Over 1,000 Palestinians Died in Gaza Due to Israeli Blockade

Some 80 percent of the nearly two million residents of Gaza depend on humanitarian aid, with around 60 percent suffering food insecurity. 

Over 1,000 Palestinians have died in the Gaza strip as a result of Israel's military blockade, which has been ongoing for more than a decade, the strip's collective of charitable organizations has warned.

RELATED: Israel Fires at Gaza, Kills 2 Palestinian Teenagers

"Out of the 1,000 or so victims of the blockade, 450 died as a result of the collapse of the health situation in Gaza, such as the lack of medical supplies and the crisis of medical referrals for outside treatment," Ahmad Kurd, the coordinator of the collective, told Al-Jazeera Sunday.

Just in the past few days five premature babies died due to lack of medical treatments available in the region, Kurd said. Meanwhile nearly 100 people died while trying to use alternate electricity. The number of workers who were killed in the fields of agriculture, fishing, and commercial tunnels has reached 350, according to the collective.

Ever since the 2007 Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the territory has been in crisis and has been facing food, water, and power shortages. "Gaza is a disaster area in all areas - health, environmental, social, and energy," he warned, adding that power cuts last between 18-20 hours a day.

The Palestinian government "must provide the needs of the Gaza Strip regarding medical supplies, social assistance, pay the salaries of government employees, and exert pressure to open the border crossings," Kurd said. "The use of candles, firewood or generators has resulted in house fires that claimed the lives of children and adults alike."

RELATED: Blockade-Induced Power Outages Force Gaza Hospital to Close

According to the Israeli Information for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Gaza's economy is collapsing due to the blockade. Between May and August 2017, Gaza's unemployment rate stood at 44 percent, whereas during pre-blockade, in 2000, the region's unemployment rate was 18.9 percent.

Some 80 percent of the nearly 2 million residents of Gaza depend on humanitarian aid, with around 60 percent suffering food insecurity. 

According to Haaretz, a Palestinian fisherman was killed Sunday by the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, after he sailed past the authorized fishing zone off the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF spokesman said the fishermen didn't respond to their call, after which they opened fire. The boat was carrying three people and the other two fishermen were detained by the IDF for interrogation.

"We are sure that the wounded are fishermen who went out to sea to make a living – and nothing else," the head of the Gaza Fisherman's Union told Haaretz. "The [Israeli] army is always inventing stories about crossing [out of] the fishing zone."

The union has identified the three men as Mahmoud Adel Abu Riala, 18, Ismail Salah Abu Riala, 18, and Ahed Hassan Abu Ali, 26. 

In January, the Palestinian ministry of health reported that a hospital in northern Gaza, Beit Hanoun hospital which serves nearly 60,000 people, had to shut down owing to power shortages.


  • Published in World

'A Real Wonder Woman': Artist Behind Che Guevara’s Iconic Poster Paints Ahed Tamimi

The Irish artist said he is trying to save the life of the jailed Palestinian teen who “signifies nobility in the face of oppression.”

“There is a real Wonder Woman” is the title of a new painting from Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, who is famous for drawing the iconic 1968 poster of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, depicting Palestinian imprisoned teen Ahed Tamimi as a superhero.

RELATED: Israel Probed If Ahed Tamimi Family Were ‘Light-Skinned’ Actors

Fitzpatrick said he was amazed by Tamimi’s bravery when he first learned of her two years ago. “Ahed Tamimi, to me, signifies nobility in the face of oppression. This is a kid, a child,” Fitzpatrick told Newsweek magazine in an interview earlier this week.

“When I was 15, I think I would have been petrified. Wherever she’s getting her courage from, there’s a resonance of it echoing across the world. I’m just a part of it. There are organizations doing more than I could do, but I do think the pen—in my case, the brush—is mightier than the sword.”

He also said the title of his latest painting is directed at Gal Gadot, the former Israeli soldier-turned hollywood star who was the star of the latest “Wonder Woman” movie and has publically come out against Palestinian rights. “That’s deliberate … I think: Hold on, there is a Wonder Woman, and it’s this kid,” the renowned artist further told the magazine.

RELATED: Ahed Tamimi's Relative 1st Palestinian killed by Israel in 2018

“I’ve been collecting comic books all my life. I’ve been a guest at San Diego Comic Con. I would not say anybody in that [comic book] community has an idea that she was an IDF soldier and supports the persecution of Palestinians as young as Ahed Tamimi. I think they’d be shocked if they knew that.”

In December Ahed was arrested and indicted on 12 charges including assaulting an Israeli soldier and throwing stones after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier in her home’s yard went viral. It was revealed later that the Palestinian girl was upset after soldiers had shot her 14-year-old cousin in the face a day earlier.

