This Week in Palestine, June Week 3

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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.org, for June 16 through June 22.

The European Union negotiates an aid package of $120 million to Palestine.  The Israeli army kills nine Palestinians in three extra-judicial assassinations in the Gaza Strip.  The peace document authored by Palestinian political prisoners and put forward by President Abbas moves forward.  These stories and more, coming up.  Stay tuned.

 
Bil’in Demonstrates Against Killing of Ghalia Family

In this week’s protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in, dozens of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists demonstrated against Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that led to the death of 28 Palestinians, including seven members of the Ghalia family, and injured 67 civilians, including at least 20 children.

Earlier in the week, an Israeli investigation into the shelling of the Gaza beach that left all but one member of the Ghalia family dead, aired on the Israeli Television.  The investigation found fragments of an Israeli artillery shell in the body of one of those killed, refuting the Israeli army’s earlier claims at a press conference that the explosion was “not caused by an Israeli shell.”  A separate report by Human Rights Watch matched a digitally dated and time-stamped blood test of another victim to the time of the shelling.

Israeli Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Annexation Wall

This week, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected two challenges to the route of the annexation Wall around occupied East Jerusalem, allowing the Wall to be built on private land in a route that will separate residents from their jobs, schools, and market centers.  In one case, the barrier will be built on a cemetery still in use by one of the villages.

The court ruled that “security needs outweighed humanitarian concerns,” while the government said the residents could still enter the city through passages near their neighborhoods.  However, elsewhere in the West Bank, such promises have fallen through. 

The two cases were filed separately by residents of Al Sheikh and Anata.  Here’s Daniela Yanai, a lawyer at Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group.

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And in a separate incident, Israeli soldiers began bulldozing farmland belonging to Palestinian families from Sabastia village, near Nablus, in an operation that aims to expand the nearby illegal settlement Shavei Shomron.

PCHR in Brief

And now, highlights from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report on Israeli attacks against Palestinians, from June 15 to 21.  During the reported period, the Israeli army killed eight Palestinians, including five civilians, three children, and a pregnant woman.  Seven of them were killed in extra-judicial assassinations into the Gaza Strip. Forty-five civilians were injured in Israeli military attacks, and fifty-seven civilians were arrested as part of at least fifty Israeli military incursions into the West Bank.  One-thousand-seven-hundred-and-eighty civilians have been arrested by the Israeli military since the beginning of 2006.

And settlers launched a series of attacks this week, damaging five homes and injuring a Palestinian civilian.  Also this week, Israeli forces demolished two houses in East Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Resistance fighter Executed in Ramallah

Thursday evening, Palestinian sources in the West Bank city of Ramallah reported that a Palestinian intelligence officer and member of the Al Aqsa Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah movement, was shot and killed by Israeli military fire.

An under-covered unit of the Israeli army invaded Ramallah Al Tihta area, shot Ayman Rateb, member of the Al Aqsa Brigade.

Later, an Israeli army unit entered the city and captured Rateb and killed him.

Mahmoud an Ambulance driver who went to evacuate the wounded said Rateb was executed.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces invaded the West Bank city of Nablus and the neighboring refugee camp of Ein Beit Ilma and killed Daoud Al-Qatuni 21, also from al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

EU Aid Package to Palestine

The Quartet, made up of the US, the EU, the UN and Russia, announced that they would back an EU proposal to provide support for local health services, guarantee fuel supplies, and provide for the basic needs for Palestinians, Manar Jibrin reports.

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The aid package could release over $120 million for a variety of programs, including the healthcare, fuel supplies, and direct aid to needy families. The World Bank and the European Union will manage the funding along with the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by-passing the Hamas–led government.

The EU’s External relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner will travel to the region today to discuss the details of the agreement. The EU envoy will meet separately, with President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but not with members of Hamas.

Although the aid package will fund some critical programs, it will not solve the overall financial crisis, as it will not provide funding for the unpaid salaries of tens of thousands government workers. Under the terms of the agreement, aid could begin flowing by early July.

Recently, the Palestinian Authority has threatened Palestinian banks who refuse to transfer money into the Palestinian areas saying that they are indirectly involved in the embargo against the PA.

Dr. Atef Udwan, Minister of Finance said the PA will take measures against the banks which did not cooperate with the Palestinian Authority in its attempts to ease the crisis, noting that there were some banks which supported the PA in the past few months.

The financial crisis in the Palestinian territories resulted from an American & European boycott of the Palestinian authority after Hamas won the parliamentary elections last March.  In addition, is withholding some $200 million dollars accumulated from Palestinian tax revenue.

Breakfast Meeting between Abbas and Olmert

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met informally yesterday in the Jordanian city of Petra at a breakfast hosted by ‘s King Abdullah.  It was the first meeting at such high levels since Olmert took office.  The two leaders were careful to downplay the formality of the event, but agreed to meet officially in the coming weeks.

The breakfast came just before the opening of an international conference in which   Nobel laureates, businessmen, and politicians from around the world will discuss Middle East peace and global security.

Prisoners’ Document Moves Forward, Slowly, in National Dialogue

A senior Fatah official said on Tuesday that no significant progress had been made in talks to come to an agreement on a peace proposal.  The proposal calls, among other things, for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the territories that were occupied by in 1967.

On May 25, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas convened a national dialogue to ask Palestinian factions to accept within ten days a proposal filed by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and threatened to put the proposal to a referendum within forty days if no agreement was reached.

Sources close to President Abbas, who set July 26 as the date for the referendum, said if an agreement is reached, the referendum will be cancelled, which gives the different parties more time to dialogue.

On the other hand, Ibrahim Dahbour, a senior Hamas leader, expressed the movement’s optimism on reaching an agreement.  The movement has already accepted fifteen of the document’s eighteen points.  The three remaining issues of conflict are the recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the Palestinians’ supreme representative, the right of return for Palestinian refugees according to relevant UN resolutions, and the acceptance of a previous Arab peace initiative that provided the inspiration for the current document.

Conclusion

And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine.  For constant updates, check out the International Middle East Median Center website, www.imemc.org.  As always, thanks for joining us.  From occupied Bethlehem, this is…

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