Solidarity protests at the ICRC in Ramallah on Thursday to demand international action in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails

This morning, solidarity protesters showed up at the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC]  in Ramallah, in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike:

Solidarity protests at the ICRC in Ramallah on Thurs 10 May - photo posted on Facebook by Radio Ajyal

Photo by Radio Ajyal, posted on Facebook here

After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel

In its own special way, the ICRC has gone public with criticism of Israeli policy that has prevented family visits — for fully the past four years — to Palestinian detainees from Gaza being held in Israel prisons.

A media announcement has been released (this is going public) and a somewhat stilted video has been released (part of it viewable from the ICRC website here).

On the same webpage, the ICRC gives this explanation: “Gaza detainees barred from family visits: In June 2007, the Israeli authorities announced the suspension of family visits for Palestinians from Gaza who were being held in Israel. This decision, which was made a year after Palestinian armed groups captured the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, deprives both the detainees and their relatives of an essential lifeline, and cuts detainees off from the outside world. In the past four years, over 700 families from Gaza have been prevented from seeing their detained relatives”.

Almost simultaneously (though I didn’t see this until later), the ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord issued a statement in Geneva saying that “The total absence of information concerning Mr Shalit is completely unacceptable … The Shalit family have the right under international humanitarian law to be in contact with their son … Hamas has an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect Mr. Shalit’s life, to treat him humanely and to let him have contact with his family”.

The statement noted that “The ICRC continues to make every possible effort to gain access to Mr Shalit or at least to establish contact between him and his family”.

Continue reading After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel

ICRC in Tel Aviv on IDF newly-laid minefields in Golan

The ICRC Spokesperson in Tel Aviv Ran Goldstein informed me by email, in response to my query days ago, about Israeli media reports of newly-laid IDF minefields in the Golan planted in the weeks between May15 and June5 demonstrations, that:
We are closely following the events that are taking place in the Golan. The organization is particularly concerned with the loss of life and the wounded. The ICRC has also reminded the IDF of its obligations regarding the need to respect international standards relevant to law enforcement especially with regards to the proportionate use of force. The ICRC has a confidential and bilateral dialogue with the authorities on the situation. Once it has collected more details on the incidents, the ICRC would be able to address the authorities according to its working modalities. Unfortunately, for the moment, we can’t provide you with additional details about this issue“.

The IDF has also been criticized for the use of live fire — after oral warnings in Arabic, Israeli officials counter — against unarmed protesters who breached Israeli lines in the Golan both on May15 and on June5.

Our earlier posts on this are: 7 June – here; 8 June – here; and 9 June – here.

Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

The Jerusalem Post’s Larry Derfner reported in the weekend Magazine that he was told by a senior Israeli defense official that, so far in 2010, Israeli troops at Gaza border have killed 30 armed Palestinians + five civilians.

According to Derfner’s article, this Israeli official knows of no “mistaken” killing during the past 1.5 years in Gaza. Another Israeli Defense official said, however, that “none … were purely innocent bystanders”.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), however, has reported that “In most cases ‘warning shots’ are fired to force people out of the area, which results in no casualties… [but a] minority of cases have resulted in the death and injury of civilians”.

Derfner mentions the coverage of the killings of two of those five Gazan civilians: on September 12 [the third day of the post-Ramadan Muslim three-day Eid holiday], “an incident near the northern part of the Gaza Strip received more than the usual, meager level of attention: An unarmed 91-year-old Palestinian farm employee, Ibrahim Abu Said, his teenage grandson and another young man were killed by an IDF tank shell a few hundred meters from the border … The army acknowledged up front that the dead suspects had been unarmed, but the investigation exonerated the soldiers who fired the shell. ‘One of the young men had picked up an RPG [shoulder-fired missile launcher] from the ground. He might have been just playing with it, but the tank unit felt threatened. They thought it was being aimed at them, so they fired. Right before that, there had been mortars fired at our positions’, a senior defense official in the northern Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post this week”.

The Derfner article also says that another one among the five civilian — but no, still not mistaken, according to the IDF official — Palestinian deaths in Gaza this year was “a man who was carrying a slingshot at the head of group of protesters headed for the border fence. ‘We fired warning shots and he didn’t leave. Then the soldiers fired with the intent to injure, not kill. They hit him around the knee, and he didn’t get proper treatment over there, and he bled to death’, said the official, noting that the reason demonstrators are not allowed near the fence is that some, often youngsters, use the opportunity to plant explosives”.

