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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for January 26th to February 2nd, 2007.
The Israeli army kills seven in the West Bank. Clashes renewed between Fatah and Hamas shortly after they declared cease-fire. Israeli Prime Minister approves shifting a section of the West Bank Wall creating two Palestinian enclaves, and a Palestinian bomber targets a bakery Eilat in Israel. 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 in the West Bank
The focus of today\’s weekly demonstration against the illegal Israeli Wall in Bil\’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, was the need to end the internal conflict harming the Palestinian cause. Villagers constructed a scaffold with nooses and wore sheets carrying slogans such as \’Palestinian State\’, and \’Palestinian Freedom\’. The scaffold bore the slogan \’internal conflict\’. Around 100 villagers were joined by 20 Israeli and international supporters. Abdullah Abu Rahmah from the local committee against the Wall and settlements in Bil\’in said:
\’Our demonstration today was to express our anger as Palestinians against the ongoing infighting the Palestinian territories and also against Olmerts’ approval few days ago of shifting the wall eastwards near our village and the nearby villages. As always, the army violently attacked the peaceful demonstrators.\’
Tear gas, rubber coated bullets and sound bombs were used against the peaceful protestors. Troops also assaulted and abducted Farhad Burnat, 26, who had managed to get over the gate. He remains in captivity. Five people suffered light injuries from rubber bullets and beatings.
On Friday Palestinian, international and Israeli activists gathered on land owned by farmers in the village of Um Salamuna near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. On the land which is being destroyed by army bulldozers for the construction of the illegal Israeli Wall, villagers and supporters held prayers and then marched along the construction site. Um Salamuna stands to have 700 dunums of agricultural land annexed and 270 dunums confiscated for the route of the Wall. Ten villages surrounding Bethlehem stand to lose 70,000 grape vines and 1000 olive trees.
Teach-in at Tell Rumeida
On Thursday midday the International Solidarity Movement ISM held a teach-in at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint in the in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The children learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and his successful non-violent struggle for the freedom and civil rights of black people in the United States.
According to a statement by the movement the activity aimed to compare the situation of black Americans during segregation with the lack of freedom for Palestinians today, particularly in the area of Tel Rumeida where they cannot drive or walk around freely and are subjected to ID checks and house invasions. Children were given the opportunity to create t-shirts with Dr. King\’s famous quote, \’Freedom is not voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed\’ in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
After the demonstration, the weekly art classes continued at the Tel Rumeida community center where the lesson and t-shirt creation was repeated. At one point soldiers arrived and ordered the children back to their homes. Thursday\’s action was the third in Tel Rumeida. Last week a rally was held at the checkpoint and the previous week local residents attempted to walk down the prohibited Shuhada Street.
More than thirty Palestinians died this week in clashes in the West Bank and Gaza between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas. At least a hundred more were injured. Hamas and Fatah have suspended their participation in national unity negotiations less than two weeks after a breakthrough meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Politburo chief Khaled Mashaal. The Palestinian Ministry of Health is now reporting that at least 60 people have died in factional infighting since December 2006.
On Tuesday, an Egyptian brokered ceasefire was agreed upon after days of internal infighting that has claimed the lives of more than fifty people. It joined a growing list of ceasefires that have been made only to be broken days later.
The agreement included the withdrawal of armed men from the streets, the removal of all factional checkpoints, and the deployment of security men onto the streets of the Gaza City. Hamas and Fatah also agreed to release all abductees from mutual kidnappings. However, by Thursday afternoon, 6 more were dead and over 70 injured in fresh clashes.
In the latest update on the ongoing clashes between Fateh and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, twenty seven people including two children have been killed and at least two hundred others injured in less than twenty four hours. Explosions and exchanges of live ammunition have been heard in several areas. These incidents arise at a time when the rival parties are expected to hold a meeting mediated by Egypt today, in an attempt to ease the tension and restore the cease-fire.
In the West Bank city of Jenin unknown gunmen kidnapped Mohammad Al Jammal, a Hamas activist, while he was on his way to a local mosque today.
Gunmen also opened fire at one of Hamas\’ activists moderately injured him in the nearby village of Kafer Dan on Thursday night.
Both sides have accepted an invitation by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz to meet in the Saudi city of Mecca, which according to sources of Hamas movement is expected to be held next Tuesday.
