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Palestinians turn to the sun to reduce their power shortfall
9 August 2018 - From orderly rows of solar panels in a field in the West Bank to the chaotic rooftops of Gaza, Palestinians are hoping that harnessing the energy of the sun can reduce their dependence on Israel for electricity. ... The number of panels in the enclave has increased four-fold in four years and they are now dotted on most rooftops and balcony on homes, schools, hospitals, shops, banks, and mosques in a place where the sun shines 320 days a year. (more)

First women's yoga training center opens doors in Gaza
28 March 2018 - A small group of Palestinian women in Gaza are stretching their limbs with yoga to help them teach others to cope with the stresses and traumas of living in the embattled territory. The Gaza Strip, which is dominated by the Islamist Hamas faction, has experienced three wars with neighboring Israel in the past 11 years. Amal Khayal, who teaches the class in a makeshift gym and also heads women's activities for Italian charity Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS), said the project was aimed at training some 30 women to teach. (more)

Palestinian teacher wins $1 million Global Teacher Prize
13 March 2016 - A Palestinian primary school teacher who grew up in a refugee camp and educates her students about non-violence won a $1 million prize for teaching excellence on Sunday, beating out 8,000 other applicants from around the world. Hanan al-Hroub, a primary school teacher in the West Bank city of al-Bireh just outside Ramallah, was awarded the second annual Global Teacher Prize during a ceremony in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was on-hand to present the prize to al-Hroub, however her name was announced by Pope Francis in a video message after he talked about the importance of education and teachers, especially for children who grow up amid war. (more)

Gaza music school shines in 'Arabs Got Talent' spotlight
1 February 2015 - On the hugely popular 'Arabs Got Talent' TV show in Beirut last month, five young musicians in chequered black-and-white scarves brought the house down with a traditional Arabic song that left the judges weeping and earned a ticket straight to the finals. In the Gaza Strip there was much weeping and celebration too. For the past three years, Anas an-Najar, a teacher at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, has dedicated himself to the band, honing their skills on the zither, lute, drum, and wooden flute, while the fifth member sings in soaring, lilting melodies. A YouTube video of their performance has been watched more than 9 million times. (more)

Faithful flock to Bethlehem for Christmas
24 December 2014 - Several thousand Christian pilgrims on Wednesday flocked to the biblical town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations at the traditional birthplace of Jesus, lifting spirits after a year of conflict and failed peace efforts. The central Manger Square was decked out in white and yellow lights and a towering Christmas tree. The celebrations brought a boost of holiday cheer to the area after a difficult year. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, joined the celebrations on Wednesday evening and called for an end to 'extremism and terror'. (more)

Malala donates prize money to rebuild Gaza school
30 October 2014 - The UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees says Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai has donated $50,000 to rebuild a UN school in Gaza damaged during this summer's Israel-Hamas war. UNRWA says Malala is donating all of the proceeds of the $50,000 World Children's Prize, which she collected in Stockholm on Wednesday. The agency quoted Malala as saying Palestinian children deserve a quality education, and that 'without education, there will never be peace.' (more)

Representatives of Hamas, Fatah meet in Cairo
22 September 2014 - A Hamas and a Fatah official met in Cairo on Monday ahead of the start of reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions this week in the Egyptian capital, an official told The Associated Press. The meeting was the first in what is to be a week of key negotiations, including a round of talks with Israel on how to cement the 26 August truce that ended a 50-day war in Gaza this summer and on lifting the blockade on the narrow Mediterranean coastal strip. (more)

Philippine President, rebel agree on autonomy bill
8 September 2014 - The Philippine President and a Muslim rebel leader secretly met last week and helped resolve thorny differences over a proposed autonomy law that threatened to stall efforts to end decades of rebellion in the south, officials and the insurgents said Monday. President Benigno Aquino III and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to endorse a draft of the proposed legislation after meeting for more than two hours at the presidential palace Thursday, presidential adviser Teresita Deles said. (more)

Palestinians earn degrees while in Israeli jail
28 January 2014 - Hundreds of Palestinians have spent their time in Israeli prison pursuing higher education -- a programme that was supported by the Israeli prison system for two decades until it was cut in 2011. Since then, prisoners secretly have organized their own courses, with backing from universities in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian officials say. Orit Adato, who served as commissioner of the Israeli Prison Service from 2000 to 2003, said that criminal prisoners around the world are allowed to study but when it comes to prisoners involved in political violence, Israel is particularly lenient. She said an upside of the programme was that prisoners, who later went on to assume powerful positions in Palestinian politics, became fluent in Hebrew and familiar with Israeli society, which helped facilitate peace negotiations. (more)

