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Vol. 78/No. 32      September 15, 2014

Tel Aviv, Hamas sign cease-fire,
war takes big toll on Palestinians
(front page)
Tel Aviv and Hamas agreed to an open-ended cease-fire Aug. 26, ending for now the third Gaza war since 2008. The terms essentially maintain the same Israeli restrictions on trade and travel for Gazans that existed before the conflict.

The Israeli army struck Gaza more than 5,200 times, killing more than 2,100 people and wounding 11,000. More than 17,000 homes were destroyed and 38,000 damaged, leaving 120,000 Palestinians homeless. According to the U.N., nearly 70 percent of Gazans killed were civilians. Tel Aviv puts the figure at a little more than half. Some 126 factories in Gaza were ruined, and hundreds damaged, along with many greenhouses, livestock pens and orchards.

“All the land installations for fishermen have been destroyed, including storage facilities and thousands of nets,” Zakaria Baker, head of the committee for fishermen of the Gaza Union of Agricultural Work Committees, told the Militant by phone from Gaza Sept. 2. “The Israelis also killed four fishermen and sank nine boats.”

“Since 2006 they’ve imposed an economic embargo,” he said. “One day they let us fish three miles out, other days up to six. They keep changing the rules.”

After Israeli forces killed three top Hamas commanders in airstrikes Aug. 21, Hamas publicly executed 18 Palestinians who had been detained some time before the most recent conflict for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

During the war, Hamas targeted residents of Israel with more than 4,500 rockets and mortars, killing six civilians, including a Bedouin Arab and a Thai migrant farmworker. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed, most in the ground assault on Gaza.

On Aug. 20 Hamas spokesperson Saleh Al-‘Arouri admitted that the group’s armed wing was responsible for the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank in June, which he called “a heroic operation.”

On July 2, after the dead bodies of the three Jewish youths were discovered, a 16-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem was kidnapped and killed in retaliation. Hamas began a stepped-up barrage of rockets that day. Israeli airstrikes started July 7, followed by a ground invasion July 17.

At an Aug. 26 press conference in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas has accomplished “what no Arab army has done. … We have defeated them.”

Five days later, Tel Aviv announced that it was appropriating 1,000 acres of Palestinian land for settlements in the West Bank, near where the three Jewish teens were killed.

The war put a temporary damper on the class struggle inside Israel. Hundreds of Arab citizens of Israel were arrested during protests against the assault on Gaza, although most have been released.

About 70 Orthodox Jewish butchers at the Milouoff chicken slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Accra went on strike from Aug. 12 to 17, demanding higher wages and union representation. But other labor battles in Israel were put on hold during the fighting, including a campaign for a 30-shekel-an-hour ($8.68) minimum wage. “Now that the war is over we are talking about how to reinitiate the campaign,” Shay Cohen, organizational secretary for the Koach La Ovdim labor federation, said by phone from Haifa Aug. 29.

Koach La Ovdim has also been organizing construction crane operators, who are fighting against long shifts and unsafe work conditions. According to Cohen, about two-thirds of the operators are Jews from the former Soviet Union and one-third are Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The laborers on the ground are mostly immigrants, including from China and Romania, and Palestinians from the West Bank.

“The Palestinians from the West Bank were not allowed into Israel” during the war, Cohen said. “Now it’s getting back to business as usual,” and the union plans to resume its organizing efforts.  
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