Flowers, Strawberries, & Missiles
- Nine-year old child assaulted by Israeli Troops
Israeli army troops assualted nine-year old Palestinian Saqer
al-'Aramen from the town of al-'Ezariah in Jerusalem on Friday evening.
Muqith Abu Roomy, director of the Media office of Asrana center in
Jerusalem reported that an Israeli force comprised of 8 soldiers
heavily beat the child while he was on his way home. Soldiers claimed
they were confused by a toy-gun the child was playing with.
The child was hospitalized as he received injuries to his head and
different parts of his body. Medics declared that he's also
psychologically hurt and confused as a result of battering.
Abu Roomy called upon the Human Rights organizations, the Arab League,
the Quartet Committee and the United Nations to provide protection for
A number of Palestinian children were killed and others wounded by
Israeli army gun-fire when troops claimed that they were confused by
toy-guns the children were playing with.
Translated by Nisreen Qumsieh - IMEMC News.
Gazans told to boil water as chlorine runs low
GAZA (Reuters) - The Palestinian water utility urged Gazans on
Wednesday to boil their drinking water and said contamination was a
risk because an Israeli-led blockade was choking off chlorine
supplies. The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, which runs the
Gaza water system, said it was struggling to disinfect water due to
shortages of chemicals as well as spare parts for pumps and other
equipment. But Israel, which has tightened restrictions on the
Hamas-run enclave in what it says is a response to militant rocket
fire, said it only received a request for chlorine on Wednesday and
was still processing it. The CMWU said 52 of Gaza's 140 water wells
had no chlorine and the others were fast running out.
The utility posted a newspaper advert on Wednesday warning the Gaza
Strip's 1.5 million residents the situation could prompt an epidemic.
"Until we resolve the problem, the people of Gaza should boil water to
disinfect it," CMWU official Monther Shoblak said.
Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel's Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories, said the CMWU should have requested
that chlorine be allowed into Gaza earlier. Gaza's water supply has
been patchy for some time. The CMWU says it cannot import spare parts
to repair old pumps due to Israeli sanctions. Israel says some
equipment, such as metal pipes, is banned for fear militants would use
it to assemble makeshift rockets.
Israel closed Gaza's crossings to most non humanitarian goods in June
after Hamas Islamists seized control of the territory, and has since
tightened restrictions further. Humanitarian groups have denounced the
blockade as collective punishment.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rebecca Harrison; Editing by Myra
Israel announces more building on Palestinian land
By AMY TEIBEL
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
JERUSALEM Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had
barely left Israel on Monday after her latest peacekeeping
mission when Israeli officials announced plans to build 1,400
new homes on land Palestinians claim for a future state.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to keep building in east
Jerusalem and the West Bank, dismissing Palestinian claims
that construction on contested land is the greatest obstacle
The disclosure of the construction plans immediately after
Rice's visit demonstrated the intensity of the political
pressures that Olmert faces.
He continues to support construction in disputed areas, over
the objections of the Palestinians and the US, because it
allows him to keep his fragile coalition intact.
The Israeli construction plans threatened to make it even
harder for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to overcome
his people's skepticism that diplomacy, not violence, would
win them a state.
Announcement comes on heel of Rice visit
Rice arrived in the region Saturday for three days of talks
with Israeli and Palestinian officials meant to advance the US
goal of achieving a peace agreement before President Bush
leaves office in January.
"I think it's all moving in the right direction," Rice said at a
news conference with Abbas in Jordan.
She also warned Israel to halt new settlement activities
that could upset progress.
"Settlement activity should stop expansion should stop,"
But two new construction projects were already being
The city of Jerusalem said it plans to build 600 new
apartments in the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood, which lies
in the eastern sector of Jerusalem that Palestinians see
as their future capital.
'More on the way'
The Shas Party, a powerful partner in Olmert's coalition
government, said the prime minister had promised to revive
frozen plans to build 800 homes in Beitar Illit, an ultra-
Orthodox settlement in the West Bank.
"There are more on the way," party spokesman Roi
Earlier in the day, Olmert pledged that Israel would build
in east Jerusalem and heavily Jewish areas of the West Bank
land Israel expects to keep in a final peace agreement.
"This is going on within the framework of negotiations,
and the negotiations will continue to progress," he said.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the
construction plans and appealed to the Americans to
intervene. "This announcement is changing the situation
on the ground for the worse," Erekat said.
Gaza Farms Die Silently
By Motasem Dalloul
Photo: Farmers forced at gunpoint to destroy their crops at
GAZA CITY - While much of the media focus is justifiably on the lack
of electricity, food stuff and medical supplies, Gaza farmers and
their dying business continue to be a silent victim of the
never-ending Israeli siege.
"I can export only a small portion of the potatoes crop I have planted
with painstaking efforts to make sure it meets the high-standard
quality needed for exporting," Nafeth abu-Shiekh, a 47-year-old
farmer, told IslamOnline.net near the eastern Gaza border line.
