Reports and Publications Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 04:27:00 +0000 MEMO en-gb Finally, international steps to bring Syrian war criminals to justice Finally, international steps to bring Syrian war criminals to justiceOn April 15, 2014, France plans to arrange an informal confidential gathering of Security Council members (a so-called "Arria-formula" meeting) in order to consider a report on the mass use of torture in Syrian detention centres that went viral earlier this year.

MEMO spoke to the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) Prof David Crane at Syracuse University who co-authored the report. He explained that the international community believes that now is the political moment to take action. The time is now for the international community, with France at the forefront, to force Russia, which is gaining a reputation as an aggressor in political affairs around the world, to say yes or no.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:04:57 +0000
International communities' response to the world's largest refugee crisis International communities' response to the world's largest refugee crisisLast month top UN officials warned that Syrians are expected to surpass Afghans as the world's largest refugee population. Going into the fourth year of the bloody revolution-turned-war, an influx of almost one million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. The situation was recently deemed a "serious threat" by both Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Ninette Kelly, UNHCR's regional representative for Lebanon, who also described the country's precarious circumstances in a piece he wrote for MEMO earlier this year.

Last Thursday, a UN official expressed concerns that donor nations may not grasp the potential impact of this further destabilisation in Lebanon and called for an international "shouldering" of the situation.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:50:57 +0000
Media coverage of the Arab Spring and the new Middle East Media coverage of the Arab Spring and the new Middle EastEver since the symbolism of 26 year-old Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation in December 2010, and the subsequent eruption of a people's revolution in Tunisia, the Middle East has been in unprecedented turmoil. After decades of suffering under oppressive dictatorships, with basic human rights denied, suddenly the barrier of fear was broken and the people rose to topple their dictatorial governments.

Whilst countries were ablaze with revolutions, state-owned media denied any such activity on the ground. State TV channels in countries like Egypt showed empty streets and squares and denied the existence of any sort of uprising. Social media networks played a big role leading up to and during the revolutions, particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. Shutting down the internet supply in the country in an attempt to quell and contain the unrest did little to serve the dictators' interests. In fact, in Egypt, the Day of Anger, a key event of the revolution, was held after the internet supply was cut and phone networks provided limited service.

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]]> (Dr Walaa Ramadan) Reports and Publications Wed, 02 Apr 2014 17:50:57 +0000
Extreme donor and media 'fatigue' demands new ways to respond to and represent the growing refugee crisis Extreme donor and media 'fatigue' demands new ways to respond to and represent the growing refugee crisisAs media institutions and NGOs are faced with a growing de-sensitisation regarding the Syrian revolution, which has turned into a vicious war, new methods are put into practice. Do they reveal some underlying imperialist paradigm of racism and irresponsibility which is saying, "Just because it is not happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening"? This approach assumes that viewers' only comprehension of the atrocities is if refugees both look like "us" and have surroundings similar to "ours". Does this make us face up to the hypocrisy of our anti-discrimination? Is it a case of desperate means to an end in order to save lives?

Over the past year, the widespread desensitisation of Europeans and Americans has been detected in attitudes towards the Syrian uprising. In 2013 the main coordinator of over 100 NGOs working in Syria, the UNHCR, received just 68 per cent of the $1.5 billion pledged by donor countries to meet the needs of the growing number of those displaced. Tragically, this year, only 14 per cent of the current UNHCR appeal has been raised. News of the shelling, bombings and rising death toll has led to "donor fatigue" making life very difficult for the UN body, which is trying to bridge a funding gap of 86 per cent.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Mon, 31 Mar 2014 15:35:57 +0000
Narrow scope for Palestinian rights in Lebanon Narrow scope for Palestinian rights in LebanonIt seems to be the official message from Lebanon that Palestinians have long overstayed their not so pleasant stay. Testing times ahead for Lebanon, then, with the difficult accommodation of an extra 960,009 refugees, internal delicate sectarian make-up and Hezbollah’s involvement in the neighbouring crisis; the Palestinians, it seems, will be faced with more discrimination than ever.

Having hosted Palestinians over the past 60 years, Lebanon maintains a seclusionist discourse about them with regards to their right to own property as well as their access to official labour markets and social security and other benefits. They are "disqualified" due to a highly strategic set of principles aimed to block any endeavour to improve their situation and build a future for themselves in Lebanon. MEMO met up with a range of NGOs and human rights experts to decipher the fault lines behind Palestinian seclusionism, and its manifestations on the ground in access to, and condition of, employment for refugees.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Sat, 15 Mar 2014 17:00:57 +0000
The Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian Refugees in Syria: Where Do We Go From Here? Yarmouk Refugee CampPalestinian refugees in Syria are facing difficult and tragic conditions, as a result of the uprising there and the conflict between the regime and the opposition. Of the 160 thousand Palestinians who lived in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp (RC), 130 thousand have had to flee. Those who remained were subjected to a brutal blockade and a famine that killed dozens.

Although most Palestinian factions agreed on maintaining the camp's neutrality and refraining from intervention in internal Syrian affairs, various developments and attempts by many of the warring parties to take advantage of the camp's strategic location, or to draw the Palestinians into the conflict, eventually turned Yarmouk RC into one of the arenas of the Syrian war.

There are several possible scenarios: implement a truce and render the camp neutral; the battle for the camp could continue; or one of the warring parties could prevail and end up controlling the camp. However, it will still be important to spare no effort to lift the siege on Yarmouk RC and all other camps, allow the displaced to return, and keep the camps neutral from all forms of armed conflict. In addition, all forms of support should be extended to Palestinian refugees in Syria.


Needless to say, the Palestinian community in Syria came to exist in the aftermath of the Nakbah (catastrophe) of 1948. According to statistics by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the number of Palestinian refugees registered with the agency until 31/3/2013 was 537 thousand. As there were other categories of Palestinians present, for example those who came to Syria from Jordan, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip in different periods and for different reasons after 1948, who are not registered with UNRWA in Syria, the real number of Palestinians is estimated to be 600 thousand. This puts the Palestinian population at 2.8% of the total population of Syria.

Almost a quarter of these Palestinians live in 13 camps (including three that the UNRWA does not designate as official refugee camps, such as Yarmouk RC). The largest bloc of Palestinians (around 80%) is concentrated in the Damascus area, known as the Damascus Countryside. Yarmouk RC is considered the largest Palestinian concentration in the Damascus area. According to data from UNRWA, more than 160 thousand people lived in Yarmouk RC until December 2012.

