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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.ORG, in Palestine for the week of Friday 18th to Thursday 24th, 2005.
Political developments in Israel push all parties towards the right amidst an invasion of Jenin and new plans to build settlement projects in the West Bank. Civil disobedience against the Separation Wall spreads. And, the Palestinian Authority postpones Fatah’s first ever election primaries. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Palestinian Village Joins Weekly Wall Protests
This week, the West Bank village of Aboud, near Ramallah, conducted its first weekly protest against the Separation Wall. Like the village of Bil’in, which has been conducting weekly protests for almost a year, Aboud stands to lose a large amount of land to the Wall, including orchards, an ancient Church and archaeological sites.
Villagers of Aboud were joined by 50 international and Israeli peace activists, as well as high-ranking Palestinian officials and religious figures. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber coated bullets into the crowd. Two residents were injured, and several more received treatment for gas inhalation.
Meanwhile Bil’in held its regular Friday protest. Protestors marched to a construction site of the Wall, and Israeli soldiers fired concussion grenades, gas bombs and rubber-coated bullets at them. Soldiers injured two residents and assaulted one French peace activist with clubs.
Fatah Postpones Primaries
Fatah, the ruling political party in Occupied Palestine, postponed its first ever primaries, citing internal dissent and extortion attempts by militants. The primaries had been scheduled to begin on Friday.
Palestinian officials said the delay would not affect the timing of legislative elections, scheduled for Jan. 25, 2006.
Israel to Build 310 Housing Units to Maale Adumim Settlement
Yitzhak Herzog, the outgoing Israeli Housing Minister, and Labor party member, approved the construction of 310 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim.
Amir Peretz, the newly elected leader of the Israeli Labor Party, surprised the public by supporting the decision. Sources in the Labor party told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoh that Peretz’s go-ahead for settlement expansion was meant to placate the right, which had criticized his support of the Oslo Accords.
The decision is the latest step in a project to build four thousand settler homes between East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, which, once built, will separate the central West Bank from the south, and isolate East Jerusalem. The former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin initiated this project in 1995 shortly before his assassination. However, it was shut down at the time by political pressure in the United States. Last week, during a visit to the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice requested Israel stop settlement construction in exchange for the disarmament of Palestinian militias.
This week, the Israeli army invaded the West Bank city of Jenin. 25 armored vehicles and 75 military jeeps were greeted by Jenin youth with a hail of stones. The military responded with live ammunition, killing Saleh Foqaha, age 22, and injuring twelve more. Firas and Iyad Abu Rub, two members of Islamic Jihad, were also arrested, and three plainclothes Israeli soldiers were lightly injured.
Hamas not to renew calm
In a telephone conversation with Palestinian detainees in the Negev detention camp on Wednesday, Hamas Bureau Chief, Khaled Mashal, affirmed that Hamas will not renew the limited ceasefire declared by the Palestinian factions last March in Cairo. The ceasefire expires at the end of December, 2005.
Mashal said Hamas had asked Cairo to postpone the meeting between Palestinian factions scheduled for this month, until after the Palestinian legislative elections in January.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon resigned from his Likud Party earlier this week in an effort to gain a free hand to proceed in negotiations with the Palestinians if he wins the coming elections.
On Wednesday, Israeli President Moshe Katsav signed a decree allowing Sharon to dissolve the Knesset, paving the way for early elections scheduled for on March 28, 2006.
Sharon says that if elected, he plans to implement the Road Map but disregard the Oslo Accords, which he called a failure.
Eyal Arad, Ariel Sharon’s top advisor, told the Guardian that if reelected, Sharon will not implement the principle of land for peace.
Other high Israeli officials say that if Sharon wins in the coming elections, he will be forced to take a “dramatic step” to draw Israel’s permanent borders and disarm Palestinian militias.
And that’s some of the news this week in Occupied Palestine. This service is brought to you by the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.ORG. From Beit Sahour, this is Dina Awwad, Sarah Hartzell.