In Prisoners’ Day: Palestinians continue the struggle from inside and outside the prisons

Mahmoud Bakr Hijazi was considered the first prisoner in the history of the modern Palestinian revolution. He was arrested after carrying out, along with other resistance fighters, the Beit Jibrin Fedayeen operation. Initially sentenced to death, his sentence was later commuted to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1971 as part of the first prisoner exchange deal conducted on Palestinian soil, known as the “prisoner for prisoner” exchange.

The Israeli Prison Service refers to Palestinians it arrests as “security prisoners,” restricting their freedom and labeling them as “terrorists” for carrying out hostile and sabotage acts against Israel. However, they see themselves as resistance fighters against an occupation seeking to displace them from their land and strip them of their dignity.

Israel has resorted to individual and collective arrests as punishment for Palestinians, with more than a million cases of detention carried out since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967. The most significant of these detentions were post the latest war on Gaza on October 7, 2023, followed by over 8,000 arrests within just six months thereafter.

Nevertheless, the occupation has not dampened the determination of the prisoners nor has it been able to deter them or the Palestinian people as a whole. Instead, they have turned the ordeal of imprisonment into an opportunity, producing scholars, intellectuals, and writers who continue their struggle both inside and outside the prisons even after their release.

Their numbers are multiplying

Before the seventh of October last year, the number of prisoners reached around 5,000, including 160 children and 30 female prisoners, as well as 22 veteran prisoners (pre-Oslo prisoners), the oldest of whom is the prisoner Mohammed Al-Tous. Additionally, there were 11 prisoners who were released in the Wafa Al-Ahrar deal (Shalit deal) in 2011 but were re-arrested by Israel in 2014.

After the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, more than 8,000 arrests were recorded in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including 272 women (detainees from the occupied territories in 1948, Gaza, and the West Bank), and 500 children, with hundreds more arrested from Gaza.

Currently, there are over 9,400 prisoners in Israeli prisons, including 71 female prisoners, 200 children, and 700 prisoners suffering from various illnesses.

The Israeli authorities have employed all means to torture and punish Palestinian prisoners, from chasing and arresting them to transferring them to prisons, interrogation centers, and courts, accompanied by various violations. This includes the notorious “Bosta” prison bus with iron seats, where prisoners are transported bound and blindfolded for up to 12 hours in a journey that would normally take no more than two hours under normal conditions.

The courts and laws

Israel enacted unjust laws against prisoners, especially the law allowing the trial of children under 14 years old, another law depriving them of education, and a third law enabling the confiscation of their financial entitlements.

Perhaps the most dangerous is the law of force-feeding for hunger-striking prisoners to obtain their rights. Israel also legalized the detention of their bodies and currently holds 496 bodies (excluding martyrs’ bodies in Gaza post-war) in numbered graves and refrigerators, including 27 prisoners.

Furthermore, a bill proposing the execution of prisoners was introduced in 2015 but has not been approved by the Knesset yet, despite public calls by Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of National Security, in November of last year.

However, Israel has not dropped its high sentences from its agenda (561 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment). More than 500 prisoners who have spent over 20 years in prison are described as “generals of patience,” in addition to prisoners with open-ended life sentences like Abdullah Barghouti, sentenced to 67 life sentences, and Nael Barghouti, described as the world’s oldest prisoner with 44 years served.

Even more concerning is Israel’s use of administrative detention policy (where the charges are kept secret), which over 3,660 prisoners currently face. The prisoner remains at the mercy of the occupation intelligence, which governs and renews their detention without cause.

Detention multiple times

Experiences have shown that nothing has deterred Palestinians, due to their belief in the legitimacy of their struggle and their right to live freely and peacefully on their land. Fuad Al-Khafsh, a researcher on prisoners for Al Jazeera, states that 75% of Palestinian prisoners have been re-arrested more than once because they continued their struggle even after their release.

He added that some prisoners are currently being detained for the 30th time, like Sheikh Hassan Yousef, and others for the 15th time, like prisoner Nazeih Abu Aoun. Many from various Palestinian factions and their leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, and Abbas Al-Sayed, have been arrested multiple times by Israel.

Prisoners have not been devoid of means to obtain their rights within prisons or even to free themselves. They have resorted to hunger strikes and have engaged in 26 collective hunger strikes since 1967, along with hundreds of individual strikes.

Among these was the Ashkelon Prison hunger strike in 1976, which lasted for 65 days, and the Nafha Prison strike in 1980, where four prisoners were martyred. The “Mother of Battles” strike in 1992 was also notable, involving 7,000 prisoners, with one of them martyred. More recent strikes include the “Dignity Will Live” strike in 2012 and the “Dignity” strike in 2017.

The late martyr Sheikh Khader Adnan initiated his hunger strike in 2011-2012, which lasted for 65 days, paving the way for modern individual strikes, with dozens of prisoners following suit, some striking for over 100 days.

Israel arrested hundreds in Gaza after October 7th and deemed them “unlawful combatants,” with around 850 prisoners remaining detained, their whereabouts concealed by Israel, held in military camps near Gaza and secret prisons in the Negev like Sedeh Teiman and Eitanim.

An Israeli military doctor revealed that some prisoners, due to their continued restraint for days and weeks, had their limbs amputated. Israel also admitted to killing 27 Palestinians from Gaza prisoners.

One of the most alarming things faced by prisoners after the Al-Aqsa Flood operation were sexual assaults, including rape of female prisoners.

The Path to Liberation

According to the families of prisoners and also resistance factions, only through force can prisoners be liberated. Neither politics nor peace negotiations with Israel have succeeded in freeing any of them.

This force is manifested in Israeli capture operations, especially targeting soldiers, and in making exchange deals. Palestinian resistance has succeeded in achieving this in ten exchange deals from 1968 to 2011. These deals have been and remain the sole hope for prisoners to regain their freedom.

The most famous exchange agreements were the first “Jalil Deal” in 1983, the second known as the “Ahmed Jibril-Popular Front-General Command” deal in 1985, and the “Wafa al-Ahrar” (Shalit) deal in 2011. In these deals, the Palestinian negotiator imposed his conditions, leading to the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including those with high sentences or life imprisonment, in exchange for three Israelis in the first deal and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by the resistance in Gaza in 2006, in the second.

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” came to raise the hopes of prisoners despite their suffering due to the occupation’s crimes in Gaza and its devastation of its people. Despite the pain, over 150 Palestinian prisoners, including children and women, regained their freedom in a phased deal that included the release of 50 Israelis held by the resistance during the Al-Aqsa Flood. For the remaining Israeli prisoners, the resistance’s negotiations are forceful, and Palestinians, especially prisoners, cling to hope.

Fuad Al-Khafsh, a researcher on prisoners, says that negotiations and the peace process have not freed a single prisoner. Those released by Israel after the Oslo Agreement were categorized as having “good intentions” from Israel towards the Palestinian Authority to return to negotiations. In 2013, Israel released 75 prisoners out of 104 prisoners from before Oslo, while some were released and others martyred, leaving 22 prisoners known as the “Fourth Batch Prisoners” mostly from inside the occupied territories since 1948.

“Escape” from occupation prisons became another hope for prisoners to regain their freedom, and they succeeded in many cases. The latest was in September 2021 when six prisoners from the Gilboa prison in the north managed to escape through a tunnel dug from beneath the prison to outside.

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After the ‘deterrence collapse,’ 3 options for the Israeli response to Iran

Israeli analyses and assessments have unanimously agreed that the Iranian drone attacks deep into Israeli territory should serve as a red alert for decision-makers in the Israeli security establishment, despite what they described as an “impressive achievement” by the Israeli defense system in collaboration with the United States.

Israeli analyses have also concurred that Iran has surpassed and broken the fear barrier by launching an attack on Israel from Iranian territory for the first time since the Islamic Revolution. This reflects the collapse of Israeli deterrence, with Tehran daring to challenge Tel Aviv and escalate tensions into a state of emergency and psychological warfare since targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus and assassinating leaders of the Revolutionary Guard, notably Hassan Mahdavi, commander of the “Quds Force” in Syria and Lebanon.

Despite the diminishing deterrence capability and Iran’s audacity in attacking Israel, Israeli analysts’ readings indicate that the unprecedented Iranian attack, intercepted by Israeli defense systems in collaboration with the United States and regional countries, represents “operational success,” potentially paving the way for forming a US-Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran.

According to analysts’ estimates, the Israeli military is not in a rush to respond to the Iranian attack at the moment, although this could harm deterrence capabilities. Analysts agree that the attack in Iran could exacerbate the situation and drag the region into a regional war, especially after Tehran succeeded in attacking Israel and establishing a concerning precedent.

