Listen to the audio from the MP3 Player on the right column. || Click here to Download MP3 file 11.3 MB || 12m22s
This Week in Palestine a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for December 2 through December 8, 2006.
The Israeli army killed three Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the first week of the fragile declared cease fire in the Gaza Strip. The gulf state of Qatar pledged to pay over-due salaries for the Palestinian education sector. No further progress in the formation of a Palestinian unity government or the proposed prisoner swap. 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 actions against the annexation Wall and other stories from the West Bank.
Scores of Internationals, Israelis and villagers conducted a peaceful demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall in Bil'in; the Israeli army assaulted and abducted Bil'in peace activist Ahmed Abu Hasssan, 34. Ahmed was attacked by 10 soldiers as he pulled at a razor wire fence that forms part of the illegal wall in Bil'in.
Activists who came to his aid were beaten as the soldiers dragged them away by the hair. Ahmed was taken by soldiers holding him by the scruff of the neck and was then blindfolded. Every week Bil'in residents are targeted for abduction due to their role in nonviolent resistance of the illegal wall, Greg, a British ISM activist, talked about the demo
As protesters marched to the gate in the wall, soldiers were occupying the house of a Bilin resident and monitoring from the roof. After singing and chanting at the gate, some demonstrators protested with banners and flags along the route of the wall, whilst others pulled on the razor wire. This led to an immediate display of military force and Ahmed's arrest.
UN observers and the director of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, were present in the village during the demonstration and conducted interviews with villagers and non-violent activists about the Occupation, land theft in Bil'in, and oppression of local residents. Ahmed is only the latest in a long line of Bil'in residents to be abducted and held by the Israeli forces.
Meanwhile, the Regional Council for the Arab Unrecognized Villages in the Negev (RCUV) erected a tent at the unrecognized Negev village of Twayyil, to protest the demolition of 17 homes in the village, where supporters from other villages and international volunteers gather in solidarity with the locals. Officials from the Interior Ministry and Israeli Land Authority demolished the homes claiming that these houses were built without proper licenses.
This is the fourth demolition in this village since the beginning of the year. The Israeli Ministry of Interior warned that 42,000 homes in unrecognized villages will be demolished.
"This is the first time that the authorities have demolished such a large number of homes in one village at the same time", said Faisal Sawalha of the Regional Council for the Arab Unrecognized Villages in the Negev.
The RCUV described this new wave of demolition as a “grave violation of citizen and human rights” and “an attempt to demolish and evacuate whole villages.”
Attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
Israeli troops killed three Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week, including two children. Israeli soldiers also abducted one hundred and seventeen residents including a woman and five children. The number of dead in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s offensive this June now stands at four-hundred-and-seventy-three Palestinians, ninety-one of them children and twenty-nine women. One-thousand-six-hundred-and-five Palestinians, three-hundred-and-thirty of them children and one-hundred-and-nine of them women, have been injured in that same time.
Ten-year-old child dies in Gaza of wounds from previous invasion
A child has died of wounds sustained last month during an Israeli invasion into Jabalya refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip. Ten-year-old Abdul Qader Abu Mahdi was among the seven children injured in that invasion.
Rafah Crossing Point opened for several hours this Wednesday amidst weeks of intermittent closures. Among the thousands waiting on either side, only hundreds were allowed through, mostly patients who need medical treatment. Rafah Crossing Point, at the border between Gaza and Egypt, is the only outlet for people in Gaza to leave. Commercial crossings were also opened briefly this week, allowing a rare supply of food into the Gaza Strip. Food and medical necessities have been in dangerously low supply in Gaza due to Israel’s closures on the commercial crossings, moving international observers and human rights organizations to warn of a humanitarian crisis.
This is Wael Abu Dahab, a spokesperson for the Palestinian border authority:
"There is no reason for closing the crossing point, and Israelis did not give any reason for this closure. However, unfortunately the terminal has been closed after the Israeli military resumed its invasions in the Gaza strip after the capture of the Israeli soldier; the terminal was opened only for few days after international pressure. In addition, Mr. President Mahmoud Abbas instructed the Palestinian Border authority to pressure Israel to open the terminal for humanitarian cases."
Two civilians, one child, die in Israeli invasions into West Bank
Two shot dead in the West Bank. Fifteen-year-old Abdel Karim Jaba'I was shot dead when Israeli soldiers fired on a group of children, who were throwing stones during an invasion into Askar refugee camp near Nablus.
