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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for the July 21 through July 28, 2006.
Victory for nonviolence in the West Bank, while Israel intensifies its attack in Lebanon, vowing to kill anything that moves within four kilometers of the border.
Hezbollah fights off Israeli attempts to take control of the village Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon. Condelezza Rice calls the assault that has claimed nearly 500 lives “birth pangs.” And in Gaza, the Israeli military kills thirty people in one neighborhood in a two-day assault.
These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Anti-Wall protest in Al-Khader and Bil’in wins a court ruling
Nearly a hundred Palestinians, Israelis, and international peace activists protested the impending construction of the annexation Wall in Al Khader, west of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday in what has become a weekly nonviolent demonstration against the confiscation of Palestinian land for the Israeli separation wall.
Demonstrators chanted and waved Palestinian flags in front of a bypass road that connects illegal Israeli settlements to Jerusalem. Soldiers from the Israeli police, border guards, and army, along with half a dozen armored jeeps, blocked the protesters from demonstrating on the road. The protest concluded without any injuries.
The villagers and peace activists began their protest 7 weeks ago against the confiscation of more than 25,000 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 two months ago.
Meanwhile, Tuesday Israeli court ruled that its previous ban on annexation of land in the village of Bil’in for new Israeli settlement construction and new residents must remain in effect. This decision, strengthens the work of Bil’in activists, who have now successfully prevented planned settlement construction for 7 months, a singular feat in the West Bank.
Bil’in activists have also forced the state of Israel to demolish structures in recognition that the land on which the settlement is built was illegally annexed.
PCHR Brief Report
Let us begin our weekly with a brief of the weekly report of the Palestinian human Rights Centre for the week from July 20 through 26.
During the reported period, the Israeli army killed 38 Palestinians. Twenty-one were civilians. Nine came from three families, and thirty were killed in an attack on the al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City; more on this later.
At least 146 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were injured by Israeli gunfire, including 33 children, two women, two paramedics and two journalists. The Israeli army carried out 30 air strikes on the Gaza Strip, targeting residential areas.
In the West Bank, the Israeli army destroyed the Palestinian governmental compound in Nablus. One resident died of shrapnel wounds and five were injured, including two children. Three children were also killed in an invasion of the West Bank city of Jenin.
Israeli Attacks on the Gaza Strip
Israeli army continued to target civilians in Gaza. In one particularly bloody invasion into al-Shujaeya neighborhood, at least 30 Palestinians were killed including three children, and 70 were injured. The Israeli army moved into the area on Wednesday with tanks and warplanes, firing missiles at homes in the neighborhood. In one of the attacks, a mother and her two daughters were killed.
George Abu Zuluf, director of Defense for Children International calls for international protection
On Thursday at noon, Israeli jets fired a missile on a group of Palestinian civilians and resistors near Jabalya camp. Also on Thursday, Israeli tanks shelled Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, critically injuring a girl, killing a 75-year-old woman in her home, and moderately injuring her son.
The Israeli army also jammed the transmission of local radio stations in Gaza and used them to order residents to evacuate their homes.
Israeli Attacks on the West Bank
In this week’s attacks on the West Bank, the Israeli army killed nine civilians including three children, and completely demolished the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The children, ages two sixteen and eighteen, died in Sunday’s invasion of Jenin. The invasion was allegedly a botched assassination attempt of Al-Aqsa Brigade Leader Zakaria Zubiedi. The Israeli forces opened fire on a group of children in the street and later prevented ambulances from reaching the bodies of the three boys in violation of international law.
Qadura Mousa, governor of Jenin:
"A special army unit backed by Israeli armored vehicles broke into a mourning hose in the Jenin camp and fired intensively rounds of live ammunition and injured 27 civilians and killed three after surrounding the area tightly"
Israeli troops pulled out of the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday after a four day invasion that killed at least six Palestinians and injured dozens more. Israeli forces also arrested around 200 local people and moved them to prison camps in Israel.
