This Week In Palestine – Week 23 2008
Saturday June 07, 2008 02:39 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 June 1st , through June 6th , 2008.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his call for Palestinian national unity this week while the Bil’in conference on popular resistance ends with a nonviolent protest against the separation wall. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank. IMEMC's Jody Jones has the details:
Around 150 villagers from Al-M'asara along with international and Israeli peace activists held a protest against the illegal Israeli separation wall that is being built on Palestinian farm lands. As soon as the march arrived at the settlers' road that separates the village from its lands, Israeli troops attacked the protesters with tear gas and batons. Two children were slightly injured.
The protest is part of 'Summer Against Apartheid' - a Palestinian grass-roots campaign, supported by the International Solidarity Movement and the International Women's Peace Service.
The campaign organizers held marches in different parts of the West Bank this week. The first was in the village of Qafeen near the West Bank city of Tulkarem. On Thursday afternoon scores of Palestinians supported by international and Israeli peace activists demonstrated against the Israeli separation wall.
Another protest was organized at a military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Local NGOs and political groups in the city along with international peace activists organized the protest to commemorate the 5th of June – the day in 1967 when Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem. The protesters carried banners calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, and the removal of Israeli army checkpoints. As the protestors marched towards the checkpoint Israeli soldiers forcibly stopped the march.
On Friday near Bethlehem at least 250 villagers from Al Khader, along with Israeli and international peace activists also protested against the separation wall under the banner "Enough, 41 years of Israeli-Racist occupation! - Justice and Freedom to Palestine; End the Israeli Occupation".
The hour and a half long protest started with midday prayers on the settler road near the village. Protesters then marched towards the nearby roadblock and listened to speeches by local organizers.
Earlier in the week two Palestinian civilians were injured and another kidnapped when the Israeli army attacked a peaceful protest organized by villagers in N'alin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. On Wednesday the villagers and international and Israeli protesters demonstrated against the building of the separation wall on village lands.
The protesters said that the army attacked them with tear gas and rubber-coated-metal bullets. Two people were injured and Mohamed Amera, a local activist was kidnapped by the army. Israeli army sources said that the protesters hurled stones at the soldiers before they retaliated. But eyewitnesses reported that the troops opened fire for no reason, and that the protest had been peaceful.
For IMEMC.org this is Jody Jones
Lead: The Bil’in conference on popular resistance ends with a nonviolent anti wall protest and coincides with the 41st anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian, Israeli and international officials and locals took part. IMEMC's Lewis Manchester with the story:
The Third international conference on popular resistance concluded on Friday with a press conference followed by a nonviolent protest against the wall. Around midday, the participants watched a football match between the villagers of Bil’in and the international conference participants near the wall.
The football game, which coincided with the start of the European Championship tournament, was, according to Conference Moderator Abdullah Abu Rahme, a message to the world that Israel, also denies the Palestinians the right to play. Soon after the match started, Israeli troops showered the players with tear gas, forcing them to abandon the match. A number of players and the spectators were treated for gas inhalation.
Following the game, the conveners, including a number of Palestinian Parliamentarians, marched towards the construction site of the wall, where Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the demonstrators.
Dozens suffered the effects of gas inhalation and bruising as a result of being hit by rubber-coated steel bullets. Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament Louisa Morgantini, and the Irish Nobel Laureate and activist Mairead Maguire required treatment, along with Julio Tuscano, an Italian Judge. Abdullah and Nizar Abu Rahma from Bil’in were also slightly injured.
This is the second time Maguire has been wounded in Bil’in protests. In 2007 she was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet in her leg as she participated in the protest that followed the second international conference in the village. This year's conference, which was organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in, started on Wednesday with more than 300 Palestinians, internationals and Israelis participating.
Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad spoke at the opening session, followed by Louisa Morgantini, vice president of the European Parliament. Fayyad called on the European Union not to upgrade relations with Israel until it adheres to obligations made under the peace process. He also stressed that the Israeli settlement policy is one of the major impediments for peace.
Morgantini, said that the Parliament must work to put an end to the occupation and lift the blockade, and revive the agreements signed between the two sides. She emphasized the importance of adhering to international resolutions, especially those relating to Jerusalem as a shared capital for both peoples. She also addressed the tragic situation in Gaza and demanded an end to the siege.
Meanwhile, Maguire, accused Israel of denying the Palestinian people their basic rights. She stated that Israeli policies lead to the perpetuation of a state based on racism and the creation of facts on the ground.
The Bil’in conference, which coincided with the 41st anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, reflects a genuine Palestinian interest in boosting the nonviolent struggle in Palestine as a way to end the Israeli occupation and achieve the national rights of the people of Palestine.
For IMEMC.org this is Lewis Manchester.
Lead: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his call for Palestinian national unity this week, urging the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, to abide by March's Yemeni proposal for reconciliation. This and more from IMEMC's Jane O'Sullivan:
President Abbas’ call for unity, based on the Yemeni initiative, was welcomed by the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, yet no concrete progress has been observed on the ground. In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority has voiced rejection to new Israeli settlement plans in occupied east Jerusalem.
A bid by the Israeli housing ministry involves construction of some 800 new housing units in the major Israeli settlement enclave on Abu Ghneim hilltop, known as Har Homa. The settlement resides on the lands of east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider their future capital. Palestinian MP from Jerusalem, Dr. Bernard Sabella, says that the decision by the embattled Israeli prime minister has to do, in part, with his own political standing in Israel:
During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week, the Palestinian president criticized the new settlement plans. Head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmad Qurei, stated his belief that, with these new settlement activities, peace is unlikely by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Olmert, currently visiting Washington, has been expecting a major breakthrough in peace with the Palestinians by the end of 2008. Olmert's statement coincided with remarks made by U.S. presidential candidate, Barack Obama, who gave his support to the creation of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital of Israel”.
