Category Archives: From Gaza

Gaza’s Ark Attacked

for immediate release

GA attackedGaza City – Gaza

At 3:45 AM Gaza time on April 29th, the night guard on board Gaza's Ark received a call to leave the boat because it was going to be attacked.

The guard left, but when nothing happened, he returned after 5 minutes. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the boat causing extensive damage. 

The boat sank part way and is now sitting on the shallow sea floor. The guard was not injured but was taken to hospital for tests.

Message from Gaza’s Ark: Support Awni Farhat – Gaza-based Products Coordinator for Gaza’s Ark

Awni has worked as a volunteer with Gaza’s Ark for more than 2 years, in addition to volunteering with groups that help children and youth his native Gaza. He has been admitted to a Masters program in Violence Conflict and Development in London, England in 2015, and he is seeking help to enable him to travel and pay for his studies:

Please visit Awni's web page and offer whatever support you can, both directly and by sharing his appeal with your networks.

In continued solidarity
Gaza's Ark Steering Committee

MECA Distributes Local Food Packages

Four Hundred (400) Palestinian families in Gaza are receiving food packages made up of agricultural products produced in Gaza, thanks to the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and Gaza’s Ark international solidarity network.

Israel’s 51 days of attacks on Gaza this past summer killed more than 2000 people, destroyed thousands of homes and apartments, damaged 75 hospitals and clinics, and caused millions of dollars of damage to farmland and civilian infrastructure. Currently more than 100,000 people in Gaza are displaced and an alarming 72% of households are considered food insecure by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Solidarity not Charity

This food distribution will include locally produced food products thereby directly benefitting both the local economy and families in need. Unlike goods which are15789701797_99f42949c7_o brought from outside Gaza, this distribution is not subject to permits or authorizations from the Israeli occupation, nor on the ‘charity’ of aid organizations.

MECA is distributing the food packages to 400 families throughout Gaza who are food insecure. The distribution will mobilize and empower grassroots organizations and local volunteers in Gaza to help their communities. MECA partner organizations in Jabalia, Khan Younis, Nuseirat, and Gaza City are assisting in identifying families who are in need and have been overlooked by larger aid efforts.

“This is an innovative and positive example of how people around the world can work in partnership to support Gaza,” says Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician, activist, and Gaza Project Director for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. “Through this small aid effort, we are helping the local producers as well as needy families in Gaza. These families have been impoverished by decades of occupation and years of a tight blockade; many were also hit savagely by the latest Israeli offensive.”

This humanitarian relief helps support Palestinian farmers and agricultural cooperatives throughout the Gaza Strip who have been paid $14,000 for their maftoul (couscous), date products like awja, debes and makhtom, spice mixes of dugga and za’atar which are used in traditional Palestinian breakfasts, as well as honey and olive oil.

“The Gaza’s Ark project has helped Palestinian women’s co-operatives and eight local associations by making solidarity sales and promoting their products outside of Gaza's borders,” said Awni Farhat, products and endorsements coordinator for Gaza’s Ark. 

Salma Abu Mostafa from Abbassan Women’s Cooperative for Medicinal Herbs, one of the producers of the food products, added: “This project helped 67 women who work on their farms in the village of Abbassan to earn a bit of income and empower themselves in the community.”

Gaza’s Ark supporters from Europe, Canada, US and Australia paid for the food as part of an international solidarity campaign aimed at challenging the illegal blockade of Gaza. Individuals and organizations placed orders from Palestinian producers in Gaza and a fishing boat was being rebuilt in the port of Gaza to carry these exports to international markets. The boat was struck by Israeli shelling in July 2014 and destroyed along with thousands of Palestinian homes and other civilian structures. This attack put an end to the plans to sail against the blockade this year, but the international buyers agreed to donate the foodstuffs, originally purchased for export via Gaza’s Ark, to humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.

Trade not Aid

Gaza’s Ark and MECA believe that the root causes of poverty and unemployment in Gaza cannot be addressed by humanitarian aid alone.

“The Gaza Strip has many high quality products which could compete in international markets, but we need the light of freedom,” emphasized Awni Farhat. “There is an urgent need for opened borders and the lifting of the Israeli blockade.” 

15973524971_3455cecf61_oIn order to enjoy the right to earn a livelihood, Palestinians in Gaza need the international community to guarantee their right to freedom of movement, including to trade freely throughout the region and the world.  While lifting the blockade remains Gaza’s Ark’s main objective, this cooperative effort with MECA shows how foodstuffs from Palestinian agricultural producers can help satisfy the immediate needs of Palestinian families and helps to build hope around the idea of a sovereign Palestinian economy.
 

