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Monday, September 1, 2014 - 5
Rafah (Gaza Strip)
The first of August dawned as a day
of promise for the Mahmoum clan
and thousands of other Palestinians
stuck in United Nations shelters in
Rafah thanks to a temporary cease-
fire with Israel they could go home
for three days.
But the expected respite quickly
turned into one of the deadliest
and most controversial episodes in
the recent war between Israel and
Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After just
two hours, amid fear that Hamas
had captured an Israeli soldier, the
Israeli military sealed off the Rafah
area and began shelling. By the end
of the next day, 190 Palestinians were
dead, according to a list of names
compiled by two Gaza human rights
groups, including 14 members of the
The Rafah operation is most certain
to be a focus of UN investigators and
rights groups looking into possible
war crimes because it highlights a key
concern: The treatment of civilians.
A Palestinian rights group argues
that the Israelis violated the rules
of war, which include giving
adequate warning to civilians, using
proportionate force and distinguishing
between civilians and combatants.
Unlike in many other Gaza battles,
civilians were caught by surprise by
the sudden fire and sealed exits.
“None of the rules of international
humanitarian law was obser ved,”
Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al
Mezan rights group said.
The Israeli military confirmed that
Rafah residents were barred from
leaving the area on August 1, but
declined comment on the war crime
allegations. It denied firing into a
densely populated area without regard
for civilians, saying precise air strikes
hit targets linked to militants and
artillery though inherently inaccurate
was aimed only at open fields.
Late on August 2, the suspected
capture of the soldier turned out to be
a false alarm, and the Rafah episode is
one of several under internal military
“ If we accidentally or mistakenly
targeted a civilian situation, it was a
mistake, and we are very sorry about
that,” an officer from the Southern
Command said on condition of
anonymity as he was not authorised
to speak on the record.
The following account is from
inter views with Palestinian sur vivors
and the Israeli military, along with
events witnessed by media.
The ceasefire took effect at 8am
on Friday. Mustafa Mahmoum, a
municipal bulldozer operator, was at
work clearing rubble from previous
Israeli strikes. But after weeks in a
shelter, his wife Iqzayer, 34, and their
seven children returned to the family
home in Tannour in east Rafah, about
3km from the Israeli border.
A few houses down O uroba Street,
the main thoroughfare, Azizeh, 47,
the wife of one of Mustafa’s cousins,
and her nine children also moved
back home into their two-room
shack with a roof of corrugated metal.
At 9am, the commander of Israel’s
Givati Brigade, Colonel Ofer Winter,
had just dozed off after a sleepless
night when he received an alert from
Givati soldiers searching for Hamas’
network of military tunnels had been
ambushed by Hamas gunmen, he
was told. O ver the next half hour, it
became apparent that Major Benaya
Sarel, a reconnaissance officer, and
Liel Gidoni, his radio operator, had
been killed, and second lieutenant
Hadar Goldin was missing.
At 9.36am, Winter announced
over the field radio the word nobody
wanted to hear: “Hannibal.”
Hannibal is the name for the
military protocol to be followed if
a soldier falls into enemy hands.
The aim is to stop the capture, even
if it means loosening open-fire
Winter ordered all forces to take
territory so that the kidnappers could
not move, he told Israel’s Yediot
The officer in the Southern
Command, which oversaw the Gaza
fighting, said the brigade tried to seal
off an area with a radius of 2-3km
around the suspected capture point,
1.6km from the border. O ver the next
eight hours, soldiers fired about 500
artillery shells, he said. The military
said it also launched about 100 air
strikes against targets in Rafah on
August 1 and 2, but did not provide a
breakdown for each day.
The priority was to rescue Goldin.
“That ’s why we used all this force,”
Winter told the newspaper. “ Those
who kidnap need to know they will
pay a price. This was not revenge.
They simply messed with the wrong
The assault began sometime before
10am, sending Azizeh Mahmoum
and her children fleeing from their
shack to Mustafa’s sturdier brick
home. Within minutes relatives
gathered. As the fire became more
intense, they no longer felt safe.
So they ran across O uroba Street
in groups, trying to reach a small,
narrow alley for cover. The alley lay
next to a supermarket owned by the
Bilbesis, a relatively wealthy family,
and led toward a hospital.
