Saturday, January 31, 2009
In 1999, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has exclusively awarded the area offshore Gaza for hydrocarbons exploration and marketing to British Gas (BG)/Consolidated Contractors Company Oil and Gas S.A.L (CCC) consortium (the developers). The award was granted pursuant to the agreements signed between the PNA and the developers, granting the latter the exclusive rights to produce, process and sell commercial discoveries in the license area for a period of 25 years to start upon approval of a field development plan.
In 2000, the developers announced the discovery of proven commercial gas reserves in the Gaza Marine Field, and proven commercial gas reserves in the Border field; a field that is in territorial waters of both Gaza and Israel. The developers are currently negotiating the terms of two Gas Sale Agreements, after which only one agreement will be approved and signed between relevant parties.
Among other positive aspects of the Gaza Gas project, in addition to injecting large funds into the local economy, development of the gas fields and exporting natural gas will send positive signals about the investment environment in Palestine. Success of the Gaza Gas project will enhance investors confidence in the Palestinian national economy as a result of the complicated nature of this project and the cross-border transactions and commitments it requires. Replacing gasoline with gas at the Palestine Electric Company in Gaza will reduce the current bill that the Palestinian National Authority pays to Israel to provide Palestinians in Gaza with electricity.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
27th January 2009, Gaza: On the morning of the 27th of January 2009, a Palestinian fishing boat left Gaza City port in one of the first attempts to work after the recent onslaught on Gaza, and the following ceasefire announced by Israel.
While fishing in Palestinian territorial waters, about 1 mile off the northern Gaza Strip shore, it was attacked by an Israeli gunboat. The fishing boat was sprayed with bullets of different types.
As it can be seen in the images taken by ISM volunteers, upon the return of the fishing boat to the Gaza port, Israeli soldiers were mostly targeting the wheelhouse. Fortunately the captain managed to survive, nobody was injured but the boat suffered serious damages.
26th January 2009 - Gazan territorial waters: Despite a ceasefire, and despite the fact that their target was a civilian vessel, the Israeli navy open fire on a Palestinian fishing boat to the severe injury of the captain Alaa Alhabel.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
January 24, 2009, 7:52 am
Two days later, at 1:00pm, Israeli soldiers fired on residents of Al Qarara, near Khan Younis, shooting Waleed al-Astal, 42, in his right foot.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The UN-OCHA Under-Secretary General also noted that on his visit to Ash-Shifa Hospital Thursday he witnessed the injuries of two fishermen who had been targeted by Israeli naval boat, still anchored offshore. “Things did not look very good” for the fishermen, noted Holmes, who could offer little indication of when the fishing industry would be allowed to re-open.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Date: 22 / 01 / 2009 Time: 09:57
Mu’awiyah Hassanain, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry told Ma’an that Israeli gunboats shelled the As-Sudaniya area northwest of Gaza City.
He said the wounded people were taken to Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Hassanain added that rescue teams are still working to recover the corpses, many of them now decomposing, of those killed in Israel’s three-week war on Gaza.
Separately, two Palestinians died in Egyptian hospitals where they were treated for wounds from Israel’s three-week offensive.
Medical officials identified them as: Tamer Omar Al-Louh, 22, from Gaza city and Azzam Mu’awad Ash-Shafe’y, 24, from Rafah.
The death toll from the war is now 1,330, with more than 5,000 injured.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Written by David K. Schermerhorn
Link leading to a Schermerhorn radio interview on the subject http://citizenreporter.org/2009/01/bm292-the-battle-for-gaza-gas-reserves/
BACKGROUND: There is an historical connection between the Gazan community and the off shore fishery. In recent times some 3000 fishermen in over 700 boats made their livelihood in the waters off the shores of Gaza. Before 1978 when the fishing area included the sea off the Sinai coastline the area covered some 75,000 square kilometers.
The larger boats are about 20 meters in length and usually carry a crew of 7. They are typically trawlers using downriggers to lower their nets to the ocean bed. Currently their main catch is bream or sardines that average between 8 and 14 inches. The smallest craft are rowboats normally used to deploy nets a few hundred meters off shore. The nets are then hauled in by hand from the beach. These catches are very modest.
After the 1994 GAZA-JERICHO AGREEMENT the fishermen were free to use a corridor extending 20 nautical miles from the Gaza shore bounded by restricted zones to the north and south abutting Israeli and Egyptian waters. After the UN's 2002 Bertini proposal the approved location was reduced to an area within 12 nautical miles of the coast. More recently the area available has been reduced to 300 square kilometers.
Beginning in late 2000 the Israeli military began a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the fishing boats that ventured near or beyond a 6 nautical mile limit. No formal notice or explanation was ever given to the Palestinians. Instead the regulation was written and enforced by Israeli machine guns and water cannons. At least 14 fishermen have been killed by the Israelis, over 200 injured and numerous boats damaged or impounded.