Deterrence Collapse

Under the headline “Netanyahu waited amid victory celebrations… A dismal failure of deterrence against Iran,” Ariel Shemidberg, the newsroom editor at “Walla” website, wrote an article heavily criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of the Iranian threat, saying: “Despite the achievement of the defense system, Iran managed to unsettle us for two weeks and strike deep into Israeli territory.”

On the other hand, Shemidberg says, “There has also been a monumental failure regarding Israel and the United States’ ability to create deterrence against Iran, which has demonstrated immense strength and unprecedented courage, a sign of the collapse of the terror balance. The balance of terror against Hezbollah in Lebanon was also not entirely balanced, which Israel fears.”

The article’s author recommended that the Israeli elites wait and postpone expressions of joy and victory celebrations, saying: “We have not won yet. Israel is still far from achieving its goals and victory, as evidenced by the families of the abducted, and tens of thousands of residents of the north and south who are still displaced from their homes and are moving around as refugees in their own country for the past 6 months.”

Response Options

Regarding the military side and anticipation of the Israeli response, military analyst Amir Bouhbout believes Israel faces a dilemma of “containing the attack or responding with a strike in Iran, risking escalation and dragging the region into a regional war?”

As a result, the military analyst says, “Senior officials in the Israeli General Staff will be asked to assess Iran’s potential responses. They will also need to receive a series of recommendations on whether to respond forcefully and exact a price from the military bases of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its locations or choose to assassinate Iranian security personnel.”

Bouhbout also believes that it will be incumbent upon the leaders of the General Staff to consider whether they will settle for a limited operation, where Israeli Air Force pilots carry out a mission at a distance of 1500 kilometers to strike a symbolic Iranian target, such as a government building, weapon depots, oil wells, and even Iranian ships sailing in the sea.

As for the third option, based on statements from the Israeli army spokesman and Defense Minister Yuval Galant, the military analyst estimates that Israel will not rush into a response. It will carefully consider the degree of response at the appropriate time, indicating that Israeli assessments agree that Iran aims to destroy air bases and surpass the Israeli army in the Middle East.

Netanyahu’s Approach

As part of the criticism of Netanyahu’s performance during the Iranian threats and drone attacks that reached deep into Israeli territory, Israeli writer Carmela Cohen Shlomi described Netanyahu as “cowardly” for neglecting Israel during the Iranian attack, which was handled by US President Joe Biden, who took charge and returned it to its senses.

“After difficult hours during which Israeli citizens were searching for someone to explain to them what was happening,” Cohen wrote in an article on the “Zman Yisrael” website, “an elderly, pale, and sweaty man appeared on the screen wandering near the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, asking, ‘Is there 7 shekels (2 dollars) here? I need to go to a friend’s shelter.'”

“With these words, the Israeli writer described Netanyahu and summarized his approach in managing Israel’s affairs during emergencies, saying: ‘He destroyed everything and still holds onto a draft speech ending with the phrase ‘Together we will prevail,’ using Iranian attacks to divert attention from protests and promote the idea that Israel is in danger.’

Writer and political analyst Ben Caspit seemed more explicit when he wrote in an article for Ma’ariv newspaper that the Iranian drone and missile attacks on Israel were the lowest point reached by Netanyahu’s government, which continues to experience failure and shortcomings even in the realm of national security.

According to Ben Caspit’s perspective, Israel suffered a heavy and unprecedented public humiliation from Iran, stating, ‘Israeli deterrence, which prevented Iran from directly attacking us, has collapsed, as have joint international deterrence efforts. The Iranians have broken the fear barrier. From now on, Iran is openly against Israel.’

Referring to the delayed and potentially undisclosed nature of the response, Ben Caspit says, ‘As expected, Biden tried to pull Netanyahu down from the tree and avoid a quick and harsh reaction, and it seems he has succeeded in doing so, at least for now.’

The political analyst believes that Israel reopening its airspace and resuming flights at Ben Gurion Airport ‘means that the likelihood of an immediate Israeli response, promised by Netanyahu’s close associates, has become slim, and the natural need to teach the Iranians a harsh lesson and make them pay a heavy price now confronts the complex strategic reality in the Middle East.'”

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The destruction of Gaza graves and theft of bodies is a new war crime in the occupation’s record

According to international law, the intentional attack on a cemetery can amount to a war crime, and what Israel is doing goes beyond all international norms and laws. The Israeli occupation forces have deliberately desecrated the graves of Palestinian martyrs in the Gaza Strip since the start of the ground operation in the area. They excavate graves to extract bodies and, in some cases, steal the remains.

The Israeli occupation army acknowledged, last Friday, the destruction of a cemetery in Khan Yunis city in the southern Gaza Strip, including the excavation of graves, under the pretext of searching for the bodies of Israeli captives.

In a written statement from the Israeli occupation army in response to a question from an Anadolu Agency correspondent on the subject, the occupation stated, “As part of vital intelligence and operational information, the Israeli army carries out operations to rescue the bodies of hostages in sensitive and specific locations based on information indicating the possibility of finding the bodies of hostages there.”

The statement added that the bodies found in the graves “turned out not to be those of Israeli captives, and therefore, they were respectfully returned to the graves,” according to their claim.

This is the first time the Israeli army has acknowledged the extraction of bodies, following the widespread circulation of numerous reports on social media showing the aftermath of the destruction caused by the occupation forces in several cemeteries. These reports documented the theft of bodies, leaving exposed human remains.

Examples of graves destroyed by the occupation are numerous. The withdrawal of Israeli occupation military vehicles from the vicinity of the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip revealed the occupation’s destruction of a cemetery in the city and the excavation of several graves.

The cemetery had previously been subjected to intense shelling by Israeli artillery and warplanes, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of graves.

In the Shuja’iya neighborhood in Gaza City, the Israeli occupation forces destroyed a part of the Tunisian Cemetery to establish a temporary military site. Additionally, the Israeli army established a military site over a cemetery in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip – another one of the oldest cemeteries in Gaza, covering an area of approximately 20 square meters.

Stealing 150 Bodies

The occupation also destroyed the Tuffah Cemetery east of Gaza. The Government Media Office in the Gaza Strip confirmed that the occupation army excavated 1,100 graves in the cemetery and stole 150 bodies. It stated that the occupation’s vehicles bulldozed the Tuffah Cemetery, extracting the bodies of martyrs and the deceased, “disrespecting and violating their dignity, without any regard for the sanctity of the deceased or the graves.”

Images of Al Jazeera showed the traces of excavation left by the occupation forces in the Tuffah Cemetery. The pictures reveal the occupation forces’ mechanical excavation of the cemetery, digging up graves, and extracting bodies.

An Al Jazeera correspondent reported that the occupation forces bulldozed the cemetery, leaving the bodies of martyrs outside, in addition to running over the corpses with their vehicles and leaving them outside the graves.

The American newspaper “The New York Times” verified the destruction by the occupation of several other cemeteries, including one in Sheikh Ajleen, a neighborhood in Gaza City, and a cemetery in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, covering an estimated area of 23 square meters.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also verified the destruction of other cemeteries by the occupation army, including the Faluja Cemetery near the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza and the Shuja’iya Cemetery located in the northern Gaza Strip.

An investigation conducted by CNN revealed that the Israeli occupation army “desecrated at least 16 cemeteries in its ground assault on Gaza, leading to the destruction of tombstones, overturning of soil, and, in some cases, the extraction of bodies.”

According to international law, the intentional destruction of religious sites, such as cemeteries, violates international law and can amount to a war crime unless there are narrow circumstances related to making the site a military target. Legal experts mentioned to CNN that Israel’s actions could rise to the level of war crimes.

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Legend of the Red Cow: How Does It Threaten Al-Aqsa?

The Israeli Channel 12 has renewed the discussion about the seriousness of religious Zionism in its systematic aggression on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque to establish the alleged temple in its place. The report, aired on July 29, 2023, emphasized the five cows imported by the Temple groups and their reliance on them to impose new realities in Al-Aqsa Mosque. This underscores the need to address this religious issue and its potential implications, highlighting the government’s adoption of this plan with all its recklessness and unpredictable consequences for the Zionist entity.

Regarding Religious Zionism and Temple Groups: A Necessary Introduction

Temple groups represent the interface of the Religious Zionist movement in its endeavor to establish the Temple. This movement reinterprets Zionism, transforming it from a nationalistic idea seeking to provide a homeland for Jews as a presumed people into a simultaneous national and religious concept. It realizes a national homeland for the “Jewish people” based on Torah-based religious visions, essentially becoming a nationalist-religious movement reinterpreting Jewish nationalism on religious grounds. It also reinterprets Torah religious texts from a Zionist national perspective, thereby transitioning the Zionist entity from being a secular political entity to a Jewish, rabbinical political entity living by the laws of God and fulfilling His will. At the heart of this will is the construction of the Temple.

