Aid ship blocked from Gaza
- Libya calls for UN intervention to protect its ship from Israeli
Libyan aid ship blocked from Gazaþ
TRIPOLI, (PIC)-- Libya on Tuesday urged the UN Security Council to
hold an emergency session to protect its ship 'Marwa', which carries
food and medical assistance to the besieged Gaza Strip, from Israeli
The Libyan foreign ministry in a message to the current UNSC
president said that the ship and its crew are subjected to piracy at
the hands of Israeli navy forces in international waters.
It said the act posed as an infringement on freedom of navigation in
international waters and a threat to the safety of the ship and its
The ministry's message said that the ship was on a humanitarian and
not a military mission, noting that the Israeli navy gunboats were
forcibly leading the ship away from the Gaza port.
The act is sheer piracy, the message said, and asked the UNSC to
immediately intervene to allow safe sailing for the ship.
The ship's captain had said that Israeli gunboats were constantly
harassing his vessel, and underlined that his shipment would be only
unloaded in Gaza.
Libya announced on Monday that its ship was heading to the Egyptian
Arish harbor after the Israeli air force and navy blocked its way to
The ship had left the Zuwara port west of the Libyan capital Tripoli
five days earlier with 3,000 tons of foodstuff and medicine to Gaza.
Libyan aid ship to Gaza accosted by Israeli warships; docks in Egypt
01 / 12 / 2008
Gaza Ma'an The Libyan aid ship destined for Gaza and turned away
by Israeli warships landed in the Egyptian port of Al-Arish Monday
The boat, carrying 3,000 tons of aid, entered Gazan coastal waters at
6:20am and was immediately ordered to turn around. The ship altered
its course to Al-Arish, from where it is hoped supplies can be
transferred into Gaza through the Rafah border in the south.
In a gathering at the Gaza port meant to receive the diverted ship
Head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege Jamal Al-Khudari said
he spoke to the Libyan Minister of Health by phone in order to review
He called on the international community to pressure Israel to allow
the ship access to the Gaza port. Three ships have brought aid and
international activists into Gaza since August. The boats, affiliated
with the Free Gaza movement, were cleared by Cyprus customs, and
notified Israeli naval authorities that they were humanitarian
vessels delivering aid.
It is not clear how close to Gaza the Libyan ship was when it was
turned around by the Israeli navy, or what justification was given to
the ship when it was ordered to turn away. According to the Free Gaza
movement ,the Israeli navy's actions on the Mediterranean Sea - to
what extent and at what boundaries Gazan waters were policed are an
indicator of Israeli official policy on the continued occupation of
the Gaza Strip despite the unilateral withdrawal in 2005.
The aid in the turned-away ship is a gift from the Libyan government
to the besieged Gazan population.
Minister of social affairs in the de facto government Ahmad Al-Kurd
called on the Arab world to send aid through Rafah crossing rather
than by sea. "We remind the billion Muslims around the world that
they have brothers starving to death in the Gaza Strip," he added.
Minister of Health in the de facto government Bassem Na'im had harsh
words for the Arab and Islamic world, condemning their silence while
Gaza "dies a slow death."
Senior leader in the An-Nasser brigades, the armed wing of the
Popular Resistance Committees, Abu Abir said he considered the
turning away of aid a violation of the truce.
Earlier Monday Al-Khudari indicated that the wheels of international
diplomacy were at work to try and have the ship dock in Gaza. It is
not clear whether Egypt will allow the aid through Rafah crossing,
although several Arab countries pledged to send aid to Gaza over land
through Rafah at the last Arab Foreign Ministers Meeting in Cairo.
Libyan aid ship blocked from Gaza
Three activist boats have reached
the Gaza Strip since August [EPA]
Israeli boats have obstructed the path of a Libyan cargo ship en
route to the Gaza Strip.
The ship was said to be carrying about 3,000 tonnes of goods for
residents of the Strip in defiance of an Israeli sea and land
blockade of the territory.
Monday's scheduled docking was the first attempt by a foreign
government to break the blockade.
"Navy ships approached the Libyan boat and ordered it on the radio to
turn back, and so it did," Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry
"Anyone wishing to transfer humanitarian aid into Gaza is welcome to
do it in coordination with Israel and through the regular crossings.
They can also contact Egypt."
The crew of the ship said that they would study other options to
deliver the supplies onboard to Gaza.
"We denounce what has happened. It comes to reinforce the Israeli
siege imposed on Gaza," Jamal Khoudary, a member of the Palestinian
legislature and organiser against the Israeli blockade, said.
"Israel even targets the loaf of bread and the children milk which
was coming aboard this ship."