Mahmoud Mohammed ‘Abdul ‘Aal, age 24, was also killed this week. Originally from Khan Yunis, ‘Abudul ‘Aal had been living in Tulkarm. He was killed when an Israeli under cover unit, accompanied by armored vehicles, broke into a coffee shop and fired on the customers. Two children were also injured in the invasion.
Israeli soldiers also abducted one hundred and seventeen residents this week, including five children and a woman.
On Thursday night the Israeli army, backed by at least ten armored vehicles invaded the West Bank city of Hebron and surrounded two radio stations, forced the staff into one room and abducted one of them.
Sa'ed Al Shyukhi, a journalist at one of the invaded stations talked about the detention conditions:
“The occupation soldiers forced us, 15 people from both radio stations, all in one small room, and strip searched us and made us to crouch, the room was dark and they refused us to switch the lights on. Then the soldiers entered the studio and started saying on air, “This is Israel Radio from Jerusalem”. In fact, these assaults are not new, they always target journalists.”
An eleven year-old child Miras Al A'za from the West Bank Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, was seriously injured on Friday afternoon when an Israeli sniper fired live ammunition at him and six other children. The soldier fired from a military watch tower, near a crossing by the camp, while the children were playing in front of their family house, Al A'za was playing with a toy gun.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson, commented on Israeli violations of the two-week-old the ceasefire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip:
"So far, there are more than eighty violations to the cease-fire by Israel army in the West Bank, eastern and in northern Gaza strip. Additionally, there are nearly 175 Palestinians taken prisoner over the past ten days. Moreover, 5 Palestinians were killed and 12 houses demolished and frequent invasions in the west Bank.”
National unity talks reach stalemate as prisoner swap talks continue
The US Congress approved a draft resolution that bans any contact between American officials and the Palestinian officials of the Hamas led government, until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and accepts the previously signed peace agreements with Israel. This resolution will be submitted to President George Bush to be signed.
Meanwhile both Fatah and Hamas leaders have declared that national unity talks have reached a dead end. After agreeing on a future prime minister, the parties have been unable to make any headway on ministerial posts. However, Deputy Prime Minister Naser Al Din Al- Shaer insisted the talks had in fact reached their final stages.
The prisoner swap between the Israeli government and the Hamas movement is also at an impasse this week. The Israeli government has offered to release a fraction of the prisoners whose freedom Hamas has demanded. Hamas has called for the release of women, minors, and prisoners with lengthy imprisonment terms, totaling one-thousand-four-hundred. Hamas is also insisting on the release of political leaders, including Marwan Barghuti of Fatah and Ahmad Saa'dat, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesperson, talks about the latest in the prisoners swap:
"There is no talk of new proposals. The deal that was reached between the Palestinian negotiators led by Mr. Khalid Maashal and Mr. Amer Sulieman were accepted by the Egyptians who in turn who clarified it to the Israelis. Until this moment we did not receive any clear response from the Zionist enemy regarding the approval of releasing Palestinian prisoners in a mutual and simultaneous manner with releasing Gilad Shalit, the ball is in the field of the Zionist occupation.”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a statement to a local Egyptian newspaper this week that the prisoners swap will be finalized soon.
Update on the financial crisis
United Nations aid groups are asking for four-hundred-and-fifty-million dollars in aid for 2007 to alleviate a deepening Palestinian humanitarian crisis.
David Shearer, head of the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, warned of rising poverty levels in Gaza, a place where even before the current siege, around two thirds of residents were surviving on $2 or less a day.
The UN now estimates that sixty five percent of the Palestinians are living in poverty and twenty nine per cent are unemployed. Medical supplies are also in severe shortage, as the embargo imposed on Gaza by the UN, EU, Israel and the US continues.
During his visit to the Gulf state of Qatar, Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh said the Qatari government has pledged to pay $ 30 million each month to cover the monthly salaries of Palestinian teachers.
And Dr. Samir Abu Aisha, Minister of Planning, said the crisis in the health sector will be solved soon and that workers will soon receive another fraction of their salaries.
Dr Sameer Abu Aisha,
"We eventually started money transfer procedures to the employees’ bank accounts on Sunday; however we could not complete the transactions, so we needed to change the transfer to go channel the money through the regional divisions of the Ministry of Health. This delayed the payments for couple of days. However, at the last moment we had to transfer the money through the banks again which added to the delay.”
The financial crisis of the Palestinian government is caused not only by the International sanctions but also by the Palestinian tax revenues, estimated at five hundred and fifty million US Dollars, Israel withheld since Hamas took power earlier this year. Which if paid would cover the over due salaries of the governmental employees.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, imemc.org. As always, thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Oliver Eacott, Timothy Cidel and Ghassan Bannoura