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Palestinian protest on Gaza border turns deadly

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests on Friday. The five sites have been set up from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah, where it meets the Egyptian border in the south. At least 12 Palestinians were killed on Friday: two of them by Israeli tank fire, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The same source said 400 people were wounded by live Israeli gunfire and others were struck by rubber bullets or treated for the effects of tear gas. Organizers had called on demonstrators to stay away from the border area but as the day wore on, hundreds of young people moved closer to the frontier, from where the Israeli military kept watch. Disproportionate force? The Israeli military said Palestinians rolled burning tires and threw stones at the Israeli forces, who responded with live bullets, tear gas and fired at what they called the "main instigators." Witnesses said the Israeli military used a drone to drop tear gas over at least one location. Three sites in particular were targeted with tank fire and an airstrike after the Israelis claimed there had been a shooting attack against their soldiers. No Israeli soldier was injured. Palestinians, and Turkish authorities, accused Israel of using disproportionate force. The protest, which has the backing of Hamas, is expected to last more than six weeks, as US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital becomes final when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. On Friday evening, organizers encouraged demonstrators to withdraw from the border area until Saturday. 'A message to Trump' "The Great March of Return is a message to Trump," Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of the Hamas political bureau, told the crowds. "There is no concession to Jerusalem, no alternative to Palestine, and no solution but to return. This is the Palestinian people taking the initiative and making the event for the sake of Palestine ... for the sake of Jerusalem and the right of return," Haniyeh said. The protests began as Palestinians marked Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976. Dubbed "The Great March of Return," organizers said the rallies would continue until May 15 when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or "catastrophe," where more than 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were expelled during the war that led to the creation of Israel in 1948. The date is one day after the new US Embassy in Jerusalem is expected to be formally opened. According to the United Nations, about 1.3 million of Gaza's 2 million residents are refugees or the descendants of refugees, and the protest is calling for them to be allowed to return to land that has been taken by Israel. Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know jm,law/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests ... Read More »

UN: Middle East conflicts keep 13 million children out of school

About 13.7 million school age children from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan are not in school because of conflict, a new UNICEF report says. It warns of 'losing a generation' of children. Forty percent of school-aged children from five war-torn Middle Eastern countries are not attending school, the United Nations agency for children (UNICEF) said Thursday. The report warns that a lack of education would lead to more militancy, migration and a dark future for the region as a whole. "We are on the verge of losing a generation of children in this region," Peter Salama, UNICEF's regional chief, told the AP news agency. "We must act now or we will certainly regret the consequences." The dropout rate could increase to 50 percent in coming months as conflicts intensify, he warned. In a report on the impact of conflict on education in six countries and territories across the region, UNICEF says more than 8,850 schools were no longer usable due to violence. It detailed cases of students and teachers coming under direct fire, classrooms used as makeshift bomb shelters and children having to risk crossing firing lines to take exams. "It's not just the physical damage being done to schools," Salama said, "but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered." In its report, UNICEF calls for better informal education services in countries affected by school closures and for donor nations to prioritize education funding throughout the Middle East. Syria The Syrian conflict - now in its fifth year - has been devastating for children. One in four schools have been closed since the conflict erupted, causing more than 2 million children to drop out and putting close to half a million in danger of losing their schooling as 52,000 teachers have left their posts. "Even those Syrian teachers who have ended up as refugees in other countries have faced obstacles which prevent them from working," the report said. Yemen One of the worst direct attacks on a school in the region came in Yemen, where 13 staff and four children were killed in an assault on a teachers' office in the western city of Amran. "The killing, abduction and arbitrary arrest of students, teachers and education personnel have become commonplace" in the region, the report said. Hundreds of schools and colleges have been closed since March, when a a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on Iran-backed Houthi rebels who had seized the capital Sanaa and several parts of the country. A least seven schools in Yemen have been requisitioned by warring forces to be used as makeshift barracks or shelters for displaced families, the report said. Palestinian Territories In the embattled Gaza Strip, which saw a 50-day war last year between Hamas militants and Israel's military kill about 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side, the UN said at least 281 schools had been damaged, and eight "completely destroyed." "My children were injured in a school. They saw people injured with missing hands or legs, with wounded faces and eyes," the report quoted Gaza mother-of-two Niveen as saying. "They no longer see school as a safe place." Iraq Violence in Iraq, where pro-government forces are battling the self-styled Islamic State militant group has had a severe impact on the schooling of at least 950,000 children. The report detailed scenes among the 1,200 schools in Iraqi host communities that have been turned into shelters for those displaced by violence, with up to nine families per classroom forced to prepare meals in courtyards. Libya, Sudan Conflict has also affected child learning in Libya - still reeling from the 2011 ouster of dictator Moammer Gadhafi - with more than half of those displaced reporting that their children have not enrolled in school. In the second city of Benghazi alone, the UN said just 65 of 239 schools are still open. In Sudan, the agency said high numbers of internally displaced families fleeing violence in Darfur and South Kordofan states were putting incredible strain on the country's marginal education infrastructure.

