Ma’an News – Fluctuating prices, poverty and border restrictions mean growing numbers of Palestinians are facing food insecurity this year — one of the key priorities in the humanitarian community’s annual appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory.
This year’s Consolidated Appeal Process is for $401.6 million, a slight decrease on last year’s $416.7 million, only 68 percent of which was financed.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped coordinate the CAP, estimates that 1.3 million Palestinians do not have enough food.
The latest figures show the number of households without sufficient access to food has risen by 7 percent since 2011, a trend which — if continued — would have left an estimated 41 percent of Palestinians without the necessary resources to get sufficient, safe and nutritious food at the end of 2012.
“Palestinian wages have not kept pace with inflation … Many poor Palestinians have exhausted their coping mechanisms (taking on loans, cutting back consumption) and are now much more vulnerable to small price increases than they were,” said a recent World Food Program bulletin.
According to the CAP, the situation is further worsened by restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which have resulted in higher prices of basic food commodities and reduced the purchasing power of many vulnerable families.
Humanitarian agencies hope to carry out 157 projects in 2013 — 58 implemented by UN agencies, 82 by international NGOs and 17 by local NGOs.
But doing this type of work is becoming increasingly difficult, according to aid workers who say getting access to vulnerable communities became tougher in 2012 because of lengthy Israeli planning procedures and restrictions on mobility and authorization.
In 2011, UN reconstruction projects had to wait an average of eight months for approval from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in Territories, a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the government of Israel, the army, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority). By the end of 2012, the average waiting time more than doubled to 20 months, according to the CAP report.
In addition, aid workers lost some 1,959 working hours due to 535 access incidents while attempting to pass Israeli checkpoints in 2012, Maria José Torres, OCHA deputy head of office in OPT, told IRIN.
This trend is expected to worsen once the Israeli Crossing Points Administration, a civilian department linked to the Defense Ministry, begins to operate all checkpoints.
The CPA requires regular searches of UN vehicles, unless the driver is an international staff member, and national UN staff are subject to body searches and required to walk through the crossings the CPA operates. It remains unclear, however, when exactly CPA will take over.
Impact of recent political events
The recent escalation in violence in Gaza at the end of 2012 only increased humanitarian needs and added an extra $26 million to the CAP as communities try to rebuild: this year’s appeal has a tighter focus on strictly humanitarian projects that would immediately tackle suffering, said Torres.
The indebted Palestinian government in the West Bank is also struggling to provide basic services due to a shortfall in revenue provoked by declining donor support, and also the holding back of tax revenues by Israel, which objected to the State of Palestine being given the status of a non-member observer state at the UN.
A man-made crisis?
These incidents highlight the close correlation between politics and humanitarian needs in oPt.
At the CAP presentation in Ramallah, several speakers on the podium criticized Israel for provoking what they said was a man-made humanitarian crisis in oPt.
“The UN has repeatedly called upon the State of Israel to meet its obligations as an occupying power, including halting demolitions and addressing humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, these have not been met,” said the resident humanitarian coordinator in oPt, James Rawley.
“The international community tries to fill the gap, and this humanitarian action is essential. But it is no substitute to political action.”
Many of the Palestinian officials and humanitarian staff present told IRIN they had become frustrated by the man-made and largely unchanged humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“After 20 years of a useless peace process with Israel, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The status quo is not working,” said Estephan Salameh, an adviser to the Palestinian Ministry of Planning in the West Bank.
Gaza’s children affirmed their place at the forefront of creativity and innovation last week, as a 14-year-old girl from Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, took first place in an international math competition featuring the best young brains from all around the world.
In recent years in Gaza, creativity and achievement has grown and flourished against extraordinary odds; a blockade and the rubble of many conflicts, the last of which was eight-day war on Gaza in November 2012.
14-year-old Palestine refugee Areej El Madhoun, a student at UNRWA’s school in Jabalia camp received the first prize in this year’s Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition, held in Malaysia every two years.
The Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic program, which targets children between the ages of 4 and 12, works on developing the mental capacity and performance of children by adopting a technique called the “Both-Hand Abacus Mental-Arithmetic” teaching method. Using the fingers of the left and right hands to compute simultaneously, the program works to create stimulation in both the left and right sides of the brain. This enables children to solve various mathematical questions with speed, accuracy and skill, in addition to improving their thinking abilities.
Ninth-grader Areej outmatched 2,500 other participants from ten countries by solving 182 complicated mathematical questions within an eight-minute period.
Areej sees her success as the greatest gift she can offer to the children of Gaza after the recent eight-day war, which saw houses and infrastructure destroyed, and incidences of psychological trauma rise.
“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine. I was very proud to carry my country’s flag”, said a delighted Areej.
“When I was announced as the winner, I felt overwhelmed and cried so hard”.
The recent memory of war made her victory particularly poignant, Areej added
“I went through some difficult times before the competition. The most recent conflict in Gaza had just ended two weeks before the competition began.”
