Break The Siege Of Gaza Now!

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ISRAELI authorities on Sunday morning opened the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing in the southeastern Gaza Strip after it was closed for three days over the Jewish New Year holiday.

A spokesperson for the Gaza crossings authority said in a statement that Israel notified the Palestinian side that 380 truckloads of goods would be allowed into the coastal enclave through the Kerem Shalom (Kerem Abu Salem) crossing.

The shipments include 32 truckloads of humanitarian aid, 24 truckloads of animal feed, 45 truckloads of goods for Gaza’s agricultural sector, one truckload of equipment for Gaza’s power authority, and two truckloads for water authorities.

The statement also said that 65 truckloads of gravel and 13 truckloads of cement would be allowed in for projects sponsored by the UN’s Palestine refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel allows imports into Gaza at a much lower level than needed for the 1.8 million residents of the tiny coastal enclave, particularly in light of the massive devastation wrought by Israeli forces in a more than 50-day assault that left more than 2,000 dead and more than 110,000 homeless.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is one of only two crossings into Israel that are operational, the other four having been shut since Israeli authorities initiated a blockade on Gaza in 2007.

The Israeli siege has severely limited imports and exports as well as movement of people, crippling Gaza’s economy.

According to Israeli rights group Gisha, exports have been reduced to two per cent of their previous levels, devastating the economy and leading to widespread unemployment and poverty.

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official said on Saturday that the Palestinian consensus government had agreed to cover the salaries of all employees of the former Hamas government in Gaza without ‘discrimination’.

The statement came only hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said earlier on Saturday that an unnamed international body was willing to pay the salaries of civil servants in Gaza who were employed by the former Hamas-run government in the Strip, potentially removing one of the major stumbling blocks to national unity.

Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar said that according to the new agreement signed last Thursday, all public sector employees hired by the Hamas-run government in Gaza after June 2007 would be recognised as employees of the national consensus government regardless of the nature of their work.

The agreement, he added, does not differentiate between civil service employees and military employees, and thus they all ‘should receive monthly salaries from the Palestinian Authority without discrimination’.

He added that security service employees had maintained security in the Gaza Strip since 2007 and for that reason they should not be treated differently.

Representatives of Hamas and Fatah met on Thursday in Cairo in an effort to fully implement a reconciliation agreement signed in April enabling the work of the Palestinian national consensus government, which emerged from the agreement but has thus far been unable to function on the ground in the Gaza Strip.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the government’s work has been the issue of public sector employee salaries.

Since the political division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2007, Hamas ran a separate government in the Gaza Strip with its own civil service of around 45,000.

During this time, however, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has continued paying its employees in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the PA was no longer operative.

Since the unity agreement was signed, it has been unclear who will pay the employees of the former Hamas government, and although Qatar stepped in for a few months, until now both Hamas and Fatah have blamed each other.

Zahhar said that it was agreed on Thursday to appoint a special committee to be tasked with studying the nature of work of each employee and to determine their position on the career ladder.

l Israeli forces on Saturday evening detained a Palestinian prisoner released from Israeli custody in 2013 as part of a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume long-stalled peace talks, according to a prisoners rights group.

A statement from the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said that Israeli troops detained Mustafa al-Hajj from Bruqin in the northern West Bank at a checkpoint while he was on his way back to the village.

Al-Hajj, who had been serving life time imprisonment, was released in Sept. 2013 after serving 24 years in Israeli jail.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Al-Hajj attained his freedom as part of an agreement that Israel would release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners who had been in custody since before the 1993 Oslo Accords as part of a plan to resume peace negotiations after talks were halted for more than two years.

Israel eventually reneged on the agreement and refused to release the final four groups of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority agreed to an extension in peace talks, which Palestinian officials refused to do given Israel’s continued expansion of settlements and refusal to offer concessions.

Palestinian officials have criticised Israel in recent months for arresting large numbers of prisoners freed as part of previous deals, especially the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange that freed more than 1,000.

Meanwhile on Friday, Israeli forces dispersed a weekly march against the occupation and settlements in the village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah.

The march set off from the centre of the village towards lands threatened to be confiscated by Israeli authorities. When the march reached the area, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas canisters at the crowd, despite the presence of children.

In response, protesters threw rocks at the soldiers. Dozens suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation and others were injured by the rubber-coated steel bullets.

The march was held under the theme of ‘with unity we triumph’ in order to stress the importance of national unity in facing the Israeli occupation. Protesters repeated slogans calling for national unity between all Palestinian factions.

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces imposed ‘security restrictions’ around the village and declared the area as a military zone ‘until further notice’.

The village is the site of weekly protests against the Israeli occupation, with residents demanding that lands confiscated by Israeli forces to build a settlement be returned to them.

l For the second time in less than a week, Israeli authorities will ban Muslim worshipers from entering Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque beginning today, Tuesday, September 30 in preparation for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur on October 4.

An official at the mosque said that the mosque would be completely closed to Muslim worshipers, while ‘Jewish settlers’ would be allowed free access.

The Israeli authorities closed the mosque to Muslim worshipers last Thursday and Friday on the occasion of the Jewish New Year as well.

Restrictions on Palestinian movement across the West Bank are frequently put in place during major Jewish holidays, ostensibly for security reasons.

Hebron specifically is a frequent site of tensions due to the presence of 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces.

In 1994, an Israeli settler opened fire on Muslim worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29 and injuring more than 100 Palestinians.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.