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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, imemc.org for September 1 through September 8, 2006.
Israeli army continues to attack Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing 11 including a child. An open work strike enters its second week, supported by a general strike of unpaid Palestinian employees. While thousands of school students wait anxiously for their school year to begin, several Palestinian factions call a coalition government as a way out of the Hamas led government. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Settlement activities and Anti Wall Weekly Protests
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful actions against the annexation Wall in the West Bank villages of Bil’in.
Around 150 of the residents of the village of Bil’in accompanied by 8 Internationals and 6 Israelis went to the construction site of the Wall. The army together with border police was waiting for the protestors outside the village far from the construction site of the wall.
Troops attacked the protestors with tear gas canisters and sounds grenades and assaulted them with their batons and riot shields. Several suffered bruises in different parts of their bodies, mainly on their arms and back as a result of being beaten by Batons. Some of them were carried away by an ambulance for medical treatment.
Shon, and American protestor was at the demonstration this week,
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The army is getting more brutal in facing the nonviolent demonstrators in Bil’in who has been carrying out nonviolent demonstration against the construction of the wall on their land for more than a year and half on weekly basis. In the past few months, the army used water canons against the demonstrators, and some kind of bullets that cause electrical shock in addition to sponge bullets that burns the body where it hits.
Also this week the Israeli army issued military orders to confiscate hundreds of acres of land near the West Bank village of Al Khader in order to make way for the annexation Wall.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Housing issued tenders to build seven hundred housing units in Maaleh Adumim and Bittar Illit, two of the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank. It was the first order for settlement construction in West Bank settlements since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took the office earlier this year. Olmert has repeatedly insisted Israel will keep all major West Bank settlement blocs, including Maaleh Adumim, Bittar Illit, Gush Etzion and Ariel. This plan was approved by the United States in April 2004, following a summit that joined the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House, prior to the unilateral disengagement plan which was implemented in September 2005.
Attacks on the West Bank and Gaza Strip
Israeli army continued to attack Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing 15 and injuring at least 51. The army also kidnapped 36 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, and 3 in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip
This week the Israeli army killed ten residents in the Gaza Strip and injured 51 including twelve children. The death toll in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s military “Operation Summer Rains” on June 28 has reached 226, including 47 children and 12 women. In addition, 726 have been injured, mostly civilians, and including women, children, paramedics and journalists.
In the most recent attacks, the Israeli army invaded the town of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis. The army advanced one and a half kilometers into the town and killed seven residents. Four were resistance fighters with Izz-Iddin Al-Qassam, Hamas’ armed wing. A 16-year-old boy was also shot during the army’s blanket fire on the residents ' homes.
And a father and his son were killed when an Israeli under cover unit invaded Al Amal neighborhood in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. The army also destroyed nine homes in this invasion.
The West Bank
In the West Bank city of Jenin, an Israeli under cover unit killed a resistance fighter who was a member of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, Al Quds Brigade.
On Thursday evening, four Palestinians were killed and at least fifteen were injured by military fire during clashes erupted between the resistance and Israeli soldiers who invaded the town. Three were killed immediately, while the fourth sustained serious wounds, and was taken by the soldiers and was pronounced dead later.
Workers Strike in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
Palestinian civil servants continued to strike this week, demanding their overdue salaries and an end to the aid blockade imposed by Israel, the European Union and the United States.
Some twenty to thirty thousand people demonstrated in the Gaza Strip as part of a one-day general strike in solidarity with the civil servants. It was the largest turnout for a demonstration since the beginning of the aid freeze.
People also demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Jameel Shehadeh, head of the teachers' union in Ramallah said the crisis is caused by the International blockade.
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"We say to the government and to the president, and the Arab and the international communities, that everyone should stand for their responsibilities and duties. We decided to go on an open strike to make it clear once and for all that there is a real problem facing the Palestinian people who is very close to lose the right to education which is one of the basic Human Rights.”
Apparently, both the government and the opposition agree that the financial crisis is a result of the sanctions imposed by the United States, the EU and Israel, Mohammed Al-Hourani, a senior Fatah leader said the government uses the sanctions as an excuse.
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“The motivation behind these strikes originally was the economic issue and the cut off of salaries of the employees for more than six months. We understand that there are sanctions imposed by the United States and Israel against the government. However, what did the government do? Is it reasonable to use the sanctions as an excuse without lifting a finger to solve the problem? Is there another way to solve this problem despite of the sanctions? Many of these employees still remember that there were sanctions imposed in the time of the late President Yasser Arafat, yet they all received their salaries at that time.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Government did not slam the strike, yet they said it should be directed against those who imposed sanctions against the Palestinians.
Palestinian Minister of Information Yousef Rizqa, said the strike should be directed against the United States and Israel.
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"I think the strike will end in the coming few days, and it will not achieve its goals, because the goals are political, to either topple the government, or force it to resign or be paralyzed. I think this is a wrong democratic practice. The strike should be directed against Israel that is holding $480 million USD, which if released would be enough to cover four months of the over due salaries. I also think that the strike should also be against the United States. The government managed collect the needed funds, and can provide more, however, the American Veto and limitation on money transfer, do not allow these funds to find its way to the government. I guess the strikers should stand in solidarity with the government.”
At least 165 thousand Palestinian civil servants did not receive their paychecks since March. Some of them were partially paid, yet the payments do not cover the salary of two months. The tax revenue held by Israel which dues to the Palestinian Authority amounts up to $330 Million which, if received would pay most of the employees.
National Unity Government
Efforts to establish a national unity government continue amidst a severe financial crisis.
Some Fatah officials expressed fears that Hamas would accept such a government only because it is unable to match the demands of the employees, where others see such a government as the only way out of the crisis for all.
Earlier this week, Palestinian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Dr. Jamal Al Khudari of Hamas, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh. Yet, he later rescinded it after being rejected by Haniyeh.
President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh agreed to start serious talks for forming a unity government.
Al-Khudari said he submitted his resignation to pave the way for forming national unity government.
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"When the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh agreed three weeks ago to start serious talks about forming a national unity government, I decided to resign and leave the Communication and Information Technology portfolio in the hands of the Prime Minister to pave the way for forming a national unity government. However, I found that some people misinterpreted my resignation and some related it to the ongoing workers strike, which is in fact untrue.”
Although talks about a possible prisoner swap deal between the Palestinians and the Israeli government were denied by Palestinians and Israelis alike, Egyptian officials did not hide the fact that negotiations are ongoing, with an Egyptian mediation. Palestinians demand the release of 800 Palestinians most of them are women and children, in exchange of the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
Israel to Lift Blockade as UN Troops Flock to Lebanon
The Israeli government announced it would lift its air and naval blockade of Lebanon two weeks after the 15,000 UN troops have arrived in the country as called for by UN resolution 1701.
A Lebanese airline flight landed in Beirut International Airport followed by A Kuwaiti one declaring the end of the blockade. The air blockade is lifted 23 after the UN resolution was issued. Israeli official sources said naval blockade will be lifted on Sunday.
International troops come from the European Union, Qatar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey. Qatar is the only Arab country to send troops to Lebanon. Officials said, Qatar will send some 300 troops to join the UN force. In Turkey, protestors took the streets to protest the decision to send Turkish troops to Lebanon.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out the International Middle East Media Center website, imemc.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this report is brought to you by Dina Awwad, James Brown and Ghassan Bannoura.