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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for September 22 through September 29, 2006.
As Palestinians commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Palestinian death toll approaches four thousand. And as the month of Ramadan begins, thousands of unpaid civil servants receive a fraction of their overdue salaries. And Hamas and Fatah continue to discuss the formation of a national unity government, with no big hope on the way. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Weekly Peaceful protests against the Separation Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful actions against the annexation Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.
Fifty committed protesters, Israelis, Palestinians and internationals, demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall Friday in the village of Bil’in, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Due to the weather and Ramadan holiday, the demonstration was slower than usual, according to Tom, a weekly demonstrator.
Protesters attempted to reach the residents’ land and remove the barbed wire separating them from their property, but were unsuccessful. Tom described the great persistence of the villagers in a comment to IMEMC, “In Bil’in today the fire that burns in the hearts of many against the injustices here may have flickered but it was not extinguished. It is a fire that will not die, as it spreads from village to village, providing light in the shadow of the wall.”
Each Friday, Bil’in residents gather with Israelis and internationals to protest the illegal construction of the Apartheid Wall, which is robbing the villagers of their land and livelihood.
Reports on the Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
B’Tselem, the Israeli center for human rights, has accused the Israeli army of war crimes. The Israeli army bombed Gaza’s main power plant this June, leaving half of Gaza in the dark. Repairing the plant could take up to fourteen months and cost millions of dollars. B’Tselem issued a statement calling the bombing of the plant a war crime carried out on civilian targets, and called on the Israeli government to investigate.
Meanwhile, John Dugard, the United Nations rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, has said that Israel’s actions in the West Bank constitute “ethnic cleansing,” specifically the annexation Wall that prevents the people from reaching their schools, work, and medical help.
Dugard also reported that Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison. He criticized the sanctions imposed on Palestine since Hamas took office this March, calling it a failure of the international community. Most of Gaza’s residents depend on food aid, but have barely received it since Israel imposed a closure on Gaza in January.
The Israeli representative to the United Nations slammed Dugard’s report, calling it one-sided. The report came just two weeks after a statement by Kofi Annan that called the Israeli attacks against the Palestinians unbearable.
Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
This Thursday, September 28, marks the sixth anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. According to a report released by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Israeli army has killed more 3859 Palestinians, including 724 children and 119 women.
This week alone, the Israeli army killed six Palestinian civilians, including a woman in Um al-Nasser village, northeast of Rafah. A fourteen-year-old girl was killed when Israel shelled a neighboring house in the Rafah area. Twenty-one civilians were injured in the shelling, including 8 children. Also this week, the Israeli army partially reopened Rafah crossing point for three days after three months closure.
Attacks on the West Bank
And in the West Bank, six civilians including two children were injured this week when the Israeli army invaded several West Bank cities, villages and refugee camps. The army took sixteen civilians prisoners, including three children and a woman.
An Israeli military court has extended the imprisonment of twenty-one high-ranking Palestinian Hamas officials, while ordering the release of one. Palestinian deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al-Din Al-Sha’er was allowed to go home after over a month of administrative detention in an Israeli jail. Israeli soldiers had abducted Al-Sha’er from his home in Ramallah earlier last month. The Israeli army has captured five cabinet ministers and over thirty Palestinian legislators during several West Bank invasions since June.
National Unity Government approaching a deadlock
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled a meeting with Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh after a visit to the United States. Abbas said national unity talks had returned to square one after Hamas reiterated its position that it would not recognize Israel. Hamas also repeated that if Israeli settlers and military withdraw completely to 1967 borders, it would declare a long-term truce with Israel.
Abbas did not shut down talks completely, and sent a representative to continue the talks at a lower level. Fatah officials said the meeting did not result in an agreement that would lead to a coalition government. But Hamas officials called the meeting positive and said further meetings would be held. In an attempt to bridge the gap between the two parties, Abbas headed to Qatar to seek mediation from Qatari officials.
On the other hand, the United States has repeatedly said it will not recognize the Palestinian National Unity Government if formed if this government would not recognize Israel.
This diminishes chances for forming this government who is thought to seek American and European blessing in order to end the sanctions imposed against the elected Hamas government.
Update on the Financial Crisis
As the month of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Muslim calendar, began earlier this week, thousands of unpaid Palestinian civil servants entered their fifth week of general strike, demanding payment for their jobs, which they have not received in six months. This week’s protests were joined by hundreds of members of the security service and police in Gaza.
Both President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh had promised the workers salaries at the beginning of this month.
The European Union has reactivated the Temporary Payment Mechanism and provided around $330 dollars for 40 thousand Palestinian families registered as needy families at the Palestinian Ministry of Social Welfare.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority said it will provide a $350 payment for each of the 165 thousand Palestinian employees within few days.
The EU payment does not break the boycott imposed by the United States and Israel against the Hamas-led government because the EU did not channel the money through the Palestinian Authority who insists that the financial crisis in the Palestinian territories is political and not economic.
Yousef Rizqa, Minister of Information at the Hamas government;
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“The crisis is political, not economic. If the government accepts, the conditions of the United States, Israel and the Quartet, a major part of the salaries problem will be solved. There are some $480 million dollars held by Israel of tax revenue money due to the Palestinian Authority. This amount is enough to cover the unpaid salaries, which means that it is the Israeli occupation that is not allowing the Palestinian employees to get paid.”
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 report is brought to you by Caysha Cay and Ghassan Bannoura.