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ISM re-establish presence in the Gaza Strip


ISM Rafah: “When the internationals leave Gaza, you will all be made
to pay”

1. ISM re-establish presence in the Gaza Strip
2. Report from fishing action in Gaza
3. Tree planting in ‘buffer zone’
4. ‘Ban the Israeli navy from Gazan territorial waters’
5. Israeli violence continues despite ceasefire
6. Italian activist injured by Israeli navy off Gaza coast
7. Israeli navy to Gazan fishermen: “When the internationals leave
Gaza, you will all be made to pay”
8. The Guardian: A blockade of young minds
9. Israeli navy vessels again open fire on Gazan fishermen
10. Israeli army open fire of Gazan fishermen and international
activists

----------------
1. ISM re-establish presence in the Gaza Strip

The International Solidarity Movement would like to announce the re-
establishment of a presence in the Gaza Strip. International
solidarity activists will be based in Rafah in efforts to show support
for non-violent direct action against the Israeli occupation.

As activists from the Free Gaza Movement broke the siege on Gaza in
their historic and hugely successful attempt to sail to Gaza from
Cyprus, the re-establishment of ISM Rafah was made possible. A number
of international solidarity activists aboard the boats made the
decision to stay on in Gaza and re-activate an international presence
in the area. Since 2003 and the Israeli murders of international
activists Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie, the ability of
internationals to travel into Gaza has been severely restricted,
representing just one aspect of the open-air prison that the Israeli
state has created in Gaza.

While working in Gaza, the ISM will be supporting non-violent direct
action aimed at breaking the Israeli siege on the Strip. Planned
actions include:

- Accompanying the fishermen at sea as they assert their right to fish
beyond the Israeli imposed limits while documenting Israeli aggression
towards these boats.

- Supporting farmers’ direct action to reclaim their lands within the
buffer-zone along the green line.

- Supporting non-violent demonstrations at border crossings against
the denial of freedom of movement.

- Reporting from the Gaza Strip, bringing human stories from people
living under Israeli occupation and siege.

---------------
2. ISM Rafah: Report from fishing action in Gaza

Report by Donna Wallach - ISM and Free Gaza Movement volunteer
reporting on fishing boat actions from Gaza City, Gaza Strip,
Palestine.

Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine,19th September, 2008. On the morning
of Friday 19th September and the 19th day of Ramadan, about 5
Palestinian fishing boats left Gaza City port for another day of
trawling off the coast of Gaza Strip. It was a very clear day and I
could easily see the coast the entire day.

When the boat I was on reached 7 miles out, an Israeli Naval gunboat
speedily approached and fired at the fishing boat. One of the soldiers
called for the captain of the boat and yelled at him to stop the boat.
Continuing in a derogatory tone of voice, the Israeli soldier told the
captain to only sail up and down the coast and not to go further out
into the sea. The captain told the soldier that he needed to go out 10
miles to trawl for fish. I also spoke to the gunboat and reiterated
that the fishermen needed to go out ten miles. This time the gunboat
did not continue to fire upon this boat. I think in the end we only
went out to eight miles. For the remainder of the day we were able to
trawl for fish in relative peace.

However, just after the sun went going down, after the meal for
breaking the fast for the day, an Israeli Naval gunboat fired upon
another Palestinian fishing boat and we heard over the VHF radio an
international tell the Israeli Navy “We are Palestinian fishermen,
fishing in Palestinian waters. Stop shooting!”

In the evening, the captain of the boat told me that it costs him
$1,000 a day of diesel fuel to power his fishing boat. Considering
that the catch for the day was small, as it often is for the
Palestinian fishermen up and down the coast, it is hard to understand
how they succeed to make a living. In addition to the exceptionally
high cost of fuel, there are either no spare parts for broken,
damaged, or lost equipment, or the cost of the spare parts are ten
times the normal cost - the Israeli siege continues to impact every
aspect of Palestinian life. The siege must end, now!

----------------
3. ISM Rafah: Tree planting in ‘buffer zone’

Fukharee, Gaza Strip, Palestine - On Monday, 15th September 2008,
volunteers with ISM Rafah participated in an action with Union of
Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in symbolically planting trees in
the buffer zone in Fukharee area, north of Rafah.

