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 24 through 30, 2007.
The Arabs re-launch their five-year-old peace offer to normalize relations with Israel, Israel rejects the deal. Meanwhile, the Palestinians commemorate Land Day. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let’s begin our weekly report on non-violence in Bil’in on Land Day.
On March 30, 1976, Palestinians in Sakhnin and Arrabeh in northern Israel organized a general strike and various demonstrations in protest against the Israeli authorities’ decision to confiscate Palestinian land in the Galilee. The Israeli army and police responded very violently to the protest, and killed six Palestinian residents of Israel.
The land confiscation is a result of what is called the Absentees’ Property Law of March 1950. According to this law, Israel transferred the right of owners of the land to a Custodian of Absentee Property. It was used to confiscate lands belonging to the over 700,000 Palestinian refugees who were expelled from Palestine in 1948. It was also used to confiscate the lands of Arab citizens of Israel who are present inside the state, yet classified in law as ‘absent’.
The central theme for this year’s Land Day focuses on Israel’s illegal Wall. Though Israel claims the Wall is being built for “security reasons,” the Wall annexes the land it seizes into Israel, and illegal Israeli settlements are built on the appropriated land, forcing Palestinians who once lived and worked on the land into ghettos.
Bil’in, a Palestinian village outside the central West Bank of Ramallah, has become a symbol of non-violent resistance to Israeli Apartheid. Villagers and internationals have been standing in solidarity for over two years in Bil’in, demonstrating against the completed Wall, which has stolen over 60% of the land from the village.
This Friday the village of Bil’in conducted its weekly demonstration against the illegal wall being built by Israel. The villagers, along with Israeli and international supporters, marched towards the gate in the illegal wall separating the village from its land. As soon as the demonstration arrived at the gate soldiers fired tear gas canisters, sound bombs and rubber bullets at them, injuring ten. Among the injured were two reporters. Towards the end of the demonstration the Israeli soldiers chased some local stone-throwing youths into the village and fired tear gas into residents’ houses, causing several casualties amongst women and children. All were treated on the spot by medics.
Around two hundred protestors marched in the village of Um Salamuna, south of Bethlehem, to protest the construction of the wall on their land and to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Land Day. Protestors, including Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis, carried signs and banners and chanted slogans calling for the removal of the Wall, describing it as land theft that is killing Palestinian life.
No clashes erupted with the soldiers as the protestors remained non-violent. Provocative moves by some of the protestors were stopped by the organizers of the action. Caisy, an American protestor spoke to IMEMC
The crowd arrived at the Mosque of the village where some speeches relating to Land Day were made.
The speakers stressed the importance of non-violent resistance in protecting the land from being confiscated by the Israeli army. A large amount of the village of Um Salamuna and the nearby villages has been confiscated for the construction of the wall and the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Ephrata.
In Qaffin, a village north of Tulkarm city in the northern part of the West Bank, the Apartheid Wall has existed since 2003. On Friday midday demonstration started with speeches, and then demonstrators walked a 10 minute march to the site of the Wall, where Israeli soldiers met the 500 participants. The villagers, along with Israeli and international supporters, tried to cross the gate of the wall to get to the village land which is trapped on the other side. Soldiers used batons to hold them off. The protest ended when clashes erupted between local youths using stones and Israeli soldiers using sound and tear gas bombs along with rubber coated metal bullets. No injures were reported.
Arabs re-launch Peace Offer to Israel
Active diplomacy efforts defined the week, highlighted perhaps most by the Arab League summit, held this Wednesday in the Saudi city of Riyadh. Arab leaders took the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the five-year old Arab peace initiative. The 2002 peace proposal calls for normalization with Israel, in return for full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as a just solution for the Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni responded with a flat out refusal and a call to amend the peace plan. She dismissed the idea of withdrawal to 1967 borders, as well as the return of Palestine refugees to the borders of historical Palestine, now called ‘Israel.’
A similar refusal was uttered by the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his vice Premier Shimon Peres.
Serjio Yanni, an Israeli political analyst, says Israel is using the issue of the Palestinian refugees to reject the Arab peace initiative.
The United States welcomed the Arab move regarding the peace proposal and described the outcome of the summit as ‘very positive’ regarding a peace settlement between the Arab World and Israel.
Palestinians on their part welcomed the re-launch of the Arab initiative as a method to end the conflict. Samer Jaber from Bethlehem says the initiative is generally accepted in the Palestinian street.
“The Arab summit came up with a proposal that matches the official Palestinian stance, therefore it is accepted by the main stream Palestinians. So, it falls within the lines of the Palestinian understanding of dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
During her visit to the region last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Arab leaders to follow up on the Arab plan and use it as a basis to engage with the Israelis.
Earlier this week, Rice met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the two-state solution and the Road Map. President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, agreed to hold bi-weekly meetings, but their subject matter has yet to be agreed upon. Abbas hopes to focus on negotiations for a final solution rather than humanitarian concerns. But Rice is deemphasizing final solutions, focusing instead on what she calls a ‘common agenda’ between Israelis and Palestinians, that is, humanitarian concerns.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon took his first trip to Palestine since taking office. Ban met with Palestinian officials and residents of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Ban did not meet with Hamas ministers. However, he did welcome the newly-established Palestinian unity government, and encouraged it to comply with the international community’s demands. These demands include the recognition of Israel and the renunciation of violent struggle. Ban also expressed sorrow over Israel’s annexation Wall, observing that it has prevented Palestinians from leading normal lives.