The teen, who turned 17 behind bars last month, has received large international attention and solidarity since her arrest as many prominent actors, artists and academics in the United States and other countries signed letters and petitions calling for her release.

RELATED: Young US Jews Write 700 Letters of Solidarity to Ahed Tamimi

Fitzpatrick said that he fears for her life as many in Israel are calling for sentencing her to life in prison or even executing her over “insulting” the Israeli occupation. “I’m afraid they’re going to kill her. And that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said in an attempt to echo the international campaign he kicked off against injustice with his Viva Che painting.

Ahed is being tried in an Israeli military court and the judge has denied her bail. Her first hearing Tuesday was held behind closed doors as media and the public were kicked out of the courtroom. Israeli military courts have a conviction rate of more than 99 percent.

Over the years Ahed gained international attention for her brave actions against Israeli occupation forces during protests and clashes in and around her village. In 2015 a video of her, along with female members of her family, went viral showing her fighting an Israeli occupation soldier who was pinning down her 12-year old male cousin.


  • Published in Culture

France Increases Migrant Expulsions in 2017

Paris, Jan 16 (Prensa Latina) The expulsions of migrants in France have increased by 14.6 percent in 2017 to reach 14,859, according to figures released today by the Ministry of the Interior.

While the number of expulsions from the national territory in 2016 was 12,961, they almost reached 15,000 last year, the General Directorate of Immigration said in a report.

The announcement comes when the French government is boosting a new asylum law aimed at toughening immigration policy, so that humanitarian associations fear that these numbers can continue to grow.

According to data published today, the number of undocumented people rejected trying to enter the country also increased by 34 percent last year, going from 63,732 in 2016 to 85,408 in 2017.

The French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) stated that France recently responded positively to only 36 percent of asylum claims filed in 2017, less than 38 percent reported in 2016.

According to disclosed figures, refugee applications also grew by 17 percent, reaching 100,412.

  • Published in World

Racist: Massive Outrage over Trump 'Shithole' Migration Remark

Prominent figures in the U.S. and abroad have condemned Trumps remarks calling countries like Haiti and El Salvador "shitholes."

Haitian and U.S. activists as well as U.S. lawmakers, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, joined many in the U.S. and abroad in slamming President Donald Trump's latest immigration comments calling it "morally inadequate," and "racist". Earlier on Thursday during a meeting with Senate and House members, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly asked "Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?"

RELATED: Trump Administration Revokes TPS for Salvadorans

The insulting comments generated an immediate backlash from journalists, political figures, and activists all over the globe.

in an an interview with CNN shortly after Trump's comments, Senator Sanders spoke of part of his personal story to highlight how Trump's comments affect not only immigrants but also first generation U.S. citizens. "I am a first generation American, and my dad came from what I guess Trump would call a shithole, that was a very rural and a very poor area from Poland," Sanders said and further expressed his admiration for immigrants coming to the U.S. at a young age. "I cannot believe the courage that that took."

@WajahatAli So we don't forget, in addition to calling Africa, Haiti and El Salvador "shithole countries," Trump also said all Haitians have AIDS, Nigerians live in huts, Mexicans are rapists and criminals and Muslims should be banned because, of course, "Islam hates us." Economic. Anxiety.

Prominent Haitian left-wing activist Rene Civil blasted the U.S. president for his comments calling him “a cancer on the world” and demanding that he apologizes to both Haiti and the African continent. "Haiti is not a 'shithole.' It's a great country. It's the mother of liberty,” Civil said in an interview with Reuters Thursday night as he kissed the Haitian flag. 

He also demanded Trump “apologize before the entire African continent as well as before Haiti, the country whose blood has been used by ancestors who have served with their minds and bodies to liberate the United States itself from slavery."

United States scholar Steven Salaita criticized Trump's remarks calling them "racist" and blasting Trump for likening "Blackness to shit." The countries targeted by Trump were overwhelmingly Black countries like Haiti, of which he said: they "have sent 15,000 people, they all have AIDS." 

@stevesalaita Trump calling Haiti and African countries "shitholes" is racist, period. He implies that poverty arises from innate cultural and intellectual deficiencies rather than from centuries of US/European enslavement, colonization, and genocide. He also likens blackness to shit. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also slammed Trump's comment a "racist", while National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, lamented: "As our nation fights to move forward, our President falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia."

@ACLU There are no words for language like this except for one: Racist. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/

Meanwhile Latino journalist Julio Ricardo Varela responded to Trump by reminding him of the U.S.'s role in regional crisis and instability. "Last time I checked, the USA has an amazing ability to create shitholes," Varela claimed in relation to Washington's role in Central America. El Salvador was another country targeted by Trump's remarks.  