“With this joint effort, we are sending a message to the world that what we need is our inalienable rights, not charity,” comments Dr. El-Farra of MECA.

 

Gaza’s Ark: Building Hope

Gaza’s Ark is more than a project; it is the building of hope for Palestinian artisans, traders and exporters through peaceful action against the blockade of the Palestinians of the Gaza Stripimage                         (Gaza’s Ark before the attack)

For the last two years, with financial and logistical support from friends around the world, Palestinian workers had been transforming a 25 metre long fishing boat into a cargo boat to sail out of Palestine from the port of Gaza, carrying Palestinian products and passengers in defiance of the Israeli blockade. The project endured many difficult challenges and obstructions that delayed its planned sailing. The boat was nearly ready to sail in the spring of 2014, until an explosion was detonated on the boat at 3.45am on April 29th. Extensive damage was caused.image                       (Gaza’s Ark after it was attacked on 29 April 2014)

Gaza Ark’s organizers remained determined after this attack and continued to work on the project, repairing the damage and setting a new sailing timeline for this September. The boat was on track for her September sailing when the Israeli offensive began in early July, which killed more than two thousand people, injured thousands more and caused massive destruction across the Gaza Strip, with damage to homes, factories, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

On 10 July, Gaza was on fire. I remember that night as though it was yesterday. The sounds of F16 attacks surrounded us, and the radio reported that the Israeli navy was firing on the seaport. At about 2am Gaza’s Ark was hit by a missile and was quickly engulfed in flames. The bombardment was so severe that the Civil Defense firefighting crews were unable to enter the seaport. The Ark was burned to a skeleton.image

“The Gaza’s Ark was attacked in the midst of the Israeli offensive to ensure that news of its destruction was lost in the larger story of the war in the western media. Publicity of the attack would have proved to the international community that Israel will do whatever they can to prevent exports from Gaza and to stop Palestinians from developing their economy. Ultimately, that’s the main reason for the siege. Current exports are only 3% of the 2006 amounts. When you consider the siege you think about how hard it is to import materials and goods, but in fact the blockade on exports is far more harmful to the economy.

“Even after a year here it is hard to really experience the Palestinian struggle and suffering, because I know in my head that I can always go back home. I have another life that I can one day return to, but for Palestinians this is the world’s biggest open air prison. They can’t leave. People have been trying to escape, paying money to be smuggled to Europe on death boats. People wonder why they would risk their lives, and their children’s lives, but its proof that the situation here is hopeless. There is no future, just death and destruction all around. The world turns its back on what is happening here, as Israel continues its violence in violation of international law and basic human rights.”Charlie Andreasson                                                                    image                                      Charlie Andreasson, activist with Ship to Gaza – Sweden and volunteer worker and Quality Control Manager on Gaza’s Ark 2013-2014.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions in the world with over 4,500 people per square kilometer. It  has been in a dire economic crisis due to the brutal Israeli  blockade since June 2007. The blockade is collective punishment – a violation of international humanitarian law against the 1,800,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It has severely limited the export industry of Gaza and has caused an ongoing humanitarian crisis for residents.

After the military attacks ended last month, I visited one of our producers, the Palestine Association for Development and Heritage Protection (PADHP). Its director, Anwar Abu Maliha, told me:image

"The war has affected our work badly and all our programs were stopped. Israel intended to destroy Palestinian institutional structures and the infrastructure of Gaza, and to bury the heritage of Palestine by bombing many ancient buildings and archaeological sites, such as the old mosque in Gaza City. We are committed to continuing projects that help Palestinian associations, which work to maintain our Palestinian heritage and crafts. Israel needs Gaza to be blockaded – they will never open our borders. It’s fundamental to the occupation. They work hard every day to efface our traditional dress, our culture, our heritage, our history and our handicrafts. I remember in the 1970s, the Israelis gathered all the looms in Palestine and burned them, and they stole our traditional dresses and embroidery.”

I also talked to Samera Qarmot, who provides for her extended family with her income from her job at the PADHP. I asked her about the war;image

"The first day when they started bombing we were inside the association. We heard three F16 explosions nearby and they hit a house in Beit Lahia with two artillery shells. One hit the yard outside and the other one hit the children’s activities room but it didn’t explode. We got out of the building, feeling that what happened in 2008 and 2012 was happening again.”