In the late 1990's the British Gas Group (BG Group) discovered a vast deposit of natural gas under the waters off Gaza: Over 1 trillion cubic feet equal to 150 million barrels of oil was estimated to be there. A significantly smaller deposit was also found in nearby Israeli waters.
On 11/8/99 Chairman Yasser Arafat signed an agreement giving BG Group 90 percent interest and 10 per cent to Consolidated Contractors Company, an Athens based Palestinian entity connected to the PLO.
A final allocation of the rights continues to be contested between BG Group, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians in obscured ongoing negotiations.
The Israelis began their program of killing and harassing the Gazan fishermen only after the discovery of the natural gas deposits. It is a reasonable assumption that the two events are linked: That the Israelis are asserting control over this resource valued at over 4 billion dollars; And that they are intent on denying any benefit to the Palestinians regardless of who controls Gaza.
-May 4, 1994: PLO Chairman Yasser Araft and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed The Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Article XI established three Maritime Activity Zones that extended out to sea 20 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza. Two narrow Zones running parallel to the boundaries of Egyptian and Israeli waters were designated No Fishing Areas. Under the terms of the Agreement the larger remaining Zone "will be open for fishing, recreation and economic activities." The Gazan fishermen operated freely for the next 6 years within this Zone with no major confrontations with the Israelis.
- Late 1990's: The British Gas Group (later BG Group) began explorations off the Israeli and Gazan coasts for natural gas. A modest deposit was found in Israeli waters close to the Gaza Marine Activity Zone. A significantly larger deposit was found in a section of this Zone centered some 10 to 15 nautical miles offshore. It was estimated that there were sufficient reserves to generate electric power for all Palestinian needs for a decade and still have surplus to export.
- July 25, 2000: Yasser Arafat walked out on the Camp David meeting.
- September 27, 2000: Yasser Arafat traveled 19 miles off the Gaza coast to light the first flare stack flowing from the natural gas. An Israeli oil consortium had contested the Palestinian rights to the gas but was overturned in an Israeli court. The initial agreement with the BG Group gave them 90 percent interest and 10 percent to Consolidated Contractors Company, an Athens based Palestinian group. They and the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) had the option to later assume up to 40 per cent interest.
Initially BG Group negotiated with Egypt to run an undersea pipeline designed to import the gas. Under pressure from Tony Blair BG Group was forced to negotiate with the Israelis instead. Those discussions, which centered over price, have been so long and contentious that BG Group closed their Israel office and again began dealing with Egypt.
- September 28, 2000: Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount despite warnings by Arafat and other leading Palestinians. The predictable riots and deaths following this provocation marked the beginning of 2nd Intafada. Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February 2001. He vowed that Israel would never buy gas from the Palestinians. After the outbreak of the 2nd Intafada the Israelis began an ever-tightening blockade of Gaza with fewer and fewer trucks allowed to enter.
- Late 2000: Attacks by Israeli patrol boats against Gazan fishing boats began and have continued to this day. These attacks began 5 years before Hamas freely won the legislative elections on January 25, 2006. It is apparent that these assaults on the fishermen had nothing to do with security or with Hamas. Instead it had everything to do with a 4 billion dollar resource belonging to the Palestinians.
- August, 2002: In response to a request from Prime Minister Sharon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Ms. Catherine Bertini as his Personal Humanitarian Envoy to asses humanitarian needs of the Palestinians.
At the end of her visit to the area she made numerous recommendations including one that dealt with the fishing boats. In her report she included a list of "Previous Commitments Made by Israel". Item 2 states: "The fishing zone for Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast is 12 nautical miles. This policy needs to be fully implemented." But never was!
- Although the attacks occurred throughout the Maritime Activity Zone they were more common once a boat had passed the 6-mile limit. Most boats now carry GPS's in order to know their exact positions. Some captains are intimidated by the Israeli threat and turn back before crossing the line. Others go further despite the increased danger from the Israelis. The fishery closer to shore has collapsed after so many boats were forced to operate in such a limited area. In addition the waters near shore are polluted due to sewage pouring in from broken pipes. One more consequence of an infrastructure crippled by the Israelis.
Since the outset of these assaults at least 14 fishermen have been killed and over 200 injured. Boats continue to be damaged or impounded.
9/12/05 - Israel announced that it had ended the occupation of Gaza and withdrew its forces. It maintained control of land and sea-lanes as well as all border crossings on land.
1/25/06 - Hamas won 76 of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in an open honest election. After a bloody battle with Fatah elements Hamas took control of Gaza. Israel and the United States branded Hamas a terrorist organization and have had no public contact with it thereafter. The restrictions at the border crossings were tightened further with severe limitations on the traffic of produce, materials, medicines and people. Anemia and malnutrition were widespread as a result.
