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Israeli Publicist: How Could Jewish State Strike Deal With Those Who Don’t Want it to Exist?

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The rocket attacks by Hamas started on 10 May targeting areas near Jerusalem, Ashkelon, and Tel Aviv. The major escalation was preceded by clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian Arabs at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which left at least 300 Palestinians and several dozen Israeli police officers injured.

The clashes in Jerusalem served as the trigger point while the major reason behind Hamas’ attacks against the Jewish state is that the organisation does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, according to Jerusalem-based Israeli publicist and political commentator Avigdor Eskin.

Two Hamas Docs Say Israel Has No Right to Exist

“The reason for the conflict is their raison d’etre – the destruction of Israel and killing of the Jewish people,” the commentator argues, citing the 1988 Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). 

Hamas was founded in 1987 as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood*, an international Sunni Islamist group. The 1988 charter explicitly called for the destruction of Israel and “jihad” against Jews as well as the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine.

Article 13 of the 1988 document stipulated that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” “Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours,” the covenant underscored. 

Since then, a number of countries have designated either Hamas or its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organisation, condemning its calls for violence against Jews as “racism.”


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REUTERS / Mohammed Salem

A picture taken with a drone shows Hamas supporters taking part in a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone planned parliamentary elections, in the northern Gaza Strip on April 30, 2021.

In 2017, Hamas attempted to rebrand itself as an Islamic national liberation movement rather than a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in a bid to break the movement out of its international isolation. The new 2017 programme stated that “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

Despite dropping the explicit language of the original covenant, the document retained:

·         the goal of “liberating” Palestine – the geographical area covering the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip;

·         non-recognition of Israel;

·         justification of the struggle against Israelis by all means possible, arguing that “resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.”

“The establishment of ‘Israel’ is entirely illegal,” claimed the document, rejecting all the agreements, initiatives, settlement projects, and international resolutions “that are aimed at undermining the Palestinian cause.”

While the document calls for “liberation” of Palestine in its entirety, Article 20 remarks that Hamas “considers” the establishment of “a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967.” This comes in an apparent contradiction with the spirit of the programme as the 1967 lines leave part of Palestine’s territory out of Hamas’ claim.

Still, the document does not explicitly supplant the previous charter of the founding fathers. Presenting the new political programme in 2017 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh stated publicly that it would undermine neither the organisation’s principles nor its strategy. 


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AFP 2021 / HATEM MOUSSA

Masked Palestinian Hamas militants display their weapons during a parade in Gaza City. File photo.

Hamas, Suicide Bombing & Qassam Rockets

Since its inception Hamas has engaged in attacks against Israel. Between 1993 and 2000, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) carried out more than 30 suicide bombings, while the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) negotiated peace with Israel within the framework of the Oslo format.

During the Second Intifada (2000-05) which claimed the lives of 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinian Arabs, various Palestinian groups conducted 25,000 assaults against the Jewish state, including 151 suicide attacks, according to the Israel Securities Authority (ISA). Hamas and PIJ were responsible for 65 percent of suicide bombings, which claimed the lives of 515 Israelis.

In addition to this, Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, started firing self-made Qassam rockets, largely targeting Israeli civilian areas, since the early 2000s. Indiscriminate attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians have been repeatedly condemned by international human rights organisations.

Israel’s decision to dismantle Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and completely withdraw from the region in 2005 did not end the violence, says Avigdor Eskin. According to the observer, since then Hamas has only improved its military capabilities and stepped up strikes against Israel. 

In the subsequent years, the Islamist militant group and the Israeli Defence Forces have repeatedly engaged in armed conflicts, with the latest military standoffs among the fiercest.

While some media routinely pins the whole blame on Israel for the civilian casualties, it remains overlooked that Hamas on many occasions uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, argues Eskin.

“Hamas fires the deadly missiles towards Israeli towns and villages targeting almost solely civilian targets,” says the Israeli commentator. “Also, Hamas fires from the heavy populated areas and this is another crime against humanity. When Israel hits the very sources of fire – civilians suffer sometimes. If these facts are ignored, the whole picture would be distorted.”

Eskin notes that it also remains underreported that “when Israel strikes back at Hamas, Palestinian civilians in the area are getting calls from the Israeli side with a warning to leave the area in order to save their lives.”


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REUTERS / AMIR COHEN

Streaks of light are seen as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 16, 2021

What’s Behind the Timing of the Clashes?

Apart from fighting with Israel, Hamas has also clashed with other Palestinian political and militant movements, such as the Fatah Party – formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. The Fatah-Hamas conflict also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War erupted in 2007 and resulted in the split of the Palestinian Authority.

