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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 20th to Thursday May 26th.
Throughout his three day visit to the United States, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with number of congressmen, lawmakers and high government officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. His main concern was in seeking American assurances that implementation of the road map will begin as soon as Israel completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, Abbas met with U.S. President George Bush and held a press conference at the White House. Bush praised Abbas’s efforts toward democracy, and pledged 50 million USD in housing aid for the Palestinians. The 50 millions in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority is part of a package of 150 million President Bush is seeking from Congress.
Meanwhile, while the president met with the Palestinian leadership, the United States’ first lady, Laura Bush, was in Israel and the West Bank to promote women’s issues and help defuse anti-American sentiment in the region. Bush, who is the U.S.’s new goodwill ambassador, arrived in the country on Sunday, as part of a six-day Middle East trip. The First Lady met with dignitaries and public figures, and visited several holy sites, including Al Haram Al-Sharif area in Jerusalem.
Although Mrs. Bush’s visit was meant to promote the role of women in the region, her only engagement was in speaking at the economic conference in Amman. Bush did not take the time to visit any organizations that empower women in the area. The status of women in the Middle East is improving, except in a few countries. Women not only vote, but some women have become Ministers and many are Parliament members. Palestinian legislative Council member Hanan Ashwari described the visit as significant of Laura Bush’s visit.
In election news, the Central Election Committee responsible for organizing the Legislative elections concluded that it is almost impossible to hold elections on time for logistical and legal reasons. Currently set for July 17, changes in the election law would require two more additional months to prepare for the new elections. However, the committee stated that there is a need for a presidential decree to cancel the old election date and call for a new one.
At the beginning of the week, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef met Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in Tel Aviv and presented a plan for deploying PA security forces in the Gaza Strip during and after the implementation of the disengagement plan to prevent attacks during the pullout from Gaza .Security sources said that Mofaz requested that the PA starts the deployment of security officers in areas adjacent to settlements.The two agreed on the establishment of two Israeli-Palestinian coordination committees ahead of the pullout. Mofaz warned that if coordination fails, Israeli troops may enter PA areas to ensure an evacuation free of casualties
This week, the Israeli army invaded several Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Various sources and eye witness reports count fifteen incidents over the last week throughout the Occupied Areas. These include, attacks against resistence fighters in Gaza, closures throughout the west bank, damage to multiple properties and arrests of residents.
Also this week, settler attacks continued against Palestinian residents in the West Bank. Friday afternoon, armed settlers attacked three residents in Al-Sihla square, in the old city of Hebron, and hurled stones at dozens of homes near Abraham Abino settlement outpost. The Palestinian news agency WAFA said that settlers also attacked dozens of residents and international observers in the old city while they were reporting the attacks. Moreover, settlers of Keryat Arba’ settlement, In Wad al-Nassarah neighborhood, in the center of Hebron, attacked and chased dozens of residents on a road which links the Ibrahimi Mosque with the settlement.
On Saturday, Israeli soldiers arrested some 30 left-wing Israeli peace activists in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. An Israeli military source reported that the activists were protesting in solidarity with the residents of Tal Rmeida neighborhood, which has been subjected to repeated settler attacks. Meanwhile, the WAFA news agency reported that settlers and soldiers attacked the activists and dozens of Palestinian residents.The activists said in a press release that settlers hurled eggs and stones at them and at Palestinian homes in the neighborhood.
On Sunday, Israel soldiers arrested a boy at the Huwwara checkpoint, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The army claimed that the boy, Mohammad al-Nadi, 15 years old, was carrying two pipe bombs and accused Al-Aqsa martyrs brigade of using children to smuggle weapons.
Naser Jumm’aa of Al aqsa brigades denied the army claims adding that the brigades not only reject using children in such acts but also condemen them.
On Monday, the Israeli police arrested 1900 Palestinians working at several construction sites in Israel over the weekend. The Police claimed that the workers entered Israel without obtaining the necessary permits. They also arrested four Israeli employers for hiring Palestinian workers who do not carry work permits. In addition, the Israeli police arrested 30 drivers for transporting Palestinian workers into Israel. According to Israeli security, nine workers wanted by Shabak, the Israeli Internal Security Department, were transferred for interrogation.
In other news, on Tuesday, the highest Christian convention of Orthodox Patriarchs decided to dismiss Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos I because of his involvement in a corrupt land deal. The patriarch is accused of selling prime Church property in the Old City of Jeruslem to Jewish investors. 13 of the 16 orthodox patriarchs approved the dismissal of Irinous I.
Also on Tuesday, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) reported that the Jerusalem Municipality intends to demolish 88 houses in el-Bustan area of Silwan village in East Jerusalem. The ICAHD revealed in a press release that the municipality has code-named the demolition orders as “"The Cherry in the Crown”. So far, four residents have received demolition orders from the municipality. ICAHD called upon the international community to express its opposition to such demolition orders issued by the Israeli government and the Jerusalem Municipality saying that they violate the spirit if not the letter of the Road Map.
On Wednesday, the Israeli center for Human Rights B’tselem published a report on Israeli illegal activities against Palestinian communities, calling assissinations of so-called wanted Palestinians is the equivalent of executing the death penalty against them. The center reported that 89 Palestinians have been assassinated during 2004 in operations the Israeli army described as arrest raids. The report added that 17 of those assassinated by the army "were not identified as wanted by Israel." On the other hand, 43 of the dead were described as ‘wanted’, but did not use weapons or clash with the army when they were killed, the report said, adding that none of these 89 cases were investigated by the police.
The report held the Israeli government and specifically the Israeli security forces responsible for such acts, claiming that the military intelligence is responsible for these actions. The report also showed an increase of cases of the army using live ammunition without being at risk. B’tselem’s report additionally called military investigations of death cases caused by the military one-sided, usually justifying soldiers actions. The report also noted a substantial increase in settler attacks against Palestinians.
And finally, in international news, Britain’s biggest union of university teachers voted Thursday to end its boycott of two Israeli universities, although supporters said they would continue their efforts to boycott Israel. The decision to cancel the boycott passed by a two-thirds majority. The boycott’s opponents called Thursday’s decision "a victory."
The council of the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers (AUT) announced it had decided in a special session to overturn the boycott against Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities immediately. The measure, which had drawn outspoken criticism, was put in place last month.