Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 16.4MB || Time 18m 0sThis Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for March 31st through April 6th, 2007.
European officials meet with Palestinian Ministers, while Israel continues to attack Palestinian neighborhoods and kidnap Palestinian legislators. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let’s begin our weekly report with non-violent action in Bil’in.
On Friday, the village of Bili’n near the central West Bank city of Ramallah conducted its weekly nonviolent protest against the Illegal Wall. Fifteen protestors were injured, and one Israeli supporter was abducted during the demonstration.
As has been the case each Friday for the past two years, villagers, internationals and Israeli supporters marched from the village towards the gate of the illegal wall that was built on land stolen from the village. Upon the demonstrators’ arrival, Israeli troops guarding the gate fired sound and tear gas bombs and rubber coated bullets at them, injuring 15 people.
Medical sources stated that most of the injuries were treated in the field, while a number of casualties were moved to a clinic in a nearby village for treatment. The sources added that among those injured were six children.
Jonas, an American peace activist was in Bili’n:
Jonathan Pollack, an Israeli non-violent activist, was abducted by Israeli troops and taken to an unknown location.
Six protestors, among them two Israeli activists, were injured today in a non-violent protest against the illegal Israeli wall. The protest was conducted in the village of Al Ma’assara, near Bethlehem in the southern region of the West Bank on Friday midday.
Local villagers, joined by international and Israeli supporters marched after the Friday prayers towards the construction site of the illegal Israeli wall which is being built on the village land.
In symbolism of Good Friday, protestors carried a large crucifix. Muhammad Brijia, a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, tied himself to the crucifix to represent the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Muhammad stated that ‘2000 years after Lord Jesus was crucified, his people are still suffering under a cruel and violent military occupation which targets humans, trees and even the land itself’.
Upon arrival at the construction site, the protestors were met by a massive Israeli army force. Protestors tried to sit down in front of the bulldozers which are destroying the village land, but Israeli soldiers violently attacked the unarmed activists with batons, sound bombs and rifle butts.
Six protestors were injured, among them two Israeli supporters and two Palestinian field paramedics who had joined the protest to provide any necessary medical aid. The director of the Holy Land Trust organization, Sami Awad, was also injured by Israeli troops.
Palestinian Diplomacy continue in bid to end blockade
While the internationally imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority continue, some European countries are beginning to host Palestinian ministers for talks.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr visited Paris this week. Abu Amr called on France to resume normal relations with the new Palestinian unity government and to end its boycott of Hamas ministers. But other European officials are less supportive of the new government.
This week, EU President Angela Merkel also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Merkel called on Abbas to prioritize the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured a year ago in Gaza. In turn, Abbas reminded his guest about the annexation Wall, the growing Israeli settlements and the daily Israeli military attacks on the West Bank, and asked her to focus on these human rights issues.
On Monday, the Palestinian cabinet called on the international community to deal equally with Palestinian ministers, regardless of their political affiliation. The cabinet stated that with the new government’s internationally acceptable agenda, international economic and political sanctions are unwarranted.
Palestinian Ministers dismissed remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister; Ehud Olmert, that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh is a “terrorist who smuggles money.” They also demanded that Israel release the $800 million of tax revenues that belong to the Palestinian government. Israel has been withholding Palestinian tax revenues since March of 2006. Minister of Information Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi also said there is no Israeli partner for peace, a direct reference to Prime Minister Olmert.
On Wednesday, Israeli border police detained three Palestinian ministers and three members of Parliament on their way to Qatar.
Meanwhile, Olmert has rejected the Arab peace initiative put forth this March and said he will only talk with “moderate Arab leaders.” Arab League Chief Amr Musa in turn dismissed the possibility of any normalization with Israel without a comprehensive peace on the basis of the Arab peace initiative, which calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 in return for normal ties between Israel and the Arab states.
The international Quartet for Middle East Peace, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, is still demanding that the Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and renounce violence as stipulations for receiving international approval.
UNRWA Warns Dangerous Drop in Aid Will Affect 1.2 Million
The United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees is warning that a decrease in funding from donor countries will leave 1.2 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip struggling to provide food and basic necessities for themselves.
The International agency has been declining its aid to the Palestinian refugees for several years due to lack of funding.