This movement, once marginal during the emergence of the Zionist movement and the establishment of the political entity, is now expanding and ascending to become the forefront of settlement in the West Bank. It aims to decisively shape the religious identity of Jerusalem and stands as a middle ground between secular nationalist forces like the Likud party and traditional religious forces like the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties. This position makes it a pivotal player in Netanyahu’s current governing coalition, holding significant sway over policies, especially considering that adherents to its ideology constitute 27 out of 120 seats in the current Knesset. Moreover, they control 15 ministerial portfolios in Netanyahu’s 32-member government.

During its ascent, this religious colonization movement crystallizes as a colonial practice added to territorial and demographic colonization. It specifically targets Islamic sanctities through complete substitution, imposing Jewish sanctities in their place. At its core is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, alongside the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus, as well as Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque in Bethlehem, in addition to several Islamic cemeteries.

Why do Temple groups rely on red cows?

In attempting to incite its audience to storm the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, described as the alleged Temple, Temple groups were aware of facing a rabbinical consensus prohibiting Jews from entering it for two reasons: first, the construction of the Temple and its entry are contingent on the arrival of the Messiah or the descent of the Temple from the sky, both divine actions that must be awaited. Second, the condition of ritual purity, unanimously agreed upon by rabbinical authorities, is believed to be absent in any contemporary Jew. “Entering the Temple,” meaning practically storming Al-Aqsa, would be considered a desecration, bringing divine punishment unless the purity condition is met.

As religious Zionism, by its nature, is a redemptive movement believing that human action is the source of salvation or at least a necessary precursor until the awaited Messiah is sent by the Lord, the first condition has practically been bypassed. The obstacle that remains is the condition of ritual purity.

In Jewish law, impurity comes from bodily fluids, menstruation, postpartum bleeding, and it can be purified with water through various rituals. However, major impurity in this law is contact with the dead body of a Jew, meeting with the dead body under the same roof in a house or hospital, or even entering a cemetery. This major impurity, if contracted by a person, can be transmitted to other Jews through touch. Hence, there is a consensus that this major impurity includes all Jews worldwide today. This explains the official rabbinical rejection of incursions into Al-Aqsa and the limited number of intruders. Even supporters of religious Zionism adhere to this, as Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has never stormed Al-Aqsa for this reason, despite being the political head of this movement with its diverse components.

Temple groups rely on the belief that performing this complex ritual will break their isolation, making their audience, particularly those close to religious Zionism, respond to their discourse and actively participate in storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This aligns with their phased plans, involving temporal division, spatial division, and the spiritual establishment of the Temple by imposing Torah rituals. This transition aims to increase the number of daily intruders from hundreds to thousands, with the numbers multiplying during major holidays from thousands (the highest recorded in a single day so far is 2,200) to tens of thousands, even though such figures are presented in an exaggerated manner, speaking of millions.

At the same time, the Temple groups consider this red cow as the “tenth in Jewish history,” claiming it to be the promised cow to inaugurate the Christian covenant. They view it as a necessity to find it as a prelude to the descent of the Messiah and the construction of the Temple. They see their endeavor in this as a human role leading to the fulfillment of the Lord’s works.

Relentless efforts to impose the Red Cow ritual

This purifying ritual has two fundamental requirements that Temple groups are working to achieve: reviving the priestly class and finding the Red Cow. The “Temple Institute” has dedicated itself to fulfilling these requirements since its establishment in 1987. It works to revive the priestly class by identifying Jews descended from Aaron, ensuring their birth and upbringing under conditions that prevent the transfer of impurity from the dead. They then train them in the rituals described in the Torah and Talmud to lead prayers in the Temple, prepare their clothes and belongings, and subsequently encourage them to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque in their white garments to practically lead those rituals there. The institute has almost completely achieved this, evident in the “Priestly Blessing” prayers they insist on repeating periodically in the eastern corner of the Al-Aqsa courtyard.

As for finding the Red Cow, the institute has dedicated a special program to it since its inception. In 1997, it announced that it had found a nominated cow, but it did not meet the conditions as it reached the age of two. This was repeated in 2002. Then, in 2014, the institute announced a similar birth in the United States on June 12.

On July 12, 2015, the institute decided to establish a program to raise a herd of Red Cows in occupied Palestine. It launched a popular fundraising campaign to implant frozen embryos into a cow raised in a local barn in an attempt to use biotechnology to fulfill the Torah prophecy in a program called “Raising the Red Cow in Israel.” The institute announced on September 4, 2018, the birth of a nominated cow within the same program using frozen embryo implantation, but that cow also did not meet the specifications.

The current attempt has shifted the search to the United States, considering it the largest cattle-raising market. It appears that this effort is not far from employing a more advanced form of biotechnology. It has received support and financial care from a right-wing Zionist organization calling itself “Building Israel,” which has a sister fund funded in the United States through donations from evangelical Christians. The farm, calling itself the “Trinity Ranch” in Texas, USA, supervised the raising of a herd of Red Cows of varying ages, approximately six months to one year. Then, the best five cows were selected as candidates to meet the specifications and were airlifted to occupied Palestine on September 15, 2022. This herd is being raised on a farm affiliated with the Temple Institute in Beit She’an in the northern Jordan Valley.

The media uproar generated by the Israeli media today, amid the escalating internal division in the Zionist settler community, may be attributed to the level of support this messianic movement receives, despite the divergence of its rhetoric from rationality and logic. There is an attempt to associate this support with the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In reality, this rise is continuous, even under the coalition governments formed by Gantz with Netanyahu or those formed by Yair Lapid, the current leader of the secular opposition, with Naftali Bennett, who is affiliated with the Religious Zionist stream. It was during Bennett’s term that the five cows were imported, and the Director-General of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage and the Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture facilitated their import, organizing a reception ceremony at the airport attended by 300 Temple groups’ activists. Additionally, a project for a park on the Mount of Olives was presented to serve as a venue for the purification rituals with the Red Cow.

In conclusion, despite the high confidence expressed by the Temple groups in the success of one of these five cows in meeting the Torah conditions—a confidence that may result from the use of undisclosed biotechnology—the 36-year-long organized search for the Red Cow has seen four unfulfilled announcements to date. While this does not necessarily imply its inevitable failure this time, it dictates treating the current fifth announcement as a gamble with the possibility of success or failure.

What if the Red Cow ritual were to be successfully performed?

Many Palestinian and Arab media outlets have inaccurately covered and analyzed the Channel 12 report with exaggerations. Some, for example, suggested that slaughtering one of the five cows would inevitably mean “building the Temple.” Slaughtering a Red Cow and using it for purification signifies an increase in the number of intruders to Al-Aqsa, but it does not necessarily mean “building the Temple.” Concluding that the slaughter directly leads to construction surpasses the capacity of Palestinian action and overlooks dozens of struggle experiences by Palestinians defending Al-Aqsa, which have thwarted previous attempts to change its identity and judaize it.

To clarify further, if the Red Cow purification ritual is successfully performed, it would mean mobilizing the religious Zionist audience, bringing them actively into the incursions of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple construction plan. This audience is viewed as the missing essence of Zionism, and the human effort to establish the Temple is seen as a precursor to invoking divine intervention that would change the balance and resolve the Zionist entity’s crises.

Until 2021, official statistics did not separate a sector under the name “Religious Zionism” in their breakdown of religious affiliations within the Jewish community. However, due to the differentiation of this group from other religious categories and their rising political influence, official Israeli statistics now estimate their proportion at about 16% of the Jewish society in the Zionist entity, which is approximately 1.1 million people. Considering their high birth rate, the adult population in this sector, both men and women, is estimated to be around 400,000. This is the audience susceptible to influence by the rhetoric of Temple groups if the Red Cow ritual is executed, with the possibility of additional sectors joining, including traditional religious (Haredi) and nationalist fundamentalists.

There is no precise count of the active supporters of Temple groups involved in incursions currently, as sympathizers outnumber participants significantly. However, analyzing the daily average of intruders, reaching 200 intruders, and the annual figures of 48,000 intruders in 2022, with the highest daily intrusion reaching 2,200, a reasonable estimate for this audience is between 10,000 to 15,000, each intruding Al-Aqsa Mosque four to five times annually, as witnessed by the recurrence of the same intruders multiple times.

If Temple groups succeed in mobilizing 10-15% of the religious Zionist audience for active participation in the incursions of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a high estimate considering political indifference, personal circumstances, geographic distance, and security considerations, the active audience for Temple groups is likely to become between 40,000 to 60,000. This could potentially quadruple the daily intruders’ average, reaching around 800 daily intruders. The annual figure for intruders might be around 200,000, and the maximum number of intruders during major Jewish holidays could be around 9,000.

