Journalists in Gaza


BBC carries a report from one of the journalists who entered Gaza on Thursday.

The journalist notes that the UN describes the situation there as ‘food insecurity’, that UN food depots are empty, and that all Thursday’s aid went straight into distribution centres – ‘there’s no slack in the system’.

He also notes that Gaza TV filmed their arrival – why aren’t they getting their crucial reports out more widely, or into news syndication sites?

Free Gaza backing Qatari ship

According to their press release, the Free Gaza Movement are joining Qatar Charity in sending a Qatari boat to Israel, as previously noted.

FGM say they’re sailing on Saturday with $2m of medical supplies (QC had suggested previously that they’d leave Cyprus on Friday) – let’s hope for a smooth passage.

Just to collect all these boats together:
* Qatar’s boat to sail from Cyprus (arriving Saturday or Sunday)
* Israel’s boat to sail from Haifa (arriving Sunday)
* Turkey’s boat to sail from Istanbul (no arrival date announced yet)
* Jordan’s boat to sail at some future date
* Libya’s boat now returning to Libya

Palestinian aid for the Palestinians?

Buried in this Reliefweb article is an (ambiguous) mention of the Palestinian Authority, run by Fatah, sending two trucks of medical aid to Gaza, run by Hamas.

Now there’s a news story.


Spain pledges €3m for medical supplies for WB and Gaza

Spain's International Development and Cooperation Agency (AECID) has pledged €3m to be used for buying medicine and providing pharmacy management for 'urgent health needs'. It will be distributed through the existing PEGASE network – the European Union's mechanism for transferring resources to oPt.

Spain provided €20m in the same way earlier this year for civil service salaries, as part of their €240m overall pledge at Annapolis last December.

Spain, represented by their Consul-General to Israel, and the Palestinian Finance Authority, represented by Salam Fayyad, and based in the West Bank, signed the deal in Jerusalem.

Despite PEGASE being an efficient route to distribution in the West Bank, the lack of fluid relations between Abbas and Hamas may slow distribution to Gaza.

First reports of yesterday's aid convoy

UNRWA (via Reliefweb) and BBC (quoting an unnamed Israeli source) provide some details of yesterday’s convoy:

* Of the 40 trucks allowed through, 6 were from Jordan
* 10 further trucks carrying oil and tinned meat were refused entry
* Fuel for the power station was transferred
* Journalists were also allowed into Gaza

UNRWA has pointed out that it requires 15 dedicated trucks of aid daily to continue its work, and has only received 37 in the past month.

More as we get it.


Journalists, and a different sort of aid

AP reports that as part of yesterday’s aid convoy Israel allowed the lifting of a ban on journalists into Gaza, instituted some 4 weeks ago.

Israel has also lifted a what appeared to be a ‘formal’ ban on aid workers, although there’s been a steady trickle of 10-20 aid worker entries and exits each day over the period.

And in response to the Palestinian Monetary Authority’s repeated calls for more hard cash with which to pay salaries, Israel says it is considering sending a further $35m. Whether this would be a loan or a simple injection of funds is unclear.

COGAT summary: October and November 2008


Statistics, details, Israel’s explanations and a helpful longer-term overview here.


No Jordanian boat at the party... yet

Looks like Jordan’s trying to learn from Libya’s experience by checking with Israel first if it’s OK to fuel up a boat laden with perishable supplies and send it to Gaza before it actually sets sail. Fingers crossed they say yes though.


Erroneous article appears in Tehran Times

This article implies that the UN believes there’s no aid going into Gaza from anywhere – Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey or Israel. (See top left, this page.)

Now a boat from Israel too

No need to question whether Israel has diplomatic ties with Israel… but do its citizens?

A group of activists, including leaders of Arab communities in Israel, are sailing from Jaffa to Gaza on Sunday with a boatful of aid. Maybe they could stop by el-Arish on the way…

Public health analysis: Gazan patients increase, but number of permits falls

This comprehensive article in today’s Jerusalem Post details an ongoing discussion between health officials in Israel and the WHO over whether Israel is doing the right thing by encouraging Gazans to apply for medical aid permits.

In a nutshell: the number of permits granted went from 5k in 2006 to 7k in 2007 and nearly 9k in Q1+2 2008… but the proportion of permits granted went from 90% in 2006 to 66% in the same 2008 period.

So is that more aid, or less? You decide…


COGAT update 3 December

Yesterday’s summary of crossings, courtesy of Israel’s Coordination Office for Government Activities in the Territories:

Bad news:
Nahal Oz, Karni, Sufa, Kerem Shalom all closed. No goods.

Good news:
Erez open. 94 patients and chaperones went for treatment in Israeli hospitals.
17 aid workers entered Gaza and 6 left for Israel.

