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Big Greetings from Hassan Salama School Gaza

PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday 10th April 2012
For Immediate Use

Irish Freedom & Friendship Delegation to Gaza a resounding success

Local Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine delegates returned from the first Irish “Freedom and Friendship Delegation” to Gaza promising to redouble their efforts to build links with our sister city of Khan Younis and to support the people of Gaza by continuing with more delegations in future.

Delegates from Irish Friends of Palestine were Gerry MacLochlainn delegation leader & Charlie McMenamin activist (both former Irish Political Prisoners), Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan, Alanna Campbell and Cathal Og Donnelly (Students and members of Sinn Fein Republican Youth), activist Liam McConway and Freedom & Friendship Delegation organiser Sinead MacLochlainn.

Speaking on arrival home, Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine Chairperson Sinead MacLochlainn said:

“Our delegation was hosted by the Mayor of Khan Younis Mr. Mohammed Al Farra, and the Municipality of Khan Younis, who so graciously offered us the most incredible hospitality, given the current conditions in Gaza which remains under a brutal blockade by Israel. Mayor Al Farra received us on our arrival and ensured a packed programme of visits and meetings with all aspects of society throughout Khan Younis and Gaza City.”

Delegation pictured with Mayor Mohammed Al Farra of Khan Younis, Palestine

“The main purpose of the delegation was to build educational links with the Ministry of Education and HIgher Education and University students. As such our Delegation was received by the heads of some of the main Universities in the Gaza strip, including the Islamic University of Gaza, Al Aqsa University (both the Gaza and Khan Younis Campus) and Khan Younis College of Science and Technology. Despite the siege and lack of electricity or fuel, we were impressed to learn that some 40% of young people in Gaza have access to further or higher education and some 60% of these students are women.”

“The Delegation was invited to a lunch at the Ministry of Education where we were greeted by Mr. Ahmed Ayesh Alnajjar the Director of International and Public Relations of Ministry of Education and Higher Education on behalf of Dr. Osama Elmozini the Minister of Education and Higher Education. The Student leaders on our Delegation were presented with a beautiful Plaque from the Ministry of Education to be presented to the Minister of Education here in the North of Ireland. Additionally a Plaque was also give the the Delegation itself in appreciation of the Educational links being created between Ireland and Gaza.

Plaque Presented to Student Leaders, Alanna Campbell, Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan and Cathal Og Donnelly

“Members of the Irish Delegation also met with representatives of the main political parties in Palestine, including Dr. Hisham Abdelrazic the Fateh leader in Gaza, and Dr. Yousef Al-Mansi, One of Hamas leaders and also the Minister of Telecommunication in the Gaza Government and finally Dr. Ahmed Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.”

“In Khan Younis we visited the site of a large play park and International Garden area which is still under construction, here the student delegates joined local families in a soccer game with an idyllic view of the Mediterranean sea in the background. The Students played ball with local children at the park. Even here the realities of Israeli occupation were evident with armed Israeli drones and F-16 fighter planes flying over head. During our stay the F-16’s were our alarm clocks and the early morning call as they criss-crossed Gaza skies terrorising the population. They also dropped leaflets warning that anyone who went to within 300m of the border would be shot. Welcome to life in Palestine.”

“Visiting the packed refugee camps bears witness to the reality of life for many poor or homeless people in Gaza. Many of them had once been in full-time employment before the blockade, still others had their homes destroyed by Israel. Up to 4 generations all living in a 6 by 6 metre shed with broken walls, collapsed roofs and dirt floors with sewage problems. And still they smile at us for visiting them, this is the unbreakable spirit of Palestine!”

Delegation meeting with familly in Refugee Camp

“On our last morning as we had our breakfast we were again reminded of the realities of life for the innocent civilians of Gaza. Fishermen in small wooden crafts who attempt to gather the ever shrinking available fish which swim in the three kilometres of their own waters, the only place that Israel allows them to fish, were to come under fire from Israeli naval ships. We could hear the heavy naval canons interspersed with the pulse of heavy machine guns. We were left wondering if we’d be hearing of yet another fishermen killed for trying to support his family.”

