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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.org, for the week of Friday 11th to Thursday 17th, 2005.
A big week for Palestine, as negotiations to hand over control of Rafah Crossing Point to the Palestinian Authority and the EU gives Gazans a little room to breathe. Meanwhile, the soldier who emptied 23 rounds into a 13-year-old girl last year in Gaza is acquitted by an Israeli military court. And Palestinians remember President Yasser Arafat on the one-year anniversary of his death. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Gaza Crossing Points Deal
Israeli and Palestinian officials have agreed to a US brokered deal on the manning of the Rafah Crossing Point, between the Gaza strip and Egypt. Built in 1980, Rafah Crossing Point is the only way for Gazans to travel internationally, but it has been closed for much of the time since September 2000, forcing hundreds of people to wait for weeks at a time, preventing college students from continuing their education in universities outside Gaza, and resulting in the deaths of many who were unable to reach outside hospitals to receive critical care.
Talal Al-Jed from Gaza, needed to take his mother to Egypt for medical treatment.
My mother is diabetic, and has high blood pressure; in addition, she has a wound in her left leg that is not healing well because of the diabetes. She needs 10 cm of insulin everyday, and she needs daily care and treatment. Doctors advised us to go to Egypt for better medical treatment, but we are unable because the Israelis open the terminal for 24 hours, thousands of people need to go and we wait for our turn, but it never comes. She is an old lady unable to wait for a long time on the terminal.
The deal to open Rafah Crossing Point came after marathon talks, which began Monday night and ran into Tuesday morning. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the deal “a big step forward” in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The agreement will give the Palestinian Authority control over a border for the first time since its establishment. This is considered an important step towards Palestinian control over its borders, and is expected to give a much-needed boost to the floundering Palestinian economy, especially Gaza, where the current unemployment rate is around 85%.
The Crossing Point is scheduled to open on November 25, 2005. According to the terms of the deal, Palestinian residents will also be allowed to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in bus convoys through Israel.
Construction of the Gaza seaport will also begin, a significant move forward for Gaza. A significant portion of the now evacuated settlements formerly surrounded the port in the south. Until the Disengagement, military sniper towers placed at the settlement borders prevented residents of southern Gaza from going to the beach or using the port.
Karni Crossing, the most significant outlet for imports and exports in Gaza, will also open for the first time since September 2000. Palestinian customs officials will be stationed at the Karni Crossing, which is located on the eastern border between Israel and Gaza. Israel will inspect the goods passing through.
Yet, Gazans do believe the border crossing to Egypt will still be controlled by Israel.
Tal’at Al-Jed again,
As far as I know, they will install cameras, this means that the Israeli soldier will not be there physically, but his ghost will be there, because he can prevent anyone from going into or out of the Gaza Strip. Therefore, the situation will not change a lot, even if they opened the terminal.
One year after his death, the late President Yasser Arafat remains a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence and self-determination.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas led an official ceremony in the Moqata in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, where Arafat lived out the last three years of his life under house arrest, surrounded by Israeli tanks. Arafat was also laid to rest there, after Israel refused to allow his body to be buried in Jerusalem as he wished. The event was attended by a number of foreign diplomats along with leaders of the Palestinian factions.
Fuad Kokaly, spokesperson of Fatah in Bethlehem area.
We strongly believe that the late President Martyr Yasser Arafat was assassinated. In fact, imprisoning him in the Moqataa and demolishing all things around him, was an assassination attempt and it is what led to serious deterioration in his health. In addition, the actual reason for his death is still unknown which proves for us that he was deliberately killed.
Wall Resistance in Bil’in
Residents of the West Bank village of Bil’in near Ramallah, together with Israeli and International peace activists, dedicated this week’s protest against the Separation Wall to the one year anniversary of the death of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The protestors wore masks bearing the likenesses of Yasser Arafat, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. They then sat on the ground in front of the bulldozers, at which point Israeli soldiers attacked them, shooting rubber coated bullets and stun grenades. At least 15 were injured, including a 16-year-old boy, Mohammad Suleiman Bornat, who was shot in the head with a rubber coated bullet. Three Israeli peace activists were also arrested.
As part of the growing popular international support of Bil’in, a German organization known as “Spirit of the World” held a protest on Friday in conjunction with the Bil’in protest. The group adopted the slogan “From Berlin to Bil’in, the Wall will Fall,” and said it would conduct weekly solidarity protests for Bil’in.
