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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www.imemc.org, for July 7 through July 14, 2006.
Israel continues to bomb Gaza, bringing the number of dead in this invasion to at least 80. Rocket fires over the annexation Wall from Jenin to Israel. And Israel begins an invasion of Lebanon that leaves 46 civilians dead in the first twenty-four hours. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
PCHR in Brief
We’ll start off the program with highlights from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights weekly report on Israeli attacks against Palestinians. From June 29 through July 12, the Israeli army killed 88 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and around 34 resistance fighters who were killed in a non-combatant situation. In addition, the Israeli army injured 345 Palestinians. The army fired 110 missiles hundreds of artillery shells at the Gaza Strip. Targets included the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of educational institutions, as well as Gaza’s only power plant and three main bridges. The army also destroyed hundreds of acres of farmland and demolished several houses. The Israeli army invaded and reoccupied areas in the Gaza Strip, including Gaza International Airport. The army also prevented Palestinian ambulances from transporting patients to hospitals, including pregnant women.
Israel continued to impose a closure on Gaza’s commercial crossings, and people now suffer from a severe shortage of fuel, food and medical supplies. Many communities can no longer run their sewage disposal facilities, and hospitals are barely able to fuel their ambulances. Yesterday, Israeli troops seized control of Gaza’s main road, erected a checkpoint in the middle and barred civilians from using it.
The air strikes this week targeted three Palestinian families. In Al-Shuja’eyah neighborhood, an Israeli missile killed a mother, her twenty-year-old son, and her six-year-old daughter. A second air strike killed an eighteen-year-old boy, and in a third incident the army dropped a one-ton bomb on a three-story apartment building, killing nine members of the Al Salmiyah family.
And in the West Bank, Israeli troops conducted at least 47 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, arresting 67 civilians including 3 children and a woman. They also broke into at least 6 civilian institutions, claiming they were run by Hamas. Israel has tightened its siege on the West Bank, continuing to divide it between north and south, and restricting movement in and out of major cities including Nablus, Ramallah, and Tulkarem.
Israel’s Offensive against Gaza continues
And now, back to Gaza. While Israel insists that "Operation Summer Rains" is aimed at releasing the captured Israeli soldier, and stopping the firing of home-made Qassam shells, the attacks have focused on civilian infrastructure. Bridges, roads, educational buildings and civilian neighborhoods have been the target of the ongoing bombing.
Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected Palestinian Prime Minister Ismaiel Haniyeh’s call for an immediate and mutual ceasefire. In exchange for the cessation of launching Qassam shells into Israel, Haniyeh demanded the unconditional release of recently kidnapped Palestinian ministers and lawmakers, a lifting of economic sanctions, and the reopening of Gaza’s border crossings. The Prime Minister said negotiations over the captured soldier could then take place.
Israel rejected the demands and continued its invasion. An Israeli warplane bombed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza, leaving ten injured, mostly in neighboring houses. Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman from the Palestinian foreign ministry, called the attack "state terrorism." The attack came less than two weeks after an Israeli air strike targeted the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior.
Meanwhile, just outside of Rafah, five of the over four thousand Palestinians stranded at the Rafah border crossing have died since Israel closed the borders two weeks ago and barred international observers, required by law to be present at the crossing, to return. They include two women ages nineteen and twenty-seven, an eighteen-month-old baby, a fifteen-year-old boy, and a seventy-eight-year-old man.
Chemical Weapons Possibly Used by Israel
Palestinian medics are now saying that patients at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city and some bodies at the local morgue have unusual burns, raising concerns that Israel was using chemical weapons in its attacks on the Gaza Strip. Dr Jumaa Al Saqa the PR person in the hospital,
"When the Shrapnel hit the body, it causes very strong burns that destroy the tissues around the bones. When these shrapnel enters the body, it burns and destroys internal organs, like the liver, kidneys and the Spleen and other organs and makes saving the wounded almost impossible. As a surgeon, I have seen thousands of wounds during the Intifada, but nothing was like this weapon."
The Palestinian Ministry of Health has asked for the international communities and other Human Rights organizations to send medical teams to examine the injured and to verify its reports of use of these banned weapons. Yet Dr. Al Sakka stated that "no one has lifted a finger." The medical international community remains silent.
The United States has recently vetoed a UN resolution condemning the Israeli attacks against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
At around 1:30 this Friday afternoon, a peaceful gathering of around 100 people marched from the Al Khadir mosque to the site of construction of the Separation Wall, in an example of peaceful, non-violent protest.
The protest march was met by three IDF jeeps and around twenty soldiers, who blocked the path and prevented the protest from moving further.
Organizers and participants enjoyed a friendly and unthreatening atmosphere during the protest, which was well attended by villagers, international observers and Israeli activists.
Sami one of the organizers :
After almost an hour, the demonstration ended peacefully with only one arrest, that of an Israeli activist and film producer known as Ranan. He is expected to be released later today.