Before the uprising (which turned into a revolution later) in early 2011, the Palestinian community in Syria was one of the most stable and integrated Palestinian refugee communities in their host countries. The Palestinian refugees in Syria had a special legal status (based on Law No. 260 dated 1956) giving them a wide range of economic, social, cultural, and civil rights, close to full citizenship rights, while retaining their Palestinian nationality. In general, the Syrian state maintained this status for the Palestinians throughout the past decades, guaranteeing their participation in the economic, social and cultural life on par with the Syrian citizens.

The Post-Crisis Period:

After the current crisis erupted in Syria, the Palestinians, like the Syrians, were exposed to its devastating repercussions on the fabric of their community, especially in the camps, and their social wellbeing and various facets of their daily lives. This has forced them either to become displaced within Syria, in search of relative safety, or to flee outside Syria, for the same reason.

Thus, the second and third generations after the Nakbah were exposed to internal and external displacement from the country where they were born and raised, and than which they knew no other country. Those of them who were forced to flee outside Syria were subjected to various forms of suffering and discrimination in the neighboring countries where they sought temporary asylum. Some of them risked their lives and their children's lives in death boats and along international crossings in search for safety. Some of them made it, but many died trying.

Since the start of the crisis until late 2012, before the situation deteriorated in Yarmouk RC, the Palestinians in Syria maintained a kind of neutrality. They had in mind the lesson of the first Gulf war, when the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sided with Iraq, causing the mass deportation of Palestinians from Kuwait.

Under this state of relative neutrality, Palestinian camps in the north, south, and around the capital Damascus (particularly Yarmouk RC and Khan Eshieh RC) turned into safe havens for Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting. This truly embodied Syrian-Palestinian brotherhood at the popular level.

The Palestinian refugees shared their food with their Syrian brethren. The population of some refugee camps such as Khan Eshieh soon doubled because of the influx of Syrian refuges. The refugee camps also turned into supply lines for both of the warring parties, the regime and the opposition. In the beginning, this situation was agreeable to all Palestinian factions and the two warring parties, despite the fact that the regime forces would sometimes raid the camps and besiege them when opposition fighters took shelter there - whether in search of safety, to treat their wounded, or for other logistical requirements. This happened many times, especially in the Daraa RC. Before it was completely thrown into the conflict, Yarmouk RC was a model of that state of "positive neutrality."

However, the complexity and militarization of the Syrian crisis, as a result of direct intervention by regional, Arab, and international parties in the conflict, and the overlapping and conflicting interests of those parties, led to a state of polarization in the Palestinian positions, which was interpreted as bias for one side or another in the conflict. The Palestinian division, in addition to increased pressure by the regime and the opposition on the Palestinians through threats and enticements, with the goal of pushing them to abandon their neutrality, aggravated that polarization and made it less likely for the Palestinian factions to maintain neutrality.

In reality, the situation in Yarmouk RC since the beginning of the crisis until now summarizes how Palestinian RCs turned from being demilitarized, neutral areas hosting Syrian refugees, into hot spots that each side in the conflict wants to dominate and implicate in the fighting.

The Scene From the Yarmouk RC:

The Yarmouk RC, which has sprawled to become one of the capital's boroughs, is considered the largest Palestinian concentration in Syria. The majority of its population is Palestinians, and the camp is seen as a mirror of Palestinian attitudes towards the Syrian crisis.

With the Syrian opposition's attempts to tighten its siege around the capital, in order to storm it and defeat the regime, the military importance of Yarmouk RC was further underscored for both sides. This importance stems from its proximity to the hot spots of the fighting (al-Hajar al-Aswad, Yalda, Babila, Tadamon, al-Qadam), and from being the southern entrance to the capital for the opposition forces in the context of the so-called "Battle of Damascus." This is what happened at the end of 2012, when opposition forces advanced from the southern flank in the direction of Yarmouk RC, on the grounds that there were pro-regime militants inside the camp, meaning the fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command (PFLP-GC).

The battle for the camp resulted in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist opposition factions (al-Nusra Front and others) taking control of the camp, while regime forces, in coordination with the PFLP-GC, took control of the northern entrance of the camp, which leads to al-Zahirah neighborhood, an area known as Madkhal al-Batikha.

As a result of this military situation, the refugee camp came under heavy bombardment in mid-December 2012, in which the regime used the air force for the first time, targeting the Palestine Mosque and Al-Bassel Hospital. This was followed by a wave of displacement from the camp as a result of which about 130-120 thousand residents left. Those who stayed (20-30 thousand) were subjected to a tight siege that killed more than 120 people, because of starvation and the lack of medical care.

Since that time, many Palestinian factions and the PLO made efforts in coordination with UNRWA to end the siege on the camp, and bring in humanitarian aid to its residents, calling on militants to withdraw from the camp and restore its neutrality. As a result, a solution was found but it was difficult to implement at the time. Currently, a revised version of this solution is being implemented, and its most important provisions include: That the non-Palestinian militants' withdraw from the camp; that Palestinian militants deploy along its perimeter; that supplies are brought in to the refugee camp and those in critical conditions are evacuated; and that the displaced residents return to the camp. But in light of the security conditions hanging over the Yarmouk RC, it is not easy to predict whether this agreement will hold.

The Possible Scenarios:

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the revolution in Syria, and whether the talks in Geneva—if they resume—would succeed in reaching a political solution to the crisis. Both parties to the crisis and the international powers backing them differ over interpreting the proposals and the priorities over their implementation. In the foreseeable future, it does not appear that there will be a solution to the crisis on the basis of sharing power between the warring parties. The possible scenarios for what will happen in Yarmouk RC can be summed up as follows:

First Scenario: De-escalation and Neutralizing the Yarmouk RC

It seems that there is an apparent accord over this scenario among the various parties. There is a desire to keep the Palestinians and their camps away from the ongoing conflict, and for them not to be used as weapons in the hands of any party. This scenario would allow the displaced to return to the camp, aid to flow in, reconstruction efforts to begin, and normal life to resume. However, the crisis of confidence between the conflicting parties, and the urgent need to use all their means to control and put pressure on opponents, and the failure to decide the conflict in favor of any party, all make the scenario for de-escalation a fragile possibility that can be breached and that can collapse at any moment.