“We also learned that three young children had been burned to death during the night while attempting to read and study by candlelight. The candle fell over and they were trapped in their bedroom, God help them, all that was left of the three children were the scorched books on the floor which they had been studying from. Yet more tiny victims of the collective punishment siege as Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity each day, these few hours can come at any time even in the middle of the night when the population is asleep, so many students rely on dangerous burning candles to study! Myself and Ogra Alanna Campbell of Coalisland attended the children’s wake with other local women. Their Mother came over and handed me her last remaining child to hold in my arms as we cried together. The tiny 3 month old baby sister who was the only survivor, found under a pile of blankets which somehow managed to save her little life by protecting her from the smoke and flames which consumed her 3 siblings.”

“Leaving we were all very silent heading to Rafah to cross back into Egypt and then home to Ireland, just trying to absorb the gravity of what we had all witnessed for the last 8 days. But we pledged we would do all we can to support our friends in Gaza and to tell their stories to the world. Therefore Irish Friends of Palestine and Derry Frinds of Palestine will continue with more Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegations to Gaza until the murderous siege is lifted!”

BOOKMARK OUR PAGE AS WE WILL BE POSTING INDIVIDUAL REPORTS ABOUT ALL THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS WE ATTENDED IN GAZA
some of those inculded are:
Ministry of Education and HIgher Education
Islamic University of Gaza
Al Aqsa University
Khan Younis College of Science and Technology
Jabalia Martyrs Primary School
Refugee camps, meeting the poor and homeless
Global March to Jerusalem/Land Day Events
Khan Younis meetings
Political Meetings with Fateh, Hamas, and the PLC
Ministry of Youth and Sport
Effects of the Siege First Hand
Gaza Harbour
Local Weekly Prisoner Protests
Prisoners and their Families
UFREE Prisoners Conference Gaza City
Ethar Initiative
Emaar & Albasmah Centre
Khan Younis Park and Garden Development
plus much more…..

Derry Friends of Palestine member Clr Gerry MacLochlainn and Jennifer McCann MLA part of CEPR delegation to Gaza

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn of Derry Friends of Palestine along with Jennifer McCann MLA were invited by the Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR) to take part in the largest International Delegation to Gaza. The delegation of more than 100 government officials and advocates includes representatives from Ireland and 40 other countries and is the largest group of national officials yet to visit Gaza.

Saying it is long past time for the international community to step in and force Israel to end its siege on Gaza, a global coalition of statesmen and NGO representatives issued and adopted a unanimous resolution demanding immediate action through all diplomatic, cultural and economic means possible.

Before drafting the resolution, the delegation considered reports from experts documenting the following facts:

• Israel continues to maintain complete control over Gaza’s territorial waters, preventing all movement of people and goods by sea and limiting fishing to a distance of three nautical miles from the Strip’s coastline. Fishermen who defy the ban are shot at and /or their boats are confiscated. An estimated total of 4,5000 residents who had previously supported their families by fishing have thus been stripped of their livelihoods and the entire population of 1.5 million have been deprived of a vital source of natural inexpensive nutrition.

• Likewise, Israel prevents access to a 300-1,500m “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza, cutting residents off from one-third of their most arable land.

• All exports from Gaza continue to be virtually prohibited. Although a minimal amount of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes were allowed to be shipped out between November 2010 and May 2011, the average rate of export during that time was two truckloads per day, compared to Israel’s commitment in 2005 to allow the export of 400 trucks per day. Since May 12 of this year, no trucks have been allowed to leave the Strip. Without exports, it is impossible for Gazans to build anything close to a healthy, self-sufficient economy. Thus, the official unemployment rate now stands at 25.6%.

• Imports of construction materials continue to be severely restricted, when allowed in at all. Each month since January 2011, approximately 17% of the materials that entered monthly in the years prior to June 2007 (when the siege began) has been allowed in. One consequence is a shortage of 250 schools.

• The resolution calls for free excess for both people and goods by land, sea and air, through both Israel and Egypt.

Resolution

The time for words is past. Governments and human rights organisations worldwide must employ all peaceful powers at their disposal to force an end to the siege. These actions should include economic sanctions, cultural boycotts and diplomatic actions such as ambassador recalls.