Palestine: A rare bond in Bethlehem gets ancient church restored
25 December 2013 - In what some are calling a miracle, Bethlehem's three churches that share responsibility for the Nativity church located in the central West Bank put aside centuries of tense relations this past year to ensure the church is restored after a powerful snow storm recently hit the Middle East. The effort to restore the church has helped 'unblock the complicated relations' that have existed between the various churches for centuries, said Pizzaballa, the Catholic Church's custodian of the Holy Land. 'We were each into our own way of doing things,' he said. 'This forced us to find a solution together.' (more)

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Middle East: Finding calm in a conflict zone
7 April 2018 - When Basma Abu Sway started practising Transcendental Meditation, she was a mother, grandmother, and longtime career woman in social services. An Arab living in Palestinian Jerusalem, Basma sought relief from the high stress in her own life and pervading the region. From her first meditation she felt tremendous relief. 'It was something like magic happening to me. It was a powerful experience. I felt more inner peace.' Basma trained as a teacher of TM to help others, especially women, gain the same relief she found. She encourages group TM practice, which peer-reviewed, published research has shown to have a peaceful, calming effect in the surroundings. Many in her area participate in a monthly event held at TM centres in 12 Middle East countries and beyond - meditating all together to bring coherence and peace in the Middle East. (more)

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Gaza hospitals struggle to cope with high casualty toll
15 May 2018 - Patients with gunshot wounds filled wards and hallways in Gaza's under-equipped and overwhelmed main hospital Tuesday (15 May), with dozens still waiting in line for surgery a day after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded hundreds in mass protests on the Gaza border. The high casualty toll triggered a diplomatic backlash against Israel and new charges of excessive use of force against unarmed protesters. (more)

Gaza sewage spill floods farmland
4 May 2016 - Gaza rescue crews tried to salvage livestock and produce on Wednesday after a sewage reservoir collapsed, flooding about 25 acres (10 hectares) of farmland in a new sign of the worsening water and sewage crisis in the Hamas-run territory. Mohammed Qandeel, a beekeeper, said the sewage reached the room in which he kept the honey he had just harvested. 'I will get rid of it after I wake up from the shock,' he said. Gaza's limited sewage treatment facilities have been overwhelmed by a rapidly expanding population, damage to infrastructure during wars with Israel, and a chronic shortage of electricity. Millions of gallons of raw sewage are dumped into the Mediterranean each day, threatening the coastline and limited freshwater supplies. (more)

Gaza gunmen execute 'collaborators'; mortar kills Israeli boy
22 August 2014 - Hamas-led gunmen in Gaza executed 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel on Friday, accelerating a crackdown on suspected informers after Israeli forces tracked down and killed three senior Hamas commanders. Human rights groups denounced the killings. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, called it a 'horrendous abuse.' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to escalate the fight against Hamas, vowing the group would 'pay a heavy price' after a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed by a mortar attack from Gaza, the first Israeli child to die in the six-week conflict. Shortly after his remarks, Palestinian officials said Israel had flattened a house in a Gaza City air strike, wounding at least 40 people. With protesters from rocket-hit southern Israeli communities gathered outside his residence in Jerusalem after the boy's killing, Netanyahu was under pressure to take tougher steps to end the rocket fire. Israel's military spokesman said another ground war was possible if necessary to stop the rocket fire. (more)

Gaza ceasefire efforts collapse in heavy fighting
19 August 2014 - Egyptian attempts to broker an end to a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas collapsed in heavy fighting Tuesday, with Palestinian militants firing dozens of rockets and Israel responding with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. At least three Palestinians were killed. The burst of violence, which erupted in the hours before a temporary truce was set to expire, left the Egyptian mediation efforts in tatters and raised the likelihood of a new round of fighting in a war that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives, most of them Palestinians. The fighting broke out when Gaza militants fired several rockets into Israel Tuesday afternoon. Israel quickly withdrew its delegation from the Cairo cease-fire talks and resumed its campaign of airstrikes, and fighting continued into the night. In Cairo, Palestinian negotiators declared the cease-fire talks over, and said they would leave Egypt on Wednesday. Azzam al-Ahmad, leader of the delegation, blamed Israel for the failure, but held out hope that the talks could be resumed. (more)

UN food body says Gaza farms devastated by fighting
14 August 2014 - The conflict in Gaza has caused serious damage to crops, herds, and fishing as well as greenhouses and irrigation systems, bringing food production to a halt and sending prices sharply higher, the United Nations food body said on Thursday. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement that virtually the entire local population of about 1.8 million was dependent on food aid and significant long term help would be needed for local farms to recover. Ciro Fiorillo, head of FAO's office in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said specialists had been able to make a series of field visits to the coastal Palestinian enclave to prepare a detailed assessment of the damage during the latest ceasefire. He said bomb damage, water, and electricity shortages and financial problems, as well as the uncertainty about a possible resumption of military activities had caused major problems. (more)