Second Scenario: The Battle for the Camp Continues

This scenario assumes that geopolitical or military-based interests are prioritized by the conflicting parties over humanitarian considerations and the special Palestinian circumstances of the camp. This means that the camp would be dealt with as part of the political geography of the conflict, and as one of the means of pressure in the latter. Thus, the camp could be subjected to further siege, destruction, and suffering.

This scenario also assumes that the regime may not be in a hurry to resolve the battle in its favor, even if it has the means to do so, especially if the cost in lives would be too high, so that it may not be accused of targeting Palestinians and their camps. The scenario also assumes that the Syrian opposition is still far from achieving any substantial gains in Damascus. Furthermore, the Western-international desire seems to be in favor of prolonging the conflict, attrition, and destruction of Syrian infrastructure, as well as destroying the social fabric in Syria.

Third Scenario: The Battle is Settled in Favor of One of the Two Parties

This scenario assumes that one of the two parties would take full control of the camp, its entrances, and its exits, meaning the end of the siege and the return of some of the displaced, with normal life returning in one degree or another to the camp. However, conditions will not return fully to normal until a full solution is found in Syria. This means that even if the battle is settled in favor of one of the parties in the camp, the camp will not be safe from aerial or artillery bombardment, or military-security operations, as long as the environment around it and beyond remains unstable.

No matter which scenario is the most likely on the ground, efforts should focus on protecting what is left of the Palestinian presence in Syria, and on keeping it neutral in the conflict. Efforts should also focus on trying to find accords with the two parties, in order to protect the camps' residents, and supply it with all necessities of life, in preparation for the return of those who were displaced and stranded inside and outside Syria.

In this context, the Palestinian leaderships and factions must keep in mind the importance of safeguarding the social fabric of the Palestinian refugee camps, to preserve the Palestinian identity and to use the camps as bases for the struggle to return to Palestine for they have produced Palestinian freedom fighters generation after generation. On the other hand, the Palestinian national factions must think hard and seriously to maintain the gains and privileges of the Palestinians in Syria throughout the past decades, embodied in the special legal status the Palestinians have enjoyed.

Suggestions and Recommendations:

  1. Lifting the siege on Yarmouk RC and all camps immediately, allowing the freedom of movement, the return of the displaced, and the return of normal life.
  2. Developing a unified Palestinian position stressing the neutrality of the Palestinian RCs in the armed conflict in Syria, reinforcing this position on the ground in a tangible and practical manner, and convincing the various sides to the conflict of this.
  3. Appealing to donor countries to fulfill their commitments in support of UNRWA, and offer the agency exceptional support to shore up its role in offering relief to Palestinian refugees inside Syria, as well as those who were driven out to neighboring countries. In the same context, appealing to international NGOs to provide more support to secure the basic needs of these refugees.
  4. Getting the Syrian government's General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees to exercise its humanitarian role and duty, in coordination with UNRWA in providing relief services.

Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Mr. Jaber Suleiman for authoring the original draft on which this strategic assessment was based.
This report is a reprint of the original published on

]]> (Al-Zaytouna Centre) Reports and Publications Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:13:01 +0000
Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam is making waves in Egypt Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam is making waves in EgyptWhen the Merowe Dam in Sudan was built Ali Askouri, his family and their community were flooded out of their homes 80 kilometres from where it was being constructed to make way for the project; part of his family were pressured to move to resettlement housing and part of them stayed in the area. That was in 2008. To this day, the government have not compensated these families.

"They lost everything, their crops, their farming land, their houses, schools, clinics," says Askouri, "all that went under the water. The government offered them nothing and they had to rebuild everything from scratch."

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]]> (Amelia Smith) Reports and Publications Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:30:57 +0000
Scandal of billion dollar deals between Saudi Arabia and Veolia Veolia EnvironmentalVeolia is a French company specialising in environmental work in the fields of water, recycling, energy and transportation. The company has recently had a lot of media coverage given its contribution to supporting Israeli settlements.

The company has been registered by international activists concerned with the Palestinian cause on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) list since 2005, "due to their immoral work serving the occupation in various areas in Palestine".

Currently is it involved in a railway project in Jerusalem that links the illegal West Bank settlements and Jerusalem which is considered one of the occupation's main means and an important step in the context of the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the expansion of settlements in the city. It not only transports Israelis passing through, but also facilitates access between the new Israeli settlements and the settlers as a means of easing settlements and outlining a mechanism and infrastructure for its expansion. This is considered a violation of the Geneva Accords which prohibit the occupation from transporting its citizens to occupied territories, so this is not only a clear violation of Palestinian rights, but also a violation of international agreements made in this regard.

Veolia's activity ranges between environment workshops, water and transportation, as it works through one of its subsidiaries (T.M. M.) and Tovlan Landfill, near Jericho, as a report by Corporate Watch Research Group, specialising in monitoring the work of international companies, stated the violations made by Veolia with regards to the management of the landfill. Veolia buries the waste of 21 settlements in the landfill near the Jordanian border, this has many health and environmental "side effects" on neighbouring Arab villages such as Fasayil and Abu Al `Ajaj, leading to the displacement of the residents of the latter, the population dropping to 200 residents from thousands in 1999, the year the landfill was established.

There are also those who leave their homes during the summer only to return in winter when the smell from the landfill is not as strong. The livestock, which is the main source of income for locals, also suffered big losses.

The residents of these villages are also deprived of electricity, while the residents in settlements have electricity and water at discounted rates in order to motivate them in live in settlements. The recycling of the waste in the landfill contributes to the provision of electric energy by means of renewable energy.

Who works in the landfill? Palestinians work in the landfill and they are deprived of any labour rights, as their wages are half the minimum wages set for Israeli workers and they are deprived of work and health insurance.

The company also has shares in the bus routes, such as route 109 and 110, which provide transportation for settlers on Highway 433 in the West Bank running through the settlements. The occupation enforces apartheid/segregation rules on highway 433, as Palestinians are not allowed to use the highway.

Veolia is also involved in facilitating Israeli exclusion operations, as well as facilitating the transfer of settlement waste, transporting it to Palestinian areas and causing many long-term health and geographic problems. This has encouraged the indirect expulsion of Palestinians, all of which has contributed to the process of racial segregation in transportation in those areas.

