Click on link to download or play MP3 file || 21.9 MB || 24m 00s || or copy and paste this link: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/media/2007/02//363183.mp3This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC.org, for February 16th through February 23rd, 2007.
No progress was made in the three-way summit held this week in Jerusalem. Differences arose in the Mid East Quartet meeting in Berlin concerning the upcoming Palestinian national government. Israeli digging continues near Al-Aqsa Mosque inside Jerusalem. 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.
On Friday the village of Bil’in celebrated the second anniversary of the civil non-violent resistance of the illegal Israeli wall and settlements being built on the village land. The village of Bil’in started the weekly demonstrations two years ago in protest against the construction of the illegal wall. Since then, demonstrations have been a weekly activity attended by the villagers, and international and Israeli supporters.
This week’s protest commenced after a British circus group performed in the village, and a photographic exhibition was displayed. 1500 protestors marched all the way to the gate in the wall, where they were met by Israeli soldiers. Protestors threw rotten eggs and paint filled balloons at the troops.
On their part, Israeli soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber coated bullets, and even attacked them with a water cannon. Mark, an American journalist talked to IMEMC:
Medical sources in the village reported that eight people were injured by rubber bullets. Among them were Iyad Bornat, Issa Samdier, and Ibraheem Bornat. Another ten were treated in the village by the Palestinian Red Crescent for gas inhalation. Among those were three journalists, two Palestinians and one Israeli.
According to Abdul Abu Rahmah, the local co-ordinator for the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, the Israeli soldiers also directed the water cannon at the TV crews of Qatari based satellite channel Al Jazeera, and the American channel CNN.
Jonathan Pollak, an activist with the ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’ group was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment on Sunday afternoon, which will be implemented if he is convicted of a similar charge again. Pollak was sentenced after he was convicted together with 10 other activists for blocking a road in Tel Aviv in protest at the construction of the wall.
Palestinian villagers, side by side with Israeli supporters, have planted olive trees on lands that are set to be annexed by illegal Israeli settlers. The action took place south of Hebron city in the southern part of the West Bank on Wednesday. The Israeli supporters who joined the olive tree planting day are from an Israeli human rights group calling itself ‘Rabbis for Peace’.
Nasser Al Nawaj’a, a local activist, stated that the lands where the planting took place are only a few meters away from the Yakup Dalia illegal Israeli settlement. Al Nawaj’a explained that armed settlers coming from Yakup Dalia settlement attack Palestinian farmers on a daily basis, in an attempt to force them out of their land in order for the settlers to expand their settlement.
Local villagers estimate that the land totals at around 100 dunams in size. Yakup Dalia is recognized by the Israeli authorities as an illegal settlement post, nevertheless they continue providing the settlers living there with services and protection.
Three Way Summit, no progress is made, to meet soon
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a three-way summit this week.
After a two hour meeting between the three, the US Secretary of state delivered a brief press statement promising to return to the region for a follow-up summit. She confirmed that they agreed to implement a two-state solution, to uphold all previous agreements, and to work within the framework of the US-sponsored Road Map Peace Plan. Ghassan Andoni, a political analyst in Bethlehem, commented on the summit:
Shortly before the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he and President George Bush had agreed to boycott the new Palestinian national unity government unless it recognizes Israel, renounces violence, and accepts all previous agreements with Israel. When asked about Olmert’s statements, Rice said no decision had been made yet.
Israel plans to attend a five-way summit with attendees from Palestine, the US, Egypt and Jordan. After the meeting, Condoleezza Rice met with King Abdullah II, before meeting with heads of intelligence from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Hamas expressed deep disappointment over the summit results, and called the American position negative, ambiguous, and neglectful of the will of the Palestinian people. During a cabinet meeting in Gaza city, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh criticized US ambivalence towards the new Palestinian national unity government.
President Abbas embarked on his international tour, starting in Jordan this week, where he met with King Abdullah II. He also visited several European capitals. In Berlin, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merckel and discussed the lifting of international sanctions on Palestine.