US House Speaker Pelosi Visits Palestine
United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi met with President Mahmoud Abbas this Wednesday as part of a tour of the Middle East. Pelosi has met with officials in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. She also visited Syria against the advice of the White House, becoming the highest-ranking US official to meet with a Syrian president since President Clinton met with the late Hafez Al-Assad in 1994.
In Ramallah, Abbas briefed Pelosi on the Mecca agreement of February that led to the installation of the new Palestinian unity government. The new government enjoys a 96 per cent approval rating within Palestine.
Abbas told Pelosi he is looking forward to future talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, now scheduled to occur on a bi-weekly basis. Condoleeza Rice set up the new schedule last week to “set a common agenda” between the Israeli and Palestinian governments.
The West Bank
During the week, the Israeli army conducted at least 24 military invasions in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During these invasions, Israeli forces abducted at least 36 Palestinians. Thus, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 897. IMEMC’s George Rishmawi in the West Bank has more.
One Palestinian civilian was shot dead and several others were wounded Thursday by Israeli army gunfire in the West Bank city of Jericho. Palestinian media sources said that Israeli soldiers stationed at a military post in an area overlooking the city opened fire at a Palestinian car, killing one person and wounding two others.
Palestinian medics identified the victims as Aziz Hamed Almatour, aged 29. Al Almatour is from Sa’ir village, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Palestinian security sources confirmed that the Israeli army took the victim’s dead body to an unknown destination. The other two injured people were also abducted by the army and taken to unknown detention camps.
Also in the West Bank, one Palestinian resistance fighter was injured when Israeli troops invaded Balata refugee camp located in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday morning.
Ahmad Sanaqra, 22, from the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, was injured by several live rounds in different parts of his body, during clashes between the invading Israeli troops and local resistance fighters. He was moved to a hospital in Nablus with critical wounds, medical sources reported.
Contrary to Israeli claims, Israeli soldiers positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians this week. Israeli troops completely closed a number of checkpoints inside the West Bank as part of the complete ‘security’ closure for the Jewish Passover holiday.
One Palestinian civilian was injured when Israeli troops stationed at Howwara checkpoint, south of Nablus, opened fire at Palestinian civilians crossing the checkpoint on Wednesday at noon. Soldiers also forced people who were stranded at the checkpoint to leave, then abducted the injured man in an army vehicle and took him to unknown location. In addition, troops closed the checkpoint for one hour.
Lead: Israeli settlers in Hebron continue their assaults against Palestinian civilians in the city in full view of the Israeli soldiers. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura has more.
On Thursday at midday, a group of right-wing Israeli settlers from Ramat Ishai settlement in the southern West Bank city of Hebron set a Palestinian civilian car on fire. Hanna Abu Heikal, the owner of the car stated that Israeli soldiers stationed at an army post in front of her house did not stop the settlers burning the car. Troops also detained the Palestinian fire fighting brigade and prevented them from putting out the fire until the car was completely burnt.
Abu Heikal stated that this is her third car that settlers have destroyed; requesting that International and Human Rights organizations protect her family- which is being attacked on a daily basis by the Israeli settlers and the Israeli army. Israeli settlers’ attacks against Palestinian civilians in Hebron have been dramatically increasing, especially in the old city of Hebron where 400 settlers occupy a major part the area.
Also in Hebron, group of Israeli settler children stole a video camera from an international volunteer on Sunday evening. The settler children surrounded two international human rights workers then began to physically assault the two women. One adult female settler was present but did nothing to prevent the children from harassing the workers. One of the settler children then stole the video camera from the internationals; the children then ran away towards the illegal Tel Rumeida settlement located in the center of Hebron city. The women told the nearby Israeli soldiers what had happened, but after a half hearted search for the settler children, the soldiers told the women that the area was a closed military zone and that they had to leave.
The Gaza strip
Lead: Israeli Army invades the Gaza Strip, kills one civilian and wounds few others in addition to continuous attacks against Palestinian fishermen, IMEMC’s Rami Al-Maghari in Gaza has more.
On Monday night undercover forces of the Israeli army invaded Al Atatra area, near Beit Lahia town, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The sources stated that the undercover forces were deployed near Al Waha tourist resort at the Beit Lahia beach, while military helicopters were seen hovering over the area.
