January 24, 2009
Embargo: 1.30 pm, Saturday 24 January 2009
THE RT HON TONY BENN SPEAKING AT A MEETING OUTSIDE THE BBC BROADCASTING HOUSE, PORTLAND PLACE, SAID THIS AFTERNOON [SAT JAN 24]:
“The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service.
“The destruction in Gaza and the loss of the lives of over a thousand civilians and children, has shocked the world as Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, made clear, when he saw the devastation for himself.
“The human suffering that the people of Gaza has experienced over the last few weeks has appalled people who have seen it for themselves on their television screens.
“To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticised.
“I appeal to the Chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies.
Stop the War Coalition on behalf of the Coalition’s President, Tony Benn
0207 229 0779
0794 110 2163
January 16, 2009
As you may know, The Spirit of Humanity was surrounded by Israeli warships in international waters. The Israeli navy threated to shoot these unarmed civillians unless they returned to port. This of course is against international law, but that never stops Israel.
The boat has since returned to Cyprus.
If you want to see how far it got or track any future sailings, use this link http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0T9vIzDuqKd7Vz8WiSrZ73HnzaASECQS1
The list of people onboard were as follows:
Trip # 7: Departure from Cyprus Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Klontzas, George – Captain (Greece)
Cpt. Klontzas is an experienced sailor and human rights activist. This will be his fifth trip to Gaza.
Stylianakis, Zacharias – Captain (Greece)
Greek Captain, qualified to captain cargo ships up to 2500 tons.
Bolos, Nikolaos – Crew (Greece)
Born in Pireas. Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, University of Patray. Graduated Gemologist from Gemological Institute of America. Qualified skipper since 1989 (Panellenic offshore club). Runned personal enterprise in electroplating as an industrial chemist the last 12 years. In solidarity with Palestinian people human rights worker and member of Free Gaza.
Karipidis, Yiannis – Crew (Greece)
Arraf, Huwaida – Crew (Palestine/USA)
Huwaida is a Palestinian-American, and also a citizen of Israel. She is a human rights activist and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. In 2007 she received her Juris Doctor from American University in Washington D.C. She was present on most of the Free Gaza voyages.
Pissias, Vangelis, University Professor – Crew (Greece)
Greek origin, citizenship and culture. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947, living in the Greek milieu, in a large Greek community within a much larger International community.
Muncie, Andrew, human rights worker and crew (Scotland)
Andrew Muncie volunteered with ISM Gaza Strip from August until mid-November 2008. He arrived to Gaza onboard the SS Liberty, one of the boats that made the first voyage of the Free Gaza movement. During his brief time in Gaza he accompanied fishermen on their trawling vessels and witnessed firsthand the Israeli occupation force Navy violate the cease-fire. He filmed the soldiers shooting at the trawling vessels and also blasting the boats with high-powered water cannons, causing severe damage to the vessels and sometimes injuries to the fishermen and ISM volunteers. He is returning to Gaza Strip to witness and document the current situation.
Caruso, Francesco, former Member of Parliament (Italy)
Activist of social centers on the south of Italy. Has been spokesman of anti-globalization movement in Italy. Member of Italian Parliament until April 2008.
Gezelius, Mats, Journalist (Sweden/Finland)
Mats Gezelius is a freelance reporter based in Jerusalem. He has for the last 10 years covered the Middle East for Nordic Media. Gezelius is the Middle East correspondent for Hufuudstadsbladet and a stringer for the leading Swedish newspapers Alfonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet. He is a contributing editor to Finlands Radio & TV (YLE).
Giannopoulos, Nikos, human rights worker (Greece)
working in the Institute “Nikos Poulentzas” in the port of editions and member of the Network for the social and political rights.
Kampani, Chalent, Orthopedic Surgeon (Greece)
Palestinian orthopaedic surgeon and traumatologist.
Kanellakis, Yiannis, Journalist with Greek Mega TV (Greece)
As a reporter he has covered a lot of stories about the wars all over the world. Would like to believe that this war is the last one on this planet. Believes the International Community will do that very soon and will have peace and solidarity on the whole world. Hopes the democracies will help the stabilities of this peace. Freedom for the Palestinians and every people under occupation.