Later I visited Mahmoud Al Sawaf in Al Shujiya. He owns the El Sawaf Carpet factory which has operated in the Gaza Strip for over a century. On all of the previous occasions that I have met with him he has always been an optimistic man, full of hope. But this time he was full of sadness after the destruction of his home in the attacks. Five floors of his apartment building were bombed, making 30 people homeless and destroying a storeroom full of thread, materials and looms valued at approximately $75,000. As I walked to visit him, I saw that all the adjacent houses were also destroyed.image

Al Sawaf  said:

" It’s not just a war, it’s an earthquake. They wanted to devastate Gaza as much as they could by destroying building, factories, mosques, hospitals and even the schools. Winter is coming and we urgently need to rebuild houses. Most of the materials that are now buried under the rubble were supplies that I had saved since before the blockade began and the export market collapsed. We hoped that the borders would open again and we could once again produce our work and export it out of Gaza. Then the war came and destroyed those last hopes. To Gaza’s Ark I say that we appreciate your work and are sorry for your loss. Somehow you helped Palestinian producers to take a breath when the Israelis blocked even the air. You helped let us dream of freedom and open borders.”

    Watch Al Sawaf's statement here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCt1rroDnxk

“Will we ever have a chance to break the siege?? For the last two years I dreamed of that moment when I would watch Gaza’s Ark sail from our port with Palestinian products, internationals and Palestinians onboard, sailing out from Gaza for the first time in decades. Gaza’s sea port is one of the oldest ports in the world, yet it has been blockaded as a transport route since 1976. Israel destroyed Gaza’s Ark, but it can never destroy the hope that we carry inside ourselves.”

Awni Farhat, Products Coordinator – Gaza’s Ark
http://awnifarhat.tumblr.com/post/98424553006/gazas-ark-building-hope

Gaza fishermen reap rewards as restrictions eased

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) — Palestinian fishermen in Gaza say they are already seeing the benefits of an extended fishing zone, with thousands of kilograms of fresh produce caught only days after Tuesday's ceasefire agreement.

Fishermen say they have brought home a varied catch of sardines, squid, shrimps, crabs and lax to Gaza's markets since Tuesday, with some varieties of fish unavailable for years due to Israeli restrictions.

Letter from Gaza by a Norwegian doctor

Mads Frederick Gilbert (centre) at Al-Shifa hospital on July 17Dearest friends,

The last night was extreme. The "ground invasion" of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying – all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza's hospitals are working 12-24 hour shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Opinion/Editorial: No ceasefire without justice for Gaza

Gaza civil society statement-July 2014The Electronic Intifada 
Gaza Strip 
22 July 2014
As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years.

Andreasson: Photo report from Gaza

Charlie Andreasson, a Swedish international, is in Gaza. He has been collaborating with the refurbishing of Gaza's Ark for several months before the boat was bombed by the Israeli navy. Charlie has also been a human shield with other internationals at the El-Wafa hospital that eventually was bombed by Israel.

Charlie reports from Gaza. He sends these photos taken in the last few hours that reflect the expressions of distress and worry of Palestinians on the streets of Gaza.

ISM Swedish activist, Andreasson: “Israel violated Geneva Convention”

Israeli army bombs hospitals in GazaCity. The situation became much worse when Tel Aviv government decided to start the land invasion.

by Giovanni Vigna

Mantova, 18th July 2014, Nena News – “El Wafa Hospital has been partly destroyed. All people who were inside the building at the moment of the Israeli massive attack, that happened on the 17th of July at 21, have been evacuated to Al Sahaba medical complex. Luckily, at the moment, there are no dead”.These are the dramatic words of Swedish volunteer, Charlie Andreasson, who was engaged with other six foreign volunteers in a protection activity of El Wafa Hospital, the patients and the staff.

Gaza report: War against civilians

14th July 2014 | International Solidarity Movement, Charlie Andreasson | Gaza, Occupied Palestine

The war is now in its seventh day, the death toll is rising briskly, 17,000 people have fled Beit Lahia in the north after the threat of a land invasion, fishermen are prevented from accessing their fishing grounds, and sewer and water pipes for 70,000 people have been bombed.

It is no longer a question that the Israeli military is targeting civilians, and civilian infrastructure.

Charlie Andreasson

 

Charlie Andreasson

El Wafa Hospital in Gaza threatened to be bombed by Israel

El-Wafa hospital-GazaCall to action – Media: Contact for internationals below

International activists remain in Gaza hospital threatened by Israeli missiles

Received by phone: 

"The Israelis called El Wafa hospital and told them to evacuate before the morning. They will not, and we are going there now. Please spread to the media."
 
(more context below in earlier press release + contact numbers for different languages).