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Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

Odd assortment of barred goods to Gaza

“Newspapers, tea, A4 paper and chocolate are among the items that have at one point been barred,” from entry into the Gaza strip, writes the Economist. Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization has a recent partial list of barred and permitted goods into Gaza.

Gisha’s site provides helpful answers to frequently questions regarding the blockade.

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The long siege of Gaza

The Gaza Strip has been under siege for a long time. As a result, people are out of jobs, have trouble finding adequate housing, healthcare has suffered, unemployment risen, and the economy taken a lethal beating.

Gaza is densely packed with some 1.5 million people. The Majority of Gazans are refugees who fled or were expelled from the land that is today Israel following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Over 3/4 of residents are registered refugees. Most Gazans live in refugee camps.

Over half of these refugees live in eight large camps. These camps depend on UN deliveries of aid for food, health, and education.

The UN states that:

The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have among the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded UNRWA schools and classrooms.

In February 2009 The Word Health Organization assessed the damage following the 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, and found that nearly half of health facilities assessed were damaged or destroyed during the attack. The same report indicated that during the war, over 430 children and 112 women were killed, while nearly 1900 children and about 800 women were injured.

The siege and suffering of the people of Gaza has been long lasting.

The BMJ medical journal published a survey in 2002 indicating that, in the Gaza Strip, “13% of children under 5 years old were suffering from short term malnutrition and almost 18% had long term malnutrition—compared with a level of about 2% in countries that the World Health Organization defines as having moderate malnutrition.” Things are bad when almost a third of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Since the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel has greatly intensified the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the region from the outside world, and reducing to a trickle access to essential supplies.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report in May 2010 that found “46% of agricultural lands were assessed to be inaccessible or out of production in Gaza.

The FAO report further states that:

The  Agriculture  Sector  in  the Gaza  Strip  has  the  potential  to  export  2300  tons  of strawberries,  55  million  carnation  flowers,  and  714  tons  of  cherry  tomatoes  per annum  in addition  to  locally consumed products. There has been close  to zero export  activity  due  to  restrictions  since  the  blockade.  Exceptions  to  these  export restrictions  during  the  last  winter  season  presented  little  change  with  only  2%  of strawberries and 25% of  cut  flowers of  the  total pre‐blockade potential  for export.

[…]Since January 2009, fishers’ access to fishing grounds has been further restricted to 3 nautical miles (nm) from the shore. This has resulted in a depletion of catches and revenues.

In Gaza, the majority of profits from fishing come from sardines, however, schools of sardine pass beyond the 3 nm mark and sardine catches are down 72%.

Adult  fish are mostly  found beyond  the 3 nm  limit and  therefore  fishing within  the current  zone  rapidly  depletes new  generations of  fish, with  severe  implications  for fish life‐cycles and therefore long‐term fishing livelihoods. (The previous fishing zone was 6‐9 nm before  ‘Cast Lead’, 12 nm from Bertini Commitments, and 20 nm under the Oslo Accords.

A World Bank report from 2008 indicates that “according to business associations in Gaza, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 96% of Gaza’s industrial operations.”

Most Gazan industries are export-oriented and have purchase and supply contracts with Israeli and other firms. Gazan manufacturers rely almost entirely on imports for their inputs and until recently, about 76% of their furniture products, 90% of their garments and 20% of their food products were exported to Israel, and some to the West Bank.

Israeli forces kill civilians carrying aid shipments to Gaza

At least 10 civilians were killed, and many more injured, by Israeli commandos boarding a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday, May 31.

The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli blockade, with all its points of entry monitored and controlled by Israeli officials. The siege has stiffened following the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas and the Israeli war on the Strip that killed some 1,500 people in 2008-2009.

The aid ships carried over 600 activists and 10,000 tonnes of supplies. Among the activists were some members of parliament (MPs). After leaving Turkey, the flotilla was to pick up more passengers in Cyprus, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, but traffic to and from the flotilla was denied by authorities in Cyprus.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Israel and has called for a session of the UN Security Council. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on a state visit to Canada at the time and was scheduled to visit the US next. He has canceled his foreign trip and returned to Israel to face the political crisis that has resulted from the deaths of so many international civilians under the Israeli Defense Force.

