international committee of the red cross and red crescent

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Gaza ceasefire reveals full extent of Israeli destruction
July 26, 2014

Thousands of people in Gaza have ventured out from homes and shelters during a 12-hour ceasefire to find that whole streets and neighbourhoods have been destroyed in the last week.

Israel and Hamas both agreed to a UN request to stop fighting from 8am until 8pm on Saturday. Shortly before the ceasefire took effect, at least 18 members of the al-Najar family, including many children, were killed in an air strike on Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. The family had recently gone there to escape fighting in a nearby village, a Palestinian health official said.

As the Palestinian death toll in the 19-day-long conflict topped 1,000, diplomatic efforts to forge a longer ceasefire continued in Paris. Foreign ministers from seven nations – the US, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Qatar – called for an extension of Saturday’s 12-hour humanitarian truce.

The group had convened, along with a senior EU representative, at the request of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, who failed to win Israeli or Hamas backing for a week-long truce on Friday. There were no envoys from Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority.

“All of us call on the parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire that is currently under way,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said.

n Gaza, scenes of devastation were discovered by those who returned to areas which had been the centre of particularly intense fighting, such as Shujai'iya, Beit Hanoun and around Khan Younis. Scores of homes were pulverised, roads were blocked with wreckage, and power cables dangled in the streets.

Many of those attempting to check the condition of their homes, retrieve possessions and, in some cases, search for the bodies of relatives seemed dazed by what they found. Some who had not seen each other for days embraced as they surveyed the wreckage around them. Ambulances with wailing sirens and donkey carts loaded with mattresses and pots clogged the streets.

In other areas, Palestinians rushed to stock up with food and essentials, and get cash from banks and ATMs, ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which starts on Monday.

In Beit Hanoun, close to the border, Israeli tanks stood by as people searched through the debris for their belongings, packing whatever they could – blankets, furniture and clothes – into taxis, trucks, rickshaws and carts before fleeing the town.

Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat weeping on the steps of a small grocery store. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed. “Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone,” she said.

Some people were defiant. One woman pulled a black-and-white Palestinian scarf from the rubble, shouting: “They won’t take away our pride. We’ll wear this to Jerusalem and the day of victory is close.”

Others were resigned. Zaki al-Masri noted quietly that both his house and that of his son had been destroyed. “The Israelis will withdraw, tomorrow or the day after, and we’ll be left in this awful situation as usual.”

At the nearby hospital, six patients and 33 medical staff had spent the night huddled in the X-ray department as the neighbourhood was shelled, said the director, Bassam Abu Warda. A tank shell had hit the second floor of the building, leaving a gaping hole, and the facade was peppered with holes from large-calibre bullets.

Two Red Crescent ambulances were hit in Beit Hanoun overnight, killing a medic and wounding three, one critically, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. On Saturday, rescue workers pulled the scorched body of the medic from the wrecked vehicle, which had been hit about 200 metres from the hospital.

“Targeting ambulances, hospitals and medical workers is a serious violation of the law of war,” said Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories.

In areas that had seen intense fighting, 85 bodies were pulled from the rubble, many of them partially decomposed, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Fighters were also among the dead, said the Gaza Civil Defence spokesman Said al-Saoudi.

Speaking in Cairo on Friday, Kerry said he was confident there was a framework for a ceasefire agreement that would ultimately succeed and that “serious progress” had been made, although there was more work to do.

Kerry, who, along with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, has been leading international efforts to reach a truce, has been in regular contact with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar as both countries wield influence on Hamas.

Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon, said on Friday that the military offensive could expand in the coming days. “At the end of the operation, Hamas will have to think very hard if it is worth it to taunt us in the future.”

Israeli troops have so far uncovered 31 tunnels in Gaza and destroyed half of them. Israel considers the tunnels to be a strategic threat because militants have used them to launch surprise attacks inside the country.

The Israeli government has also begun suggesting that Gaza be demilitarised as a condition for a permanent ceasefire so that Hamas cannot rearm itself. The current war is the third in Gaza in just over five years.

Hamas says it will not halt its rocket until it receives international assurances that Gaza’s seven-year-old border blockade will be lifted. Israel and Egypt tightened the blockade after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

The violence spread to the West Bank and East Jerusalem late this week. Nine Palestinians have been killed as protests over the bloodshed in Gaza have erupted into clashes with Israeli security forces. Hundreds more have been wounded, many with gunshot injuries.

