April 8 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 14, 2005
This Week in Palestine – a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org, for the week of Friday, April 8th to Thursday, April 14th, 2005.
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As the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention focused on the meeting between U.S. President George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Texas Monday, Israeli assaults on Palestinian communities continued on the ground this week. Construction of new housing proceeded at full speed in Ma’ale Adumim, the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank, despite direct criticism from Bush. At a news conference following his meeting with Sharon, Bush said that any further building in settlements would violate the Road Map peace plan. Sharon dismissed the warning, saying Israel will maintain control over areas it considers strategically important.
Thousands of Palestinians poured into Jerusalem Sunday in response to a threat by extreme right-wing Jewish groups to attack Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims. Dozens of members of the Jewish Revava group attempted to invade the mosque and nine were arrested by Israeli police. At least 3,000 officers were deployed in the city fearing clashes between Muslim worshippers and right-wing Jews. Hassan Yousef, a representative of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, was at the scene and said that tensions were high.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A confrontation with the Israeli police happened at the entrance of the mosque because the police denied access to thousands of Palestinian worshippers and more than 12 people were injured. At the same time, at the Western Wall, there were thousands of Revava members, the right-wing Israeli movement, who were about to access the mosque yards. The crowd of Palestinians and Israeli security police were able to prevent Revava from entering Al-Aqsa.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Palestinian National Information Center recorded 333 Israeli violations of the cease-fire this week. According to their report, Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinians, injured 29, conducted 54 invasions into the West Bank regions of Nablus, Qalqilia, Tulkarem, Bethlehem and Hebron, and arrested 64 residents.
Three children were killed by Israeli soldiers while playing soccer in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Saturday afternoon. The Israeli army claims the children entered an exposed area between Rafah and the Philadilphi route, along the Egyptian border. Dr. Ali Mousa, head of Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, said that 13-year-old Ashraf Mousa was shot in the neck; 14-year-old Khaled Ghannam was shot in the head; and 17-year-old Ahmad Al-Jazzar died during surgery. In response to the killings, Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza shelled nearby Israeli settlements, but no casualties were reported.
Also on Saturday, Israeli soldiers broke into a kindergarten of the Red Crescent Society in Hebron. Sameeha Al-Nather, the headmaster of the kindergarten, said that soldiers held 80 children on one room for more than 90 minutes, while they conducted military searches that damaged school property.
Five Palestinians were injured Wednesday in clashes between stone-throwing Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers trapped in an over-turned army jeep in the village of Surif, near Hebron. Eyewitness Abu Ahmed Abbas Al-Qadi describes the incident.
‘Wednesday morning, there was an Israeli military vehicles were in the streets of the village. While heading to the mosque of the village an Israeli jeep over turned, the children, and the young men all of the villagers gathered at the scene and started stoning the army. Afterwards the soldiers called for back up aid. Dozens of armored vehicles were in the scene the clashes continued. A number of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers were injured. ‘
The Israeli military demolished two Palestinian homes in the town of Anata near Jerusalem, despite earlier promises to bring to an end the punitive measure. In February, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to accept the recommendation of army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon to stop using house demolitions as a means of deterrence. According to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, more than 675 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the past four years.
Wednesday marked the international day of action against Caterpillar, the U.S.-based company that builds the Israeli army bulldozers used to uproot trees and destroy Palestinian homes. Israeli soldiers used force to disperse a peaceful protest against Caterpillar in the village of Bel’in near the West Bank city of Ramallah. According to local sources, soldiers forcibly removed protesters from the wall construction site, took over several Palestinian houses and hurled tear gas canisters at the protesters from inside the homes. Soldiers arrested several Israeli peace activists who took part in the protest. Meanwhile, Caterpillar shareholders voted this week to reject a proposal to consider stopping the sales of bulldozers to the Israeli military.
Also on Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen fired at the home of Palestinian legislator Ahmed Al-Batch in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Legislative Council denounced the attack and said itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s likely related to internal problems in the Palestinian Authority. Ahmed Al-Batch said that he, like all other Palestinian citizens, suffers from the lack of security and disrespect for the rule of law.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are living in a state of lawlessness and a bad situation in the Palestinian territories. We are all affected; no minister or legislator is exempt. We are the same as any other citizen, not living in privilege. Yesterday morning my house and car were shot with 6 or 7 bullets by a group of unknown persons.Ã¢â‚¬Â
At least 200 Palestinian fighters wanted by Israel applied for jobs in the Palestinian Authority this week. Their applications include a pledge to not carry out acts of violence or violate agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority. It is expected that at least 1,000 fighters will be absorbed into the Palestinian Authority in the coming weeks. According to an agreement with the Israeli military, those who disarm and join the security forces will not be hunted and arrested by Israel. Nasser Juma, a resistance fighter with the Al-Aqsa Brigades in Nablus, says he is willing to disarm only if Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The moment the Palestinian Authority assumes control over its territories and the Israeli army withdraws from these areas and guarantees no further invasions, there will be no problem to hand in our weapons.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Meanwhile, the Israeli army assassinated an Al-Aqsa Brigades operative in Balata Refugee Camp, near Nablus, Thursday afternoon. Palestinian sources said 22-year-old Ibrahim Hashash Smiri was shot dead in his car by Israeli troops. Such an assassination is seen as a serious threat to efforts made by the Palestinian Authority to incorporate resistance fighters into its security forces.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned Israel for using force against Palestinian civilians and called for halting settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. At its annual meeting in Geneva this week, the 53-state UN body adopted a resolution urging Israel to reverse its settlement policy, including in East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights
For the International Middle East Media Center, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Marcie Garrett in Beit Sahour, Palestine.