Greece has ended its joint war games with Israel, while ambassadors are being recalled or questioned in multiple countries, such as Sweden recalling its ambassador to Israel as protest.

Prime minister Erdogan of Turkey has responded to today’s attack, saying that “This attack made by Israel is a state terror. Actual Israeli government demonstrated that it does not want peace in the region. It should be known that we will not keep silent and unreactive facing this state terror.”

Turkey has been one of Israel’s few regional allies, though relations have become increasingly strained following the 2008-2009 war against Gaza.

Israel claims that upon boarding the ships they were attacked by activists wielding clubs and knives and fired live rounds in response, as a form of self-defence. Eight members of the military are said to be wounded.

Juan Cole writes that:

It is being alleged by members of Free Gaza that the aid ships were boarded in international waters and that Israel contravened the UN international convention on freedom of navigation on the high seas. Although the Israeli press refers to the waters off Gaza as “Israeli territorial waters,” in fact Israel has no legal claim to the Gaza coast. It is the Occupying power in Gaza since 1967, but is in severe contravention of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations.

Thousands of people are protesting the incident around the world, outside Israeli and sometimes US consulates. On Monday, some 300 protesters in Turkey tried to storm the Israeli consulate but were repelled by security forces. The number of protesters has since grown.

Amnesty International’s response:

For nearly three years, Israel, which is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, has implemented a policy of banning all movement of goods and people, except for the most basic humanitarian necessities, which are imported by international aid agencies. Only a fraction of patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out, and dozens have died waiting for Israeli permission to travel.

“The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” said Malcolm Smart.

“Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza ’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.”

Emerging US war policy, Israeli drones, and Iran on NATO, Iraq, and elections

March 27, 2009 Leave a comment

According to an article by Marc Ambinder, published by the Atlantic, US president Barack Obama will likely support a senate bill to provide funds to Pakistan tied to that country’s efforts against Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents.

These reports are coming from US government insiders prior to president Obama’s formal release of his Afghanistan and Pakistan policy.

Such aid will likely be used to pressure Pakistan’s government to reduce it’s long-standing and often covert cooperation with the Taliban. This method is not new, and was carried out quite under both presidents Bush and Clinton. The Pakistani government, at that time under the leadership of Pervez Musharraf, proved adept at playing both sides, receiving money from the U.S. and using its military and secret intelligence to support Taliban assets it had cultivated over many years.

Pakistan had previously used its ties to the Taliban to exert influence within Afghanistan, such as undermining the Northern Alliance (which had greater understanding with Iran), establishing trade routes and smuggling rings, keeping Indian influence to a minimum in Afghanistan, and using Taliban allied training grounds and people as fighters against India in Kashmir in order to avoid the full fallout from a formal government directed attack.

According to the Atlantic article, president Obama plans to send “4,000 additional troops … tasked with training Afghan soldiers and the national police; the administration hopes to have more than 130,000 [Afghan] soldiers and 82,000 [Afghan] police officers trained by 2011.”

The Nation has an informative article on the use of Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, by Israel in the latest major assault on the Gaza Strip. Israel is a leader in the development of drone technology, modifying U.S. designs as it has done with many of its other military hardware.

The AFP reports that Iran has attended a meeting at NATO headquarters, the first time direct talks were held between these two groups since the Iranian revolution some 30 years ago. According to a chief NATO spokesman, “the Iranians are interested in possible cooperation on Afghanistan.” AFP reports that Iran is interested in mitigating the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan into Iran.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that between 1.5 and 2 million Afghan refugees reside in Iran. Iran is keen on reducing the numbers of these refugees and reducing the flow of new refugees. Also, Iran has had quite bad relations with the Taliban. The Sunni Taliban sees Iran’s Shia government as apostate and relations between the two are anywhere between strained to hostile.

In 2001, Iran proved supportive of the US invasion of Afghanistan and, importantly, was instrumental in convincing its allies in the Northern Alliance to work with the US.

Juan Cole reports on an Al-Zaman article claiming “that Iranian speaker of the House Ali Larijani is on a secret mission in Iraq to mediate between the Islamic Mission (Da’wa) Party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his sometime coalition partner, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). The two parties are seeking to form coalitions in several southern Shiite provincial councils, and Iran is said impatient for the deal to be concluded.”