During a visit to Egypt, President Abbas reiterated his determination to dismantle the Hamas-loyal Executive Force formed last year by the Minister of Interior Sa\’eed Siyam. The force was created with Hamas’ initiative and Abbas’ approval shortly after Hamas claimed a popular victory in last January’s elections. Meanwhile, Abbas looks forward to strengthening his own Fatah-oriented security forces, now increasingly known as ‘death squads,’ as the US moves to give Abbas 86 million dollars in military aid.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved re-routing a section of the illegal Wall five kilometers further into the West Bank near Ramallah, in order to include the nearby illegal settlements of Nili and Na\’aleh.
The proposed route will create two new Palestinian ghettos and separate 20,000 Palestinians in order to accommodate the 1,500 illegal settlers in Nili and Na\’aleh. The move came in response to pressure from the settlers who live there.
If approved by the cabinet, it will be the first time the Israeli government has officially sanctioned a re-routing of the Wall deeper into the West Bank. The Israeli High Court had previously ordered some sections of the Wall be moved closer to the Green Line because of the negative impact on the Palestinians.
The Israeli army Attacks
The West Bank attacks
The Israeli army conducted 18 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Seven were killed and at least 84 civilians, including 6 children and 4 women were abducted.
On Friday at dawn, Israeli troops broke into a building in Beitunyah near the West Bank city of Ramallah in an attempt to ambush Palestinian resistance fighters. One security officer was shot dead when he came out of an elevator carrying an M-16 and a pistol. Shortly after, a group of Palestinian security officers approaching the building were fired at by Israeli soldiers, who killed one of them.
Palestinian sources identified the two deceased men as Khaldun Shuman and Mohamed Abu Arab and stated that both were officers in the preventative security force of Fatah. Israeli army sources stated that the attack was a \’misunderstanding\’, and that Israeli soldiers mistakenly identify Palestinian security officers as Hamas resistance fighters. Sources in the preventative security force reported that the officers thought the soldiers were from Hamas and had come to assassinate them.
Early on Thursday morning the Israeli army killed two Palestinians and injured a third when forces invaded the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian sources reported.
The two were identified as Amer Kalbouna, 21, and Wael Awad, 21, both operatives of the Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah. Eyewitness reports stated that a third Al-Aqsa Brigade operative was wounded.
Dr. Ghassan Hamdan of the Palestinian Medical Relief services told IMEMC that Israeli forces prevented the ambulances from entering the area to evacuate the wounded, and that one of the fatalities had been tortured:
\’We could evacuate one of the men half an hour after he was killed. However, the army held us and many other residents for two hours before we could reach the second man. He was left to bleed to death. The Israeli occupation soldiers broke his arms and neck, and cut off some of his fingers after they hit him with several fatal bullets.\’
On Thursday at midday Israeli army troops shot and killed a 17 year old Palestinian boy. Tahha Qiljawi was shot near Qalandia checkpoint, located between the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jerusalem. Palestinian medical sources reported that he sustained fatal wounds and was left to bleed for some time before they could reach him.
In a claim unverified by eyewitnesses, army sources said that the boy was trying to infiltrate to the \’Israeli side\’ of the wall. This led the soldiers to shoot and kill him. Palestinian sources also reported that a 15 year old boy was shot and lightly injured during an invasion of Qalandia refugee camp.
On Thursday night undercover Israeli army troops entered the Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank and shot dead Jasir Abu Zgheib of the Al Aqsa Brigades. During the attack soldiers also injured seven bystanders, among them two children. Eyewitnesses stated that soldiers refused to give residents or medics access to the injured civilians, and beat one medic who attempted to aid people. In addition to this, a large Israeli force blew up two homes in Balata refugee camp near Nablus city. One of the owners was killed by Israeli forces six months ago.
In Saida town near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, 8 year old Nadeen Raddad was hit in the head with a stone thrown by an Israeli soldier during clashes on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night Israeli soldiers invaded the northern west Bank city of Nablus and injured one woman when soldiers broke into her home in order to abduct her husband. On Sunday at dawn the Israeli army invaded the village of Rummana, near Jenin city in the northern part of the West Bank. Palestinian sources reported that 30-year-old Osaid Amur, an Islamic Jihad activist, was killed in cold blood in front of his family.
