Palestinians go on strike over Gaza onslaught

Palestinians injured following Israeli strikes on Al-Maghazi refugee camp are transferred to Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Palestinians go on strike over Gaza onslaught

  • Many Palestinians took part and rallies were staged in the West Bank
  • In Lebanon, public institutions, banks, schools and universities closed in a nationwide strike in solidarity with Gaza and southern border areas

RAMALLAH: Shops, schools and government offices shut across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem Monday as Palestinians staged a general strike protesting against Israel’s relentless onslaught in the Gaza Strip.
The bloodiest ever war in Gaza has killed more than 18,200 Palestinians in the territory, mostly women and children, and 104 Israeli soldiers, according to the latest reported death tolls.
Activists had called for a strike in solidarity with the besieged territory covering businesses, public workers and education.
Many Palestinians took part and rallies were staged in the West Bank, according to Essam Abu Baker who coordinates Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
He described the protest as part of a global effort to put pressure on Israel to stop the war, reporting strikes taking place in parts of Jordan and Lebanon.
In Lebanon, public institutions, banks, schools and universities closed after the government decided on a nationwide strike in solidarity with Gaza and with border areas in the south, which have seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah.
The stoppage was also observed in Istanbul’s western Esenyurt district, where many businesses are owned by residents from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
Footage on social media showed deserted streets and Palestinian flags billowing.
“The strike today is not only in solidarity with Gaza, but also against the USA which used its veto in the Security Council against a truce,” Abu Baker said in Ramallah, referring to the US rejection of a cease-fire resolution on Friday.
Overnight in Gaza, more Israeli air strikes targeted the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis, while deadly fighting and bombing were also reported in the center and north of the narrow territory.
Hamas, which triggered the war with its October 7 attacks in which 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel, warned that the remaining 137 hostages held in Gaza would not survive the conflict unless Israel meets its demands and frees more Palestinian prisoners.

At a rally in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, demonstrators unfurled a huge list of names of the victims in Gaza.
Whole families came out to protest, with parents carrying children on their shoulders.
“All we can do is take part,” an elderly man in the crowd told AFP. “We don’t have anything else.”
AFP photographers also saw the work stoppage being observed in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and Hebron in the south, where another rally was held.
In east Jerusalem’s Old City, many shops were closed. The sound of keys echoed in the bazaar as Palestinian business owners locked their brightly painted doors.
“We want the war to stop,” said Nasser, a 65-year-old coffee shop owner who gave only his first name. He has not heard from friends in war-torn Gaza for weeks, and doesn’t know if they are dead or alive.
He said he had little to lose by closing his shop along the Via Dolorosa, a Christian pilgrimage route.
“We’ve had no business anyway since the war started,” he said, after the outbreak of violence prompted visitor numbers to plummet.
The few shopkeepers who did open said they had strong reasons for doing so.
Florist Raja Salama, 62, came to work to prepare wreaths of white roses for an elderly relative’s funeral.
“I’m only open because the funeral is today,” he said.
“When I’ve taken the flowers over, I’ll close.”
Others were desperate for business.
“I need to work to feed my baby son,” said a young Palestinian barber.
He did not give his name, explaining that he was ashamed to open his shop in the Old City.
“I should respect the strike, but I have no choice. I have a one-year-old at home and I haven’t had work since the start of the war. That’s the ugly truth.”


Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

Updated 8 sec ago
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Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

