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Independent: 'Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now'

 Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon.

It was on 25 June that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive and two other soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants who used a tunnel to get out of the Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of this, writes Gideon Levy in the daily Haaretz, the Israeli army "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately". Gaza has essentially been reoccupied since Israeli troops and tanks come and go at will. In the northern district of Shajhayeh they took over several houses last week and stayed five days. By the time they withdrew, 22 Palestinians had been killed, three houses were destroyed and groves of olive, citrus and almond trees had been bulldozed.

by Fran on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 12:14:16 AM EST
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Independent: West Bank fragmented by occupation

The Israeli pressure on Palestinian cities, towns and villages on the West Bank is now so heavy that their inhabitants doubt their own ability to survive. The 540 Israeli checkpoints and barriers so fragment this small piece of territory that they are destroying the Palestinian economy.

Nablus, once the heart of the West Bank, is like a ghost town. Ten years ago this was a bustling commercial centre but today there are few cars in the streets and half of the shops have closed.

"Every day I get up at 6.30am and then wait three hours at the Israeli checkpoint before I can go to Awarta village 10km from Nablus where I teach in a school," said Iman Iskander. "Often I am so late that I miss the first three classes. It is hell. By the time I get home I am so tired and angry that sometimes I want to hit my children."

For the past seven months she, in common with other Palestinian teachers, has not been paid her $500 (£266) a month salary. The Palestinian government has no money to pay the teachers because the Israeli government is withholding tax revenue and foreign donors have held back funds since Palestinians voted for Hamas as their government.

by Fran on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 12:29:08 AM EST
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Guardian: U.N. Refugee Chief Seeks Gaza Presence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The chief of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees called on the international community Thursday to provide Gaza with a peacekeeping force or mission of observers, saying Gaza's 1.4 million people deserve protection.

Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner general for U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said a permanent solution must be found for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, perhaps by setting up a U.N. mission there.

``It would be great to have an international presence, civilian, military, whatever,'' she said.

Conditions in Gaza have reached a breaking point, AbuZayd said, as a result of the recent Israeli military offensive and blockade there since the capture of an Israeli soldier on June 25. Jan Egeland, U.N. humanitarian chief, has called the situation there, where border crossings remain closed at least 50 percent of the time, ``a ticking time-bomb.''

The spokeswoman at Israel's mission to the U.N., Anat Friedman, said that Israel hopes the international community will insist that the Palestinians respond to its demands ``to stop terror and recognize Israel.''

She said that while the Gazan economy is in ruins and the government is on the brink of meltdown, the siege of the strip and the financial sanctions against Hamas have not moved the government toward negotiations.

by Fran on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 12:53:41 AM EST
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Guardian: Palestinians tell Blair: you are not welcome here  

· Hundreds sign advert in advance of Ramallah visit
· PM to meet Olmert and Abbas, but not Hamas

Hundreds of Palestinians signed a newspaper advertisement yesterday criticising Tony Blair and telling him he would not be welcome when he arrives on a Middle East visit expected this weekend.

The advertisement, which appeared in the Palestinian al-Ayyam newspaper, rounded on the British prime minister for what it said was his pro-Israeli stance in the region, particularly over the recent war in Lebanon.

"He is coming here in order to wash his hands, that are dripping with Lebanese blood, with Palestinian water," it said. "We the signatories ... notables, intellectuals and political figures declare that Tony Blair is persona non grata in our country."

by Fran on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 01:12:43 AM EST
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truly....eyeless in gaza

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 03:13:41 AM EST
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Read Frank Herbert: The Dosadi Experiment.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 03:47:42 AM EST
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Crikey, I read that so many years ago I've forgotten all about it. Just read the synopsis and still can't remember it.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 06:16:55 AM EST
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Hmm..I wonder..how much money have Arab states spent on Gaza lately?
I am also curious to see no reference to the type of chaos that ensued after Israel had left Gaza that had nothing to do with kidnapping of the soldier altogether.

Mikhail from SF
by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Fri Sep 8th, 2006 at 01:11:31 PM EST
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