This Week in Palestine, June Week 4

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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for the week of June 23 through June 29, 2006.

Israel conducts a major air strike into Gaza following the kidnapping of a by Palestinian resistance fighters.  Palestinian factions sign on to a national document, averting a referendum, and Israel abducts one third of the Palestinian government and parliament members.  These stories and more, coming up.  Stay tuned.

The Weekly Protest in Bil’in Village


Over three hundred Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists protested against Israel’s annexation Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in this Friday.  Some protestors wore flags of the countries participating in the World Cup.  They carried a large football float and a big wooden box symbolizing a coffin, to symbolize the world’s blind eye to the killings of Palestinian civilians.  Children wore shirts splashed with red paint to symbolize the children killed in Israeli military assault.

Israeli soldiers stationed at the Wall attacked the unarmed demonstrators with rubber-coated bullets and teargas.  One villager was injured and another detained for several hours.  Later that day, troops invaded the village attacking minors with rubber-coated bullets and teargas.  Several residents were hospitalized for teargas inhalation.

Israeli Bulldozers Uproot Beit Jala’s City Center
Israeli bulldozers began to uprooting olive trees in the Cremisan area of Beit Jala to make way for the annexation Wall.

The Cremisan area is the agricultural, recreational, and economic center of Beit Jala, home to the only remaining forest in the city and its most fertile agricultural land, as well as Palestine’s only winery, two monasteries, and a kindergarten.  The area provides the main source of income for many farmers in the city, and is one of the places many citizens go during weekends or holidays.

The Wall threatens to destroy much of this rich area and annex parts of it to the neighboring settlements.  Citizens will henceforth be unable to reach the north of the city, and the city itself will be crippled as it is ghettoized by the Wall.  The Wall promises the wholesale destruction of public and private property, to swallow up its open spaces, and to strangle its built-up.

In addition, the construction of the wall in this area will negatively affect the tourism and agricultural sectors, says Abu Walid Al-Azza member of the land defense committee.

"One, completing the wall will affect the tourism industry in the city. Two, by confiscating large amounts of land the city will not be able to expand and it kill farming activity in the region."

Beit Jala has already sustained severe damages in recent years.  Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, it has shrunk from its original three-thousand-five-hundred acres to only one-thousand-one-hundred acres.

Gaza Attack


We now go to Gaza, where the Israeli army conducted a massive invasion from land and air, the first such invasion since the removal of six-thousand settlers in September of last year.  Manar Jibrin reports on the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier. 

The attack was carried out by fighters from three different Palestinian resistance groups, including Al-Qassm brigade, the armedwing of the ruling Hamas party, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and a previously unknown group calling itself the Islamic Army.

Abu Ubiedah, spokesperson of Al Qassam brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, said that this operation came in response to the Israeli policies against the Palestinian people

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"This operation is a new nontraditional operation that involved huge security and military preparations.  The Zionist enemy is responsible for the results of this operation because it came as a response to Israel’s criminal policies and the ongoing killing and assassinations of our people"

About the abduction of the soldier, Abu Ubiedah says,

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"We have no information or details to release about the Israeli soldier to the Zionist Enemy until this moment."

In response, the Israeli army tightened security around the Gaza Strip, while the Navy increased patrols along the Gaza coast, in an effort to prevent fighters from smuggling the abducted soldier out of the Gaza Strip

The army also requested that Egyptian security forces seal the Philadelphi Route in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and begin additional operations along the borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The army is reportedly preparing for a possible large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, Infantry corps, the engineering corps, and other forces have been positioned near the Gaza border since Sunday evening around Gaza Strip.

Saleh Al-Naami a Palestinian political analyst of the Israeli affairs analyst says
<Actuality>

"There is a decision that is already taken by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, himself to carry out a massive operation in Gaza. This operation may include occupying the locations in which the Israeli soldier may be held we know that Israel has previously threatened to carry out such military operations even before this recent attack by the Palestinian resistance.  Israel had threatened to carry out these operations in response to the Palestinian resistance firing home made shells on Israel"

The Israeli government held the Palestinian Authority responsible for the safety of Israeli Cpl Gilad Shalit and gave the Palestinians forty eight hours to return him. None of the Palestinian factions who took part in Sunday’s attack officially claimed responsibility for the abduction of the Israeli soldiers.

Later on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his security services to launch a wide range of searches for the abducted soldier. Israeli Foreign Tzipi Livni held a series of meetings with sixty of international diplomats in an attempt to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to release the kidnapped soldier. Also an
Egyptian and French mediators took part in the negotiations in this issue.

In a statement sent to local Gaza outlets and signed by the three resistance groups responsible for the attack said that the would release information of the soldier if  Israel release Palestinian women and minors under eighteen years old held in the  Israeli jails.

At least one hundred twenty three women and three hundred and thirteen minors are currently held in the Israeli jails. Israel’ government reiterated its stance no negotiations with the Palestinian resistance groups on its soldier.

Israeli army continued its military operation in the Gaza. Israeli jetfighters attacked several residential areas. Damage and injuries were reported during these air strikes. I one of the air strikes Israeli jetfighters shelled the electricity plants causing Gaza to go into black out for long hours. It is expected that this will be for months from now.

A Rafah resident, Mohamed Abdullah, depicts the effects on Rafah residents after Israel army shelled the main power supply and generators with which at least 60% of residents have lost power:
 
"This time they targeted the power company because its existence decreased the electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip. For example in Rafah we used to have power failure for 6 hours every other day, shelling the power company today made us go back to this problem."

Prior to Gaza attacks, the Palestinian factions signed onto the National Conciliation document penned by the Palestinian imprisoned leaders in the Israeli jails, averting a possible referendum.  The factions agreed to form a national unity government to be composed of all the factions represented in the Parliament, which could prevent further in-fight among Palestinian factions.

Israel Abducts Ministers

In the West Bank, Israeli troops invaded several areas late Wednesday night into the early hours of Thursday morning, abducting 64 Palestinian figures including 8 ministers, 24 lawmakers, and a mayor, announcing that arrests of Hamas-affiliated lawmakers will continue, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh is not immune.

Haniya is a Gaza resident and arresting him would require a major invasion to the Gaza Strip.

Local sources reported that Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sha’er was abducted on Thursday, though Hamas denied these reports.

In a press conference, Deputy Chair of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Bahar called for the United Nations Security Council to look into the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian People.

The arrests are part of the ongoing Israeli attack against the Hamas-led Palestinian government while Israeli troops continue their shelling of the Gaza Strip as part of the “Summer Rain” military offensive ordered by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

Al-Mutwakel Taha, the Palestinian deputy minister of the information
"These are not really arrests, they are extrajudicial abductions carried out by the occupation forces to destroy the Palestinian political regime and to create a vacuum state. We condemn all of these illegal procedures. We totally reject all of the excuses and justifications by the occupation forces to arrest these people legitimately elected. They know that these people have nothing to do with any military action. It came under the pretext of that nobody of the Palestinians is immune which means that every Palestinian is targeted."

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, www.imemc.org.  As always, thanks for joining us.  From Occupied Bethlehem, this is

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