2 January 12 | Palestinian Center for Human Rights
On 2 January 2009 at around 14:30 an Israeli drone fired a missile at an open area in Qarara village, close to Khan Yunis. The missile struck and killed two brothers, Mohammed (12) and Abed Rabbo (9) al-Astal, and their cousin, Abdul Sattar Walid al-Astal (11) while they were playing and eating sugar canes in the land.
“I was at home when I heard an explosion that was close to our area. An Israeli drone was flying in the sky above us at that moment.” Eyad al-Astal recalls. “Approximately ten minutes later, my brother Ibrahim (28) came to my house and told me that my two sons and their cousin were killed by an Israeli shell. I rapidly left the house and headed to the scene about 250 meters west of my house. There I saw a deep hole. Traces of blood and fragments of flesh were still there.”
Three years have passed since Eyad lost his two sons but he still carries vivid memories with him. “Every day and every minute feels like the moment when I lost my sons. In everything there is a memory of them. I miss them all the time.”
Eyad tries to describe what the life of his family is like without Mohammed and Abed Rabbo: “Our lives have been very difficult since they were killed. Every time I see another boy their age, I remember my sons. I still cannot look at their photos, it is too painful.” He says; “I always feel like crying but I try not to. My wife, Jawaher, cries everyday but tries to hide her tears from me. She does not want to add salt to my wounds. My wife always wants to go to our sons’ graves with her mother, but I don’t. I only went once and don’t want to go again. I can’t face the sight of their graves.”
Besides Mohammed and Abed Rabbo, Eyad and his wife have five daughters and two sons. Mohammed and Abed Rabbo were the oldest children and their siblings were either very young or not born yet at the time of their death. The youngest child was born one and a half years after the war and will have no memories at all. “When the children ask us where their brothers are we tell them that they were killed, martyred, and are in heaven now”, says Eyad.
The memory of his sons is at the tip of Eyad’s tongue. “My son Khaled looks exactly like his brother Mohammed and I often find myself saying ‘Mohammed!’ when I actually mean to call Khaled.” In order to keep going, Eyad tries to stay busy all the time, finding some distraction by meeting people and working as a mason.
Since the death of his sons Eyad is tormented by worries and fears for the safety of his other children. Before the death of Mohammed and Abed Rabbo he allowed his children to go anywhere at anytime. Even when there were explosions and shooting was heard in the area. After the incident he became very afraid for his children and he wants to keep them inside. “I am afraid that anything would happen to them, especially for my son Khaled, who is now in the first grade. From the moment he leaves the house I worry that something could happen to him. Every day he walks to school, which is 1 kilometer away from our home. I know education is important, otherwise I would forbid him to go, out of my fear.”
The children themselves are aware that their brothers were killed by a drone: the same type of drone they often hear and see flying above themselves. Eyad explains that “when they hear a drone they are too afraid to go outside. ‘The drone will bomb me if I go out’, is what they say.”
The area where Mohammed and Abed Rabbo were killed was an open area approximately three kilometres away from the border with Israel. “The children were used to playing in that area. Our piece of land is close to it. It is an agricultural residential area, far from any hostilities,” Eyad explains.
Eyad is sceptical about the future, given the continuing impunity. “The Israelis disregard our rights. They kill our children and bulldoze our lands and no one will hold them accountable,” he says. “I expect the Israeli court to reject our complaint. I can even imagine them killing me together with my other children. However, I want to hope that the complaint would have some result.”
PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to the Israeli authorities on behalf of the al-Astal family on 23 June 2009. To-date, no response has been received.
Traditional farming methods are crucial for protecting a number of threatened bird species in the developing world, including bustards, cranes, ibises and vultures, a study has found.
Livestock grazing and features associated with arable farming — such as hedgerows — create environmental conditions that certain birds currently depend on for food, shelter and breeding, the authors report.
But as industrial farming methods eliminate these habitats, these species are threatened with extinction, said Hugh Wright, a researcher in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, and lead author of the study, published in Conservation Letters earlier this month (5 December).