As they ran, Azizeh’s son Hani, 23,
was struck by a projectile.
“I saw his body flying into the air
in front of me,” his brother, Sami, 20,
That was just the start. His mother
and three siblings Wafa, 25, Asma,
16, and Yehiyeh, 13 all died.
A cousin, Anam Mahmoum
Hamad, had just entered the alley
when the wall of a house collapsed
from a drone strike. It killed
Mustafa’s wife, she said, and another
four children Bissan, 10, Hiba, seven,
Duaa, three, and Obada, two.
Others kept running, including
Mustafa’s 24-year-old sister, Halima,
barefoot over the scorching asphalt.
The shells rained all over, in front of
her and behind, she said.
By noon, an AP journalist saw at
least 20 bodies along Ouroba Street.
The Bilbesis administered first
aid to the wounded who made it
to the basement of their building
on O uroba Street. An ambulance
eventually evacuated some of them.
In the meantime, Abu Yousef al-
Najar Hospital was filling up with
hundreds of people running from
the fire or searching for the missing.
By the day’s end, 63 bodies were
squeezed into the morgue, hospital
director Dr Abdullah Shehadeh said.
At one point he heard shells falling
every 10 seconds, he said.
Hamad, the Mahmoum cousin,
had been at the hospital for about
two hours when medics brought in
the lower body of her four-year-old
son, Anas. She said she recognised his
That evening, with concerns that the
Israeli soldier could be smuggled out,
the military warned in automated
calls to residents that any vehicle
trying to leave Rafah would be shot.
The next day, Mustafa returned
to O uroba Street to search for the
bodies of his wife and four dead
children. He found them near the
Bilbesi supermarket amid the debris.
“ It was hard,” he said, struggling to
keep his composure.
The heavy Israeli fire continued
on Saturday, including air strikes
on homes that killed several dozen
people, according to the Gaza-
based Palestinian Centre for Human
By late that day, it had become clear
that Goldin, the 23-year-old soldier,
had been not captured but killed in
a firefight. After forensic analysis of
remains found in the tunnel, he was
It was not until Sunday that some
bodies on O uroba Street could be
“ It was a horrible scene,” Ghassan
Bilbesi, son of the supermarket
owner, said. “ People had lost their
hands, their arms.”
Mustafa’s wife and children were
buried on Monday, August 4, in the
sandy soil of a new cemetery on the
edge of Rafah, in a row of 14 still
unmarked, cinder block-lined graves.
Hamad has no idea where her son’s
In all, 121 Palestinians were killed
in Rafah on August 1 and 69 on
August 2, according to the Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights and Al
Mezan rights group, which compiled
the names. The dead included 55
children, 36 women and five men
over the age of 60.
In the Tannour and adjacent
Jneineh neighbourhoods alone, 37
people were killed on August 1, the
rights groups say. The Mahmoum
clan lost seven children, six women
and a young man.
The losses played into a bigger
debate over the uneven death toll in
the war. More than 2140 Palestinians
were killed, three-quarters civilians,
according to the UN. On the Israeli
side, 72 people were killed, all but six
Israel said it warned civilians to leave
targeted areas through automated
calls and leaflets, and accused Hamas
of putting civilians at risk by using
them as human shields in crowded
neighbourhoods. The military said
the events in Rafah, along with others,
are under review by officers who were
not part of the chain of command.
The conclusion will be handed to the
army ’s advocate-general.
Even if the findings of UN
investigators are months away,
Mustafa Mahmoum is determined
to demand justice for his family and
trial for Israeli officials who ordered
the Rafah attack. Trying to rescue
a soldier does not justify killing
civilians, he said.
“ Even in war,” he said, “children are
protected.” — AP
Israeli fire raises war crimes claim
Insults, egg-throwing and rage —
the campaign ahead of Scotland’s
independence referendum is heating up,
even forcing an inter vention by British
Prime Minister David Cameron.
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit
of heckling but throwing things isn’t
necessarily part of the democratic
process,” Cameron said overnight, after
a “No” campaigner was pelted with eggs.
