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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www.imemc.org, from June 30 through July 7, 2006.
The attack on Gaza intensifies as seventeen are killed on Thursday alone. Israel fails to arrest three Palestinian ministers. And Arab League Secretary General pledges $50 million to the Palestinian government. These stories and more, stay tuned.
PCHR in Brief
We’ll start the week off with some highlights from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report on Israeli attacks against Palestinians, for June 29 through July 5.
During the reported period, the Israeli military killed ten Palestinians, and wounded seventy-nine including twenty-one children. The military fired eighty-two missiles and hundreds of artillery shells at the Gaza Strip, destroying the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister, three main bridges, three roads, several educational institutions, and the entire electrical network of the city of Rafah. The military also occupied Gaza International Airport outside of Rafah as well as the northern Gaza Strip.
The military also blocked European third-party observers from reaching their jobs at Rafah International Crossing Point, the only passageway for Palestinians living in Gaza to travel internationally. Over three thousand Palestinians are now trapped in Egypt, unable to return to their families, the border was opened for two hours.
Saleem Abu Safeya is the head of the crossing borders Authority in Gaza:
"The Israelis approved the opening of Karni crossing terminal after International pressure on. In fact, the crossing was opened for two hours only on Sunday. Today, the terminal is completely closed, so I can not say that the crossing is actually reopened, because Israel did that only to satisfy the International community. It is as if, by opening the crossing for two hours each month, Israel is doing the Palestinians a favor."
We’ll hear more from Gaza throughout the show, but now, we go to the Anti wall actions in the West Bank, stay with us.
Anti Wall Actions
Today after the Friday prayer the people of Bil’in, joined by a Basque Nationalist musical group and international and Israeli activists, started their weekly rally to protest the ongoing construction of the illegal annexation wall on their lands. 100 hundred people started the march, which was launched in front of the mosque and ended at the gate in the wall.
The Basque musical group, in traditional ceremonial attire and formation, kept the beat for the demonstration by marching with large bells that they wore on their lower backs. They were chased away by rubber bullets and sound bombs by the soldiers but returned to perform their art and pass through the line of soldiers that were holding people back.
The demonstration turned violent when soldiers tried to arrest non-violent protester, Iyad Burnot. Other Palestinians and one international came to his aid to try to prevent his arrest and were caught between the Jeeps and the barbed wire as soldiers beat them. They grabbed the hands of the soldiers to stop the beating and were successful in deescalating the situation.
Four Palestinians and one International peace activists were wounded as a result of the army’s violence.
In last week’s demo, protestors wore orange clothes reminiscent of those worn by prisoners on death row. Israeli soldiers attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and concussion grenades; a fire broke out when these bombs landed on the dry grass.
A Palestinian youth and a French peace activist were injured, two Israeli peace activists were detained, and two residents of the village were injured when Israel conducted a reprisal invasion following the protest.
Following Bili’n’s lead, nearly a hundred Palestinians, Israelis, and international peace activists protested the impending construction of the annexation wall in Al Khader, west of the city of Bethlehem, Friday in what has become a weekly nonviolent demonstration against the confiscation of Palestinian land for the Israeli wall.
Soldiers fired rubber bullets into the air and pushed protesters as they chanted and waved Palestinian flags in front of the bypass road that connects illegal Israeli settlements to Jerusalem.
It was the first time since the weekly demonstration began that the protesters reached the settler road, slowing traffic. For the first time Israeli police joined the Israeli army in blocking the protesters from the road.
20 Israeli and 30 internationals joined the protest this week, which is almost double the number from the week before. No injuries were reported.
The villagers and peace activist began protesting 3 weeks ago against the confiscation of more than 20,000 dunums of prime agricultural land that will be used to build the wall. Demolition orders were already handed out to 3 families and 30 street vendors in Al-Khader last month.
Israeli army attempts to Arrest Three Hamas Officials
At least forty Israeli military vehicles invaded the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Al-Bireh, intending but ultimately failing to arrest three Palestinian legislators, Dr. Aziz Dweik, chair of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Council secretary Dr. Mahmoud Al-Ramahi, and Hamas-affiliated Parliament Member Ahmad Mubarak. Troops searched their homes but none of them was at home at the time.
Salah Al-Bardaweel, Hamas spokesperson.
"The Israeli government has repeatedly affirmed, even before the capture of its soldier, that it wants to topple this government. It worked on this issue through the economic and political siege, and the outside pressure is just an attempt to end this case that came out of Palestinian democracy.”
Israel has detained at least twenty-four Palestinian lawmakers and nine ministers in the past week as part of its offensive against the Palestinian people.
Israel Expands its Operations in the Gaza Strip
The Israel Air Force renewed air strikes targeting Palestinians in northern Gaza Friday morning, hours after the heaviest day of bombardment in the Gaza Strip in the past four years.
