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This Week in Palestine, a service of the international Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org, for January 5th, through January 18th, 2007.
Israeli army kills five Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip, President Abbas rejects Condoleeza Rice’s proposal for a temporary Palestinian state inside the borders of the annexation Wall. 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.
Friday's weekly demonstration against the illegal Wall in Bil'in saw excessive Israeli army violence, many injuries, and the abduction of four people. Among those abducted was member of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, Mohammed Khatib. Opposition to military violence against children was the focus of today's protest following the murder of 10-year old Abir Aramin earlier in the week. Protesters carried banners urging the military to stop targeting children.
Israeli troops started firing multiple rounds of tear gas at the retreating crowd and some youth responded with stones. When soldiers opened the gate in the wall and walked through, some activists took the chance to walk through with them but were violently abducted. Paul, an American activist who was in Bil'in:
Three Israeli activists and Mohammed Khatib were released several hours later with cuts and bruises. Soldiers continued to attack the peaceful protesters with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets. Four people were shot with rubber bullets and one local youth, Sagi, was beaten on the head with a baton and taken to hospital. Many others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation.
At least 1500 Palestinian and international peace activists gathered in Um Salamonah village on Friday to protest the construction of the illegal Israeli wall on the village land. Before the demonstration Friday prayers were conducted on the farm land, 700 dunams of which is intended for confiscation. If this goes ahead, much of the agricultural land which supplies the village's income will be annexed behind the wall or destroyed. Protesters were met by more than 100 Israeli soldiers and after chanting resistance slogans and waving flags for some time, decided to end the demonstration with the promise to return soon. No clashes with the army occurred, eyewitnesses told IMEMC.
On Monday the village had been invaded by a large amount of soldiers and bulldozers; locals' non-violent resistance was met with tear gas, sound bombs, and physical assault.
Some 100 Palestinian and international peace activists held a peaceful protest at Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus in the northern part of the West Bank on Sunday, dressing like Native Americans to send a message to the visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
As part of the campaign “30 days against roadblocks”, protesters gathered at the Hawwara checkpoint south of Nablus at about 11 a.m. and held up signs in English denouncing the military roadblocks across the West Bank. The protest was originally organized by a peace group calling itself “Palestinians for Peace, Dialogue and Equality”. The peaceful protesters slammed the Israeli policies of closures and the difficulties that checkpoints impose on the Palestinians on daily basis.
The Israeli Ministry of Housing has approved the construction of forty-four housing units in the illegal settlement bloc of Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem. Israel has insisted on retaining this settlement bloc, one of the largest in the country, throughout all negotiations regarding land exchange with Palestinians.
Israeli Army attacks
The Israeli army conducted 30 invasions in Palestinian communities in the West Bank, killing three; and two invasions in the Gaza Strip killing two. 54 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children and a woman and her daughter were abducted.
The West Bank attacks
A massive Israeli force invaded Nablus on Thursday morning, killing one Palestinian fighter and injuring three residents, including one child who was wounded critically, and abducting another four men. Palestinian sources in the city reported that Muhanid Al Ghandur, 22, a resistance fighter of Fatah, was killed when an Israeli sharpshooter fired at him and hit him in the head.
Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, the director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus talked to IMEMC;
"The Israeli troops opened fire and killed one resistance fighter in the besieged area of the old city of Nablus. When we found out about the injury, we tried to get to the man. We were stopped by the army for more than 45 minutes, which led to the resistance fighter having intensive bleeding. By the time we got to him he was dead."
On Thursday night, Palestinian sources stated that Taiseer Al Qaisy, 45, from Nablus, died at an Israeli military roadblock after soldiers prevented the vehicle he was in from transferring him to hospital.
Troops claimed that the car “does not carry a permit to cross the checkpoint”. Al Qaisy had to step out of the car, and fell dead after walking a few meters.