Despite the MEN report earlier today, aid workers have been entering and leaving Gaza consistently throughout the blockade; it’s just press corps members who have had very limited access.


US UN representative: Libya attempt 'dangerous and irresponsible'

This one will run and run…

Libya petitioned the UN Security Council to condone Israel’s ‘act of piracy’ in turning the al-Marwa away from docking in Gaza. AFP reports that the SC refused to officially condemn Israel, and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, noted:

“No member State of this Council, nor any other member of the United Nations, would allow a shipment originating from a hostile state towards a territory that serves as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against its civilians.”

Seven of the 15 UNSC members raised their concerns over the deteriorating support for, and conditions in, Gaza, and noted their disapproval of Israel’s blockade.

A source in Tripoli apparently said that the boat will now have to return to Libya since it can't unload its cargo in el-Arish, Egypt. However, we're still waiting to find out if Egypt might transport it by road to a crossing point.

Aid convoy today?

BBC and Middle East News are reporting that Israel has authorised either 40 or 70 lorries into Gaza today. More news as we find out.

Journalists were also allowed into Gaza last Thursday along with the aid; presumably Israel’s feeling, following their statement earlier today, is that if it’s safe enough to send in aid it’s safe enough to allow in journalists.


A handy how-to from Israel's Foreign Affairs Department

Following the confusion (public and private) over Libya’s boat, Israel has published this statement:


Media attention was focused this week on Marwa, a Libyan ship bound for Gaza, which was refused entry by the Israeli navy and is now sitting at dock in Egypt.


Israel has repeatedly made clear the procedures required to transfer humanitarian aid via Gaza. All UN members, including those who do not hold diplomatic relations with Israel (including Libya) are well informed that aid can be transferred one of three ways:


  1. either through the Palestinian customs authority, which then liaises with Israel to arrange permits (incoming goods are first shipped to Ashdod and moved from there by truck convoy to Gaza)
  2. or by addressing relevant UN bodies or partners (WHO, UNRWA, OCHA, ICRC etc) who will in turn apply to the Palestinian customs authority as above. This is generally regarded as a swifter and more effective process as standard procedures are already in place
  3. or by addressing third-party shared-border countries, ie Egypt or Jordan, who also follow similar standard procedures via Palestinian customs to Israel.


Israel intends to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. However, as a result of Hamas and other terrorist factions targeting the crossings with constant rocket and mortar fire since 5 November, Israel had no option but to temporarily close crossings.


Although the multilaterally-endorsed ‘period of calm’ is still ongoing, over 200 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel in the past 4 weeks. One, an Iranian Grad rocket fired in mid-November, injured 8 soldiers. Hamas blames Israel for unannounced incursions into Gaza; however, Israel’s only incursion during this period, met with heavily-armed resistance, was to destroy a tunnel which Hamas admitted was intended for the kidnap of Israeli soldiers.


Israel has maintained a semi-regular supply of humanitarian aid into Gaza, sometimes under direct rocket fire. Israel allows patients to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals every day, and supplies Gaza with water and 70% of its electricity.


COGAT update 3 December


Bad news:

No food or medicine into Gaza yesterday. Nahal Oz, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom all closed.

Good news:

Erez open for humanitarian passage.
47 patients and chaperones went off to Israeli hospitals.
11 international aid workers/press corps members entered Gaza, and 10 left for Israel.

A useful analysis of Gaza's power supply

IRINNews publishes a quick and effective analysis of the various sources of power to Gaza and what happens when it gets there.
Three points of information to note:

* 1, that (as you dear readers know) the World Bank’s assessment that only one goods crossing serves the whole of Gaza is incorrect (there are currently 3 crossings from Israel and one from Egypt)

* 2, that despite Israel bizarrely bombing the Gaza power plant in 2006, Egypt then supplied all the parts necessary to fix it and offered to send experts to carry out the work

* and 3, that despite the caption under the final image, we all know that the last (insufficient) fuel delivery was made last Wednesday.


Statement from COGAT


The Israeli Coordination Office for Government Activities in the Territories has issued a statement about why the crossings are closed:


“Since November 5th, more than 200 rockets and mortar shells were fired by the different Palestinian terrorist factions from the Gaza Strip into Israel, putting the lives of the Israeli civilian population under threat and insecurity.

This risk and threat to the crossings became more evident over the last weekend (27th-29th November), on which in four different occasions the attacks were directed against the different crossings (Nahal Oz, Karni & Erez) and their vicinity, and also on 30th November (a rocket launched towards the Kerem shalom crossing). In one of these incidents 7 IDF soldiers were injured (of which two suffered serious injuries).