Specifically, the International Delegation calls for all governments and NGO’s to use these measures to demand:

• An end to the prohibition on exports.
• An end to all import bans and restrictions related to consumables, healthcare and industry/business.
• The lifting of all control of Gaza’s territorial waters.
• The opening of the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s border with Israel.
• The free flow of people in and out of Gaza, limited only by reasonable security checks and document requirements.
• International acceptance of the Palestinian people’s democratic choices in the next elections, and a commitment to constructively engage with their elected representatives.

Delegation members will work through their own networks to lobby for the implementation of this resolution.

PLEASE JOIN AND SUPPORT THE WORK OF DERRY AND THE IRISH FRIENDS OF PALESTINE IN SUPPORT OF THE RESOLUTION TO END THE SIEGE!! FIND US ON FACEBOOK HERE

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn reports the following today:

I was happy to arrive again in Gaza and to visit old friends and new friends. However I was saddened to see that still nothing has changed from my last few visits. No rebuilding of homes, no cement allowed in.

Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their land

Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their land

(Above photo) In Zionist settlements north of Gaza – the area in front of these settlements was ethnically cleansed by Israeli Invasion forces in Operation Cast lead – No houses were left standingOnly those who fled survived the slaughter – the intensity of the Zionist aggression was such that a young girl of 3 years was killed running from her home but her body could not be recovered for another 20 days. Such is life in Gaza. Thousands of people are still being forced to live in tents or one room shacks 3 years on from the brutal attack on the civilian population.

The scene of yet another murder

(above photo) This crater which you now see, was once a fisheries police station until a week ago when Israel decided it had not killed enough Palestinians for a while. They bombed it and killed several policemen. There were no survivors – one policeman’s body was thrown some 30 metres away

I then spent the evening in Derry’s sister city of Khan Younis, meeting with my good friend Ahmed Al Najjar from the Gazan Ministry of Education, along with the Mayor of Khan Younis, Mr Muhammed Al Farra.

pictured from left to right: Mr. Ahmed Al Najjar, Ministry of Education, Clr Gerry MacLochalinn, Mr. Muhammed Al Farra Mayor of Khan Younis, Palestine

We spent the evening discussing future projects of mutual interest and ways that the people of Derry, Belfast and Ireland can help to improve the situation in Gaza. More on this when we get home to Ireland.

Today, Jennifer and I met the Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah. As Jennifer and I are both former Irish political prisoners, we asked the Prime Minister if there was anything that we, as former political prisoners, could do to work with, assist, or help the Palestinian prisoners. Hundreds of them were recently released by Israel under the “Shalit” deal and there will be 500 more released soon. The majority of these prisoners are released into Gaza, even if they were from the West Bank. So they wer free from Zionist prisons, but not free to go home to the West Bank. Jennifer and I were honoured to be told by the Prime Minister that a meeting will be arranged for the two of us to meet with the prisoners and their families later today to explore what further work we can do, Insha Allah.

After meeting the Prime minister, I was one of two people selected to attend and speak at a press conference being held today with the Samouni family.

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn speaking at the Samouni Press Conference in Gaza

The Samouni’s lost 29 members of their family, mostly women and children when their home was deliberately attacked. Israel has denied any wrong doing and after it’s own “investigation” has decided the Samouni’s case and other cases like these will be “dismissed and closed.” yet another murderous war crime being swept under the Zionist rug.

Insha Allah, tonight Jennifer and I look forward to an evening spent with good friends, good Palestinian food, and good discussions.

Jennifer McCann MLA and Clr Gerry MacLochlainn arrive in Gaza

Derry Friends of Palestine member Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn along with Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann from Belfast, both arrived in Gaza on Monday night to a big Gazan weclome. They are part of the (Council for European Palestinian Relations) CEPR’s largest delegation yet. A fact finding mission consisting of elected members and Parliamentarians from around the world.

Jennifer McCann MLA and Claire Short from the British Labour Party at refugee camp in Gaza

Jennifer McCann MLA reports from yesterday:

Jennifer McCann MLA with women from the Delegation

There’s over 100 people from all over the world on this delegation. Today we visited the Health Facility for wounded children and as you can see from the pictures they have lost limbs in the bombing, one other young girl of 10 years had been shot.