At least 23 Palestinians were killed in the first 24 hours of the military operation. However, the number reached (30), and is expected to increase as Israel is going on with attacks against the Gaza Strip.
Forty Palestinians, including resistance fighters, civilians and children, have been killed and over 100 wounded since the start of the military “Summer Rain Operation" which began on June 26.
On the other hand, Israeli Army top officials say that “Operation Summer Rain” will not stop the Palestinian resistance groups from firing home-made Qassam shells.
Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz said Palestinians will not stop firing Qassams after this operation is over, but they will pay a very high price for every Qassam fired at Israel.
The Israeli security cabinet held an urgent meeting this Wednesday after a homemade Palestinian shell exploded in a school yard in Ashkelon Tuesday. Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility; no injures were reported.
The Israeli security cabinet, rejected a deal proposed by the Palestinian resistance groups to release 1000 Palestinian women and children who sit in Israeli jails in exchange of the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured on Sunday, June 25 in a military operation at a military post in the southern Gaza Strip.
Abu Obaida, spokesman of Al-Qassam brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, held Israel responsible for the fate of the soldier.
“This is a warning to the Zionist enemy. If they do not respond to our demands, things will be very complicated. The ball is in their court now. If they really care about the life of their soldier, they should respond positively to our demands. It seems that the Zionist enemy has not learned from previous experiences of when we captured Israeli soldiers in the past.”
The resistance groups confirmed that the soldier is still alive and that he has received medical treatment for the wounds he sustained in the capture.
The father of the captured Israeli soldier made a plea to his government asking for the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of his son.
Noam Shalit made his first public statement by voicing support for a prisoner swap.
Instead, the cabinet agreed to expand operations in Gaza, in accordance with Internal Security Minister Avi Diechter’s Sunday threat to turn the northern cities of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia into ghost towns.
Khalil Al-Sheikh, a resident of Beit Lahia, witnessed the attack there.
"The invasion started Thursday at dawn. War planes bombed a site for Al Qassam brigade, the armed wing of Hamas. During the day the invasion intensified, the tanks that were driving through residential areas received back up by Apaches which fired heavy machine guns and missiles into the residents’ homes."
Medical sources reported several deaths and dozens of injuries Thursday, as well as hundreds of patients who have come in to be treated for shock, including many children. Dr. Mohamed Al Shami, spokesperson of Nasser hospital in Khan Younis reports on two who were killed in an air strike in Gaza and warns against possible shortage of medical supplies:
"Eight where brought to the hospital at 1:00 pm, two were already dead and were severely mutilated due to Israeli army shells, the other six were moderately wounded. If this invasion continues there will be instability in the services due to a lack of fuel, medical supplies and equipment."
A newly formed United Nations human rights body condemned Israeli attacks on civilians. The council adopted a resolution demanding that Israel halt its attacks, and dispatched an urgent fact-finding mission.
Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli soldier in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. The group said a Palestinian sniper shot the soldier in the head while the soldier was on top of his tank.
The Financial Crisis
On Tuesday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa pledged US$50 million to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. The money will be transferred Monday and will be controlled by the Palestinian President’s office.
This will be the first funding the Palestinian government has received since Hamas claimed a landslide victory in the January elections. Following the elections, the United States and European Union cut off all aid to Palestine until Hamas disarms and recognizes Israel. They also declared any bank that transferred funds to the PA to be supporting “a terrorist government.” Israeli ports also withheld millions of dollars earned on Palestinian exports.
Due to the aid freeze, over 165,000 Palestinian government workers, who support 90% of the economy, have not been paid in five months. Since then, Palestinians have been struggling with shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies.
Extrajudicial Killing Continue in the West Bank
In the West Bank, the Israeli army escalated its extra-judicial killing targeting Palestinian resistance fighters. Three were killed in Jericho, Jenin and Nablus.
Tamer Qandeel, 21, a leader of the Al Aqsa brigade, the armed wing of Fateh, bled to death from gunshot wounds during a three-hour clash in Askar refugee camp in Nablus Friday at dawn. The army barred an ambulance crew from reaching him.
16-year-old Ahmad Eid, was fatally shot and eleven others were injured when Israeli troops invaded Jenin Thursday evening. The incident occurred as the Israeli army recovered a special Israeli assassination unit that failed to kill targeted Al-Aqsa Brigade leaders, Zakaria Al-Zubeidi, and Mahmoud Al-Sa’adi, at a wake in Jenin area.
The Israeli army also killed Mahmoud Shahin from Ein Al-Sultan refugee camp Wednesday near the West Bank city of Jericho when a number of Israeli military vehicles stormed the city.
Eyewitnesses said that Israeli soldiers shot Shahin in the head and heart “without warning or regard.”
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.imemc.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From occupied Bethlehem, this is Stacie Miller and Maia Williams Carpenter.