In a joint press conference between President Abbas and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Blair reiterated the demands for the Palestinian government to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements. This is Mohamad Al-Horani, a Fatah member:
‘Mr. President hopes through this tour to be able to persuade some of the world countries and at encourage other hesitant ones to deal positively with the unity government. I think that it is a preemptive step to lift the blockade or at least ask some parties such as the European Union to take courageous steps, or ask the American administration not to be against this government or take any stance that would leave this political and economic blockade intact”
The Middle East Quartet, which has representatives from the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia, held a meeting in Berlin. The Quartet ended the meeting inconclusively, with plans to meet again soon, possibly in an Arab country. The main source of disagreement was the response to the Makkah papers. The Europeans called the agreement ‘a step forward’, while Rice described it as a complication. Russia called for the Quartet to ease the sanctions imposed on the Palestinians. Egypt and Saudi Arabia say the unity government should be given a chance.
This week, Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh concluded the first round of meetings with the leaders of Palestinian factions about the new national unity government. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine declined to participate in the next cabinet, citing disappointment with the division of posts between Fatah and Hamas movements. Other small factions are debating whether to participate in the cabinet. The Islamic Jihad movement has already announced that it will not take part in the cabinet.
Khalida Jarrar, a legislator with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, explains why the party declined representation on the new cabinet:
‘We are against including the line calling for respecting the previously signed agreements between Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel in the designation letter because it falls short from what was has been approved in the National Reconciliation Document, and we also reject the inclusion of the demanding a commitment to the resolutions taken in Arab summits and sessions of the Palestinian National Councils in the letter. In addition, the way the Makkah agreement was reached does not allow plurality.”
Prime Minister Haniyeh is expected to begin his second round of consultations over the candidates for cabinet ministries and portfolios. Two portfolios have already been decided on. Dr. Salam Fayyad will take on the Finance ministry, and Ziad Abu Amer will take on the portfolio of Foreign Affairs. The decision over the post of the Interiors Minister remains undecided, with Hamas and Fatah unable to agree on a candidate.
Fawzi Barhum, a Hamas spokesperson
‘The participation in the unity government will support the Palestinian position, so, all are invited to participate in this national project. The doors are opened for them and there is still time for this. Hamas, Fatah and the Prime Minister are keen to negotiate with all parties. We are still contacting the other factions and will not stop. Hamas, both inside and outside Palestine, is interested to realize a unity government with the full meaning of the word.”
Khalid Mash’al, head of Hamas politburo office, held a meeting this week in Cairo with Amr Mousa Secretary General of the Arab League and informed him of the latest developments regarding the formation of a Palestinian national unity government in accordance with the Makkah agreement. Mashaal also met with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmad Abu Al Ghiet who expressed his hope that the International embargo imposed on the Palestinians would be lifted after the formation of the Palestinian national unity government. Mashaal is expected to head to Russia next week for a three day visit where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
During this week the Israeli army conducted at least 40 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these incursions, Israeli troops attacked houses and abducted 46 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children. An advisor to Palestinian Minister of Health was abducted after troops broke into his home in Hebron city. Thus, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 509.
On Wednesday morning, the Israeli army extra-judicially executed a member of the al-Quds Brigade, an offshoot of the Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank city Jenin.
An undercover Israeli army unit and a number of soldiers moved into an area in the west of Jenin, using two civilian vehicles. The two vehicles intercepted a car in the area, in which Mahmoud Obaid, aged 24, was traveling. Soldiers got out of their vehicles and opened fire at Obaid. He was killed instantly. According to medical sources, he was hit by several gunshots to the head.
On Wednesday evening, Mowaffaq Erhaimi, 34, from Beit Reema village located northwest of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, died at Attara checkpoint north of the city. His died as soldiers denied him passage to the hospital; Erhaimi was seriously injured to the head while working in a construction site in his village.
On Saturday afternoon, a number of Israeli settler children from “Ramat Yishai” settlement in Tal Rumaida neighborhood in the center of the southern West Bank city of Hebron chased and beat a Palestinian child. The incident occurred when the child was walking home. Jannat Hisham al-‘Azza, 14, sustained bruises all over the body. Israeli troops were present in the area, but did not intervene to stop the attack.
Also on Saturday, a number of Israeli settlers from “Sousia” settlement, south of Hebron, attacked a number of houses belonging to the al-Nawaj’a family. They beat Khalil Al-Nawaj’a, 65. He sustained bruises all over the body.