Abeer Aramin, aged 10, from Anata village near Jerusalem was declared dead on Thursday at midday. Aramin was injured on Tuesday by a gas bomb that was shot at her head by an Israeli soldier as she stepped out of the Anata School for Girls.
On Tuesday Jamal Al Saraheen, 38, a Palestinian detainee, died due to medical neglect in the Israeli Negev detention camp. Al Saraheen, from Tarqoumia village, near Hebron, died after prison administration refused to transfer him to hospital until after his health condition had sharply deteriorated.
Clashes took place between detainees and soldiers at the Negev detention camp following the news of Al Saraheen's death; at least 50 Palestinian prisoners were injured. On Wednesday, Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and detention facilities announced a one-day hunger strike, holding the Israeli Prison Administration responsible for the death of Al Saraheen.
On Thursday, detainee Ahmad Ismail Safi, 22, from the West Bank city of Jericho, declared an open-ended hunger strike after the Israeli Prison Administration at the Negev Detention Facility refused to provide him with medical treatment. Safi suffers paralysis of the foot due to the bullet that the Israeli army shot him with six years ago, which needs to be surgically removed.
The Gaza Strip attacks
Two were killed on Monday at dawn near the border fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israeli sources claimed that the two were armed and crawling towards the fence when soldiers opened fire at them. Bullets fired by the soldiers apparently hit explosives crates the two were carrying, setting their explosives off. The Salah Ed Deen brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees identified the two as Mousa Mohammad Qarmout, 22, and Kamal Khader, 19. Abu Mujahid, the spokesperson of the Committees said that the two fighters were planting an explosive charge in Abo Kado area, close to the border fence, east of Beit Hanoun.
"What happened was that two of our fighters, as part of the preparations Palestinian resistance factions are making in response to Israeli media reports of an Israeli army wide scale offensive in the Gaza strip, were planting home made bombs in the contact areas on the borders, the army fired at the two instantly killing them".
Ibrahiem Hassan, 16, was injured when an unidentified object exploded near him in Jabalia refugee camp on Wednesday. He sustained critical wounds in his right hand and was moved to Kamal Adwan hospital for treatment.
Two Palestinian children were injured by Israeli missile attack that targeted Beit Hannoun in the northern Gaza strip on Tuesday morning.
Medical sources reported that Israeli troops stationed at northern Gaza Israeli borders launched two land-land missiles that hit Palestinian homes located in Beit Hannoun town and injured the two children. They were moved to a nearby hospital where their wounds were described as critical.
Basem Muskat, 24, a farmer from Beit Lahya, north of Gaza, was critically injured while working on his land near the Gaza/ Israeli borders. Continued Israeli gunfire has increased hardships for farmers in northern Gaza under the internationally-imposed economic embargo since March 2006. Mohammad Al-Attar, a local northern Gaza farmer, describes the hardships he faces while working.
“When there is shooting the farmers and workers go back home, so the products go bad. Vegetables need spraying, care, covering, uncovering and packing, but nobody can risk his life. The situation is miserable, as my own greenhouses have been hit frequently”.
Lieutenant General Pietro Pistolese, head of the third party EU monitors at Rafah border crossing, has urged the Israeli army to open the Gaza-Egypt border to the hundreds of Palestinians waiting on either side. Despite promises to allow third party control of the crossing point, Israel has imposed a military closure on the border 80% of the time since June 2006, and barred the third party observers from reaching their posts. Several people have died while waiting to pass, and the Red Cross has had to administer basic foodstuffs and medical care to travelers, many of whom are journeying to get medical supplies that are not available to them in Gaza.
Rice & Solana regional visit & meetings
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the proposal of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to create an interim Palestinian state with the annexation Wall as its borders. Abbas announced his rejection of Rice’s plan in a joint press conference, after meeting with her in Jericho on her Mideast and Europe tour. Rice also held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during which they agreed to hold a three-way summit with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
During a joint press conference with her German counterpart Frank Walter Shtienmiener, Rice announced that the Quartet on the Middle East would meet in Washington next February following the Abbas-Olmert meeting. The Quartet, whose official purpose is to mediate between Palestinian and Israeli officials, includes United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.