Following the victory of Hamas’ Change and Reform Party in elections for the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006, Fatah and Hamas engaged in a series of disputes and sporadic over power-sharing. After a military standoff between 10 and 15 June 2007, Hamas ousted its rival from the Gaza Strip.

Since that time the PLC joint legislative activities have been frozen. The new parliamentary and presidential polls as well as the Palestinian national council elections were scheduled to be held this year for the first time since 2006.

Some observers wonder as to what prompted Hamas, which is seeking to win in the 2021 vote, to engage in a direct conflict with the Jewish state. A number of American conservative politicians and pundits allege that Donald Trump’s defeat could have “emboldened” the militant group.

​Trump conducted a series of policies in support of Israel including the recognition of Jerusalem, Golan Heights, and the West Bank as Jewish territories. For its part, the Biden administration and the Democratic Party are leaning towards a two-state solution and are expected to recalibrate some of Trump’s Israel policies.

​”Hamas is hoping the Biden administration will pressure Israel to stop the military operation. It remains to be seen if their hopes will come true,” presumes the Israeli commentator.

Currently, Israel’s primary aim is to destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure in order to prevent their attacks for the coming few years, Eskin says. It’s likely that the Israeli operation will stop in a week or two. However, it might lead to yet another temporary cease-fire which would not solve the problem, he argues. The Israeli commentator believes that the disarmament of Hamas’ military wing as well other jihadi militants in Gaza would have improved the odds of resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict and paved the way to peace in the region.

*The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.



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‘Cancer care can’t stop’: flood-hit Assam hospital uses boats to reach patients | Global development

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When the flood water roared into her home in Assam, Jyoti Bora* saw the morphine pills she takes for head and neck cancer swept away along with all her belongings. At the relief camp she was evacuated to, Bora, who uses a wheelchair, found a boat to take her to the hospital to get more medication.

But when she got to Cacher cancer hospital and research centre she found the entrance flooded – the water was 1.5 metres high. A hospital orderly and a nurse were dispatched in a raft, made from planks of plywood tied to tyre inner tubes, to collect her.

“Initially, she refused to get on. She was very frightened. As it is she is frail. But she knew she could not manage without her morphine injection,” says her doctor, surgical oncologist and deputy director of Cacher, Ritesh Tapkire. “That’s how our outpatients have been coming for radiation, chemotherapy and pain relief for the past week.”

About 5 million people in Assam, in India’s north-east, have been affected by the worst floods in decades, which began in April and show little significant signs of easing. Entire villages have been submerged. More than 114,000 hectares (280,000 acres) of crops have been damaged and 5,000 livestock washed away. The army and relief workers are providing food, medicines and drinking water to 780 camps for those displaced by the flooding.

People wade through thigh-high water, some with their possessions in boats.
Nearly a quarter-million people are now living in emergency relief camps in Assam, and many others have constructed their own temporary shelters and cobbled together basic rafts to escape areas cut off by the floods. Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

Cacher hospital, which has 150 beds and treats 20,000 patients a year, got off fairly lightly. One building was flooded at the end of June, along with the nurses’ hostel, but the wards were spared as they are built on higher ground. Radiation and chemotherapy have continued for the 100 patients admitted to the hospital, although a lack of anaesthesia meant only four operations were carried out in a week, instead of the usual 20.

Since the floods, the big issue for staff has been ensuring patients continue receiving treatment. People travel to Cacher hospital from all over the state. It is run by a non-profit and most patients are on low incomes and receive free or subsidised treatment. The north-east of India is known as the “cancer capital” of the country, and cases are double the national average. Lifestyle is a big factor – high consumption of alcohol, betel nut and tobacco – combined with low awareness of symptoms, late detection and a lack of oncologists and facilities to diagnose and treat cases.

Cacher staff have been calling patients who have not kept appointments to check they have enough medication. They have also got into boats to collect people from their homes and bring them to the hospital, and made rafts to take them inside. They have also set up a makeshift outpatient department (OPD) on a patch of dry land outside the hospital to give out basic medicines and pain killers. Morphine injections given here too, in the middle of swirling flood waters, for patients too scared of the raft ride into the hospital.

A patients is escorted to hospital on a makeshift raft constructed out of wood and tyre inner tubes.
A patients is escorted to hospital on a makeshift raft constructed out of wood and tyre inner tubes. Photograph: Handout

“A patient with multiple myeloma came for her chemotherapy session and she refused to get on to the raft. She was petrified. Fortunately, her chemotherapy was only one hour long, did not need close monitoring or have side-effects, so after checking her vitals, we administered it on the dry patch,” says Tapkire.

