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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for October 6th through to October 13th, 2006.
The Israeli army continued its attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, killing 12, including two children. Qatari meditation failed to bridge the gap between the two rival movements, Hamas and Fatah, on forming a national unity government and Palestinian civil servants are on strike for the second month.
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 that took place in the West Bank village of Bil'in.
Palestinians, along with internationals and Israeli peace activists, gathered on Friday morning along with cameramen from different press agencies, in solidarity with cameraman Emad Bornat.
Emad Mohammad Bornat from the village of Bil’in, video photographer for Reuters and documentary film maker, was taken prisoner last Friday October 6th by Israeli Border Police that entered the village firing rubber bullets and sound grenades.
Holding a banner “Soldiers, Stop Your Lies!”, demonstrators marched towards the gate in the annexation wall built on the land of Bil’in where border police and soldiers were standing in a line. Before they reached the site, it was noticed that a group of Israeli soldiers were hiding in an olive grove on the outskirts of the village.
The march was lead by Cameramen to show their solidarity with Bornat, followed by demonstrators chanting slogans in Arabic, English and Hebrew. As the crowd proceeded one Palestinian activist from Bi'lin was detained, dragged away by border police and beaten. Protesters demanded his release, but were ignored by the Israeli soldiers, who instead detained another Israeli activist. Subsequently the protestor originally detained was able to escape.
Returning to their village the demonstrators were followed by the army who were firing sound bombs and tear gas, causing damage to Palestinian property. A Palestinian man and a 14 year old boy were both shot with rubber bullets.
A New Deadly Weapon is Being Used Against Palestinians
Italian journalists have discovered that Israel has been using an experimental weapon on Palestinians over the past several months. After examination of the bodies of the wounded and dead, journalists found that these new weapons are most likely the cause of more than 300 serious injuries, which have lead to 62 amputations and 200 deaths between June and July 2006.
The weapon has similar symptoms to DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive), which was still being tested by the US military whilst the Israelis have been putting it to use. DIME is a precision weapon that causes a powerful blast within a small surface area, producing a severe and concentrated heat that cuts through material, such as bone, as clean as a blow torch.
Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen Yitzhak Ben-Israel, formerly head of the Israeli army’s weapons-development program, told the Italian reporters that one of the ideas behind the weapon is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons, as many civilians by standers are killed and injured when Israeli war planes are targetting Palestinian resistance fighters.
Dr. Joma Al-Saqa, of Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, said that victims of the weapon were left with small entry wounds on their bodies and a powder in their internal organs.
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“More than 260 Palestinians were killed in the past six weeks, many of which were severely burned to the bones. We found some kind of metal dust on the bodies, in addition to sever mutilation in other cases. We found wounds but could not see shrapnel even with x-ray diagnosis. Some internal organs were found damaged with no traces of shrapnel in them at all”
Although the weapon is not yet illegal, tungsten, the main material that strays outside the target zone, is said to be highly carcinogenic and harmful to the environment.
Dr. Mark Witten, a cancer researcher from the University of Arizona, said he was concerned about the possible links between tungsten and leukemia.
Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at University of Parma, examined samples sent by the Italian reporters from the Gaza Strip and found a very high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminum and tungsten, which she considered to be unusual materials for a weapon. In her report she concluded, "These findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is Dime.”
Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
This week the Israeli army killed 18 Palestinians, including three children, during several attacks on the residential areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, also causing injuries to others, including two children and a mentally disabled man.
Gaza Strip Update
In the latest attacks against residential areas in the Gaza strip, Israeli warplanes fired a missile on a house in the Al Faraheen area near Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces penetrated the area undercover; hitting a home, which resulted in the death of five members from one family, including a sixteen-year-old boy, and injuring several others.
On Thursday night, Israeli warplanes shelled a house in Al Shujaeyah, in the central area of the Gaza Strip, killing three, including a ten-year-old girl.
In the latest attacks this morning, Israeli warplanes shelled a vehicle in Biet Lahia, in the north of the Gaza Strip, killing all of its occupants.
East of Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, a mother of five was killed by an Israeli sniper deployed by the undercover unit.
These killings brought the death toll in the Gaza Strip, since the beginning of the 'Operation Summer Rains', to 300 Palestinians, including 62 children and 13 women. 1027 have been injured, including 301 children and 41 women.
This week the Israeli army shelled two houses, destroying them, one of which belonged to a female PLC member of Hamas, Mariam Farahat. The Israeli army ordered the residents to evacuate, shortly before they destroyed the houses.
In the latest infighting between supporters of the Fatah and Hamas movements, clashes erupted between the rival groups in which at least twenty were injured. While a group of unknown gunmen attacked a local radio station called the 'Voice of Workers' in the north of the Gaza Strip, setting the station on fire and throwing homemade grenades inside the building; one reporter was injured.
West Bank Update
In the West Bank, the Israeli army killed six Palestinians, including one child, injured eight Palestinians again including a child, and abducted 58 people, one of which was also a child.
This week the Israeli army invaded several areas in the West Bank including the cities of Nablus and Jenin and their surrounding land. Three residents were killed, one of whom was stood waiting for permission to pass through one of the main checkpoints near Nablus. Another resident was shot and killed as he was on his way home via a dirt road, which he took to avoid an Israeli checkpoint.
