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This week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.Org for the week of Friday October 21st to Thursday October 27th.
A wave of violence rolled across the country as Palestinian armed resistance groups and the Israeli military exchanged blows. And, the weekly update from Bil’in, as this West Bank village continues its resistance to the military presence on its land. All that and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Wall resistance in Bil’in
Despite the tight closure on the village of Bil’in, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of international and Israeli peace activists again joined local residents in their weekly protest against the Separation Wall.
The protest this week included street theater. Protestors carried a huge Palestinian flag. One protestor, dressed in black, then cut the flag in two, symbolizing the effect of the Separation Wall on Palestinian land.
Israeli soldiers attacked the protestors with rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades. Mohammad Khalil, an 18-year-old from Bil’in, was hit with a rubber-coated metal bullet.
Israeli troops also introduced new weapons into their repertoire. In the past few months of protests, soldiers have shot sponge bullets and beans at protesters, as well as a new gas that causes muscle spasms.
Settlements and Settlers
In Hebron this week, Israeli troops barred at least 150 peace activists, of the Israeli group Peace Now, from entering the city. The activists had planned to protest settlement expansion and settler brutality against residents in Hebron and the nearby villages. Although settlers harass and assault Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in Hebron they are particularly extreme. One was detained.
Yariv Oppenheimer, the Secretary General of Peace Now, said the movement had applied for permits, but been denied. The Israeli military said the denial was issued to avoid clashes between activists and settlers. Lewis Roth, an Americans for Peace Now spokesperson, called the decision “regrettable” and a denial of free speech. He criticized the Israeli military for (quote) “doing nothing to curtail settlers.”
In related news, a group of Jewish fundamentalists, from the Beit Hadassah settlement outpost in Hebron, attacked dozens of students from the Qurduba Primary School for Girls. The fundamentalists hurled stones and rotten eggs at the girls as they walked home from school. Israeli soldiers stood by and watched.
And, six new illegal settlement outposts were erected in the West Bank this week, as settlers scrambled to create facts on the ground, hoping to render future settlement evacuations impossible.
Cycle of Violence renew
Palestinian fighters and the Israeli military exchanged blows this week. Israel resumed its policy of extrajudicial assassination; meanwhile a suicide bomb went off in an Israeli market.
On Sunday night, Israeli soldiers invaded Tulkarem, killing two men, identified as Majed Al Ashqar and Luay Al-Sa’adi, a leader of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. Israel believes Al-Sa’adi is behind the majority of suicide attacks carried out by Islamic Jihad. One Israeli soldier was lightly injured in the exchange.
In retaliation, Islamic Jihad carried out a suicide bombing in an open-air market in the city of Hadera in northern Israel. The bomber was identified as Hassan Abu Zeid, from the West Bank town of Qabatya. The bomb killed five, including one Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, and injured thirty more. Thirteen Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military since the beginning of October.
President Mahmoud Abbas condemned both the assassinations and the suicide bombing, and Islamic Jihad reiterated its commitment to the ceasefire, agreed to in Cairo this March.
But Israel declared an all-out, unlimited operation against resistance fighters in the West Bank. Military officials said privately-owned Palestinian cars would be banned from roads in the northern West Bank, and that all West Bank residents may be subject to house arrest.
In short order, less than 24 hours after the bombing in Hadera, a large Israeli force invaded the city of Jenin in the West Bank, arresting Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Abdel Halim Izz Iddin, and three others. The army also arrested the father of the bomber, and six others from his town.
Meanwhile, Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip fired dozens of homemade shells at nearby Israeli towns, causing no injuries or damage. Israel in turn attacked the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun from land and air. Five Palestinians were injured, including an infant and an old woman. Israel has also resumed its shelling of Gaza from the military towers stationed along the Wall that surrounds the Gaza Strip.
The latest attack was on Thursday evening. Israeli air force gun ships fired a missile at a Palestinian car in northern Gaza Strip killing seven Palestinians and injuring at least 15. Four of the killed were Islamic Jihad members and the others were bystanders.
Abbas demands to preserve government until elections
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected calls from the Palestinian Legislative Council, to dissolve the Palestinian government, calling it a waste of time. This just three months before Palestinian parliamentary elections, scheduled for January.
The Council’s demand came in response to the deteriorating state of internal security in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The legislative elections were scheduled to take place in July. Abbas affirmed that there will be no further delays and that the elections will be held as scheduled.
For the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.ORG in Beit Sahour-Palestine, I am Dina Awwad.
Thanks to Manar Jibrin, Lora Gordon, Ghassan Bannoura, Dina Awwad and George Rishmawi for their efforts in producing this report.