A Palestinian child was shot and wounded by the Israeli army in Johr Eldeik village in the central Gaza Strip. Sources in the area said that Hani Almodamer, 13, was hit in the head with shrapnel after having come under Israeli army fire. Almodamer was admitted to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in the central town of Deir Elbalah and his condition is currently stable. Johr Eldeik village is situated close to the Gaza-Israel border line.
On Wednesday, an undercover Israeli army unit shot and killed a Palestinian civilian and abducted another in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources said that Ramez Alz’aneen was killed, three other people were wounded and a fifth was abducted when a special undercover Israeli army unity infiltrated Beit Hanoun under a barrage of heavy gun fire.
Witnesses told IMEMC that those hit by the Israeli army were local Palestinian farmers who were laboring on their farmland. Witnesses said that armored vehicles of the Israeli army have been stationed on the border with Israel in northern Gaza.
Palestinian medical sources announced Thursday the death of a 17 year old Palestinian girl named Tahrir Abu Eljidyan. She had sustained critical wounds three years ago when she was shot be Israeli troops in the Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza. Abu Eljidyan was shot in the head during a large-scale Israeli invasion of the northern parts of the Gaza Strip in 2004.
Israeli gunboats wounded Thursday two Palestinian fishermen who were on board their boats on the Rafah shoreline in the southern Gaza Strip. Local medical sources confirmed the injury of two fishermen after Israeli gunboats chased and fired at Palestinian fishing boats.
The fishing industry in the coastal region of Gaza has been severely damaged since June 25, 2006, the day an Israeli soldier was abducted by some Palestinian resistance groups in an unprecedented cross-border resistance attack to the east of Rafah city. Such an attack comes amidst Israeli army warnings earlier during the week of a possible large-scale attack on the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of cracking down on Palestinian resistance groups that continue to fire homemade rockets at nearby Israeli towns.
Palestinian media sources in the Gaza Strip reported last Friday night that a civilian was shot and killed, and another was wounded after unknown gunmen in the Alshija’iya neighborhood opened fire at them. The sources identified the victim as Adnan Almanasra, a non-politicized religious man, who was shot as he was stepping out of a local mosque.
Palestinian medical sources said Monday that eight people were injured during clashes between various families in Khan Younis city in the southern Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that the armed clashes broke out between many families in different parts of the city. Local Islamic and national factions appealed for the fighting parties to revert to calm and resolve their differences by rational means rather than violence.
Three people were reportedly slightly injured after a family feud erupted Sunday between two major rival families, also in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. Witnesses said that the clashes broke out abruptly and those injured were passers-by who got caught up in the gun fire. These persistent clashes are a symptom of the violence which has been ongoing for the past few months in the densely-populated Gaza Strip. The region suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment due to the continued internationally-imposed embargo which has been strangulating the region since last January’s parliamentary elections.
Palestinian media sources reported Tuesday that unknown gunmen detonated an explosive device in an internet café in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalia.
Witnesses said that the building caught fire after an explosion ripped through it at 1:30am. However, Palestinian fire brigades arrived at the scene and prevented further damage to nearby houses. No casualties were reported.
A group of gunmen took over the Municipality building of Al-Fokharia town near Khan Younis city in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning. The gunmen stormed the building and forced all employees out, then took over the roof top and threatened to open fire at anyone who tried to come near the building. The gunmen demanded that some of their group members be employed by the Palestinian Authority’s Security Forces. Residents of Fokharia town and several Palestinian political parties condemned the attack.
On Thursday, the UK’s general consul in Jerusalem, Richard Makepeace, met in Gaza with the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss the abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who is still under the captivity of an unknown group in Gaza. PM Haniyeh said he was pleased with the meeting and emphasized the fact that the abduction of Johnston does not reflect the image of the Palestinian people as a whole, and promised to employ all means at his disposal to secure the release of the veteran BBC reporter. Makepeace stressed that his meeting with PM Haniyeh was of a humanitarian nature, praising the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to free Johnston. The UK diplomat also asserted that the meeting does not signal a change in his country’s policy towards Hamas.
On Tuesday Palestinian journalists decided to boycott a meeting that joined the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Ramallah. This boycott is one of the protests organized by the Palestinian journalists who demand the immediate release of the BBC reporter Allan Johnston, who was kidnapped by unknown gunmen on March 12th. Na’im Tubasi, head of the Palestinian Journalists Trade Union said that the goal of this boycott campaign is to speed up Johnston’s release.
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, and me Polly Bangoriad.