In the end, the fear and anxiety brought on by the conflict did not subdue her overwhelming joy at winning first prize, she said.
In addition to Areej, four other young Palestinians received advanced places in the international competition; proving once again that the talent of Palestinian youth is remarkable, when given the opportunity to be.
(UNRWA – http://www.unrwa.org)
At least five young unarmed people shot by soldiers despite rules permitting live fire only in extreme circumstances
At least five unarmed young Palestinians, including a 21-year-old woman, have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers in 13 days since the start of the year, prompting mounting concern about the unwarranted use of live fire. A sixth was killed on his 17th birthday last month, and a seventh death this month is disputed by the Israeli military.
The commander of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the West Bank, Brigadier-General Hagai Mordechai has ordered all commanders to reiterate to all soldiers the rules of engagement, a military spokesman told the Guardian.
The use of live fire is permitted only in extreme circumstances, and shooting to kill only in a life-threatening situation. “None of [the dead] posed a threat that justifies the use of lethal force,” said Sarit Michaeli, of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem and the author of a report published on Monday which analyses the IDF’s use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank. “Swift action by the army is required to transmit a clear message to soldiers that the lives of Palestinians have equal value and that firing live ammunition in non-life threatening situations is illegal.”
The youngest to be killed was 15-year-old Salah Amarin, who died last Wednesday, five days after being shot in the head during clashes near Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. According to the IDF, he had been launching stones from a slingshot.
The same day as Amarin died, Lubna al-Hanash, 22, was shot in the face while walking on a college campus south of Bethlehem. According to the IDF, a routine patrol in the area had opened fire in self-defence after being “confronted by Palestinians with Molotov cocktails”. But Suad Jaara, a friend who was injured in the shooting, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an: “An Israeli soldier was shooting from his rifle while a white car was parked on the roadside. There was no one in the area except Lubna and I.”
Sixteen-year-old Samir Awad was shot on 15 January after crossing a fence that forms part of the security barrier near his home in the village of Budrus. He had just completed school exam before a midterm break from school when he was grabbed by soldiers, broke free and ran away. Soldiers opened fire, hitting him from behind in the back and the head. The IDF said Awad was “attempting to infiltrate into Israel”.
Three days earlier, Uday Darwish, 21, was also shot in the back while running away from soldiers after attempting to cross the separation barrier south of Hebron, according to Palestinian sources. The IDF said “soldiers at the scene fired towards his legs”.
Last month, Mohammed al-Salaymeh was killed by a female soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron while en route to buy a cake to celebrate his 17th birthday. The IDF said he had brandished a toy gun. Grainy video footage of the incident appears to show the youth struggling with a soldier, and then being shot three times. The third and final shot is fired as Salaymeh is leaving the scene.
In Gaza, Anwar al-Mamlouk, 19, was shot in the abdomen 50 metres from the border fence on 11 January by Israeli soldiers, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Three days later, a 21-year-old farmer, Mustafa Abu Jarad died after being shot in the head. The IDF denied it was responsible.
According to B’Tselem, IDF regulations say live fire is permissible “in a case of violent rioting by the separation barrier, when there appears to be a real threat of damage to, or breaching of, the barrier, and when less severe methods have proved to be ineffective, the commander of the force may, as a last resort, authorise the firing of single shots of live ammunition at the legs of those people identified as central agitators”.
At least 46 Palestinians have been killed since 2005 by live ammunition fired by soldiers at stone-throwers, says its report, Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank. The most common crowd control weapons are tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and “skunk” – the use of foul-smelling liquid in water cannon.
“Live ammunition is the most lethal means used by security forces at West Bank demonstrations,” says the report. “The Israeli military’s standing orders explicitly state that live ammunition may not be fired at stone-throwers.”
The IDF said the report relied on “a biased narrative” and “specific incidents … are exceptions to IDF policy rather than the rule”. It added: “Every soldier who is expected to contend with these situations regularly trains with riot dispersal means and is carefully taught the rules of engagement.”
The Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad called for “strong condemnation from the international community” of the recent spate of deaths from live fire, and urged “immediate intervention to compel Israel to desist from these serious attacks on our people”.
The UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, has also raised concerns about the use of live fire by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
In an editorial published before the most recent two deaths, the liberal daily Haaretz said the “basic problem emerging from these cases … is in soldiers and commanders’ overly-free interpretation regarding the circumstances permitting killing Palestinian civilians who only approach the fence, or even try to cross it, without endangering the lives of Israeli soldiers or civilians.”
It added: “The consecutive incidents in which Palestinians were killed in recent days give the feeling that Palestinian blood may be shed with impunity.”
IMEMC – The Israeli Supreme Court delayed, Thursday, deliberation in an appeal filed on behalf of a Palestinian child from Gaza who was paralyzed by an Israeli missile that also killed several family members in Gaza.
