Click on Link to download or play MP3 filePalestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www.imemc.org, for Thursday February 15th, 2007.
Excavation near Al Aqsa mosque continues, and Israeli army abducts six Palestinians in the northern part of the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned.
The Jerusalem Update
On Thursday the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who started demolishing an entrance to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem last Tuesday, launched online visual-coverage of the excavation it is continuing to carry out at the site. People all over the world can access and view the footage of the controversial excavation work, via the Israeli Antiquities Authority’s website.
Israel claims that the work is being carried out in order to restore the Mugrabi entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque. According to Israeli officials, the entrance was destroyed in storms in 2004; however, some Arab sources have stated that it in fact collapsed due to previous Israeli excavation work beneath it.
Muslim leaders and human rights groups have warned of the threat to the site, protesting that heavy machinery may damage the foundations of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered the third holiest site in the Islamic world. Many groups have also suggested that Israel is using this renovation work as a ploy to mask a larger plan to further Judaise of the old city of Jerusalem.
Although the decision to construct a new bridge at the site was withdrawn for re-assessment earlier this week, excavation at the site is continuing. One Israeli media source reported that the excavation work is unrelated to the construction work, despite the fact that the need to build a new bridge was the initial reason given by Israeli authorities to legitimize the excavation.
The West Bank Update
On Thursday morning Israeli forces invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus and the nearby Beit Ein Al Maie refugee camp, attacked residents’ houses and abducted five civilians.
Soldiers and army vehicles stormed the city and the refugee camp and conducted large scale house to house searches. Families stated that the troops forced them outside while they searched their houses.
All five men were taken to an unknown detention camp. From Ein Al Maie refugee camp soldiers abducted Mujahid Abu Al Rish, 19, Tamier Abu Al Rish, 20, Marwan Abu Al Rish, 25, and Mohamed al Banna, 17. From Nablus, soldiers abducted Abu Sanier Al Kussa, 54, after searching his house.
Palestinian sources reported that a massive Israeli force invaded the village of Qabatiya, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and abducted one local youth on Thursday morning.
Soldiers fired live rounds and sound bombs at residents’ houses and searched scores of homes in the village before abductng Samier Nazal, aged 19. He was taken to an unknown detention camp. No injures were reported.
National unity government
Implementation of the Mecca deal between Fatah and Hamas for a unity government has faced three conditions, set by Hamas, prior to the resignation of Ismail Haniya’s cabinet, Palestinian President’s advisor, Nabil Abu Rodaina stated.
Abu Rodaina affirmed that President Abbas’s address to the Palestinian people slated for Thursday was postponed until the president and Prime Minister Haniya clear up differences on ways to implement the deal.
Abu Rodaina was quoted as saying “what is required currently is full commitment by all parties to the Mecca agreement without setting any conditions”.
Hamas MP, Yehya Mousa, asserted Thursday that it is too early for the cabinet to resign, pointing out that there are many points yet to be discussed, including the cabinet’s resolutions that have been blocked and the nomination by Hamas of an independent interior minister.
Maher Meqdad, spokesman of Fatah, said that the deal on a national unity government, agreed upon in Mecca, has been clear enough and that any talk about other PLO-related issues would be worked out within an agreed time frame.
Hamas has demanded that all the resolutions taken by its government, including the new appointments to PA ministries and the executive force installation, be approved by President Abbas, as preconditions for resigning and then forming a unity government.
The Palestinian President left Ramallah on Thursday for talks with his Prime Minister, Haniya in Gaza in order to settle the differences that would, according to commentators, block the implementation of the Mecca deal.
Thank you for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem. You have been listening to Palestine Today from the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, brought to you by Oliver Eacott and Ghassan Bannoura.