Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 18.4MB || Time 20m 0sThis Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for April 7 through 13, 2007.
While Palestinian and Israeli officials are negotiating a prisoners’ swap deal, Israeli army continue to attack Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and Israeli settlers continue to expand and build new settlements. 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 prisoners’ Day.
In the weekly non-violent protest on Friday against the illegal annexation wall in the village of Bil’in near the West Bank city of Ramallah, 16 protesters were injured including three journalists. A large number of Palestinian, International and Israeli peace activists demonstrated in the West Bank village of Bil’in in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and also in protest of the construction of the annexation wall on the land of the village.
Protesters carried a replica of the wall viewing the Palestinians in cantons, and carried pictures of some Palestinian prisoners. In addition some protesters wore handcuffs, in a symbolic act of solidarity.
Israeli army prevented the protestors from reaching the construction site of the wall and fired gunshots into the air to disperse the demonstrators. Troops also showered the protesters with dozens of rubber-coated metal bullets, concussion grenades and tear gas. Jonas an international solidarity movement volunteer who was in Bil’in:
As a result, 16 civilians were wounded including three journalists of AFP, Al-Arabia and The Jerusalem Post. In addition, troops detained four journalists, two of which work for Reuters. The other two are Israeli. The popular committee against the Wall and settlements in Bili’n has been regularly organizing weekly nonviolent protests against the annexation wall for the last two years.
A non violent demonstration against the illegal Israeli separation wall took place in the village of Juret Al Sham’a near the southern the West Bank city of Bethlehem. International and Israeli activists along with local villagers marched to the construction site of the wall that is being built on land confiscated from the village.
Upon arrival, protesters tried to stop the bulldozers from destroying the villagers’ farmland .Soldiers attacked the protesters using batons, rifle butts and concussion grenades. 4 protesters were lightly wounded. Among those injured was Sami Awad, the director of the holy land trust, a humanitarian NGO that does non-violent organizing:
One Palestinian protester was abducted by Israeli soldiers. Awad was also injured last week during a non violent demonstration near Bethlehem when a group of local activists backed by international and Israeli activists participated in another protest against the wall. The Palestinian Minister of Information, Dr. Moustafah Barghouti, condemned the Israeli use of violence on the non violent demonstration, and assured that such non violent actions against the wall will continue.
Prisoners swap deal nears, despite obstacles
In a highly anticipated prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Palestinians hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are expected to be released in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit. Shalit was captured in a cross-border Palestinian resistance raid on an Israeli army base on the southern Gaza strip border in June 2006. Israel responded to his capture with a large-scale military attack on Gaza, killing dozens, while blowing up bridges and power stations.
Negotiated under Egyptian mediation, the pending prisoner swap deal could see, among others, the release of 120 women, and 500 child prisoners. There are approximately a total of 11,000 Palestinians serving long –term sentences in Israel.
Palestinian government officials including Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh and Information Minister, Mustafa Barghouthi, affirmed Palestinian willingness to reach such a deal and said the ball is now in Israel’s court.
But Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that he was disappointed with the list of prisoners the Egyptian mediators delivered to him, dampening hopes of a successful resolution. The Egyptian mediators, however, say the deal is still alive and they are looking forward to an official Israeli response by next week.
In other news, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad traveled to Brussels this week to urge the European Union to resume delivery of international aid to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian territories have been enduring a dire economic crises since the Quartet, a committee comprised of the US, the UN, the EU, and Russia imposed an economic embargo on Palestine in retaliation for the Hamas electoral victory in January. Since then, the number of families living below the poverty line has risen to over eighty percent.
The Quartet committee was formed in 2002 with the purpose of promoting the Middle East Peace Process and to call for an international peace conference. Instead the Quartet drafted the Road Map, which calls for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity and the creation of a Palestinian State. So far, none of its stipulations have been met.
Israel, meanwhile, continues to demand amendments to the Arab Peace proposal, first drafted by the Saudis in 2002. Egyptian president, Husni Mubarak, stated that ‘no one can amend the Arab peace initiative or even remove the clause that affirms Palestinians’ right to return’.
Last month, Arab countries re-endorsed the peace proposal calling for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of the land for peace formula. It is premised on a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories Israel occupied during the 1967 war in return for full-scale recognition and normalization between Israel and the 23 Arab countries that surround it.
The proposal also reaffirms the need for a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN resolution 194, which grants the right of return of those displaced by Israel in 1948 to their lands or, at least, compensation for their loss.
On Monday, in a speech to the United Nations, Palestinian Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Mansour Mansour said Israel continues to violate international law on a daily basis. He slammed the Israeli government for its relentless settlement expansion and the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank, calling these actions “counterproductive” to the peace efforts.
