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This week in Palestine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for the week of Friday, July 7 to Friday, July 14, 2005.
A wave of demonstrations across Palestine condemned the Separation Wall on the one-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling against the Wall. The court ruled that wall construction on Palestinian land is a violation of international law, and ordered Israel to halt construction and compensate residents who were harmed by it.
Large protests were held in the towns of Masha, Bel’in, Qalqilya, and Amateen, where residents have lost land and faced restrictions on their movement because of the Wall. Israeli and international peace activists, Palestinian Legislative Council members, and representatives of political factions joined hundreds of local residents in the protests. All four demonstrations were violently attacked by Israeli soldiers with tear gas, rubber bullets, clubs, and sound bombs, and numerous protestors were hospitalized. Also, an unarmed 15-year-old boy was shot dead last Friday by a private security officer hired to guard wall construction equipment in a village near Ramallah.
The Israeli cabinet decided this Sunday on a route for the wall in Jerusalem that will enclose a 30,000-person Jewish settlement, while cutting 55,000 Arab residents off from the city. Haim Ramon, the minister in charge of Jerusalem, admitted that the Wall was designed to shift the city’s demographics, making it ‘more Jewish’ so that it can serve as ‘the true capital of Israel.’ Israel had originally claimed that the wall was intended as a temporary security measure. Jerusalem is also moving forward with plans to demolish about 100 homes in Arab East Jerusalem, purportedly to make room for an archeological park.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana has condemned Israel’s continued construction of the wall in the West Bank, but didn’t say if and how the EU will pressure Israel to remove the wall and halt construction.
In the Gaza Strip, confrontations continued this week among the Israeli military, Israeli settlers, the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian militant groups, as Israel prepares to withdraw from the area. On Thursday and Friday, fighters from Hamas launched a series of rockets and mortars at settlements and nearby towns, killing one Israeli woman in small town near Gaza. In retaliation, the Israeli Air Force fired four missiles at targets in Gaza, including a pro-Hamas charity. The army also blockaded roads through the strip and prevented residents from traveling.
Fighting also broke out between Hamas members and Palestinian security forces in Gaza, after security officers tried to prevent Hamas’ rocket attacks. The fighting continued Thursday night and Friday, killing two young Palestinian civilians and wounding 25 people, and destroying several PA bases and vehicles. Hamas and other militant groups are struggling with the PA over control of Gaza once Israel withdraws.
Meanwhile, Israel has closed Gaza to all non-resident Israelis, in an effort to prevent right-wing activists from obstructing the pullout. In response, settlers promised to blockade Israel’s main highways twice a week. Five more Israeli soldiers refused this week to participate in disengagement operations.
Natanya Explosion; Invasions and Arrests
A suicide bomber killed three Israelis and wounded about 61 at a mall in the Israeli town of Netanya on Tuesday. The bomber was an 18-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village. This was the first suicide bombing since the Palestinian factions agreed in March to maintain a period of calm for the rest of the year.
The Reuters news agency reported that Islamic Jihad called its office to claim responsibility for the bombing, but President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that the group had officially denied involvement. Abbas and other Palestinian officials blamed the bombing on traitors working to sabotage Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered his security forces to target the leaders of Islamic Jihad in retaliation for the bombing. The Israeli army invaded the West Bank cities of Tulkarem and Nablus on Wednesday, killing three residents, including a Palestinian policeman and an Islamic Jihad leader. Abdul Karim reports from Tulkarem on the scene there after the invasion: (interview)
The military threatened to remain in Tulkarem, saying that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to end terrorism. The army also sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip in retaliation for the bombing, and made incursions and arrests in Hebron, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, and numerous villages. Recent arrests have targeted Islamic Jihad members, both before and after Tuesday’s bombing. The group claims that over 300 of its members have been arrested in the past three weeks.
Marwan Kanafani, a longtime Palestinian legislator and former aide to Yasser Arafat, resigned in protest from Parliament Sunday. Kanafani criticized the Palestinian Authority’s inability to maintain internal security after a series of violent attacks on Palestinian Authority officials. He also objected to the government’s decision to cancel elections scheduled for July. Hamas claims that the ruling Fatah party called off the elections in order to prevent Hamas from gaining power in Parliament.
The General Assembly of the United Church of Christ decided this week to divest from companies involved with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the building of the separation wall, and the Israeli settlements within Palestinian territory. It also called on the U.S. and Israeli governments to cooperate in ending the occupation and creating a viable Palestinian state. The first company slated for divestment is Caterpillar, which makes the bulldozers used by the Israeli army to destroy civilian homes and uproot trees in Palestine. In 2003, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a Caterpillar bulldozer.
The Palestinian Ministry of Interior has issued a new report on the crimes of the Israeli occupation forces. Over the past four months, 46 Palestinians have been killed, 462 were injured, over 1200 were arrested, and more than 10,000 acres of Palestinian land have been seized.
From the international Middle East media center in Beit Sahour, Palestine, I am Lucy Malone