@julito77 Last time I checked, the USA has an amazing ability to create “shitholes.” Made in the USA. Central America is literally a region that the US started directly controlling well over a century ago. How no one is talking about this in depth right now doesn’t surprise me.

White House CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins argued that Trump's "shithole" comment "will resonate with his base." And this is probably true. President Trump ran on a racist platform, and during his campaign he didn't shy away from calling Mexican immigrants "rapists and criminals." Furthermore, after white supremacist violence in Charlottesville resulted in one dead woman, Trump refused to condemn white nationalism and described some of the neo-Nazi protesters as "very good people".

@KarenAttiah I hope every media outlet that is going to produce outraged pieces about Trump’s “shithole" comments takes a long and hard look at its coverage of black and brown countries.

Even lawmakers from Trump’s own party blasted his comments. Republican U.S. Representative Mia Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values" and called on Trump to apologize to the American people and to the countries he denigrated.

  • Published in World

Assange Granted Ecuador Citizenship to Secure 'Human Rights'

Espinosa said that the government continues to work with the U.K. to “explore alternatives and options to resolve the case.”

After the surprising news was released two days ago, the Ecuadorean government confirmed in a press conference this morning that it WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was given citizenship in the Andean nation.

RELATED: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Granted Ecuadorean Citizenship

In a press conference held today Ecuador’s foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa reaffirmed that Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorean citizenship Dec. 21, 2017. Assange, who has been sheltered in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19, 2012 when he was granted political asylum, began the application in September.

She stressed several times that Ecuador is following all national and international laws and is “dedicated to protecting the human rights” of Assange in this “delicate case.”

Despite the confirmed citizenship status, Espinosa said that the government continues to work with the U.K. to “explore alternatives and options to resolve the case.”

The foreign ministers said that her government tried to obtain diplomatic status for the Wikileaks founder within the United Kingdom on Dec. 20, but that the British government immediately denied the asylum seeker such status.

Earlier this week Ecuador's foreign ministry released a statement that read: "Julian Assange received international protection from the Ecuadorean government in August 2012.

"The current government inherited this issue and it's looking for solution alternatives, with full respect of national and international law, as well as human rights... in coordination with the United Kingdom, with which we have the best friendship and cooperation relations."

Assange is committed to not "intervening in issues non-related with his asylum condition," as requested by Ecuadorian government, the statement continued.

The Foreign Office in the UK has confirmed that Assange continues to face arrest for breaching bail conditions if he leaves the embassy premises. He fears that if arrested by UK authorities they he will be extradited to the United States whose government is looking to prosecute Assange for publishing thousands of U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents via his Wikileaks page.

Rumors about Assange's condition were sparked Jan. 1 when he tweeted a 60-character code and a link to the song "Paper Planes" by British singer MIA. The Ecuadorean government has since insisted that "nothing has happened."

In a picture posted Wednesday on his personal Twitter account, Assange appears wearing a jersey from Ecuador's national football team.

The Australian activist now appears in Ecuador's Civil Registry database and holds an identity document: 'Julian Paul Assange' is registered in the Internal Revenue Service with document number 1729926483.


  • Published in World

China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

  • Published in World

US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

  • Published in World

Cuba Ratifies Commitment to Defending Human Rights in Geneva

Cuba's representatives before the United Nations in Geneva reaffirmed today the country's commitment to defending human rights for all, as a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution.

'Cuba will continue to fight against all forms of injustice in the world and to achieve true dignification and welfare for human beings,' the mission said in a statement on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

According to the text, 'more than five decades of socialist revolution have allowed achieving full and universal enjoyment of all human rights for its people, so there are many reasons to celebrate this day with joy.'

The press release recalled that Cuba is internationally recognized for the progress made in strengthening its free healthcare and education systems, which are accessible to all, the struggle for gender equality and the protection of the environment, among others issues.

'The solidarity and unconditional work of Cuban healthcare collaborators have saved lives or restored the vision to hundreds of thousands of people in the world,' the communiqué said.

'All this has been achieved despite the genocidal policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, which represents not only a violation of international law, but a flagrant, mass and systematic human rights violation of Cubans,' the text pointed out.

The statement noted that the country has a long history of cooperation with all human rights mechanisms in the international arena that are applied on universal and non-discriminatory basis.

As a member State of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Cuba plays an active role that has materialized in the presentation of resolutions to defend the fundamental basic rights, demonstrating its strong commitment to the implementation of a fairer and equitable human rights system, the text said.

  • Published in Cuba
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