On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Palestinian security services to stop the resistance from firing what he called ‘aimless home-made rockets’ into nearby Israeli towns. Abbas’ remarks were made on the same day that a Qassam shell fired by Palestinians in north Gaza, struck a factory in Sderot’s industrial zone. No injuries were reported.
In the past few years, the Israeli Army bombarded and bulldozed a wide area in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and assassinated several Palestinian resistance fighters claiming that their goal is to stop the launching of Qassams into Israel.
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 27 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions the Israeli forces abducted 43 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, and one woman, as well as a judge and the director of education in Hebron, while Palestinian fighters wounded an Israeli settler in a drive-by shooting. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura in the West Bank has more;
The number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has reached 893. The invasions include a number of incursions into Nablus. Israeli forces broke into the yards of the Evangelical Arab Hospital and held an ambulance carrying two patients for several hours. They also partially demolished an apartment building.
The Israeli army continues to impose a tight siege on the Palestinian areas and impose severe restrictions on civilian movement in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. During Easter & Passover week, the Israeli army imposed a complete closure on the Palestinian areas.
On Saturday, Clashes erupted between the resistance fighters in Jenin refugee camp and the Israeli army when one of the Al-Aqsa brigade fighters discovered that Israeli troops were hiding in one of the houses in the camp. Zakaria Zubeidi, a top leader of the Al-Aqsa brigades of Fatah, suffered a shoulder wound, but was treated and moved to an unknown location by his colleagues.
Zubeidi, 27 is wanted by the Israeli army since the Israeli invasion of the Jenin refugee camp in March 2002. Zubeidi’s mother and brother were among the approximately 50 Palestinians killed in the Israeli invasion. Zubeidi has survived several assassination and kidnap attempts by Israel over the past several years. Israel did manage to demolish his house and kidnap two of his brothers.
Also in Jenin, on Sunday, Israeli soldiers manning a military checkpoint attacked a Palestinian ambulance driver. Firas Haj Ahmad was stopped and forced out of the ambulance while on his way to an emergency in Kufr Elra’i village, just south of Jenin.
Witnesses said that the soldiers beat Ahmad despite his several attempts to explain the urgency of the call he was responding to. The soldiers held him for one hour. There are about 450 Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank, restricting the movement of Palestinians and causing the death of some. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights says that since 2000, at least 34 infants and 4 pregnant women have died at checkpoints. As many as 68 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints.
In Nablus on Wednesday, Israeli forces destroyed the home of the Zaqout family in a violent arrest attempt. The target was a member of Al Aqsa Brigade in Kafr Kalil who was not at home during the attack.
At least 10 military vehicles came from Huwara military checkpoint on Wednesday and besieged the three story building that housed 12 people. Bulldozers pounded the walls while soldiers opened fire. Two residents were hit, including a 16 year old. Both are in hospital.
On Tuesday Israeli sources reported that one settler was moderately injured in a drive by shooting attack that took place near the Israeli settlement of Kidumim, near the northern west Bank city of Nablus. The army immediately initiated military searches in the area, and closed several junctions and roads.
Israeli medical sources reported that the injured settler was shot in his thigh and received medical treatment at the scene before he was transported to Beilinson Hospital, in Petah Tikva.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian boy on Sunday after he stabbed two soldiers near the Haram Al Ibrahimi mosque, also the site of the Jewish “Cave of the Patriarchs”. Witnesses said that the boy, a local Hebron resident, made his way to an Israeli checkpoint in the area, pulled out a knife and stabbed two Israeli border guard personnel; wounding one in the hand and the second in the back. The 17 year-old boy was critically wounded and taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.
For IMEMC I am Ghassan Bannoura
The Israeli army continued its attacks against the Gaza Strip which intensified after the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June of 2006. IMEMC’s Rami Al-Meghari in Gaza has more.
Palestinian medical sources in Rafah announced on Saturday the death of Iyad Abu Taha, a local resident who was in critical condition for three years after suffering gunshot wounds during an Israel army invasion into the city in 2004. Taha had been receiving treatment in several hospitals since then. He was 24 years old.
Palestinian media sources said that on Saturday the Israeli army shot to death a Palestinian resistance fighter and injured another in northern Gaza Strip, near Jabalya refugee camp. Fuad Ma’rouf, 22, was killed and another resident injured after Israeli warplanes fired at least four missiles on a group of people in the area. Ma’rouf is said to be a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
At the same time, scores of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, under a barrage of heavy gunfire, came into the vicinity of the Alshuhada cemetery, east of Jabalia refugee camp.
Witnesses said the Israeli tanks were stationed on the street leading to the cemetery and began shooting at nearby Palestinian-owned houses in Jabalia, Beit Lahia and the Alshija’iya neighborhood of Gaza city.
On Monday, Israeli gunboats fired heavily on Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza’s northern shores. No injuries were reported.
