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This week in Palestine – a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.Org- for the week of Friday, May 6 to Thursday May12, 2005

As Israelis started celebrating their ‘Independence Day’, Palestinian areas were put under tight closure. Palestinians will be denied access to Jerusalem until May 14, except in special humanitarian cases. Also, security inspections at dozens of military check posts within the Palestinian territories will be upgraded.

At the same time, Palestinians commemorated the 57th anniversary of the Nakhba, the catastrophe that marked the beginning of their exile and the destruction of around 420 Palestinian villages in 1948. A siren sounded throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip and all stood for a minute of silence as an expression of mourning. Palestinians living in Israel commemorated the Nakhba through mass pilgrimages to destroyed Palestinian villages.

The past two weeks witnessed a constant series of checkpoint closures on Palestinian areas as Israelis continue to celebrate religious and national holidays. On Monday, the Israeli army and police imposed a strict closure in Jerusalem from the early morning onwards and barred thousands of residents from reaching the Al Aqsa mosque in order to prevent their participation in a protest against the repeated threats of Jewish extremist groups against the mosque, and the attempts of the Revava group to attack it. The WAFA news agency reported that soldiers fired gas bombs, and concussion grenades at the residents, and severely clubbed and punched a number of youth. Dozens of residents were injured in the old city of Jerusalem, one seriously when a special military unit of the Israeli army attacked hundreds of residents near one of the Gates of al-Aqsa mosque. In an interview with IMEMC, Sheikh Hassan Yousef of Hamas said that the Jewish extremists will repeat their attempt to attack Al Aqusa mosque since they are protected by the Israeli government.


Also on Monday Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, after a meeting with the Palestinian interior affairs in West Jerusalem, called for reconsidering the disengagement plan in light of Hamas’ growing political clout, but Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz dismissed Shalom’s proposal, saying that Israel should go

ahead with disengagement regardless of Palestinian election results.

Saleh Alnaa’mi, a political analyst from Gaza, questioned the Israeli government’s seriousness in implementing the disengagement plan.


On Tuesday, In a speech to the inaugural Arab-South American summit in Brasilia, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas questioned Israel’s belief in democracy in reaction to Shalom’s proposal. Abbas also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to postpone the withdrawal from Gaza.

And on Wednesday, the South American-Arab summit closed with a declaration giving support to the Palestinians in their fight for an independent state and calling for the dismantling all Jewish Settlements and the Wall being built in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, military incursions continued. Thursday at dawn, Israeli soldiers fired at dozens of homes in both the Austrian neighborhood and western refugee camp, west of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip. A local source in Khan Younis reported that soldiers stationed at military camps surrounding Naveh Dkalim settlements fired at homes in the area causing damage, but no injuries.

Also on Thursday, Israeli soldiers held dozens of workers on a military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia. A local source in Qalqilia reported that soldiers stationed near the eastern gate of the separation wall stopped the workers while they were trying to cross the gate and attacked them after forcing them to the wall. Several workers were forced to lay on the ground for long periods before they were released.

And on the Lebanese border, a Katyusha rocket that was presumably fired from southern Lebanon, exploded Wednesday night in the northern Israeli town of Shlomi, causing damage to a local bakery but no casualties. As a result of the incident, Independence Day celebrations in the area were called off. Israel held Lebanon responsible for the attack. Earlier this week, Israel fired an artillery shell into Lebanon; but the army claimed it was a mistake. Today, Israeli radio reported that shells fell at a military outpost in the occupied Sheba farms region. No immediate reports on casualties were released. The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV said the group attacked the military position along the border in response to earlier Israeli attacks.

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, said that it will retaliate to any Israeli invasions or attacks against Palestinian activists in the area. Mosheer al-Masry, Hamas’ media spokesperson said that the movement is committed to a truce in so far as it serves the interests of the Palestinian people, but it will not stand still if Israel carries any attacks. Al-Masry was commenting on reports saying that Hamas called its fighters to be ready to counter any possible Israeli invasion, and that the movement is improving its capabilities, and the fighting abilities of its fighters.

And in Ramallah, The P.A ministry of interior, and the National security office, said that the latest Israeli statements concerning possible invasions, negatively affects stability and security in the area. It also warned Israel that’s its actions are weakening the Palestinian efforts to achieve stability, which also threaten the Palestinian internal agreements arrived during the Cairo talks.

Also this week, The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society reported that the Israeli army arrested 800 Palestinians since the Sharm al-Sheikh agreements in February 2005. The society added that administrative detainees who finished their detention period were not released after prison authorities renewed their detention orders. 65 detainees have received renewed detention orders since February.

As well, throughout the past week the Israeli settlers staged several attacks against the Palestinians and their farmlands.

Thursday, in the small village of Salem, 7km east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, a group from the Alone Moreh settlement burnt dozens of Dunams planted with olive trees, causing considerable loses. As well, Salem Resident Sameeh Mustafa Hamdan, age 70, was badly bruised in his face, and several parts of his body, and sustained fractions in his left hand, after a group of settlers attacked him while heading to his field near the village.

Also on Thursday, in a move seen as provocative, Israeli settlers entered two Palestinian villages and refused to leave when ordered to do so by Israeli army, Israel media sources reported. A source said that settlers deliberately marched into the Palestinian villages of Rumman, near Tulkarem and Ein Badan east of Nablus. The army had to send large forces, including Special Forces, to evacuate them, the source reported. The settlers then continued their march to the settlement of Sa-Nur, slated for evacuation under the disengagement plan. Another 40 yeshiva students from the Elon Moreh settlement entered the nearby Palestinian village of Ein Bidan during a march to Homesh, another settlement slated to be evacuated under the disengagement plan.

And from the International Community, The U.S. Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the second U.S. based church to reconsider donations from companies that do business with Israel. The Presbyterian Church, with 2.4 million members, also has a study under way that could lead to divestments.

Similarly, The World Council of Churches, the main body uniting non-Catholic Christians, encouraged its members earlier this year to sell off investments in companies that make money from the Israeli occupation.

And in an update on the issue of the absorption of wanted Palestinians into Palestinian Authority security forces, Abdul Fattah Hamayel, chair of the Committee for deportees and wanted Palestinians, reported the PA had absorbed 200 Palestinians that claimed to be wanted by the Israeli security forces in the West Bank cities of Jericho and Tulkarem. Hamayel said those 200 handed over their weapons to the PA, joined the security forces and function now under PA control.

According to Sharm agreements, Israel must withdraw from five major cities in the West Bank and hand them over to the Palestinians to enable the PA to solve problems of the wanted and deported Palestinians. Hamayel confirmed that the PA is ready to absorb all the wanted Palestinians into its security forces, in every city Israel hands over.


For the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC. Org in Beit Sahour, Palestine this is Sharri Adams