Early June 2008 - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to covertly prepare for an invasion of Gaza to be known as operation "Cast Lead".
June, 2008 -Israel contacted BG Group to propose reopening negotiations over the natural gas deposits. Actual negotiations overseen by Ehud Olmert were taking place in October, 2008. It appears that Israel wished to reach an agreement with BG Group before the secretly planned invasion began.
6/19/08 - Hamas and Israel signed a 6-month truce agreement calling for cessation of rocket firings by Hamas and military incursions by Israel. In May over 300 rockets had been fired. In September only 5 to 10 were fired.
Hamas was lead to believe that significant increase in shipments would be allowed to enter Gaza. Before the truce roughly 70 trucks were allowed to bring provisions into Gaza each day compared with some 900 permitted before the Israeli clamp down in 2000. Hamas believed that a similar flow of traffic would be restored. Instead Israel allowed only an increase from the 70 to 90 trucks.
11/5/08 - IDF forces killed 6 Palestinians while supposedly searching for a tunnel passing under the border. In effect the truce was over after this provocation. During the next 5 weeks 237 rockets were fired into Israel compared with the 5 to 10 fired in September. The increase in rocket fire was Israel's public justification for launching the long planned "Cast Lead" invasion.
11/18/08 - An Egyptian court ordered the government to stop shipping natural gas to Israel. Under a 2005 agreement Egypt agreed to deliver 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Israel over a 15-year period. The gas began to flow in May, 2008. A lawsuit followed seeking to bar delivery since the Parliament had not given its approval. The court supported the lawsuit and its findings are being appealed. The potential cutoff of the gas from Egypt gave Israel even more incentive to take control of the Gaza Marine deposits and to deny any benefits to Palestinians whether Hamas or Fatah.
11/18/08 - Israeli naval vessels attacked three Palestinian fishing boats located seven miles off the coast of Deir Al Balah, clearly within the limits permitted in the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Fifteen Palestinian fishermen and three international observers were kidnapped and taken with the boats to Israel. The fishermen were held for a day and then released. The boats were eventually returned but damaged. The internationals were jailed in Israel for many days and then deported.
12/27/08 - Israel began bombing Gaza as phase 1 of operation "Cast Lead". The vast natural gas deposits of Gaza Marine 1 and 2 rest a few miles offshore.
To the victor the spoils one more time? Only time and perhaps the conscience of the world will determine.
Although the violations of law and basic human rights to the Gazan fishermen pale in comparison to the horrors that have unfolded they should not be forgot or forgiven. Based on the limited reports coming from Gaza due to Israeli restrictions on journalists it is possible that there are no fishing boats left or even a harbor. Perhaps justice will never be served on those who initiated and perpetuated these assaults. But let us never forget that the greed and self-interest embodied in these policies are those of a country that has lost its shame. Has lost its honor.
David K. Schermerhorn
(Schermerhorn has been to Gaza 3 times in recent months aboard Free Gaza (freegaza.org) boats. He spent two days aboard fishing boats that were harassed by machine gun fire and assaulted by water cannons.)
Thursday, January 8, 2009
By Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, January 8, 2009
The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves.
This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.
British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon's Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.
The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).
The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.
The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine's gas reserves could be much larger.
Who Owns the Gas Fields
The issue of sovereignty over Gaza's gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.
The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza's offshore gas reserves.
British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.
The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine's sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that "Israel would never buy gas from Palestine" intimating that Gaza's offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.
In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza's offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)
The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.
In 2006, British Gas "was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt." (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.
The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority." The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.
Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:
The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.
Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza's offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.
The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:
Israel's intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).
Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board
The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under "Operation Cast Lead" was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:
That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza's natural gas:
The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.
Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new "post war" political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.
In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.
In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG's offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)
Gaza and Energy Geopolitics
The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.
What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?
A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or "peacekeeping" troops?
The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?
The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza's maritime areas?
If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel's offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).
These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel's energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport - pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. "What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel's Tipline." (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)
Sunday, January 4, 2009
From the text
The Diaphanous Faces of Ghosts Demanding Justice
This is only an extract referring to the bombing of Gazan port. You can read the whole text posted on the FGM website on Sunday, 04 January 2009 10:56
The place is devastated by flames, there have been cannon shots coming from the sea and bombs raining down from the sky all morning. The same fishing boats we accompanied into the open sea just a few days ago, well beyond the six miles imposed by Israel in their illegal and criminal siege, are now reduced to charred wrecks. If the firefighters tried to put out the fires, they’d instantly become the targets of the F16’s machine guns – this already happened yesterday. After this massive attack, after having made an exact estimate of the dead (if this will ever be possible), the city will have to be rebuilt over a desert of rubble.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Fida Qishta lives in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. She is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and blogger, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) coordinator for the Gaza Strip.