On Thursday night, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza near the Palestinian administrative capital of Ramallah. Protesters surged against an Israeli army checkpoint, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation called for more demonstrations in the West Bank but said it was helping to try to secure a ceasefire deal.

As well as more than 1,000 dead in Gaza, at least 6,000 people have been injured. The UN said more than 160,000 people had sought shelter in its buildings, and thousands more had fled their homes to stay with relatives and friends in what are thought to be safer areas.

The Israel Defence Forces said 40 soldiers had been killed in the conflict. Three Israeli civilians have also died in rocket attacks.

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Human Migration: Involuntary Migration

Note: Stories, facts, and information provided here are not meant as encouragements for writers to simply insert into their works. Additional research may be needed. They should only be used as inspiration and to help with understanding how cultures are put together. Please use this knowledge to inform your own culture creations without full appropriation. Find the rest of the series here.

Refugee includes any person who is outside their country of origin and unable or unwilling to return there or to avail themselves of its protection on account of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group, or political opinion. Crossing an international boundary is required.

Those who move internally become internally displaced peoples or displacees.

Asylum refers to protection granted by a nation to a person who cannot return to their home country for fear of prosecution. The person seeking asylum is an asylee.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR @ unhcr.org), established in 1950, works in 125 countries with approximately 34 million people. UNHCR is authorized to lead and coordinate international actions to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. The primary purposes of the UNHCR include:

  • safeguarding rights and well-being of refugees
  • ensuring the right to seek asylum and finding safe refuge in another country, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally, or to resettle in a third country
  • also mandated to help stateless people–those without citizenship or nationality

Refugee policies in the United States are handled by the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). The PRM works closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and with UNHCR. They support safe, orderly, and legal migration, with a focus on human rights of migrants, protection for asylum-seekers, and support for anti-trafficking efforts. They provide assistance to vulnerable migrants and encourage rapid, successful integration.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an independent and neutral organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, and was established in 1863. The ICRC works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence to promote laws that protect victims of war. They are active in at least 80 countries, and are financed by voluntary donations from governments and from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

There are huge problems with the way the US deals with refugees. Refugee policy operates on a principle of “calculated kindness.” Unfortunately, kindness and hospitality toward refugees have been influenced by foreign policy concerns, domestic political battles, and a cultural logic that generally considers adaptation to be a matter of economic independence and self-sufficiency. The model of personhood adopted by the US resettlement system is inattentive to experiences, cultures, and capacities of incoming refugee groups. Contemporary US refugee resettlement policy defines adaptive success in terms that are different from those attributed to the notion by refugees themselves, and it practices often detract from its aims.

The US puts a major emphasis on rapid employment, however, without language skills and the guidance needed to secure well-paying jobs, rapidly employed refugees find themselves facing impossible odds to make ends meet. In many cases, individuals have to work two or more jobs, disrupting family ties that otherwise serve as sources of moral support in an alien environment. Chances of long-term success are greater with increased English language fluency (or fluency in the language the refugee is trying to integrate into). Policy should recognize that, though it is initially time-intensive, learning English should take precedence over rapid employment. The emphasis on rapid employment and the requirement to accept any job offer offer often means working long hours for low wages. This can have negative repercussions in terms of refugee families’ economic, physical, and emotional health and stability, as well as their ability to absorb the culture of their new environment. The emphasis on rapid employment can also lead to a disregard for the skills carried over from the country of origin. Without English skills and time to seek out opportunities and resources to acquire new credentials, capable doctors, engineers, and professors often have to accept low-level jobs that don’t acknowledge their past professional training and experience. Obviously this negatively impacts self-esteem and psychosocial adjustment.

Policy ought to recognize that there is more to serving refugees’ needs than issues of biological survival. Short-term solutions may not provide for long-term stability. Adaptation lies at the heart of the refugee resettlement process. Adopting the more anthropological emphasis on adaptation can help guide refugee resettlement policy toward recognizing that establishing new lives and identities in the US is as much a matter of maintaining one’s historical sense of self as it is one of adapting to psychosocial and economic challenges that lie ahead for the refugee. (and that’s about as political as i ever get)