“I ’ve always thought that it isn’t right to
throw eggs at people — I had one myself
in Cornwall once, it ’s an interesting
experience,” the prime minister told
The victim of the egg attack, Jim
Murphy, said he was temporarily
suspending his grassroots campaign,
accusing the “ Yes” campaign of
employing intimidation tactics.
Pro-independence leader Alex Salmon
also condemned the incident but said
he too had been a victim of harassment,
being chased by an angry driver
brandishing a “No” sign.
“All politicians should beware, yes of
course we call for good conduct, on-line
and off-line, yes of course we do.
“But don’t confuse the actions of a few
people with the 99.9% of the people
of Scotland who are enjoying the most
debate in our political history,” he said.
Earlier last week, Douglas Alexander,
a top Labour politician of Scottish
origin, said the referendum was dividing
Scotland after being branded a “ liar” on
a live radio phone-in.
Alexander said the challenge would be
to “ bring Scotland together” after the
vote and said he had been called “scum”,
a “quisling” and “Judas” after speaking
out in favour of unity. — AFP
Sir Paul McCartney has
become the latest celebrity
to call for Scotland to
stay part of the United
Kingdom ahead of the
country’s historic vote on
The music legend made
the declaration as the Let ’s
Stay Together campaign
sought support on the
streets of Liverpool on
Saturday, organisers said.
Sir Paul added his name
to an open letter to voters
which says: “ The decision
on whether to leave our shared country
is, of course, absolutely yours alone.
“Nevertheless, that decision will have a
huge effect on all of us in the rest of the
“ We want to let you know how very
much we value our bonds of citizenship
with you, and to express our hope that
you will vote to renew them.
“ What unites us is much greater than
what divides us. Let ’s stay together.”
Let ’s Stay Together say more than
50,000 people have put their names to the
letter ahead of next month’s referendum,
with several hundred celebrities and
public figures giving their
Sir Mick Jagger, Sir
Bruce Forsyth, Dame Judi
Dench, Simon Cowell
and Professor Stephen
Hawking are also among
England World Cup
winner Sir Bobby Charlton
joined them yesterday, the
“Sir Paul is one of
Britain and the world’s
most respected musicians.
We are humbled that he
has signed the letter,”
television historian Dan Snow, one of
the campaign co-ordinators for Let ’s
Stay Together, said.
“Sir Paul’s signature, alongside Sir
Mick Jagger’s and those of tens of
thousands of people from all over the
country, shows that English, Welsh and
Northern Irish people hope passionately
that the Scottish vote to renew their
bonds of citizenship with us.
“The decision is for the Scottish voters
alone. L et ’s Stay Together simply want
them to know that we hope that they
will stay part of our shared country.”
McCartney urges Scots
to stay with UK
Sir Paul McCartney
Referendum campaign turns nasty
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
The six-member Gulf Co-operation
Council has strongly condemned
Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and
Syria and their extreme interpretation
of Islam as it opened a meeting in
“ We denounce vehemently the
practices of those who use Islam as a
pretext to kill and displace en masse
Iraqis and Syrians,” Kuwait Foreign
Minister Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah
said in Jeddah yesterday.
He added that the regional body,
consisting of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,
United Arab Emirates, Kuwait,
Qatar and Oman, supported a
United Nations Security Council
resolution earlier this month aimed
at weakening the jihadists.
IS has declared an Islamic “caliphate”
in large swathes of territory under its
control in Iraq and Syria.
The resolution in mid-August
called “on all member states to take
national measures to suppress the
flow of foreign terrorist fighters”, and
threatens sanctions against anyone
involved in their recruitment.
The minister from Kuwait, which
holds the rotating GCC’s presidency,
also said the body welcomed a
ceasefire on Tuesday that ended a
deadly 50-day war between Israel and
Hamas in Gaza.
Al-Sabah called for “international
protection for the Palestinian people”
and a lifting of Israel’s blockade of
Gaza, as well as reconstruction in the
He also made a plea for the
resumption of a lasting peace
settlement to “establish a Palestinian
state with east Jerusalem as its capital
based on the 1967 borders”. — AFP
Gulf monarchies condemn IS extremists
Three friends have struck gold
after a German artist buried
thousands of pounds worth of the
precious metal on a British beach.
