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This Week in Palestine, service of the International Middle East Media Center for September 29 through to October 5, 2006.
The Israeli army kills eight Palestinians including three children, while Palestinian factions confront each other on the streets and twelve die, as the formation of a national unity government faces serious difficulties. 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 action against the annexation Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in
Enduring Palestinian, international and Israeli activists persist in protest in the village of Bil'in, against the ever encroaching annexation wall, which has so far taken approximately half the village's agricultural land.
Chanting resistance slogans, the demonstrators marched non-violently to the gate in the wall, which runs through the village; where two local protestors attempted to clime the gate, but were detained by soldiers. The protestors continued around the wall, but were forced to disperse into near by olive groves, as the Israeli forces fired tear gas on the protestors, and subsequently fired rubber coated bullets at the crowd, which included children.
The protest culminated in the local youth, once again, blocking the entry of the Israeli forces into the village of Bil'in, armed only with what they could find on the ground.
Paul, from the ISM, who was there:
Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
The Israeli army continued its attacks on the Palestinian communities this week and killing eight residents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and injuring several others.
Attacks on the Gaza Strip
Six Palestinians were killed in Gaza by the Israeli army, this week, including three children. Two were brothers who were riding their bikes together when an Israeli warplane dropped a missile on them. Another was killed when an Israeli jet shelled a metal shop. Fourteen more were injured, including four children.
In the latest attacks an Israeli war plane shelled a vehicle in Khan Younis in the southern of the Gaza Strip and killed two of the resistance fighters. Meanwhile, the Israeli soldiers presented at a military post east of Khan Younis shot and killed another resident.
245 civilians have been killed in Gaza since the ongoing Israeli military operation which began in June, including 56 children and 13 women. 829 have been injured, including 222 children, 35 women, 4 paramedics and 6 journalists.
Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing point was opened earlier this week, allowing a few of the thousands of resident who had been stranded on both sides to move through. The border has been open for only twelve days since June. At least 6 people have died waiting to get through.
Attacks on the West Bank
And in the West Bank this week, two were killed, six injured, and 24 abducted in Israeli raids, including three children, one of which was a girl. In one invasion into Jenin, Israeli Special Forces, disguised as Arab civilians, jumped out of a non-plated vehicle and assassinated Mohammed Odeh, a local Hamas leader, shooting him point blank. In another incident, Israeli border guards shot and killed a construction worker on his way to work in the city of Jaffa, located inside the ’48 territories.
National Unity Talks Put On Hold
National Unity meetings between Hamas and Fatah, the rival parties, were put on hold this week as twelve died in inter-factional fighting. One Hamas leader was shot dead outside his mosque in Gaza. In another incident, Fatah gunmen shot and killed a waiter who refused to join in their general strike. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh say they still hope to form a national unity government, a point Abbas reaffirmed in a joint press conference with the Bahraini Foreign Minister in Ramallah.
Haniyeh said the International community wants the Palestinian National Unity government to be formed on American standards and specifications. He spoke at a massive rally for Hamas supporters in Gaza and said that Hamas is committed to the National Agreement presented by the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and affirmed that Hamas will never recognize Israel.
The Quartet committee, which includes the United States, United Nations, Russia and The European Union, demanded the Hamas government and the national unity government, if formed, to recognize Israel, respect the previously signed agreements and to renounce violence.
Fuel Crisis Joins Financial Crisis As Israeli Company Withholds Gas
The main Israeli fuel supplier to the occupied Palestinian territories, Alon Dor, stopped transferring fuel this week, citing a Palestinian debt of millions of Israeli Shekels.
The crisis was finally solved when the Palestinian Authority signed a contract with a new Israeli fuel supplier, Paz, as Alon Dor did not accept modifications requested by the PA in order to renew the 12-year-old contract.
The new contract allows the Palestinian Authority to import crude oil from outside Israel and refine it in Paz’s refinery in Ashdod’s harbor in Israel. This opens the chance for the PA to import oil from Arab countries, which may lower the retail prices.
In addition, the contract obliges Paz to help the Palestinian authority to create a reserve by collecting the fuel in tanks in the Palestinian areas.
Alon Dor, did not address the role of the Israeli government, which since January has withheld 480 million dollars of tax revenues rightfully belonging to the Palestinian Authority. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority paid nearly 20 million dollars out the 30 million debt to Alon Dor, who insisted that the PA pays all the debt before it resumes transferring fuel to the Palestinian areas.
The Palestinian deputy Minister of Finance, Samir Abu Eisha, said the new contract has an easier system of payment in comparison to those with Alon Dor.
In the mean time, the financial crisis in Palestine deepens, as the ongoing general strike, which started almost 40 days ago, has widened. The Palestinian security forces joined in, demanding their unpaid wages. Protesters set burning tires in the streets and fired live rounds. A riot broke out when the Palestinian Interior Ministry sent forces into Gaza to disperse the protesters.
Outraged protestors tore through the Palestinian Legislative Council building and set fire to the office of deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al Din Al Sha'er. At least twelve were killed and a hundred injured in the clashes that followed, including two of Sha’er’s bodyguards. To protest and mourn the internal violence, the Palestinian Authority closed its doors.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh said the strike has been enforced by weapons, which turn it from a democratic form of protest to an act to serve political agendas of some political factions.
Rice's Middle East Tour
In her first trip to the Middle East since the end of the Israeli war on Lebanon earlier this year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in Cairo with the foreign ministers of eight countries, including Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf. She then met with President Abbas Ramallah to discuss the revival of peace negotiations with the State of Israel. Abbas gave Rice a list of demands, including that Israel release the $480 million of tax revenues rightfully belonging to the Palestinian Authority, open Gaza’s crossing points to let people and aid through and ease the restrictions on movement in the West Bank and the Gaza. Prime Minister Haniyeh, who did not meet with Rice, said the purpose of her visit was to support Israel and sew unrest in the Middle East, citing the Bush administration’s selective favoritism and demonizing of Middle Eastern leaders.
After her meeting with Abbas, Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and other high-ranking Israeli officials. They refused to meet any Palestinian demands before the release of the Israeli soldier who was arrested by Palestinian factions this June.
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 is Caysha cay, Imogen Kimber and Ghassan Bannoura.