If these figures are practically realized, it could effectively shift Al-Aqsa Mosque from being solely an Islamic holy site to a shared holy site between Muslims and Jews. This would necessitate a comprehensive restructuring of the occupation police’s role within and around the mosque, likely involving an increase in their presence, new entry points, waiting areas, and security measures. This explains the Israeli police’s survey of using the Asbat Gate and the Ghazali Square northeast of Al-Aqsa Mosque during major incursions over the past year.

Considering the average age of these cows, the first one is expected to reach the age for slaughter in October 2023 if it continues to meet the Torah conditions, while the last one is expected to reach that age in April 2024. Given that the ashes of a single cow are sufficient to spiritually purify all Jews in the Zionist entity, the commencement of the consequences of this new upheaval in the scale of aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque would likely occur between the Torah Masakharot celebration on March 24-25, 2024, intersecting with the second week of Ramadan and the Torah Easter celebration that follows a month later.

In conclusion, as peculiar and seemingly unrelated to political dynamics as the Red Cow ritual may appear, its potential achievement would result in a fourfold increase in the number of intruders to Al-Aqsa Mosque on average. This would intensify the role and presence of the occupation police, introduce new gates and adjacent spaces into the realm of Zionist monopolization, practically transferring Al-Aqsa Mosque to the shared holy category. This shift would escalate the confrontation over its identity, warranting separate consideration for preparedness and anticipation.

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The Israeli Occupation Takes the Lives of Two Mothers Every Hour

The executive director of the United Nations Women, Cima Buhooti clarified in a statement that women and children are the primary victims of the tragedy in Gaza. She pointed out that since the beginning of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood more than 100 days ago, Gaza has witnessed unprecedented destruction, with women and girls comprising the majority of the casualties, injuries, and displaced individuals.

Estimates indicate that “around one million displaced women and girls in Gaza, and two mothers are killed every hour, while about 10,000 children have lost their fathers.”

Buhooti has compared the conditions in the occupied Palestine before and after October 7, 2023, stating that the figures previously indicated that 67% of the victims were men, while less than 14% were women and girls. However, today, the numbers have flipped, with 70% of the martyrs in Gaza being women and children.

Buhooti emphasized that these are individuals, not just numbers, and expressed a commitment to not betray them. The spokesperson added that the shock experienced by the Palestinian people over these past hundred days and beyond will haunt everyone for generations. Regardless of the current sorrow for the situation of women and girls in Gaza, there will be even more grief tomorrow if unrestricted humanitarian aid is not provided to stop destruction and killing.

The UN official called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian aid for all Gaza residents, including providing assistance and vital services for all women and girls. She stressed that the world is obligated to work towards peace in the region because failure to bring about change means that the last hundred days will be just the prelude to the next hundred days.

In his statement, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, emphasized that women and girls in the Gaza Strip are losing their lives and facing catastrophic levels of humanitarian needs. He added that around 3,000 women have lost their husbands in the war or have become the sole providers for their families.

Dujarric further stated, “Current estimates indicate that about 70% of those killed in Gaza are women and children, with at least 3,000 women possibly becoming widows and heads of households. They are in desperate need of protection and food assistance.” He continued by highlighting that children constitute more than half of Gaza’s population, and the percentage of displaced children exceeds 90%.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated that 20,000 children have been born in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched a destructive war on it on October 7, 2023. This information was shared during a press conference held by UNICEF communications expert Tess Ingram in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ingram stated, “During the 105 days of escalating tension in the Gaza Strip, nearly 20,000 children were born in a war environment.” She added, “This means the birth of approximately one child every 10 minutes amid this terrible war.”

Ingram emphasized that the situation for pregnant women, newborns, and infants in the Gaza Strip is “unbelievable,” confirming the urgent need for immediate and intensified measures for them.

She further explained, “Pregnant mothers, breastfeeding mothers, and their children are living in inhumane conditions and temporary shelters. These individuals suffer from malnutrition, lack access to clean water, putting around 135,000 children under the age of two at risk of malnutrition.”

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The gains of the “Aqsa Flood”: How the Palestinian resistance restored hope for the rise of the nation

Before the operation “Aqsa Flood” on October 7, 2023, a sense of “defeatist spirit” spread throughout the Arab and Islamic bodies, accompanied by a state of resignation and submission to the harsh reality. It was akin to capitulation and surrender, as if the Arab and Islamic nations had died, and their enemies had risen to great heights.

Even the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) sought to convey this defeatist feeling to the occupation as a form of deception before the attack. So much so that the Zionist enemy intelligence informed the Tel Aviv government that the movement would not fight and had surrendered to reality, caring only about ruling Gaza.

According to Israeli newspapers, the enemy intelligence admitted that Hamas deceived them with this perception until they were taken by surprise by the “Aqsa Flood,” imposing a new reality that could hasten the “curse of the eighth decade”; the demise of the Jewish kingdom that had collapsed twice historically before reaching the age of 80.

The Palestinian resistance managed to break the stereotypical image ingrained in the minds of Arab and Islamic populations regarding surrender to the power of Israel. It presented the occupation state as a paper tiger, with its soldiers fleeing in fear, their faces marked by terror. Some were seen being pulled from their tanks and dragged like rag dolls before the world. It revealed that a few battalions of dedicated Palestinian youth, most of whom were Quran memorizers devoted to the cause of the nation, manufactured their weapons themselves. They succeeded in penetrating the occupying state using simple means such as kites, motorcycles, a few dilapidated vehicles. This splendid victory, which the occupier tried to cover up with massacres and destruction, led to the flow of blood once again in the veins of stagnant Arab and Islamic nations, which had been submissive for years to the notion that “Israel” is a reality that must be normalized. It revived the hopes of the nation, entirely.

The Hope of Uprising

The victory of the Palestinian resistance came as a kind of glad tidings, reminiscent of the prophecy given by the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, to the nation when he said, “Indeed, Allah sends to this Ummah at the head of every hundred years, someone who renews its religion,” after it had been afflicted by weakness.

Because it was a rare and extraordinary victory over an occupying force representing the essence of Western power used to suppress Arab and Islamic peoples in Palestine, preventing the nation from rising, the reaction of the people was also extraordinary. Arab and Islamic crowds flooded the streets and roads in the majority of Islamic and Arab capitals in support of the Palestinian people and in solidarity with them. There was no Islamic state whose sons did not come out to support the Palestinians, and their slogans were unified.

The messages conveyed by Arab and Islamic crowds revolved around supporting Hamas, rejecting normalization, and emphasizing that there is no solution to the liberation of the nation’s usurped lands by Zionist gangs except through strength, self-reliance, and the resources of the nation.

The chants and slogans in the protests that took place in Arab and Islamic countries were almost uniform in their support for the Palestinian resistance, rejection of the enemy’s plan, and America’s attempt to displace Palestinians from their land, as well as boycotting supporters of the occupation.

The movement of the people was not limited to Arab and Islamic countries; the crowds and protests in Western countries supporting the Palestinian cause and Arab and Islamic rights were more surprising and stronger than their counterparts in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

What distinguished the crowds in the Arab and Islamic worlds was that those who took to the streets were young generations unfamiliar with the history of the Palestinian cause due to media neglect and the promotion of normalization culture. They were more enthusiastic and creative in their ideas of solidarity against the Gaza genocide, utilizing modern technology. As for the crowds in America – which aggressively supported “Israel” – and all Western countries, they were a surprise not in terms of the number who participated but in terms of becoming more aware and resistant to the Zionist narratives and lies propagated for years about Arab and Islamic “terrorism.”

Those who demonstrated in the West not only demanded an end to the aggression and genocide in Gaza and punishment for “Israel” but also raised slogans considered by “Israel” and Western governments as “non-Semitic,” such as the slogan “From the River to the Sea,” meaning the establishment of a pure Palestinian state and the disappearance of “Israel”! Protests by American Jews against “Israel” and its unconditional American support, mostly from the “Jewish Voice for Peace” organization and the “If Not Now” organization, were a surprise because they were the most impactful when they raised slogans like “Not in Our Name,” criticizing the racism of the Zionist state. The war on Gaza created thousands of believers in the West with a mindset of resistance, affirming that resistance is not terrorism as they try to portray it, but rather a nationalist liberation movement for the lands of its people. Unified, perhaps for the first time, were the Arab and Islamic nations, as well as the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the West, in solidarity with Hamas. They rejected the label of terrorism for Palestinian resistance movements and affirmed their right to resist occupation, liberate their land, and defend their people.

They unified in confronting Western governments, especially the United States and Europe, which provided unprecedented support to the Zionist state in the form of lethal weapons against isolated and resilient people, engaged in a nationalist resistance armed only with locally crafted weapons. They united in demanding the accountability and trial of the killers according to international law and legitimate international resolutions. At the same time, they exposed their disdain for international justice and the current United Nations system, which is helpless in aiding hospitals subjected to bombing, invasion, and the killing of patients.