The international Quartet of Middle East peace has also decided to continue the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority until the new cabinet recognizes Israel and renounces violence. But the Quartet, which is composed of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, has approved a temporary assistance mechanism, through which the Quartet members have pledged to assist the Palestinian people for the next three months, with possible extension of such assistance in the long-term.
Amid these developments, the United Nations has criticized Israel for not allowing access of fact-finding missions into the occupied Palestinian territories for the verification of Israeli crimes and human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
While UN Secretary General Ban is still imposing demands on the new Palestinian government, it has received assurances from several European counties, including Norway, Austria, Italy, Germany and France.
Palestinian Village flooded with sewage
The collapse of a septic tank resulted in tragedy in Um Al-Nasser village in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Five people were killed and several wounded, IMEMC’s Rami Al-Meghari has more.
Medical sources report that five Palestinian residents including women and
children died and seventeen others were wounded when a cesspool collapsed in the Bedouin village in Beit Lahia, north of Gaza. It collapsed abruptly, as it has been weakened by use and reported damage sustained during the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Dr. Moawiya Abu Hasanain describes the impact of the sewage tank failure:
‘As for the death toll in the Bedouin village, it is five, while the injured who have been admitted to hospitals, including the Kamal Edwan and Alshefa, are seventeen. A state of emergency has also been declared in the health ministry’s hospitals and the primary health care clinics’.
Abu Safra, who lost his mother and nephew in the incident, told IMEMC that village residents had recently complained to local authorities that a collapse was likely.
‘A neighbor of mine SAW some water leaking from the cesspool; so he informed those in charge. Yet, officials responded by claiming that the actual life of the structure would hold up for another month. We call on our brothers to come here and see the misery the Bedouin village has just suffered’.
The Bedouin village of Um Al-Nasser was established by the Palestinian Authority on the Israel-Gaza northern border line in 1999 for Palestinian Bedouins, the majority of whom are shepherds or manual laborers. The village is made up of cottages and has water and electricity networks, which are run by the local municipality. Local Government officials said the collapse of the cesspool has caused the complete destruction of 60 cottages and has partially damaged 226 others.
The Palestinian environment authority has repeatedly warned officials in Um Al-Nasser municipality of a likely humanitarian disaster should the weakened cesspool collapse. It had also come under Israeli gunfire prior to the Israeli disengagement in 2005. Kamel Abu Qayda is the Secretary of Um Al-Nasser municipality:
‘We were surprised at 9:30 yesterday morning that a 6.5 ACRE-large cesspool, containing 20,000 cubic meters of sewage water, collapsed. ‘The problem of sewage water disposal is not only faced by the municipality or the village of Um Al-Naser, it is also encountered by the northern area in general, including the municipalities of Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun’.
According to the Gaza Local Municipalities Council, 25 municipalities are on the verge of complete paralysis due to the inability to provide services to residents. This is perpetuated by the continued economic embargo which was internationally-imposed after last January’s parliamentary elections.
This is Rami Almeghari, reporting from the Um Al-Nasser Village in northern Gaza.
During the past week the Israeli army conducted at least 30 military invasions of Palestinian communities. During these invasions the army killed 5 Palestinians and abducted at least 60 civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thus, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 861.
On Thursday night Palestinian medical sources at the Al Maqassid Hospital in Jerusalem, reported that a Palestinian child died of wounds sustained on Wednesday after Israeli soldiers shot him. At the time he was shot, he was approaching the illegal annexation Wall near Ramallah. The child was identified as Mohammad Oweidah, from Um Al Sharayit neighborhood, in Ramallah.
On Thursday morning, Israeli forces invaded the village of Mothalath, south of the city of Jenin in the northern part of the West Bank and killed one child. Ahmad Al Assassah, 16, was hit with a live round in the head and died instantly when Israeli troops opened fire randomly at residents’ homes during the invasion. Another two people were injured. Ibrahim Yassin, an ambulance driver who delivered Assassah to the hospital,
“We found a 16-year-old child hit with a bullet in his neck behind the ear. His injury was fatal. Apparently he was extensively bleeding and died immediately after he was shot. Later the army obstructed the ambulance for a while.”
On Wednesday at dawn at least 40 Israeli army vehicles and several bulldozers invaded Jenin and Jenin refugee camp from multiple directions. In the refugee camp a group of local resistance fighters from the Aqsa brigades of Fatah and Al Qudes brigades of Islamic Jihad, clashed with the invading Israeli troops.
Iyad Abu Hatab, 22, a resistance fighter of Al Aqsa brigades was killed during these clashes. Medical sources reported that Israeli soldiers did not allow medical teams to assist the man and left him to bleed for several hours, which led to his death. Later the army allowed a local ambulance to take the man to Jenin Hospital in the city.
