Israeli fighter jets striking Gaza after massive mortar fire from the strip - IDF

Israeli fighter jets have pounded the Gaza strip, after mortar fire from inside the Palestinian-controlled strip hit a bus in the Israeli side of the border, the Israel Defense Forces have said.

The airstrikes are the latest escalation in several days of reciprocal attacks between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Earlier on Monday, a barrage of mortar fire from Gaza hit an Israeli bus, wounding at least one person, Reuters reported.

Video from the scene showed Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepting some of the incoming projectiles.

@AmichaiStein1 : IDF: 80 launches in 40 minutes; Hamae claims over a 100 https://twitter.com/AmichaiStein1/status/1062000239207428102 

@AmichaiStein1 : More then 20 morters launched from Gaza towards Israel; Direct hit at an Israeli bus (Credit: Rotternik network)

That attack was itself a response to an Israeli special forces raid in the Gaza strip on Sunday night that saw at least two Hamas commanders and four other Palestinians killed. One Israeli soldier was also killed, and another wounded. Israeli warplanes reportedly lobbed missiles at the area after the raid, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut his visit to Paris short to return, in light of the “security incidents.”

The IDF claims 80 mortars were fired into Israel in less than 40 minutes on Monday, while Hamas claims to have launched 100. Sirens wailed across southern Israel as the Iron Dome struggled to intercept the incoming firestorm.

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Israeli Forces Kill 28 In Gaza Protests As Anger Mounts Over US Embassy

GAZA BORDER:  Israeli forces killed at least 28 Palestinians along the Gaza border on Monday, health officials said, as demonstrators streamed to the frontier on the day the United States prepared to open its embassy in Jerusalem.

It was the highest Palestinian single-day death toll since a series of protests dubbed the "Great March of Return" began at the border with Israel on March 30 and since a 2014 Gaza war.

The health officials said 900 Palestinians were wounded, about 450 of them by live bullets.

Tens of thousands gathered at the frontier on Monday, some of them approaching Israel's border fence - a line Israeli leaders vowed Palestinians would not be allowed to breach. Black smoke from tyres set alight by demonstrators rose in the air.

"Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever," said Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.

"Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end," he said.

Later in the day, Israeli leaders and a U.S. delegation including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, were due to attend the opening of the embassy relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

palestine gaza

Palestinian men carry an innjured protester during clashes

"A great day for Israel," the U.S. president, who stoked Arab anger by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December, said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in lockstep with Trump over fulfilling a long-standing U.S. promise to move the embassy to the holy city and over the president's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last week, echoed the sentiment.

"What a moving day for the people of Israel and the State of Israel," Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

The 28 Palestinian dead on Monday included a 14-year-old boy, a medic and a man in a wheelchair who had been pictured on social media using a slingshot.

The Israeli military identified three of those killed as armed militants whom it said tried to place explosives near the fence in the southern Gaza Strip.

The latest casualties raised the Palestinian death toll to 73 since the protests started six weeks ago. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis," the military said in a statement.

The killings have drawn international criticism, but the United States has echoed Israel in accusing Gaza's ruling Hamas movement of instigating violence, an allegation it denies.

"LONG OVERDUE"

Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Middle East peace envoy, said on Twitter that "taking the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it."

But Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the United States of "blatant violations of international law".

The Palestinians, who want their own future state with its capital in East Jerusalem, have been outraged by Trump's shift from previous administrations' preference for keeping the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts.

Those talks have been frozen since 2014. Other international powers worry that the U.S. move could also inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

The protests are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe" when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting around Israel's creation.

"Choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history (to open the Jerusalem embassy) shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process," Hamdallah wrote.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem - a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians - should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

But Guatemala, which received support from Israel in its counter-insurgency campaigns in the 1980s, plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Its ambassador visited the new site, in an office building in the western part of the city, on Monday. Paraguay is to follow suit later this month.

In London, the British government said it had no plans to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and said it disagreed with the U.S. decision to do so.

The Russian government said it feared the embassy move would increase tensions across the Middle East.

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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.

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US strangling Palestinians & trying to make them submit’

US policy on Israel-Palestine is almost entirely controlled by two elements in Washington – the pro-Israeli lobby and the arms industry, Max Blumenthal, a senior writer for AlterNet, told RT.

President Trump said the US might decrease aid to Palestine during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands – that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace," Trump said.

“And they [Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with it any longer,” he added.

 
An Israeli flag is seen near the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. © Ammar Awad

Earlier in the week, a brawl erupted in Israel's Knesset after Arab lawmakers protested US Vice President Mike Pence's speech. The MPs – who were holding signs which read "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine" – were removed from the building.

AlterNet senior writer Max Blumenthal called Pence’s speech “deeply offensive” to Palestinians.

Mike Pence was the first vice president to visit the Israeli Knesset. He is a Christian Evangelical who pounded the Bible before the Knesset, essentially staking Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem on the Bible, which is even from Biblical historical perspectives false,” he told RT.

Earlier, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas branded Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “the slap of the century.

According to Blumenthal, this move signaled a “break with decades of American policy and an explosion, a detonation of the two-state solution.” It is natural that Abbas responded this way and refused to meet with Pence, he added. 