They united in fighting the moral and humanitarian collapse demonstrated by the West and international organizations, who stood by watching a genocide unfold against an isolated people deprived of water, food, medicine, and fuel. Their rejection of the international legitimacy farce that procrastinates in solving the Palestinian issue and their refusal of the farcical Palestinian normalization agreements with the Zionist entity, brought nothing but fragmentation, divisions, and tragedies to the Palestinian people.

The occupation seeks an image of victory by demolishing mosques, schools, and homes and raising the Zionist flag above the al-Shifa Hospital as if it were a symbol of extermination!

They united in rejecting the humiliation of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations by a corrupt international system built on the ruins of World War II, a system that favours the aggressor and the killer and does not support the oppressed and the slain. It excels in using the “veto” to prevent the condemnation of Zionists and obstruct what is called “legitimate international resolutions.”

In rejecting the international double standards applied by the United States and Western countries in dealing with the Palestinian issue and issues of Arabs and Muslims in general, to the point where European governments enacted laws punishing those who show solidarity with Gaza, and American companies fired those who sympathize with the victims of Zionist genocide in Gaza!

The Palestinian resistance exposed all those who manage a corrupt international system that has long sought to entrench injustice and oppression against the Arab and Islamic nations. When it brought down the occupied state on October 7, it opened the door to hope and the rise of the nation.

Source: Mugtama (Society)

Writer: Mohammed Jamal Arafat

Translation: PCOM Organization

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Israeli Occupation Forces’ Assault on Places of Worship in Gaza

The machine of destruction and havoc belonging to the Israeli occupation army has not ceased in the past days from bombarding and destroying places of worship in the Gaza Strip, especially targeting dozens of mosques with missiles of significant destructive power. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Waqf in Gaza, Adel al-Hour, affirmed that targeting places of worship, especially mosques, which contradicts all international laws, is “part of the aggressive and criminal behaviour of the enemy towards our people, expressing the ethical nature that the occupation lives and enforces in the field.” He explained that “the Israeli enemy, by its nature, targets civilian citizens and public facilities and vital places such as hospitals, and among these targets, it bombs places of worship in the Gaza Strip.” Al-Hour warned that “there is no place in the Strip safe from the malice of this arrogant enemy, which has found no deterrent from countries claiming to stand for human rights, citizenship rights, freedom, and freedom of worship, which they constantly advocate.” Israeli airstrikes bombed the minaret of the Grand Al-Omari Mosque, one of the prominent historical mosques in Palestine with a history dating back over 14 centuries.

MP Mustafa Bakri commented, saying: “Israeli Zionist occupation planes destroy the minaret of the Grand Al-Omari Mosque, which has a history of 1400 years. This is a new crime by the Zionist enemy seeking to control geography, erase people and history, amid Western American support where there are no longer any prohibitions.”

In turn, the head of the Christian National Assembly in the Holy Land, Dimitri Deliani, confirmed that “the occupation deliberately targets the shelters where the citizens in Gaza seek refuge during the genocide war carried out by the occupation government”. He explained that “targeting various churches and their affiliated institutions is the implementation of threats issued by the occupation at the beginning of its genocidal war on Gaza.” Deliani warned that churches, through official statements issued by “patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem,” have declared their “absolute rejection of complying with Israeli threats, insisting on their ethical role, and affirming that churches will remain open to those who seek refuge in them.” He added, “In the implementation of Israeli threats and the refusal of churches to comply with them, the Israeli occupation forces bombed the compound of the Church of Saint Porphyrius, the Orthodox church considered the third oldest church in the world, built between 402 and 407 AD, in Gaza City. Prior to that, by 48 hours, they targeted the Baptist hospital and systematically destroyed every church institution that could shelter those who seek refuge.”

Churches in the Gaza Strip were not spared from the occupation’s missiles, as a horrific massacre was committed against displaced citizens in the Orthodox Roman Church in central Gaza, resulting in the martyrdom and injury of dozens of Muslims and Christians who were present in the church. According to data announced by the government media office in the Gaza Strip, 76 mosques were completely destroyed in the Israeli occupation attacks, and 165 mosques were partially damaged.

In addition, 3 historical churches were damaged in various areas of the Gaza Strip. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor stated that Israel’s targeting of places of worship violates a fundamental right enshrined in international human rights law, namely the right to freedom of religion and belief and the non-interference in their places of worship according to this right.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.”

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documented cases of killing and injuries to dozens of Palestinians during Israel’s attacks on mosques, as happened in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City when the mosque of “Ahmed Yassin” was destroyed, and in the town of Beit Lahia in the north of the Strip when the mosque of “Saleem Abu Muslim” was destroyed, and in Khan Yunis when the mosque of “Khalid ibn al-Walid” was destroyed. The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor warned that Israel’s repeated targeting of places of worship in its current war and its previous wars in Gaza is linked to repeated incitement by Israeli official officials who have consistently linked the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to religious dimensions, using religious symbols and texts to incite attacks on Palestinians and deprive them of their rights.

The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor emphasized that international laws and conventions prohibit targeting places of worship in wars and fall within the framework of promoting the increasingly prevalent language of religious hatred, fuelled by the current Israeli extreme right-wing government, which provides cover for escaping punishment for attacks against Palestinians. The Euro-Mediterranean Monitor called on the United Nations and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to fulfil their responsibilities in protecting places of worship and sacred sites in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the Palestinian territories, and to hold Israel accountable for its indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, considering it constitutes war crimes.

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Palestinian-Israeli Prisoner Exchange Deals: A Historical Overview

Over the previous years, Palestinian resistance movements have carried out prisoner exchange operations with the Israeli occupation. As a result, thousands of male and female prisoners have been released, the majority of whom had high sentences and life imprisonment. One of the prominent deals carried out by Palestinian resistance movements with the Israeli occupation side began in 1968. Palestinian militants from the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” led by Yousef Al-Radie and Leila Khaled, hijacked an Israeli occupation plane belonging to El Al, the Israeli airline. The plane was en route from the Italian capital Rome to “Tel Aviv,” and they forced it to divert and land in Algeria, with over 100 passengers on board. At that time, the “Front” stipulated the release of the passengers in exchange for Israel releasing 37 Palestinian prisoners with high convictions.

In 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by Leila Khaled, successfully hijacked an Israeli El Al plane, which landed in Britain. Comrade “Patrick Argüello” was killed during the operation, and Leila Khaled was arrested. Subsequently, a British plane was hijacked by a group affiliated with the same organization, leading to an exchange operation resulting in the release of the activist Leila Khaled.

In January 1971, a prisoner exchange deal took place between the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and Israel. Mahmoud Bakr Hijazi, the first Palestinian prisoner in the contemporary Palestinian revolution that began in January 1965, was released in exchange for the release of Israeli occupation soldier Shmuel Fais, who was abducted by Fatah in late 1969.

In March 1979, the operation “Operation Nours” was conducted, where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine released an Israeli occupation soldier it had captured during the Litani operation on April 5, 1978. In return, Israel released 76 Palestinian prisoners. In mid-February 1980, the Israeli occupation government released detainees Mahdi Bassiso and William Nassar in exchange for the release of Jordanian citizen Amina Dawood Al-Mufti. She had worked as a spy for the Israeli occupation Mossad, being held by the Palestinian National Liberation Movement “Fatah,” and is considered the most famous Arab spy working for Mossad.

In November 1983, the “Jalil Exchange” deal took place. The Israeli occupation government released all detainees from Ansar prison in southern Lebanon, totalling 4,700 Palestinian and Lebanese detainees, and 65 prisoners from Israeli occupation prisons. This was in exchange for the release of six Israeli occupation soldiers captured by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah movement on September 4, 1982, in the Bhamdoun area of Lebanon. The released Israeli occupation soldiers were Yeho Avotfoul, Dani Golboa, Rafi Hazan, Robin Cohen, Abraham Montbliski, and Avi Kornfeld. Additionally, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s General Command captured two other soldiers.

In May 1985, the Israeli occupation conducted an exchange operation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, named “Operation Jalil.” In this operation, 1,155 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners were released from Israeli occupation prisons in exchange for three Israeli occupation soldiers who were in the hands of the Front. In 1997, an exchange operation took place between the Jordanian government and the Israeli occupation. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and two of his associates were released in return for the release of Israeli Mossad agents who had been arrested by the Jordanian security forces after their failed attempt to assassinate the head of the political bureau of Hamas at that time, Khalid Mashaal.

In October 2009, Israeli occupation forces released 20 Palestinian female prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for a newly recorded video lasting two minutes showing the Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” on June 25, 2006.