About 13.7 million school age children from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan are not in school because of conflict, a new UNICEF report says. It warns of ‘losing a generation’ of children. Forty percent of school-aged children from five war-torn Middle Eastern countries are not attending school, the United Nations agency for children (UNICEF) said Thursday. The report warns ... Read More »

Ban calls for end to ‘suffering’ in West Bank, Gaza

The UN secretary general has called for an end to the cycle of war that has plagued Gaza. Egyptian officials are shuttling between Israelis and Palestinians to secure an end to the latest war to devastate the territory. On Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a meeting of the General Assembly in New York by saying the UN would help rebuild Gaza - but, he warned, the destruction of the Palestinian territory could not resume. A truce began on Tuesday, when Israel withdrew after nearly a month of airstrikes and ground shelling that displaced about a half a million people, or nearly a third of Gaza's residents. "The senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, must end," Ban told the 193-nation assembly. "Do we have to continue like this?" he asked. "Build, destroy and build and destroy? We will build again, but this must be the last time to rebuild. This must stop now." Israel's bombardment, which began June 8, killed 1,875 in Gaza, about 75 percent of them civilians. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers died. Three noncombatants were killed by rockets fired from Gaza. Addressing the UN General Assembly, Ban said people on both sides of the conflict had the right to lives "free from fear." Jordan has circulated a resolution calling for investigations into Israel's bombardment of UN-run schools on July 24, July 31 and August 3, which killed dozens of civilians fleeing strikes elsewhere in Gaza. On Wednesday, Ban, who just Sunday had condemned the most recent of those attacks, thanked UN staff working in Gaza for their bravery and sacrifice and said that the flag of the United Nations would fly at half-mast Thursday to honor colleagues killed. Ambassador Dina Kawar said the main purpose of Jordan's draft resolution was to make permanent the 72-hour cessation of hostilities, first agreed to on Monday. A truce that went into effect on August 1 ended almost as soon as it began. In a press conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that soldiers had not intentionally killed any civilians and put the blame for any deaths on Hamas. "Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one," he said. Netanyahu added that Israel would aid in the reconstruction of Gaza. 'Start reconstructing' While Ban spoke in New York, Egyptian leaders were hosting indirect talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials in Cairo. Led by a member of Fatah, the internationally backed party of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian negotiations team also includes envoys from the groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which has dominated Gaza since 2007. "The most important thing to us is removing the blockade and start reconstructing Gaza," the Palestinian delegate Bassam Salhi said on Wednesday, referring to an eight-year siege by Israel that has kept necessary reconstruction materials out of the territory. "There can be no deal without that." Israel seeks Gaza's demilitarization, a move backed by the US, but one that Hamas does not appear ready to give ground on yet.

The UN secretary general has called for an end to the cycle of war that has plagued Gaza. Egyptian officials are shuttling between Israelis and Palestinians to secure an end to the latest war to devastate the territory. On Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a meeting of the General Assembly in New York by saying the UN would help rebuild ... Read More »

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