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This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for December 8 through December 15, 2006.
Six die in Israeli attacks and another six in civil unrest. Israeli soldiers force Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh to leave $35 million of aid donations in Egypt. Eleven thousand health sector employees end a three-month strike. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Peaceful Resistance to the Wall Continues in West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with this week’s peaceful actions against the annexation Wall and other stories in the West Bank.
In the weekly protest against the Israeli Annexation Wall, held today in the village of Bil'in, a group of villagers, internationals and Israelis gathered in the village after noon prayers to march down to the site of the Israeli annexation Wall construction in the village.
This week's protest focused on Palestinian internal unity, and called on factions to end the internal divisions. There were about 250 participants in today's march, including about 50 Israelis and internationals. Once the march reached the gate in the Wall, Israeli soldiers hidden in the bushes began to fire tear gas and rubber-coated bullets into the crowd, injuring two Palestinians.
As the Israeli army began their assault on the peaceful protest, some of the protesters began to retreat to the village, but the other part continued on toward the Wall. About fifteen people managed to cross the Wall in the area where construction is not completed, but they were fired at by Israeli soldiers stationed there, and retreated back. Fatmah, a South African International Solidarity Movement volunteer talked to IMEMC from Bil’in:
Meanwhile, the Israeli High Court has rejected a petition filed by the residents of the Al-Ram neighborhood north of Jerusalem to change the route of the annexation Wall in their neighborhood. The ruling follows a similar ruling last month, in which the court rejected a petition filed by the village of Bir Nabala, north of Jerusalem, also to change the route of the annexation Wall. The current route of the Wall will separate Jerusalem from five villages adjacent to the city, isolating the residents from their economic center and cutting off their social network.
A study issued by the Palestinian Center for Residency and Refugee Rights has revealed that the Wall and other restrictions on movement have already forced 17% of Palestinian families in Jerusalem to leave the city. Many of them have relocated to nearby villages, where they no longer have access to basic health care and education, as Israeli checkpoints make it difficult for them to return to Jerusalem. Forced or coerced expulsion of populations, or setting up circumstances that force large numbers of a population to move elsewhere, is considered a war crime by international law.
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has condemned Israel’s policy of forced expulsion after a one-week visit to the Palestinian territories. Khan called for the dismantling of illegal settlements and the annexation Wall, and expressed deep concern over the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
Six Die In Gaza as internal Fighting Continues
Unidentified gunmen in Gaza have assassinated three sons of Baha Ba’lusha, a senior intelligence officer. Gunmen opened fire on a taxi that was carrying the children on their way to school, killing all five people in the car. 35-year-old Bassam Al-Farra, a judge in Gaza, was also shot and killed inside his courthouse in Bani Suhiela. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the deployment of additional security officers into the streets, and Palestinian intelligence took into custody a member of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees who was suspected in the killing.
Civil unrest extended to the West Bank, where more than 30 were injured in confrontations between Fatah and Hamas supporters in Ramallah. The clashes came after gunfire killed a security guard to Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh who escaped an assassination attempt. Haniyeh was on his way back to Gaza, having concluded his regional tour earlier than planned to deal with the growing unrest. Hamas called the shooting an attempted assassination and accused Fatah of being behind it. Fatah denied the charges.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson of Hamas, accused Fatah Parliamentarian Mohammed Dahlan saying he has threatened Hamas leaders several times
"This is not the first time we point voice accusations against Mohammad Dahlan, who is heading the death squads since 1996 which assassinated and built prisons for many leaders from our people mainly from Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements. Recently and more than once, Mohamad Dahlan, came on TV screens and publicly threatened that he will target Hamas leaders.”
Barhoum also said that Dahlan has hinted at PM Haniya in one of his speeches
“Dahlan said in the funeral of the three murdered children, ‘If three children were killed now, I warn those who have 12 children.’ In fact Prime Minister Haniya has a family of 12 children.”
Fatah on the other hand condemned the attack against Prime Minister Haniya and President Mahmoud Abbas ordered an investigation into the attack. Dr. Saeb Ereikat, a senior Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority chief negotiator slammed Hamas’ accusation of Parliament Member Dahlan describing it as an incitement against Dahlan aimed at killing him.
Wael Dahab, spokesperson of the Presidential guards denied allegations that they were involved in the shooting.
"Armed men broke into the Rafah terminal that is operated by the Palestinians and supervised by the European observers. The presidential guards are responsible for the security of the crossing at that time acted with high and did not shoot any bullet at any of the masses who entered the terminal. (3:24 – 3:39) When the Prime Minister arrived, there were thousands of rifles shooting in the air, many were shooting, however there was not even one single bullet fired from the presidential guards.”
