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Posts tagged ‘Gaza’

Hamas elects military hardliner as Gaza chief

2017-02-13

GAZA – Hamas elected in secret a hardline member of the Palestinian Islamist movement’s armed wing as its new Gaza leader on Monday, indicating a tougher stand against longtime adversary Israel.

Yahya Sinwar was elected to head the Hamas political office in the Gaza Strip, officials from the party said on condition of anonymity.

An influential military figure, Sinwar represents for some the hardest line within the Islamist movement which has fought three wars against Israel since 2008.

He will succeed politician Ismail Haniya and becomes the second most important figure in the party after Khaled Meshaal.

Sinwar was held in Israeli jail for more than 20 years until 2011, when he was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier.

He has since become a senior figure in the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

In September 2015, Sinwar’s name was added to the US terrorism blacklist alongside two other Qassam members.

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political analyst in Gaza, said the appointment showed the military wing was asserting its dominance in Hamas.

Israel’s foreign ministry and prime minister’s office declined to comment, but the defense ministry body responsible for the Palestinian territories labelled him the head of Hamas’s “radical camp”.

– Secretive –

A graduate in Arabic, Sinwar was born in the Khan Younis refugee camp of southern Gaza in 1962 and founded “Majd,” one of Hamas’s intelligence services.

In 1988, he was arrested by Israel for “terrorist activity” and eventually sentenced to four life sentences.

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, two years after Israel pulled its forces out but Sinwar remained in jail for another four years.

He was released in October 2011 as part of a mammoth deal for Shalit, who was captured in 2006.

Washington accuses Sinwar of pushing for kidnapping more Israeli soldiers as a bargaining chip for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas currently claims to be holding four Israelis in captivity in Gaza, though Israel says the two soldiers among them were killed in the 2014 war.

After his release from jail, Sinwar initially made a number of public appearances.

Later, however, he disappeared from public view and was presented in Hamas media as the commander of Qassam’s elite units.

On Monday, he seemed set to step back into the public sphere at a time when Hamas has been holding elections.

The election process, ongoing for months, is shrouded in mystery and it was unclear how Sinwar was appointed and if and when other appointments will be announced.

There was no reference to his appointment on the Hamas website Monday afternoon.

Haniya is seen by many observers as the most likely successor to Hamas’s overall leader Meshaal, who currently lives in exile.

Sinwar, however, could have significant freedom inside Gaza.

– ‘Escalation’ –

Both Palestinian and Israeli analysts said the appointment could make another conflict between the two sides more likely.

“I think it is an indication that we might see an escalation with the Israeli occupation in the coming stage,” said Abu Saada, the Gaza analyst.

“Sinwar is known to not accept any facilitation that eases the tense situation with the occupation,” Abu Saada said.

“We might see in the coming stage further provocations against Israel and violent responses against Gaza.”

Israel last year appointed hardline rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman as its defense minister.

After his appointment, he warned the next war with Gaza would be the last as “we will completely destroy them”.

Kobi Michael, an analyst and former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the appointment would alarm Israeli politicians.

“He represents the most radical and extreme line of Hamas,” he told reporters. “Sinwar believes in armed resistance. He doesn’t believe in any sort of cooperation with Israel.”

In the 2014 war, 2,251 Palestinians and 74 Israelis died.

The Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza which it says is necessary to restrict Hamas’s ability to rearm but which the UN says amounts to collective punishment.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81418.

Qatar pays Gaza electricity costs for three months

January 16, 2017

The Amir of Qatar, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, has ordered his government to pay the costs of Gaza’s electricity supply for three months, official sources announced on Sunday. Qatar’s Ambassador to Palestine told the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah that his country will pay $4 million per month as part of this agreement.

Mohamed Al-Emadi released a press statement to explain that the funds will be transferred to the PA “immediately” in order to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian in Gaza. He also noted that there are intensified contacts with the authority regarding current proposals to find a permanent solution for the crisis.

The ambassador explained that these decisions were made after a meeting between Amir Tamim and senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh in Doha.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170116-qatar-pays-gaza-electricity-costs-for-three-months/.

In rare demonstration, thousands protest power cuts in Gaza

January 12, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of people took to the streets on Thursday to protest chronic power cuts in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, in one of the largest unauthorized protests in the territory since the Islamic militant group took power a decade ago.