The buffer zone is the agricultural area, established by Israeli
Occupation Forces, about 300 meters wide along the entire eastern side
of the Gaza Strip, where farmers are prohibited from farming their
land. In some areas it is wider than 300 meters. These areas have
become very dangerous for the Palestinians to live and farm. The
buffer zone is another form of siege and denies the Palestinians right
to livelihood, feeding their families, freedom of movement and to live
in Peace. This is all happening during the so-called cease fire.

ISM volunteers met at UAWC office in Khan Younis before joining with a
few hundred UAWC activists from Khan Younis. Two buses and four cars
transported all the volunteers, the trees and the shovels to Fukharee,
close to the Green Line. Upon arriving some people noticed the
telltale dust of an Israeli tank and then it appeared from behind some
trees off in the distance.

All the volunteers got off the buses and started walking toward the
dedicated field holding 3 banners and chanting “Free, Free Palestine”
among others in Arabic. Various news agencies and independent video
cameras were recording the event.

In the designated field the trees were put on the ground and a few
volunteers from ISM and UAWC started digging holes to plant olive,
guava and citrus trees. About 100 hundred trees were planted by the
end of the action. Although the ISM volunteers were there to reclaim
the land and demand that Israel stop destroying the crops in the area,
the action was a symbolic one. UAWC plans to continue doing various
similar actions throughout the Gaza Strip in and near the buffer
zones.

--------------
4. ISM Rafah: ‘Ban the Israeli navy from Gazan territorial waters’

Gazan Territorial Fishing Waters, Gaza Strip. 17th September 2008. On
Wednesday 17th September I, along with two other volunteers from ISM
Rafah, went out with three different fishing boats from the Gaza City
port to trawl for fish. We left the port at about 8:30am.

I was on a boat with fishermen I already knew. We went out about seven
and a half miles, put out the net and began to trawl. It wasn’t long
before an Israeli Naval gunboat approached, and circled around. The
fishermen requested from me to speak with the Israeli Navy. I did make
contact with them, telling them that “we were Palestinian fishermen
fishing in Gazan waters. Palestinians have the right to fish in Gazan
waters, they have the right to a livelihood and to feed their
families.”

Someone on the Israeli Naval gunboat said in Hebrew that it was
forbidden for the Palestinian fishermen to be out past six miles. I
replied that according to International Law, the Palestinian fishermen
had the right to fish beyond twelve miles in their territorial waters.
His response was to call me “bitch”. Soon after the gunboat opened
fire on the fishing boat, aiming, what appeared to me to be toward the
center of the boat. The fishermen quickly pulled in their net, not
wanting their boat or any of the equipment to be damaged by the
gunfire.

We drove back towards the Gaza coast until we reached about six miles
out and began trawling again. The gunboat came by again and circled
around menacingly. Off in the distance we saw the large Israelli Naval
gunboat that has the water cannon stationed at the fore of the boat.
We were expecting to get drenched, but were pleasantly surprised when
it continued past us without stopping or even aiming the water cannon
at us.

The Israeli Navy contacted the boat via VHF again reiterating that it
was forbidden for them to fish out beyond six miles. This is an
abomination! The large quantities of fish are out beyond the six mile
limit, as are the larger fish. The fishermen need to be able to fish
in their territorial waters, when and where they want.

It is an outrage that Israeli Naval gunboats patrol the Territorial
Gazan Waters at will. They harass, threaten, shoot, damage and
terrorize the Palestinian fishermen, their boats and fishing
equipment. The Israeli Navy often limits the Palestinian fishermen
from fishing beyond three or four miles, and sometimes they aren’t
permitted to fish at all - this would not be tolerated any place else
in the world. Fishing is one of the few sources of Palestinian food
left in Gaza Strip. The Israeli Occupation Forces have destroyed much
of the farm land and have established an illegal buffer zone on much
of the agricultural farm land within the Strip, denying Palestinian
farmers their livelihood and the right to feed their families. Making
80% of the Palestinians living in Gaza Strip totally dependent on food
aid from UNWRA.