The lead-up to Iran’s June presidential elections has been somewhat tumultuous for all candidates involved, including current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He faced stiff resistance, and finally parliamentary defeat of his budget plans in March. Despite this body blow, EurasiaNet reports that president Ahmadinejad remains the front runner in the race. Ahmadinejad’s power base is heavily tied to his alliance with the military, counter to traditional politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran. His past and current election campaigns indicate greater military influence over Iranian politics, undermining some of the power of clerics and their financiers (the bazaaris).

War in Gaza and a Rift Between Turkey and Israel at the World Economic Forum

January 31, 2009 Leave a comment

This is the complete video of a now much discussed panel from the 29 January 2009 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The heated debate signals some of Turkey’s growing frustration toward Israel. Turkey has effectively been a key ally to Israel, providing political and military support, and helping legitimise Israeli policy in the region. Recently, Turkey has tried to mediate a formal peace between Syria and Israel, a further attempt to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours.

The topic of the panel is the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine. The panelists in attendance were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Israeli President Shimon Peres, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, and General Secretary of the Arab League Amr Moussa, with Washington Post journalist David Ignatius as moderator.

The panel resulted in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leaving in protest to Israeli action in Gaza, as well as in protest to what he described as a discrepancy in time allotted for him to speak. As the Prime Minister was leaving, General Secretary Amr Moussa shakes hands with him and is then seen standing with what appears to be indecision on whether he should also walk out. However, Amr Moussa appears convinced to sit after the UN General Secretary signals for him to rejoin the group.

From Bianet:

Erdoğan seemed softened, not directly ruling out coming back to Davos. He said that his reaction had been not to Israel or Davos, but to the unfair moderation of the panel. He added that Peres’ style of speaking had been incompatible with an international panel.

On Friday early morning, Shimon Peres called Erdoğan and apologised for his raised voice, explaining that he was hard of hearing. The two agreed that cooperation between the two countries would continue.

Erdoğan’s reaction has to be seen not only in the light of the panel, but also in the context of failed negotiations between Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Hamas. Turkey had taken a leading role in talks prior to the Gaza attacks.

Below is a video of a press conference given by Prime Minster Erdoğan following the panel, downplaying his walking out of the meeting. It is both in Turkish and English.

An update on Gaza

January 5, 2009 Leave a comment

banksy-soldiers-painting-peace-sign

Laila El-Haddad, a journalist, writes the following on her blog “Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother“, about her family and others trapped in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli attacks:

My father and I made simultaneous back to back appearances on CNN domestic and CNN international last night. My father spoke calmly, eloquently, in the pitch dark of besieged Gaza, with only the the fire of Israeli bombs illuminating his world: “they are destroying everything that is beautiful and living” he told the anchor.

…My father last night tried to communicate a single message: We keep hearing that Israel is after Hamas; but WE are the targets here; Civilians are the targets here, not Hamas.

An entire refugee family in one fell swoop was killed this morning as they took cover in their home, which took a direct hit from Israeli shells. Their deaths do not make Israeli more secure. Their deaths will not stop rocket fire.

6 paramedics and a doctor were also killed as they tried to rescue wounded Palestinians in northern Gaza.

And now, AP reports that the Gaza phone network is on the brink of collapse. I do not know how much longer I will be able to communicate with my parents.

You can watch CNN’s interview of Laila El-Haddad here.

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Gaza’s People and Economy in Peril

November 21, 2008 1 comment
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/04/israelandthepalestinians

Palestinians sit on the rubble of their destroyed home in Jabalia, Gaza Strip. Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/04/israelandthepalestinians

This short report review’s The Gaza Strip’s human and economic conditions. The World Bank and the United Nations are the main sources for all information and statistics compiled here.

For more information on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, read an earlier post titled ‘Siege of Gaza‘.

The People

gazastripmapOver 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs live in the the Gaza Strip, an area that is only 360 km2 in area (139 sq. miles). The Gaza Strip is about 40 km long and on average 10 km wide. This makes Gaza one of the most densely populated regions on earth. The problem of overcrowding is compounded by it having one of the fastest growth rates globally.

