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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org. For the week of November 24 through December 1, 2006.
The Israeli army kills 11 Palestinians this week. Palestinian civil servants receive another fraction of their over due salaries. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces violate a ceasefire made Sunday with Palestinian factions. And there have been setbacks in the talks of forming a Palestinian national unity government, but progress on the prisoner swap deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Weekly Peaceful actions in the West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful actions against the annexation Wall in the West Bank
At today’s peaceful protest against the apartheid wall in Bil’in Israeli soldiers lashed out at activists with fists and batons, rubber bullets and tear gas. When the villagers reached the gate in the wall with their tractor, they demanded access to their land on the other side. Being denied access, the protesters set about dismantling the razor wire in front of the gate. Despite a barrage of sound bombs and some tear gas, much of the wire was removed. Unable to disperse the small but determined crowd, the soldiers called in reinforcements and escalated their military violence.
Soldiers arrested one activist and beat several others, including a villager. Several people suffered cuts and torn clothes, as well as the head injuries suffered by the villager and an Israeli activist. The arrested Israeli activist was badly beaten and had his shirt torn off. He is still in detention.
Back in the village soldiers were shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at the village children. Two children were shot, one in the head and the other in the back and legs. The brutality shown by the Israeli army and their large presence inside Bilin today, marks another escalation in their efforts to quash the village’s non-violent resistance that has captured the imagination of peace activists from all over the world.
Paul, an American activist who was in Bilin today, describes the army violence
An expanded panel of the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition that challenged the route of the Separation Wall near the village of Bir Nibala, north of Jerusalem. The petitioners, made up of Palestinian owners of the land in question, stated that the wall is illegal because it is built on private Palestinian land. The high court's decision rejected the accusation that the location of the Wall was determined by political reasons, and agreed with the Israeli government's claim that the Wall is built for security reasons. This section of the Wall is part of what is called the “Jerusalem envelope,” which, when complete, will annex the lands of five Palestinian villages near Jerusalem and make them a de facto part of Israel.
In addition, the Israeli army uprooted dozens of trees near Artas Village, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, for the construction of the Separation Wall and settlement expansion of the nearby illegal settlement of Effrat.
Attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
This week the Israeli army continued its attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, killing 11 residents and wounding at least 50.
Attacks on the Gaza Strip
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians including one child, in Jabalya refugee camp, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Another resident died of wounds he sustained during an earlier Israeli invasion. Thirty seven residents were injured, including 13 children. Since the end of June, the Israeli army has killed 468 residents, mostly civilians, including 88 children and 29 women. At least 1,592 residents were injured, also mainly civilians. Those injured include 329 children and 109 women over the last five months.
This week the Rafah crossing opened for only one day, leaving thousands of people stranded on both the Egyptian and the Palestinian sides.
The United Nations General Assembly named South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the head of a fact finding mission that will head to the Gaza Strip next week to investigate the Beit Hanoun massacre carried out by the Israeli army in early November when an Israeli artillery attack killed at least 20 sleeping civilians in their homes, all of them members of the same extended family.
Attacks on the West Bank
In the West Bank this week, the Israeli army killed two residents, including a resistance fighter, in an invasion of the West Bank town of Qabatiya, southeast of Jenin. In other Israeli invasions this week in different parts of the West Bank, 12 Palestinians were injured, including six children. Also this week, Israeli soldiers abducted 65 residents, including 8 children.
Israeli authorities released the Palestinian Minister of Labor and Housing, Abdul-Rahman Ziedan, after a nearly one-month imprisonment on 11,500 US Dollars bail. Dozens of other Palestinian government ministers and officials remain in Israeli detention.
Illegal Israeli settlers continued their attacks on the Palestinian residents of the West Bank city of Hebron. This week the settlers, who live on illegally-seized Palestinian land in the Hebron area, abducted a 20 year old girl from Hebron and took her to the nearby illegal settlement of Hagaia. After a short search the Israeli army found the girl and sent her home unharmed.
The Israeli army killed two 16 year olds in separate invasions of the West Bank cities of Hebron and Nablus. The first teen was killed by Israeli border guards near the Abraham Mosque in the city of Hebron while the other was shot in the head and killed during an Israeli invasion of his village, near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
Update on forming a National Unity government & prisoners swap
This week Israel accepted the Palestinian offer of a cease fire in the Gaza Strip between Palestinian resistance factions and the Israeli army. Israeli troops withdrew from residential areas inside the Gaza Strip. Some of the Palestinian factions in Gaza rejected the ceasefire, saying it should include all of Palestine, the West Bank as well as Gaza.
Here is Abu Mujahed, spokesperson of the Salah Al Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip:
"There is no way that we can enforce a truce in the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian blood is still flowing in the occupied West Bank. Our commitment to the ceasefire is linked to the Zionist enemy commitment.
Palestinian security forces have been deployed along the border to enforce the ceasefire on the Palestinian side. Here is Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Al Naser Musleh, who is the head of those forces:
"Our purpose is to first enforce the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, then on the West Bank for the resumption of the peace process to fulfill the Palestinian people's dream to realize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. We are using all possible power at our disposal to prevent any breaking of the ceasefire on the Green Line, even by force and we have orders from our seniors to achieve that".
