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This week in Palestine Ã¢â‚¬â€œService of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.Org for the week of Friday August 5 to Thursday, August 11,2005
IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip is now less than a week away, but the plan continues to generate bitter controversy among Israelis. Meanhile the Israeli military continued its attacks against the Palestinian communities in the form of arrests, killings, invasions and the obstruction of movement.
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s leading figure opposed to the disengagement plan, resigned on Sunday, saying the policy will endanger the country. After Netanyahu submitted his resignation letter, the cabinet in a 17-5 vote gave its final approval to the first stage of the pullout Ã¢â‚¬â€ the dismantling of the isolated Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag, three of 21 Gaza settlements to be evacuated.
On Thursday at least 150,000 Israeli right wing protesters Ã¢â‚¬â€œ far more than expected – took part in a demonstration against the withdrawal at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Many carried banners reading Ã¢â‚¬Å“Gush Katif – I swear we will be thereÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a reference to main settlement Bloc in the Gaza Strip,
At the demonstration the leaders of the Yesha Council, the settler organization spearheading the protests, presented a plan called ‘Orange Dawn’, in which they gave instructions for disrupting the pullout, which is slated to start in the early hours of Wednesday morning. They instructed their followers to drive in convoys to the Kissufim crossing point from Israel into the Gaza Strip in order to prevent security officers from reaching the settlements to start their pullout work.
Yesha Council leaders expressed satisfaction with the massive turnout at the rally, saying they would increase their anti-pullout activities in response.
Meanwhile, Israeli police and army admitted on Wednesday that they have failed to prevent thousands of right-wing pullout protestors from entering the Gaza Strip. The number of pullout opponents who managed to infiltrate into Gush Katif has risen significantly over the last week, they acknowledged.
Several Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip reported seeing settlers from Moragh settlement, in the southern part of the Strip, placing dozens of landmines around the settlement on Monday night in an attempt to stop the army from implementing the pullout. The Palestinian Ministry of Interior advised the residents not to go close to the settlements after the Israeli withdrawal and to follow the instructions of Palestinian security forces.
On Tuesday Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammad Dahlan, and James Wolfensohn, the QuartetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Middle East envoy agreed on details of a plan to destroy the houses in Gaza Strip settlements slated for
evacuation under the Israeli pullout plan. The two sides agreed that Israeli army bulldozers will demolish the walls of the homes, in what was described as Ã¢â‚¬Å“initial demolition.Ã¢â‚¬Â Palestinian and Egyptian companies hired by the World Bank will then complete the demolition after the Israeli pullout.
Some of the rubble from the demolished settlements will be recycled for Palestinian construction in the Gaza strip, and the rest will be buried in the Sinai desert or within Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israeli Environment Ministry will take care of the burial of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, in special locations within Israeli territory. The demolition process is expected to last between one-and-a-half and two months.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers Monday night invaded Nour Shams refugee camp, near Tulkarem, and fired live ammunition at dozens of homes, killing 18 year old Tamer AsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ad Zandeeq and injuring several residents. And on Tuesday evening Israeli soldiers based at the Separation Wall Gate in Kafer Qaddoum village, near Qalqilia, delayed an ambulance transferring Ameen Tayyem, a 70-year-old man suffering a minor heart attack, to the hospital. Tayyem died while soldiers where conducting their Ã¢â‚¬Å“routine security checkupsÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Israeli and international peace activists last week accused the Israeli army of using the non-violent demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the West Bank village of BilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“test fieldÃ¢â‚¬Â for new weapons for dispersing protests, in preparation for using them against Israeli right-wing activists who oppose the disengagement plan. The ammunition used against the demonstrators differs in size and shape, but all cause a strong chemical smell. The Israeli police refused to comment on the side effects of the new ammunition and weapons, its dangers, or its price, but admitted they have used new weapons for experimental purposes over the last eighteen months.
Undeterred by the threat of violence from the army, the residents of BilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢in and their Israeli and international supporters continued their demonstrations against the Wall. On Friday at least five civilians were injured and 17 International and Israeli peace activists were arrested in a protest there. Abdullah Abu Rahme, coordinator of the villageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s public committee for resistance to the settlements and the wall, said a large contingent of Israeli army and police forcefully dispersed the protest using live ammunition and tear gas. On Wednesday, when 200 locals and international and Israeli peace activists turned out for another demonstration, Israeli troops fired rubber coated bullets and tear gas, and ten residents were injured. The Army declared the area a closed military zone and ordered the protestors to leave the area.
Meanwhile, Israeli military bulldozers uprooted dozens of olive trees west of Beit Surik village, northwest of Jerusalem, in preparation for construction of the Separation Wall in the area. The wall will completely isolate the village from the rest of the Palestinian areas as well as from Jerusalem. Dozens of residents attempting to reach their farmlands clashed with soldiers, who used excessive force against the residents while the military bulldozers were uprooting the trees.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggested that new elections for president and vice president be held in four years. Abbas’ suggestion came during his speech before a special session for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Gaza, held on Tuesday. He described the pullout from the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, as a dream coming true, explaining that it is the beginning of the end to the occupation. Abbas urged the Palestinians to ensure a calm withdrawal, saying an orderly transfer of control would boost the Palestinian quest for statehood.
The International Red Cross suspended its field work in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after three UN workers – two internationals and a Palestinian – were abducted by gunmen in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip on Monday. The Palestinian police managed to free the workers unharmed after a shootout with the gunmen. Dozens of Palestinians and about 25 foreigners work for the Red Cross throughout the Gaza Strip.
The Presbyterian Church on Friday warned four US companies to stop providing military equipment and technology to Israel for use in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, or else face a vote by the Church to divest its stock in them.
A church investment committee that met Friday in Seattle accused Motorola, Caterpillar, ITT Industries and United Technologies of selling helicopters, cellphones, and night vision equipment as well as other items used by Israel in its forced occupation of Palestinian territory. Other mainline Protestant churches have followed the Presbyterian Church in threatening corporate divestment to press for peace and justice in the Middle East. The Episcopal Church of U.S.A., the United Church of Christ, two regions of the United Methodist Church, as well as international groups like the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Consultative Council have all urged similar economic boycotts of Israel. The initiative by the Protestant churches and Church groups has strained relations with Jewish organizations, who accuse the churches of singling out Israel for blame.
From the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.org in Beit Sahour Palestine, this is Rachel Jones.