Hamas has shown little tolerance for dissent, and it moved quickly to contain Thursday’s demonstration. Police fired in the air to disperse a crowd of stone-throwing protesters and blocked journalists from the area. A day earlier, Hamas-run authorities arrested a local comedian who made a viral video lamenting the power shortages during the cold winter season.

The demonstration began in the Jebaliya refugee camp, and as it grew in size, the crowd marched toward the nearby offices of an electricity distribution company, chanting: “Raise your voice, electricity cuts mean death.”

Hamas police made way for the crowd, but took up positions outside the electricity company’s building. When a group of youths threw stones at them, they fired into the air to disperse the crowd. Later, the protesters arrived at the building and gathered peacefully.

Hamas forces blocked journalists from filming the gathering, and an Associated Press journalist was briefly detained at gunpoint until he handed over his mobile phones to plainclothes security men. The Foreign Press Association, which represents international media operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said a photographer with Agence France-Presse was badly beaten in the head by uniformed policemen and required medical care after he refused to hand over his camera. The group condemned the “violent behavior” in the “strongest terms.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad Bozom denied anyone had been injured. He said protesters were dispersed after they “attacked” the electricity company building and that “quiet has been restored” to the area.

Life has become increasingly difficult for Gaza’s 2 million residents, who are squeezed into the tiny coastal territory. Hamas’ violent takeover a decade ago triggered a border blockade by Israel and Egypt that, among other things, sharply aggravated power shortages.

In a sign of the worsening situation, Gaza comedian Adel al-Mashwakhi was arrested just hours after posting a video about the hardships under Hamas rule, friends and rights groups said. By Thursday afternoon, the video had received more than 250,000 views.

In the one-minute video, titled “Hamas, it’s enough,” he lists the basics missing in Gaza, including jobs and the ability to travel. “(Take) everything but electricity, Hamas,” he says, facing the camera.

Bozom declined to comment about the arrest. Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, has ruled the territory since 2007, routinely clamping down on critics. Despite the hardships, anti-Hamas protests have been rare, in part because of fear and because even disgruntled Gazans believe there’s no realistic path to toppling the militants.

Gaza is currently experiencing the worst electricity shortage in years, with power supplied to households only three to four hours a day in a cold winter. Residents have tried to improvise, using old kerosene heaters to keep warm and restarting previously disused community ovens for cooking and baking.

In recent weeks, Gaza residents have staged spontaneous demonstrations, including marching at night with torches to demand more electricity. Al-Mashwakhi posted his video late Tuesday. “There is no work, no (border) crossing points, no food, no water and also no electricity,” he shouts in the clip, after getting out of a white car in the dark.

The artist has produced several short mobile phone videos and acted in some. He rose to fame locally with video clips in which he sings songs with nonsensical lyrics. The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the comedian’s arrest, and said it was the third time since last year that he was taken into custody for criticizing Hamas. During one of the detentions, he was tortured, the group said.

Qatar set to build embassy in Gaza Strip

JAN. 9, 2017

GAZA (Ma’an) — Qatar has reportedly decided to build an embassy in the besieged Gaza Strip during a meeting of the Qatari committee for Gaza reconstruction on Monday.

The head of the committee, Abd al-Halim al-Issawi, gave the greenlight for the construction of the embassy after visiting the planned location, a five-dunam (1.2 acres) plot of land south of the Gaza City port, on Thursday with contractors.

While Qatar has had a representative office in the besieged Palestinian enclave, the planned embassy could mark a significant diplomatic move, as most countries have implanted their diplomatic missions and consulates to the occupied Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Qatar is a prominent backer of the Hamas movement — the de facto ruling party in Gaza — and has provided significant financial support for reconstruction in the blockaded enclave following several devastating Israeli offensives.

Naji Sharab, a professor of political science at Gaza’s al-Azhar University, told the Dunya al-Watan news outlet that “such a step is unprecedented in diplomatic relations,” and that he saw it as a potential move by Qatar to recognize the Gaza Strip as a national entity separate from the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank.

However, Dunya al-Watan quoted another political analyst and writer, Hussam al-Dajani, as saying that embassies are usually located in the capital cities of the host countries, but that given East Jerusalem’s occupied status, “Qatar can choose a location for its embassy to Palestine in coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Al-Dajani thus dismissed the significance of the move “as long as the Foreign Ministry in Ramallah and the one in Gaza are in agreement.”

Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Link: http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=774823.

