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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for October 20 through October 27, 2006.
Israeli forces kill eleven Palestinians this week as efforts to broker a deal between Fatah and Hamas continue. Meanwhile, the leader of an extreme right wing group who adopt a very hard line against the Palestinians is given a seat on the Israeli cabinet as Minister of Strategic Threats. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Weekly Peaceful actions in the West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful action against the annexation Wall and other stories in the West Bank.
This weeks' protest at Bi'lin saw one of its biggest demonstrations for months, with 400-500 Palestinian, Israeli and international protestors attending; to carry out a non-violent protest against the annexation wall which is dividing the village of Bil'in.
It was widely known through out the activist community that this week was to be a large protest, and it seemed widely known to the army as well: as the protestors made their way towards the wall to be met by armed soldiers with protection shield and jeeps.
The reactions by the soldiers were harsh, with violent outbursts of tear gas and sounds bombs; several protestors found themselves subjected to tear gas while caught between two rows of razor wire, unable to escape.
The protest was pushed back by the soldiers, and followed with tear gas, as they retreated. Several Israelis were arrested, protestors were beaten with truncheons and even an ambulance was targeting with tear gas, as this international activist, Karen explains:
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The violence at this week’s peaceful protest did not go unnoticed, though, with several media outlets attending, including the BBC.
Attacks on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
As Muslims across Palestine celebrated the holiday of Al-Fitr, Israeli forces killed 14 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during invasions into residential areas.
Rafah Crossing Point opens, then closes again, perhaps this time for good
The Israeli military allowed the Rafah Crossing Point to open for two days this week before closing it again. Thousands of people who had been stranded on either side of the border for weeks were able to cross, among them the Minister of the Interior, Sa'id Seyam. Seyam had been threatened with expulsion for his recent visits to Iran and Syria.
During a meeting with the European Union high representative Javier Solana, Israeli deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Israel will not open the crossing point again, until Palestinian militias stop using home made shells against Israeli targets. Solana described the measure as an act of collective punishment.
In the same week, the Israeli cabinet proposed the reoccupation of the Philadelphi route on Gaza’s border with Egypt. Israel had previously withdrawn from both the Rafah Crossing Point and the Philadelphi Route as part of its well-televised unilateral “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip just over a year ago. Despite Gaza’s residents’ high hopes for peace at the time, they have been under constant Israeli bombardment since June of this year.
This week alone, Israeli troops killed ten Palestinians in attacks on Gaza’s neighborhoods, bringing the death toll to 321 since June 25.
Dr. Mohammed Sultan of Kamal Adwan hospital in the Gaza Strip
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"Based on our knowledge regarding injuries and their types, these injuries were done through sniping that meant sensitive body parts, mainly chest, head and abdomen"
Spanish AP photographer kidnapped in Gaza; Released 13 hours later
Emilio Morenatti. A Spanish AP photographer working in Gaza, was kidnapped by unidentified Palestinian gunmen this Tuesday. He was freed 13 hours later and handed over to Palestinian security officials.
On the other hand, a deal is about to be reached regarding a swap of prisoners between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Israel proposed that the resistance groups release the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for an Israeli promise to release Palestinian prisoners. Hamas, on the other hand, said it would not accept promises, and demanded a simultaneous release of prisoners and Shalit.
The Israeli Minister of Infrastructure and Labor party leader Benjamin Bin Eliazer, who was directly involved in negotiating the deal through Egyptian mediators, said he believes the soldier will be released soon.
Hamas Spokesperson in Gaza strip Fouzi Barhoum said all the destruction Israel caused in Gaza will never release Shalit.
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"We anticipate that the Zionist occupation has, definitely, begun to live a crisis in light of not releasing Gila'd Shalit after Israel had killed 300 Palestinians, detained 1500 others and demolished homes. Consequently, the Israeli occupation has resorted to diplomacy, as Ben Eliazer might agreed principally to such offers, thus we are looking forward to hearing an Israeli response".
UNRWA general commissioner: Beit Hanoun has endured total structural damage
Karen Abu Zayd, the general commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, called on the international community to take action against the Israeli military's destruction of Palestinian homes and livelihoods. Abu Zayd's statements came during her visit to Beit Hanoun, the industrial center of Gaza which Israel has virtually destroyed in successive invasions. Abu Zayd said the city had endured total structural damage, and promised to increase UN aid to the city.