Berlin-based Michael Sailstorfer
has hidden 30 bars of 24-carat gold,
worth £10,000 ($19,871), under
the sand of the Outer Harbour
beach in Folkestone as part of the
town’s triennial arts festival.
Kevin Wood, Kirsty Henderson
and her sister Megan became the
first confirmed finders on Friday
evening when they unearthed a
£500 piece after digging for an
hour at low tide.
The trio had travelled from
Canterbury after hearing about the
gold rush on Twitter.
Describing the moment he got
lucky, Wood, 28, said: “My legs
went from under me and I started
“I put it quietly in my pocket. We
left the beach and half way home,
we pulled over for a drink.”
The Folkestone Digs project is
part of the town’s triennial which
has previously included work by
artists including Tracey Emin,
Jeremy Deller and Martin Creed.
Artists including Yoko Ono are
taking part in this year’s festival
which runs from August 30 to
November 2. — PA
First beach diggers strike gold in England
People dig for gold on the Outer Harbour beach in Folkestone.
Canberra is ready to campaign to warn
Australians against travelling to Thailand
to have children by way of a surrogacy
programme if new Thai legislation bans
Australia’s Permanent Secretary for
the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade, Peter Varghese, made the
comments last night after talks with
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs head,
Thailand and Australia are working out
a transition process for an expected 150
Australian couples and Thai surrogate
mothers expected to give birth over the
Up to 10 couples with 14 children have
left Thailand or are preparing to leave
Officials had warned Thailand may
impose a requirement for couples to seek a
court order to allow them to leave Thailand,
a process that could take months.
New Thai legislation covering surrogacy
programmes is being debated amid
an expected total ban on commercial
surrogacy, an end to advertising and
promotions, the shutting down of
surrogate agents’ businesses and closure
of unregistered clinics.
Varghese said if Thailand opted for
a total ban on commercial surrogacy,
Australians would be warned against
seeking the procedure in Thailand.
“ If the result of that legislation is a ban
on commercial surrogacy then we will
do everything in our power to inform
Australians and advise them of the
contents of the legislation,” he said.
Varghese held talks with Thailand’s
acting permanent secretary of justice,
and officials from the Thai social welfare
department. The talks centred on setting
in place transitional arrangements for
Australians expecting children from
Thai surrogate mothers over the next 12
months. — AAP
Bakers in Bavaria are threatening
to go on strike during Germany ’s
famed Oktoberfest over a pay
dispute, depriving beer festival-
goers of their traditional salty pretzel
accompaniment, a media report says.
“If we don’t get any further by
mid-September, we’ ll strike in the
bakeries,” Focus news magazine
quoted deputy regional president of
the NGG gastronomy union Mustafa
Oz as saying in today ’s edition.
“Then there’ ll be a lack of pretzels
and bread rolls” at the Oktoberfest,
The union is negotiating on behalf
of 48,000 employees of the bakery
sector in southern Bavaria State but
so far the proposals by employers
have fallen far short of their call for
a 6.5% wage rise.
The 181st edition of the world-
famous Oktoberfest beer festival in
Munich begins on September 20,
and is expected to draw millions
of visitors. Millions of litre-sized
Mass glasses of frothy beer help
wash down traditional foods.
Bakers signal Oktoberfest pretzel strike
The United States sees
overnight of a land
appropriation for possible
settlement construction in
the occupied West Bank
to peace efforts and urges
the Israeli government
to reverse the decision, a
State Department official
Israel laid claim to
nearly 400ha in the
Etzion settlement bloc
near Bethlehem, a move
which an anti-settlement
group termed the biggest
appropriation in 30 years
and a Palestinian official
said would cause more
friction after the Gaza war.
like every other
Israel makes, planning
step they approve and
they issue is counter-
productive to Israel’s
stated goal of a negotiated
two-state solution with
the Palestinians,” the US
official said. “ We urge the
government of Israel to
reverse this decision,” the
official said. — Reuters
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Nominations are required for:
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4. Best team performance of the year
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achievement does not necessarily have to
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Covering the period from
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Nomination must be accompanied by relevant
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Nominations close, Friday September 5, 2014
Guest Speaker: John Morrison
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