It is time that these collective punishments upon the entire
population of Gaza Strip end. The Palestinian people have the human
right to live in freedom. Parents have the human right to provide for
their children. Children have the human right to go to school and
students have the human right to attend University. Farmers have the
right to farm their land and fishermen have the right to fish in Gazan
territorial waters. This siege must end. Be creative, put pressure on
the Apartheid State of Israel to end the siege now – tell your
families, your friends, your co-workers that this situation can no
longer be tolerated. Ban the Israeli Navy from Gazan Territorial
Waters.

---------------
5. ISM Rafah: Israeli violence continues despite ceasefire

Tonight (17th September), members of the ISM in the Gaza strip will be
staying with a family in the Al Faraheen neighborhood of Abassan Al
Kabeera, between Khan Younis and Deir El Balah in Southern Gaza.

The family’s home is situated a few hundred meters from the Green Line
and the area has suffered a number of Israeli military incursions, the
most recent of which was on 1st May this year, resulting in widespread
agricultural damage.

During this attack, Israeli tanks and bulldozers surrounded the
family’s home and snipers took up positions in two houses opposite.
Israeli soldiers with dogs entered their house and searched it,
causing damage and terrorizing the children.

The family have stayed with neighbors ever since, but their future is
uncertain. Despite the ceasefire which began in June, there is regular
shooting into the neighborhood from Israeli watchtowers and tanks on
the Green Line. The most recent incident was three days a go. The
family’s home has been shot into multiple times and many of their
personal belongings have been damaged or destroyed. The ISM activists
will monitor the situation and support the family in the event of any
Israeli aggression .

--------------
6. ISM Rafah: Italian activist injured by Israeli navy off Gaza coast

To view video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRPSXQOjzKo

Two Gazan fishing boats with international human rights workers on
board were repeatedly attacked by 2 Israeli gunboats while they were
trying to exercise Palestinian people’s right to fish in the
Palestinian waters.

One of the Israeli gunboats was using a water cannon to throw water
with high pressure while the other one was randomly firing shots of
live ammunition close to the fishing boats. The attack with the water
cannon was extremely dangerous. The Israeli navy was trying to throw
the Palestinian fishermen and the international human rights workers
in the sea. The high pressure water was damaging the old boats and
people on board had to avoid not only the water but also wooden
pieces, shattered glass and others objects that were flying off the
deck. The Israeli navy was deliberately targeting the wheelhouses of
the fishing boats, smashing the windows, making holes and nearly
demolishing the walls and destroying equipment. In the same time it
was preventing the captains from steering the vessels and the fishing
to take place.

An Italian activist was injured. Vittorio Arrigoni was hit by flying
glass when the water canon smashed the glass surrounding the
wheelhouse of the boat, with shards lacerating Vittorio’s back. He was
been taken to hospital immediately upon reaching shore, requiring ten
stitches.

During the water cannon attacks, Palestinian fishermen were trapped
behind the machines or even inside the engine room without being able
to move for a long time.

During the most severe water cannon attack, a Palestinian fishing boat
was trapped between the 2 Israeli gunboats without any possibility to
change course. Fact that indicates that the intention of the Israeli
navy wasn’t just to push the fishing boats back to the coast but to
damage them and harm the people on board.

The Israeli navy persecuted the Gazan fishing boats even inside the 6
miles zone that Israel illegally and seemingly arbitrarily has imposed
as the area where Palestinian fishermen are supposed to be free to
fish. This zone is far to small to supply the Gaza-strip and give work
to the 40.000 Gazan people once involved in the fishing industry.

The two fishing boats suffered damages, part of their equipment was
thrown in the sea along with part of their fishing catch.

---------------
7. Israeli navy to Gazan fishermen: “When the internationals leave
Gaza, you will all be made to pay”

Gazan coastal waters, Gaza, 17:00 Wednesday 10th September 2008 – At
high speed an Israeli gunboat rammed a Palestinian fishing vessel. The
gunboat smashed through the upper hull, careened over the top of the
fishing boat, and landed on the other side.

Extensive damage was caused to the fishing boat. The hull was badly
damaged, virtually the entire deck area, all the equipment on it, and
the canopy above the deck were severely damaged. Unusually all of the
crew happened to be in the cabin and at the fore at the time. Had they
been on deck they would have had little chance of survival.