Nuet I Pujaus, Joan Josep, Member of Parliament (Spain)
Break the siege that Israel imposes on the Gaza Strip and Palestine. To facilitate the arrival of medicines and food. No government can stop the humanitarian help for a country under war. Food and medicines are indispensable and above any war and conflict.
Papachristopoulos, Athanasios, Surgeon (Greece)
Member of Humanistic Hellenic organization. Doctor of peace. Directs the dermatological department of Public Hospital Evaggelismos. Hase visited the following countries during WAR: 1999 Serbia, 2001 Afghanistan, 2003 Iraq, 2006 Puget Island (Thailand) (Kailac), 2006 Lebanon.
Perukis, Petros (Greece)
Architect living in Greece.
Prieto, Monica, Journalist with El Mundo (Spain)
Reporter working for EL MUNDO, the Spanish newspaper, since 1996. Was working in Russia, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, and Lebanon, among other countries. Currently correspondent for Middle East based in Beirut, Lebanon.
Robbins, Sonia, Dr., Surgeon (UK)
Consultant reconstructive and hand surgeon working in Middle East last four years. On the boat because of refusal by Israel for entry into Gaza for humanitarian medical work.
Spartiatis, Theo (Greece)
Synodinoo, Xaritatoo Melina, Journalist with Ethnos (Greece)
Journalist for the Greek daily newspaper “Ethios”, covering International news – war zones.
Tsatsis, Angelos, Journalist with MEGA TV (Greece)
Yvon, Xavier, Journalist with RTL Radio (France)
The only thing that is dangerous about these people is the idea they bring. That people acting together can make a difference.
14th January 2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) utterly condemns the mass killing of civilians by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. The current death toll stands at 983, including at least 673 civilians, of whom approximately 225 are children. In addition to the rising civilian death toll, the Centre is also gravely concerned about IOF use of unidentified incinerating bombs that are causing horrific burns to civilians across the Gaza Strip, and forcing doctors to perform amputations on some civilian victims. The Centre is demanding an immediate investigation into IOF use of these weapons by international health experts.
Hospitals across the Gaza Strip have reported increasing numbers of civilians with serious burns being admitted for emergency treatment, and the scale of injuries indicates that IOF are using these unidentified incinerating bombs to target civilians across the Gaza Strip. For example, on 10 January, 2009, residents of Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis, reported being attacked by IOF artillery shells which exploded into flames, dispersing shrapnel and dense white smoke that caused skin burns, suffocation, spasms and fainting. At least one hundred local civilians were injured by this IOF attack, including medical personnel who arrived at the scene. Civilians were subsequently admitted to hospitals in Khan Yunis, suffering from breathing difficulties and severe pains in their eyes.
As part of its ongoing investigation into the constituents, and effects, of these unidentified IOF weapons, PCHR has interviewed Dr Nafez Abu Shaban, Head of the Burns Unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Dr Abu Shaban told the Centre: “We are now receiving patients with burns that are so extreme, the patients’ tissue and muscles have been destroyed. We have been forced to amputate some patients’ limbs as a result. We have carried out six double leg amputation operations on patients who had suffered critical burns of this nature. Three of the patients died after surgery.”
Dr Abu Shaban also told the Centre that some of the burn victims are suffering serious lacerations, and internal bleeding. “We do not fully understand why some of the injured are bleeding internally, because we can find no X-ray evidence of foreign objects inside their bodies” he said. “Our great concern is that we do not know the full consequences of these injuries. We can only presume the victims, who are all civilians, have been subjected to attack by chemical weapons.”
He also stated that, “Our patients [in the burns unit] ask us what exactly has happened to them, and we do not know what to tell them. I have never seen injuries like this before. We need international health organizations to send us medical specialists immediately who can assist us in responding to injuries from chemical weapons.”
PCHR is gravely concerned that the IOF may be using white phosphorous against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as part of its continuing military operation across Gaza. White phosphorus is a flammable chemical typically used in military operations for signalling, screening and incendiary purposes. When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and will continue to burn until either all the [white phosphorous] fragments are consumed, or the element itself is deprived of oxygen. White phosphorus can burn right down to the human bone. The chemical composition of this weapon – which causes extreme second and third degree chemical burn injuries – also makes it exceptionally difficult to treat.