"This is a message to the whole world to watch how Israel deals with
the Palestinian people."
Food and medicine
The Al-Marwa departed from the Libyan port of Zuara on Tuesday
evening carrying food, medicines, blankets and powdered milk,
"The ship is safe and will help us since it is carrying food and
medicine. There is no reason to stop it," Khoudari told the Jerusalem
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister and Ehud Barak, the defence
minister, met on Sunday night to discuss the ship and decided not to
consent to its docking in Gaza, officials said.
"A ship like that is capable of carrying weapons no less than what
was on the Karine, a weapons boat that was seized," an Israeli
security official told Maariv newspaper in reference to a vessel
intercepted by the navy in 2002 and found to be transporting 50
tonnes of weaponry to Gaza.
"From our perspective, it is a hostile ship that left from an enemy
country and we will treat it accordingly."
The unidentified official also said it had been a mistake to let in
the boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists.
"We should have stopped those ships," he said.
Libyan officials have not commented on the latest incident.
Three boats manned by pro-Palestinian activists have arrived in the
Gaza Strip from Cyprus since August in violation of the blockade,
without drawing Israel into action. The boats contained some aid
Israeli officials said that they did not want to give the US-based
Free Gaza advocacy group any publicity by stopping them.
But another Israeli official said of the Libyan boat: "We will treat
this boat different than the earlier ones that were allowed into Gaza.
"Libya is a hostile state to Israel and what guarantees do we have
that the boat is not carrying weapons and explosives for Hamas?"
Israel imposed the blockade of goods into the Gaza Strip, part of
occupied Palestinian territories, last year to put pressure on Gaza's
UN 'has run out of Gaza food aid'
The UN has no more food to distribute in the Gaza Strip, the head of
relief efforts in the area has warned.
John Ging said handouts for 750,000 Gazans would have to be suspended
until Saturday at the earliest, and called Gaza's economic
situation "a disaster".
Israel earlier denied entry to a convoy carrying humanitarian
It has prevented the transfer of all goods into Gaza for nearly a
week, blaming continuing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) distributes
emergency aid to about half of Gaza's 1.5m population.
"We have run out [of food aid] this evening," said Mr Ging, Unrwa's
senior official in Gaza.
"Unless the crossing points open... we won't be able to get that food
into Gaza," he told Reuters news agency.
Also on Thursday, Israel refused permission for a group of senior
European diplomats to visit the coastal enclave.
Gaza shut to fuel and journalists
It has also prevented journalists, including those from the BBC, from
entering the territory.
Limited supplies of fuel were sent over on Tuesday after Gaza's only
power plant ran out of diesel.
Militants say the mortar and rocket fire is their response to what
they say is Israeli aggression against Gaza.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev insisted any improvement
would be dependent on the Hamas movement which runs the Gaza Strip.
"There's been a combat situation and it's very difficult to have
unhindered functioning of the border crossings in a situation where
shooting is going on," he said.
On Wednesday, Israeli troops killed four Palestinian militants from
the Hamas movement, which has controlled Gaza since it wrested power
from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in June 2007.
Witnesses said fighting broke out on the Gaza border after Israeli
armoured vehicles crossed into the territory near Khan Younis.
The army said its soldiers were trying to stop militants plant a bomb
near the security fence surrounding the strip.
Aleem Maqbool reports from a closed crossing into the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza power plant provides most of the electricity used in Gaza
City; Israel supplies most of the rest of the territory's energy
needs, but the system is liable to become overloaded and blackouts
Israel occupied Gaza in 1967, but pulled military forces and Jewish
settlers out in the summer of 2005.
Access to the territory, which is home to about 1.5m Palestinians,
remains under the control of Israel's military, as does its airspace
and territorial waters.
Egypt controls the southern entrance to Gaza at Rafah, and goes along
with the policy of isolating the Hamas movement, which Israel and its
allies brand a terrorist group.
The current round of clashes and rocket fire began on 5 November when
Israeli troops entered Gaza to destroy what Israel said was a tunnel
dug by militants to abduct its troops.
One militant died in the gunfight, and a subsequent Israeli air
strike on Hamas positions in southern Gaza killed at least five
Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets fired into Israel. There
has been intermittent rocket fire since, causing no Israeli
A truce between the two sides declared on 19 June had largely held.
Both sides have accused the other of violating the truce, but
maintain that they remain committed to it.
Moving Beyond Political Activism
Deprivation and Desperation in Gaza
By JOE MOWREY
As conditions in the Gaza strip approach a catastrophic level of
deprivation, the world media, and in particular the U.S. media,
remain largely silent. The United Nations, whose truckloads of food
and medical supplies continue to be denied entry into Gaza by Israel,
appears to be one of the few international voices of dissent
concerning the collective punishment of 1.5 million human beings.