  • Six weeks in Israeli custody that included repeated beatings and interrogations
  • Rights groups accuse Israel of ‘disappearing’ Gaza Palestinians
JERUSALEM: Nabela thought the United Nations school in Gaza City was a safe haven. Then, the Israeli army arrived.
Soldiers stormed the place, ordering men to undress and hauling women to a mosque for strip searches, she said. So began six weeks in Israeli custody that she says included repeated beatings and interrogations.
“The soldiers were very harsh, they beat us and screamed at us in Hebrew,” said the 39-year-old from Gaza City, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used for fear of being arrested again. “If we raised our heads or uttered any words, they beat us on the head.”
Palestinians detained by Israeli forces in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war have alleged widespread physical abuse and neglect. It’s not known how many women or minors have been detained.
Nabela said she was shuttled between facilities inside Israel in a coed group before arriving at Damon Prison in the north, where she estimated there were at least 100 women.
Rights groups say Israel is “disappearing” Gaza Palestinians — detaining them without charge or trial and not disclosing to family or lawyers where they’re held. Israel’s prison service says all “basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards.”
Israel declared war after Hamas-led militants killed about 1,200 people and took roughly 250 others hostage on Oct. 7.
Since then, ground troops have arrested hundreds of Palestinians to search for suspected militants and gather intelligence. Images of blindfolded men kneeling, heads bowed and hands bound, have sparked worldwide outrage. In northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, troops rounded up dozens at a time from UN schools and hospitals, including medical personnel.
The military said it makes detainees undress to search for explosives, bringing detainees into Israel before releasing them back into Gaza if they’re deemed innocent.
For Nabela, that process took 47 harrowing days.
Despite Israeli evacuation orders, Nabela and her family had decided not to leave Gaza City, believing nowhere in Gaza was safe. Troops entered the school where they sheltered on Dec. 24.
“I was terrified, imagining they wanted to execute us and bury us there,” she said.
Forces separated Nabela from her 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and loaded her onto a truck bound for a facility in southern Israel. According to the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, or PHRI, all detainees in Gaza are first brought to the Sde Teiman military base.
“We were freezing and forced to remain on our knees on the ground,” Nabela told The Associated Press from a school-turned-shelter in Rafah where she’s staying with other recently released female detainees. “Loud music, shouting and intimidation — they wanted to humiliate us. We were handcuffed, blindfolded, and our feet were tied in chains.”
Moved between several prisons, Nabela said she was subjected to repeated strip searches and interrogations at gunpoint.
Asked about her connection to Hamas and knowledge of the militants’ extensive underground tunnel network, she maintained her innocence, telling interrogators she was a housewife and her husband worked for Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority.
‘AN APPARATUS OF RETRIBUTION AND REVENGE’
One woman detained from Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of another arrest, told the AP that during a medical check before she was moved to Damon Prison, Israeli forces ordered her to kiss an Israeli flag. When she refused, a soldier grabbed her by the hair, smashing her face into a wall, she said.
In a report by PHRI, former detainees from Gaza alleged similar mistreatment.
One, whose name was redacted, said he was urinated on by guards at Ketziot Prison in southern Israel, and witnessed strip searches where guards forced naked detainees to stand close to each other and inserted search devices into their buttocks.
PHRI described Israel’s prisons, also housing Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem held on security-related charges, as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge.” It alleged the prison service and military “have been granted free rein to act however they see fit.”
At the beginning of the war, prisons entered “lockdown mode,” confining detainees to their cells for two weeks, the report said. Under wartime emergency measures, Israel’s parliament in October suspended normal cell capacity requirements. Since then, inmates have slept on mattresses in overcrowded cells.
Phone privileges have been completely suspended, the report said. At some facilities, security wings were disconnected from electricity and water, plunging detainees into darkness for most of the day and rendering showers and sinks unusable.
During eight days at an unknown facility in southern Israel, Nabela said she did not shower and had no access to menstrual pads or toiletries. Food was scarce. Once, Nabela said, guards threw down the detainees’ meals and told them to eat from the floor.
The military said each detainee receives clothing, blankets and a mattress. It denied that cells were overcrowded, saying detainees had sufficient access to toilets, food, water and medical care.
“The violent and antagonistic treatment of detainees described in the allegations is prohibited,” the military said in response to an AP request for comment. “Cases of inappropriate behavior will be dealt with.”
It referred questions about Ketziot and Damon prisons to the Israeli Prison Service, which did not comment on the allegations beyond saying it was uninvolved in the arrests and interrogation of Palestinians from Gaza.
‘UNLAWFUL COMBATANTS’
Nabela said she never spoke with a lawyer or a judge.
Under a wartime revision to Israeli law, all detainees from Gaza can be held for 45 days without charge or trial.
Designated “unlawful combatants,” they aren’t granted the same protections under international law as prisoners of war. Their appearance before a court can be delayed and access to an attorney withdrawn, according to PHRI. The Israeli rights group HaMoked said there are 600 people from Gaza held as unlawful combatants in Israeli prisons, and more could be held in military facilities.
Palestinian detainees told PHRI that adequate medical care was rare, even for those needing insulin or chemotherapy treatments.
An official document obtained by the AP, laying out operations at the Sde Teiman military medical facility, specified that unlawful combatants be treated handcuffed and blindfolded.
Medical staff’s names were kept anonymous “to maintain the safety, well-being and lives of the caregivers,” it said. It did not require patient consent for medical procedures and said confidential medical information could be passed to detention center staff.
The military said the handcuffing of detainees was “done in accordance with their assessed level of danger and medical state.” Israel’s Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for comment.
Eleven Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli custody since Oct. 7, according to the advocacy group the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, and the most recent was just this week. At least five had chronic health conditions, which PHRI says raises concerns that they died because of medical neglect.
The Israeli military said it would examine the deaths.
‘BETTER THAN GAZA’
Nabela’s fortunes improved when she arrived at Damon. There, she met Palestinian women detained from the West Bank.
She said the women were kind. She had electricity and warm showers. Her interrogator wondered aloud why Nabela was detained.
A month and a half after her arrest, a prison administrator announced Nabela would be released with about 20 other women. Israeli buses brought them to a Gaza crossing, where they made their way to UN shelters in the southern city of Rafah, full of displaced Palestinians. She cannot travel to Gaza City, where her family remains.
Nabela, her face bruised, recalled one of her final interrogations. She had begun to weep, and her interrogator told her:
“Don’t cry about it. You’re better living here than Gaza.”

