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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for October 13 through October 20, 2006.
Israeli troops kill fifteen Palestinians in invasions into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas supports a cabinet of technocrats and threatens a referendum if it is not formed within three weeks. And as the Muslim holiday of ‘Eid il-Fitr' approaches, thousands are unable to celebrate as the US and EU continue to impose sanctions on the Palestinian government. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Weekly Peaceful anti-wall action in Bilin’s
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful action against the annexation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.
Protests continue in Bil'in this week with approximately 15 Palestinians and 15 internationals and Israelis marching against the confiscation of land in Bil'in, but also in support of the local cameraman who was arrested two weeks ago. Imad Bornat, local cameraman who has been documenting the protests at Bil’in every week, and supplied material for the documentary film, 'Bil’in Habibi' has still not been freed despite a military judge's decision to release him. He is being kept while the army formulates an appeal against this decision.
These are the comments of a British ISM Volunteer on Imad's case
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The protest appears to have passed off relatively peacefully this week. The demonstrators marched to the gate in the wall which leads to the village where they sat for half an hour, chanting slogans to the soldiers, who refused to let them through. On the opposite side of the wall soldiers were firing tear gas and sound bombs. As the demonstrators left the march there was an incident in which they intervened to request soldiers to stop firing rubber bullets at children, which they apparently did.
Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
This week the Israeli army killed fifteen in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during ongoing invasions and attacks against the Palestinians
Attacks on the Gaza Strip
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the army to expand its invasion of Gaza with the aim of bringing a halt to the launching of home made Palestinian shells on Israeli targets. Israeli tanks and armored vehicles proceeded to invade residential areas in the Gaza Strip; killing 11 and injuring 44 in the attacks, including 14 children and 4 women. This brought Gaza’s death toll, since the beginning of Israel’s 'Operation Summer Rains' this June, to 311 Palestinians, including 62 children and 13 women. 1071 have been injured, including 315 children and 44 women.
Israeli military officials claim Hamas has been using weapons in the Gaza Strip received from abroad.
Salah Al-Bardaweel, spokesman of Hamas bloc at the Palestinian Parliament,
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"This is not true as Hamas' actions and tools of resistance have been self-reliance. Hamas manufactures simple means of resistance to confront the massive Zionist war machine. Israel does not need to look for pretexts to launch its aggression, for it is able to carry out its aggression without pretexts.”
The Israeli military closed the Rafah Crossing Point again, ending a brief opening in the border crossing during which people were allowed to pass through. Thousands have been stranded at the crossing since June as the Israeli army has kept it closed and barred the European Union third party monitors from reaching their posts. At least six have died waiting to get through.
Attacks on the West Bank
And in the West Bank this week, the Israeli army killed 5, injured several others, and abducted 48 civilians, including 7 children, the youngest of whom was Bassem Yasser Hanaisha at 7 years old.
In a three-day invasion into Qabatiya near Jenin, the army killed three residents including two members of the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Several others were injured. Soldiers also broke into several homes, took their inhabitants hostage and used them as military sniper posts. 15 were abducted in this invasion including 4 children.
Mohamed Saba'nah, an eyewitness describes the invasion:
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"There were soldiers in the town, and the soldiers were screaming and knocking at residents' houses. They demanded the residents to go out of their houses. Meanwhile, we heard clashes in town, and heard explosions. I think they invaded the town without any target, but they were in the street and shot and killed the youth. I do not think they targeted a certain house."
In another incident, an Israeli undercover unit killed two resistance fighters in Al-‘Ayn refugee camp near Nablus while they were driving a vehicle through the streets of the camp.
And again for the second week the Israeli army has been deployed in massive numbers on the main checkpoints and crossings around Jerusalem; barring thousands of civilians who were attempting to reach the Al Aqsa mosque to perform the last Friday prayer marking the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Soldiers at these checkpoints attacked the civlians who flocked to the checkpoints in the early hours of Friday morning and fired tear gas bombs and rubber coated bullets. Several residents were injured, and were treated by the medics who were at the scene.
Mahmoud Abbas Threatens Referendum
Leaders from political rivals, Hamas and Fatah, have agreed to cease fighting in fear of continued escalations. Although an agreement on a unity government has not been reached yet, an Egyptian security delegation, which has mediated the talks, was able to persuade the groups to address the infighting which has killed 19 people and threatened to dismantle the entire government.
The talks took place along Egypt’s coastal strip and according to Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum in Gaza, they were successful.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Hanieyh said in a speech in a mosque in Gaza on Friday, that liberation from the occupation needs unity and called for a responsible dialogue.
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“It needs unity of the people and the authority, and to keep the weapon pointed at the occupation, and not to deviate from that despite of the existing disagreements. Disagreements exist and will remain there; however, we have to mange this through responsible dialogue because we should preserve the Palestinian blood.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave his support to the formation of a cabinet of technocrats in a Ramallah press conference this week. He sees such a government as a way out of the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority. It is an alternative to the concept of the national unity government that has only deepened the distance between Hamas and Fatah party lines.
Abbas' aides said that if such a government is not formed within three weeks, he will call a referendum on the possibility of early elections.
The two parties’ main disputes include the recognition of Israel and disarmament of Palestinian guerilla movements. Fatah continues to support the initiative proposed in the Beirut Arab Summit in 2000. The initiative calls for normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal to the1967 borders and a Palestinian state alongside Israel. At the time of its proposal, Israel rejected the initiative and reoccupied the West Bank.
Hamas supports the national reconciliation document penned earlier this year by Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, which is also approved by Fatah. The document does not recognize Israel and reserves the right to resistance against occupation. Hamas officials have long approved and repeatedly declared a desire for a long-term truce with Israel and a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders alongside Israel. However, the party is finding itself in a tough spot as international community continues to impose sanctions until Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces violence, and abides by all previous agreements signed with Israel.
Update on the Financial Crisis
And as the Muslim holiday of Fitr approaches, thousands of Palestinian families will not be able to enjoy their holiday by preparing homemade cookies, new clothes, or candy. Civil servants have not received paychecks in months as the aid freeze imposed by the US and EU continues. Workers' strikes are into their second month as the Palestinian Authority scrambles to deliver paychecks as the money is either being held hostage in Israeli banks, or not being allowed through by the US.
The European Union has begun to deliver some money to the Palestinian Presidential Office, bypassing the Hamas-led legislature which it continues to boycott. 50,000 civil servants whose salaries are less than $500 were thus able to receive $350 after months of no pay at all. Over 100,000 remain unpaid.
John Ging, director of the United Nations Relief Works Agency in the Gaza Strip, expressed deep concern about the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip. Ging called on the international community to lift the sanctions immediately. In the meantime, UNRWA is putting out an urgent plea for donations so that it can continue to function in Palestine.
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.