Being Gaza’s first international student

December 15, 2016

While I was studying my bachelor’s degree in the Islamic University of Malaysia I told my Palestinian friends that I want to do my master’s in the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), they told me this is impossible. They said they were unable to enter the Strip even though they are Palestinians.

I kept this childhood dream in the deepest part of my heart; it was my ambition to complete my master’s in IUG. After my bachelor’s degree I returned to Turkey and began work. A couple of years later I felt ready to continue my studies.

I was eager to complete a master’s degree which I could really enjoy and sink my teeth into, not just study for the sake of saying I have obtained this new certificate. I knew I would not be able to find what I was looking for in Turkey and Europe was too cold for me, America’s approach to studies also ruled it out.

It was then that I received a letter from a friend in Gaza, when I explained my dream of studying in Gaza the only response I received was “why not?”. So I applied. I also got in touch with a member of the faculty of IUG who had studied in Turkey and had a love for the country.

My application reached the university rector and he replied: “Turks are our brothers, they were with us throughout our struggles; send her acceptance letter.” The university’s plan to have a program for international students started with me.

Before I applied for a visa to Egypt I asked the Turkish Embassy in Cairo to obtain permission for me to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. They told me that I had a 50 per cent chance of being accepted because this was the first case of its kind. I kept my faith in God and, two months later, I received a call telling me that I was permitted to travel.

The permission given to me meant I could pass through the Rafah crossing when it was open, so when I applied for a visa to Egypt and heard the crossing was to be opened I rushed to make it on time. I arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and headed to Arish. The journey was difficult but once I arrived in Gaza that didn’t matter.

The weather in Gaza was different to that in Egypt; by just crossing the border I sensed a change. Gaza hugs you with a warm welcome. Its people were wonderful and made me forget the terrifying journey I’d made to get there.

A group from the university and a friend came to pick me up from the border crossing and we headed straight to the campus.

People were surprised that I’d come from abroad to study at their university and I heard time and again: “You’ve honored us.” Everyone made me feel at home in my new surroundings.

When I enrolled in my courses lecturers were very accommodating going through the subject matter in both English and Arabic to ensure I understood. They also help me improve my Arabic language skills. I struggled at first, at home I’d learnt Quranic Arabic, here they used a more colloquial dialect which I didn’t fully comprehend at times.

People’s hospitality means I am never worried about what I was going to eat, I am regularly invited to people’s houses, everyone is so hospitable and generous. Occasionally I find a restaurant and enjoy eating out. The food throughout the Strip, from Rafah, in the south, to Jabalia, in the north, is great.

I am now staying in Jabalia, approximately 20 mins from Gaza City which was home to my university. Unfortunately, I don’t drive so it wasn’t a short trip for me. I had to use three modes of transport to get to university including a shared minicab.

I had been warned about the cost of rent and the high cost of living which had been compared to prices in Istanbul, but I am finding life in Gaza is cheaper than that in Turkey. The area looks dated, like my hometown of Diyarbakir looked in the 1990s. But this is an amazing feat for a city that has survived three wars. The beauty of Khan Yunis and Rafah made me reminisce about life in Turkey but the Gaza air and the olive, lemon, date and palm gardens all brought me back to appreciating the beauty of my surroundings.

The beautiful fields weren’t the only relaxing aspect of life in Gaza. During my free time I often go to the beach to enjoy the sea breeze and watch the waves crash onto the shore. There are also a large number of charities and organisations that support the community, orphans and victims of war. Sports complexes are numerous in the Strip so there is always something to do but nothing beats running along the beach.

Things were different for me the first time I experienced the bombardments. On my first night in Gaza there were two rocket attacks. I could feel my body freeze. By morning I had recovered and when I told my friends about my experience they laughed, it was nothing they told me, they’d experienced 76 in one night!

I quickly learnt to do as Gazans do when there’s a bombing.

Once I was in class and 35 rockets attacked the area. I had had plans to have dinner with my friend’s family and these were plans I didn’t cancel. We ate under bombardment. This is daily life in Gaza and even babies are getting used to the sounds and situation.

When I’d call to check on my friends following the bombings they’d reply with surprise: “This is normal, we are used to this, don’t worry.”

I have now been in Gaza for more than 40 days, my Arab language skills have improved significantly, and because of the delicious food on offer my waistline has also been affected!

Every day I love Gaza more and am thankful I’m here.

I’ve never felt so much peace in all my life.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161215-gazas-first-international-student/.