The use of white phosphorous in densely populated areas violates customary international law provisions relating to the principle of distinction and the precautions necessary in attack. Customary international law explicitly requires that all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare be taken, in order to avoid or minimize disproportionate injury or loss of life among the civilian population. It also requires that an attacker do everything possible to assess whether an attack may be expected to cause disproportionate loss of life or injury, and defines an indiscriminate attack as one which employs a method or means of combat, the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and as such constitute war crimes. IOF use of white phosphorus in the current context would violate all of these principles.
PCHR notes that international law not only prohibits specific weapons, but also the manner in which these weapons are used, and the manner in which hostilities are conducted.
January 15, 2009
Sailing for Humanity
At 10:30 this morning, under bright blue Mediterranean skies, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY sailed from the port of Larnaca.
Undeterred by Israeli threats of interception at sea, 21 passengers and crew waved to friends and press on shore, committed to our mission of delivering doctors, journalists, human rights observers and a shipment of medical supplies to assist the civilian population of Gaza during this emergency.
Israel has an obligation to protect the civilian population that it occupies” stated Free Gaza delegation leader Huwaida Arraf. “Since
Israel continues to violate this obligation, we will continue to do whatever we can to deliver badly needed medical supplies, food, and to
transport medical personnel, journalists and human rights workers to help and to witness the devastation Israel has wrought.”
The physicians on board include a reconstructive plastic surgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon and another physician. All three doctors will
bring crucial assistance to the exhausted and overwhelmed hospital staff in Gaza where emergency resources don’t begin to meet the need.
You can keep up to date with the progress of the crew of the Spirit of Humanity by clicking on any of the following links over the next few days.
January 13, 2009
European MEPs enter Gaza
(Gaza, January 11, 2009)
Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, and the MEPs delegation entered to Gaza Strip, today 11th January 2009, through Rafah border crossing.
The delegation composed by 8 MEPs belonging to different political groups and by one Member of the Italian Senate – will stay in Gaza from Saturday 10 to Tuesday 13 January, when the MEPs will come back to Strasbourg to report back about the situation to the Plenary session of the EU Parliament and they will hold a press conference.
In Gaza the delegation will be staying with UNRWA and visit refugee camps, hospitals and towns.
The MEPs are grateful to the Egyptian Authority and UNRWA for their cooperation and support.
MEPs Participants: Luisa Morgantini (Italy) David Hammerstein Mintz (Spain) Hélène Flautre (France) Véronique de Keyser (Belgium) Miguel Portas (Porturgal) Feleknas Uca (Germany) Chris Davies (UK) Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (Cypre) Alberto Maritati (Italy) Member of the Italian Senate
ISM video of Israel troops shooting Palestinian paramedics in Jabaliya
(Gaza, January 11, 2009)
A Palestinian medic, traveling with two International Solidarity Movement volunteers, has been shot by Israeli forces in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.
Red Crescent medic, Hassan al-Attal, was shot through the thigh while collecting a civilian killed by Israeli fire from Zemmo, east of Jabaliya refugee camp.
Israel is targeting medics
By Eva Bartlett
(Gaza, January 12, 2009) On 7 January, as Spanish human rights advocate and documentary filmmaker, Alberto Arce, and I accompanied Palestinian medics to retrieve the body of a man shot earlier by invading Israeli forces, we were also shot at as the medics carried the body towards the ambulance. It was in Dawwar Zimmo, eastern Jabaliya, near the area which has been occupied by Israeli soldiers since the land invasion began. It’s an area where tens are thought to have been seriously injured by bombing and shooting by the Israeli army, and where many, many more will lie dead, uncollected for days, or weeks, out of reach of the medics whose duty is to retrieve them.
Hassan al-Attal and Jamal had gotten out of the ambulance, a clearly- marked 101 ambulance, and approached the corpse lying in the middle of the street. They wore their Palestine Red Crescent Society uniforms Hassan’s was bright red with reflective tape, Jamal’s bright orange and white, also with reflective tape — and approached slowly, hands empty except a stretcher to take away the body. Arce filmed as the medics picked up the dead man, put him on the stretcher and began the retreat towards the ambulance. Arce was still filming when the shots cracked out, rapidly but evidently a targeted sniper’s shot, not a machine gun. Incredibly, Hassan and Jamal continued to try to evacuate the body, running with the dead man, before finally dropping the stretcher and fleeing for their lives.
