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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for Thursday Feb 16th, 2006.
Palestinian legislators get ready for the Palestine’s new political map amidst Israel’s continued murders, arrests, and colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Palestinians are still nonviolently resisting the Separation Wall. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Bil’in, Beit Sera, and Aboud Villages in Solidarity Against the Wall
This week, Beit Sera and Aboud joined the village of Bil’in in nonviolently resisting the Separation Wall. As usual the Israeli army assaulted the protestors with live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and tear gas, injuring eighteen. Two Palestinians, eleven internationals, and two Israelis were detained.
Killings, Arrests, Invasions, Shelling
This week, the Israeli army continuously shelled the Gaza Strip, claiming to target areas used by resistance fighters. However, the only casualties were women and the mentally challenged. On Monday, Israeli soldiers killed twenty-five-year-old Nayfa Abu Msa’ed, near the Kissufim Crossing, shooting her several times.
Wednesday morning, Mujahid Samadi, 15, was shot and killed when the Israeli military invaded the West Bank town of Qabatya. Samadi, who is mentally challenged, was carrying a toy gun at the time. Soldiers shot him in the chest; he died immediately. Samadi’s uncle described the invasion:
"A large Israeli force invaded the area and wanted to surround two houses where two claimed wanted Palestinians live, but they failed to do so. Youth hurled stones at them. My nephew, who was killed then, was a simple naïve child. He used to see the soldiers shoot and kill people so he believed they were evil. He sometimes plays with a plastic toy-gun to kill the soldiers. So he pointed his plastic toy-gun at the soldiers but they responded with two fatal bullets which hit him in the chest and stomach."
Later that day, Mofeed Arafat, a twenty-five year old mentally challenged unarmed resident, was seriously injured in Gaza while walking near the border amid shelling.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli soldiers in tanks and jeeps invaded the West Bank city of Tulkarem at dawn, conducted house-to-house searches, arrested twenty residents, and injured several more.
Palestinian Homes demolished
A report released this Thursday by the Palestinian and International grassroots organization, ‘Stop the Wall,’ documents twenty homes bulldozed in the past month, mostly in the Bethlehem area along the route of the Annexation Wall. The demolitions came under the pretext that lacked building permits, but no such permits have been issued to Palestinian homeowners since 1967. At least 27,000 Palestinians have been made homeless since the beginning of this Intifada September 2000.
Hamas breaks the Ice with the Europe, Appoints Cabinet
Hamas made its first parliamentary appointments this Wednesday in preparation for the opening of Parliament on Saturday. Mahmoud al-Zahar, from Gaza, was appointed as Majority Leader, Aziz Dweik, from the West Bank, is the new Speaker of Parliament, and Mahmoud Al-Ramahi is the Secretary General. There was speculation that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would be appointed as Prime Minister, an appointment Fateh leadership has said would render a coalition government impossible.
Late Monday afternoon, the outgoing Palestinian parliament empowered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to appoint a new constitutional court that would have far- reaching powers, including the capacity to cancel future legislation. Hamas called the move an attempt to undermine Hamas right to rule the Parliament.
Anwar Zboun, of Hamas, a newly elected member of Parliament:
"This constitutional court is illegal; therefore we will work to change these bills passed yesterday. These new bills obstruct and distract attention from important issues. We consider this a strike against the Palestinian democratic process that brought us to this parliament."
Israeli officials denounced the Hamas-led government, calling it part of the ‘Axis of Evil’. But Russia took a more diplomatic approach. Russian envoy Alexey Pogodin spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, to prepare for talks between Hamas leadership and Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to take place later this month.
Israeli authorities have expressed worries that such talks will bring international understanding and recognition of Hamas. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister, has called the talks "going down a slippery slope." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice expressed displeasure at the talks, but said she Russia would not contradict the U.S. position that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
Human Rights Group Releases Report on Palestinian Children
A report released by the Risalat Al Hoqouq Center for Human Rights details the impact of the Occupation on Palestinian children. The Report called on the international community to pressure Israel to abide by international law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions regarding the protection of occupied civilians and children in conflict zones.
From September 2000 until December 2005, Israeli soldiers killed 797 Palestinian children, including infants, and injured thousands more, primarily with live ammunition. Most died in aerial strikes of residential areas, part of Israel’s policy of extrajudicial assassination, which is banned by international law. Most were killed at home, at school or on the road in between.
Israeli officials claimed many of the children were killed when soldiers felt they were threatening their lives. But the fact that the majority of them died in air strikes makes such allegations implausible. Israel’s regular violations of UN resolutions and international human rights agreements point to patterns of behavior in the Israeli military that specifically target children.
When Settlers Attack
On Monday, around 50 settlers stormed the West Bank village of Beit Furik, attacking property and fresh water springs. Israeli soldiers did not intervene, but eventually called in Israeli police enforcements, who then set up a checkpoint between the Israeli settlers and Beit Furik villagers.
Israel cuts off the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank
Since 2005, the Israeli military has imposed a total closure on the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, cutting off 2 million Palestinian farmers from their livelihood. But this week, construction of the eastern section of the Wall began in earnest.
Israeli military sources claim there the measure is strictly for ‘security purposes.’ But critics note the construction fits in perfectly with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan, exposed last week, to annex the Valley, which constitutes one-third of the West Bank, to Israel.
This assault on the Jordan Valley goes back to March 16, 2005, when the Jericho area was supposedly handed over to the Palestinian Authority. Since then, only residents holding identity cards proving they are permanent residents, as well as some 5,000 Palestinians who work in the 19 Israeli settlements in the valley, can travel there. One-way entry permits are also granted for what the army calls "humanitarian cases," like weddings and funerals. All other Palestinians are forced to travel around the valley, adding hours or even days to their journey. The travel ban separated families from each other, farmers from their land, and students from their schools.
To enforce the ban, Israel soldiers carry out frequent nighttime invasions in the Jordan Valley. Palestinians without the proper paperwork are forcefully evicted, and their identity cards confiscated. Israeli army sources said such procedures are in place to protect illegal settlers, and called the area "strategic."
Jad Ishak, director of the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem, said that such measures create de facto borders:
And that’s just some of the news This Week In Palestine. For up-to-date reports and commentary, go to www.IMEMC.org. From Bethlehem, I’m Terina Aguilar.