"They promised to solve the problem of the siege but unfortunately
nothing happened and I am sometimes forced to damage my fruits with my
own hands," he added with anger and despair shaping his face features.
"I won't be able to get even the expenses of seeds, pesticides and
fertilizers as well as the minimum wages of laborers," Nafeth said.
Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip's exits to the outside world
since Hamas took control of the territory last June after routing
It has completely locked down the coastal area since January.
"Things are far worse for Gaza this time," said agronomist Younis
Zaytoonya, censorship director in the Agriculture Ministry.
"It seems that there is nothing to do with agriculture products except
damaging them," he regretted.
"Potatoes used to be a money-making crop with more than 7,000 tons
exported and hundreds of tons stored to be sold yearlong but today it
has become a disastrous crop because of its huge losses."
Dr. Mohammed al-Agha, the minister of agriculture in the Gaza
government, put the daily losses of the sector at more than $150,000
as a result of the Israeli siege.
"This figure will exceeds $125 million at the end of this year if
He stressed that this aggravates the situation for Gazans, the
majority of whom have already been living under the poverty line for
Agrarian year consists of three seasons for the farmers in Gaza.
"The seasonal income for 45,000 vegetable farmers in Gaza is $ 90
million per season," al-Agha said.
"This is completely lost. The same thing goes for 15,000 fruit farmers
Ramadan Salah, a husband of two and father of 9, is not better off.
"I go to the farm every day and look at my land but can't do any
thing," he said.
"I only plant some vegetables for the house consumption and some extra
that I hope to sell in order to get some money for my children," he added.
Jamal al-Khodari, the chairman of the Popular Committee against the
Siege, said the Israeli siege has also forced many farmers to plant
the old way.
"The Israelis don't allow any rude or productive material for farming
and industry including modified seeds, pesticides and chemical
fertilizers used in farming," he said.
"The high prices and shortage of fuel affects farmers as they can't
use tractors to cultivate their lands," he added.
This has forced most farmers to return to the traditional methods of
"Beside non-profitable returns, the old methods of farming exhaust
farmers and do not yield high standard products," said Zaytoonya, the
Even if the siege is lifted in the near future, which remains highly
unlikely, the sufferings of the Gaza farmers would not end.
"Modified seeds, pesticides and fertilizers are running out and I may
not find them the next season," said abu-Shiekh.
"So after dismissing all the six workers who used to help me in my
farm, I only plant for home consumption."
Tawfeeq Salama, a 41-year-old farmer from Beit Laheya, isn't planning
to plant his farm for the coming season as a result of the losses of
the current one.
"It's clear that we will lose if we planted any crop."
He said they had only planted this seasons after Israeli promises to
facilitate vegetables and fruits exports and imports.
Salama regrets that he believed the Israelis and planted his favorite
"I only got to export a bit of my crop and sell some in the local
markets before I had to damage the rest.
"I've paid $9,000 for 9 donums of strawberry but only made $3,000," he
"So I won't be able to plant any new crop even if the siege was lifted
in the near future because of my huge comedown."
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)
Flowers, Strawberries, and Missiles
BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza- Just 300 yards from the hidden eyes in the Israeli
tank, Ahmed Felfel picks his strawberries. But it isn't the Israelis
in the tank who worry him as much as those others who will not let him
Earlier, it was flowers grown in Gaza and then fed to camels because
the Israeli blockade would not let them through. Now it is
strawberries grown and wasted.
It is Gaza's irony that the most desperate conditions produce some of
the finest people seek. Nature itself has been kind to Gaza; the soil
is rich, there is plenty of sunshine, and predictable rainfall. All
that produces strawberries of a quality that the best restaurants in
Europe like to serve.
After Gaza elected Hamas, Israel moved swiftly with U.S. backing to
isolate the 23-mile long strip of land with Israel on one side and the
Mediterranean on the other. It's a siege that will not let even
flowers and strawberries through.
"I am alive but I feel dead," says Ahmed Felfel. He is expecting losses
of 35,000 to 45,000 dollars as a result of the Israeli blockade. That
is above more direct losses. "Israeli tanks and bulldozers demolished
my irrigation system, my greenhouses, my equipment."
Beit Lahiya is close to the Israeli border, and just a few miles from
the Israeli town Siderot which has been within reach of home-made
rockets fired from within Gaza. Israel, in turn, has launched deadly
missile attacks on Gaza.
The Israelis come in and simply bulldoze any place they think can hide
a launching pad for rockets. When they find nothing, no compensation
In an average year, Gaza's 6,000 strawberry farmers harvest nearly
2,000 tonnes of the fruit that sell altogether for about 10 million
dollars. Two-thirds is normally shipped out through Agrexco, the
agriculture exchange half-owned by the Israeli government that Gaza's
fruit and flower growers are required to use.