West Bank Updates
The Israeli army conducted several invasions into West Bank cities and villages this week, during which several Palestinians were killed and injured.
Yamoun and Al-Far’aa invasion
In a pre-dawn invasion this Friday, the Israeli army killed three Palestinians in Al Far'aa refugee camp and Al Yamoun village near the West Bank city of Jenin. In Al-Yamoun, Ahmed Abul Hassan, 28, was killed by a bullet to the head when he went out of his house to get medical aid for his wounded brother. Two of Abul Hassan's brothers were wounded in the gunfire.
In Al-Far’aa refugee camp between Nablus and Jenin, Israeli troops killed Fadi Subuh, 27, and Mustafa Jabar, 19. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear, but eyewitnesses said, the two youth might have been throwing stones at the armored jeeps before they were shot dead.
Invasion into Tamoun
In one invasion into the village of Tamoun near Jenin, Israeli army killed Aadel Yousef Abu al-Reesh, age 22, a resistance fighter with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah. Seventeen more were injured and soldiers also abducted four residents, including three brothers.
Israeli soldiers have abducted 1500 residents since the capture of the Israeli soldier by the Palestinian resistance last June.
Olive Harvest – Behind the Annexation Wall
As the olive harvest began this week, Palestinian farmers across the West Bank flocked to their orchards only to find them out of reach; behind the annexation Wall or near the settlements. Many farmers were denied entry to their olive groves by Israeli soldiers guarding the Wall, while others were attacked by settlers while attempting to harvest. These two factors threaten to have a drastic effect on the harvest akin to that of a natural disaster. In one incident, at least fifty Israeli settlers attacked and stoned Palestinian farmers outside Nablus, injuring three. Several West Bank farmers have complained of military negligence, as Israeli soldiers turn a blind eye to settler attacks against them.
Financial crisis continue as National Unity government not reached
Egyptian and Qatari officials held follow-up meetings with Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo, hoping to find some common ground between Hamas and Fatah leaders. Mashaal had previously met with the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as Amr Sulieman, head of Egyptian Intelligence, about the possibility of forming a national unity government. Hamas officials said meetings would continue in Cairo, and that officials of Hamas and Fatah hope to finalize an agreement in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, most Palestinians who were hoping to receive a fraction of their salaries this Eid Al-Fitr holiday were left empty-handed as EU pledges of aid failed to materialize. Meanwhile, Palestinian security men blocked Gaza City’s main streets to protest and threatened to stage up their protest if their wages are not paid by Saturday. Following the protest, Palestinian Interior Minister Sa’eed Sayam had promised the security forces a $50 holiday allowance.
The financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority has resulted in clashes in the streets of Gaza.
Yousef Rizqa, Palestinian Minister of Information said cooperation between the presidency and the government is needed to overcome this problem.
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"The question is that the western siege complicates the matter and that the Arab official role is weak as to finding a solution to the issue, despite the ability to do so if there is a will. Therefore, I can say, personally, that the solution lies in a unified position by the government and the presidency by pressuring both the Arab ad world regimes to transfer salaries and that is possible and not that difficult"
At least 165 thousand Palestinian employees have not received their salaries for the eighth month, due to the economic blockade imposed on the Palestinian Authority by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
Javier Solana’s Mideast Tour
As part of his Mideast tour, Javier Solana, the European Union high representative for common, foreign and security policy, met with President Mahmoud Abbas in his Ramallah office. The two discussed ways of reviving the stalling Middle East peace talks.
Solana had already met with Israeli Prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. He had also met with Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beiteyna (Israel our Home), an extreme right wing Zionist party that advocates the removal of the Palestinian citizens of Israel from the country. Lieberman had just been appointed a seat on the Israeli cabinet as Minister of Strategic Threats. Arab members of the Israeli Knesset called Solana to express their dismay of this meeting.
One of the main reasons for the boycott imposed by the United States, European Union and Israel against the Palestinian Authority is the hard line that Hamas has against Israel.
There are around 1.2 million Palestinians who live in Israel, constituting almost 20 percent of the population there. Those Palestinians have acquired Israeli citizenship after Israel was established in 1948. Those Palestinians are the ones who managed to remain in their land after the Israeli gangs of Hagana, Stern and the Irgun expelled some 700 thousand Palestinians in 1948.
Solana's Mideast tour will continue in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
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