Palestinian fishermen have been frequent targets of Israeli navy gunfire since June25, 2006; the day Palestinian resistance groups captured Israeli soldier, Gil’ad Shalit. Israel has said Shalit could be moved outside of Gaza via sea.
On Thursday, in a joint press release, the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades of PLFP and the Shuhada Al-Aqsa brigades of Fatah, claimed responsibility for wounding an Israeli soldier just east of the Gaza Strip.
Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of “not doing enough” to stop arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip. Egypt rejects the allegations and says it is making great efforts to crack down the smugglers. Egyptian border-guards arrested one Palestinian on Monday who allegedly crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt through one of two tunnels that were recently dug in the area. The two alleged tunnels were uncovered in the Egyptian side of Rafah city.
For IMEMC this Rami Al Mughari.
A group of Palestinian journalists organized a sit in protest on Monday afternoon, near the entrance of the Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem against the kidnapping of BBC journalist Allan Johnston. Johnston was kidnapped 31 days ago on his way home from work in the Gaza Strip. Without of any signs of his release, concern is growing over his fate.
In a surprise move, Mohamed Shehada, top wanted Palestinian resistance fighter, did not hesitate to come out from his hiding place to join the group of Palestinian journalists demanding Johnston’s release. Shehada said “this kidnapping of foreigners is an embarrassment for the Palestinian people and their just struggle.”
There was more violence in Gaza this week. On Thursday, two Palestinian men were killed in the southern Gaza city of Rafah due to armed clashes between rival families. More family clashes occurred on Wednesday in both Gaza city and Rafah city, injuring four residents. Abd Al Razik Abu Masoud was pronounced dead on Tuesday after sustaining critical wounds late Monday when two families in Khan Younis clashed with each other. The family clashes in the city started on Monday and have claimed the lives of four civilians and left at least seven injured.
The recent clashes come amidst increasing fears among residents of the Gaza strip that internal strife between families and political parties will be renewed. Some attribute the family clashes to the ever-increasing unemployment and poverty rates.
One Palestinian Authority security officer died on Wednesday morning of wounds he sustained on Tuesday evening in the Khan Younis city of the Gaza strip. And last Friday, unknown gunmen ambushed a top union leader and Fateh official, as he drove his vehicle with his family in the Gaza Strip. The official was moderately injured.
On Saturday night, unknown gunmen abducted a Gaza-born Arab resident of Israel after he visited relatives in the Gaza Strip. So far, the circumstances of the abduction remain unknown, and the police are still investigating whether the abduction is related to family feuds or other reasons.
The Palestinian Authority cabinet, in a special session on Saturday, discussed a new security plan to enforce law and order in the Gaza Strip. The poverty-hit Gaza Strip, due to continued international economic boycott, has witnessed an unprecedented state of chaos and lawlessness, as Palestinian security forces have been largely debilitated.
In the West Bank City of Nablus, fears of destabilization again filled the streets on Tuesday after internal clashes resumed at dawn. Six people were injured when fighting erupted between members of one of the Fatah wings and the Palestinian security forces. Three Palestinian police cars were burned and the security forces’ headquarters faced heavy gunfire.
On Monday evening in Nablus, four Palestinians were injured when Palestinian security personnel stopped a car for inspection and the passengers traded fire with them. The police started routinely inspecting cars after a Palestinian policeman was shot and wounded Sunday in the Rafidya neighborhood of Nablus. Nablus also continues to suffer from routine Israeli sieges.
Settlement Activities in the West Bank
On Wednesday, the Israeli government gave illegal settlers in the southern West Bank city of Hebron 30 days to voluntarily leave a Palestinian building they occupied three weeks ago, or face a forced evacuation.
Israeli Civil Administration officials distributed evacuation orders to the settlers on Wednesday, at Defense Minister Amir Peretz behest. The evacuation order was issued on the grounds that the building was inhabited without the permission of the Israeli defense minister, as required by Israeli law. The settlers immediately took down the evacuation orders posted on their door, saying they will stay to ‘see the redemption of another piece of the land of Israel.’
Three weeks ago approximately 200 armed Israeli settlers seized the Palestinian-owned house, claiming ownership. The settlers, all yeshiva youth students, broke into the Palestinian home located near the main road between the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba’ and some Palestinian residential buildings.
The settlers alleged that they had legally purchased the house a few years ago. A Palestinian civilian named Faris Al Rajabi, says he possesses all the documents needed to prove his ownership of the house.
Settlers in Hebron are widely regarded as religious extremists who are using violent tactics to pressure the local Palestinians to leave the city. They are protected by over 3000 Israeli soldiers.
The house in question sits in H2, an area in the West bank still under Israeli control, and would make a strategic territorial link between the Hebron settlers and Kiryat Arba, a settlement across the hill.
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___________________________-.