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This Week in Palestine, a service of the international Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org for December 15 through December 22, 2006

As the holidays of Christmas and Eid Al-Adha approach, Israeli soldiers kill  nine Palestinians in the West Bank, including a thirteen-year old girl.  A call by the Palestinian President for early elections is rejected by Palestinian factions, and  internal fighting claims the lives of ten Palestinians.  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 in the West Bank.

Today, like the past 2 years, the demonstrations in Be'lin started after Friday prayers with participants including residents of the village, Internationals and Israeli activists participating.  This week there was a high percentage of the International demonstrators, which the majority came from the countries of Poland and Spain.

In addition to marching against the illegal Israeli wall this week, protestors carried signs demanding the Palestinian Authorities stop the infighting between the Palestinian factions, which was the main slogan for this week's march.

Abd-Allah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the popular comities against the wall in the village of Belen said:

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"This week the Israeli soldiers continued to use violence against the demonstration activities and each time, the violence escalates when there is a small contingent of media and International participants.  Soldiers use all available methods each week in an attempt to disperse the local residents and to try to stop the ongoing protests against the illegal Israeli separation wall."

The demonstrators made it to the gates of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall where once again the soldiers attempted to stop their progress.  The protestors tried to remove the razor wire to pass through the illegal wall and gain access to the stolen farm lands on the other side.  Once again the Israeli soldiers used tear gas and sound grenades to stop their progress.

During the protest the Israeli army surrounded the village of Be'lin, where they clashed with local youth using tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets on the young village residents.  During the clash, four of the youths were injured sufficiently to require medical attention and were then removed to local hospitals in the nearby city of Ramallah. The demonstration ended after an hour with protestors promising, once again, to return next week to help free the farm lands on the other side of the illegal wall, which were stolen from the local villagers.


Israeli Soldiers Kill Nine in West Bank
In this week's report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, the Center documented the killing of 9 Palestinians, including a child, by Israeli forces in invasions of the Palestinian territories.  Four of those killed were extra-judicially executed.

12 Palestinians, including 7 children and a woman, were wounded in 30 separate invasions of Palestinian areas, including two children wounded in Bil'in village, and a worker who was wounded by the Israeli gunfire while attempting to reach his work place inside Israel.

One of those killed this week was a thirteen-year-old girl named Do'a Abd Al-Qader from a village near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.  The girl was shot by an Israeli sniper for walking too close to the Israeli annexation Wall.  Israeli soldiers also injured twelve civilians while invading several refugee camps and cities in the West Bank, and abducted thirty-two, including three children.  The injured included seven children and a woman.

Three Palestinians were assassinated by an Israeli undercover unit that infiltrated the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday, one of whom was assassinated next to a hospital in the city.  The killing of these three men is considered extrajudicial assassination.  Extrajudicial assassination, while illegal in international law, was ruled to be legal by the Israeli High Court of Justice last week.

The IMEMC interviewed Dr Ghassan Hamadan, head of the Palestinian medical Relief Committee, about the invasion:

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"An Israeli undercover unit invaded the city of Nablus and reached the Al Ithad hospital, where they committed a crime by assassinating a Palestinian young man who was sitting with his friends inside a vehicle on the campus of the hospital.  The soldiers fired several rounds of live ammunition and killed one and abducted two others. Then they left the city soon after"

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, this attack violates article 8 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, which prohibits subjecting hospitals to attacks, and calls on the parties to the conflict to respect and protect hospitals.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces extra-judicially executed a member of the Palestinian resistance and wounded a civilian bystander in ‘Allar village, north of Tulkarem.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military invaded the village of Silat Al-Harthia near the West Bank city of Jenin with twenty armored vehicles and air cover.  Soldiers then partially destroyed a home and killed Salah Hafez Swafta, age 25, and Hussam al-Ei'ssa, age 22.  The two were members of the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. 

 

Reaching a Ceasefire between Fatah and Hamas
Israeli warplanes fired a missile at a group of Palestinian resistance fighters in the northern part of the Gaza Strip this Thursday; no one was injured.  The attack followed a speech from an Israeli official who said Israel would no longer consider itself bound to the ceasefire negotiated last month with Palestinian factions.

But more people died in civil unrest than Israeli invasions in Gaza this week, as factional disputes claimed the lives of ten residents, including a nineteen-year-old girl.  Seven children were also injured in the fighting. 

This week's fighting followed a speech delivered by President Mahmoud Abbas this past Saturday calling for early presidential and legislative elections met widespread criticism from other Palestinian factions, and led to further tensions and violence in the streets of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 

Mohammad Al Horani, member of the revolutionary council of Fateh movement, commented on Abbas' speech in an interview with the IMEMC:

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"Basically talks are always welcomed but it should not be considered final. The goal we are looking for through talks is one of the following options: a unity government with a realistic political agenda based on international legitimacy and the implementation of the Arab peace initiative to enable the coming government will be able to lift the embargo and restore the political rights of the Palestinians. The other options are either select a technocratic government with the same role, or going to the polls for a referendum or early elections"   

Hamas boycotted the speech by President Abbas, and Prime Minster Ismael Haniyya responded with a clear rejection of Abbas' proposal as unconstitutional, while affirming the need for continued talks to create a national unity government. 

Dr. Ghazi Hamad, spokesperson of the Palestinian government, and member of the Hamas party:

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"We are interested in continuing talks and contacts with Fateh to form a national unity government that should address Palestinian national considerations and be of a national Palestinian origin.  A national unity government will be formed of all parties, and will be able to handle all political and internal issues."   

In a joint press release issued in Damascus, Syria, Palestinian factions in exile also rejected Abbas' proposal.  The factions also demanded the withdrawal of all armed men from the streets and called for the formation of a national unity government based on the national document penned by Palestinian political prisoners in July.

 

President Abbas met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week in Ramallah to discuss the revival of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  A meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to be held soon.

The Palestinian President also met with Italian Prime Minister Masimo D'lima this week. D'lima gave Abbas' his support for early elections as well as the continued efforts to form a national unity government as a way out of the embargo imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas took earlier this year.  In a joint press conference, Abbas said the door is open for talks over a national unity government, and D’lima said a European initiative would follow the formation of such a government for reviving peace talks.

Thursday night, clashes erupted between unknown gunmen and members of the armed wing of the Hamas party in the neighborhood of Sabra in Gaza city, near the home of Mahmoud Al Zahar, the Palestinian Foreign Minister.  One Palestinian was killed, and  another, a member of the Al Qassam Brigades, was abducted.  

Internal clashes between Palestinian factions in the West Bank city of Nablus resulted in six people injured, including one seriously, as well as one Fateh supporter abducted Friday morning.  The clashes between the main Palestinian political parties, Fateh and Hamas, have been ongoing for several weeks.

The killings prompted rival parties Fatah and Hamas to agree on Wednesday to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.  Under the terms of the ceasefire, all armed men from both parties will be removed from the streets, and an investigation committee will be formed with representatives from both movements and a representative from the Islamic Conference. 

At the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, tensions remain high as hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims are still awaiting passage through the border to the yearly Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

General Pietro Pistolese, head of the European Union monitors at the Rafah crossing, said Thursday that the monitors will prevent Palestinian officials from carrying large amounts of cash through the crossing.  The announcement follows an incident last week in which the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya crossed the border with twenty million dollars in foreign aid for the Palestinian Authority.

Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator, said that the announcement violates the border agreement, signed last year between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as the border agreement does not prevent the import of cash.

Conclusion
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine.  For constant updates, check our website, imemc.org.  Thanks for joining us.  From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Mike Mullenix, Jane Smith and Ghassan Bannoura.

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