Via a megaphone, the gunboat crew then made the threat that ‘When the
internationals leave Gaza, you will all be made to pay.’

Human rights observers from the International Solidarity Movement and
from the Free Gaza Movement, have recently been accompanying Gazan
Fishermen during their work. The fishermen are constantly harassed,
threatened and attacked by the Israelis who in flagrant violation of
international law and maritime law, have been attempting to impose a
no – go area 6 miles off Gaza’s coast through employment of lethal
force. Incidentally and not unusually, this attack happened within the
so-called ‘permitted’ area.

The ISM regards the project of accompanying the fishermen as a long
term commitment. Some of the human rights observers currently
undertaking this work are long term volunteers who will be in Gaza for
some time. More long term volunteers are expected to bolster their
number within the next few weeks.

-----------------
8. The Guardian: A blockade of young minds

My dream is to become a bone specialist. But the Israeli government
won’t let me leave to pursue my studies abroad

By Abdalaziz Okasha

To view original article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/11/middleeast.israelandthepalestinians

This was supposed to be my first year of medical school. Instead, I am
stuck here in Gaza in my father’s house inside the Jabalia refugee
camp, with few options and no way out. After I finished high school
last year, I decided to become a doctor. Gaza cries out for bone
specialists, but the training I need is available only abroad.

When I won a place at a medical college in Germany, my parents were
proud. I was excited to follow my older brother, who is already
studying there. In February, the German authorities granted me an
entrance visa. I wasted no time in asking the Israeli authorities for
permission to travel to Europe. But I was told that only patients in
need of emergency medical evacuation would be allowed out – not
students.

Hundreds of other young people trapped in the Gaza Strip have won
admission to study abroad. For many of us, this is our only
opportunity to continue our education. Gaza is one of the most densely
populated places on earth, and one of the poorest – 1.5 million of us
live on a patch of land about 41 kilometres long and 6-12 kilometres
wide. The local hospitals lack the equipment needed to perform many
important procedures, like radiation treatments for cancer patients
and heart surgery.

Universities in Gaza are overcrowded and starved for supplies. Many
subjects are not even taught, and there are few postgraduate
programmes. Instructors from abroad cannot enter Gaza. Without the
ability to go overseas, we cannot learn.

In June, after the United States pressured Israel to allow Fulbright
scholarship winners to leave the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military
announced that it would grant exit permits for a few more students
with “recognised” scholarships – but not “hundreds.” So hundreds of us
are still waiting, most without prestigious scholarships to draw the
world’s attention. I am sure to be one of the many who will not be
allowed to leave. Life in Gaza has bled away my optimism.

My father is a teacher and owns a children’s clothing shop. My mother
is a housekeeper. I have six brothers and three sisters. We returned
to Palestine in 1996 from Saudi Arabia, where my father had been
working as a teacher. That was at the height of the peace process. My
parents put their hope in the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, and decided
that they could give us a better life here.

But when I was 10, the second intifada began. The peace process was
collapsing throughout my teenage years. During my third year of high
school, the Israeli authorities closed off the Gaza Strip. Israeli
border controls have reduced the flow of people crossing the border to
a trickle, and have suffocated Gaza’s economy, choking off imports and
exports and cutting fuel deliveries and electricity. There is no
clothing left in my father’s shop, which was supposed to support my
brother and me during our studies.

With the backing of the US, Canada, and the European Union, Israel has
maintained its blockade in an attempt to defeat Hamas, which won the
elections here in 2006. But the blockade only makes people more
desperate. Hamas and other armed groups, I know, have launched rocket
attacks from the Gaza Strip that have killed civilians in Israeli
towns and villages.

But I also have witnessed how Israel has retaliated with air strikes
and armed incursions into the Gaza Strip, including Jabalia. Israel’s
blockade amounts to collective punishment. It is hurting all of us,
whether we support Hamas or not. It is also destroying my dream to
write “specialist in bone medicine” after my name.

