This Week in Palestine, April Week 3

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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for Thursday, April 20, 2006.

On Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, thousands come out to show their support of the 9,400 illegally detained in Israeli jails. Fifteen-year-old Mamdouh Obaid is killed when shells a playground. intensifies military attacks against Palestinian cities in the wake of a Tel Aviv suicide bombing. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.

Palestinian Prisoner’s Day

Thousands filled the streets of the West Bank and Gaza this April 17, in honor of Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, to support the 9,400 prisoners illegally detained in the Israeli jails. In a Bethlehem march organized by the Palestinian Prisoner’s society, families of prisoners carried pictures of their loved ones from the International Red Cross office to the Church of the Nativity, where they were addressed by Abdullah Al-Zghari, head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s society.

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Israeli High Court Votes in Favor of Wall

This Wednesday, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in favor of completing the annexation wall around Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinian petitioners from villages north of Jerusalem had appealed to the Court to delay the Wall’s construction, which would close off their villages from work and resources.

On Friday, four hundred protesters, including seventy Israeli and international peace activists, marched in Bil’in to protest the annexation Wall and the ongoing siege and aid freeze. In a street theater piece, protesters wearing flags of , the , the , the European Union and the United Nations carried a large metal ring to symbolize the siege imposed over the Occupied Territories, and the decision by the and other European countries to freeze all aid to the Palestinian government. A Palestinian was adorned in the colors of the Palestinian flag. Four Israeli, one Palestinian, and one American peace activist were arrested.

Tel Aviv Bombing

On Monday afternoon a young Palestinian man detonated a bomb at a Shawarma stand near the old central bus station. Along with the bomber, nine Israelis were killed and thirty-two more seriously injured. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the killings in the Palestinian territories. The bomber was identified as Sami Sameeh Hamad, age 22, from the village of Arqa near Jenin.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that in response, the Israeli military would resume military operations against Islamic Jihad. The Israeli air force then shelled a building in Gaza on Tuesday, causing damage but no injuries. The army claimed the building was a metal workshop used to construct the shells fired at Israeli settlements from Gaza.

Also in response to the bombing, the Israeli cabinet decided to divide the West Bank into north and south sections using walls and checkpoints. And, four Hamas legislators from Jerusalem were stripped of their Jerusalem residency.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the bombing as a despicable act that harms the Palestinian struggle. The Popular Resistance Committees and the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades demanded that Abbas apologize for his statement.

The UN Security Council will soon convene to discuss both the bombing and ’s ongoing military aggression in the Palestinian territories.

PCHR in Brief

And now, highlights from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report on Israeli attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After the Tel Aviv bombing, the Israeli government took a number of measures against Palestinian civilians, including cutting the West Bank in half; denying Palestinian workers access to jobs in ; and increasing extra-judicial executions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

On Monday evening, Mamdouh ‘Obaid, 15 years old, was killed when the Israeli military shelled a playground in northern Gaza where children were playing football. On Saturday, ‘Ayada Suleiman ‘Abdullah al-Tarabin, 28, from Rafah, died from wounds sustained a week before in an attack that left five Palestinians, including a child, dead. This was part of a shelling campaign in Gaza, which injured 10 civilians, including 4 children.

The shelling is part of an overall targeting of Gaza, where the army has continued its siege into the second month, allowing very limited food aid, closing the borders to Palestinian workers whose jobs are in , and denying Palestinians the right to travel to the West Bank. Commercial crossings have been closed for two months now, to the further detriment of Gaza’s economy.

And in the West Bank, the Israeli military continued to target Nablus, bringing the number injured to over 150 in the last 20 days.

On Thursday in Nablus Soldiers arrested two mothers of those on their wanted lists in an attempt to force the men to hand themselves in. One of the two women arrested was taken to an Israeli hospital suffering a suspected miscarriage, after losing consciousness. Her exact condition and whereabouts are unknown. The other woman who has a serious heart condition was released one day after her arrest. She describes her ordeal

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"At two am my son opened the door; soldiers entered and started to wreck the house during their search. They turned the couches over shouting and ordered me to sit down and not move, they said my son Sofian is a terrorist, and gave me a cell phone to speak to their commander, he asked me the whereabouts of my son, I told him I did not know.

He told me to give the cell phone back to the soldiers, on leaving they said to my other son we want to arrest your mum, he said take me not her. They said no only her, they did not allow me to cover my self, but I managed to grab something before being arrested."

This week alone, 31 Palestinians were wounded and one child died from a rubber-coated bullet shot at his head from close range.

The military also continued its siege on the West Bank. Checkpoints were closed, and eight civilians, including two children were arrested at checkpoints. The Israeli military conducted 35 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, arresting 73 civilians, including 10 children, and transforming ten houses into military sniper towers. In an attempt to pressure allegedly wanted Palestinians to surrender, the army arrested 7 of their wives and mothers. Six of these women have been released; one remains in custody.

Ongoing Financial Crisis of the Palestinian Government

As the and European Union declare an aid freeze on the Palestinian government, Islamic and Arab countries have promised enough aid to pay the salaries of the PA’s 140,000 governmental employees that have been withheld for the last three months due to the freeze. The withheld salaries sustain one third of the Palestinian population.

The UN has warned repeatedly that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will face a grave humanitarian crisis if the aid freeze continues, predicting poverty levels as high as 75%. David Shearer, head of the local UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the financial shortage would mainly affect residents who are already struggling economically.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government inherited Fatah-led government’s debt of $1.3 billion. On top of that, has suspended $55 million in monthly tax transfers, and the and the European Union have cut aid until Hamas recognizes and disbands its military wing.

To protest the aid suspension, a number of British human rights organizations have sent an urgent message to the European Union and the British government, requesting they immediately reverse the freeze, calling it "an act of gross inhumanity and political provocation." Signatories of the letter said the continuation of aid suspension would aggravate the human, security, and economic sectors of Occupied Palestine.

The Arab Monetary Fund and four other Arab funds wrapped up a two-day annual meeting in Rabat with the decision to participate in an Arab drive to bail out Palestinian, who have been suffering under an American and European boycott of the Hamas party. Large Arab investment funds have pledged $50 million to ease the hardships of the Palestinians, but the money is earmarked for the non-governmental sector. and will contribute another $100 million.

Conclusion

And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out the International Middle East Media Center website, http://www.IMEMC.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, we are Terrina Aguilar and Dina Awwad

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