Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 17.3MB || Time 19m 0sThis Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for March 17th through 23rd, 2007.
The embargo on Palestine continues as the new unity government is sworn in. And civil clashes leave three dead and twenty wounded in the Gaza Strip. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let’s begin our weekly report from the Second Conference on Nonviolence in Bil’in.
On Friday, the village of Bil’in, near the center West Bank city of Ramallah, conducted its weekly non-violent demonstration against the illegal Israeli wall. Local villagers supported by International and Israeli volunteers, raising flags and banners, in English, Arabic and Hebrew, and chanting slogans against the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village land, marched to the gate of the wall, separating the village from the lands. There they met with Israeli troops who directly opened fire and shot sound bombs and tear gas at the protestors.
Local youth responded by throwing stones at the army. In an attempt to ambush the local youth, the Israeli soldiers took two local homes and turned them into military posts and used them to shoots rubber-coated bullets at the protestors and tried to abduct them.
During the demonstration eight protestors were injured, among them one international female activist, known as Anna Mari from Denmark who talked to IMEMC:
Another two activists were abducted; one was Palestinian and the other Israeli. Local sources told IMEMC that they were released shortly thereafter.
The Bil’in conference
On Thursday, the village of Bil’in held a conference concerning the popular resistance in Palestine. The conference was organized by the Popular Committee for Resisting the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in, the National and Islamic Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in and Palestinians who are active in the popular non-violent resistance across the West Bank.
The conference was funded by NOVA a Catalan Organization that promotes social innovation with popular participation and intercultural dialogue, to help generate alternative socioeconomic models to globalization, a culture based on peace and a more sustainable society.
This Palestinian conference focused on connecting Palestinian activists in different areas and regions in the West Bank together, and included several workshops which discussed related subjects. George Rishmawi attended the conference and spoke to IMEMC about its main goals.
Several Local and International figures sent letters of support to the conference, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who was represented by Ramallah Governor Mr. Sa’eed Abu Ali, who called for more nonviolent actions in Palestine.
Louisa Morganitini, vice chair of the European Parliament, also sent a letter of support to the village of Bilin and the conference. Morganitini has been very active in organizing nonviolent actions in Palestine since over a decade. She was banned from entering Israel for five years, in 1995.
The conference concluded by electing a follow up committee to report to the International Conference, which will be held in Bilin April 18 and 19.
On Wednesday, which was also Mother’s Day, and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Palestinians from the village of Umm Salamuna and neighboring villages near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank protested against the illegal annexation wall Israel is building on their land. In honor of Mother’s Day, Palestinian and international women marched in solidarity at the front lines of the demonstration. The villagers marched from the village to the Wall and tried to stop the bulldozers from destroying the land. Local representatives gave speeches about the effects of the destruction of their land. The construction of the Wall will annex 700 dunums of the village’s land to the nearby Israeli settlement of Efrat. In addition, it will destroy 270 dunums of planted fields.
Palestinian Unity Government Formed, Embargo Continues
The new Palestinian unity government was voted in this Saturday. The Legislative Council voted affirmatively, 83 to 3, to approve the new cabinet. The new cabinet includes Hamas, Fatah, and other parties, as well as independents. The new cabinet has 25 ministers, 13 from the West Bank and 12 from Gaza. 46 Parliament members were unable to attend the vote as they are being held in Israeli prisons.
Israel was the first to declare that it would not recognize or negotiate with the new government.
The Quartet Committee for Middle East Peace agreed Wednesday night to continue economic sanctions on the new Palestinian unity government until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts past signed agreements with Israel.
The Quartet did however agree to continue with the special aid mechanism for the next three months, which is designed to channel money to the Palestinian government through legislators and ministers who are not affiliated with Hamas. The United States also said it would selectively deal with the new Palestinian cabinet members while boycotting Hamas ministers.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the Quartet’s decision. But Palestinian Presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh called the special aid mechanism “insufficient.” Rudeineh also demanded the implementation of the Road Map including the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Mohammad Al-Hurani, a senior Fatah official comments on the Quartet’s decision.
‘I believe the European Union is looking for a new formula for its new stance, and I think that the Palestinians should agree on a formula that can be accepted by the International community including the European Union, to be able to shake the imposed embargo.
In fact, this requires some kind of diplomatic effort that involves Palestinians and Europeans to reach an understanding in a way that keeps the balance in the Palestinian political structure and at the same time addresses the International needs, without changing the core of the Palestinian stance.’
Meanwhile, Norway has become the first European country to break the US-led economic and political embargo on Palestine. The Norwegian deputy-foreign minister met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh to declare the resumption of normal ties with the new Palestinian unity government.
