New terror raids on Gaza

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

ISRAELI warplanes have resumed their blitz on Gaza following claims of a rocket attack on a Zionist settlement in southern Israel. Peace talks in Cairo have broken down and the Palestinian resistance is firing new waves of missiles into Israel in retaliation.

Israeli warplanes are again pounding Gaza ending a week-long truce that the Zionists claim was first broken by Hamas when three Palestinian rockets were fired at Beersheba across the border in the Negev desert. But Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood that runs the Gaza Strip, says they didn’t fire those rockets and that this is just a pretext to cover Israel’s refusal to meet any of their just demands at the Cairo talks.

The Israeli air force hit 10 sites in Gaza on Tuesday, killing a number of civilians, including six children and the wife and child of the commander of the Muslim Brothers’ militia.

Rocket fire from Gaza has “made continuation of talks impossible,” a spokesperson for Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu said, rejecting Palestinian charges that Israel was to blame for a breakdown in ceasefire talks in Egypt.

But in truth the talks were going nowhere. The Israelis were demanding complete disarmament in the Gaza Strip but offered next to nothing in return.

“We told the Egyptians we are ready to return to the talks” said Azzam al-Ahmad, who led the joint Palestinian negotiating team that included Hamas. “It’s clear the Israelis are not interested in the ceasefire. We did not hear from them. We were willing to, but we did not hear from them,” he said.

Israel refused to respond realistically to Palestinian demands for a total end to the blockade, an extension of fishing rights and the restoration of the international airport in Gaza in exchange for a prolonged truce.

Nor did the Israelis take up an Egyptian compromise plan for a partial lifting of the blockade while handing over the territory’s air and seaports to the imperialist- backed administration of the “autonomous” zone in the West Bank

Meanwhile the people of Venezuela have collected and packaged about 300 tons of humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. The first Venezuelan plane packed with aid landed in Egypt this week. Dina Ismail, a spokesperson of the Egyptian Red Crescent which received the consignment, described the Venezuelan gesture as “very valuable especially since it is humanitarian effort from a very distant place”. She said so far the Red Crescent had received assistance, including medicine and food, from nine countries.

The Venezuelan plane landed at a military airport in Ismailia, some 140 km from Cairo. More planes will take off in the coming days and the whole amount of aid will then be sent to the Gaza Strip via Egypt’s Rafah crossing.

Since 2007 Gaza has been subjected to a blockade by Israel and Egypt. With a surface area of 360 square km and a population of 1.7 million inhabitants, Gaza is one of the most densely populated locations in the world, with more than 4,700 persons per square km. Living in a state of siege, with a 40 per cent unemployment rate (60 per cent among youth), 53 per cent of the population under 18, Gaza’s residents suffer material deprivation and regular power cuts; most live in absolute poverty. More than 70 per cent depend on humanitarian aid.

Six weeks of fierce fighting have left almost 2,100 Palestinians dead. Over 10,000 others were injured in the Israeli attacks. UN Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, who called for an end to the siege, told the UN Security Council that the Gaza Strip has suffered an “unprecedented amount of destruction” as a result of Israel’s offensive.

A panel appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to start investigating the crimes committed by Israel in its war on Gaza following calls on the international community to pursue the prosecution of Israel and all governments that have given the Zionist regime a hand in committing crimes against Palestinians in Gaza.