In 1948, Israel occupied west Jerusalem and in 1967, occupied the eastern part of the city, where Palestinians constituted a majority. In 1982, the Israeli Knesset endorsed a bill, considering Jerusalem a unified Israeli city.
Both the U.S. and the United Nations this week voiced grave concern over the new Israeli settlement plans, calling them an impediment to peace-making efforts. The efforts of the United States in the region are aimed at the implementation of a two-state solution by the end of this year. Such concerns were echoed by Israeli political analyst Michael Warschawski:
In a related development, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill this week, reiterating the Jewish identity of Israel, stating that Jerusalem was not just the capital of Israel, but of “all Jewish people”. With these latest developments, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have not advanced since they were launched in Washington last year, under the auspices of outgoing President George W. Bush.
In other negotiations, representatives of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, including Mahmoud Al-Zahar, returned “empty handed” from Cairo this week, as Egyptian mediators had no response from Israel with regard to the Hamas ceasefire offer, mediated by Cairo in April. Back in Gaza, crowds of Hamas supporters headed for the Rafah crossing terminal in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, protesting against the crippling Israeli siege on the coastal region.
The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire stipulates that Hamas will halt the fire of homemade shells into Israeli territory, in exchange for Israel lifting the 12 month-blockade and ceasing all military attacks against the Gaza Strip. Israel have set a further two demands; the release of a captured Israeli soldier, and ensuring an end to alleged “arms smuggling” through underground tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza borders.
The democratically-elected Hamas movement took full control of Gaza in June 2007, amidst factional infighting with the secular Fatah party, headed by President Abbas. Abbas subsequently ordered a boycott of Hamas, and formed a western-backed government in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
For IMEMC.org this is Jan Smith.
The Israeli attacks
The Gaza Strip
Lead: As Israeli leaders call for tightening the siege and further military operations against Gaza, four Palestinians have died this week due to the ongoing onslaught. From Gaza, IMEMC's Rami Al Meghari has the story:
Palestinian sources report that a man was killed while at least 29 others were injured during several Israeli air raids which parts of the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday night. Medical sources revealed that among those injured was a three-month old baby.
Khalil Sokkar 27, was killed when Israeli troops invaded Al Shuja’iya neighborhood in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip late on Thursday night. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that Sokkar was on his way to rescue two injured civilians when Israeli soldiers shot him dead, and opened fire on other civilians in the area.
On Friday at dawn, an Israeli soldier was lightly injured during an Israeli attack which targeted the southern Gaza Strip.
A four-year-old girl has been killed and her mother wounded in an Israeli air strike on Khan Younis. Another woman was also wounded in the attack, which Israeli authorities report had targeted armed Palestinian groups. The girl and her mother were outside their house near Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip when a drone aircraft targeted them, shooting a missile, eyewitnesses reported.
On Thursday at midday, one Israeli man was killed and five others wounded after a homemade shell landed in the Israeli Nir ‘Oz kibbutz, in the Negev region of southern Israel, close to the Gaza Strip.
Local medical sources reported that a Palestinian woman died on Tuesday, after suffering from a chronic disease which could have been treated had the medicine been available in Gaza. Saousan Al Sultan, 28, had acute rheumatism. Her physician reported that Al Sultan died simply because essential medicine was unavailable in the Gaza Strip, due to the siege.
With the death of Al Sultan, the death toll since the start of the siege in June 2007 has risen to 172. The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip has left the 1.5 million Palestinian residents lacking food, water, medicine and fuel supplies.
Medical sources also reported that a Palestinian man died on Monday, from wounds sustained during an Israeli attack which targeted the town of Beit Lahiya on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip several days previously.
As 3,000 Palestinians gathered in a peaceful protest against the year-long Israeli siege on Gaza, Israeli forces opened fire into the crowd with live ammunition, injuring six civilians, two of them critically, on Saturday.
For IMEMC.org, this is Rami Al Meghari.
The West Bank
Lead: During the week, the Israeli army conducted 34 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these attacks, Israeli troops killed one Palestinian, and kidnapped a 43 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children. IMEMC's Jay Sheridan has the story:
This week, the Israeli army focused its attacks on the cities of Hebron, Nablus and Tulkarem. With the 43 civilians kidnapped this week, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army from the West Bank stands at 1267, since the beginning of this year.
On Thursday, Israeli troops opened fire at a group of Palestinian gunmen, killing one and injuring two, in Hebron’s Old City on Thursday.
Security sources told IMEMC that clashes took place between armed men from two rival Palestinian families, the Al Rajabi and Al Ajloni families, on Thursday, in the old city, adjacent to an illegal Israeli settlement.
The sources added that Israeli troops from a nearby military watchtower opened fire at a group of armed men from the Al Rajabi family, killing one and injuring two.
On Wednesday, a 13 year old Palestinian child was killed when similar clashes took place between the rival Al Rajabi and Al Ajloni families in Hebron.
Also near Hebron on Thursday at midday, five Palestinian civilians were injured by Israeli army fire during an invasion which targeted the villages of Beit Omer and Dura.
The Israeli army also issued orders to demolish at least 12 Palestinian homes located in the Bethlehem district in the southern West Bank on Wednesday.
Local sources said that the army have handed over demolition orders to the homeowners, which state that their homes have been built without permits. Seven of these homes are located in the village of Al Khader, near Bethlehem city.
The demolition orders also include a water tank belonging to Al Khader municipality.
The Israeli military authorities have given the owners until the 20th of June 2008 to appeal against the orders, the sources added. Bethlehem district was handed over by Israel to the control of the Palestinian Authority in 1995 after the Oslo peace accords.
For IMEMC.org this is Jay Sheridan.
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 George Rishmawi.