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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org, for Thursday January’12th, 2006.
A week of collective struggle in Palestine, as Palestinians continue to resist the Separation Wall and begin the fight to keep elections to their scheduled date, while the Israeli army continues to invade Palestinian cities and arrest dozens of residents. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
As part of the growing campaign of popular nonviolent resistance in the Occupied Territories, hundreds from the West Bank village of Aboud, joined by dozens of Israeli and international peace activists, demonstrated near a new construction site of the Wall, which is being built next to an archeological site by the village.
The Israeli army blocked the demonstrators 100 meters from the construction site, where heavy machinery was being used to dig up the hillside. But the protestors held a sit-in and managed to halt the construction of the Wall in that area. Soldiers attacked the peace activists with tear gas and sound bombs, and attempted to arrest a member of the popular resistance Committee Against the Wall in Aboud.
The Israeli human rights organizations Yesh Din and B’Tselem have documented 29 settler attacks on Palestinian olive orchards, and a total of 2400 olive trees uprooted by settlers, in the West Bank over the past three years. 773 olive trees were uprooted in last year alone. Yesh Din and B’Tselem observed a variety of tactics used by settlers to destroy Palestinian trees and farmland, including felling, burning, uprooting and theft of the trees.
Palestinian Parliamentary elections
Polls ahead of the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, conducted by Bir Zeit University last week, show Hamas closing in on the Fatah ruling party. Hamas is up 10 percentage points since last month with 31% support, while Fatah’s numbers dropped almost two percentage points, from 36.7 percent to 35%.
The U.S. administration continues to interfere with the elections, backing the Palestinian Authority despite its blatant corruption, while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said Hamas should not be allowed to run, despite the group’s popularity.
Meanwhile, the issue of Jerusalem is coming to a head. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received assurances from Washington that Palestinians will be able to hold elections in East Jerusalem, and is seeking similar promises from Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem will be allowed to participate in accordance to the same rules of the last legislative elections in 1996.
However, Israel is placing severe restrictions on the electoral campaigns of Jerusalem candidates, confining candidates’ posters and leaflets to assigned locations, and requiring them to seek Israeli permission before holding any rally or meeting. Palestinians candidates for the upcoming legislative elections have refused to abide by these restrictions.
For several days now, Israeli soldiers have imposed a strict siege over the West Bank city of Jenin and the nearby town of Qabatia, holding all residents of the cities under house arrest while breaking into homes to search for Islamic Jihad activists.
And after midnight on Thursday, 18 military vehicles invaded Tulkarem in the West Bank, using trained dogs to attack Hamas activists and supporters. 12 Palestinians were arrested in the raid.
Three fighters from Islamic Jihad were killed, on Thursday afternoon, and four others were injured after Israeli forces invaded the West Bank city of Jenin, surrounded a home and exchanged fire with resistance fighters.
Evacuation of Illegal Outposts
The Israeli army began to evacuate illegal outposts of the Ammouna settlement this week, after a report last March by former Israeli state prosecutor Talia Sasson showed Ammouna had been built on private Palestinian land.
Clashes erupted when Israeli soldiers and inspectors raided the first outpost. Settlers had been placing building foundations for further construction. Four Israeli police officers and 11 settlers were slightly injured. Nearby, 150 right-wing settlers assembled to resist the dismantling of the Neveh Daniel North illegal outpost. Five settlers were arrested for throwing paint at a military bulldozer.
The Ammouna settlement is expected to be the main site in the next struggle over outposts. Israel has officially committed to demolishing the outpost by the end of January 2006. The Yesha Council of Settlements and Binyamin Regional Council offices plan to occupy buildings slated for demolition and resist their dismantling.
Sharon‘s Health Condition
Senior executives at Hadassah University Hospital, where Sharon was treated for strokes in December and again last Wednesday, have admitted to keeping Sharon’s official diagnosis a secret for political reasons. The diagnosis, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, was not revealed because its association with Alzheimer ’s disease could affect Sharon’s standing at the polls in the upcoming Israeli elections. Doctors report Sharon is in critical but stable condition.
And that’s just some of the news this week from Occupied Palestine. For up-to-the minute updates you can visit http://www.imemc.org. From Beit Sahour, I am Terrina Aguilar.