Amur\’s brother told the PalestineInfo web site that a special Israeli army unit was waiting for Osaid to return home. He added that the soldiers asked Osaid to come closer to them, and then fired at him at close range killing him instantly with two bullets in the head and chest.
In Jerusalem Attacks
Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality bulldozers destroyed three Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem\’s Azaria, At Tur and Issawiya neighborhoods on Tuesday morning, and two more in Tur and Beit Hanina in the evening.
Israeli forces use the pretext of “building without a permit” to destroy Palestinian homes throughout East Jerusalem. Much of the area is in actual fact being confiscated in order to expand the major Ma\’ale Adumim Settlement. Homeowner Ghadir Abu Ghalia has just lost his home on the eastern side of the holy city. “The presence of the demolition bulldozers took me by surprise. The demolition was postponed on the 15th of this month for 60,000 shekels. The police and border guards arrived to demolish the rest of the house without prior warning.”
In Issawiya bulldozers tore through a residential building in which lived 24 people, mainly young children. The family had lived there for 10 years and possesses paperwork proving the licensing of the building with the Israeli Civil Administration.
The Director of the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights, Ziad Hamori,
Stated that \’The aim of stepping up these measures in Jerusalem is to reduce the number of the (Palestinian) population in order to make the majority Jewish.”
The Gaza Attacks
Palestinian sources reported that Israeli troops stationed near Beit Hannoun crossing opened fire at a Palestinian man and moderately wounded him. Medical sources identified the man as Talal Hgubon, aged 30.
Early on Tuesday morning, the Israel Air Force attacked a tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip near the Karni crossing. The army said it was designed to transport Palestinian militants into Israel. Security officials said secondary explosions were seen after the air strike, indicating that there were explosives in the tunnel. Aides of the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday that he plans to maintain the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Israel Abducts Palestinian Legislator
Hamas legislator Mohammed Tutah was abducted by the Israeli army this week on his way home to Jerusalem from Jordan. TheSince June 2006, Israeli army has abducted dozens of Palestinian legislators and Ministers including Speaker of Parliament Dr. Aziz Dweik.
Meanwhile, the court session of Palestinian ministers, including Finance Minster Omar Abdul Razeq, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and municipal council members, has been adjourned until March.
The Eilat suicide attack
On Monday morning the first Palestinian suicide bomb attack in Israel since April 2006 occurred in a bakery in Eilat, killing three Israelis and the attacker. Several other bystanders were reported to be injured. The bakery is located in a residential area of the Red Sea coastal town of Eilat, which is a popular tourist resort. This is the first suicide bombing to be carried out here.
The Al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Brigades of Fateh, and the Army of The Faithful Brigades have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Islamic Jihad has named the bomber as Mohammed al-Saqsaq, 21, of Gaza; Al Quds Brigades stated that he entered Israel via Jordan.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum added that \’So long as there is occupation, resistance is legitimate.\’Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abass, condemned the suicide bombing
The Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz stated that Israel has decided to act immediately, the Israeli Radio reported
Peretz said that Israel will act against Palestinian groups that are carrying out attacks against Israeli targets, and considered the Eilat bombing as a very serious attack and an escalation of the situation.
In coordination with President Abbas\’ office and through the local banks, the International Temporary Mechanism began to deliver its fifth payment of social alimony of 270 Euros (contributed by Spain, the United Kingdom and the European Union) to the Palestinian governmental workers, including pensioners.
This Temporary Mechanism, which was established by an Initiative of the European Commissioner Bnetta Farrero Waldner in June 2006, will continue until the end of next March to deliver aid to the governmental servants who were not regularly paid by the Palestinian government.
The representative of the World Bank in the Palestinian territories has signed an agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Through the agreement the World Bank will deliver an aid of 25 million US dollars to different projects in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Minister of Planning Dr. Sameer Abu Aisha has announced that all security personnel and civil servants have received their overdue paychecks for December, except those working in the education and health sectors and those who have recently been paid.
British Parliamentarians Dialogue with Hamas, condemn boycott
A group of British parliamentarians met privately in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Hamas legislators for the first time since Hamas took power last year. The British Parliamentary Committee of International Development is warning that the international sanctions on the Hamas-led government will lead the party to look for funds from Iran. The committee is encouraging European governments to pursue dialogue with Hamas and criticizing the boycott of the party, saying it has fostered extremism.
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 Polly Bangoriad, Jake Talhami and Ghassan Bannoura.