Gaza University to launch first film major in Palestine

October 23, 2016

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza is getting ready to launch its first film studies major in the Palestinian territories in January 2017. The university program will be implemented in universities, as hundreds of students wishing to major in cinematography and film studies are unable to travel abroad to pursue their studies given the closure of crossings in the Gaza Strip, namely the Rafah crossing.

Although launching the program could be a bumpy ride given the lack of the necessary equipment, such as school curricula and other work equipment, the program organizers, a group of people who hold university degrees from art faculties in Egypt, are seeking to bring in some material from abroad or tap into the available modest tools in Gaza after having obtained preliminary approval by the Ministry of Culture in early October.

Mai Nayef, an academic and one of the people in charge of the program, told Al-Monitor, “The main reason behind this initiative is the lack of any film and cinematography major in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, despite the large number of students who wish to pursue this career.”

She added, “Gaza, in particular, is a fertile ground for the success and growth of such an initiative. The drama works and art projects that are produced every year, which culminate during the month of Ramadan through TV series and programs, are further proof of Gaza’s ability to thrive in this domain.”

Nayef noted that the produced works by Gazan directors, filmmakers and photographers are made on an ad hoc basis and are drawn from their own personal experience without having acquired any scientific or academic expertise. Therefore, many Gazan artists and workers in the cinema industry will seek to enhance their skills through this new academic specialization. She also said that her group has been contacted by several directors, cinematographers and scriptwriters inquiring about the program’s schedule and admission dates.

She added that the needed textbooks will be brought in from Egypt given the scarcity of the necessary teaching material in Gaza’s libraries, stressing that her group is seeking to conclude an agreement with the Academy of Arts in Egypt for the procurement of the textbooks. This is in addition to contracting with some Egyptian academics to give lectures through video conferences and Skype calls.

Mohammed al-Bayoumi, a holder of a doctorate degree in cinematography from Egypt’s Academy of Arts and one of the program’s creators, expects the program to have a high turnout of students who are interested in cinema studies.

He stressed that the program’s administrators will focus on both theory and practice during the studies to ensure that the students will acquire the necessary experience to engage in the labor market.

Bayoumi told Al-Monitor that the program will be focusing on “acting, script writing, film directing and cinematography.” He expects that after completion of the two-year program, students will be able to engage in the labor market and participate in big film festivals in Gaza and abroad.

He stressed that several conditions were implemented for selecting educators, saying that applicants must hold a university degree in film studies, have experience in this domain and have won some awards for their productions and works.

Palestinian director Abdullah al-Ghoul told Al-Monitor, “This program is a great opportunity for many directors, actors and cinematographers in Gaza. Although they have acquired experience through work, they seek to obtain a degree in this domain.”

He noted that the many social, political and economic events and developments in Gaza can be shown to the world through short films and even TV series. Ghoul expressed hope that such a step would shift the attention back to the Palestinian cinema industry that burgeoned in the 1930s.

Gaza used to have 10 film theaters, first of which was al-Samer Cinema, established in 1944 in central Gaza. However, all of them are out of service. Some theaters were demolished, some were completely shut down, while other theaters were turned into public facilities. Gaza’s cinemas used to play Arab and Western ms brought in from abroad.

Lina Bukhari, the head of the cinema department at the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, told Al-Monitor that the ministry supports such initiatives to promote the Palestinian cinema industry, stressing that this domain is highly advanced in the Gaza Strip in comparison with the West Bank.

She also stressed that concerted efforts between Gaza University, which will be launching the film studies program, and the Ministry of Culture along with other institutions could lead to a new strong infrastructure to serve as a launch pad for the program. This is especially true in terms of providing necessary academic equipment, material and references.

Photographer Alaa Suleiman, who is eagerly waiting to enroll in the program, told Al-Monitor that she is seeking to be admitted to the film studies program as she aspires to become a filmmaker. She said that she has been working as a photographer at a TV station because university majors in Gaza are limited to audiovisual and printed media.

Aspiring students must be holders of a high school diploma to be able to enroll in this new program.

Suleiman also said that she is expecting some difficulties down this path, as the film industry is seen as reserved for men only. She noted that she has faced some hardships when she first started working at Al-Aqsa TV three years ago, but she shrugged off all criticism.

Nuhad Abu Saleh, a Palestinian high school student, told Al-Monitor that he was considering stopping the enrollment procedures in the Fine Arts Faculty at Al-Aqsa University and will wait to apply for the new program at Gaza University that is scheduled to start in the beginning of 2017.