Similarly, it has recently provided water and sanitation services to many of the Israeli occupation's settlements in the occupied West Bank, including the Modi'in Ilit settlement located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This means that three out of Veolia's four subsidiaries - water, waste and transportation - actively work to support settlements.

Veolia's activities are considered a flagrant violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive".

International law also prohibits Israel from using occupied land for its own benefit and, therefore, burying waste from the settlements in the occupied territories is a violation of United Nations Resolution 63/201 dated January 28, 2009, which:

"Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, damage, cause loss or depletion of, or endanger the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan."

In addition to violating international law, Veolia's acts violate the resolution of the Arab summit in Khartoum, in March 2006, which provides for the following:

The condemnation of the project aiming to link West Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank through occupied East Jerusalem and the stressing of the illegality of this project. It also calls on the two French companies [Alstom and Veolia] to immediately withdraw from the project and demands punitive measures be taken against them if they don't comply. The Arab Summit also urged the French government to take the necessary measures in this respect to honour its obligations under international law.

To top this all off, Veolia's activity in the occupied territories contradicts the company's declared goals and strategies which aim to "reduce the negative environmental impacts of waste" and "help raise the citizens' standard of living".

It is clear that Veolia selectively applies these goals, as it only aims to raise the standard of living of the settlers, at the expense of the Palestinians and in violation of international treaties and the most basic human rights.

This company's long history of racism and the oppression of the Palestinians' rights was enough to convince the public opinion in different parts of the world to boycott it.

The campaign to reduce the company's activity and completely boycott it was successful in impacting its work, which has suffered due to losses estimated at more than $12 billion over the past six years in order to prevent the renewal or signing of new contracts in many countries worldwide. These include Australia, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and finally England. In addition to this, a coalition of boroughs in south-west London refused to bid on the tender offered by Veolia for a £1 billion waste removal deal last April. In January 2009, Veolia lost a contract worth €3.5 billion Euros to run the metro in Stockholm.

In addition to the efforts made globally to boycott this company and reduce its activity, French company Alstom, a company working in partnership with Veolia on the Jerusalem railway project, linking Jerusalem and the settlements, lost the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project, which connects Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. This is in spite of the fact that the company had previously won the contract for the first phase. The value of the second phase contract is about $10 billion.

Since the end of 2008, the BDS National Committee, along with its partners, have made popular, official and media efforts in order to convince the Saudi authorities to exclude Alstom from the Haramain Railway deal due to its involvement in the Israeli occupation's projects aiming to Judaise Jerusalem. Many letters and documents to this effect were sent to official parties in Saudi Arabia from the BDS Committee, as well as several official, popular, Palestinian, Islamic and international parties in the context of a coordinated campaign targeting this company.

Veolia in Saudi Arabia

Despite all of the information mentioned above, all the background information, business links, relations with the Israeli occupation and settlement operations, as well as its direct involvement in facilitating the expansion of settlements and the Judaisation of Jerusalem, and in spite of the boycott exercised by British and other organisations and governorates against Veolia, it has continued to operate and make outrageous profits in Saudi Arabia for years.

The company's work in Saudi Arabia is narrowed down to the fields of water, sanitation and water desalination. It exists in Saudi Arabia through the Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd, with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Veolia also operates in Saudi Arabia under the Sidem Saudi Ltd, one of Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd's subsidiaries, which has branches in Jeddah, Khobar and Jubail. Sidem specialises in designing and building large desalination plants.

Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, Saudi Industries Ltd has landed many large contracts with the Saudi government in recent years. The two contracts worth noting are the desalination plant contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu, signed in 2007, and the management, operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation sector deal in the Saudi capital Riyadh, signed in 2008.

In 2007, Veolia signed a contract with the Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu to establish one of the largest water desalination plants in the world worth $945 million. One year before signing the deal, Saudi Arabia signed the Arab Summit resolution in Khartoum.

Furthermore, Veolia has landed 62 water desalination contracts in Saudi Arabia since 2007. In 2008, Veolia signed a large contract with the National Water Company to manage, operate and maintain the water and sanitation in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Veolia expects this deal to achieve a $60 million profit.

In December 2011, Veolia signed a contract with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to establish research centres in the Dhahran Techno Valley.

While Alstom - Veolia's partner in the Judaisation of Jerusalem project and the Jerusalem railway project, connecting Jerusalem to the settlements - lost the second phase of the Haramain Railway project worth about $10 billion, Veolia (in full partnership with Alstom) is signing contracts worth billions of dollars in Saudi Arabia, despite its blatant violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinians.

Veolia has been working in Israel before it entered the Saudi market, and its involvement in settlements began very early on, before it made any deals with the Saudi government.

It is both embarrassing and astonishing that Veolia's involvement in the settlements was not taken into account when it was awarded these huge business deals in Saudi Arabia and that the vast global BDS campaign against Alstom and Veolia in 2011 did not impact Veolia's operations in Saudi Arabia, as the company signed an agreement with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in December of the same year.

It is also shameful that at a time when international companies and parties are taking a stance against this company for violating the most basic human rights in Palestine and its participation in the brutal Israeli occupation and settlement, the Saudi government is signing contracts with the same company in various business areas. This in a country which is supposedly a leader in the belief in Palestinian rights, as well as protecting such liberties and condemning all human rights violations during this serious Palestinian tragedy.

A company with such a shameful history of working to enhance Israeli settlements should not find a work environment that opens the doors to trading in a country like Saudi Arabia, which has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause.

While Veolia is losing billions of dollars in contracts in Stockholm and London, it is signing a billion dollar deal in Jubail and making profits of up to $60 million dollars in Riyadh!

The least that is expected of Saudi Arabia is not to sign contracts with Veolia, to pressure the company and make it choose between carrying out its responsibilities in accordance with international law, stop supporting the settlements and violating the rights of the Palestinians or to get out of Saudi Arabia and cease all forms of business with it.

Source: Ard Kanaan News Agency

]]> (Ard Kanaan News Agency) Reports and Publications Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:34:06 +0000
Pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea Pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead SeaThe agreement signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea came as a shock to many politicians and analysts. There is some disparity in Arab and international reactions to the project, while the Israelis view it as a historic agreement.

This disparity dates back to 2002 and the World Summit in Johannesburg when it was promoted by Jordan and Israel in the context of preserving the environment and saving the Dead Sea from drying out. However, the evidence now suggests that the environmental objective was merely a re-packaging of the project in order to reduce criticism that may arise.