This, despite the fact that more than 50% of the population in Gaza
is comprised of children under the age of 15.
Israel claims to be defending itself against the crude, often
homemade rockets which militant factions in Gaza fire randomly into
southern Israel. Though it may be considered politically incorrect,
this writer refuses to precede his remarks with the requisite, "It's
wrong for militant Palestinians to be firing rockets into Israel."
The ethics of Palestinian resistance to the Zionist colonization of
Palestine and the dispossession of the Palestinian people is a
subject for another article. The issue at hand is one of collective
punishment. Regardless of the actions of certain factions in Gaza,
the fact remains that Israel (with the approval of the U.S.and the
world community) is depriving an entire civilian population of food,
medicine and clean drinking water in response to the violent actions
of a few among that population. By any civilized standard this
behavior is wrong and should be condemned vociferously. To paraphrase
the words of an alien from another planet in a not-so-great Hollywood
movie of some years ago, every sentient being knows the difference
between right and wrong.
Apparently not. Israel's Foreign Minister and likely future Prime
Minister, Tzipi Livni, recently dismissed the notion that Israel's
actions in Gaza amount to collective punishment and claimed those
actions were a justifiable response to the rocket attacks on Israel.
She stated, "The international community must be more decisive in
making itself heard and in using its influence in the face of these
To suggest that the international community should condemn "these
attacks" by militant Palestinian factions, yet ignore the
humanitarian disaster being imposed on Gaza by the government of
Israel demonstrates a nearly incomprehensible level of hypocrisy. But
more importantly, the fact that Jews are the ones perpetrating these
unconscionable actions in Gaza is a tragedy of historic proportions.
The Geneva Conventions, particularly those articles addressing the
collective punishment of civilian populations, were largely crafted
in response to the treatment of Jews by the Nazis during World War
II. Has the sense of exclusivity and entitlement created by the
Zionist experiment in Israel become so great that people there no
longer see themselves in the mirror of their own history? The irony
of Jews, among the most egregiously persecuted and maligned people in
history, denying food to hundreds of thousands of children in order,
allegedly, to insure their own security, is breathtaking. Who could
ever have imagined such a thing?
As people of Gaza suffer, here in the U.S., the vast majority of so-
called progressives continue to revel in the recent election of the
first Black man to the Presidency. While Obama has garnered a great
deal of political and financial support by pledging his unconditional
support for the Zionist regime in Israel, he remains completely
silent on the plight of the children of Gaza. Our first Black
President not only refuses to speak out against the collective
punishment of an oppressed people, he actively supports and
encourages the regime responsible for this behavior. This too is a
tragedy of historic proportions. Have we come this far in the
struggle against racism in our country only to see Barack Obama put a
minority face on U.S. support for violations of international law and
essential human dignity by Israel? Again, one has to say, who could
ever have imagined such a thing?
Each morning I peruse the alternative media online and hope to see at
least some minor degree of outrage at the situation in Gaza. A small
but courageous handful of progressive web sites dare to criticize
Israel and speak out against the abuse of the Palestinian people. But
for the most part, the glorious and powerful "NetRoots" movement is
too busy congratulating itself on the so-called victory it has
achieved in the recent elections, too busy celebrating the illusion
of change which Barack Obama represents, to admit the absence of any
indication of substantive change in U.S. foreign policy in Palestine
or the Middle East under his coming administration.
Does it ever occur to those who so blindly and passionately
rallied `round their candidate for the Presidency that they might now
use their voices to encourage him to oppose the human rights abuses
being orchestrated in Gaza? The sad reality is, not even a chorus of
such voices is likely to alter the course Obama appears to have
taken. He has surrounded himself with a familiar cast of armchair
militarists, corporatists and hard core pro-Zionist zealots who will
continue to give their unconditional support to Israel regardless of
what barbaric tactics the government there uses to advance the
colonization of Palestine. He is choosing to turn his back on the
men, women and children in Gaza and the West Bank who suffer chronic
malnutrition, desperate poverty, dispossession and daily humiliation
at the hands of the Israeli military.
We should stand up in opposition to instances of human rights abuses
whenever and wherever they occur. The situation in Gaza is only one
on an unfortunately long list, locally, nationally and
internationally. And U.S. government (that means you and me) support
for and complicity in many such instances is no secret. If each of us
were to do just one thing per week to address these issues, the
result might surprise us all. Take a minute out from the long and
endless chatter of day to day living and speak to a friend about the
idea of social equality. Write one letter to the editor of your local
paper in support of human rights. Spend just one percent of your
online hours learning the truth about our complicity as U.S. citizens
in the exploitation and degradation of other people and their
cultures. Turn off your television. Go stand on a corner with a sign
to protest war. Wear a button promoting peace and justice. One small
thing at a time.