In October 2011, the “Wafaa Al-Ahrar,” deal took place, involving the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli occupation authorities in exchange for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the Hamas movement. The deal was mediated by Egypt, marking the first instance in the history of the Palestinian issue where the process of capture, detention location, and negotiation occurred within Palestinian territory.

The Wafaa Al-Ahrar deal included the release of 450 detainees serving life sentences, and the release of all female detainees in Israeli prisons, totalling 30 women, including those serving life sentences. The agreement also covered the release of elderly detainees, all sick detainees, and detainees from Jerusalem, totalling 45 individuals. Additionally, an agreement was reached for the release of detainees from Occupied Palestinian territories in 1948. Moreover, 200 detainees, to be released agreed to be deported, residing either in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or to Arab countries.

Since October 7, a military operation, named “Al-Aqsa Flood,” led by the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas,” has been underway. Around 1,500 Palestinian fighters crossed the massive separation barrier between Gaza and Israeli occupation, resulting in the killing of hundreds of Israelis and the injury of thousands. Hamas captured over 250 Israelis from settlements and Israeli occupation military points around Gaza, including high-ranking military officers. Since then, the Israeli occupation army has waged a destructive war on Gaza, causing over 14,000 martyrs and more than 34,000 injuries, mostly among women and children.

A humanitarian ceasefire agreement was announced in the Gaza Strip on November 22, with joint mediation efforts by Egypt and the United States between the Israeli occupation and the Hamas movement. The agreement includes the exchange of 50 Israeli prisoners, including women and children in Gaza, in the first phase, in return for the release of 150 Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli occupation prisons.

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Gaza Crossings: Lifelines Closed by the Zionist Entity

Gaza is surrounded by eight crossings, six of which connect the Gaza Strip to the lands occupied in 1948, controlled by Israeli occupation authorities. Four of these crossings are completely closed, with intermittent openings for the remaining two: “Beit Hanoun” and “Kerem Shalom.” Additionally, Egypt, along with other parties, controls two crossings: “Rafah” and “Salah al-Din Gate.”

Open Crossings

The four intermittently open crossings serve as the main gateways for Gaza to and from the outside world. Two are primarily designated for individual movement: “Beit Hanoun” and “Rafah,” while the other two facilitate commercial activities: ” Kerem Abu Salem ” and “Salah al-Din Gate.”

Israeli occupation authorities impose stringent conditions on the movement of these crossings, subjecting imports and exports between Gaza and the West Bank markets, as well as external destinations, to whimsical Israeli approvals. The crossings are also prone to sudden decisions based on flimsy justifications. Since the Israeli occupation withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the Gaza Strip has transformed into a large-scale prison, encircled by wires and barriers from all directions.

Since the victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the 2006 elections and its assumption of power, Israel tightened the blockade on Gaza. Egypt also implemented strict measures on its borders with Gaza. The suffocating blockade has subjected Gaza to deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions. The measures enforced serve as collective punishment for the population, where freedom is severely restricted, and the daily lives of over two million Palestinians, nearly half of them children, suffer significant damage.

  • Crossings with the Egyptian Side

Gaza is connected to Egypt through two crossings: “Rafah Crossing” and “Salah al-Din Gate.” Officially, neither crossing falls under Israeli occupation control.

1. Rafah Crossing

    Rafah Crossing is located in the southern part of Gaza, on the Palestinian-Egyptian border, acknowledged under the peace treaty between the Israeli occupation and Egypt in 1979. The crossing operates under the Crossing Authority, part of the Ministry of Interior and National Security, overseen by the Palestinian and Egyptian administrations in partnership, and under the scrutiny of the European Union. After Hamas took control of the Palestinian side of the crossing in 2007, it opposed Israeli occupation participation in its operation. The European supervision ceased due to the absence of Palestinian Authority forces, and Europeans refused to engage with Hamas-affiliated staff. This led to the closure of the crossing. Hamas demanded the unconditional opening of Rafah Crossing and considered it a condition for any truce with the Israeli occupation or reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority. Egypt, on its part, deemed the conditions for the agreement unmet in the absence of Palestinian Authority control and European supervision. Despite having the actual capability to open Rafah Crossing, Egypt closed it due to external pressures. Over the years, the crossing alternated between openings and closures, depending on the dynamics of relations between Egypt and Hamas, often viewed as a means of pressure on Hamas by Egypt. However, Egypt typically opened the crossing for humanitarian cases during Israeli occupation attacks on Gaza, allowing the entry of humanitarian aid. On October 12, 2017, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, under which the Palestinian Authority took control of the Gaza Strip, aiming to end the ongoing internal division since mid-2007.

    • The Significance of Rafah Crossing: A Lifeline to the Outside World

    Rafah Crossing serves as Gaza’s gateway to the Arab Republic of Egypt, connecting the Gaza Strip to the external world. The crossing is designated for individual movement, while all cargo movement has been redirected to the Kerem Abu Salem border crossing. Egypt occasionally allows the export of Palestinian goods, especially agricultural products, a move contested by the Israeli occupation.

    Following the Crossings Agreement signed between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005, the use of the crossing is restricted to holders of Palestinian identity cards, with occasional exceptions, subject to prior notification to the Israeli occupation government and approval from the higher authorities in the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority informs the Israeli occupation government about the expected crossings of individuals from various categories, including diplomats, foreign investors, foreign representatives of recognized international bodies, and humanitarian cases, 48 hours before their crossing. The Israeli occupation government responds within 24 hours if there are any objections, specifying the reasons for objections.

    • Continuous Zionist Interventions and Closures

    Despite the absence of the Israeli occupation forces permanently stationed on the Egypt-Gaza border, the occupation authorities exert direct and indirect control over the opening of the crossing. The Palestinian Authority is required to inform the Israeli occupation government of the names of those wishing to use the crossing 48 hours in advance for approval or denial. The Israeli occupation suspended operations at the crossing on September 7, 2005, in preparation for its disengagement from the Gaza Strip.


    On November 27, 2005, operations resumed under the Crossings Agreement, initially for 4 to 5 hours per day for three weeks due to the incomplete deployment of the Border Assistance Mission personnel from the European Union. In mid-December 2005, the working hours increased to 8 hours per day and continued at this rate into early 2006. On June 25, 2006, following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at the Kerem Abu Salem crossing, the Israeli occupation intensified its siege on Gaza unprecedentedly.

    The Israeli occupation completely closed the crossing, except for limited hours during scattered periods, insufficient to meet the needs of Gaza’s residents, aiming to pressure Palestinians for the release of Shalit, in clear violation of the Crossings Agreement. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, between November 26, 2005, and December 31, 2006, there were 159 days of complete closure, with partial openings for 31 days for limited hours. From the beginning of 2007 until January 9, 2008, the Israeli occupation authorities closed the crossing for 308 days, with the closure rate reaching around 59% from the signing of the Crossings Agreement until January 9, 2008. The crossing remained mostly closed throughout the year, opening on specific days and hours for medical cases and special situations.

    In May 2018, Egypt partially reopened the crossing after years of near-permanent closure, allowing passage for five days a week with limited capacity. Rafah Crossing has been targeted multiple times by Israeli occupation forces during the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation that began in October 2023, leading to its closure. Israel threatened to target trucks carrying fuel and humanitarian aid from Egypt to Gaza, prompting Egypt to retreat from operating Rafah Crossing. The closure of Rafah Crossing has severe consequences for Gaza’s residents, obstructing access to medical services unavailable in Gaza, undermining academic or job opportunities abroad or in the West Bank, causing significant damage to trade and business, and perpetuating the continuous separation of family members on both sides of the border, reinforcing a sense of confinement and isolation in the Gaza Strip, even in times of imminent danger.

    2. Salah al-Din Gate

    Located 4 kilometres from the Rafah Crossing, Salah al-Din Gate derives its name from “Salah al-Din Street,” considered the main artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip. The crossing is managed by the security apparatus of the Hamas government on the Gaza side, while Egypt oversees the Egyptian side of the crossing. Salah al-Din Gate likely required implicit approval from the Israeli occupation before its opening.

    Before the opening of Salah al-Din Gate, the only crossing point between Gaza and Egypt was the primarily individual-use Rafah Crossing, with Egypt allowing small quantities of goods and humanitarian aid to be delivered. Salah al-Din Gate was introduced as a commercial crossing to alleviate restrictions on the Gaza Strip, fearing a severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation. Although not a true commercial crossing, it addresses some basic needs of Gaza’s residents. Commercial activity with Egypt through Salah al-Din Gate has seen a significant development, with Gaza’s total imports through the gate increasing from 13% in 2018 to 37% in 2022. Traffic through Salah al-Din Gate constitutes 42.5% of Gaza’s commercial activity, with around a thousand trucks entering the Gaza Strip through it each month. The imported goods include food items, building materials, raw materials, fuel, and cement. The gate played a crucial role in securing a strategic stockpile of flour, rice, legumes, and oils, contributing to protecting the internal front during crises and wars. On the other hand, Israeli occupation authorities prohibit the entry of many items, claiming they have “dual-use” and fear they may reach resistance factions for weapon manufacturing and development.