In November two trucks carrying flowers and six carrying strawberries
were allowed through by the Israelis. Then the blockade came down
Agrexco vice-president Malachy J. Malinovich has said "Palestinian
producers have decided not to continue shipping." That could be partly
true, because many Palestinian farmers have decided not to grow fruits
and flowers rather than spend all that time and money only to see
their produce rot.
Ahmed al-Shafi, director of Gaza's Agriculture Cooperative, says that
one shipment of 12 tonnes of strawberries was destroyed in December
last year because it was held up at the Karem Shalom crossing (Hebrew
for what the Palestinians call Karm Abu Salem).
Gaza has an airport and sea port, but Israel prevents their use. On
the other hand the border crossing at Rafah into Egypt is sealed by
Egypt, under heavy U.S. pressure.
"We used to sell a kilo of strawberries for 4.50 dollars," says
al-Shafi. "Now it sells for 50 cents here."
Two years ago, he said, 40 to 45 tonnes of strawberries were exported
from Gaza daily in season. This year, no more than 100 tonnes have
been exported so far.
And this may do long-term damage. Europe could simply get used to
importing from elsewhere. And Gaza could face an "emigration of
experience" because the best farmers are heading out to Egypt.
Al-Shafi has been privileged enough to be allowed out of Gaza. He has
spoken to EU representatives and to U.S. officials in Tel Aviv. "We
Palestinians and Israelis are neighbours and farmers," he said. "We
should seek a way to co-exist."
Particularly now, and particularly Israelis. It's the year of Shimita
that comes every seven years, when Orthodox Jews are required to eat
foods produced by non-Jewish sources. Some, at least, of the Israeli
blockade is against Israelis.
Najwa Sheikh writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine,
1 May 2008
[See photo at above website of the family funeral]
Mourners gather around the bodies of four Palestinian children and
their mother from the Abu Me'teq family during their funeral in Beit
Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Earlier that day, the four
children, aged one to five, and their mother were killed when an
Israeli army shell struck the family's home in Beit Hanoun, 28 April
2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
In their simple house made of metal sheets, Myassar Abu Me'teq was
sitting next to three of her children having breakfast and holding her
one-year-old baby in her arms. She listened to their daily complaints
and loving quarrels, trying to comfort them and keep them away from
the sound of the Israeli shelling close to their home in Beit Hanoun
in the northern Gaza Strip.
This mother did not know that their clock would soon stop ticking, not
by their creator but by their enemy. She did not know that it was the
last breakfast she would prepare for her children. She did not know
that it was the last time she would hold her baby. She did not know
that she would no longer know her children and their future as they
also would never know their mother as an old woman. Like any mother,
she refused to leave her children alone on their trip. She did not
want to let go of her baby and insisted on accompanying them as one
family in life and in death.
But like many others before her who were killed by Israel, she did not
know that she would be the hero of a horror movie, and that she would
be leaving this world with her four children, leaving behind two other
girls with the bitter taste of loss and images of their mother and
little sisters pigmented in blood and pieces of their bodies. An
artillery shell -- "accidentally" as Israel officials said -- hit the
family's house and shattered the dreams of the little kids during
their peaceful breakfast, ahead of a joyful afternoon. The shell
killed them in a brutal way without any mercy for their tiny bodies or
their baffled eyes.
Talking again and again about what the Palestinians have to face in
Gaza, their suffering and the deliberate killing of their families has
become a banal topic that moves nobody, especially with the pervasive
silence of fellow Palestinians, the Arab world and the larger
international community towards such devastating events. That each
Israeli operation will bring a new catastrophic event that talking
about it, draws its pain and expresses the deep hatred and inhumanity
that our enemy adopts towards us, forces me to write about these
families and their tragedy with one hope that my words will make a
difference and help in preventing such events in the future.
We, the Palestinians, must begin to realize that the rules of Israel's
killing game have changed. There is no respect for Palestinian lives,
that they don't see as human and don't give a second thought about the
innocent children, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters it has
killed and entire families that it has destroyed.
As I have written before about al-Athamna family in Beit Hanoun, Abu
Ghalya family in Jabaliya, and Abu Me'teq family also in Beit Hanoun,
a question is left without having an answer, not about those who were
killed and rest forever, but about those who left behind and who have
to live with the memories of their experience every moment for the
rest of their lives. Day and night, even when time passes so quickly
that things sounds fine to them, but deep down in their subconscious
they will always keep these bad memories and force themselves to
believe, as we all do in such experiences, the big lie that things
will be ok and life will go on. But, the truth that we must accept is
that these individuals will never be the same and can never live a
normal life. We have to be prepared when the time will come when the
monster that the Israelis have created, and that lives in the details
of each of these stories is freed, and we the Palestinians must face
Najwa Sheikh is a Palestinian refugee from al-Majdal located just
north of the Gaza Strip. Shiekh has lived in refugee camps in Gaza her
entire life. She is married with three children.
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