Palestinian medical sources in the northern West Bank city of Nablus reported on Tuesday at dawn that two fighters of the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fateh, were shot and killed by Israeli military fire during an invasion of the city.
The sources identified the two fighters as Ala’ Ziad Al Ghaleeth, 26, and Mohannad Mreish, 24. The two were killed during a gun battle with the invading soldiers in the Old City of Nablus. Eyewitnesses reported that the two bled for several hours as medical crews could not reach them due to the heavy clashes in the area, and the extensive military presence. The clashes took place as dozens of armored military jeeps invaded Nablus and exchanged fire with resistance fighters.
On Monday morning a Palestinian shepherd was found dead near an Israeli settlement located near the city of Nablus. Palestinian sources reported that Mohamed Bani Jaber, 54, from the village of Aqraba south of Nablus was found dead near the barbed wire fence of the Itamar illegal Israeli settlement which is built on the village land. Jaber’s family stated that he went missing on Sunday afternoon; Palestinian security sources stated that the man was choked to death and stabbed with a knife several times.
A Palestinian man died on Thursday morning of wounds he sustained on Wednesday when a car he was in was targeted by an Israeli army helicopter in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources reported that Ahmad Abu Warda, 20, died of wounds he sustained along with another two people, when their car was hit by a missile fired from an Apache helicopter. The car was traveling on a road in Al Sudaniyah in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Wednesday afternoon.
The other two people still lie in critical conditions in Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian sources stated that the three are members of Al Qudes Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad. Israeli media sources reported Israeli army claims that the three were ‘on their way to fire home made shells at Israeli targets’. No shells were found in or near the car, eyewitnesses reported.
An undercover Israeli army unit swept early on Tuesday morning into the east of Khan Younis, in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian media sources said that the Israeli army unit stormed the area of Faraheen under a barrage of heavy gunfire, causing fear and panic among the local residents. The Faraheen area has been frequently attacked by the Israeli army since last June.
On Monday midday the Israeli army opened fire at a Palestinian truck while it was driving in Gaza City, Palestinian media sources and medics said.
The sources added that armored Israeli vehicles stationed to the east of Gaza City fired a bomb shell at the truck, causing some damage. Medics confirmed that no causalities occurred in the incident.
In northern Gaza on Saturday, a Palestinian was shot and wounded by Israeli army gunfire near the Beit Hanoun industrial zone. The man was known as Mohammad Abu Warda, 22, and he was admitted to the local hospital of Kamal Edwan for treatment.
On Friday a Palestinian militant was killed and eight others were wounded in an explosion at a military training camp in Khan Younis city, southern Gaza. Palestinian sources confirmed that the explosion took place at a training site of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. The explosion apparently took place during the training when a bomb was mistakenly detonated.
Earlier in the week, one Palestinian was killed and 19 others injured during infighting in the occupied Palestinian territories, while abducted British journalist Alan Johnston is still being held captive.
On Saturday evening six residents of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis were shot and injured, including four members of the same family. According to medical sources, Sami Arafat, 24, his brother Mohammad, 18, Hasan Ma’moun Arafat, 15, Khaleel Al Daghma, 28, and Taiseer Arafat, were all shot and injured by unknown gunmen in Khan Younis. The sources stated that Sami Salaam Arafat was the first to be shot by gunmen, and as an ambulance was transferring him to a local hospital, gunmen intercepted it and fired at its passengers injuring Mohammad and Hasan. The three other civilians were injured in a vehicle that happened to be passing the ambulance.
On Sunday dozens of Palestinian journalists in Gaza protested against the abduction and confinement of BBC reporter Alan Johnston for the second week consecutively. Alan Johnston, the BBC’s reporter in Gaza, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen two weeks ago. No information is available yet about his whereabouts, or the identity or motives of his kidnappers. The protest was held in a marquee in Gaza City. Scores of journalists, and representatives of various NGOs and Palestinian factions, expressed their objection to the incident.
On Monday a wounded resistance fighter from the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, was announced dead in Khan Younis city in the southern Gaza Strip. The Brigades issued a press release stating that Hassan Yousef, 38, a field leader of the Brigades was killed during a resistance operation on Monday. The press release did not include any further information about the resistance operation.
Also on Monday, Palestinian medical sources at Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, reported that five people had been shot and injured during clashes between Hamas and Fatah gunmen. Palestinian security sources reported that the clashes started with a family feud that later led to a gunfight between Fatah and Hamas gunmen. Local sources reported that members of the Islamic Jihad and other factions intervened in the clashes, and restored calm to the area.
On Wednesday evening, the Fatah and Hamas movements traded exchanges of fire in two separate incidents in Gaza, causing the injury of eight Palestinians. A leader of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades, his wife, his two children and another individual were injured when unknown gunmen fired at the leader’s vehicle. In a separate incident, three members of the Fatah movement were injured when rounds of live ammunition were fired at them from a speeding vehicle. The three were moved to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
The deteriorating internal security in the Gaza Strip is one of the many challenges facing the recently established National Unity government in Palestine.
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.