This Week In Palestine - Week 21 2008
Saturday May 24, 2008 02:44 by Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMC - Audio Dept.
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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for May 17h, through to May 23rd, 2008.
As the Palestinian Investments Conference concluded this week in the West Bank, Israeli army attacks on Gaza left 18 Palestinians dead. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank. The IMEMC's George Rishmawi has the details:
Villagers from Bil'in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, supported by international and Israeli peace activists conducted their weekly nonviolent protest, on Friday midday, against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village's land.
Protesters carried banners demanding the removal of the Israeli wall and settlements. As is the case each week the protests started after the mid-day Friday prayers were finished in the local mosque, villagers from Bil'in, along with Israeli and international peace activists, marched towards the location of the Wall which is separating the village from its land.
Immediately after the protest reached the gate of the Wall, soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Three protesters were injured by the Israeli army fire.
A smaller protest took place in the village of Um Salamunah near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Local sources told IMEMC that a group of 70 villagers, internationals and Israelis protested the settlers' road, which is located near the village. Israeli soldiers attacked the civilian protesters. No injures were reported, but Israeli police arrested 10 Israeli activists and released them after a short time.
For IMEMC.org this is George Rishmawi
Lead: Representatives of Palestinian factions in Gaza, involving the ruling Hamas party, returned back from Cairo on Thursday after completing a new round of ceasefire talks with Egyptian mediators. This and more with the IMEMC's Marry Smith:
Khalil Alhaiya, a Hamas leader who attended the Cairo meetings, told reporters yesterday that the factions heard the Israeli response to last month's ceasefire initiative and that the Palestinian representatives responded.
Alhaiya said that currently, the ceasefire offer cannot be implemented as the representatives committed to their demands that Israel should lift the Gaza blockade and halt military attacks on Gaza.
Israeli officials, who met with Egyptian mediators last week, reiterated their demands that Hamas should release the captured Israeli soldier, Gil'ad Shalit, and that Egypt should ensure a halt of arms smuggling from its territories into Gaza Strip, where Hamas has held power since June of last year.
Hamas, along with representatives of 11 other factions, emphasized that any truce deal should be separate from the Shalit case and that this should be sorted out in the framework of a prisoners exchange deal between Israel and Palestinians. Negotiations on such a deal have been deadlocked for the past several months.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas expressed his hope that the current truce talks will result in calm in the region, saying that initial responses were not encouraging, and urging the Egyptians to exert more effort towards achieving progress.
Abbas was speaking after a meeting with French foreign minister Bernard Koshner in Ramalah.
Earlier the week, U.S president Gorge W. Bush stated that he believes that peace is possible by the end of this year, in light of his 2002 vision of a two-state solution. However, according to Palestinian officials, so far no progress has been achieved in the Palestinian-Israeli talks.
In related news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing a series of charges including bribery, which according to analysts will limit his ability to forge any agreement soon. On the other hand, Olmert said this week that he believes that Israel is ready to undertake peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians simultaneously.
And finally, the Palestine Investment Conference took place in Bethlehem this week from May 21st to 23rd. Over 1200 Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, and international investors took part in the conference, which saw around $2 billion US worth of contracts negotiated.
The conference was opened on Wednesday under the slogan "Palestine is open for business,", and was kicked off by speeches from Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, and Tony Blair. Among the participants was an American delegation sent by President Bush, who pledged that this year, the USA will provide over 500 million dollars in assistance to the Palestinians.
However, many Palestinians were also critical of the conference. Some conference participants have stated that no economic development will succeed while the Israeli occupation is still ongoing. As Rajjeh Attoul, a Jordanian businessman explains:
"Investment without ending the occupation is hard, all the investment of before failed because of the occupation, you can't export and export, nothing will work with the occupation."
For the IMEMC, this is Mary Smith.