Maria Aamen is now 11, but when she was only three years old, an Israeli missile struck a civilian vehicle in Gaza leading to the death of her mother, grandmother and her 7-year old brother.
Maria did not die in the attack but was seriously injured when the explosion threw her body out of the car causing Quadriplegia; seven Palestinians were injured in the attack.
Maria now lives in Um Al-Fahem, north of the country, receiving medical attention at a specialized Israeli medical center.
Following her serious injury, the Israeli Supreme Court made a rare decision in favor of Maria allowing her to receive the needed medical treatment.
But the Israeli Defense Ministry did not want to pay the expenses for Maria’s treatment, and in 2007, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, decided to stop the funding for her treatment.
Since then, the family of Maria has been in legal battles with Israel, trying to ensure continued treatment in Israeli medical centers.
Defense Attorney, Adi Lustigman, stated that the Supreme Court decided to delay the deliberations until next week in order to study Maria’s medical file.
Lustigman presented the court with a detailed medical report outlining the health condition of the child, and informing the court that Maria constantly needs respirators, thorough medical attention, and is always dependent on her power chair.
Maria told the Bokra News Agency that she wants her “old life back”, and that she wants to be like other children, without her power chair, and without all of those machines.
“I want to live like other children do, I want to live without a power chair, without respirators”, she said, “As a child, I was robbed of my basic rights to live in peace, the Israeli missile killed my dear mother, my brother, my grandmother, and my uncle, and left me in this condition”.
“Today am fighting for my life in this court, trying to convince Israel to continue to pay for my much needed medical expenses”, Maria added, “Am still alive because of the extensive medical attention am receiving here, and my respirator, am moving around on my power chair, I can’t move any part of my body, I can only move my head”.
Najib Razak crossed into Gaza via its land border with Egypt for what he describes as a humanitarian visit.
Malaysia’s prime minister has defied Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip to visit the Palestinian enclave, a move that has earned the ire of West Bank leaders, despite Najib’s pledge of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Najib Razak, along with a group of Malaysian ministers, crossed into Gaza on Tuesday via its land border with Egypt for what he described as a humanitarian visit.
He told a joint news conference in Gaza City with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya that he came “to express my solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
“This is a humanitarian visit to express our deep concerns for what happens to the Palestinian people in Gaza and to express our opposition to the aggression on Gaza,” he added.
But the visit drew criticism from the office of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who also heads the Fatah movement.
“The Palestinian presidency announces its rejection and condemnation of the Malaysian prime minister’s visit to Gaza,” a statement carried on the official WAFA news agency said.
“It undermines Palestinian representation and reinforces the division and does not serve Palestinian interests,” it continued, saying Abbas’ bureau would ask Kuala Lumpur “for clarification.”
Call for reconciliation
Najib said his visit was intended “to show solidarity” and called for renewed reconciliation efforts between the Hamas and the rival Fatah party, including attempts to form a consensus government to pave the way for new elections.
“We believe in this unity government and we pray to Allah that the talks will be successful and a united government will become a reality in the near future,” Najib said.
Najib visited a Gaza university and government offices, as well as the family of top Hamas military chief Ahmed Al-Jaabari, whose assassination by Israel in November started an eight-day war in which more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis died.
Before leaving for Egypt, he laid the first stone at a Malaysian-funded school.
Najib was the second world leader in recent months to defy the five-year blockade and accept an invitation from Hamas, which Western states regard as a terrorist group.
Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, made a brief visit to Gaza in October and promised $400 million in aid for infrastructure.
On February 9, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisian president, is scheduled to make his first trip to the coastal strip, according to Hamas officials.
The visits have been made possible in part by Egypt’s decision to loosen some of the restrictions on travel through its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the only entry point to bypass Israel.
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs… Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home”
-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
“Take some kittens, some tender little moggies in a box”, said Jamal, a surgeon at Al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital, while a nurse actually placed a couple of bloodstained cardboard boxes in front of us. “Seal it up, then jump on it with all your weight and might, until you feel their little bones crunching, and you hear the last muffled little meow.” I stared at the boxes in astonishment, and the doctor continued: “Try to imagine what would happen after such images were circulated. The righteous outrage of public opinions, the complaints of the animal rights organizations….” The doctor went on in this vein, and I was unable to take my eyes off the boxes at our feet. “Israel trapped hundred of civilians inside a school as if in a box, including many children, and then crushed them with all the might of its bombs. What were the world’s reactions? Almost nothing. We would have been better of as animals rather than Palestinians, we would have been better protected.”
At this point the doctor leans towards one of the boxes, and takes its lid off in front of me. Inside it are the amputated limbs, legs and arms, some from the knee down, others with the entire femur attached, from amputees injured at the Al-Fakhura United Nations school in Jabalia, which resulted in more than 50 casualties.”
From the late Vittorio Arrigoni’s book Stay Human which is an account of the 22 day Israeli massacre on Gaza in 2008-9.
Don’t stay silent about injustice.
Be the voice for the voiceless.