On Monday morning, a number of Israeli settlers living in settlement posts in the center of Hebron attempted to demolish the fence of the al-Aqtab Mosque and a number of shops, which are located nearly 200 meters away from “Abraham Avino” settlement in the old town.
A number of Palestinian civilians living in the area attempted to stop the demolition. Israeli troops arrived at the area, and soldiers and settlers clashed with Palestinian civilians. Israeli settlers violently beat 6-year-old Palestinian, Gandhi Al Owaiwi. He sustained bruises all over the body. The army then evacuated the settlers from the area and forced Palestinian civilians to go back home. Later, the Israeli soldiers closed two shops in the area. The Israeli army has kept al-Aqbat Mosque and dozens of shops in the area closed by force for 6 years.
The Gaza strip
One Palestinian man was shot and injured by Israeli army gunfire in the eastern part of the Gaza strip on Thursday evening.
Israeli troops stationed at the eastern Gaza Strip border opened fire at the man and injured him.
On Sunday the Israeli army wounded a Palestinian resident of northern Gaza, and Israeli naval boats opened fire at fishermen on Gaza’s shoreline. Dr. Moawiya Abu Hasanain, Director of the Emergency Department at the Alshifa hospital in Gaza, confirmed that the Israeli forces, stationed in the vicinity of the Beit Hanoun industrial zone, shot and wounded an unknown Palestinian resident. Abu Hasanain said that an Israeli ambulance transferred the wounded to an unknown destination.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Sunday that Israeli Navy gunboats fired at Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza Strip shores and destroyed several of them. No injuries were reported. Eyewitnesses reported that the Navy gunboats and vessels fired several shells and opened machine gunfire at Palestinian fishing boats at the Tal Al Sultan Beach, west of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Navy repeatedly fire shells at Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza Shore, and claim that they are too close to the ‘Israeli’ waters, or that the boats are attempting to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of Palestinian families in Rafah depend on fishing for their main source of income. However, since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in late 2000, Israel has barred the residents from fishing, then limited their fishing time to certain times and dates. So far, a significant number of fishermen have been killed, injured or abducted in several similar shelling and shooting incidents.
The Palestinian National Information Center of the Palestinian Authority’s International Press center reported that since the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000, up until late January 2007, the Israeli army has killed 5050 Palestinian men, women and children, wounded 49,760 others and detained 10,400 Palestinians.
The report showed that 351 Palestinian women have been killed, 150 patients have died at checkpoints, and 66 others have been killed due to beatings by Israeli settlers. 36 others were members of medical teams, 9 others belonged to press, while 220 others were athletes.
A Palestinian civilian was killed when a Palestinian Police officer shot him by mistake in Ramallah on Thursday afternoon, sources from the Palestinian police reported. A Palestinian police officer opened fire at the wheels of a car that attempted to avoid a police roadblock, which was set up for routine car registration and insurance inspections in downtown Ramallah. However, a bystander was killed in the shooting.
Scores of the deceased man’s relatives from the nearby Amari and Qadora refugee camps took to the streets and started throwing rocks at the police cars in the city center. The clashes later escalated into gunfire, however no injuries were reported.
Palestinian police and anti-riot security forces were deployed in the city and managed to end the clashes.
A mysterious explosion ripped through the Wad Alselqa village, south of Gaza on Wednesday, killing 33 year-old Mahmoud Alsemairy, medical sources reported. Alsemairy, of the southern Gaza Strip village of Wad Alselqa, was killed after a mysterious explosion ripped through the vicinity of his house, Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in central Gaza announced.
The hospital sources confirmed that the body of Alsemairy arrived at the hospital completely torn apart and that it would be transferred to the Alshifa hospital in Gaza city for autopsy. Witnesses said that a very loud explosion was audible in the area, which is about 700 meters away from the Gaza-Israel border, to the east of Wad Alselqa village.
Palestinian sources in the West Bank city of Nablus announced Tuesday afternoon that three peace activists have been released Tuesday shortly after being abducted by unknown gunmen in the city. Governor of Nablus, Kamal Elshaikh, confirmed that three American women were released shortly after having been kidnapped.
Media reports said the three activists had been taking pictures on the outskirts of Balata refugee camp in the city, when they were kidnapped. The sources believed that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was behind the abduction, yet the PFLP officially denied any responsibility.