This is an extract from her diary referring to the gaza fishermen. You can read the whole text posted on the ISM website on Friday, 02 January 2009
From the thousands of stories about life in Gaza and the suffering of the people here, I was amazed by one story of Gaza’s fishermen that I heard when I was out on a fishing boat. To write a story like this you need to wake up at 5:30 am and prepare yourself to leave Rafah at 6am to be on time for the fishing trip.
The trip from Rafah to Gaza City is an hour by taxi. Normally, we share the taxi with six other people. We don’t know one another, but the strange thing is that we talk to each other as friends who see each other every day. And in that way you can hear six stories about life, about a father or a son, a mother or a daughter, a lover or a friend, about their days, or about the questions in their minds that need answers. We share the taxi to share the costs, but at the same time to share the happiness and the sadness. This is one of the things we have that people in Europe don’t.At 7 am on my first day fishing, I wanted to be on one of the trawlers. I didn’t think it would be easy or that I would be safe, but it was worth trying, in order to see something different and a window on the world that is almost closed.
I arrived at Gaza port with one of my friends, got on the boat and started the trip, after the fishermen had prepared themselves. On the boat I realized how open the fishermen were, how much they wanted to talk about their experiences. They just needed somebody to listen, somebody to make them feel better.While we were all chatting about different things, Ahmed, who is 20 years old, started to talk. He said, my brother was shot in the head while he was working on this boat. I remember that day very well. All of us on the boat were working, and things were going alright until an Israeli gunboat showed up and started to shoot at us. You are going to ask me, for no reason? Yes, for no reason, unless they aim to make us suffer on land and in the sea. The gunboat started to shoot directly at our boat. Ibrahim was shot in the head. Some of us were scared, and some tried to deal with Ibrahim’s wound. They were really strong to be able to deal with his injury and see all of the blood. For a while I thought he had died. But when we arrived to the port, and took him to the hospital, he was in very bad condition according to the doctors. He stayed in the emergency room for ten days, and after that it was God’s will that he survived. Since then he has not come back to fish because the accident affected him.
I asked myself since hearing this story, what is the mistake that we have made to face this fate? The Israelis always say that they fight us because we are armed. Are the nets that we use for fishing a prohibited thing, are they a weapon? If so, international law should inform us of this.For your information, according to the Oslo Agreements, Gaza’s fishermen have the right to fish 20 miles from the shore, and according to international law we can fish 12 miles out, with or without an occupation. Then why does the Israeli Navy force these fishermen to fish no more than six miles from shore? Is this part of their siege, or another of their security reasons which have no end?
I asked another fisherman named Hassan who is 35 years old, is it really dangerous to fish? He answered, the Israelis have left me with no alternative but to die. In the stories that I write I never try to remember the date or the time, but for some people it makes a difference to know when something happened. But for Gazans it doesn’t make any difference. It amazes me how people here survive. Maybe as we say in Arabic, a person who sees others’ miseries finds that his misery looks smaller than he imagined.
In the stories that I write I never try to remember the date or the time, but for some people it makes a difference to know when something happened. But for Gazans it doesn’t make any difference. It amazes me how people here survive. Maybe as we say in Arabic, a person who sees others’ miseries finds that his misery looks smaller than he imagined.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
These are only extracts referring to the bombing of Gaza Port. You can read the whole report posted on the ISM webpage on: January 1, 2009
[...] The port, across from where I tried to sleep, was targeted, the Port Authority building destroyed and the dock repeatedly shelled, the impact of the shells some of the closest and most deafening I’ve felt yet, rivaling the shelling 30 m from my friends home in Jabaliya which we experienced three nights ago. The target: an olive orchard in the back yard of a fence-in neighbour’s house.
10:20 am: 6 more blasts, sets of 2, direction of the port
missile shot from Apache lands outside the apartment we are staying in tonight, hitting the Port Authority building just 150 m away.
missile shot from an Apache hits the port, 400 m from the apartment we are staying in
*drones continue to fly over this building, and over the building which I visited one hour before (near the bombed Minister’s compound)
2 shots from Israeli naval boats, targets as yet unknown
3 more shots
2 more shots; “They are aiming at the breakwater in Gaza’s harbour,” Mahfouz, a sailor living just down the road, tells me: “They are warning that they are out there. They want to show us their power. They did the same thing yesterday.” [Mahfouz received a shell beside his front yard two nights ago. His family –one teenage son and several young girls, is terrified.]
[the power cuts, I’m unable to continue updating and unable to know what is happening around me]