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Updated 02 March 2024
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Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

  • UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of the Palestinians wounded in the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy said Friday that more than 80 percent had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there was heavy shooting by Israeli troops.
At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others injured Thursday, according to health officials, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy. Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a crowd surge that started when desperate Palestinians in Gaza rushed the aid trucks. Israel said its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.
Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.
He couldn’t address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted.
Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the majority of the injured taken there had gunshot wounds in the upper part of their bodies, and many of the deaths were from gunshots to the head, neck or chest.
The bloodshed underscored how the chaos of Israel’s almost 5-month-old offensive has crippled the effort to bring aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, a quarter of whom the United Nations says face starvation.
The UN and other aid groups have been pleading for safe corridors for aid convoys, saying it has become nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, including crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys.
UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October. UN agencies haven’t delivered aid to the north in more than a month because of military restrictions and lack of security, but several deliveries by other groups reached the area earlier this week.
The United Nations says a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people still being treated for injuries Friday from Thursday’s chaotic aid convoy scene.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several European leaders have called for an independent, credible investigation into what happened.
Acknowledging the difficulty of getting aid in, United States President Joe Biden said Friday the US soon will begin airdropping assistance to Gaza and will look for other ways to get shipments in, “including possibly a marine corridor.”
The announcement came hours after a Jordanian plane over northern Gaza dropped packages attached to parachutes, including rice, flour and baby formula.
“Innocent lives are on the line, and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there,” Biden said. “We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”
Aid officials have said airdrops are an incredibly expensive way of distributing assistance.
“I don’t think the airdropping of food in the Gaza Strip should be the answer today. The real answer is: Open the crossing and bring convoys and bring meaningful assistance into the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Thursday.
Thursday’s convoy wasn’t organized by the UN Instead, it appeared to have been monitored by the Israeli military, which said its troops were on hand to secure it and ensure it reached northern Gaza.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday’s convoy was also “coordinated and deconflicted with the Israeli authorities” because they control Gaza.
“We’ve been trying to do that every day,” he said. “We have not been successful every day.”
Thursday’s shooting and bloodshed raise questions about whether Israel will be able to keep order if it goes through with its postwar plans for Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put forward a plan for Israel to retain open-ended security and political control over the territory — an effective reoccupation — after Hamas is destroyed. Under the plan, Palestinians picked by Israel would administer the territory, but it’s uncertain if any would cooperate.
That would leave Israeli troops — who, throughout the war, have responded with heavy firepower when they perceive a possible threat — to oversee the population during the massive postwar humanitarian and reconstruction operation envisioned by the international community.
Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 others. Since the assault began, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.
Despite international calls to allow more aid in, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,228, with another 71,377 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
Thursday’s bloodshed took place as a convoy of around 30 trucks entered Gaza City before dawn.
Many of the wounded described a scene of desperation and chaos, with people climbing on the moving trucks to get bags of flour when Israeli troops began shooting, including from a tank.
“I was holding a bag of flour on my way home. They shot me in the right foot and in the left foot. Shells were fired above our heads, gunfire,” said Sameer Salman, who was being treated in Kamal Adwan.
The Israeli military said dozens of the deaths were caused by a stampede and that some people were run over by trucks as drivers tried to get away.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, said Israeli troops guarding the area fired shots “only toward a threat after the crowd moved toward them in a way that endangered them.” He said the troops “didn’t open fire on those seeking aid.”
 