    • Traffic Movement

    After Hamas took control in Gaza, the blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened. Despite some easing of restrictions following the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2014, Israel and Egypt maintained strict limitations on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip. With the deterioration of conditions inside Gaza in early 2018, the “Great Return March” protests, and short-term escalations between the occupation and resistance factions, indirect negotiations began for a long-term ceasefire to ease the siege’s intensity. Negotiations led to the opening of Salah al-Din Gate between Gaza and Egypt in February 2018. Egypt quietly opened the crossing, which had previously been a humanitarian entry point for residents on both sides of the Gaza-Sinai border. The crossing serves as a small trade passage, one-way only, between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. A private company in Gaza and another in Egypt manage the cargo transport under the supervision of the Egyptian army and Hamas in Gaza. Goods are transported in limited quantities from Egypt to Gaza through the crossing, which lacks the infrastructure to qualify as a full-fledged commercial crossing. It does not provide most of the essential needs for Gaza’s residents. The crossing opens for about ten to fifteen days a month, during which fuel and goods are brought from the Egyptian side to Gaza without undergoing Palestinian Authority customs procedures.

    Open Crossings

    1.  Beit Hanoun/Erez Crossing

    Located on the northern border of the Gaza Strip, it separates the Gaza Strip from the territories occupied in 1948. The Israeli occupation authorities fully control the crossing, having the absolute freedom to allow or prevent the travel of citizens to and from the Gaza Strip. The crossing is primarily designated for the movement of vehicles and individuals, including citizens and foreigners, between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Diplomats, journalists, foreign missions, important personalities, workers, and Gaza traders (wishing to enter Israel with permits), as well as workers from the Gaza Strip, pass through it. It is also used for the passage of Palestinian medical cases requiring treatment outside the Gaza Strip in Israeli-controlled areas, the West Bank, or Jordan. It facilitates humanitarian cases that are granted permits to visit family, and religious sites, such as Islamic and Christian holy places, and allows residents of the Gaza Strip to visit their relatives in Israeli occupation prisons or for students to reach their universities in the West Bank.

    • Traffic Movement

    The opportunities for residents of the Gaza Strip to enter Israel diminished over time. Since 1991, they have been required to obtain permits to exit the Gaza Strip to Israel, and the number of these permits has been reduced over the years. In 1993, a comprehensive closure was imposed on Palestinian territories, effectively applied especially to the Gaza Strip starting in 1995, in addition to the construction of an electronic wall and a cement wall around the Gaza Strip. With the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli occupation revoked many existing exit permits, reduced the issuance of new permits, and closed the crossing for longer periods. In the first year of the Intifada, the crossing was closed to Palestinian movement 72% of the days in the year. These restrictions led to a sharp decline in the number of Palestinian people in Gaza who can leave daily, dropping from around 26,000 Palestinians in the summer of 2000 to less than 900 by the end of that year. After Hamas took control of internal affairs in the Gaza Strip in 2007, the Israeli occupation imposed a comprehensive closure on the Gaza Strip and allowed Palestinians to exit the Strip based on a list of specified criteria focused on “humanitarian and exceptional cases.” Although the Israeli occupation authorities have changed some of these criteria over time, the movement of people between the Gaza Strip and the occupied land, including the West Bank and 48 territories has remained extremely limited. Most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are not allowed to exit at all through the crossing. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Israeli occupation authorities restricted movement through the Beit Hanoun crossing except for critical medical cases, their companions, and a few other exceptional cases.

    • Occupation Harassment

    The crossing suffers from frequent long closures, in addition to restrictions on the movement of Palestinian traders and workers to pass to the occupied territories and the West Bank. Palestinians need permits from the occupation authorities to pass through the crossing, and obtaining these permits involves complex and slow procedures that take a long time. Palestinians undergo humiliating inspections during the passage process and are forced to wait for long hours until they are allowed to pass. When passing through Beit Hanoun Crossing, travellers are required, even if they are sick, to walk a distance of over a kilometre to reach the Israeli occupation side of the crossing. Citizens or traders are often detained and interrogated by intelligence agencies that exploit the needs of citizens to travel for information, extortion, threats, or even to prevent travel or arrest.

    Closure Damages

    Closures hinder the daily life of the Gaza Strip, preventing the entry of traders, journalists, foreigners, and other travellers. They also cause harm to humanitarian situations, preventing the entry of patients and their companions. Closures result in significant economic losses. According to the General Union of Palestinian Workers in Gaza, the closure costs the Gaza Strip losses exceeding one million dollars daily, due to preventing about 19,000 workers from commuting to their workplaces inside the occupied territories and the West Bank.

    • Crossing “Kerem Abu Salem”/”Kerem Shalom”

    Located in the far southeast of the Gaza Strip, approximately 4 kilometres west of Rafah, at the junction of the borders between Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli-occupied territories. The Israeli occupation controls the crossing in coordination with Egypt, and the “Presidential Committee for the Entry of Goods,” affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, oversees the commercial movement. After the closure of Al-Montar Crossing (northern Gaza), Kerem Abu Salem became the main gateway for the passage of goods between the occupation and the Gaza Strip. It serves as a lifeline for the residents of the Gaza Strip and is sometimes used for the passage of aid. Additionally, some Palestinians use it when they cannot use the nearby Rafah Crossing.

    Approximately 57.5% of the commercial traffic in the Gaza Strip passes through it. It allows the entry of trucks carrying essential products, raw materials for industry, medical equipment, food products, livestock, fruits, fuel, and building materials. Farmers, factory owners, and traders in Gaza, who employ thousands of workers in the Strip, rely on Kerem Abu Salem Crossing to market their goods to the West Bank and foreign countries. Despite being used as an alternative to Al-Montar Crossing, its efficiency is lower. Al-Montar Crossing is only about 5 kilometres from the centre of Gaza City, while Kerem Abu Salem is about 40 kilometres away from the city centre, which is the most densely populated area in the Gaza Strip, housing most factories and commercial warehouses. The considerable distance between Kerem Abu Salem Crossing and the trade and industrial centres in the Gaza Strip, the seaports, oil refineries, and commercial crossings in the West Bank, has led to a significant increase in the transportation costs of goods to and from the Gaza Strip.

    According to the “Mesarv” organization, the cost of transporting goods through Kerem Abu Salem Crossing is more than 50% higher than the cost of transportation through Al-Montar Crossing. Moreover, Kerem Abu Salem Crossing is small compared to Al-Montar Crossing, lacks suitable infrastructure for an active trade movement, operates with very limited capacity, and, on its best days, can handle only about 400 trucks, in contrast to Al-Montar Crossing, which operated with a capacity of a thousand trucks per day.

    • Traffic Movement

    The Israeli occupation began operating the Kerem Abu Salem Crossing for the first time in 2005 to allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. It then initiated the closure of commercial crossings with the Gaza Strip, keeping only Kerem Abu Salem open, which was not originally designated as the exclusive crossing for the transport of goods to and from the Strip. Since the Israeli tightening of the closure on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 until October 2014, approximately 14 trucks per month left the Gaza Strip for export, most of them loaded with agricultural products.

    On November 6, 2014, for the first time since the closure, the Israeli occupation allowed the regular marketing of goods from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Initially, only agricultural products were allowed to be marketed, and later products from the textile and furniture industries were also permitted. In 2019, the number of cargo trucks passing through the crossing reached about 262 trucks per month.

    • Occupation Harassment

    The crossing is subject to frequent closures, and work is restricted to specific hours. Israeli occupation authorities impose complex conditions that hinder imports and stifle exports. They occasionally use it as a card for extortion and pressure on the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas.” Despite the donation of a container X-ray inspection device by the Netherlands government, the cargo is unloaded and then reloaded, even if the truck has undergone a scan. There are no fuel storage tanks at the crossing, so the transport of fuel requires the presence of both an Israeli and a Palestinian truck at the same time, which slows down procedures and wastes a lot of time for coordination. The fuel transfer process from one truck to another does not allow for an accurate measurement of the quantity of fuel being transferred. Palestinian traders complain of losing thousands of litres, resulting in material losses they have to bear every month. On the other hand, Palestinians passing through Kerem Abu Salem Crossing undergo complicated procedures, humiliation, and extortion by Israeli security and intelligence agencies.

