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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www.IMEMC.org, in Beit Sahour.
Hamas claims an overwhelming victory in the Palestinian elections, winning 75 of 132 parliamentary seats. Palestinian candidates flock to the Separation Wall in the village of Bil’in. And, the Israeli army continues to kill and arrest Palestinians on Election Day contrary to its claims to have halted its military operations.
Massive Protest in Bil’in
Five thousand residents of the village of Bil’in were joined by Palestinian candidates, Israelis, and internationals this Friday in their weekly peaceful march against the Separation Wall. The army assaulted the procession, injuring dozens with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and clubs. One Israeli peace activist was arrested.
Some youths hurled stones at the soldiers. Others wrestled soldiers who attempted to arrest them. One Israeli soldier was reportedly injured by a stone.
Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Elections
Paving the way for a new government to be formed, President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and asked that the current government continue to serve as a caretaker government until a new one is formed.
Following its election victory, Hamas turned to the Fatah movement and offered a joint framework of a national unity government. The offer was made during a telephone call between Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal. Fatah said the possibility of joining a unity government will be discussed soon.
President Abbas who congratulated Mashal on the movement’s victory in the elections asked the Palestinians to respect the results as they are.
It is the first time that Fatah looses power to another group since founded in 1964.
Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats of the parliament, whereas Fatah won 43. On the other hand, leftist, liberal parties and independent candidates have apparently suffered a devastating electoral blow. According to the latest results, all the leftist parties won nine seats, and four went to independent candidates.
Some say Fatah’s internal problems and lack of guidance is what led to their electoral defeat.
Fuad Kokaly, spokesman of Fatah in Bethlehem area and a newly elected Parliament member said Fatah needs to reorganize and reconsider its programs and visions.
"The results were surprising. None of us expected that Hamas will sweep this big number of seats. I believe this is a lesson that Fatah should learn from. We have to reassess our programs and vision and reorganize the movement. Therefore, we will be in the opposition and will continue to work to serve our people. Therefore I consider the results positive and a victory for the Palestinian democracy.
I believe Hamas will form the government and will have to deal with the local and international requirements because it can not but do so".
The election process went smoothly with some minor violations by most of the groups who did not stop the electoral campaigns on the Election Day. The turnout was relatively high, it reached 77.6 percent.
<Actuality> the Swiss observer
In its first reaction to Hamas’ electoral victory, the European Union said that it would work with any Palestinian government that used peaceful means. U.S. President George W. Bush refused to work with Hamas unless the movement recognizes Israel, and renounces its charter that calls for the state’s destruction.
And Palestinians are hoping elections will bring about positive change and look at it as a platform for resistance.
Mohammad Shihada, independent candidate who did not make it to the parliament said resistance is not only by arms.
<Abu Shihada Clip>
"I believe there are many methods for resistance; it is not only by guns. There is political resistance that we can use in a better way if we make real changes on the ground. Changes mean being united and end the lawlessness and chaos and have democracy and political pluralism in the coming parliament."
Israeli Army Invades, Attacks and Arrests
On Sunday evening, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a vehicle driving near the Karni Crossing, east of Gaza city. One resident was killed; at least seven more were injured. The targeted vehicle was carrying members of Salah Ed-Deen Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.
In response, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s armed wing, claimed responsibility for launching two homemade shells at an Israeli town in the western Negev desert on Monday. No injuries or damage were reported as the two projectiles landed in an open-space.
That same day, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing five homemade shells at the Israeli Kissufim military crossing point the southern Gaza Strip. Shells were also fired at the Kerem Shalom crossing point east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
On Monday evening, Israeli soldiers fired at several children in Al Mogheer village, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, killing a nine-year-old child, Manadel Abu Alia, and injuring another. The Israeli army claimed it had been shooting at militants carrying explosives. But Manadel’s sister, Wesal, said her brother had been playing with other children in the village and that no one else was in the area.
"He told my mother that he wants to go and grab a Palestinian flag from the street to put on the top of our house. Soon after he jumped over a nearby fence an Israeli soldier fired rounds of live ammunition at him, and hit him in the heart.
An Israeli ambulance took him away, he was bleeding, shortly after that they hand his body over to the Palestinian Medical Relief Services which took him to a hospital, later on… he was buried."
Meanwhile, Israeli forces swept the West Bank’s major cities, making twenty-four arrests. In predawn invasions to the cities of Tulkarem and Qalqilia, the Israeli army broke into several homes and arrested six residents.
Then, on Election Day Wednesday, the Israeli army said it would halt all military operations against Palestinians, and that it would not interfere with elections. But instead, the army disrupted elections, invading cities across the West Bank, arresting twenty-four people, and preventing four trucks in Tulkarem from delivering ballots.
Israeli Judge Annuls Absentee Property Law as Settlements Grow
On Monday, the Tel Aviv District Court, issued a ground breaking ruling that the Israeli Absentee Property Law cannot be applied to the West Bank lands Israel occupied during the 1967 War or to the Palestinians who are now living there.
The Absentee Property Law, issued in 1950, allows Israel to expropriate any lands that Palestinians fled after the 1948 war. Under this law, West Bank Palestinians who own land in Jerusalem were considered "present absentees," and the state of Israel could claim it as "State Property." But Israel does not permit these residents to return to their Jerusalem property without special temporary permits, thus making it impossible for them to live on their own land.
Monday’s ruling made this system of annexation illegal. The ruling came in response to a petition filed by three Palestinians who purchased property in the East Jerusalem from its Palestinian owner. The judge said all declarations of lands owned by West Bank Palestinians as "absentee property" were illegal.
But in violation of these rulings, plans are underway to expand the Zion Nof Israeli illegal outpost in East Jerusalem. The project’s main aim is to expand Israeli settlements inside Jerusalem. Already, rich buyers have purchased future settlement apartments with panoramic views of the Old City’s Muslim quarter. The apartments will be constructed on land privately owned by Palestinians. The owners have appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to stop the project, but construction is already underway.
The settlement will be a ‘closed-gated-community’ of 395 luxury apartments, a synagogue, a country club, and other amenities, all suited to fit the needs of a mixed cosmopolitan, modern Orthodox Jewish community.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Occupied Palestine. With the International Middle East Media Center in Beit Sahour, I’m Terina Aguilar and Dina Awwad