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]]> (Sawsan Ramahi) Reports and Publications Sat, 01 Mar 2014 15:30:57 +0000
Palestinian cries fall on deaf ears Palestinian cries fall on deaf earsThousands of people are besieged in the two square kilometre Yarmouk camp. Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), visited the war-torn district this week. He reported a lack of aid, access and most of all international leadership to achieve a political solution specifically in relation to the Palestinian community.

With a strategic location, and therefore devastatingly vulnerable to armed groups in their endeavour to gain leverage in Damascus, this triangular district pointing towards the heart of Syria's capital city is the only witness to the empty, hopeless gazes of people who have been exhausted to the point of submission. Their questions and cries for help have fallen on deaf ears internationally; they have nobody and nowhere to turn to. Hope has disappeared, as international lethargy and lack of leadership on the breaking the siege on Yarmouk has resulted in a deadlock in negotiations over access for humanitarian assistance. An already vulnerable community has been marginalised further.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Sat, 01 Mar 2014 14:15:57 +0000
Syria's art in exile is roaring Syria's art in exile is roaringA Scream, a child in his eternal sleep, chains, passports with countless stamps, car wrecks, bombed-out buildings and numerous small models of corpses glued on to an empty canvas. Many Syrian artists are affected profoundly by the evils of their war-stricken homeland.

MEMO met up with a range of them to study their ways of trying to humanise a war that is so inhuman that new-born babies are perceived as culpable. We discussed their feelings and thoughts about their situation, and the artists' quest to project a human face onto the empty but vast numbers of displaced people, to which Syrians feel they have been reduced. Their works manifest themselves as a fight for humanity strung out between an identity and personal experience and belief in the Syrian people to provide some hope in the hardest of times.

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]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:13:57 +0000
Syria: New deadly cluster bomb attacks Soviet-era cluster bombs of the Syrian militarySyrian government forces are using a powerful type of cluster munition rocket not seen before in the conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. The new use of cluster munitions is causing civilian casualties and adding to the country's already devastating legacy of unexploded artillery.

Evidence indicates that government forces used the rockets containing explosive submunitions in attacks on Keferzita, a town north of Hama in northern Syria, on February 12 and 13, 2014. The rocket is the largest type of cluster munition rocket to be used in Syria and contains submunitions that are more powerful and deadly than others.

"It is appalling that Syrian government forces are still using banned cluster munitions on their people," said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. "Cluster bombs are killing Syrian civilians now and threatening Syrians for generations to come."

Syrian government rocket attacks on Keferzita on February 12 and 13 killed at least two civilians and wounded at least 10 others, according to a local activist from Hama who is not affiliated with rebel groups and a doctor who spoke to Human Rights Watch.

Photographs of rocket remnants provided to Human Rights Watch by local activists who said they took them after the attack show sections of a 9M55K 300mm surface-to-surface rocket - including parts of the rocket motor, its cargo section, nose cone and the associated connectors.

Also pictured was an unexploded cylindrical 9N235 antipersonnel fragmentation submunition, the type delivered by the 9M55K rocket, with markings indicating the submunition was manufactured in 1991.

The 9M55K rocket is launched from the BM-30 Smerch (tornado in Russian), a multiple launch rocket system designed and initially manufactured by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and then manufactured and exported by the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise "SPLAV State Research And Production Association" from 1991 onward.

The BM-30 Smerch weapon system was not previously known to be in the possession of the Syrian government and Human Rights Watch had not previously documented the use of the 9M55K rocket and 9N235 submunition in the conflict.

The local activist from Hama, who was present when four rockets hit the town on February 12 and 13, gave Human Rights Watch an account of the attacks. He said that on the late afternoon of February 12:

"A rocket fell on the eastern part of Keferzita on a neighborhood called Al-Makassem Al-Hatef. There is a small square and the rocket fell there. The rocket released small bomblets when it exploded in the air. I did not see a helicopter or warplane at the time of the attack or before. One of the rockets did not explode and military specialists dismantled it and found dozens of bomblets. They removed the fuse from every bomblet.

The second rocket exploded in mid-air and released bomblets that injured people including women and children and killed one internally displaced person from the nearby village of Mourik. The only infrastructure damage caused was from the shrapnel. I remember seeing at least 10 injured but I was told that it was much more. I only saw injuries from shrapnel but I didn't see any amputations."

The local activist told Human Rights Watch that he believed the rockets were launched from Hama airport just under 30 kilometres south of Keferzita, which is controlled by the Syrian government: "On February 12, in the afternoon around four, I received a phone call from a [opposition] military source that two rockets were launched from Hama military airport. We all tried to alert the residents but not everyone was able to hide in time."

According to its manufacturer, the BM-30 Smerch can launch 9M55K rockets from a minimum range of 20 kilometres to a maximum range of 70 kilometres.

The local activist said that the next day:

"Two rockets fell on the northern area [of the village] next to Al-Ma'sara Road, injuring several people. There were no deaths. I saw a 65-year-old man injured by fragments in his shoulder and his son's wife injured in the leg. Both rockets exploded but caused limited damage to infrastructure. The rockets were also launched from Hama airport. There were no airplanes flying before or after the attack. The injured were taken to the field hospital."

The local activist said at least 20 unexploded submunitions were collected after the rocket attacks on February 12 and 13.

Al-Assad's Artillery

Human Rights Watch has documented the Syrian government's use of cluster munitions since 2012. With the discovery of the 9M55K rocket, a total of seven types of cluster munitions have been recorded as used in Syria during the conflict to date:

  • 122mm SAKR rockets, each containing either 72 or 98 dual-purpose antipersonnel/anti-materiel submunitions;
  • 9M55K rocket launched from the BM-30 Smerch, each containing 72 9N235 fragmentation submunitions;
  • RBK-250 cluster bomb, each containing 30 PTAB-2.5M high explosive anti-tank submunitions;
  • RBK-250-275 cluster bomb, each containing 150 AO-1SCh fragmentation submunitions;
  • RBK-500 cluster bomb, each containing 565 ShOAB-0.5 fragmentation submunitions;
  • PTAB-2.5KO high explosive anti-tank submunitions; and
  • AO-2.5RT fragmentation submunitions.

A doctor in Hama told Human Rights Watch that he had also witnessed the rocket attacks on Keferzita. He said the attacks killed two civilians; a child named Abdulrahman Rami Al-Mahmood, three or four-years-old, and a man named Mahmood Talal Al-Daly, approximately 25-years-old , and wounded 10 more civilians.