Gaza City is the largest urban centre, with 400,000 residents, followed by Khan Younis (200,000), and Rafah (150,000).

The Majority of Gazans are refugees which fled or were expelled from the land that is today Israel following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Over 3/4 of residents are registered refugees. Most Gazans live in refugee camps.

Over half of these refugees live in eight large camps. These camps depend on UN deliveries of aid for food, health, and education.

The UN states that:

The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have among the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded UNRWA schools and classrooms.

Over 20% of refugee homes are not connected to a sewage system.

UN estimates the population of the eight camps to be:
o Jabalia 106,846
o Rafah 97,412
o Beach 80,567
o Nuseirat 58,727
o Khan Younis 61,539
o Bureij 29,805
o Maghazi 23,161
o Deir el-Balah 20,215

There are 18 primary healthcare facilities, overstretched, underfunded, and short on supplies. 187 overcrowded schools service the region. There is one vocational and technical training centre in the Gaza Strip, with room for 1,044 to enroll in the program.

The BMJ medical journal published a survey in 2002 indicating that, in the Gaza Strip, “13% of children under 5 years old were suffering from short term malnutrition and almost 18% had long term malnutrition—compared with a level of about 2% in countries that the World Health Organization defines as having moderate malnutrition.” Things are bad when almost a third of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Since 2007, Israel has greatly intensified the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the region from the outside world, and reducing to a trickle access to essential supplies.

The Economy

According to the World Bank, since the intensification of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in June 2007:

According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, the restrictions have led to the suspension of 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations. They can access neither the inputs for production nor the crossings to export what they produce, transforming Gaza into a consumer economy driven by public sector salaries and humanitarian assistance only. The agriculture sector has also been badly hit. Nearly 40,000 workers depend on the agriculture sector in Gaza.

Gaza’s economy has nearly hit rock bottom and is struck there. The World Bank has announced that in 2007 the economy did not grow at all.

Gazans depend on Israeli controlled terminals located on the border of the Strip as the only regular means of access for essential goods to their health and economy.

The Israeli blockade and closure of access to the Gaza Strip has hit the region hard. A World Bank supervised report indicates that the:

AlMontar/Karni terminal is the main crossing for the import and export of commercial goods for the Gaza Strip. Most of the terminal’s operations were halted on the 12th of June, 2007, and since then, only one single-lane conveyor belt continued to operate at an average of two days per week for the imports of wheat, grain and animal feeds.

After June 12, 2007, with intensification of the blockade, the terminal was operational only 27.5% of the time. So, on most days it was closed. From January 1 2007 to June 12 2007, 53,141 truckloads of imports went through the terminal, but after June 12 until the end of 2007 only 2,944 made it through.

The collapse of the economy is evident by looking at the types of imports that went through the main terminal of AlMontar/Karni. Below is a chart replicated from a UN supervised annual report by the Palestinian Trade Center.

imported-goods-through-almontarkarni-terminal-before-june-12-2007

imported-goods-through-almontarkarni-terminal-after-june-12-20071

These charts show the desperate situation in the Gaza Strip as almost all imports become dedicated to the provision of food to a people suffering from malnutrition.

Poverty is common to the residents of Gaza. The World Bank states that “the percentage of Gazans who live in deep poverty has risen to nearly 35% in 2006, and is expected to have increased further in 2007 and 2008. If revised to exclude remittances and food aid, this poverty rate is closer to 67%.”

The World Bank has reported that, “according to business associations in Gaza, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 96% of Gaza’s industrial operations.”

Most Gazan industries are export-oriented and have purchase and supply contracts with Israeli and other firms. Gazan manufacturers rely almost entirely on imports for their inputs and until recently, about 76% of their furniture products, 90% of their garments and 20% of their food products were exported to Israel, and some to the West Bank.

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References:

BBC: ‘Profile: Gaza Strip’

Guardian: ‘Gaza’s economic growth has halted, World Bank says’

PalTrade: ‘Annual Report 2007’

UNRWA

World Bank: ‘West Bank and Gaza: Economic Developments and Prospects – March 2008’

World Bank: ‘Economic Developments and Prospects’

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