Meanwhile the vehicle of Palestinian Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Wasfi Qabaha was fired at in Ramallah. Qabaha was not in the vehicle at the time and no one was injured.
President Abbas is scheduled to deliver a speech on Saturday. He is expected to address the issues of a national unity government, an idea that reached an impasse last week after months of talks and negotiations.
Attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
As civil unrest continued across Palestine, the Israeli army also continued its attacks, killing six this week in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A woman died when a sound bomb exploded near her, and a married couple was killed by a mysterious object that exploded inside their home. Two resistance fighters were also killed in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli High Court issued two rulings this week. One approved providing compensation for the damage caused to Palestinians by Israeli invasions. The petition had been filed by nine Israeli human rights groups. But in the second ruling, the court also gave its official sanction to extrajudicial assassinations of Palestinian leaders and resistance fighters, a policy illegal under international law, and one that drew widespread condemnation across the world and in Israel when it was first employed several years ago. Israeli human rights groups B’tselem and the Israeli Public Committee Against Torture came out against the ruling, citing the over 200 civilians who have been killed in these attacks over the past five years.
A report issued by UNICEF says 2006 has been one of the worst years for children in the occupied Palestinian territories. Children have borne the brunt of the closures, embargo, and aid freeze imposed on the Palestinian Authority, as well as the strikes by public sector workers which have closed hospitals and schools for months at a time. This year, says UNICEF, whether it is health care and education, protection from violence and abuse, or opportunities to play without fear – the rights of Palestinian children have been violated on an unprecedented scale.
The Israeli army killed two resistance fighters, one from the Al Aqsa martyrs brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, and the second from Islamic Jihad. Israeli navel boats also fired at Palestinian fishermen, injuring three.
The death toll in Gaza has reached four-hundred-and-seventy-four Palestinians since June, most of them civilians, ninety-one of them children and thirty of them women. One-thousand-six-hundred-and-sixty-one residents, most of them civilians, three-hundred-thirty-eight of them children and one-hundred-and-nine of them women, have been injured in the same time.
The Israeli army opened the border crossing at the south of the Gaza Strip for an unprecedented three days this week, allowing thousands who had been trapped on either side for either days or weeks to pass through. The border crossing has only been twenty three times over the last one hundred sixty seven days, leaving many unable to get urgent medical attention. Six have died waiting.
And meanwhile the Israeli government barred a fact-finding mission into Gaza this week, headed by South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, to investigate the Beit Hanoun massacre.
West Bank Attacks
In the West Bank, four have died in the ongoing Israeli attacks. In one instance, a married couple was killed in Sa’ir village near Hebron when a mysterious object exploded. The exploding object came from junks collected by the husband at an Israeli military training site.
And during an invasion into Qalqilya in which Israeli troops besieged the better part of a neighborhood, 56-year-old Latifa ‘Aashour was killed when a sound bomb exploded 10 meters from her. Israeli soldiers also abducted forty residents, including six children.
And in the latest updates, the Israeli army has killed another two residents from Salfit and Al Eien refugee camp near Nablus.
Update on the financial crisis
Eleven thousand Palestinian health workers returned to work this week after receiving a $300 payment, a fraction of the salaries withheld for months. Many hospitals across the West Bank and Gaza opened for the first time in three months. Palestinian Minister of Planning Dr. Sameer Abu Aisha has promised a $300 to security officers for next week.
Meanwhile, after a visit to Iran, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh said the Iranian government will deliver two-hundred-and-fifty-million dollars in aid to Palestine. Haniyeh also received a pledge from the Sudanese government for ten million dollars in aid. Haniyeh attempted on his return to Palestine to carry $35 million of the aid promised; however, he was stopped by Israeli security and forced to leave the money in Egypt.
The European Union Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Beneta Ferrero Waldner, has announced that the European Union will expand its temporary aid mechanism to the Palestinian people with an additional two hundred million Euros. Part of the money will be used to deliver 250 dollars to Palestinian beneficiaries of the World Food Program.
The British Minister for Development also promised one-hundred-and-forty-five million dollars in aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza through the United Nations Relief Works Agency over the next four years. Forty-four percent of all people living in the occupied territories are refugees, and over seventy percent of them live in Gaza.
Meanwhile this week, Israeli deputy Prime Minster Shimon Peres said his government would release the hundreds of millions of dollars of Palestinian tax revenues that it is illegally holding, only if Palestinian resistance groups disarm.
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 Timothy Seidel, Jane Smith and Ghassan Bannoura