Since armed opposition groups took control of Keferzita in December 2012 the town has been the target of Syrian government air strikes, including with barrel bombs and artillery shelling. Fierce clashes between certain rebel groups and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) ended after ISIS withdrew its forces from the town on January 5.

The local activist told Human Rights Watch that there were no Free Syria Army (FSA) targets in the Keferzita neighbourhoods hit by the rocket attacks on February 12 and 13.

Several videos, which witnesses confirm were filmed in Keferzita, show evidence of the cluster munition rocket attacks on the town:

  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 12 shows the attack and the remnants.
  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 12 shows multiple small explosions on the town after a rocket attack.
  • A video uploaded to YouTube on February 13 shows several explosions on the town after a rocket attack.

It is highly unlikely that rebel forces could acquire the eight-wheeled, 43,700 kilogramme launch vehicle or operate its sophisticated fire control system without significant training or time to conduct practice drills.

There is no video evidence or written claims that any rebel group controls any BM-30 launchers, its similarly sized re-supply vehicle, or any 300mm surface-to-surface rockets like the 9M55K rocket.

Eliot Higgins of the Brown Moses blog, which tracks weapons used in the Syria conflict, has identified the BM-30 Smerch weapon system including 9M55K rocket and 9N235 submunition used at Keferzita and concluded that "it seems unlikely that the rocket could have come from any other source" than the Syrian military.

N. R. Jenzen-Jones and Yuri Lyamin of Armament Research Services also identified the weapons system and said: "It is not clear how Syria obtained these munitions, nor the systems required to fire them" but note that Russia is "the most likely origin of the systems in Syria."

According to standard reference materials, the BM-30 Smerch system has been transferred to Algeria, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, while Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Ukraine either inherited or acquired the system after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

All of the cluster munitions used in Syria appear to have been manufactured in the Soviet Union except for the Egyptian-made 122mm SAKR surface-launched rocket containing dual-purpose anti-personnel/anti-materiel submunitions. There is no information available on how or when Syria acquired these cluster munitions.

The 9M55K rocket is three times as large as the other type of cluster munition rocket used in Syria, while the weight of the fragments contained in the 9N235 submunitions make them more powerful and deadly than other types of submunitions.

While designed to detonate on impact, each submunition has a back-up pyrotechnic self-destruct feature designed to destroy it two minutes after being ejected from the rocket, but in this attack the self-destruct feature appears to have failed in some cases.

A total of 113 countries have signed or agreed to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The treaty also requires the clearance of cluster munition remnants within 10 years as well as assistance for victims of the weapons.

Of these countries, 84 are states parties legally bound to carry out all of the convention's provisions, while the other 29 have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Syria has not signed the convention.

Syria's cluster munition use has attracted widespread media coverage and public outcry. The Convention on Cluster Munitions requires each state that has signed the agreement to "make its best efforts to discourage States not party to this Convention from using cluster munitions."

More than 100 countries have condemned Syria's use of cluster munitions, including more than three-dozen non-signatories. Most condemned the use through a UN General Assembly resolution, while several foreign ministers have repeatedly expressed concern about the use of cluster munitions in Syria.

Cluster munitions have been banned because of their widespread indiscriminate effect at the time of use and the long-lasting danger they pose to civilians. Cluster munitions can be fired by artillery and rocket systems or dropped by aircraft and typically explode in the air and send dozens, even hundreds, of small submunitions, or bomblets, over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines.

Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions became binding international law in 2010, three governments are confirmed to have used the weapons, all non-signatories to the convention: Syria, Libya and Thailand.

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

For more on Human Rights Watch's reporting on cluster munitions, please visit:

For more on Human Rights Watch's reports on Syria, please visit:

For additional information on cluster munitions, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Steve Goose (English): +1-540-630-3011 (mobile); or
In Beirut, Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or
In Beirut, Lama Fakih (English, Arabic): +961-390-0105 (mobile); or
In Cairo, Tamara Alrifai (English, Arabic, French, Spanish): +20-122-751-2450 (mobile); or

]]> (Human Rights Watch) Reports and Publications Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:46:31 +0000
The body as the battlefield: victims of Syria's brutal war strategy The body as the battlefield: victims of Syria's brutal war strategyThe United Nations has released a new report documenting the evidence that children in Syria have been subject to grave sexual abuses in government detention, recruited to fight with the opposition, tortured and used as human shields.

Abuse of children in Syria is a central theme of the war ravaging the country. Indeed, what provoked the conflict was the alleged torture of children accused of painting anti-Government graffiti on public buildings. This was followed by expressions of popular discontent over political and socioeconomic rights which manifested themselves as intense civilian protests in Dar'a. Following the violent clampdown by Government forces, the demonstrations spread to other cities.

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:15:57 +0000
Mediterranean gas fields: potential spark for regional conflicts Deep Sea Oil PlatformNatural gas resources in the Mediterranean Sea will become a principal reason for conflicts in the region between Israel and its allies on the one hand and the neighbouring Arab countries on the other, experts forecast.

This would be similar to the conflict over water resources in the region, and would reshape regional and international alliances on a primarily economic basis.

Natural gas fields located in the Mediterranean Sea are of growing importance to the region, in particular Israel, for the gas' use as a low cost source of electricity, economists agreed.

Reserves recently discovered in the eastern Mediterranean region represent a golden opportunity and valuable wealth for the entire region including Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. This may lead to conflicts and fierce competition as each country tries to acquire the largest portion of this natural wealth, particularly in light of the absence of a clear agreement on the maritime borders of their respective economic zones.

Israel recently intensified its military and strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus. Analysts interpreted this as a sign of prospective tripartite strategic partnership among the three nations aiming at monopolising the massive gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean and forcibly appropriating them at the expense of Arab countries and Turkey.

Sources revealed Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon signed a warships deal with Germany to protect gas fields and installations in the Mediterranean.

Economic expert Maher Al-Tabaa asserted that Israel seeks to extend its control over Palestinian resources, including gas fields, due to their strategic importance. Al-Tabaa cited tireless efforts by Israel to freeze the agreement held between the Palestinian Authority and the British Gas Group to explore gas in the field adjacent to Gaza shores.

