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Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre  for Tuesday August 14th, 2006

Army shells residents’ homes in Gaza and Palestinian resistance fighters attack an army post north of Gaza.  Meanwhile, the army continues to take prisoners and attack cities in the West Bank and Hezbollah fires despite ceasefire agreement.  These stories and more coming up stay tuned.

Gaza update

A group of Palestinian resistance fighters fired an anti-tank mortar shell towards an Israeli army post in Gaza near the Eretz border crossing north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

Israeli sources confirmed the attack but reported no casualties or damage and added that Israeli forces discovered four explosive devices in the centre of the Gaza Strip, which exploded near the electric fence surrounding Gaza. 

Late Monday night one child was injured after Israeli tanks stationed near the Arafat International Airport shelled several homes in Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Two brothers were taken prisoner in a separate attack in the town. A medical source at the Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah reported that the child, Abdul-Hamid Es’efan, 14, was hit by several rounds of live ammunition in his right leg causing moderate injuries. Eyewitnesses reported that tanks stationed around the Arafat International Airport fired at dozens of homes east of Rafah.

Also, military bulldozers uprooted farmlands in the area causing considerable losses and damage.

Several residents were injured Monday night after the Israeli air force shelled a house in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.  The house was completely damaged, while rescue teams and ambulances rushed to the area to evacuate the wounded residents.
The West Bank update  

Israeli troops, followed by 20 military vehicles invaded Askar Refugee Camp in east Nablus early Tuesday and surrounded several homes. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a large contingent of Israeli troops enter Nablus and move towards the Askar refugee camp, surrounding it.

Bulldozers immediately began to demolish the An Nadi family home in the camp. The Army claimed that  "wanted" Palestinians were hiding in the house. They arrested four members of the family, Mohamed, Basheer, Nasser and Raghib. They were taken to unknown locations. Israeli soldiers also arrested a young boy called Murad Abu Sir.

Also during this time, a confrontation erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth in the camp. Several youth were injured and inhaled tear gas released by the Israeli forces. An elderly woman died of a heart attack due to the intensive shooting in which two other Palestinians were hurt. A young Palestinian man, Omar Al Ordoni, 18, was wounded by a rubber bullet,  while a young girl was injured when hit by shrapnel from a missile. Her identity is not yet known. According to medical sources in Nablus hospital, the 70-year old woman, Um Khalil, died following a heart attack brought on by the severity of the Israeli shelling and gunfire around her home.  Israeli forces also entered Al Ein Refugee Camp this morning and arrested two young men residing in the camp.

Israeli forces also invaded Howwara village, located south of Nablus. Soldiers took over the home of Ghazi Ishhada and turned it into an army post.  Eyewitnesses said that the 20 member family, including children, are under house arrest and soldiers are not allowing them to move freely in their home or leave.

The Israeli army took two prisoners while searching houses in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday.  Doctor Rifqa Al Ja’bari, 43, was taken to an unknown location when troops stormed her house, searched it and ransacked the family belongings, eyewitnesses reported. Another force stormed the house of Kamel Al Ja’bari, 32, and took him to an unknown location after searching his house.  According to his family, soldiers surrounded the house, threw stones at its windows and entered, taking Kamel with them as they left.   Meanwhile the army invaded the West Bank city of Jenin and its neighboring villages Tuesday, damaging residents’ property and public property.  They also invaded the city of Qalqilia and took three prisoners Tuesday morning.

Ahmad Salahat, 36, from the West Bank city of Bethlehem was taken prisoner late Monday night. Salahat was returning from work when Israeli soldiers stopped him at a military checkpoint near Maala Adomin settlement on the main road connecting the city of Bethlehem with the rest of the West Bank.

Israeli Army invaded Bizaria village west of the West Bank city of Nablus and abused a mentally challenged resident late Monday night. Annas Owdah was stopped and abused by Israeli soldiers when they stormed the village, eyewitnesses said.  Soldiers fired live rounds at residents’ homes, then stopped Owdah, who is mentally challenged, beat him up and fired live rounds near his feet.

Lebanon Update

Hezbollah fired a dozen rockets at positions occupied by Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon early Tuesday morning despite the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement that went into effect Monday.  No injuries were reported.    

Meanwhile, Israel continued to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon while at least one million displaced Lebanese refugees returned home.  So far, Israel has disengaged from the southern Lebanese town of Mar-jayyoun as well as Bourj Al-Mulouk and El-Ghandourieh, according to Lebanese security officials.  The Israeli military hopes to be completely out of Lebanon by next week. 

As part of the ceasefire agreement, a joint Lebanese-international force is to position itself between Hezbollah and the Israeli military in an area about 30km north of the Israeli border, just south of the Litani river.  In the face of much criticism, Alain Pellegrini, the force commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), predicted that the UN resolution would strengthen the UNIFIL force, which has been virtually ineffective since its creation in 1978. 

UN resolution 425 established UNIFIL in response to the increased fighting between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israeli forces on the Israel-Lebanon border.  It was meant to assure the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese government in regaining its authority in southern Lebanon.  Israeli forces did not leave Lebanon until April 2000. 

Regardless of the current ceasefire, hostility remains between Hezbollah and Israel, both of whom declared their plans to continue fighting a war that apparently has not ended.  Hezbollah said that it will fight Israel until every soldier has left Lebanon and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert swore to hunt down Hezbollah’s leaders.  These statements raise questions about the sustainability of such a fragile agreement.  The French general in charge of the UN peacekeeping force Monday requested reinforcements immediately in order to prevent any “stray act,” which could completely discredit the ceasefire and dissolve the diplomatic effort.

Both parties to the war in Lebanon claim to have won.  Hezbollah reported a total of 68 fighters killed by Israeli soldiers while Israel reported that 530 soldiers had been killed by Hezbollah since July 12.  Although Olmert and Peretz have endured heavy criticism, Olmert called the war and the UN resolution that stopped it “an important victory for Israel that changed the strategic balance in the region and badly weakened Hezbollah.”   Israel succeeded to not only weaken but destroy much of the civilian structure in southern Lebanon.  Currently, 60 countries and aid agencies arrived in southern Lebanon upon Sweden’s invitation to rebuild homes and roads.  The amount of aid needed is still unknown. 

Thanks for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem.  You have been listening to Palestine Today for the International Middle East Media Centre, brought to you by Jacque Shoen & Ghassan Bannoura