November 14, 2014

In Blog News

Israel won’t cooperate with UN as it continues to violate Gaza ceasefire

Palestinian girls play inside their school which was destroyed during the 50-day Israeli summer aggression in Gaza City, on November 5, 2014. AFP / Mohammed Abed

Published Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Israeli authorities decided not to cooperate with a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into this year’s Israeli aggression on Gaza, an Israeli spokesman said Wednesday.

“Since the Schabas commission is not an inquiry but a commission that gives its conclusions in advance, Israel will not cooperate with the UN Commission on Human Rights over the last conflict with Hamas,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.

The UN panel, due to make its first report by March, is meant to look into the conduct of both the Israeli Occupation Forces and the Hamas resistance movement during the 50-day assault.

But the Israeli government has already dismissed the investigation as a “kangaroo court,” accusing its chairman, Canadian academic William Schabas, of anti-Israeli bias.
In August, Canadian lawyer William Schabas was named as the head of the UN commission, angering Israel, where he is widely regarded as hostile to Israel over reported calls to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court.

“In view of the fact that the Schabas committee is not a fact-finding panel but an investigation whose results are predetermined … Israel will not cooperate with the committee,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

It added that the decision was also taken due to what it called the Geneva-based council’s “obsessive hostility to Israel.”

On October 30, the UN Human Rights Committee, chaired by British expert Sir Nigel Rodley, said Israel’s latest land and aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip in July-August caused a “disproportionate number of casualties among civilians, including children.”

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea.

More than 2,180 Palestinians, at least 70 percent of whom were civilians, were killed and 11,000 injured during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks in July and August.

According to UN figures, at least 505 Palestinian children were killed during the offensive.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said 138 of its students were killed during the assault, and the organization’s spokesperson Christopher Gunness said an additional 814 UNRWA students were injured and 560 have become orphans due to the Israeli onslaught.

The offensive ended on August 26 with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal.

Gaza’s attack this summer was the third major conflagration in just seven years.

“(Israel) should ensure that all human rights violations committed during its military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 are thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in positions of command are prosecuted and sanctioned,” the committee of 18 experts said.

Moreover, Amnesty International said in a report last week that the Israeli military displayed “shocking disregard” for civilian lives in Gaza and documented eight instances in which Israeli forces attacked homes in Gaza “without warning,” killing “at least 104 civilians including 62 children.”

“The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families,” Amnesty added.

Leftover Israeli shells

On Wednesday, a Palestinian man in Gaza was injured after an Israeli ordnance exploded in Khan Younis, medics said.

The man, identified only as M.A. and said to be in his 20s, was moderately injured.

Witnesses said he was removing rubble from a building destroyed during Israel’s summer assault when the explosion occurred.

The Gaza Strip is still littered with a large number of unexploded Israeli shells, one of which recently killed 4-year-old Mohammed Sami Abu-Jrad from the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.

Although Gaza police explosives teams have been working across the territory to destroy unexploded ordnance and prevent safety threats to locals, lack of proper equipment due to the seven-year Israeli siege as well as a general lack of resources have hindered efforts.

Even before the most recent Israeli assault, unexploded ordnance from the 2008-9 and 2012 offensives were a major threat to Gazans.

A 2012 report published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 111 civilians, 64 of them children, were casualties to unexploded ordnance between 2009 and 2012, reaching an average of four every month in 2012.

Watch groups have warned that the ordinance can be a particular threat to children, who often think the bombs are toys.

Gaza fishermen continue to suffer

Meanwhile, Israeli naval boats fired at and sank a Palestinian fishing boat in the sea off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening.

Witnesses said that the Israeli navy fired shells at a boat belonging to the al-Bardaweel family and completely destroyed it.

Fishermen on board jumped into the water before the shell exploded.

On Monday, the Israeli navy shot and injured three Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said Israeli forces shot at the boat until it caught fire, and that fishermen in a nearby boat managed to pull the injured aboard and escape under heavy fire.

The injured fishermen were taken to the Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.

The Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually.

However, since the ceasefire was signed, Israeli forces have fired at several fishermen who they claim have ventured beyond the newly-imposed limit of six nautical miles.

There have also been widespread reports of the Israeli navy opening fire at fishermen within those limits.

In October, the head of the Gaza fishermen syndicate accused Israel of constantly violating the terms of the agreement.

“Since signing the truce, the Israeli army has violated (the agreement) many times, arresting fishermen and destroying a giant fishing boat, in addition to firing at fishermen on a daily basis,” he said.

There are an estimated 4,000 fishermen in Gaza. According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 90 percent are poor, a 40 percent increase from 2008. This change is believed to be a direct result of Israeli limits on the fishing industry.

The eight-year Israeli blockade has severely crippled Gaza’s economy and contributed to the frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gaza residents.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained two Palestinians who allegedly crossed the Gaza Strip border into Israeli-occupied territories, a military official claimed Wednesday.

The two unarmed Palestinians were taken for questioning, an Israeli army spokeswoman said.

Goods and reconstruction material to enter Gaza

On Thursday, the Israeli authorities opened the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southeastern Gaza Strip to allow aid and goods into the enclave.

Raed Fattouh, a Palestinian official responsible for the entry of goods into Gaza, said that the Israeli authorities will allow 350 truckloads of goods for the trade, agricultural, transportation and aid sectors.

Fattouh added that Israel will also allow five trucks of cement for international construction projects.

Meanwhile, Ann-Sofie Nilsson, from the Swedish Consul General, on Wednesday signed an agreement with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to fund a project led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to step up financial support for the reconstruction of the war-torn Gaza Strip.

“The situation in Gaza is alarming after the devastating war this summer, especially with winter approaching. There is a need for rapid support to the Government of National Consensus in its efforts to kick-start the reconstruction. We are pleased to contribute to alleviate somewhat the difficult situation,” Nilsson said.

Sweden, the first Western European Union country to recognize Palestine as a state, also announced last week a five-year strategy for developing cooperation with Palestine which entails a 50 percent increase in development support.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said last month during a visit to the Gaza Strip that the devastation he had seen was “beyond description.”

According to UN estimates based on preliminary information, as many as 80,000 Palestinians homes were damaged or destroyed during the days of hostilities, and over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families.

Israel routinely bars the entry of building materials into the embattled coastal enclave on grounds that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas could use them to build underground tunnels or fortifications.

For years, the Gaza Strip has depended on construction materials smuggled into the territory through a network of tunnels linking it to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

However, a recent crackdown on the tunnels by the Egyptian army has effectively neutralized hundreds of tunnels, severely affecting Gaza’s construction sector.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)