Some of the residents of Gaza see this ceasefire as temporary. Here is Mohammad Al Rifa'ee of Gaza city
"We consider the ceasefire a temporary truce that might allow the Israeli side to realize Palestinian credibility towards peace"
The ceasefire came one day after a statement by the head of Hamas Khalid Mashaal in which he reiterated his movement's offer of a long term truce with Israel and establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Earlier this week the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, made a speech in which he urged Palestinian refugees to give up their internationally-recognized right to return to their homes in Israel. In exchange, he said Israel might be willing to release a few of the nearly 10,000 Palestinian detainees and reduce the number of checkpoints in the West Bank, but added that this would only happen after Palestinian resistance factions release an Israeli soldier they have held prisoner since June.
Amer Sulieman, head of Egyptian Intelligence, arrived into Tel-Aviv and met with Israeli Defense Minster Amir Peretz and other Israeli officials, during which they discussed ways to finalize an agreement on a possible prisoner swap between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
For the first time since Hamas took power earlier this year, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya left the Gaza Strip for a regional tour including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to gain support for lifting the international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas took office in January. During his visit to Egypt, Haniyya expressed his hope of reaching an Egyptian -brokered prisoners swap agreement with the Israelis soon. He also addressed the issue of the formation of a Palestinian national unity government, saying that negotiations have not stopped, but have been delayed due to some internal differences between the Hamas and Fateh.
There have been setbacks in the talks between the Fateh and Hamas movements regarding the formation of a national unity government, which according to President Mahmoud Abbas reached a dead end this week.
Fayez Al Saqa, a Fatteh lawmaker says that the disputed issues in forming the unity government are not what should prevent the sanctions from being lifted. Instead the main concern should be the program of the government once it is formed.
"The matter does not depend on forming the government who will the minister here or there. Fatteh proposed all of cabinet to be from Hamas, independent or technocrats, we do not want to take part in this government if this is the solution. But the question is what is the program of this government and whether this government will be able to help the president to lift the embargo imposed on the Palestinians by the International community and the Arab region"
Meanwhile, the Hamas movement says that the government should not be based
on an American or Israeli style government. Here is Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson:
"We in Hamas are fully ready to open all doors and to go on in a flexible and smoothly way e towards the success of the national project aiming at lifting the embargo imposed on the Palestinian people. But we say that the unity government should not be on an American or Israeli or east or west style, it should according a Palestinian decision with Palestinian ministers carrying the national Palestinian project"
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week in the West Bank city of Jericho. In a joint Press conference between the two, Rice said that the United States will intensify its efforts to revive peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. She expressed a commitment by the US to see a "just achievement" for the Palestinian people, which she said would come in the form of a two-state solution, with a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian state — although she did not specify whether that state would include a return of land illegally seized by Israel or the city of Jerusalem – two key issues for the Palestinian people.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged restraint and a continuation of the week-long ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and the Palestinian resistance, and called for an expansion of the ceasefire to the West Bank. But Israeli security officials advised the Israeli cabinet on Friday to break the truce and continue their daily attacks in the West Bank.
Rice also met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during which she praised what she called the Israeli 'restraint' during the five days of ceasefire.
Update on the financial crisis
The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in the Palestinian Territories issued a report in which it accused Israel of violating the year long US-brokered border crossing agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, including the operation of the Rafah crossing. Ongoing closure of this crossing has contributed to the increase in the unemployment rate among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from 33 percent in 2005 to 42 percent this year, and has caused over 30 million dollars in losses for Palestinian exporters.
The United Nations report pointed out that since last June the crossings have been closed 86 percent of the time. Since mid-January, the average number of trucks passing through Karni crossing has been 12 a day, despite the fact that the agreement allows for the passage of 400 trucks a day.
The report added that Israel has also violated its commitment to alleviate the passage of people and merchandise in the West Bank, and to enable the passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Regarding roadblocks in the West Bank, the report said that the number of roadblocks increased 44 percent during the past year, and that Israel has divided the West Bank into 10 enclaves, restricting the movement of the people and goods, thus causing a deterioration of the economic situation as a whole.
Israel broke its commitment to allow convoys to pass from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and to advance the operation of air and sea ports in the Gaza Strip.
The UN report also emphasized that since the beginning of April 2006, Israel had closed the Karni crossing for security reasons, but according to the report no security breaches had occurred there since April 26.
This week the acting Palestinian minister of Finance, Dr Samir Abu Aisha, said that some of the Palestinian civil servants will receive another fraction of their overdue salaries, 320 US dollars, very soon. The European Union announced it will deliver another 350US Dollars for each employee in both the health and education sectors as part of its temporary mechanism to help the Palestinian people in the face of an ongoing international economic blockade.
And that’s just some of the news from This Week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website at www.imemc.org. As always, thank you for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Caysha Cay, Khalid Mansour, Ghassan Bannoura