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UN peacekeepers lay out rules of engagement, including use of force


United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon have the authority to use force against hostile activity of any kind, whether in self-defence, to ensure their area of operations is not used for hostile activities or to resist attempts by force to prevent them from discharging their duties, according to guidelines published today. “Should the situation present any risk of resumption of hostile activities, UNIFIL rules of engagement allow UN forces to respond as required,” the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said in a statement, laying out the terms of the Security Council mandate that established it in August to oversee the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah. 

The Cooper Union "Israel Lobby" Debate


Last week the London Review of Books did a great service to free speech in this country by enabling Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago to have a debate on the Israel Lobby that he thought would never take place. The event was titled “The Israel Lobby - Does it Have Too Much Influence on U.S. Foreign Policy?” and its main purpose was to debate the pros and cons of a paper Mearsheimer wrote with Prof. Stephen Walt of Harvard University called “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” It was a perfect opportunity for the much criticized national media to report on a key issue in our foreign policy. 

Destruction and Violations: Gaza, Lebanon and Israel


Two leading human rights organizations registered serious concerns over Israel’s recent actions in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as well as Hizballah’s action against northern Israel. However, Curt Goering of Amnesty International and Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch pointed out at this recent Palestine Center event that the nature of the weapons used by Israel indicates that the principles of international humanitarian law had been disregarded and that the consequences to civilians was not considered. Read the transcript of this event held at the Palestine Center last month. 

UN sets up camps for Palestinian children hit by school strike in West Bank


With 500,000 Palestinian children out of school due to a strike in the West Bank that has left most public schools closed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has set up youth clubs to provide extracurricular activities, safe indoor and outdoor play areas, and centres to provide literacy and computer training. The lack of access to schools come on top of an already very difficult year in which the number of children killed and injured are close to record highs as youngsters continue to take the brunt of the unrest in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told a news briefing in Geneva today. 

The International Community Must End the Collective Punishment of the Palestinian People


As non-governmental human rights organisations based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), we are gravely concerned by the recent internal clashes between forces loyal to Fateh and forces loyal to Hamas. Six people were killed in Gaza on Sunday 2 October 2006, in the worst internal fighting for months, as striking government employees demanded the back payment of outstanding salaries. The following day gunmen forced businesses to shut their doors in several towns throughout the West Bank. The hardship created by Israel’s retention of tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the cessation of international aid has brought the OPT to the brink of a civil war. 

Freshwater shortage leads to health problems in Gaza Strip


Environmentalists and public health specialists are warning of escalating health problems due to a growing freshwater deficit and declining water quality in the Gaza Strip. Nahed Abu Dayyia, an ecologist with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), says water pollution in Gaza is primarily caused by high salinity and high nitrate concentrations in groundwater. The Gaza Strip, bordering Israel and Egypt, has a population of more than 1.4 million, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. “Insufficient sanitation conditions and the absence of sewage conveyance systems pose serious threats to public health and are the major causes of environmental degradation,” Dayyia said. 

Deadly internal strife continues in West Bank and Gaza


PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that in the evening of Monday, 2 October 2006, two civilians were killed and 23 were injured. Most of the injured are civilians; and the injured include three critical cases and seven children. The casualties fell during clashes between Fatah members and the Interior Ministry Executive Force in the Nejma Square in Rafah.The clashes broke out at approximately 20:00 during demonstration organized by Fatah movement to protest the violent events in the Gaza Strip the day before. Eyewitnesses stated that the clashes broke out when the demonstration came close to an Executive Force patrol near Nejma Square in the Rafah refugee camp. 

UNHCR deeply concerned by plight of Palestinian refugees in Iraq


UNHCR is deeply concerned over the well-being of Palestinian refugees inside Iraq, as well as those who fled targeted harassment and violence in Baghdad and are now stuck at the border between Iraq and Syria and in camps in Jordan and Syria. The security situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq has deteriorated – particularly since the Samarra bombings last February – and an increasing number of them have left or are trying to leave the country. Palestinians in Iraq lack protection, have serious problems obtaining identity cards, and have been the target of continuing harassment, threats, kidnapping and killings. 

Human rights council discusses situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories in context of follow-up of its decisions


The Human Rights Council this afternoon discussed the follow-up of decisions and resolutions taken at its first session and the first and second special sessions and heard a follow-up report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said on 6 July 2006, the Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution in which it decided to “dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur”. As there was no reply by the Israeli Government to requests for consent to a fact-finding mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he had been unable to head that mission as required by the Council. 

Information Brief: The Gaza Economy


One year after Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” from the Strip, which was hailed by President Bush as a great opportunity for “the Palestinian people to build a modern economy that will lift millions out of poverty [and] create the institutions and habits of liberty,” a “Dubai on the Mediterranean” according to Thomas Friedman, Gaza is undergoing acute and debilitating economic declines marked by unprecedented levels of poverty, unemployment, loss of trade, and social deterioration especially with regard to the delivery of health and educational services.