform in Israel until Palestinians get the same human rights and dignity as anybody else would expect.

You are a great man of words, of that we have no doubt. But we think you would agree, too, that actions speak louder than words. Please do not perform in the Sun City of the Middle East.

Besieged Gaza,

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)

In a press conference at the port of Gaza city yesterday government officials, fishing associations, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups reiterated their support for the attempts by international activists to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by sea.

Yesterday (July 14th 2010) many people amassed at the Gazan port to urge on the latest attempt by activists to enter the strip, this time by a Libyan chartered aid ship. It was the first serious attempt to enter Gaza by sea since the horrifying attack by the Israeli navy on the Free Gaza Flotilla and the Mavi Marmara which saw 9 Turkish activists killed.

Mahfouz Kabariti, President of Palestine Sailing Federation and Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime Sports, was communicating with the Amalthea as it neared Gazan waters: “The last contact we had with them was at midnight and since then communication was cut by the Israeli navy. They told us the boat was surrounded by Israeli gunships, but that they were determined to attempt to dock in Gaza and not take the option offered by the Egyptian government to dock in El Arish.”

A Gaza resident holding pictures of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi - whose charity sponsored the aid ship

According to Mahfouz the roll of the Freedom Flotilla missions are two-fold: “First is the arrival with aid, and materials such as construction supplies still banned by the blockade. The second is to put a spotlight on the suffering of the people here. Even if they are attacked, the second message highlights even more the extent to which Israel will go to keep us in Gaza isolated from the rest of the world with this illegal blockade of our people.”

As well as government representatives and the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for  Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) was present. He emphasised the importance of international civil society persisting in trying to break the siege.

The need is especially acute because so far Israel’s response has only been to reduce the blockade on Gaza by a tiny fraction. The European Union, the United Nations, countless human rights groups and the International Committee for the Red Cross have all expressed the need for a return to the free flow of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. This must include construction materials which are sorely needed to help rebuild the 17,000 houses severely damaged in the 3 week attack over the New Year period of 2009 that left over 1500 dead including over 400 children.

“Nothing has changed here,” says Amjad. “Just some more consumer products…but 80% of the people here still depend on humanitarian aid. It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege. But we are thankful that the siege on Gaza has not been forgotten, and that our people are still in the minds of the world. These kinds of solidarity actions are very important for Gazans, we see that others share with us the values of justice and the principals of human rights.”

Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for Palestinian NGOs: "It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege."

When asked about the role of the international community to pressure Israel, Amjad is more critical: “We are so sorry that the international community until now has made no real intervention, put no real pressure on Israel to lift the siege totally or exerted pressure on Israel to have a transparent and accountable international inquiry into the Israeli crimes on the freedom flotillas.

“Still today we’re waiting for real international pressure from the international community.  We hope that Israel will not use this silence as a chance to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people and international solidarity workers.”

Mahfouz Kabariti, affirming the hope the flotillas bring

The Libyan chartered boat was eventually forced to dock in El Arish, Egypt, after a wall of Israeli gunboats blocked its passage through to Gaza.  But the Palestinians remain heartened by these attempts and the further missions planned this September. Says Mahfouz: “Peopl e here feel grateful to those internationals who try to arrive at the Gaza beach, it’s so important to us

that other people worry and support us.”

The International Solidarity Campaign in Gaza has launched a campaign against Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians in the so-called ‘buffer zone’ within the wall which surrounds Gaza. Israeli troops have always shot at Palestinians coming within a certain distance of the wall, but the width of this area has been significantly increased in the last year or two, denying many farmers access to their land. Gaza’s entire area is only around 365 square km, so to lose an area a km wide within the wall is a serious loss to the ability of this besieged territory to supplement the UN rations many of the population are dependent on. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights briefing on the expansion and abuse of the buffer zone is here.

ISM’s campaign – the full launch statement of which is here – calls on people to:

1. Contact your representatives to demand that Israel be held accountable for violence against unarmed activists and end the siege on Gaza

Call or email your representative to Israel, http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Israel

Write your own or use the provided letter at the end of the article

2. Support the call from Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel

After the recent attack on International activists aboard boats of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Boycott National Committees have called for an intensification of BDS campaigns and actions around the world (http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/710). While the raid is no longer in the news, Israeli armed forces are still targeting Gazan non-violent activists. Every week near the ‘buffer zone’, demonstrators and farmers are shot at with live ammunition. The violence against these activists, just as the violence against the Freedom Flotilla, cannot be ignored.

3. Target local shops that sell Israeli products, http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/4

Supermarkets, clothing stores and consumer goods from Israel can be the focus of a BDS campaign. Find a campaign in your area or launch one today!

Ongoing campaigns: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/54

Activist resources: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/49

Sample Letter to your representative:

Dear Ambassador,

If unarmed farmers and protesters were being shot with live ammunition in the United States, Europe or any country which claimed democratic credentials, the international community would be justifiably outraged. Yet Gazans attempting to farm or demonstrate in the illegal ‘buffer zone’ are routinely shot with live ammunition. In the past twelve months, at least 220 Israeli attacks have been carried out in the ‘buffer zone’, with 116 coming since the beginning of 2010 (as of April 30th).* In the first four months of 2010, over 50 Gazans were injured, and 16 were killed in these attacks.

30% of Gaza’s arable farmland, and some of it’s most fertile, lies within the ‘buffer zone’.* Farmers who attempt to work in the zone face routine live fire and crop destruction, in addition to occasional artillery shells. Israel shoots farmers trying to grow crops on Gazan land for an impoverished and malnourished society.

Unarmed demonstrations in the zone, internationally-recognized Gazan territory, are organized by Gazan farmers. In April alone, at least six demonstrators were shot and injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli snipers. Among the injured was Maltese activist Bianca Zammit, who was shot in the thigh while standing in clear view, filming the demonstration. The following week, 19-year-old Ahmad Dib was shot in the leg and died two hours later from blood loss.

For the Palestinians who escape only with gunshot injuries, the impact extends far beyond initial pain. Daily cleaning of the wound is required, metal plates replace shattered bones, and permanent disabilities are frequent. Such injuries are devastating, as the wounded are frequently the only wage-earner in a large extended family.

The attack on the Freedom Flotilla brought international criticism of Israel’s ongoing human rights violations, but criticism alone is not enough. It is clear that the international community cannot remain silent as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is perpetuated through policies such as this. The use of live ammunition in the ‘buffer zone’ must end.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

For more information, see:

BDS Movement

International Solidarity Movement

Fishing Under Fire

Farming Under Fire.

Democracy Now

Excellent interview with Adam Shapiro, dispels some of the myths being pedalled about events on board the boats invaded by Israeli commandos:

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/5/31/interview_at_least_15_dead_after_israel_attacks_gaza_bound_aid_flotilla