In Blumenthal’s view, the real reason why Trump threatened to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority “is because he is being controlled by his son-in-law, the ‘American Crown Prince’ Jared Kushner.” He added that Kushner’s family has a deep relationship with Israeli PM Netanyahu.

Their family foundation has donated to Israeli settlements, they are very pro-Israel,” the writer told RT.

 
US President Donald Trump walks in a corridor after a meeting during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 25, 2018© Denis Balibouse

Blumenthal cited a diplomat he interviewed who attended meetings with the Trump administration on Palestine. “Kushner is seeking to withhold funding to the Palestinians and drain the main Palestinian refugee aid agency ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) in order to force the Palestinians into a deal, in which they would essentially give up Palestinian statehood, give up the refugee question, and allow Israel to consolidate its permanent control over the West Bank."

So that is really what’s happening here – they are strangling the Palestinians and trying to make them say uncle.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinians through Abbas are looking for other partners in Russia, China and Europe, Blumenthal told RT, adding that “the US has lost its influence.”

According to the journalist, “for anyone who believes in peace in the Holy Land, removing the US or weakening its role in negotiations should be a goal.”

In Blumenthal’s opinion, the US and its policy on Israel-Palestine is almost entirely controlled by two elements in Washington – the pro-Israeli lobby and the arms industry, “which sells billions and billions of weapons to Israel in the form of US loans.” 

The US role in Palestine has basically been as the kind of puppeteer of colonization, of moving 350,000 settlers into the West Bank, walling off the Gaza Strip and now transforming Jerusalem – as an  international city – into Israel’s capital,” he told RT.

 
© Andrew Parsons / Global Look Press

Unfortunately the US dictates what happens on the ground,” Blumenthal told RT. 

Commenting on how the situation may develop further, the writer said that there are many possible nightmare scenarios.

One is that Israel attempts to push the Palestinians to violence in order to further entrench its control in the West Bank,” Blumenthal said. 

Another possible scenario, according to Blumenthal, would be a war on Israel’s northern border with Hezbollah, “which is something that the Saudi, Israeli, United Arab Emirates (UAE) axis along with Trump and Kushner have been trying to provoke.”

Blumenthal argues that “could expand into Gaza, where Hamas – which is an ally of Iran and Hezbollah – is in control.” “You could see mass deaths in the besieged Gaza Strip, which is experiencing the worst conditions ever along with unprecedented destruction and destabilization in Lebanon,” he added.

According to Blumenthal, the Israeli defense chief and some senior Israeli military intelligence officials “threaten to completely level Beirut if there is an escalation with Hezbollah.

He also told RT that Hezbollah had become stronger after the experience it gained in Syria.

We’re looking at a tinderbox with the Trump administration not doing anything to put red lines on Israeli activity in the West Bank or Israel’s bellicose threats towards Lebanon and the Gaza Strip,” he warned.     

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UN Report Describes Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip

United Nations, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) A UN report reflects today the daily hardships faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a territory under a decade of the Israeli blockade and devastating bombings in recent years.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 70 percent of the 1 880 000 people living in the 365 square kilometer strip are registered as refugees and 47 percent are considered to be food insecure.

Power outages reach 12 to 16 hours daily and unemployment affects four out of every 10 Palestinians in Gaza, being women and young persons the most affected, with 65.3 and 61 percent of them unemployed, respectively.

In respect to water, OCHA warns that 97 percent of the liquid that reaches people through pipes is not suitable for human consumption.

In addition to the permanent Israeli blockade in place, the small Palestinian territory still remains suffering the consequences of the 51-day aviation bombings carried out by Tel Aviv, which in summer of 2014 destroyed much of the housing and living infrastructure there.

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Gaza Leads in Global Cancer Cases Caused by Israeli Use of Banned Weapons

Alwaght- The Gaza Strip has the highest statistics of cancer in the world following use of banned weapons by the Israeli regime, a Palestinian medical association has revealed.

According to the Medical Committee of the Palestinian Society of Independent Personalities, the Israeli regime has been using internationally banned weapons on Palestinians in Gaza during its deadly wars against the besieged territory.

According to Palestinian media, every month there are nearly 80 to 90 new cases of cancer being reported at Shifaa Medical center in Gaza. According to the Palestinian health ministry, there are 15,000 cancer patients in Gaza, implying that in every 1000 people in Gaza 8 people are suffering from this life threatening condition.

According to projections, there will be an increase of 10-12 percent increase in cancer cases.

During its wars on Gaza, the Israeli regime fired shells containing white phosphorus, which causes horrific burns when it comes into contact with skin. Under international law, phosphorus is allowed as a smokescreen to protect soldiers but treated as a chemical weapon when used against civilians.

“We have seen Gaza used as a laboratory for testing what I call weapons from hell,” said David Halpin, a retired British surgeon and trauma specialist, who has visited Gaza on several occasions to investigate unusual injuries suffered by Gazans.

“I fear the thinking in ‘Israel’ is that it is in its interests to create as much mutilation as possible to terrorise the civilian population in the hope they will turn against Hamas.”

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