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This week in Palestine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a service of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.org for the week of Friday, June 24th to Thursday, June 30th.
Confrontations between the Israeli military, Palestinians and right-wing settlers escalated this week as Israel prepared to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, new reports called for churches to divest from the occupation of Palestine and for an end to torture of Palestinian prisoners. In the West Bank, Palestinians protested construction of the Separation Wall as Israeli forces cracked down on the Islamic Jihad movement. Israeli troops also continued to invade Palestinian communities, search and demolish homes, and arrest residents across the West Bank.
Right-wing Israelis continued their campaign against Israel’s planned disengagement from Gaza. On Wednesday, settlers and other extremists blocked major intersections throughout Israel, and closed the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway for two hours by pouring oil and nails on it. Also on Wednesday, settlers in Gaza attacked a 16-year-old Palestinian boy with large rocks, leaving him unconscious and in critical condition. The incident, shown on Israeli television, outraged Israelis and prompted Sharon to condemn the extremists as ‘radical gangs’ that will be handled with an iron fist.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military continued to prepare for the Gaza pullout. On Sunday, soldiers clashed with settlers while demolishing 11 abandoned beachfront houses. On Thursday, the army forcibly removed 100 settlers from an illegal outpost in a barricaded hotel in the Gush Katif settlement. Two Israeli soldiers were sentenced to short prison terms after refusing to participate in disengagement operations in Gaza.
Nasser-Islamic Jihad Meeting
Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef met on Sunday with Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza City to discuss Israeli attacks on Jihad members and ways to maintain a ‘calm period’ in relations with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing homemade mortars Saturday night at several Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis said that Israeli troops shelled houses west of the town in response to the resistance attacks.
Earlier in the week, the Israeli army arrested 15 members of the Islamic Jihad in both Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank, including two women. Israeli forces have been targeting Jihad members, and have detained more than 300 people in several Palestinian cities.
Israel vowed to crack down on Jihad operatives earlier this week after the group’s recent attacks against Israeli settlements, including the killing of two settlers in Hebron in a joint action with the Al-Aqsa Brigades. The Islamic Jihad movement said that it will launch retaliatory attacks in response to military activities against the movement.
On Friday, the Israeli newspaper Yodout Ahranot revealed information about a plan to expand settlements in the Jordan Valley area. The plan, which calls for building 50 housing units a year, would cost 205 million shekels over the next year and a half. The Ministry of Finance will help finance the construction. Yisral Katz, Minister of Agriculture and a strong opponent of the Gaza pullout, coordinated the plan with the Prime Minister’s office. It will be submitted to Sharon for approval next week.
Also Friday, the Israeli military announced plans to confiscate large amounts of land from the West Bank village of Sabastia. The lands are located close to an Israeli settlement, which was constructed on lands annexed from the village.
Anti-Wall Peaceful Protests
Friday afternoon, Israeli soldiers attacked a peaceful procession against the Separation Wall in the village of BelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in, west of Ramallah. As the protestors marched toward a construction site of the Wall, Israeli troops fired on them with small rounded metal bullets capable of penetrating the body. Fifteen residents and activists were injured, and thirteen protesters were arrested, including one Israeli and two internationals.
In another village near Hebron, one soldier was mildly injured when dozens of youth hurled stones at military forces. The soldiers were invading the village in response to a peaceful procession against the Wall.
Torture of Palestinian Prisoners
A new report by the Palestinian Prisoners Society charges that 90% of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have been tortured, and that interrogators are using Ã¢â‚¬Å“new and inhuman methodsÃ¢â‚¬Â against them. It describes Israelis’ use of severe beatings, dog attacks, sexual harassment, and threats of rape against child and adult prisoners. It also alleges that prison authorities routinely deny medical care to sick and injured prisoners until they confess to the charges against them. Several Palestinian prisoners have died as a result of injuries, medical neglect and poor conditions in Israeli jails.
An Israeli military court convicted Israeli soldier Taiseer al-Heib of the manslaughter of British activist Thomas Hurndall, who was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip two years ago. Al-Heib, a Bedouin Arab citizen of Israel, was also found guilty of obstructing justice and giving false testimony. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Hurndall’s father attended the verdict announcement, but his brother was barred from the court for what were described as security reasons.
Hurndall, a 22-year-old student, was in Gaza working as a photographer and activist with the International Solidarity Movement. He was trying to escort children away from Israeli gunfire when he was shot in the head by Al-Heib.
The Anglican Consultative Council, a leading body for Anglican Christians, unanimously passed a resolution Friday to pressure companies that support Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories or violence against innocent Israelis. The council recommended divestment from such companies as a last resort. The United Church of Christ will consider a similar resolution at its general assembly today, and the Presbyterian Church-USA, the World Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church have all considered or adopted divestment policies.