No Palestinians were questioned in the IDF investigation, said the official” “the army has no direct contact with Gaza’s population except during brief military incursions, so the Palestinian side, as a rule, is not heard in army inquiries”.

Continue reading Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

Gaza in Despair

The ICRC is not alone in saying, as they do in a new report, that Gaza’s 1.5 million people are trapped in despair.

During the 22-day IDF military operation, there was no safe place for civilians in the Gaza Strip, the report says. The small coastal strip is cut off from the outside world.

Now, it says, “Six months after the end of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, the people living there find themselves unable to rebuild their lives and are sliding ever deeper into despair”.

According to the report, “the stringent [Israeli military] restrictions on movements of persons and goods into and out of Gaza over the two past years” is “one of the main causes of the crisis”:
– Thousands of Gazans whose homes and belongings were destroyed half a year ago remain without adequate shelter.
– Every day the equivalent of 28 Olympic-size swimming pools of sewage is pumped directly and more or less untreated into the Mediterranean.
– Hospitals are struggling because complex and lengthy Israeli import procedures slow down the delivery of basic medical necessities such as painkillers and X-ray film developer, and seriously ill patients are not getting the treatment they need.
– Gazans are increasingly struggling to make ends meet: “The poorest residents in particular have exhausted their coping mechanisms and often have to sell off their belongings to be able to buy enough to eat,” according to Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in the territory. People are generally getting the calories they need, but only a few can afford a healthy and balanced diet, the report notes.

The report can be read in full here.

The report says that “A lasting solution requires fundamental changes in Israeli policy”.

The ICRC said, it is demanding that the restrictions on the movement of people and goods be lifted, including:
– reopening terminals to improve the flow of people and goods into and out of the territory;
– easing imports of medical equipment;
– allowing the entry of building materials such as cement and steel;
– lifting restrictions on exports from Gaza,
– allowing farmers access to their land in the buffer zone, and
– restoring safe access to deeper waters for fishermen.

The International Committee said it “calls on the States, political authorities and organized armed groups concerned to do what is needed to reopen the Gaza Strip and safeguard the life and dignity of its civilian population”.

ICRC: "it is intolerable for people not to have access to water during a conflict"

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling on governments taking part in the Fifth World Water Forum in Turkey this week to make a serious commitment to protect water and sanitation systems in times of war and to maintain services in conflict-prone areas to prevent them from collapsing.
Continue reading ICRC: "it is intolerable for people not to have access to water during a conflict"

Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Another Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is saying that Palestinians have inexplicably hardened their stances and rejected another set of “generous proposals”.

Ehud Olmert and company did that after the failed Camp David negotiations in late July 2000. Years later, and the verdict is still not in.

Olmert sent out the same message last night, and is now going to convene the Israeli Cabinet at 2 pm today to offically throw the gauntlet down, yet again.

Egyptian officials have a few more frantic hours to try to work on all parties.
Continue reading Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Israeli cabinet agrees to defend soldiers against war crimes charges from Gaza operation

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting today that “Now, as a result of unavoidable self-defense actions during which – to our regret – civilians were also hit, they are trying to turn what happened on its face and stick IDF soldiers and commanders – and not those who initiated the terrorism and turned it into a way of life against the residents of the State of Israel for many years – with the responsibility for this. The State of Israel did everything in order to avoid hitting civilians. I do not know of any military that is more moral, fair and sensitive to civilians’ lives, than the IDF…”

What I saw in Gaza on Friday looked exactly like this photo taken by Reuters the same day:
Reuters - Gaza - 23 January 2009

Continue reading Israeli cabinet agrees to defend soldiers against war crimes charges from Gaza operation

International humanitarian aid agencies demand full access to Gaza

AIDA (the Association of International Development Agencies), a membership body and coordination forum of international non-governmental and non-profit organizations (INGOs) that share a common interest in promoting appropriate development and humanitarian programs in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), has today issued a press statement calling for full access to the Gaza Strip. “In the aftermath of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, it is critical that full and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza be granted immediately by all parties to the conflict”.
Continue reading International humanitarian aid agencies demand full access to Gaza

Journalists enter Gaza from Israel on Friday

Foreign journalists entered Gaza for the first time in many weeks without restrictions — at least, there were no restrictions either on their numbers, or where they go inside Gaza.

The international press core based in Israel had fought for this right for months. They wrote to the authorities. They petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court. They appealed the Government’s maneuvers to keep the press out of Gaza. They asked questions about the ban in press conferences from Sderot to Washington. They wrote about it. And, when the borders were open, many were there.
Continue reading Journalists enter Gaza from Israel on Friday