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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 July 22nd to Thursday July 28th, 2005
Despite the flurry of diplomatic activity initiated by last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and a new round of meetings between Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, the Israeli army continued its attacks on Palestinian communities, including a stepped-up campaign of home demolitions.
Israeli military bulldozers destroyed four houses in the West Bank cities of Salfit and Qalqilia and three more in a village near Bethlehem, and an Israeli activist group, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, accused the government of planning to level more Palestinian homes east of Jerusalem area in order to make way for new Jewish neighborhoods there.
Over the last three and a half years, Israel has leveled an estimated 3,000 homes, public facilities, and stores on Palestinian land, in addition to bulldozing and uprooting thousands of dunams of farmland. Home demolitions are a direct violation of international law and the principles of human rights.
On Wednesday Israeli soldiers bulldozed farmlands in Beit Doqqu village, northwest of Jerusalem, in order to construct sections of the Separation Wall in the area. The military also barred residents and landowners from reaching their orchards, threatening to shoot the farmers if they did not leave their lands.
Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Maariv disclosed on Tuesday that Israel plans to build thirty new Jewish homes and a synagogue in the Muslim quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. The plan, proposed by the Israeli Housing Ministry and approved last week by a West Jerusalem municipal planning committee, also includes Ã¢â‚¬Å“recreationÃ¢â‚¬Â facilities for 16 Jewish families living in the crowded Islamic neighborhood.
A Knesset committee also approved a three-year plan to provide 97 million shekels, or about 21.5 million US dollars, for infrastructure improvements and settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley area. Under the plan approved by the economic ministerial council, about 85 million shekels will be spent between 2006 and 2008 to improve agriculture in the area, in order to Ã¢â‚¬Å“encourage and increase settlementsÃ¢â‚¬Â. The government also intends to reconstruct apartments in the Jordan Valley and increase funding for settlements in the area to 2.2 million shekels in 2005.The ministerial council also agreed to cover the cost of infrastructure development for settlements located north of the Dead Sea and the Afraim settlement, at an estimated cost of 10 million shekels.
Israeli soldiers, supported by 30 armored vehicles, invaded the West Bank city of Jenin, on Wednesday afternoon, killing one youth and injuring at least seven other residents. A local source reported that soldiers searched homes in several sections of the city, after using loud speakers to call the residents out. Clashes erupted between dozens of youth and the army; with soldiers firing live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and gas bombs as dozens of youth hurled stones.
In an another attack on Wednesday, a four-year-old Palestinian girl was seriously wounded by Israeli forces in the Rafah refugee camp in the south of the Gaza Strip.
In protest news, Israel refused to allow a group of 130 international human rights and peace activists known as the Caravan for Justice in Palestine to enter the country. The Caravaners, who left from Strasbourg, France, more than two weeks ago, tried to enter Israel from Jordan, intending to proceed to Jerusalem to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and to demand that Israel comply with international law, UN resolutions, and last summerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s International Court of Justice decision declaring IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Apartheid Wall unlawful. The activists were interrogated for nine hours, before they were forced to return to Jordan. The delegation included representatives from 18 countries, among which were France, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, and Germany. Three members of the group were children.
Meanwhile, clashes continued between anti-wall demonstrators and the army at BilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in village, west of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Last Friday troops attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and clubs. Several protestors were injured and about thirty were arrested after were being beaten up by the soldiers, an eyewitness reported. Some demonstrators wore masks representing US president George W Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as a protest against American support for Israel. Others wore orange bandanas; orange is the color adopted by Israeli opponents of disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Residents of BilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in and the nearby village of Budrus held another demonstration on Wednesday, and the soldiers again attacked with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets, in addition to firing live rounds into the air. Five Palestinians and one Israeli were treated for injuries.
An Israeli court, after viewing video taken by activists at recent demonstrations in BilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in, slammed the Israeli border police for their violence against non-violent protestors and for making false claims that the protestors were violent.
Condoleezza Rice Visit
On the diplomatic front, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last weekend met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, at the start of a diplomatic push to ensure the success of Israel’s planned pullout from the Gaza Strip. In a three-hour meeting at Sharon’s ranch in the southern Negev desert on Friday, the pair discussed efforts to prevent violence from Palestinian resistance fighters during the evacuation, as well as IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s request for funding for development in the Negev and Galilee areas.
In a press conference held on Saturday in Ramallah, following a meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice said there is a need for more coordination with Israel over the pullout. Abbas said before the meeting that Israel is keeping the Palestinian leadership in the dark about what he described as crucial issues.
Mofaz Nasser Meeting
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met on Sunday evening with Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Nasser Yousef. Yousef charged that Israel was Ã¢â‚¬Å“not seriousÃ¢â‚¬Â about coordinating pullout plans and not providing any answers to issues raised by the Palestinian side. Mofaz reiterated Israeli threats to invade the Gaza Strip if the P.A does not Ã¢â‚¬Å“take action against HamasÃ¢â‚¬Â. A Palestinian security source reported that the negative positions Israel has taken and its lack of cooperation with the P.A, especially regarding details on withdrawal arrangements, hinder the achievement of the desired results of the meetings between the two sides.
Saleh Elnaami commented on the failure of the meeting as one of the procedures to pressure the Palestinian Authority
Later in the week Mofaz also met with Mohammad Dahlan, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs. Dahlan said that the P.A and Israel agreed on plans for removing the rubble of the settlersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ homes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after Israel demolishes them. They agreed to form joint committees to manage the crossings between the Palestinian territories and Israel following the Gaza withdrawal and on a number of measures intended to ease the daily life of Palestinians.
The Knesset, IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Parliament, on Wednesday approved a law to limit the citizenship rights of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens. .According to the new law, which passed by a margin of 59 to 12, the state will consider citizenship applications only if the Palestinian man is at least 35 years old and if the woman is at least 25. The new rules replace an Ã¢â‚¬Å“emergency measureÃ¢â‚¬Â that was due to expire on July 31, 2005.The Ã¢â‚¬Å“emergency measureÃ¢â‚¬Â barred Palestinians from becoming Israeli citizens under family reunification policies.
Also on Wednesday, the Knesset amended what is known as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Intifada lawÃ¢â‚¬Â to make it almost impossible for the Palestinians to sue Israel for damage caused by the military during the Intifada. The amendments, which were submitted by the government, passed by 54-15. The new rules are retroactive to the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September, 2000.
In international news, a major Protestant denomination demanded that Israel tear down the Separation Wall it has built along the West Bank and pay reparations to Palestinians harmed by it. More than 3,000 delegates of the Disciples of Christ church on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution stating the Wall has had ‘devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians living in the occupied territories’ and they should be compensated for their losses.The vote by the Disciples of Christ follows passage of a similar resolution by the United Church of Christ earlier this month.
From the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.ORG in Bbeit Sahour , Palestine , this is Cyana Hess and Lakoda Paige.