And in another break of the embargo, France invited independent Palestinian Foreign Minister, Ziad Abu Amr, to Paris for talks. Abu Amr is also set to meet with Miguel Moratinos, the European Union envoy for peace in the Middle East, as well as Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht.
And finally, ahead of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced that Israel will make concessions to the Arab peace proposal of 2002, which calls for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied lands, in return for normal relations with Israel.
Israel rejected this initiative in when it was formed in 2002, and instead launched its enormous Operation Defensive Shield. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the offensive, and the infrastructure was severely damaged.
During the week, the Israeli army killed 2 Palestinians; one of the victims was a child. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Israeli troops and armed resistance activists clashed when Israeli forces invaded the Askar refugee camp, which is near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Dr. Ghassan Hamdan head of the Medical Relief Services in Nablus describes the invasion during which Fadi Abu Keshek, 24, was killed.
‘On Wednesday, troops invaded the old city of Nablus and Ein Beit Elma Refugee Camp. Troops then invaded Askar refugee camp and opened random fire at some houses, which resulted in the death of Fadi Abu Keshek. Several fatal bullets hit him in different parts of his body. Soldiers then broke into several homes and forced their residents out to the streets of the camp and searched them.’
Later that day Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian child in the village of Aboud, north of Ramallah in central West Bank. The child was killed when youths threw stones at an Israeli army patrol in the area. Local sources identified the child as Mohammad Salayma, aged 17.
The Israeli army wounded 13 Palestinians, including 7 children this week. Four of the injured were wounded at two Israeli army checkpoints in the West Bank. On Sunday troops at Beit Eiba checkpoint north-west of Nablus city, fired sound bombs at Palestinian civilians attempting to pass through.
Two civilians were injured. The second incident took place in the vicinity of Tarqoumia checkpoint near Hebron city in the southern part of the West Bank, on Monday. Israeli troops shot at Palestinian workers and injured two of them with bullets in the legs. A Palestinian child was wounded by Israeli tanks’ gunfire, which was directed at civilians scavenging for metals in the abandoned industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip.
Also during the week, the Israeli army conducted at least 31 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza strip. During these invasions, the Israeli army abducted at least 63 Palestinian civilians. Thus, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 806.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights noted in its weekly report that the Israeli army attack and searches systematically involve the destruction of property and the ransacking of houses. In addition, police dogs are occasionally used. The residents of targeted houses are also systematically abused. A Palestinian woman was wounded when an Israeli army dog attacked her in the village of Obaidiya, near Bethlehem, on Wednesday afternoon. Troops released the dog after an army bulldozer had demolished part of the home of a civilian named Daoud Rabai’a, 29, who is claimed to be ‘wanted’ by the Israeli army.
The dog attacked Daoud’s sister, Yosra Rabai’a, and bit her arm. Medical sources at Beit Jala hospital reported that Yosra suffered moderate damage to her arm, and that medics managed to stop the bleeding.
The Rabai’a family confirmed that their son was not in the house and added that they told the soldiers they could search it. However, the soldiers refused to do so and instead decided to demolish the house. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that shortly before noon, Israeli troops invaded the village with armored vehicles and jeeps, surrounded Rabai’a’s house and commanded him to turn himself in. Rabai’a is said to be an activist for the Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah.
The Israeli army has imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip. They have closed its border crossings as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.
The army has partially reopened commercial crossings, especially al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, but many basic goods and medical supplies have been lacking in markets in the Gaza Strip. The army have also continued to close Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been prevented from traveling through this crossing. Troops have allowed international workers to pass through the crossing. With this closure, very few Palestinian patients have been able to travel to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank for treatment.
According to Palestinians who traveled through the new crossing point, Israeli troops imposed the same restrictions on their movement as in the past. In addition, the army have continued to prevent Palestinian fishermen from fishing for more than 9 months. During this week, 50 Palestinian fishermen were detained by the Israeli army and taken to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod for interrogation. All except two were released after several hours.
On Monday night, some 200 armed Israeli settlers seized a Palestinian-owned house in the West Bank city of Hebron, claiming ownership. The settlers, all yeshiva youth students, broke into a Palestinian home located near the main road between the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba’ and some Palestinian residential buildings. The settlers alleged that the house had been legally purchased a few years ago. Settlers in Hebron have attracted much attention to themselves in the past as religious extremists. A member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), MK Schneller, visited Hebron today to show support for the settlers. Israeli media sources said that the Israeli army has launched an investigation into these allegations.