In statements, both the PFLP and Fatah fully denied any responsibility for the incident. All the abductions have been personally motivated and were unrelated to Palestinian resistance factions.
On Tuesday at dawn a group of unknown gunmen stole a car belonging to the Palestinian National TV group. Sources from the TV group stated that the car was being used to drive the night shift staff to their houses, when it was stopped by a group of masked gunmen in Al Sheikh Radwan area in the northern part of the Gaza strip.
Israeli digging near Al Aqsa Mosque
For the third week massive numbers of Israeli troops were deployed today inside and around the city of Jerusalem. They barred Palestinians under the age of forty five from reaching Al- Aqsa Masque for Friday prayer. Clashes erupted between the Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers. No injuries were reported.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, at least two hundred people took the streets after the Friday prayers in protest against the Israeli digging near Al Aqsa. The protesters chanted anti-Israel slogans and called for the immediate halt of these actions. Meanwhile, violent clashes erupted between dozens of Palestinian youths and the Israeli soldiers who were posted at one of the watchtowers of the Separation Wall at the main entrance of the city. Soldiers fired rubber coated bullets, sound and gas bombs intensively at the Palestinian youths who hurled stones and empty bottles at them. Some of the youths fainted and were treated in the field.
Clashes also erupted between the Palestinian youths and the Israeli soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem. Soldiers fired rubber coated bullets, gas and sound bombs. Two residents were slightly injured, six others were abducted.
The Israeli Ministry of Antiquities concealed the discovery of a small mosque three years ago, an Israeli archeologist has revealed. The mosque was discovered when part of the Al-Magharah Bridge in 2004 collapsed. The Ministry decided not to announce the discovery, worrying that Muslims would demand more shared responsibility for the care of the site.
Khalil Tafakji, head of the Maps Department at the Orient House,
“The Israel plan is very obvious, since 1967 Israel Managed to destroy the Sharafa and Magharba neighborhoods and built a Jewish one instead, in addition Israel built nearly 77 settlements inside Jerusalem, and dug tunnels, one of which was made in 1996, and now is planning to dig a new one from Damascus gate that leads inside the Aqsa Mosque square.”
In a Parliamentary session held via videoconference in Ramallah and Gaza City, the Palestinian Legislative Council urged the Arab countries to sever diplomatic ties with Israel over Al-Aqsa digging. Two rooms connected to the Al-Aqsa Mosque have been demolished since the digging began two weeks ago.
Peace Now: Settlement Population Grew 5% in 2006
The Israeli movement Peace Now has published a report showing that the settler population in the West Bank has increased by 5% over the last year. 268,000 settlers now occupy West Bank settlements, according to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.
Khalil Tafakji, head of the Maps Department at the Orient House,
“Israel had never stopped the settlement activities. On the contrary, the settlements rapidly grew in the post-Oslo agreement period. The number of settlers has increased from 105 thousand in 1992 to 206 thousand in 2006.”
Tafakji also indicated that the reported number is misleading,
“This represents the number of settlers outside of the municipal borders of Jerusalem. The number of settlers in Jerusalem is 182 thousand settlers; add to them the 268 thousand in the West Bank, the total will be nearly half a million Israel settlers.”
There are now 102 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, housing around two thousand settlers. Although no new outposts were built in 2006, Peace Now recorded 251 instances of expansion in existing ones, including new mobile homes and road paving. Ninety trailers have been added since 2005, and thirty outposts have built permanent constructions. In seven outposts, roads have been paved.
This is Doror Etqus, coordinator of the settlement watch project of Peace Now
The number of building permits issued for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, however, decreased to 952 last year. This is a reduction from 1,184 in 2005. All permits issued in 2006 were issued after the Israeli elections in March.
Nurses and other health workers have called for a strike until they are paid their overdue salaries, as stipulated in an agreement signed with the Palestinian government last January. Here’s Hani Salameh, head of the nursing Union in Bethlehem:
“We had an agreement with the government to pay our salaries, however, this agreement was not fully implemented therefore we had to call a strike. Then we met with the acting Minister of Finance, however, the talks failed.”
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 Jack Talahami, Polly Bangoriad and Ghassan Bannoura.