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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for Thursday, March 16, 2006.
As part of the Israeli Kadima Party’s electoral campaign, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledges to annex Ariel settlement and complete the Wall. And, in collusion with the US and Britain, the Israeli army invades Jericho prison, arresting the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Annexation Wall & Settlements
The Israeli State Prosecution expressed its opposition this Wednesday to the construction of new housing in Matityahu-East, part of the ultra-Orthodox settlement, Modi’in, in the West Bank.
The Prosecution argued that new settlement construction is illegal, but made no mention of the settlement’s already existing homes, which are illegal under both Israeli and international law. The presentation was part of an ongoing Israeli High Court hearing, on a petition filed by Peace Now. So far, the hearing has brought a two-month halt in construction.
Meanwhile in Bil’in village, whose lands are being annexed to accommodate the Modi’in settlement, a journalist was among the four people injured during Friday’s nonviolent procession against the Wall. Palestinian villagers, together with Israeli and international supporters, marched through the West Bank villages of Beit Sira and Bil’in, carrying a 10-meter-long coffin to symbolize the Wall’s death sentence on the villages. Israeli soldiers attacked them with rubber-coated bullets, gas bombs, and clubs.
Two weeks ahead of Israeli elections acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Ariel settlement. During his visit, Olmert announce that the annexation Wall in the West Bank would be completed within months, and promised to formally annex Ariel settlement to Israel. Ariel, which reaches 25 kilometers deep into the West Bank, was built on stolen lands belonging to Palestinians from the city of Salfit and its surrounding villages.
And on Monday, Israeli officials confirmed reports of what may be the largest settlement project since 1967. Officials said police headquarters and (quote) "other facilities" (end quote) were under construction in the "E-1" area, which extends from East Jerusalem to Maale Adomim, the largest settlement in the West Bank. Construction would include 3550 settler units, a road network, six hotels and a park. Non-Jews would not be allowed to live or own land in the settlement.
Meanwhile, settlers resumed their attacks against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. In Hebron, two Palestinian children and an international were injured when extremist settlers attacked them in Tal Al-Romeida neighborhood in the city. The settlers also attacked several school students who were on their way to school.
In a separate incident, a group of Israeli settlers attacked several Palestinian residents of Sosia village south of Hebron this Monday morning. Four were injured, including a ten-year-old child. The attack interrupted a joint Israeli and Palestinian olive tree-planting workshop, organized by the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights.
EU to Send Aid Package to Palestinian Authority
The European Union has agreed to grant $143 million in emergency funds to the Palestinian Authority over the next two months. However, the EU remains undecided about future aid packages.
Palestinian employees, who only received their paychecks for the month of February in the middle of March, felt a temporary sense of relief as they had had no money for essential items. Many have spent most of their paycheck within the first two days of receiving it, to pay for the debts accumulated in the first two weeks of March.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders are holding talks with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in order to secure funds for the Palestinian Authority to continue its work in the forthcoming period.
PCHR in Brief
And now, a look at the highlights from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report. The Israeli military carried out 34 military invasions in the West Bank, raiding homes and arresting 65 Palestinian civilians, 6 of whom were children. The Israeli military also occupied nine homes and used them as sniper posts.
The invasions came amidst a total siege imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip since Saturday, March 11, in conjunction with the Jewish festival of Purim on March 13. Originally the siege was supposed to last until March 15, but more recent statements have extended that date to Sunday the 19th. Many Palestinians have been arrested at checkpoints during this siege, and one woman was forced to give birth at the Qalandia checkpoint south of Ramallah.
The Israeli military also conducted a massive invasion into Jericho Prison. We’ll have more on that coming up.
Twelve-year-old Khaled Ateyya was killed Wednesday night when Israeli border patrol opened fire at a group of children. Three of Ateyya’s playmates were also injured. Soldiers then closed the area off to ambulances and medical teams.
An Israeli soldier was killed Thursday morning when the military invaded Jenin refugee camp. A gun battle erupted between Palestinian resisters and the invading Israeli paratroopers, backed by 22 military vehicles. The army conducted house raids, arresting several civilians.
The Jenin Governor, Qadura Abu Mousa, described the scene:
"Today at dawn, dozens of Israeli armored vehicles invaded the city and surrounded the eastern neighborhood, firing rounds of live ammunitions and clashed with the resistance fighters there. One Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded in the clashes. In addition, six residents were arrested. The army withdrew as the residents hurled stones and empty bottles at them"
In a separate incident, two Israeli security guards were wounded in a shootout by the Tapuah settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus.
Earlier that day, four members of the Salah Ed-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, were injured in the Gaza Strip. They were the targets of missile fire from an Israeli drone in the southern city of Rafah.
Jericho Prison Invasion
In collusion with the United States and Britain, the Israeli army invaded the Palestinian Jericho Prison this Tuesday. Minutes after American and British guards left their legally-sanctioned posts, Israeli gun ships, armored vehicles, tanks, and bulldozers surrounded the prison. They proceeded to demolish and shoot at the jail, destroying it over the course of the ten hour siege that followed. British and American officials have since admitted to having coordinated the abandonment of their posts with the Israeli military.
The prison siege targeted Ahmad Saadat, Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and several of his comrades who are accused of assassinating Israeli Minister Rehavam Zevi in 2001. Zevi founded the Israeli Moledet Party, which advocates the ethnic transfer of millions of Palestinians to Jordan. His assassination came in retaliation for Israel’s murder of then PFLP Secretary General Abu Ali Mustafa two months before.
Saadat and his comrades held their positions deep within the jail for ten hours, while Israeli officers threatened to kill them unless they surrendered. At first pledging defiance, they eventually gave themselves up and were immediately taken under Israeli custody.
Three Palestinians were killed in the raid, including two policemen; and at least thirty-five were injured. Hundreds were held for questioning, and dozens were illegally transferred along with Saadat to Israeli detention centers.
In response to the attack, a general strike was declared across Palestine, and thousands of people gathered in the streets to express their outrage. In Gaza, nine internationals were kidnapped, only to be released unharmed shortly after.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out the International Middle East Media Center website, at www.IMEMC.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, I’m Dina Awwad.
Contributors: Lora Gordon, George Rishmawi, Manar Jibrin, Dina Awwad
Sound Tech: Ghassan Bannoura