Also this week, the court at the Ofer Military Base handed out sentences for eight out of 17 former arrestees from Bil’in, including a minor. Most of them were given two to four months in jail plus an additional fine of NIS 1000.
And, on his first tour since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip two months ago, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said construction of the Separation Wall and settlements in the West Bank should be resumed.
This just one day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded Israel stand by its commitment to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank, in exchange for the disarmament of Palestinian Resistance factions.
In a televised speech marking the 17th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, adopted on November 15, 1988, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel is avoiding peace talks and pushing Palestinians into civil war, by insisting on the disarmament of the resistance factions as a prerequisite to negotiations on statehood.
Abbas accused Israel of acting as though it had no peace partner by continuing to act unilaterally. Abbas’ statements came shortly after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to negotiate the opening of Rafah Crossing Point.
On the declaration of Independence in 1988, Palestinians also declared the Palestinian Peace Initiative, in which Palestinians accept the 242 and 338 United Nations Security Council resolutions that calls Israel to withdraw from the land occupied in 1967 and establish an independent Palestinian State on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as capital. The West Bank is 22 percent of pre-1948 Palestine.
Gaza Strip violence renewed
Israeli army shot and killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, confirming the feelings of many that the Gaza Disengagement was a superficial measure, a media stunt that has done little to ensure the security of Palestinians living in Gaza.
On Sunday, Israeli soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition into dozens of homes east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. 22-year-old Bilal Wakid Al-Sha’er was killed, and his relative Mohammad Al Sha’er was injured.
On Monday morning, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Imad Abdul-Al near Al Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza strip. Two other residents were injured by soldiers who spotted them planting explosives in a street used by the army.
From Monday night into dawn the next day, Israeli artillery shelled the northern Gaza Strip, damaging farmland and police barracks. Palestinian resistance fighters responded by firing homemade shells and mortars into open-air areas into the western Negev. No injuries were reported in the exchange.
Cold-blooded killings and Assassination in the West Bank
The Israeli army has admitted to having killed a fighter of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in a residential area in the city of Jenin, even after having severely injured him. As he lay on the ground, his clothes soaked with blood from a gunshot wound to the leg, Israeli soldiers came over and shot him dead. According to the accounts of Balawi’s relatives, the soldiers then allowed military dogs to desecrate his body. Killing an injured combatant is prohibited by international law.
An Israeli army unit has killed Amjad Hinnawi, 32, leader of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas in the West Bank, shooting him point blank in the head in his hometown of Nablus, the Palestinian News Network reported.
The Israeli military invaded Nablus, surrounded a house where Hinnawi was staying and forced everybody to come out of the house naked, eyewitnesses said. Hinnawi was then arrested without resistance. Once Hinnawi was in custody, a soldier pointed a gun at Hinnawi’s head and executed him in front of the residents.
In a separate incident, Israeli under-covered army units, assassinated on Thursday, two Palestinians, near the West Bank city of Jenin.
Eyewitnesses reported that soldiers, using a Palestinian car, intercepted their car and fired at the vehicle transporting the two Palestinians as they traveled towards Jinin.
The vehicle crashed and was fired upon again by the undercover soldiers. The two are claimed to be operatives of the Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah.
Killer of 13-year-old Gaza girl set free
On Tuesday, the Israeli Southern Command Military Court acquitted the Israeli army commander, Captain "R", of all charges related to the killing of Iman Al-Hams, a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip, in October 2004.
Released military audiotapes show that Captain “R” knew Al-Hams was an unarmed young child when he shot her. He shot her once, injuring her, and then emptied his magazine into the injured girl, shooting her 23 times in all.
The Israeli military prosecution accused Captain “R” of misuse of arms and of obstruction of court proceedings, after he asked his soldiers to alter the testimonies they had provided to military investigators.
PA efforts to Enforce security and order in West Bank
Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef has unveiled the new Palestinian Security Forces, as part of his new plan to control the security situation in the Palestinian territories. The Forces were deployed on Tuesday into Nablus.
Minister Yousef said, (quote) “These forces are composed of security men from the West Bank”. He added that this force was formed to control the recently evacuated settlements in the north of the West Bank, and the main reason for them being there is (quote)"to help, serve and protect their people.”
And that’s some of the news this week in Occupied Palestine. From the International Middle East Media Center in Beit Sahour, I’m Dina Awwad & Trrina Aguilar.