These Palestinian actions are the reason for the continued disruption to the activities of the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

We wish to emphasize our continued willingness to reopen the crossings, and to resume their activities, provided that the continued Palestinian breach of the Lull arrangement will end immediately.”

And Qatar floats in too

Qatar is joining the boat party. And it’s a yes to Israeli relations with Qatar too. Any more for any more?

COGAT update 2 December

Not a great day yesterday.

Bad news:

Nahal Oz (fuel), Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom (goods) all closed. No food or medical aid.

Good news:

Erez (people) open. 34 patients and chaperones went to Israeli hospitals for treatment. 6 aid workers/press corps members entered Gaza; 2 left. Israel and Egypt continued their flow of electricity into Gaza.

Turkey to set sail too

In the wake of Libya’s efforts, Turkey is sending a boat full of campaigners, food and medicine too, reports Xinhua (via Hurriyet). Turkey and Israel enjoy a strong diplomatic relationship. Let’s hope they rang first.


Update: Libyan boat chaos

Neither Egypt nor Israel seems to know what to do with the Libyan boat.

The Guardian squarely accuses Israel of wrongdoing in its headline, but both its article and the BBC report that both Israel and Egypt have stopped the Marwa’s aid cargo from entering Gaza. Israel reportedly warned the boat not to approach, at which point it went to Egypt. Egypt seems unwilling to offload the aid and allow it entry through Rafah. Libya’s initial concerns over threats from submarines, fighter jets and covert communications jamming seem to have been unfounded.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians waited with empty trucks at Gaza port yesterday for hours, not knowing whether it would arrive or not.

Let’s hope it gets through soon.


OPEC sends $3m to Gaza

UNRWA reports that OPEC’s Fund for International Development (OFID) is making an immediate $3m donation to UNRWA works in Gaza, to be used for food aid and medicine.


OFID have given a further $7m to UNRWA projects around the Middle East in the past and their website notes $18m in loans to Palestine up to October 2008.


Update 2: Libyan boat not approved to enter Gaza


AFP carries a story intimating that the Libyan aid ship did not have clearance to enter Gaza’s coastal waters from the Israeli authorities, and implies that Libya had not sought such clearance before sending the ship on its way.


Libya and Israel do not enjoy diplomatic relations. The Free Gaza boats may have had more luck since they sailed from Cyprus under British flags (both of which have diplomatic relations).

Update: Libyan boat was stopped by Israeli border forces cites a Libyan state source claiming that Israel sent two boats, a jet and a submarine out to stop the Libyan boat this morning. Xinhua further reports that the boat is considering resailing from its current port of el-Arish, northern Egypt, if Egypt refuses to unload and send the aid in by road.


COGAT update: 1 December

Bad news: Nahal Oz, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom all closed. No food/medical aid into Gaza.

Good news: 44 patients and chaperones entered Israel for treatment 4 international aid workers/press corps members entered Gaza, and 8 left for Israel. Israel and Egypt maintained the flow of electricity into Gaza.

More aid later this week, we hope.

Libyan aid ship diverted to Egypt

Reuters reports (via Reliefweb) that the Libyan ship which left port last week carrying 3000 tons of aid has chosen to divert itself to Egypt rather than attempt to dock in Gaza.

Reuters notes that before the current blockade, Israel used to allow ships to dock in Gaza. The Free Gaza movement famously made port in Gaza earlier this year, and were the first ships to dock since the Hamas takeover in June 2007.

On the Libyan boats: "They understood that the navy was there and decided to turn around," said Andy David, a Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. "We have a very clear policy (on the blockade) which is constantly publicised."

Weekly summary: 23-29 November

COGAT reports that last week saw a return to near-normal conditions for aid passage into Gaza: the passages were open Mon, Weds, Thur and Fri, and two major aid convoys entered the Strip, on Monday and Wednesday. Bad news:
Sufa crossing (which would enable extra aid capacity) stayed closed
40 rockets were fired from Gaza Good news:
40 trucks entered through the Karni conveyor
78 trucks entered through Keren Shalom crossing
877,820 litres of fuel and 130 tons of gas entered the Nahal Oz fuel terminal
187 Gazans entered Israel for medical treatment, or to chaperone others
46 Gazans entered for ‘humanitarian reasons’
59 aid workers (and, we are now told, press corps members) entered Gaza and 63 left for Israel
Israel and Egypt maintained their constant input of 163MW electrical power to Gaza
Total for the week (COGAT figures):
2641 tons of aid on 118 trucks
877,000 litres of power station fuel
130 tons of gas When provided by UNRWA, we’ll provide detailed breakdowns where possible of who provided the aid and its intended destination.