 


Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

Updated 02 March 2024
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Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

  • The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars

TUNIS: Tunisia has raised its drinking water prices by up to 16 percent, the official gazette said on Friday, in response to a drought that has lasted five years.
After years of drought, average rainfall has increased in recent months but government officials said this week that Tunisian dams have only reached 35 percent of their stock capacity.
The North African country last year imposed a quota system for drinking water and a ban on its use in agriculture. Since last summer, it has been cutting off water supplies at night.
The price of water will be unchanged for small consumers.
Those whose consumption exceeds 40 cubic meters face about 12 percent increase to 1.040 Tunisian dinars ($0.33) per cubic meter and consumers of between 70 and 100 cubic meters per quarter will pay 13.7 percent more at 1.490 dinars per cubic meter with immediate effect.
The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars.
Tunisia has launched water desalination plants to try to make up for the country’s lack of dams and the impact of climate change.

 


Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case

Updated 02 March 2024
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Nicaragua accuses Germany of helping ‘genocide’ in Gaza in ICJ case

  • Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week said Israel is disregarding the ICJ’s interim order by limiting humanitarian aid to Gaza

THE HAGUE: Nicaragua on Friday accused Germany of facilitating “genocide” in Gaza in a case started in the International Court of Justice, by giving support to Israel and suspending funding of the UN Palestinian refugee agency.
Through those measures, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case has failed in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide,” Nicaragua argued in a filing published by the Hague-based court.
Nicaragua was asking the court to take a swift interim stance against Germany before the case was given in-depth study by judges.
The lodging of the case follows the ICJ saying on January 26 that Israel must do everything to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and take “immediate” measures for aid provisions.
That interim order was given as the court moves to weigh in full a case lodged in December by South Africa alleging that Israel was engaged in genocide in Gaza.
Israel has dismissed South Africa’s case as a “grossly distorted story.”
ICJ rulings are legally binding but the court has no enforcement mechanism.
Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week said Israel is disregarding the ICJ’s interim order by limiting humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Accusations from Israel that staff from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, took part in the October 7 Hamas attacks against Israeli communities prompted several countries, including Germany, Britain, Japan and the United States, to suspend their funding.
On Friday, the European Commission emphasized that it was maintaining its funding of UNRWA while reviewing arrangements in light of the Israeli allegation.
The commission said it was releasing 50 million euros ($54 million) to the UN agency next week with a further 32 million euros to follow later.
Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 that Israel says are presumed dead.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza on Friday gave the death toll in the strip from the unrelenting Israeli retaliation as 30,228, mostly women and children.
On Friday a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office OCHA said that “if something doesn’t change, a famine is almost inevitable” in the besieged territory.
 

 


Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza

Updated 02 March 2024
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Hamas armed wing says seven hostages killed in Gaza

  • Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to Hamas’ public messaging on the hostages, casting it as psychological warfare

CAIRO: Seven hostages who have been held in Gaza were killed as a result of the Israeli military’s bombardment of the enclave, Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam brigades said on Friday.
He did not include details, like a timeline, backing up the claim.
The Al-Qassam brigades claimed that the number of hostages killed due to Israel’s military operations in Gaza has now exceeded 70 captives, Abu Ubaida added in a statement on Telegram.
Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to Hamas’ public messaging on the hostages, casting it as psychological warfare.
Israel’s military campaign follows Hamas militants’ killing of 1,200 people in southern Israel and the abduction of at least 250 on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
During a week-long truce in late November, Hamas freed more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages in exchange for Israel releasing about 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas at the outset of the war threatened to execute hostages in retaliation for Israeli military strikes, and Israel has accused it of having executed at least two of the dead hostages recovered by the Israeli military.