Saleh said he is passionate about acting, especially since he has taken part in many successful experiences during his school years. He sees the program as a way to develop his skills through scientific study so as to gain more experience and academic credentials.

Eventually it all boils down to the efforts of the trailblazers and their ability to attract students and to overcome the anticipated obstacles, such as acquiring the necessary materials, curricula and staff.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/10/gaza-university-film-studies-major-students.html.

Welcome to Gaza’s first deer farm

October 23, 2016

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians have always raised animals such as goats and camels, but one man has now taken up a new activity that is the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip — deer farming.

Majed Sharab, a resident of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza who owns Cardinal Garden, a shop for rare birds, as well as the new deer farm, told Al-Monitor, “I started raising deer four years ago because I wanted to have a farm and a zoo for people to visit and enjoy the many types of deer and several species of rare birds.”

He said, “I learned that someone in Khan Yunis owned a small female European deer and I contacted him immediately and offered to buy the deer for $2,300. I then placed it in a small garden I had next to my house where I kept my rare birds and animals.”

Sharab added, “But I had to look for a male deer to make them reproduce. Male deer are expensive and very rare in Gaza. I had to finally rent a male deer from a zoo in Shajaiya neighborhood in Gaza City to impregnate the female deer. I paid the zoo owner a large sum of money, and six months later the first baby deer was born. I repeated this process until the total number of deer finally reached six — four females and two males. The process cost me a lot, and I eventually had to buy a male deer from Abdul Rahman Zoo on al-Jalaa Street in Gaza City for $3,000 for reproduction. Now I have a male deer [permanently] for reproduction.”

Speaking about the purpose of deer farming, Sharab said, “I find great pleasure in raising deer. I spend most of my time taking care of them and feeding them. Raising deer is not that different from raising goats and sheep; they require the same kind of food such as grass and grains, and the climate in Gaza is adequate for them. Only their physical structure differs, as they are really fast and not easy to catch.”

He continued, “If my goal was to make quick money, I would have sold the deer and made major profit. But my goal is to have a zoo with several types of deer and the best species of rare birds. And I hope to turn [this zoo] into a national project that people can visit. This first goal would be to make a good profit for myself, and the second would be to improve the Palestinian environment by providing such new zoos for people to visit and have fun.”

Although there are many small zoos around the Gaza Strip, they are suffering under difficult circumstances in light of the Israeli blockade. Zoo owners are no longer able to provide new species or even the required care for existing animals.

Deer farming is not easy and requires a lot of effort and patience. A female deer can be impregnated once every six months, and the mating season is autumn. Raising deer and feeding them requires $500 per month for food and veterinary care. There are only 15 deer in the Gaza Strip, most of which are kept in zoos. They are very expensive and sold at a minimum price of $2,500.

Falah Abu Dabbagh, a veterinarian and an expert on animal life, told Al-Monitor, “There are dozens of types of deer in the world that cannot easily live in Gaza. … These animals can only live in the wild where they can find grass and natural herbs. Deer are not slaughtered, although their meat is one of the most delicious meats there is, but it is expensive. They do not live in groups and only gather around mid-October for the mating period. However, when deer meet, the males fight over the females to impregnate them.”

He said, “Sharab needs a long time to adapt to the deer’s life and see how their nature changes once they are locked up after being used to living freely in the wild. He needs to make a lot of effort for reproduction because deer mate differently than other animals; they have peculiar habits where fierce fights take place between males over the females.”

Abu Dabbagh added, “This is why Sharab needs to find vast areas to raise deer to guarantee the maximum for reproduction — for the number of deer to grow faster.”

Economic expert and researcher at the Palestinian Planning Center, Mazen al-Ajala, told Al-Monitor, “This is a pioneer idea [in Gaza] and it is one of the Palestinian youth’s attempts to create new economic projects that generate a regular income in order to overcome unemployment, which runs rampant among young people.”

He added, “If such an idea is developed and new species of animals and rare birds are introduced, we would have a large and improved zoo that would play a cultural role for environment and biodiversity researchers, as well as an entertaining role for citizens and children. Such projects could be a lever for the Palestinian economy.”

Developing this pioneering idea requires willpower and official and government support, mainly from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which is in charge of such projects. They would provide these projects with the necessary financial requirements for it to succeed.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/10/palestine-gaza-deer-farming-zoo-unemployment.html.

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