Meanwhile, Javier Solana has embarked on his tour of the Middle East. Solona, EU High Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, will visit the Palestinian territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan this week to promote the proposed Abbas-Olmert meeting in the Middle East.
Solona met with Ahmad Abu Al Ghiet, Egyptian Minster of Forgien Affairs, in Cairo on Thursday; he then moved to the West Bank city of Ramallah where he met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today. In a joint press conference President Abbas said that the main issue he discussed with Solana was the issue of resolving the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
Answering a question regarding the contradiction between his call for early elections and the formation of a national unity government, Abbas denied that there was any form of contradiction between the two issues. He added that the Palestinians are living in a crisis and that the way out of this crisis is to lift the international sanctions imposed on them, and bring about early elections.
Solana, on the other hand, said that the main goal of his tour is to resume the stalled Middle East peace process in spite of all obstacles. Solana expressed his support for Abbas's call for early elections if forming a national unity government failed.
Talks Over A National Unity Government
Despite media reports that national unity talks had failed between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal has scheduled a meeting with President Abbas in Damascus this Saturday. The meeting follows a meeting this week between Hamas and Islamic Jihad that attempted to find a way out of the apparent impasse with Fatah. The two parties made a joint call to accelerate talks between President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh, as well as between legislators of different parties.
However, this news was undermined by Fatah’s accusations that Hamas was digging tunnels underneath homes of high-level Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip in a bid to carry out assassinations.
Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, denied the allegations. While admitting to digging the tunnels, the party insisted their purpose was to execute military operations against Israeli targets. Fatah officials dismissed Al-Qassam statements, saying that the tunnels’ location, well inside Gaza borders, made them irrelevant to the resistance tactics, and that their only practical use could be the assassination of Fatah security force members.
Meanwhile, unknown gunmen shot and killed Saleem Subhi Abu Al Khier, 55, resident of Al Amal neighborhood west of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Abu Al Khier sustained bullet wounds to the head while he was near a local mosque.
A sixteen year old child was injured when an unidentified object exploded near him in the Jabalya refugee camp north of the Gaza Strip.
Also, in the Gaza city unknown gunmen threw a grenade at a cell phone shop. No injuries were reported.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, unknown gunmen fired at vehicles belonging to both the Ramallah deputy mayor and a member of the municipal council. Gunmen also attacked Mohamad Al Horani, a Fateh legislator in the West Bank city of Ramallah, who was lightly injured during the incident.
Thirty-eight-thousand Palestinian governmental employees have headed back to their offices after a four-month open-ended work strike. The employees called off the strike after being promised a fraction of their salaries at the end of this month and the rest spread out over four payments.
The payments are contingent upon whether Israeli PM Ehud Olmert keeps his promise to release $100 million of Palestinian tax revenue. Israel is currently withholding at least $600 million of Palestinian tax revenue, which it has refused to hand over since democratic elections gave Hamas a legislative landslide victory last year.
Lastly, Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, sent a letter to Prime Minister Haniyeh this week saying it would not transfer money deposited into the League by Hamas. The letter was prompted by the ruling of an Egyptian court obliging the Arab League to disclose the funds it has for Hamas. The ruling came after the League announced the opening of a special account for money deposited by Haniyeh totaling $32 million.
Haniyeh had deposited the money after being interrogated and searched at Rafah Crossing Point on his way back into the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities refused to allow Haniyeh to carry the funds across the border, as part of the ongoing aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority. The embargo has drastically increased poverty and malnourishment in the occupied Palestinian territories and brought the country to the verge of civil war.
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.imemc.org. Thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Jake Talhami, Jane Smith and Ghassan Bannoura.