There is currently a large number of the Israeli army deployed inside Jerusalem's old city and at the main crossings and checkpoints surrounding the city. They are denying access to thousands of Palestinians coming from several cities in the West Bank, attempting to reach the Al Aqsa mosque to perform their Friday prayers during the third week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Soldiers deployed at the main checkpoints have been attacking civilians who were stranded at the main crossing between the West Bank city of Ramallah in the north, and Bethlehem in the south. The use of stun grenades, batons and rubber coated bullets, lead to several civilians being injured and taken to nearby hospitals.
Qatari Meditation Efforts Fail
The Rafah Crossing opened this week to allow Qatari Foreign Minister Shiekh Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani into the Gaza Strip. Bin Jassem came with the hope of mediating between the democratically elected government and the former ruling Fatah party, due to growing tensions. Twelve were killed last week and a hundred injured in internal clashes.
Shiekh Hamad Al Thani presented a six-point plan in separate meetings with Prime Minister Haniyeh and President Abbas. His plan included recognition of past agreements between the PLO and Israel, a Palestinian state within the1967 borders, and most importantly, a revival of the PLO in accordance with the Cairo Agreement of 2005. The PLO would work alongside the Palestinian Presidential and Legislative bodies in all negotiations with the State of Israel.
In the press conference that followed, Al Thani said the most disputed points were the recognition of Israel and the renunciation of violent resistance. Israel and the US have aggressively insisted on these two points and boycotted the Hamas government until it abides by them. Hamas has consistently rejected these demands, saying that it is the right of the Palestinian People to resist the occupation.
Meanwhile, international blockades and Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenue, leaves the country in an increasingly desperate situation. Palestine’s 165,000 civil servants have entered their second month of a general strike due to being in their seventh month without pay.
Hamas and Fatah exchanged accusations over the breakdown in negotiations and what they regard as the failure of the Qatari visit. While Fatah officials insist that Hamas did not show flexibility in the negotiations, Hamas officials insist that although Qatar’s proposal was not fully acceptable, they did express interested in continuing with negotiations.
Still, according to Fuad Kokali a lawmaker of Fatah, there is still hope to bridge the gap;
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“The Qatari initiative is not declared failure yet, in fact, it was an attempt by our brothers in Qatar to reach a settlement between Abbas’ and Haniya’s government's programs. However, the gap is still big. Yet, we hope the gap can be bridged and agree on a program to form a national unity government soon. I guess the current Government should take into consideration the bad situation in the Palestinian areas and be more realistic and flexible so that we can end this blockade the Palestinian society is suffering from.”
In Damascus, the Hamas politburo chief, Khaled Masha’al, said that this initiative was marred by the American insistence that Hamas should comply with the Quartet conditions which largely calls on Hamas to recognize Israel and the previously signed agreements with the Palestinians, and to renounce violence.
Salah Bardaweel, spokesperson of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian Parliament, quoted Masha’al as saying that 'Israel exists, however, he would not recognize the state due to the occupation and particularly the denial of Palestianins to a sovereign state and self-determination.' He reiterated that Hamas has long approved a long-term truce with Israel, upon the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Masha’al also said that Hamas and the Palestinian government are not obliged to accept or reject the signed agreements as a package, while Israel can choose at their will what they will or will not implement.
Fuel Crisis Continues Amidst a Financial Crisis
Unpaid governmental employees entered their second month of general strike this week. The strike has closed governmental schools and hospitals, leaving thousands of school children and the infirm stranded without services.
Palestinian Minister of Planning and Finance, Dr. Sameer Abu Aisha, said he expected the employees to receive a partial payment before the Muslim feast of Fitr. Algeria has promised $52 million in aid, although it remains to be seen whether it will be allowed in, given the constraints on the banking system. Abu Aisha added that the fuel crisis would end and promised that their debt to Alon Dor, the Israeli company that provides the Palestinian Authority with the majority of its fuel, would be paid.
Release of an American student in the West Bank city of Nablus
Michael Phillips, an American citizen, kidnapped this week by a group who call themselves 'Ansar Al-Sunna', a previously unknown group of gunmen in Nablus, has been released. The group released a photocopy of his documents and demanded that hundreds of women and children illegally locked in Israeli jails be freed.
Phillips told IMEMC that he was released on Wednesday by his captors after being held for 28 hours. Before releasing him, unknown gunmen, belived to be his captors, drove him to meet the member of the PLO executive committee, Ghassan Al-Shakaa, in his house where a press conference was held, declaring Philips' release.
Philips, who is an American volunteer, teaching English to Palestinian children in Nablus, said his captors took all his documents and belongings, while they did not threaten him they kept his head covered, removing the covering only when they gave him food and drink.
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Media reports claiming that Philips was released by the Al -Aqsa Martyr Brigades have been proven to be wrong. The Aqsa brigades claimed they managed to release Philips after a car chase between them and his captors. Al-Aqsa fighters claimed they chased down and fired at a vehicle full of masked men causing the occupants to flee, leaving only Phillips behind, who was blindfolded and handcuffed inside the car. All of which has proven to be false.
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 Dinna Awwad, Imogen Kimber and Ghassan Bannoura.