ISRAEL EXPLOITED WAR TO EXPAND ATTACK ON PALESTINIANS says Palestine Media Centre

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The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were not distracted by their 34-day war on Lebanon to suspend their killing of Palestinian children, women and men, but exploited the war to expand Israel’s six-year onslaught on the Palestinian people into Lebanon, reported the Palestine Media Centre on Monday.

In the early hours of Monday, hours before a cease-fire took effect in Lebanon at 8.00am local time, Israeli war planes launched two air strikes in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, near Sidon, at dawn, killing at least one person and wounding three others.

One of the raids hit an office of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General-Command (PFLP-GC) just outside the camp.

One person, the guard, was killed as well as a 16-year-old youth asleep in an adjacent house, and three civilians who live near the office were also wounded.

Overnight last Wednesday, Israeli gunboats and jets shelled and bombed the Ein el-Hilweh camp, killing three people and wounding eight others, ‘Al-Manar TV’ had reported.

On the same day Israeli jets bombed the camp twice. Palestinians said they hit a kindergarten and office for a drinking-water project.

Ein el-Hilweh is the largest of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps.

It was founded in 1948 as a collection of tents to shelter Palestinian refugees forced out of their homeland by the Israeli forces and grew into a warren of concrete houses and shops. It now houses some 75,000 refugees.

More than 350,000 Palestinians live in refugee camps in Lebanon that have developed over the years into shanty towns.

Earlier Israeli warplanes bombed the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Rashidiyah five kilometres south of Tyre in southern Lebanon, killing one civilian and wounding many others.

On Saturday, a week earlier, Israeli warplanes bombarded the bases of the PFLP-GC across Lebanon.

Hundreds of Lebanese, forced from their homes by the Israeli bombardment and shelling of their towns and villages in the south, have taken sanctuary in the densely-populated Palestinian refugee camps.

‘In 1982, we were on the run, and now it’s the Lebanese,’ Abdullah Abdullah, 49, a Palestinian physician in the Ein el-Hilweh camp, said in an interview August 10. ‘But believe me; we are not welcoming Israeli soldiers into Lebanon.’

Meanwhile back home in occupied Palestine, an Israeli air strike near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun killed, early Monday, three Palestinians of the same family as an Israeli tank shell hit the area, wounding a 17-year-old Palestinian, who later died.

Israel had carried out 768 different kinds of attacks including 190 airstrikes and fired 3,500 artillery shells on the Gaza Strip during the period between June 28 and August 10, according to a report issued by PLO department of Statistical Quality Control last Saturday.

Last month was the deadliest in the Gaza Strip for nearly two years, the PLO’s Palestinian Monitoring Group said 151 people were killed in the coastal strip in July, the highest total since October 2004, when 166 people died. The overwhelming majority of the victims were civilians.

Meanwhile on top of the Israeli military aggression, five months after an international embargo was imposed on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the West Bank is facing a health crisis as pharmaceuticals and medical supplies become increasingly scarce.

‘We’re facing severe shortages of 13 important drugs,’ said Dr Lou’ay Shaheen, head of the cancer ward at the National Hospital in Nablus.

‘In the past two weeks, nine of these drugs were made available, but quantities still aren’t sufficient for all the patients.’

The trade embargo followed the democratic election of a Hamas-led government in February.

Hamas is branded a terrorist organisation by Australia, Canada, the EU, UK, Israel, and the US, and is banned in Jordan.

While the embargo does not prevent the importing of food or medicines, it has delayed supplies from reaching the West Bank as all entry points, which are controlled by Israeli authorities, have been tightened.

The West Bank has a population of about 2.8 million people, of which 2.4 million are Palestinians and more than 400,000 are Israeli settlers.

Forty per cent of the West Bank has been under the limited civilian jurisdiction of the PNA since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, while Israel maintains overall control.

The major debilitating effect of the embargo, however, is that it is stripping the PNA of much-needed aid and income.

The PNA had previously received financial assistance from the European Union (EU) and the United States (US).

In 2005, this amounted to about US $1 billion, but the EU and the US suspended all direct aid on 7 April 2006 after the Hamas victory, according to the EU and the US State Department.

In addition, Israel and the Western countries have blocked about US $55 million of monthly financial aid that the West Bank had been receiving from Arab donor countries.

The embargo has also greatly reduced the PNA’s own revenue stream. Monthly tax collections valued at US $60 million on goods entering the West Bank are no longer being transferred from Israeli authorities to the PNA, according to deputy finance minister Dr Jehad Al Wazeer.

The Israeli government claims this money could be used for terrorist activity.

Israel has said that it would continue to help the Palestinian population meet their basic needs by proposing to reallocate part of the funds due to the PNA to the United Nations and other international relief bodies so that they could offset the human and social consequences of this sanction.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to have rejected Israel’s proposal as unacceptable.

Nevertheless, initiatives by humanitarian agencies to meet the needs of West Bank residents are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the ordinary people of the West Bank continue to suffer the brunt of the embargo.

According to Deputy Health Minister Dr Anan al-Masri, more than 90 different types of drugs and medical materials are not available because of the blockade, including intravenous solutions, anaesthetics and blood tests for HIV and Hepatitis B.

In addition, X-ray films, printing ink and hospital stationery are in short supply.

Doctors at the National Hospital in Nablus, the only hospital in the northern West Bank to offer cancer treatment, were recently forced to cancel chemotherapy programmes due to a severe shortage of drugs.

‘A number of cancer patients died during the past four months as a result of incomplete treatment,’ said one medical specialist, who wished to remain anonymous.

The hospital’s dialysis ward is in no better shape. Visited by 36 patients a day, the department has reduced the number of kidney dialysis operations from three to two times per week due to shortages.

‘There’s a lack of several essential drugs, like those required to strengthen the blood count during kidney dialysis,’ said Abdullah al-Khatib, head of the kidney ward.

Other hospitals in the territory are faring no better. Dr Hussam al-Jawhari, head of the Rafidia Government Hospital in Nablus, was pessimistic: ‘If the situation continues, we’ll be able to treat emergency cases only.’

Hebron’s Alia Hospital, the second largest surgical hospital in the West Bank, is running solely on donations by civil institutions.

‘Our supplies won’t last another month,’ said hospital head Dr Saeed al-Sarahneh. ‘We’re accepting any donation. One charity association donated a bag of flour, a box of lentils and 300 food parcels. We accepted them without hesitation.’

While humanitarian agencies are attempting to alleviate this problem, they warn that on their own they can not meet every need.

‘Since this crisis started five months ago, Care International has provided hospital and health care centres with 70 per cent of their medicinal requirements for kidney patients,’ said Dr Ghassan Shakhshir, operations manager in Care’s Emergency Health Service project, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

‘But we cannot meet all the medicinal needs of the Palestinian Health Ministry.’