Al-Tabaa highlighted genuine Israeli fears of potential attacks on its gas fields and mines in the sea, which prompted it to protect them with modern military arsenal. He added it is highly likely that gas would ignite new conflicts, particularly the wells located on joint borders in Gaza, Lebanon, or Egypt.

He interpreted the gas agreement between Egypt and Israel as an attempt by the latter to drain Egyptian gas fields, to guarantee its superiority in the region.

Al-Tabaa said that the current status of the natural gas field located off the Gaza shores remains "ambiguous", eight years after the agreement with the British company was frozen. He pointed out that the agreement in its current status partially guarantees the Palestinian Authority's rights in the gas well.

The strategic natural gas inventory in the Israeli-controlled fields is estimated at 950 billion cubic meters (bcm), which would guarantee a return of $60 billion (£36.8 billion) for the Israeli budget over the next two decades.

A number of Israeli security officials are concerned about the possibility of militant attacks from Sinai or Gaza targeting the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps these concerns explain the Israeli government's decision to assign Unit 13 in its naval forces the responsibility of protecting natural gas fields and exploration operations in the Mediterranean.

Global conflict

Economic expert Omar Shaaban points out that natural gas started to emerge as a major element in the ongoing conflicts in a number of regions. He says natural gas might be one of the reasons of the war in Syria and one of the international community's motives behind intervention in this matter.

Shaaban asserted that the economic element has overtaken the security and political elements as a factor of reshaping global and regional alliances. He cited the gas imports agreement signed by the Energy Authority in Ramallah to supply natural gas over a period of twenty years for the energy power plant which is yet to be established as proof of this.

Moreover, he stressed the keenness of Israel to secure its stockpiles of natural gas and protect its fields and wells from any potential attacks, pointing to the existence of a real dispute over a number of gas wells in the Mediterranean between Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Shaaban predicted that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea would interfere to settle the ownership of disputed gas fields, ruling out that Israel would allow any company to work on these fields based on an agreement with the Lebanese government and its intention to explore gas in those fields.

Shaaban highlighted the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Palestine to purchase natural gas discovered off the Gaza shores, amidst the media cover-up imposed by Palestinian leadership.

Natural gas fields are considered one of the most important marine resources discovered by Israel 10 years ago. Israeli economists estimated the value of those resources at tens of billions of US dollars, which will revive the Israeli economy as a result of the expected revenues.

Throughout the past five years, a number of gas fields have been discovered in the Mediterranean. They include Aphrodite, Tamar, and Leviathan fields. The Tamar field was discovered in 2009. It is located 50km (31m) to the west of Haifa, and contains 250 bcm of natural gas. Experts say that the Tamar field would be sufficient for Israel's needs for 20-30 years.

Source: AlEstqlal

]]> (Mohamed Mahdi) Reports and Publications Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:01:42 +0000
Syria's war cultivates a state policy to torture women and children MEMO Report on SyriaThe systematic use of torture in Syria is practiced in the dark. The world is aware of its existence only through anecdotes, reporting that represents the tip of the iceberg.

Detention facilities and prisons across the country are responsible for grave human rights violations including forced disappearances and a range of torture practices. As clashes on the ground and negotiations around the polished tables in Switzerland intensify, so do the opposing forces' cruel practices against detainees in their prisons.

****Please note that the report contains images that will not be suitable for some****

Download and read the full report by clicking here

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:20:57 +0000
Syrian refugee children: A Lost Generation MEMO Report - Syrian refugee children: A Lost GenerationAs the Syrian crisis now approaches its fourth year, there is an entire generation of children being shaped by violence, displacement and a constant absence of prospects for their future. Five million children are already affected by the war; school systems in refugee-host countries like Lebanon and Jordan report extreme overcrowding.

This week UNHCR, UNICEF and other partners launch a new campaign called "No Lost Generation" to address the issue of education and childhood in war-torn and war affected areas in the Levant region. Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, said that these children are the next generation of leaders in Syria and that education and reconciliation will bring much-needed hope for the future. The "No Lost Generation" umbrella is, with its $1 billion strategy, designed to protect the wealth of future Syria through practical ways of forming the next generation of leaders, teachers, engineers, doctors and peacemakers. The campaign is focused on expanding access to learning and psychosocial support, strengthening social cohesion and peace-building efforts, and restoring hope for the future to millions of children.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Wed, 15 Jan 2014 19:12:31 +0000
Britain's hypocrisy over Gulf links MEMO Report - Britain’s hypocrisy over Gulf links"Our foreign policy should always have consistent support for human its irreducible core," claimed Foreign Secretary William Hague when he took office in 2010. Despite the rhetoric, which echoed that of his Labour Party predecessor, Britain enjoys cosy relationships with several dictators, suppressive regimes and states where human rights are largely ignored.

Nowhere is Britain's hypocrisy more apparent than in its relationship with the Gulf States of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates; both regimes are rotten bedfellows for the UK.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Alastair Sloan) Reports and Publications Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:00:31 +0000
The Palestinian community: divided and ruled MEMO Report - The Palestinian community: divided and ruledSix of the nine Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have become battlegrounds between armed opposition groups and government forces. As a consequence of this, thousands of civilians are trapped, experiencing grave rights violations, deprivation of food and lack of medicine; their misery is used as a tool in a dreadful war strategy. Several blockades around the camps, inhibiting essential health supplies, food and other necessities from entering the camps, have been reported, along with stories of simultaneous infighting. The battlegrounds in Syria have indeed moved onto a whole new level of inhumanity.

"Recent reports of death by starvation are highly alarming," UNRWA's spokesman Christopher Gunness told MEMO. Since September, UNRWA has basically been unable to deliver assistance to the refugees in Yarmouk. Gunness revealed that even before September, since December 2012, in fact, when armed opposition elements entered the camp and relief operations inside became impossible due to extreme violence, the UN agency had to establish a distribution point just outside the camp in Zahera. The residents came out to collect aid and went back in. "Now," he said, "no one is allowed out or in."

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Mon, 13 Jan 2014 14:12:31 +0000
A humanitarian tragedy for Syrian refugees A humanitarian tragedy for Syrian refugeesOver the last year, the number of Syrian refugees has doubled five times over. Two weeks ago, the UN launched its largest appeal for a single humanitarian emergency ever, faced by the urgency of at least 2.3 million Syrian refugees in need of humanitarian assistance, in addition to the millions of internally displaced Syrians. The UN cited the vast numbers of displacement and called for the international community to take responsibility for the crisis, appealing for $6.5 billion in funds.