Sometimes, I am sorry that I am from Gaza. But my hope is still to go
abroad, learn skills, and return to help others here. Sometimes, when
there is electricity, I watch television and see how people live in
other places. I ask myself why they have the opportunity to travel, to
study, to take vacations, when I cannot go abroad even to learn
medicine.

We are students, not soldiers. We are not fighters in this conflict.
Why doesn’t Israel let us go study? Why do Europe and America support
a blockade of young minds? Soon, my fellow classmates at the medical
college will be starting classes. When they do, I will probably still
be here in my father’s house, waiting for the blockade to end.

Abdalaziz Okasha graduated from high school in the Gaza Strip in June
2007.

In cooperation with Project Syndicate, 2008.

-----------------
9. ISM Rafah: Israeli navy vessels again open fire on Gazan fishermen

On Monday 8th September at least ten fishing vessels left Gaza City
port and traveled out into the Mediterranean Sea up to 10 miles
offshore.

ISM volunteers were onboard three of the boats. They were equipped
with video cameras to record and document the aggressive actions of
the Israeli naval gunboats towards the fishing vessels. As per the
volunteers’ experiences on all previous outings, many of the boats
were harassed and shot at by the Israeli gunboats. The soldiers on
these gunboats are committing war crimes by shooting at unarmed
fishermen who are just trying to earn a living and feed their
families.

In the afternoon, between 2:30pm and 3:00pm, one gunboat approached
three fishing vessels, which were about ten miles offshore, and began
to circle one of them multiple times. Using VHF radio, the Israeli
gunboat ordered the Gazan fishermen to alter course, saying that their
boats were heading into a dangerous area. An ISM volunteer contacted
the gunboat asking about the nature of the danger, but did not receive
any answer. The gunboat then fired at the fishing vessels in the area
with a machine gun and some kind of shells shot from the cannon. The
volunteers immediately contacted the gunboat and requested that it
stop shooting, stating that unarmed civilian fishermen and
international volunteers were aboard the boats. The heavy shooting and
shelling continued and one of the fishing boats was obliged to make an
emergency call on VHF channel 16. The gunboat continued firing upon
the fishing vessels for some time, despite the emergency call.

Most of the vessels were still at sea come sundown. This means that
the fishermen were still at sea during Iftar - the time when observant
Muslims break the Ramadan fast for the day. Israeli gunboats again
attacked some of the vessels at this time.

Despite all the harassment and attacks by the Israeli navy, most of
the fishing boats had a remarkably successful day, landing a large
quantity of fish.

----------------
10. Israeli army open fire of Gazan fishermen and international
activists

To view video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZBwcPcAeFA

On the 1st September 2008, the first day of Ramadan, several
volunteers with the Free Gaza Movement and the International
Solidarity Movement accompanied a small fleet of seven fishing vessels
from Gaza City port.

The fishermen exercised their right to fish in Gazan territorial
waters, providing them with a livelihood and providing food for the
besieged people of Gaza. The fishing fleet reached approximately nine
miles offshore and began trawling along the Gazan coast, well within
international limits. Usually the Israeli Navy prevents Gazan fishing
vessels from accessing beyond six miles and in many cases only three
miles, by attacking the boats, sometimes lethally, or by arresting the
fishermen. However, this day’s fishing resulted in a highly successful
catch due to the ability to access richer fishing grounds further
offshore.

Two Israeli Naval gunboats approached the fleet soon after leaving
port and began firing “warning shots” shortly afterwards. They were
aware that internationals were on some of the boats. The Israeli Navy
continued shooting multiple times at the fishing vessels, one of which
was fired upon at least seven times. They also deployed explosive
charges in the water and attempted to de-stabilise some of the boats
by creating a strong wake. Communication was established with the
Israeli Navy via VHF radio, informing them that everyone onboard were
unarmed civilians and requesting that the Israeli Navy stop shooting.

The volunteers will continue to join Gazan fishing expeditions on a
regular basis and will monitor Israeli aggressions towards the
fishermen. Video and written documentation will be posted publicly and
made available to journalists. The Israeli Navy will not be informed
as to when the volunteers will join the fishermen, nor the ports they
will sail from, since this is not within their jurisdiction. Also no
indication will be made as to which vessels have internationals
onboard.

ends

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