The house is located near a road that links Kiryat Arba illegal Israeli settlement to the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is in very close proximity to the Ibrahimi Mosque. Meanwhile, the owner of the house, a Palestinian civilian named Bayiz Al Rajabi, says that he possesses all the documents proving his ownership. Al Rajabi added that he is the sole owner of the house and that he has never contacted the settlers.
At least 400 Israeli settlers, of the Kiryat Arba’ settlement, are occupying a large area of this ancient Palestinian city, where about 20, 0000 Palestinians are inhabited. There is a constant massive Israeli military presence in the city, outnumbering the settlers themselves. Not only does this restrict the movement and freedom of Palestinian civilians, it often denies them basic human and legal rights.
On Thursday, Israeli army bulldozers began bulldozing farm lands that belong to Palestinian farmers from Al Thahria town, south of Hebron city. The Israeli Authority is planning to expand the illegal Israeli settlement of ‘Kisara Hagai’ at the expense of the local Palestinian farmers. The villagers reported that bulldozers arrived in the morning and started leveling the land. They added that Israeli troops and armed settlers attacked them when they attempted to stop the bulldozers, and forced them to leave their land. No injuries were reported.
Four Palestinians have been killed during civil unrest in Gaza this week, including two children. Twenty people were injured in clashes. On Saturday in Rafah city, several masked gunmen kidnapped Mohammad Abu Shammala, aged 40. He is a member of the 17 Force, the President’s guards. Local sources believed the kidnapping was based on a family feud.
On Sunday an 8-year-old girl named Shaza Abu Mohsin was shot dead in the crossfire of tribal clashes in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Two women and a young man were also injured by stray bullets. North of Rafah, in Khan Younis, two men were injured in a feud between the Almasry and Abu Taha families. In the West Bank, unknown gunmen abducted the Chief Justice of Jenin court, Bassam Hijawi. They later released him after negotiations concerning a court case.
A mysterious explosion on Monday in the Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, left one Palestinian dead and seven injured. The deceased was identified as 25-year-old Ala Al-Hassi. He was killed when a bomb was thrown into his family’s home. Also on Monday, unknown gunmen shot and wounded a police officer in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza.
On Wednesday, one civilian was killed and eleven wounded when clashes broke out in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Media sources identified the deceased as Ramez Serour. Witnesses told IMEMC that clashes erupted when Hamas members chased companions of Samih Almadhoun, a local prominent Fatah leader. Also on Wednesday, unknown assailants in an unknown car, opened fire at a Palestinian security outpost in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Two security personnel, Ahmad Alyazouri and Abdelaziz Awad, were injured, and a third person passed out from shock. No faction has claimed responsibility for the shootout.
On Thursday morning, Sameer Othmaan was killed in Gaza City. Medical sources said Othmaan was dead on arrival at hospital. Palestinian security sources say he was killed during clashes between gunmen from his family, who are Fatah affiliates, and the Hamas-affiliated executive forces. One Palestinian child was shot and killed late on Thursday night in renewed clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Abductions, and attacks against private and public properties were also reported.
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that Hasan Abu Nada, aged 2, was killed in crossfire between Hamas and Fatah gunmen, and that one woman was injured. Several other civilians were also injured in several parts of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian security sources reported that the child was at his parents’ house, close to the house of Sameeh Al Madhoun, one of the leaders of the Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of Fatah movement. The 60-year old grandmother of the child was injured in the clashes.
BBC Reporter remains in captivity
On Thursday, Palestinian journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah protested the kidnapping of the British Broadcast Corporation’s reporter, Allan Johnston, in the Gaza Strip.
Some Palestinian officials were present at the march, which started at Al-Manarah circle and ended at the Presidential Compound, during which protestors demanded that Johnston’s captors immediately free him.
Ahmad Abdul Rahman, a senior Palestinian Authority official and one of President Mahmoud Abbas’ aids, said during the march that President Abbas is doing all he can to have Johnston freed. He added that there are positive signs regarding Johnston’s release, assuring Johnston’s Family and the BBC that “this case will be over soon.”
Abdul Rahman said that the kidnapping of Johnston is an insult to the Palestinian people and is contradictory to the morals and traditions of the Palestinians. He praised the role of Journalists as he described them as being like a window for the Palestinian People, through which the world can see what is happening in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.
Johnston, who has been living in the Gaza Strip for almost three years, was kidnapped on March 12 by unknown gunmen. All the Palestinian resistance groups condemned the kidnapping of Johnston and have called for his captors to release him.
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 Jake Talhami, Ghassan Bannoura and Jane Smith.