Israel ditches the go-between

CAIRO (IPS) - Senior Egyptian officials have indicated that the new demands raised by Israel for ceasefire could affect the peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas being brokered by Egypt. Israel abruptly announced its refusal Wednesday last week to sign on to an Egypt-proposed ceasefire deal with Palestinian resistance factions before the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The proposed agreement — which Egyptian officials had said was imminent — calls for the phased reopening of the Gaza Strip’s borders. 

Interview: "Hamas won't give in to blackmail"

RAMALLAH (IPS) - At the eleventh hour, just as a permanent ceasefire painfully mediated by the Egyptians after weeks of intensive shuttle diplomacy was about to take effect, Israel suddenly changed its preconditions for a settlement with Hamas. This has left the Palestinians, the Egyptians, and even some Israeli analysts wondering just what will happen next. IPS spoke to Hamas senior official Dr. Ahmed Yousef, based in Gaza about the stalemate. 

Border politics slows aid to Gaza

CAIRO (IPS) - Egyptian authorities are continuing to prevent humanitarian aid from crossing the border into the Gaza Strip, according to local sources. “Until now, only about a quarter of all humanitarian aid to arrive in Egypt has made it across the border into Gaza,” Hatem al-Bulk, journalist and political activist, told IPS. “It’s all piling up in al-Arish because the authorities are refusing to let it through the Rafah border crossing.” Al-Arish is located some 40 kilometers west of the border in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. 

EU paying for Gaza blockade

BRUSSELS (IPS) - European Union aid has been given to an Israeli oil company which has reduced the supply of fuel to Gaza as part of an economic blockade internationally recognized as illegal, Brussels officials have admitted. Almost 97 million euros (124 million dollars) in funds managed by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, were handed over directly to the firm Dor Alon between February 2008 and January this year. 

Little hope from new US mediation

CAIRO (IPS) - Egyptians seem at best only cautiously optimistic over the appointment of Senator George Mitchell as United States envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is mandated chiefly with settling the Arab-Israeli dispute. “Mitchell’s prospects for achieving an acceptable settlement are grim,” Ahmed Thabet, political science professor at Cairo University told IPS. “The previous US administration created several facts on the ground which will be very difficult to undo.” 

Food insecurity increasing after war

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - Thousands of food-insecure Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing an even worse situation after large numbers of livestock and agricultural land were badly damaged or destroyed during Israel’s military assault, which began on 27 December. The already fragile food situation in Gaza has been seriously aggravated by the conflict, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. 

Thousands of Gazans remain homeless

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip remain homeless after their houses were badly damaged or destroyed during Israel’s recent military offensive there. The Israeli army began with aerial bombardments of the enclave on 27 December and added a ground assault from 3 January. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January while Hamas, the de facto ruling authority in the Strip, declared its own ceasefire later that day. 

Hamas providing emergency relief in Gaza

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - The Hamas government in Gaza has said it is trying to help thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and/or loved ones in the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. According to deputy minister of social affairs, Sobhi Redwan, Hamas has so far spent an estimated $50 million on emergency relief assistance, but more aid is needed. 

Anti-Hamas policies stymie Gaza recovery

WASHINGTON (IPS) - Despite a desperate need to rebuild the Gaza Strip, viewed by many as a key ingredient to reuniting the Palestinian territories and building a two-state peace deal with Israel, it appears that the United States and the international community are poised to continue old, politically-charged policies that will impede progress. Even before Israel’s three-week war on the Gaza Strip, some 80 percent of the besieged territory’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents reportedly depended on aid to meet their basic needs. 

Arab-bashing Israeli politician's ascent

JERUSALEM (IPS) - And then there were four. Just days until Israel’s general election, the three front-running parties have been joined by an anti-establishment surge from the far right that has the Yisrael Beiteinu party vying for a major role in the next government. Led by Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu has actually overtaken the once powerful Labor party of Ehud Barak and is fast closing the gap on the top two contenders.