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This week in Palestine – a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for the week of Friday, April 29 to Thursday, May 5, 2005.

Yesterday Palestinians went to the polls to vote in local governmental elections across the West Bank and Gaza. Preliminary unofficial results indicate that the ruling Fatah movement won around 60% of municipal council seats, with the remaining seats shared between Islamic movement Hamas, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and independent candidates. Official results will be announced Sunday by the National Election Committee. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi of the Palestinian National Initiative says results indicate that Palestinians are ready for change.


In other political news, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last Friday. Speaking at a joint news conference in Ramallah, Putin said his country would help rebuild Palestinian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and provide the Palestinian Authority with 50 armored personnel carriers and two helicopters. In a meeting the day before with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Putin proposed a Middle East peace conference in Moscow this fall, but both Israel and the U.S. rejected the proposal.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also met with Abbas and Sharon this week and proposed setting up a Turkish-Israeli-Palestinian working team to combat terrorism, preserve the calm and make peace. Erdogan’s harsh condemnation of Israel’s policy of assassinations strained relations between Turkey and Israel last year.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday he is freezing the handover of West Bank cities to Palestinian security control because the Palestinians have failed to honor their promise to disarm resistance groups. The decision comes even as Israel’s military intelligence chief praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his efforts toward disarmament.

Israeli troops invaded the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem Sunday and an arrested 18-year-old member of the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad. This was the first invasion into Tulkarem since Israel hand over security control of the city to the Palestinian Authority in March. Palestinian officials condemned the incursion as a violation of agreements between the two sides. The invasion continued through Monday when the Israeli military assassinated a member of Islamic Jihad in the town of Saida. An Israeli soldier was also killed in the gun battle. Another Palestinian injured during the invasion was arrested by the Israeli military and later died in the hospital in al-Ramleh detention center.

Wednesday night, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two children who were playing near the wall in the village of Beit Liqya in Ramallah. Fifteen-year-old Adi Al-Assi and seventeen-year-old Jamal Al-Assi died of wounds sustained in their hearts and faces, according to hospital sources. In retaliation, members of the resistance group, Salah Edeen Brigades, fired homemade shells at the Israeli town of Sderot, damaging one home.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot and seriously wounded a 14-year-old child in Al-Khader village near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Ahmed Salah was detained when he refused to lead Israeli soldiers to the houses of other boys who the soldiers allege had thrown stones at them. The soldiers then took him to his house and confronted the boy’s father. Abu Hamdi Salah, who was on the scene, says his son was shot in the back as he ran from soldiers.

“While I was near the jeep, suddenly the Israeli soldiers started hitting me and there was a small fight between me and them. Then my son stepped from the jeep and ran away. The Israeli soldiers followed him and threw a sound bomb and fired three live bullets towards him.”

More Palestinian land was annexed and bulldozed this week for construction of the wall in the West Bank regions of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron. Eleven internationals and Israelis were arrested Wednesday during a peaceful protest against the wall in the village of Bil’in. Sixteen people chained themselves to olive trees slated for uprooting by the Israeli military while fifty others demonstrated. After a stand off that lasted four hours the Israeli military cut the chains and dragged away twelve of the protesters. Witnesses say the Israeli military used excessive force during the arrests.

In a Jerusalem press conference, Israeli groups opposed to the occupation presented a video that shows undercover Israeli soldiers provoking violence at peaceful protest demonstrations against the wall. The video affirms that the sole incidents of violence against the Israeli military came from undercover Israeli agents disguised as Arabs. Speakers also accused of the Israeli army of trying out new methods and new weapons against peaceful protestors.

The Israeli government voted this week to upgrade a college in the West Bank settlement Ariel to a university. The announcement comes just 10 days after Britain’s Association of University Teachers declared a boycott against two Israeli universities. Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday Israel’s decision threatens the possibility of reviving the peace process.

Greek Orthodox Church leaders in Jerusalem have broken contact with Patriarch Irineos I and said they regard him as dismissed, according to BBC. The former financial manager of the Patriarch told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Saturday that he secretly sold church properties in East Jerusalem to a Jewish company in order to prove to Israel that he does not sympathize with Palestinians. Papadimas, who signed the deal in the name of the Patriarch, fled Israel to an unknown destination and Irineos accused him of embezzling patriarchy funds.

For the International Middle East Media Center, I’m Marcie Garrett in Beit Sahour, Palestine.