Today in Bil’in, as 150 villagers, Israelis and Internationals gathered around the village center, there was a special excitement in the air -Mansour Mansour and his wife , decided to celebrate their union with a wedding at the gate in Bil’in in front of the barbed wire.
Soldiers faced the demonstrators with excessive force and injured 20 demonstrators, 3 of which were injured by rubber bullets, many of them beaten by the soldiers. Among those injured were internationals and Israelis. Asa, an ISM activist, describes the demonstration:
UNRWA envoy visits Palestine
The new Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Far East, visited the Gaza Strip this Wednesday. Karen Abu Zeid visited Gaza’s power plant, which Israel bombed, leaving over 750,000 residents without electricity. Abu Zeid also visited the northern Gaza Strip, including the badly damaged Al-Atatra area, and expressed sorrow over the bad living conditions Palestinians face on daily basis.
UNRWA created a $170 million emergency relief program to help curb the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United Nation world food program has also delivered an urgent food aid of $1.4 million donation from Japan to the Palestinians. Abu Zeid called on the international community to do its part. “The residents are living without water or electricity for more than two weeks,” she stated. “These conditions will spread disease. These crimes against the Palestinian people must end and aid should be immediately provided to the Palestinians."
Israeli Organizations File Petition to Get Essentials to Gaza
Six Israeli human rights organizations filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice demanding that Israel permit the access of essential supplies into the Gaza Strip. A spokesperson for the organizations says Israel’s withholding of food, fuel and needed equipment amounts to collective punishment and is a violation of International law. These organizations also called for the Israeli army to stop attacking civilian targets such as bridges and power stations.
Dr. Shabtai Gold, Spokesperson of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, spokesperson of the Israeli Human Rights groups:
To alleviate the fuel crisis, the European Union started delivering emergency fuel supplies to hospitals that switched to generator power after the main electricity plant in the Strip was hit by the Israeli war planes two weeks earlier. This aid will be the first to be sent through a temporary funding mechanism set up and approved by the Quartet Committee for peace in the Middle East which includes the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
To alleviate the fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip the European Union started delivering emergency fuel supplies to hospitals that switched to generator power after the main electricity plant in the Strip was hit by the Israeli war planes two weeks earlier. This aid will be the first to be sent through a temporary funding mechanism set up and approved by the Quartet Committee for peace in the Middle East which includes the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
A second delivery of aid will be issued within the next few days to unpaid Palestinian health employees who have not received their paychecks. Some of them were paid a month earlier. This aid will not cover the paychecks of those people.
First Jenin Attack
The Palestinian resistance fired a home-made shell into Israel from Jenin this week. Israeli forces then invaded the city. The shell fell in an empty area causing no casualties or damage.
Abu Al-Sa’eed of Islamic Jihad, who claimed responsibility for the launch said it was a response to Israeli attacks against the Palestinian People.
"It is not a surprise that the Palestinian factions will respond. The Zionist enemy commits crimes against our people on daily basis in a systematic manner. They targeted Hospitals, Universities, and the latest in Jenin was when the special units attacked a wake in the city and killed two. Therefore we hold the Israeli army responsible for all this."
This was the first successful launch of projectiles from the West Bank over the annexation wall to Israeli targets which brings into question how much of a security the Wall really provides. A previous launching attempt from Tulkarem failed two weeks ago.
Israel attacks Lebanon after Hezbollah captures Israeli troops
And now we go to Lebanon, where at least forty-six civilians have been killed and one-hundred-and-three injured in Israel’s invasion of the country, the most brutal attack since Israel bombed a UN compound in Lebanon in 1996, killing two hundred civilians who had sought shelter there.
The invasion follows a raid in which Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite resistance group that forced Israel out of Lebanon after a twenty-two-year occupation, captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight. The two captured prisoners are bargaining chips to secure the release of some of the nine thousand Palestinians and Lebanese being held illegally in Israeli jails.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the raid “an act of war” and promised a “very painful” response, adding that nowhere in Lebanon was safe. Israel’s chief of staff, Dan Halutz, threatened to "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years," to the time of the Lebanese civil war in which Israel killed twenty thousand, mainly civilians. Israeli troops were dispatched into Lebanon land, air, and sea. Within twenty-four hours, Israel had dropped at least forty bombs on Lebanon. The targets include Lebanon’s only international airport, the main bridge to south Lebanon, the Hezbollah TV station, two Lebanese military bases, and a community center.
A family of ten and a family of seven also perished when Israel dropped bombs on their homes. Israel has now warned the residents of Beirut’s southern suburbs to evacuate or risk being caught in further bombing. The southern suburbs are home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled to Beirut during Israel’s 1948 invasion of Lebanon, as well as tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes in the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
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 Week in Palestine is brought to you by Dina Awwad, Haneen Amer and James Brownsell