One of many children who have lost limbs when israel attacked their homes

We then went through Beit Lahia just north of Jabalia,the area was totally devastated in the bombing of Dec 2008. This is an area where entire families were wiped out in a single attack, and where the UN school was bombed. We visited the makeshift homes in one of the refugee camps and the conditions over 130,000 people are living in are atrocious, 7 people all living in one or two tiny rooms. They cannot rebuild any of the houses that were bombed as they can’t get access to building materials due to the blockade.

one of the thousands of homeless refugee familys, 7 members forced to live in one room

There were a number of other meetings and presentations with NGO’s and leaders of Civil Society here and we had a reception in the University for applied sciences, the young students have increased in numbers from 300 to 9,000. The Palestinians are very resilient people. There are students who had gained University places in other countries but can’t go due to the blockade.

MV Saoirse leaving Turkey

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Irish aid ship to Gaza must be allowed to deliver humanitarian support – Sinn Féin

November 3, 2011

Responding to news that the Irish aid ship, the MV Saoirse and a Canadian ship Tahrir have successfully reached international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on a mission dubbed “Freedom Waves to Gaza”, Sinn Féin spokesperson on foreign affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has praised the “heroism and courage of the crew of the MV Saoirse” and called on the Irish government to speak to the Israeli government and seek safe passage for the MV Saoirse, and to do all in its power to end the siege of Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Earlier this year, the propeller shaft of the MV Saoirse was sabotaged while docked in Turkey and this prevented the ship from completing its aid mission as part of the second freedom flotilla. The Irish ship has since been repaired, with funds raised via small donations from Irish citizens in all of the 32 counties. In total, the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign has raised over €140,000 for its mission, a clear sign of the depth of support among ordinary Irish people for the people of Gaza.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“I know some of those on board the MV Saoirse, including Sinn Féin members, and I want to commend them and their colleagues for their heroism and courage in standing up for the rights of the people of Gaza to live free of oppression.

“The Freedom Waves to Gaza Initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement, the primary aim of which is to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. They have responded to an urgent call for international solidarity from 46 civil society organisations in Gaza

“It is clear from the recent vote at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to accept the full membership of Palestine that the overwhelming weight of international opinion supports the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, dignity, justice and freedom.

“The Irish Government must defend the right of Irish citizens joined by human rights activists from eight other countries to sail through international waters and deliver a message of hope to the beleaguered people of Gaza forced to live in an open air prison on horrendous circumstances.

“These two boats should be allowed safe travel and the Irish Government should be speaking to the Israeli authorities to ensure that they get it.

“I would further urge the Government to do all in its power to end the siege of Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Clr MacLochlainn with Adnan Abu Shabab from the Palestinian Embassy in Ireland

The organisation voted by an overwhelming margin of 107 nations for to 14 against with 52 abstentions.

Councillor MacLochlainn said:

“This is tremendous news for the oppressed people of Palestine – hopefully it is one more step on the way towards complete freedom for the Palestinian people

“It is obviously a move, which shows the overwhelming support of their struggle for freedom, justice and for their right to statehood.

“Unfortunately, the response from the US Government has been deeply disappointing and somewhat petty by removing some $60 million in funding from UNESCO in line with overtly undemocratic US legislation passed in the 1990’s.

“Secondly, any suggestion by the US that efforts by the Palestinian people to attain recognition of their statehood at the UN or elsewhere ‘undermines peace negotiations’ is complete and utter nonsense.

“Israel has full recognition of their state internationally, despite not having clearly defined borders and this is mainly due to their ongoing seizing of Palestinian land to facilitate illegal settlements.

“It is these actions that have undermined a peace settlement, yet the US stands idly by and placates Israel at every turn.

“The ‘Arab Spring’ is an opportunity for both the US and the European Union to build new relationships of trust in a region that has been blighted by conflict and failed by the international community.

“The US and the EU must now step up to their responsibilities to confront illegal Israeli settlements and broker a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.”

Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein Councillor in Derry, Ireland, and former political prisoner expressed his support for Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli gaols who are currently on hunger strike in protest against oppressive measures imposed recently by the Israeli regime.

Speaking today Councillor MacLochlainn said

“I am very concerned to hear that Palestinian prisoners are having to hunger strike to obtain what should be basic humane treatment in the modern world. But sadly the Israeli regime does not believe that normal civilised standards apply to them.