To those who became politically active, possibly for the first time,
and expended their valuable enthusiasm and energy in order to see
Barack Obama elected: thank you for being a part of history. Now why
not try on the mantel of social activism? Write our President-elect a
letter and suggest that he at least acknowledge the suffering of the
people in Gaza. It is doubtful it will change him or his policies,
but it may change you. And that truly is "change we can believe in."
Every sentient being knows the difference between right and wrong.
The question is, why do so few of us act on that knowledge?
Joe Mowrey is an anti-war and Palestinian rights activist. He lives
in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his spouse, Janice, and their three
canine enablers. You can write to him at jmowrey@....
The collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population is illegal.
But international law was tossed aside long ago
The slow death of Gaza
Monday November 24 2008
It has been two weeks since Israel imposed a complete closure of
Gaza, after months when its crossings have been open only for the
most minimal of humanitarian supplies. Now it is even worse: two
weeks without United Nations food trucks for the 80% of the
population entirely dependent on food aid, and no medical supplies or
drugs for Gaza's ailing hospitals. No fuel (paid for by the EU) for
Gaza's electricity plant, and no fuel for the generators during the
long blackouts. Last Monday morning, 33 trucks of food for UN
distribution were finally let in a few days of few supplies for
very few, but as the UN asks, then what?
Israel's official explanation for blocking even minimal humanitarian
aid, according to IDF spokesperson Major Peter Lerner, was "continued
rocket fire and security threats at the crossings". Israel's
blockade, in force since Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-2007,
can be described as an intensification of policies designed to
isolate the population of Gaza, cripple its economy, and incentivise
the population against Hamas by harsh and illegal measures of
collective punishment. However, these actions are not all new: the
blockade is but the terminal end of Israel's closure policy, in place
since 1991, which in turn builds on Israel's policies as occupier
In practice, Israel's blockade means the denial of a broad range of
items food, industrial, educational, medical deemed "non-
essential" for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at
the end of decades of occupation. It means that industrial, cooking
and diesel fuel, normally scarce, are virtually absent now. There are
no queues at petrol stations; they are simply shut. The lack of fuel
in turn means that sewage and treatment stations cannot function
properly, resulting in decreased potable water and tens of millions
of litres of untreated or partly treated sewage being dumped into the
sea every day. Electricity cuts previously around eight hours a
day, now up to 16 hours a day in many areas affect all homes and
hospitals. Those lucky enough to have generators struggle to find the
fuel to make them work, or spare parts to repair them when they break
from overuse. Even candles are running out.
There can be no dispute that measures of collective punishment
against the civilian population of Gaza are illegal under
international humanitarian law. Fuel and food cannot be withheld or
wielded as reward or punishment. But international law was tossed
aside long ago. The blockade has been presented as punishment for the
democratic election of Hamas, punishment for its subsequent takeover
of Gaza, and punishment for militant attacks on Israeli civilians.
The civilians of Gaza, from the maths teacher in a United Nations
refugee camp to the premature baby in an incubator, properly punished
for actions over which they have no control, will rise up and get rid
of Hamas. Or so it goes.
And so what of these civilian agents of political change?
For all its complexities and tragedies, the over-arching effect of
Israel's blockade has been to reduce the entire population to
survival mode. Individuals are reduced to the daily detail of
survival, and its exhaustions.
Consider Gaza's hospital staff. In hospitals, the blockade is as
seemingly benign as doctors not having paper upon which to write
diagnostic results or prescriptions, and as sinister as those
seconds between power cut and generator start when a child on
life support doesn't have the oxygen of a mechanical ventilator. A
nurse on a neo-natal ward rushes between patients, battling the
random schedule of power cuts. A hospital worker tries to keep a few
kidney dialysis machines from breaking down, by farming spare parts
from those that already have. The surgeon operates without a bulb in
the surgery lamp, across from the anaesthetist who can no longer
prevent patient pain. The hospital administrator updates lists of
essential drugs and medical supplies that have run out, which
vaccines from medical fridges are now unusable because they can't be
kept cold, and which procedures must be cancelled altogether. The
ambulance driver decides whether to respond to an emergency call,
based on dwindling petrol in the tank.
By reducing the population to survival mode, the blockade robs people
of the time and essence to do anything but negotiate the minutiae of
what is and isn't possible in their personal and professional lives.
