Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in ongoing violence. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018

Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza after lull

  • Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as fears of a new war rose
  • Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army

JERUSALEM: Israel ordered the country’s goods and people border crossings with Gaza to be opened on Sunday, just four days after shuttering them following a Palestinian rocket attack that sparked retaliatory air strikes.
The move followed efforts to prevent an escalation in violence that has raised fears of a new war between Israel and the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers.
“The decision comes after a decrease in the violent events in Gaza over the weekend and efforts Hamas made to restrain” demonstrators, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Lieberman had ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, after a rocket from the Palestinian territory hit a home in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to strike 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
Another rocket fell in the Mediterranean off Tel Aviv, without causing casualties or damage.
Hamas disavowed the launches and said it was investigating the incident, as alarm over a potential broader conflict rose.
But Israel rejected their denial, saying they were the only groups armed with rockets of that range.
Israel in any case holds Hamas responsible, as Gaza’s de factor rulers, for all fire from the territory regardless of who launches it.
Near daily protests along the Gaza border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army.
More than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in the violence.
On Friday, thousands again gathered for protests in northern Gaza, but demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border.
An Israeli army spokesman told AFP that while most of the protesters stayed back from the fence, some came close and threw explosive devices and hand grenades at troops, while burning tires.
At least 130 Palestinians were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Gaza health ministry said.
Hamas officials were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Israel on October 12 already suspended the delivery of fuel for the Palestinian territory’s power plant that had been trucked daily into Gaza under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
A decision on renewed fuel deliveries “has been put off as for the time being and will be examined in a number of days based on events,” Lieberman’s office said Sunday.
An Egyptian security delegation that visited Gaza on Thursday had encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah to calm the protests, according to an Egyptian official.
On Friday, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation.”
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and fears of a fourth have spurred efforts by Egypt and the United Nations for a wider deal that would see Israel ease its blockade in exchange for a long-term truce.
jjm/hc


For Middle East children, pandemic adds to misery of displacement

Updated 40 min 27 sec ago

For Middle East children, pandemic adds to misery of displacement

  • Coronavirus has created new barriers to education for millions of children displaced by Middle East conflicts
  • Up to 50 percent of refugee girls worldwide are at risk of dropping out of school entirely because of COVID-19

DUBAI/ERBIL: Millions have been displaced by recent wars in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) — a significant number of them children. Cut adrift in an unfamiliar world in search of safe harbor, the trauma of losing their homes is often compounded by the brutalizing experience of displacement.

According to the UN’s World Migration Report 2020, there are an estimated 31 million child migrants worldwide. Roughly 13 million of them are refugees, 936,000 are asylum seekers, and 17 million have been forcibly displaced inside their own country.

Individual tragedies have occasionally drawn the attention of the international community. When photographs emerged of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian toddler lying face down in the Mediterranean surf, the issue of child migration appeared, for a time, to take center stage.

Syrian children displaced by the war gather at a makeshift camp at Idlib football stadium on March 3, 2020 in the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria. (AFP/File Photo)

The world soon moved on, though, and initial pangs of sympathy and charity reverted to earlier anxieties about security. Now the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has left jealously guarded borders bolted tight.

Of course, it is not just war and terror that drives civilians from their homes. Political and cultural persecution, the loss of economic opportunities, and the ravages of climate change have also contributed to this vast nation of stateless people.

But it is the recent spate of conflicts in the Middle East that has specifically fed the phenomenon of child migration. As Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle, says, the cause of child migration in the Arab region is the direct result of “violent” conflict.

Displaced Syrian children attend a workshop aimed at spreading awareness about COVID-19 coronavirus disease and precautions for its prevention, at a camp near the Syrian town of Atme close to the border with Turkey in Idlib on March 16, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

“Unlike economic hardship, which often evolves over prolonged periods of time, war is decisive and often leaves people with no other option but to flee,” he told Arab News. “We have seen this trend taking place in the early months of upheaval in the Arab world, starting in 2011 in Libya and continuing in Syria as well.”

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the MENA region, while Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) regional spokesperson, Rula Amin.

“The situation in Syria continues to drive the largest refugee crisis in the world. There remain over 5.5 million registered refugees from Syria in the main hosting countries — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, and 2.6 million are children,” she told Arab News.

INNUMBERS

Children in the Pandemic

* 31 million - Total child migrants worldwide.

* 48% - Total refugee children out of school.

Syrians are by far the largest forcibly displaced population in the world — 13.2 million of them by late 2019, including 6.6 million refugees and more than six million internally displaced persons, according to the UNHCR.

Bombs and bullets no doubt drive the initial wave of displacement. But Baroud said the waves that follow are the result of the economic deterioration caused by conflict.

“This is important, because quite often war refugees and economic migrants are delinked, while in reality they are escaping the same threat, either that of war or its disastrous outcomes,” he said.

This can be seen in the case of Libyan and Syrian children, who fled the immediate danger with their families to become internally displaced persons — known in the humanitarian glossary as IDPs. It was predominantly the young and physically fit who dared to venture over land and sea to Europe.

Migrants, including women and children, in a dinghy, react as they approach the southern British coastline as they illegally cross the English Channel from France on September 11, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

However, as these conflicts dragged on, families with children increasingly lost hope in ever returning home and began contemplating far riskier options. As of January this year, Mediterranean crossings in rickety boats have killed at least 19,164 migrants since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.

“With time, whole families were escaping on long and arduous journeys together. In many cases, children were not even accompanied by adults, for their parents might have either been killed or separated from their children during the war,” Baroud said.

This trend was made clear in 2019, when UNICEF reported more than 33,000 child refugees crossed into Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria, most of them from the Middle East and North Africa.

“These first countries of asylum often serve as a gateway to other destinations in Europe, where refugees hope to reach a different country, which might be Germany, Sweden, or any other,” said Baroud.

Syrian children displaced by the war stand at a makeshift camp at Idlib football stadium on March 3, 2020 in the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria. (AFP/File Photo)

“So quite often, once a refugee arrives in Greece, for example, where he or she is granted some kind of refugee identification, they hope to continue with their journeys past Greece to somewhere else where they can permanently settle.”

Keeping families together is a “concern and a priority” for aid agencies, says Amin. Key to this is obtaining civil documentation, such as birth, marriage and death certificates. With these, refugees and IDPs are able to access services, move freely and have their rights respected.

The COVID-19 has complicated matters. According to the UNHCR, lockdown measures have pushed displaced populations even deeper into poverty and uncertainty, with children bearing the brunt.

“Refugees have lost their incomes and livelihoods, they are suffering from serious historic disruption to the education of their children, deteriorating economies in their host countries add to their challenges and expose them to increased risks of child labor, early marriage and school drop-out,” Amin said.

Children sit on the ground in the burnt camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos after a major fire broke out, on September 9, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

In fact, 50 percent of refugee girls worldwide are at risk of dropping out of school entirely because of COVID-19. With classes moving online, many displaced children simply don’t have access to computers, consistent internet, or a stable learning environment.

“The pandemic is threatening to erase years of progress made to ensure that refugee children get a proper education,” Baroud said.

“Today, 48 percent of all refugee children globally are out of school, 77 percent are enrolled in elementary education, 31 percent are enrolled in schools at secondary education, and only 3 percent get a chance to enroll for higher education.”

And the longer these children are out of school, the harder it will be to go back. Baroud added the economic realities of displacement effectively rob them of their childhoods, pushing them into the world of work.

“Families have to make a choice between turning their children into providers or having them enlist in long-term education,” he said.

“They often choose the former.”

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Twitter: @jumana_khamis