Last Monday, the niece of an elderly woman with metastatic breast cancer called the hospital in tears, asking for help. The hospital director, Dr Ravi Kannan, dispatched a team from the hospital to collect her. The woman had to be lowered from the second floor of her home, where she and her family had sought safety, into a boat and taken to the hospital.

The State Disaster Response Force has now given the hospital inflatable boats and rafts to make ferrying patients to and from the hospital a little easier.

Kannan is worried people are missing out on treatment. On a normal day, the OPD has between 150 and 200 patients. In the past week, it has seen only 40 people. “We need to reach out to every patient who has not been able to come. Cancer care cannot be interrupted. It bothers us no end,” he says.

Ranjita and Babita Singha.
Ranjita Singha, 60, who has cervical cancer, ran out of morphine and was unable to reach her hospital. Her daughter Babita, right, is her main carer. Photograph: Handout

Ranjita Singha, 60, who has cervical cancer, ran out of morphine and was unable to reach the hospital. Her daughter, Babita Singha, is her main carer.

“When the doctor called, I told them that my mother had only one pill left. They arrived here by boat to give me more pills and also gave her a morphine injection for immediate relief,” says Babita.

The woman with metastatic breast cancer who was rescued from the second floor of her home died the next day. Kannan says he wondered if bringing her to the hospital was the wrong decision. Until he received a note from her niece.

“For days they had sat by her, dreading her dying, surrounded by water, in the dark in the middle of the night. By bringing her to hospital, where she had light and medical care; the niece said we had spared the family the agony of living with such a painful memory,” says Kannan.

* Name changed

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Eduardo Zapateiro: Colombian army chief resigns to avoid appearing beside president-elect Petro at inauguration | International

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General Eduardo Zapateiro, the commander of the Colombian army, resigned on Tuesday to avoid appearing beside president-elect Gustavo Petro at his inauguration on August 7. “After 40 years in service, I bid farewell to the Colombian people, giving my heartfelt thanks to all my soldiers,” he announced.

Zapateiro, who comes from the hardline wing of the armed forces, has been a vocal opponent of the leftist leader. During the presidential election campaign, the army commander controversially spoke out against Petro on Twitter – a move that was condemned as unconstitutional. Incumbent President Iván Duque, however, defended Zapateiro, arguing that the general was sharing his point of view – not taking a political stand.

Zapateiro announced his retirement just one day after Petro told EL PAÍS that he planned to change the leadership of the armed forces. “This leadership was deeply imbued by the political line of the executive [of Iván Duque] now reaching the end of its term. But this path is unsustainable and turns our security forces into a victim, as they have been led to perpetrate grotesque violations of human rights. What we are proposing will make our security forces democratically stronger,” he said in the interview.

The Colombian general has often raised eyebrows with his behavior. Following the death of Jhon “Popeye” Jairo Velásquez, a henchman for drug lord Pablo Escobar who had killed dozens of people, Zapateiro sent his condolences to his family and said he was saddened by his loss. To this day, no one has explained why the general made these statements.

In Colombia, the government and the military have a complex relationship. The country has fought for decades against guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The ongoing armed struggle placed the military in a position of great power. Indeed until the 1990s, the armed forces controlled the Defense Ministry. As in many other countries, the Colombian armed forces are a conservative group that is highly suspicious of leftist ideas. The peace agreement, for example, that ended five decades of conflict with the FARC, divided Colombia’s troops. Zapateiro initially supported the accords, but over time, became an outspoken critic.

What kind of relationship Petro will form with the military remains to be seen. As a politician, he has been very critical of the army’s focus on targeting internal enemies. The Colombian armed forces have been fighting against guerrilla groups and drug gangs for decades. During this conflict, they have often overstepped their bounds and violated human rights.

In the early 2000s, a scandal broke in Colombia when it was revealed that military officers were carrying out summary executions of innocent civilians and listing them as guerrillas killed in combat. These so-called “false positives” took place in different regions of the country between 2002 and 2008 and were used as proof of performance by military units and to collect “kill fees” awarded by the government of former president Álvaro Uribe. A total of 6,402 innocent people are estimated to have been killed in these summary executions. Just a few months ago, several civilians also died in suspicious circumstances during an army operation in Putumayo.

With Petro elected as Colombia’s first leftist president in modern history, it was no longer tenable to have Zapeteiro leading the armed forces. The Colombian newspaper El Espectador published an editorial to that effect, with the headline: “Isn’t it time to retire, General Zapateiro?”

Petro aims to tackle corruption within the army, which he believes is home to extremist factions. “There are currents in the far right that must be eliminated. Some are talking openly about coups and things like that. But look, within the army there are no factions friendly to Petro, there are factions friendly to the Constitution,” Petro told EL PAÍS.