Whether any flour will be available to make bread, where it might be
found, how much it now costs. Rich or poor, taxi drivers, human
rights defenders, and teachers alike spend hours speculating about
where a canister of cooking gas might be found. Exhaustion is
gripping hold of all in Gaza. Survival leaves little if no room for
political engagement and beyond exhaustion, anger and frustration
are all that is left.
Gaza held hostage should outrage us all
By Linda S. Heard
Nov 26, 2008
There are 1.5 million men, women and children currently imprisoned
without food, water, fuel or essential medicines. There is little to
cook and nothing to cook on except open-air wood fires.
Students do their best to learn by candlelight. Adults struggle to
find transport to take them to work, those lucky enough to have a
job; 60 per cent are unemployed. The lives of the sick hang on a
lottery. Soon they will face the worst of the winter in the dark.
Worst of all, there is no escape.
As if all this suffering isn't enough, their neighbourhoods are
regularly bombed; their leaders assassinated. They stood by
helplessly as their life-sustaining olive groves were willfully
destroyed and their homes demolished.
Most of the people of Gaza have been captives throughout their lives.
Today, they have nothing; no real champions, no future, no hope; not
even bread. And what is the so-called international community doing
about their man-made plight? The answer is nothing. Indeed, many
neighbouring countries are colluding, albeit reluctantly.
How long are we going to witness this terrible example of man's
inhumanity to man without feeling ashamed at our own silence or anger
at the inaction of our own leaders? Why are normally compassionate
people who enjoy the benefits of First World living unflinching when
it comes to the pain endured by Palestinians?
It seems to me there is a sense that these stateless people fighting
for a home and to retain their identity are somehow at fault. Perhaps
in that way we can ease our own consciences.
When natural disasters, such as a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane
or famine occur, we open our hearts and our wallets. We rail at
countries where bad governance is responsible for poverty, hunger and
civil war, such as Zimbabwe and the Congo.
We rightfully feel a sense of outrage over the continued existence of
Guantanamo. Yet, how many of us do more than shrug our shoulders at
the way Israel treats 1.5 million people encaged in a living hell?
For the last three weeks, Israel has imposed a complete blockade on
the Gaza Strip in response to homemade rockets that were lobbed at
southern Israel. It doesn't care that "collective punishment" is
illegal both under international law and the Geneva Conventions.
For instance, Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions IV (1949)
reads: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed. Collective penalties, pillage and
reprisals against protected persons and their property are
Last January, Israel's Supreme Court upheld an earlier blockade of
Gaza even while confirming Israel's obligation under international
law not to deliberately harm civilians.
Well, Israel is deliberately harming civilians. Those premature
newborns hanging by a thread to life because Gaza's largest hospital,
Shifa, is operating on a faulty generator and patients suffering
kidney failure who cannot receive dialysis are being punished for
crimes they didn't commit.
On Sunday, King Abdullah of Jordan made this appeal to EU
ambassadors: "The international community should do its utmost to end
suffering of Palestinians in Gaza." A fine sentiment, indeed, but
that's as far as it goes.
Earlier, Israel rejected an appeal by the secretary-general of the
UN, Ban Ki-Moon, who underscored the "importance of having Israel
urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the
civilian population of Gaza, and regrets that his calls have not yet
The exiled leader of Hamas, Khalid Mesha'al, has criticised the
leaders of Arab and Muslim countries for their silence and says he
would like "every Arab country to send a boat to Gaza."
Whatever one feels about the merits of Hamas as a political party or
a fighting force, Mesha'al has a point. King Abdullah's appeal to the
international community is welcomed but it should have been directed
specifically at the Arab world, which has not only a moral but a
brotherly duty to show the way.
Egypt should open Rafah, despite its fears that an uncontrollable
human flood will ensue, simply because it's the right thing to do.
Sad to say, but Israel has proved time and time again that
international condemnation bounces off it like water off a duck's
back. The Israelis cared a hoot when former US president Jimmy Carter
called the blockade "a crime and atrocity" back in April or when the
Nobel peace laureate referred to it as "an abomination" in May.
No more pleading. There needs to be action. Israel should be treated
in the same way South Africa under apartheid was -- with boycotts and
isolation. Its government should be tried at The Hague even in
absentia and its officials should be liable to arrest wherever they
Israel with the backing of Washington believes it is inviolable; it
can do whatever it likes and step on whomever it wishes without
repercussions. If words won't cut it, then the only way for the
Palestinians to be heard is for the world to give Israel a small but
bitter taste of its own nasty medicine.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs.
She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at
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