    • Closure Damages

    Since Kerem Abu Salem Crossing is the main commercial crossing for the Gaza Strip, through which building materials, goods, fuel, and food needed by the Gaza Strip are imported, its closure causes a significant economic and livelihood crisis. Closures and restrictions affect the agriculture and industry sectors, as well as the fish farming sector. Closures disrupt commercial and industrial life, resulting in significant losses and serious economic damage to industries, businesses, and traders. Closures prevent the marketing of goods from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and abroad, preventing goods from reaching their natural markets. Traders and marketers suffer irreparable damages, leading to the collapse of many commercial interests, widespread unemployment, contributing to economic deterioration, and deepening reliance on humanitarian aid.

    Closed Crossings

    1.  Al-Montar /Karni Crossing

    Located to the east of Gaza City, on the demarcation line between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli occupation, it is entirely controlled by the Israeli occupation. The crossing was established in 1994 after the signing of the Oslo Accords. Before its closure, it was the main and most equipped commercial passage, with advanced equipment, machinery, and infrastructure enabling active two-way trade, both imports and exports. It was designated for commercial traffic to and from the Gaza Strip, as well as for exporting vegetables to the West Bank.

    According to the Crossing Agreement, it allowed the passage of 150 trucks per day, the minimum required to sustain the Palestinian economy based on World Bank estimates. The number was later increased to 400 trucks in 2006.

    • Occupation Harassment

    The crossing underwent rigorous inspections, and Israeli occupation authorities required an inspection for everything passing through, exposing any goods to potential damage and wasting a significant amount of time. The crossing imposed a financial burden on the residents of the Gaza Strip, especially traders and farmers. They were required to pay substantial amounts for transporting and importing goods. The delivery of goods from the port of Isdud was considered the most expensive in the world. Additionally, they paid Israeli occupation truck drivers more than the normal rates. Israel violated the terms of the Crossing Agreement by closing the crossing for most days of the year, opening only 150 days throughout 2007. The Israeli occupation authorities allowed only a few trucks to pass daily. The crossing operated at only about 23% of its capacity due to Israeli occupation complications, leading to a slowdown in economic growth, an increase in unemployment rates, and a significant shortage of various goods, food, and medicines in Gaza markets.

    • Closure of the Crossing

    Israeli occupation authorities temporarily closed the crossing along with other crossings connecting it to Gaza in response to the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Palestinian resistance forces. In 2011, the occupation authorities permanently closed the crossing, leaving Kerem Abu Salem Crossing as the only commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In early December 2022, the Israeli occupation army initiated an operation called “Karni Auz” to dismantle the Karni Crossing on the Gaza border. This was done to complete the construction of a land barrier, in the form of a cement wall, under the pretext of “strengthening the defence line along the border with Gaza.”

    •  Crossing “Al-Awda”/”Sofa”

    Located east of the city of Rafah, southeast of Khan Yunis, it is entirely controlled by the Zionist entity. This crossing is considered small, connecting the Gaza Strip with the occupation, designated mainly for commercial movement. Most of the traffic consists of construction materials moving in one direction toward the Gaza Strip only. Occasionally, it is used for the entry of workers. The crossing was subject to closures based on the mood of the Israeli occupying security, with extremely complex inspection procedures.

    Israeli occupation security intentionally empties trucks coming from the occupation in a large yard and conducts prolonged inspections before allowing them to proceed. In 2008, the occupation authorities permanently closed it. In 2011, they used it once to bring in shipments of building materials specifically for UNRWA.

    • Crossing “Al-Shuja’iya”/”Nahal Oz”

    Located in the Shuja’iya neighbourhood east of Gaza City, it is entirely controlled by the Israeli occupation. Fuel and gas used to pass through it to the Gaza Strip under the supervision of an Israeli occupation company. The crossing had tanks dedicated to petroleum products (diesel and gasoline) in its western part, while the eastern part had tanks for natural gas, supplied through pipes from the Israeli occupation side to the Palestinian side of the crossing. The occupation authorities regularly closed the Shuja’iya crossing for two days each week, leading power plant workers in Gaza to cut small quantities and store them to cover the days when supply is halted. In January 2010, the crossing was completely closed, turning it into a military site.

    • Crossing “Al-Qarara”/”Kissufim”

    Located to the east between the areas of Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah, it is entirely controlled by the Israeli occupation authorities. This crossing is designated for the military movement of Israeli occupation forces. The crossing has been closed since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, only opening for the passage of tanks and vehicles in case the occupation decides to launch an aggression on the Strip.

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    Palestinians Stand Firm Against Israeli Plans

    The steadfast resistance of the sons and daughters of the Palestinian people, both within their homeland and scattered across the diaspora, stands as a resolute rejection of any nefarious Israeli plans to displace Palestinians. The proposed schemes include relocating them from Gaza to Egypt or from the West Bank to Jordan, actions that are feared to fragment the Palestinian cause—a cause that Israel actively seeks to obliterate, disregarding any rights of Palestinians to establish their independent state.

    Israel’s longstanding strategy to rid itself of Palestinian residents in Gaza and the West Bank involves coercive displacement beyond Palestinian territories. This aligns with malicious Israeli plans to annex the remaining Palestinian lands, facilitated by the continuous expansion of settlements orchestrated by the Israeli occupation war government.

    The Zionist entity’s objective of expelling Palestinians approaches what can be described as a form of ethnic cleansing, a practice condemned by international law and norms. The occupation army presents the Palestinian people with a harrowing choice: either endure a committed Holocaust or leave their ancestral land. This choice reflects the occupation’s intent to purge Gaza of its inhabitants, making way for more settlers and reinforcing the area with additional fortifications and security measures.

    In a resolute stand against Israel’s occupation strategies, Palestinian officials have unequivocally rejected plans to uproot the people of Gaza from their homes and expel them from the region. This counters Israel’s objective of depopulating Gaza, a scheme actively pursued by ministers in the right-wing government governing the occupied territories. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, made it clear that there would be no migration of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt. He commended Egypt’s firm rejection of migration, resettlement, and displacement, underscoring Egypt’s role as a hospitable refuge for Palestinians.

    Highlighting the recent Al-Aqsa Flood operation, Haniyeh emphasized that the Israeli occupation faced a strategic setback. Accusing Israel of perpetrating massacres and genocide, he pointed out the regime’s attempts to displace Gaza’s residents after its military forces failed to confront Palestinian factions. Haniyeh highlighted the international support these Israeli actions receive, singling out backing from the United States and certain European countries. This, he argued, exposes the glaring double standards and hypocrisy in play. The Palestinian street’s discourse rejecting the displacement of citizens from Gaza to Egypt aligns with the will of the Palestinian people and other Arab nations. Palestinians choose not to leave their land, homes, and livelihoods, affirming their commitment to live or sacrifice on their soil, avoiding a repetition of the Nakba scenario that occurred in 1948.

    Leaving Gaza would mean ending the Palestinian cause, disregarding the substantial sacrifices of th thousands of martyrs who died for Palestinian freedom. In the tapestry of the Palestinian narrative, a new slogan emerges: “One Nakba is enough.” These words, articulated by writer Abdulnaser Salama, encapsulate the resilience and determination echoing through the decades of political and armed struggles in the region.

    The Nakba of 1948, a pivotal moment marked by displacement and migration, unfolded either within the confines of Palestinian territories or towards neighbouring countries. Now, after 75 years, this historic catastrophe has left an indelible mark on the Palestinian experience, resulting in dispersal and diaspora, all against the backdrop of a world seemingly devoid of a global conscience.

    As events continue to unfold, particularly in the tumultuous landscape of Gaza, it becomes apparent that the collective understanding of the Palestinian psyche remains elusive to the West and Israelis alike. Salama contends that the intricacies of Palestinian psychology and religiosity are yet to be comprehended fully, a void that persists despite ongoing political developments.

    One poignant aspect Salama highlights is Israel’s failure to recognize the historical mistake embedded in accepting the land of Palestine for the establishment of a Jewish state. This oversight, he suggests, forms a crucial element in the protracted Palestinian struggle, emphasizing the significance of acknowledging past missteps for a more informed future. Salama adds depth to the narrative by framing the Palestinian cause not merely as a political or military endeavour but as the longest liberation war in history. Driven by psychological, religious, and historical imperatives, this protracted conflict surpasses conventional political theories and military calculations.

    The recent Al-Aqsa Flood operation stands as a testament to the resilience of Palestinian youth, inscribing a powerful chapter in the 75-year saga of struggle. Salama argues that these ground-level expressions of resilience should prompt a reconsideration not only within the West but also within the United States. The challenge, he suggests, lies in approaching the Palestinian issue and its multifaceted personality with a holistic perspective that transcends geopolitical divides.

    “One Nakba is enough” echoes not just as a slogan but as a poignant call for reflection, challenging the global community to engage with the Palestinian narrative in its entirety, with due consideration for the complexities that define this enduring struggle.

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