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Canada should focus on abortion access not legislation, advocates say | Global development

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Abortion advocates are warning that the recent US supreme court ruling overturning Roe v Wade will empower anti-choice groups in Canada to push for restricted access, making a settled matter appear controversial in a country where nearly 80% of people are pro-choice.

A key anti-choice strategy in Canada revolves around enacting abortion legislation – an idea that has been gaining traction amid the fallout of the US court ruling. There is currently no abortion law in Canada, making it the only country in the world where the procedure is totally free of legal restrictions.

“There’s a lot of talk right now about whether or not the Canadian government should pass a proactive law protecting our right to abortion – a pre-emptive strike, if you will. That would be a big mistake,” said Daphne Gilbert, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

Gilbert and other abortion advocates say that while enshrining abortion rights may sound progressive, the opposite is true: consolidating rules would make it easier for anti-choice legislators to retract abortion rights if ever they found themselves in a majority. Last year, 81 Conservative MPs (and one independent) voted for anti-choice legislation.

And while the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, promised Canadians after Roe that his government would “always stand up for your right to choose”, advocates argue that may not always be true.

That’s why the country should focus on entrenching people’s rights by expanding abortion access, said Gilbert.

Since it became legal in a 1988 supreme court ruling, abortion in Canada has been designated as a medical service like any other, on par with procedures like X-rays and blood tests. But that doesn’t make it easy to get – especially in remote, religious or conservative parts of the country.

In 2014, Sarah (who asked to remain anonymous) sought an abortion on Prince Edward Island (PEI) – a province of 30,000 that, at the time, did not have a single publicly operating abortion provider.

It took Sarah a month to finally secure a provider – five hours away, in another province. The trip incurred travel and lodging costs, but the procedure itself was covered by the healthcare authority.

“The idea that anybody has to travel to take care of something that you should be able to get done close to home – it’s not fine,” said Sarah. Abortion care only arrived on PEI in 2017, after activists sued the provincial government for acting unconstitutionally.

Although there is no federal law, each province’s medical college sets its own guidelines on abortion, including gestational age limits for use of the abortion pill.

Those guidelines are shaped by the skills and training available in each province, said Martha Paynter, an abortion care provider in Nova Scotia and the author of the new book Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada.

But there is also a political dimension to providing abortion care that prevents some doctors and nurse practitioners from taking it up.

“More people could be doing it than are doing it,” said Paynter. “We as educators – I’m a prof at a nursing school – have the responsibility to teach in every medical and nursing program how to do this care, and hardly [any school] does it.”

Paynter is the creator of the country’s first university abortion course, at Dalhousie University, which is open to students across medical, nursing and other health programs with the purpose of inspiring future health workers to integrate abortion access into primary care.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists offers an online course to teach professionals how to prescribe and manage medical abortion.

But most students and healthcare professionals are not required to learn about how medication and surgical abortion work – and many choose to abstain because they are afraid to enter the political fray around abortion.

According to Gilbert, that means a lot of primary care providers stay wilfully uninformed.

“A lot of doctors just aren’t political people. They’re scientists, and they don’t see the politics behind some of their care,” she said.

Further complicating access is the fact that many Canadians are unaware that nurse practitioners in the country are permitted to prescribe the abortion pill and refer patients to surgical abortion providers – or that most patients can self-refer directly to an abortion provider.

Addressing these issues is critical to expanding existing access to medication and surgical abortion, said Paynter and Gilbert.

In 2017, Natalie (also a pseudonym) discovered she was pregnant while visiting her parents in a small town in northern Alberta. After one doctor at a local walk-in clinic told her abortion was murder, she demanded an appointment with a different doctor.

That doctor told her that there was no such thing as medical abortion. “He looked me in the face and said, ‘That doesn’t exist,’” she said.

Mifegymiso – otherwise known as the abortion pill – was approved by Health Canada in 2015, but had only recently hit the market when Natalie found herself at the doctor’s office.

“I know it exists. It’s literally the front page of the news,” she told him.

Still, she went away empty-handed. She was only able to get an abortion after returning to her home province of New Brunswick, where only three hospitals and one clinic provide abortion. Natalie went to the clinic, where she paid $800 for a surgical abortion – a cost incurred because the province refuses to pay for abortions performed outside of hospitals.

New Brunswick is currently being sued for its restriction of abortion.

Stories like those of Sarah and Natalie show how abortion remains inaccessible in Canada, despite its federal legal standing.

“Our greatest problems really come in terms of provinces and what they may do to restrict access to abortion in light of what I think is now going to be a really emboldened anti-choice movement,” said Gilbert.

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