“There really is no hope for these species if industrial farming continues unchecked,” he told SciDev.Net.
Although reintroducing or mimicking traditional farming techniques has had success in conserving wildlife in Europe, “conservation in the developing world has always focused on pristine forest ecosystems and has paid little attention to where farming might be beneficial,” Wright said.
The study found 29 bird species threatened by the decline of traditional agriculture in developing countries. This number could be much higher if all organisms, rather than just birds, are considered, as evidence from Europe suggests that traditional farming also benefits reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and even plants, Wright said.
Farmers can benefit too from protecting biodiversity since it helps to justify traditional agriculture and could prevent big agri-businesses from forcing farmers off their land, he added. Also, by offering farmers economic incentives to continue these beneficial practices, governments can ensure that conservation and development move forward together.
Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, agreed that traditional agricultural methods are a valuable conservation tool, but said that adopting techniques aimed at saving a few iconic species can disadvantage farmers.
“Applying low-intensity farming instead of industrial methods often pits livelihoods against conservation, and can impose limits on a region’s development,” he said.
Instead, he said that “land sparing” — where some areas are intensively farmed while others are left primarily for conservation — can lead to more wildlife and better crop yields.
There is no one strategy, but a “middle ground” that combines land sparing and traditional farming methods to suit local conditions could be the best conservation strategy, he added.
Wright agreed that a mixed approach can maximise biodiversity. “You need to assess which species you have, how feasible it is to protect them, what it will cost and social issues as well before coming up with a conservation strategy for an area,” he said.
Conservation Letters doi: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2011.00208.x (2011)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) declared its intention to demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes and buildings in area C under its control in the occupied West Bank and to retain illegal settlement outposts.
Haaretz newspaper said the Israeli prosecution bureau pledged to respond to petitions filed by Palestinian residents with the Israeli higher court against demolition of their property by razing hundreds of buildings and structures including schools without delay.
The IOA prevents the Palestinian natives from building or getting licenses to build in area C, so they find themselves forced to set up even temporary structures and tents because they know that Israel will not let them live peacefully in their lands without harassment and demolitions.
If the IOA and its prosecution bureau fulfilled their pledge to respond to Palestinian petitions, thousands of Palestinians would be homeless and 32 schools would be knocked down depriving about 1,000 Palestinian children from education.
For its part, the Israeli ministerial committee for legislation discussed in its meeting on Sunday a draft law aimed at preventing the evacuation of random illegal settlement outposts built by Jewish settlers without permits in the West Bank.
Haaretz said the leaders of these settlement outposts and right-wing Knesset members pressured this ministerial committee to approve and support the draft law.
In the morning of the 30th of December three members of the International Solidarity Movement and one other international were walking the streets of Nabi Saleh when two military jeeps drew up and stopped next to them. A group of approximately ten soldiers jumped out of the jeeps grabbing two of the international volunteers, forcing them into the jeeps as they drew away. Inside the car they were told they were under arrest for disobeying orders, stating that when they had instructed the internationals to stop, the internationals had fled and disobeyed. The ISM volunteers found this strange as they were the ones who actually stopped, and those who ran away were not arrested. The arrested were taken to a military-base where all their belongings were taken from them. They were then interrogated by a policeman. In this interrogation the charges were changed, shifting to allegations against the volunteers that they had entered a closed military-area, which also was strange as soldiers had blatantly let them into the area just an hour earlier.
After some hours waiting in the military base, they were handcuffed and driven to a police-station where they were also shackled. Once again they were interrogated by another policeman, this time for disobeying orders to stop when the soldiers supposedly wished to inform the volunteers that they were in a closed military-area.
After the interrogation they were given a paper written in Hebrew to sign. It was translated orally by a soldier. They refused to sign it and instead they were given another paper that said that they could not go to Nabi Saleh for 15 days.
Afterwards they were released without charges. The policemen asked them to tell Europe how well the Israelis had treated them.