The Israeli attacks
The Gaza Strip
Lead: This week, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have left 18 Palestinians dead. Among them were several children. We'll go now to the IMEMC's Rami Al Meghari reporting from Gaza :
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army killed on Friday five Palestinian fighters and kidnapped 25 civilians during two invasions targeting the southern and central parts of the Gaza Strip. The Al Qassam Brigades said that three of the Brigades' fighters were killed during an army attack targeting the Khan Younis and Rafah areas in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
In the meantime during another invasion targeting areas in the central Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroyed Palestinian-owned farmland. Before leaving Israeli troops clashed with local resistance fighters and killed two on them from Islamic Jihad. Residents in the central Gaza Strip said that during the Israeli attack there that lasted for several hours Israeli troops kidnapped 20 civilians and took them to unknown locations.
On Thursday, Israeli forces turned over to Egyptian authorities the body of a man they claimed was shot while attempting to cross the Egypt-Israel border illegally. The man was a Bedouin, part of a group of indigenous nomadic shepherds.
On Thursday afternoon, one Palestinian civilian was killed and 14 others injured when Israeli troops opened fire during a peaceful demonstration at the Al Mentar crossing point in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources identified the dead man as Abed Al Kareem Aheel, 24. Medics also said that three of the wounded are in critical condition.
The demonstration's participants were protesting the 11 month Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. This week Palestinian doctors in Gaza said that four patients died due to the siege; all four tried to leave the coastal enclave for medical care but were prevented by the army. The death of those four patients in Gaza this week raises the number of patients who died due to the ongoing siege to 160, including several children.
Two Palestinian resistance groups have carried out a suicide attack at the Erez border crossing, at the northern border between Gaza and Israel, on Thursday morning.
A truck loaded with explosives was driven by a Palestinian to the crossing, where the man blew it up with himself inside. The Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, along with the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, clamed responsibility for the attack. Israeli sources said there were no Israelis injured.
In a separate attack on Thursday morning, in the central Gaza Strip, a Palestinian farmer was killed after Israeli troops opened fire while he and other farmers were working in the fields.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported that five Palestinians, including one child, were killed in separate Israeli attacks in the Strip on Tuesday. Medical sources reported that a child and a farmer were killed and two other Palestinians were wounded when the army shelled several areas, including houses and farmlands, in the northern and central parts of the Gaza Strip.
The rest of the fatalities on Tuesday took place during several air attacks and tanks shelling targeting deferent areas of the Palestinian coastal region.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank
One Palestinian youth was killed and at least 40 others were kidnapped during army attacks this week in the West Bank. The IMEMC's Jay Sheradan has the story:
Israeli troops manning the Huwara checkpoint located in the northern part of the West Bank killed a young Palestinian man and then prevented ambulances from reaching him.
The army claimed that a Palestinian in his 20’s approached the checkpoint, was “playing with his clothes”, and refused to adhere to soldiers orders to stop. Witnesses said that soldier could have stopped the youth without killing him.
On Thursday night, a Palestinian taxi driver was shot in the head and critically wounded by an Israeli security guard who said that the driver refused to stop on command.
The taxi driver, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was driving an Israeli soldier and a teenage Israeli girl to a Jewish girl's school inside the settlement of Dolev when the security guard for the school stepped in front of the car and demanded that he stop. When the driver didn't immediately stop, the security guard shot him in the head.
Earlier on Thursday, one Palestinian student and one teacher were injured when Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian school located in the old part of the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
On Wednesday, bulldozers belonging to the Jerusalem Municipality demolished a number of flats that belong to two residents in the Arab Al Tour neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli Authorities also handed home demolition notices to 22 residents of Jerusalem. The Municipality clams that those homes have been built without a required license. Such licenses have never been given to Palestinians since Israel occupied Jerusalem in 1967.
Also this week, the Israeli army conducted at least 27 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those attacks, Israeli troops kidnapped 40 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children.
With this week's kidnappings, the number of Palestinian civilians arrested by the Israeli army since the beginning of 2008 now stands at 1,183.
For IMEMC.org this is Jay Sheradan.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.IMEMC.org. Thanks for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem. This week's report was brought to you by Ghassan Bannoura and Aaron Lakoff.