It was about 1:30 pm, the first day of Israel’s self-declared “ceasefire” and the sniper was aiming at the medical personnel. The ambulance’s siren was still screaming, the driver had been moving quickly away from the sniper, to avoid further hits on us or himself, and we were frantically scouring to find Hassan and Jamal. In the days prior to this attack, seven medics had been killed since the start of Israel’s air and ground assault on Gaza’s population. Tens more had been injured, and Hassan was to join their ranks. A sniper’s bullet caught his thigh, and as he scrambled into the ambulance, the blood seeping through his pants alerted us to his injury.
These medics are all too aware of, many all too familiar with, the mortal risks of their job in the face of invading Israeli soldiers with, apparently, no regard for the Geneva Conventions which should allow and oblige medics to reach the injured and the dead, without being fired upon by the invading army.
It was frightening. I thought we’d lost them both, and they are both young, wonderful men doing a job worthy of medals. The 10 to 15 seconds it took before Hassan and Jamal could jump into the ambulance and pull down its back door were a painfully long stretch, during which I’d feared the worst. As we pulled away, a final bullet caught the back door of the ambulance.
Medics worked quickly on Hassan’s thigh injury: the bullet had penetrated the inside of his upper left thigh, digging into muscle, and exiting a couple of inches from the entry wound. He was impressively brave about it, though obviously in a great deal of pain.
Arce’s video footage caught the incident, and is testimony to what we’ve seen, what medics have told us they’ve long endured, and what Israeli authorities belligerently continue to deny: Israel is targeting medical personnel, as Israeli forces target journalists, civilians, and these days in Gaza anything that moves. No sanctuary, no safety, no guarantee of medical service.
UNRWA emergency shelters and bombed schools
(Gaza, January 12, 2009) Across the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is setting up emergency shelters in its schools. Despite two such shelters being cynically targeted by Israeli shelling in northern Gaza last week, many families still seek refuge in UNRWA schools simply because they have nowhere else to go. The massacre on 6th January at the Al Fakhoura School and a second school in the Jabaliya refugee camp north-east of Gaza City killed nearly 50 and injured dozens more.
Two UNRWA schools in Rafah, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ Boys Preparatory Schools close to Rafah city centre, have become temporary homes for nearly 2,000 people. These emergency shelters were set up as thousands of people in Rafah fled their homes following threats by the Israeli Occupation Forces to target entire neighbourhoods lying close to border strip with Egypt. The families in one of the schools were evacuated from communities near the defunct airport on the edge of Rafah city where Israeli ground forces have been basing themselves since invading the Gaza Strip on 3rd January. Members of ISM Gaza Strip visited the schools today and met UN staff and some of the families seeking refuge there, such as the Amsi family who have about 15 members of their extended family were living together in one classroom.
They also visited the UNRWA warehouse in Rafah, where they spoke to the Area Operations Officer. He confirmed that the supplies currently getting in are not nearly enough to cope with the crisis. Approximately 200 tons of aid per day is being allowed in compared to the 2,000 tons usually brought in daily by the UNRWA. He explained that UN stocks were exhausted a while ago and that the only food people now have comes from this trickle of aid entering the strip. Anything that does get in is distributed immediately.
At approximately 3.00am on Sunday 11th January, Israeli F-16 fighter jets bombed the buildings of the Dar al-Fadila Association for Orphans, which included a school, a college, a computer centre and a mosque, on Taha Hussein Street in the Kherbat al-‘Adas neighbourhood in the north-east of Rafah. Parts of the buildings were totally destroyed and others were structurally damaged. The school had been assisting about 500 children disadvantaged children. Nearly 20 mosques have now been destroyed or severely damaged by the Israeli military since 27th December. ISM Gaza Strip documented the devastation.
The Rafah Red Crescent ambulance station is now relocating from its base in the Tel Zorob neighbourhood close to the border with Egypt, to Kherbet Al Adas on the other side of the city centre. Tel Zorob is in the area now being targeted so a planned move to the new premises was brought forward ahead of time. Numerous ambulances have been attacked by the Israeli military during the ongoing war on the Gaza Strip and 13 paramedics have been killed.