To keep pace with 2013's alarming exodus, more than 196,000 tents and 809,000 plastic tarpaulins were distributed to refugees residing in camps and informal sites. As Syria approaches the end of its third year of conflict, dozens of refugee settlements are now clearly visible, even from outer space.

Download and read the full report by clicking here.

]]> (Henriette Johansen) Reports and Publications Fri, 03 Jan 2014 13:40:35 +0000
Gaza defies the blockade and generates solar energy Gaza defies blockadeIn response to the suffocating and continuous electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in Gaza have begun searching for alternative means of generating electricity, including: generators, batteries, and now solar panels that convert the sun's energy into electricity.

The Gaza Strip started suffering from a more severe shortage of electricity and fuel after the Egyptian army staged a coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. The Egyptian army immediately launched a fierce campaign against the tunnels located under the Egypt-Gaza border, demolishing most of them, even though the Palestinians in Gaza have been relying on them for their basic and humanitarian needs ever since the intensification of Israel's blockade in 2007.

Now, some hospitals, factories, shops, universities, and schools have started relying on solar energy as an alternative to electric generators. The government in Gaza also uses these solar panels to light the Gaza Marina. However, the high costs of such panels prevent the average citizen from purchasing them. Moreover, Israel prohibits these panels from entering the Strip and now that the tunnels have been closed, getting the panels into Gaza will be even more difficult.

Nevertheless, as a result of the lack of Egyptian fuel and the increased price of Israeli fuel, Palestinians in Gaza are beginning to abandon the fuel-operated generators, the misuse of which has caused dozens of deaths and injuries, and instead are resorting to batteries or solar energy panels, which have become a strategic, but costly solution.

Solar panel electricity

Mr Mahmoud Abu Nusra, aged 58, is one example of a person who found the combination of solar panels and batteries, which light up his house both day and night, to be a lifesaver. Before installing them, he only had light for a few hours each day.

Mr Abu Nusra's house is now lit around the clock, and he does not have to worry about losing power when the electricity is on or off.

The solar panels were not Mr Abu Nusra's first choice, as he had tried the Uninterruptible Battery System (UBS) first, which needs to be charged with electricity. However, the fact that the electricity was not on long enough to charge the batteries was an issue.

This is where the solar panels helped. Abu Nusra explained that: "A few months ago, I began using solar power to light up my house, as it saves me the money I pay for the electricity bill – for the electricity that is never on. The solar power battery is able to provide electricity to all the lights in my house, powering everything but the washing machine and the refrigerator, which only operate on regular electricity because the batteries cannot supply the voltage required for the two appliances."

Abu Nusra further pointed out that the battery is now charged by the solar panels that he installed on the roof of his house. The panels absorb and store sunlight, which is then converted into electric energy used to light the house.

He also noted that the solar panels and batteries are very easy to use and cost effective, and he advises all capable citizens to install them because they save money and provide electricity around the clock.

As for the use of the panels when there isn't much sunlight, such as during the winter, he said, "The solar panels are charged by the light, thus do not require for the sky to be clear as they do not rely on the heat, but rather the light of the sun."

Reduced prices

In terms of the cost, Mr Abu Nusra said that the necessary solar panels and batteries costs $1500 to operate the lights alone, however he noted that as a result of these panels, his electric bill has reduced from NIS 600 to only NIS 100 a month.

He admitted that: "The costs of purchasing the panels and batteries are very high, which discourages citizens from buying them, especially because retailers ask for higher prices. However", he added, "because I work in the commercial field, I bought my batteries out of my own pocket from outside of Gaza, so they cost me $250, and I bought the panels locally."

Abu Nusra added, "I intend on totally doing without the electric cables and cancelling my electricity coverage, and buying more batteries in order to operate all of my electrical appliances. I am also thinking about buying solar panels for my six children's homes."

Abu Nusra also urged retailers to keep in mind the citizens' economic situation and to reduce the prices in order for solar batteries to become more widely used by the people in the Strip.

Psychological and financial comfort

Mr Abu Ramzi Sha'aban, who lives in Jabaliya, had the same experiences as Mr Abu Nusra. He was also attracted to the idea of using solar panels after seeing the Great Omari Mosque successfully using them a year ago.

Sha'aban said that the solar panels are connected to the battery, which converts solar energy into an electric current. They can be charged both electrically and by sunlight.

Mr Sha'aban no longer has to suffer from the noise or smell of the electric generator that he had to use instead of electricity during the times when it was cut off. He says that after using the solar energy battery, he feels "financially and psychologically rested".

"I do not feel the power cuts; my house is never dark thanks to the solar panel technology."

Wasted energy

Dr Mahmoud Shaheen, a researcher specialising in solar power, explained that solar energy is being wasted in Gaza, especially considering that other natural resources are lacking. Thus solar energy is a magic solution to the electricity crisis that the Palestinians in Gaza have been suffering from ever since the beginning of the Israeli blockade.

He also said that the system of installing solar panels on rooftops and then connecting them to special batteries that convert solar energy (sunlight) into electric energy is an efficient way to light homes.

Dr Shaheen was one of the first to embrace solar power and abandon electricity. He has been using solar energy for his house for about 20 years.

He also pointed out that solar panels have been around for almost 50 years, and, depending on their quality, the batteries do not cost much to fix.

Regarding the high prices of installing the panels and batteries, Dr Shaheen said, "For minimum lighting by means of solar panels, it costs about $300, while installing enough to operate all electric household appliances costs about $7000. However, when this is compared to the amount of money people will save on their electricity bills, it only works out to about NIS .5 a day."

Dr Shaheen also pointed out that only a small group of citizens have resorted to solar power due to the harsh economic circumstances they are currently suffering from: the increased poverty, the unemployment, and the lack of cash.

In order to spread the idea, Dr Shaheen called on the government to educate the people and inform them about solar energy in schools and mosques. This way, the people will learn more about the importance of investing in solar energy.

He also noted that establishing solar power fields would benefit the people of Gaza, as the sun shines on Gaza about 300 days a year. However, the lack of funding required to establish such fields prevents Palestinians in Gaza from fully utilising this clean energy.

Source: Pls48

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]]> (Raed Mousa - Pls48) Reports and Publications Mon, 30 Dec 2013 17:52:50 +0000