“The Zionist regime should learn the lessons of history before it is too late. Just 30 years ago this month Margaret Thatcher thought she had defeated Irish political prisoners when she forced them onto a hunger strike in which 10 young men died.

“But the reality of British rule in Ireland was exposed to the world by the courage and sacrifice of these young men and today our prisoners are all free, many of them are taking their places in government and British rule is being dismantled in Ireland.

“We remember the horror of those days when our prisoners were dying slow and painful deaths. We remember, in particular, those who stood with us and foremost among them were the mothers of Palestinian prisoners. They reached into our cells then and we reach into your cells now. You have our support, we will tell your story, we will expose the realities of the Zionist regime and one day we will walk with you through the free streets of a free Palestine.

Victory to the Palestinian hunger strikers!

Justice and freedom for the people of Palestine!”
ENDS

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams with (l to r) Adnan Shabab, Marie Crawley, Dr Nabil Shaath, Padraig MacLochlainn TD, David Morrison, Philip O'Connor and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD.

For immediate release 13th July 2011:

Adams meets senior Palestinian delegation

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today led a Sinn Féin delegation,including party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn TD and Aengus O Snodaigh TD, in a meeting with a senior Palestinian delegation, led by Dr. Nabil Shaath, who is a leading member of Fatah, and a former Chief Negotiator and Foreign Minister and for the Palestinian Authority. Dr. Shaath is currently involved in a round of meetings across EU states in which he is advocating support for a UN resolution in support of Palestinian statehood.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking after the meeting said:

“I reiterated Sinn Féin’s support for the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian people have the right to independence and self-determination and to a viable Palestinian state.Sinn Féin supports the Palestinian people in their efforts to achieve statehood, based on the 1967 borders.”

The Sinn Féin leader also said:

“At this critical juncture in the difficult process of achieving a political settlement in that region there is an opportunity for the Irish government to take the lead in encouraging other European governments to support the Palestinian people. “The Irish government should indicate now its full support for Palestinian UN Membership in the autumn.”

Mr. Adams added:

“I have visited the Middle East. I do not underestimate the difficulties in seeking to resolve the multiplicity of issues that need to be resolved, including a viable Palestinian state; Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; the siege of Gaza; the settlements; water rights; refugees; prisoners; the Separation wall and Jerusalem. “However, with international support progress can be made.”

TO LEARN MORE VISIT SADAKA HERE TO HELP THE PALESTINIANS CLAIM UN RECOGNITION

MacLochlainn contacts Taoiseach over appeal from Mr Fayeg Al-Mahbouh:

“Derry Friends of Palestine” member and local Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn has written to the Taoiseach to support an appeal from Mr Fayeg Al-Mahbouh, from Gaza for the Irish Government to act on the perpetrators of the recent murder of his brother, Mr Mohammed Al-Mahbouh, in Dubai.


Mr Al-Mahbouh said in Gaza yesterday:

“…the fraudulent use of Irish passports amounts to an attack on Irish sovereignty and to the Irish people.

He went on to say:

“Ireland and Palestine have shared political experiences and I would like to thank the Irish people for your support especially your condemnation of Israel’s war last year.”

Councillor MacLochlainn in his letter to an Taoiseach said

“I am appealing to you to take up this case with the urgency dictated by its nature and circumstances. The extra-judicial execution of Mr Al-Mahbouh was an act of state terror and as such is as abhorrent as the SAS and RUC shoot-to-kill strategy which caused so much hurt and damage in the North.

“To carry out the killing in a sovereign country, Dubai, is a further contemptuous snub to international law. But not content with this the perpetrators used Irish and other passports to effect their attack. In doing so they assaulted our country, they attacked our neutrality and they placed our citizens in danger.

“If it can be proven that the Israeli government or Mossad carried this out then they have shown a flagrant disregard for our citizens and our country’s sovereignty. They have attempted to implicate us in the squalid war against the Palestinian nation.

“As Taoiseach your Government must act. I am asking you to stand up for victims of state terror, defend our sovereignty and impose the severest sanctions on the Israeli state if this latest breach of international law is proven.”

ENDS

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