Before leaving Nablus, Israeli military personnel detonated explosives in the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the city, leaving behind a massive pile of rubble. The building formerly contained the offices of both the interior and civil affairs ministries. In the bombing, 300,000 residents of the city lost their archived civil papers, including Birth certificate, identification papers and passports.
The Financial Crisis
The Palestinian Authority paid the salaries of governmental employees whose earn less than $300, and half the salary for all other employees, the second such payment since June. Apart from these payments, Palestine’s 165,000 public servants have not been paid since March, when the US and EU began withholding aid money, and Israel refused to transfer tax revenue belonging to the PA, now totaling $250 million.
Israeli Attacks on Lebanon
Now let’s go to Lebanon, where the human toll of Israel’s two-week attack continues to grow. This week the number of Lebanese killed passed 400, almost all of them civilians. 52 Israelis have also been killed, 33 of them soldiers.
Israel claims that 200 of the Lebanese dead are Hezbollah fighters. But the photos that come out of south Lebanon, where Israel is launching its offensive, are mostly of women and young children. One Israeli bombing of a UN post killed four peacekeepers in the town of Al Khiyam, near the eastern end of the border with Israel.
The UN monitors were part of UNIFIL, or the UN interim force in Lebanon, a team of international peacekeepers first sent to south Lebanon after Israel’s Operation Litani in 1978, which claimed the lives of over one thousand Lebanese. Since the creation of UNIFIL, it has been repeatedly targeted by Israel, notably in 1996, when Israeli warplanes bombed a post in the village of Qana, killing the workers and 200 civilians who had sought shelter there.
The four UN monitors killed in the Israeli bombing this Tuesday were Chinese, Canadian, Finnish and Austrian. It was later revealed that they had repeatedly contacted Israeli forces to inform them of the situation, which has led Kofi Annan to say the attack was intentional. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the bombing a regrettable part of war.
Four Ghanaian soldiers with UNIFIL were also wounded when an Israeli tank shell hit their post on Monday, and an Indian UNIFIL soldier suffered from serious wounds from Israeli shrapnel. Hezbollah fire also wounded an Italian observer on Sunday.
Israel has now begun to fight for control of a strip of land along the Lebanese border, which it claims is for security. Officials say the strip will range from 4 to 10 km, but also say they will push Hezbollah 20 km from the border. Defense Minister Ameer Peretz has said Israeli troops are authorized to shoot anything that moves within the so-called security zone. Unfortunately, many civilians have been unable to evacuate from those areas, and many who have attempted to leave have been bombed in their cars and killed.
But Israel’s fight for control on the ground has taken its toll. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed and twelve injured in gun battles with Hezbollah in the villages of Maroun Al Ras, Bint Jbeil, and Eitaroun. The fight for these villages is ongoing, despite earlier Israeli claims to fully control them. Ghassan Andoni, a political analyst,
Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah appeared on Al Jazeera this week, reiterating the party’s commitment to fighting this ground battle despite military losses, but accused Israel of launching a psychological war by exaggerating the casualties inflicted on Hezbollah fighters.
This week, Condoleeza Rice made her first visit to the Middle East since the beginning of Israel’s attacks on Gaza and Lebanon began almost a month ago. She placed the blame for the invasion squarely on Hezbollah and offered her support to Israel, and called the attacks that have claimed nearly 600 lives “birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
Rice was met by angry protesters in Palestine and Lebanon, the location of most of the casualties of Rice’s “birth pangs.” Upon her visit to Ramallah, a general strike was declared throughout the Palestinian territories.
On Wednesday, Rice attended a 15-nation summit in Rome to discuss the crisis with European and Arab foreign ministers, but blocked calls for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine and Lebanon. For constant updates, check out our website, www.imemc.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Dinna Awwad, Maia Williams-Carpenter and Ghassan Bannoura