Once a haven for daytrippers, affluent Gaza town reduced to rubble
6 August 2014 - With its spacious villas and palm-lined streets, the town of Khuzaa in southern Gaza gave Palestinians a rare place to spend their free time before it was bombed and shelled to rubble last month. Largely free of the local tensions and feuds found in other neighbourhoods, Khuzaa's green spaces were one of just a few destinations for daytrips in the crowded Gaza Strip, where 1.8 million people live in just 360 sq km (140 sq miles). Around 500 metres from the Israeli border, Khuzaa is now only accessible via cratered roads strewn with debris. Nearly all of its homes have been flattened and its nine mosques lie in pieces. 'This was the best area in all of the Gaza Strip, it was a tourist area -- secure and safe with no problems and good people,' said Sami Qudih, head of Khuzaa's municipal council. But now the town has been reduced to ruins. Thousands of people from Khuzaa are living in aid shelters in schools and return only to check the damage or gather any belongings they can salvage. Ahmed Awad Abu Salahreturned with his wife Fariah to find their home mostly intact but ransacked and littered with tins of food with Hebrew labels they said were left behind by Israeli soldiers. They found children's clothes and books strewn across the floor, kitchen fittings hanging from the walls, and the family's Koran in the toilet. The walls of the once elegant living room are peppered with bullet holes. (more) (more)

'We come in sadness, we go in sadness' -- Gaza family briefly returns home
4 August 2014 - Glass and debris littered the road to Ahed Marouf's house in a northern Gaza town on Monday as he rode on a donkey cart with his wife and three children to check on their home during a seven-hour truce declared by Israel. What they saw when they reached Beit Lahiya, near the Israeli border, persuaded them to return to their temporary shelter in a UN-run school in nearby Jabalya refugee camp. 'It did not feel safe,' said Marouf, a 30-year-old farmer. 'At our house, windows were shattered. There is no electricity and no water.' Israel said the brief truce was intended to allow some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by an almost four-week-old war to go home. The Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said the one-sided truce was an Israeli media stunt. (more)

Israel says Hamas will pay heavy price for more attacks
2 August 2014 - Israel will go on fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip even after the army completes its core mission of destroying the cross-border tunnels used by Palestinian militants to attack its territory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday. As Israeli television showed live footage of some tanks withdrawing from Gaza in an apparent winding down of the 25-day campaign, Netanyahu said Hamas would pay an 'intolerable price' if it continued to attack Israel.Israel began its air and naval offensive against Gaza on 8 July following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas, later escalating into ground incursions. Shelling exchanges continued earlier on Saturday, pushing the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials up to 1,675, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 63 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has also killed three civilians in Israel. (more)

Truce crumbles as 40 killed in Gaza, rockets hit Israel
1 August 2014 - A Gaza ceasefire crumbled only hours after it began on Friday, with at least 40 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and Israel accusing militants of violating the US- and UB-brokered truce by firing rockets and mortars. The 72-hour break announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the most ambitious attempt so far to end more than three weeks of fighting, and followed mounting international alarm over a rising Palestinian civilian death toll. The ceasefire was to be followed by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo on a longer-term solution. Israel launched its offensive in Hamas Islamist-dominated Gaza on 8 July, unleashing air and naval bombardments in response to a surge of cross-border rocket attacks. Tanks and infantry pushed into the territory of 1.8 million on 17 July. Gaza officials say at least 1,499 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and 7,000 wounded. Sixty-one Israeli soldiers have been killed and more than 400 hurt. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets in Israel. Some two hours after the truce went into effect, Israeli tanks and artillery opened fire in the southern Rafah area, and a local hospital said 40 people were killed. The Israeli military had no immediate comment but media reports said the shelling began after Hamas fighters exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers on a mission to destroy infiltration tunnels. (more)

At least 15 killed by Israeli shelling of Gaza school; toll exceeds 760
24 July 2014 - Gazan authorities said Israeli forces shelled a shelter at a UN-run school on Thursday, killing at least 15 people as the Palestinian death toll in the conflict climbed over 760 and attempts at a truce remained elusive. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his horror at the attack on the school at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza strip. 'Many have been killed -- including women and children, as well as UN staff,' he said in a statement. 'Circumstances are still unclear. I strongly condemn this act.' Ban later arrived to Cairo where he was expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been working the telephones to try to broker an elusive truce. Kerry's spokesman said the school attack incident 'underscores the need to end the violence'. (more)


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