Click here to play or download MP3 file || 19.2MB || Time 21m 0s|| This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for April 14th through April 20th, 2007.
Ten Palestinians are killed, while 44 Palestinians are kidnapped by the Israeli military. The resignation of Palestinian Interior Minister is not accepted by Prime Minister Haniyeh. President Abbas starts another international tour aimed at lifting the economic embargo against the Palestinian government. Civil unrest in Gaza leaves several dead and injured. Meanwhile, Israeli invasions and assassinations continue, as do Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli towns. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent demonstrations in Bil’in and Bethlehem.
On Friday, villagers from the Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli peace activists, marched in the weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal wall Israel is building on stolen village land.
Although Israeli army troops were deployed around the village to keep the protesters away, this week, the organizers of the protest decided to change the route of the demonstration, taking the soldiers by surprise. The nonviolent activists managed to reach the illegal wall and hold their protest on a security road between the wall and the so called ‘security fence’, made of razor wire. As is the case each week, the army used violence against unarmed civilians. Johanas from the International Solidarity Movement was in Bil’in:
Three protesters were injured and had to be transferred to hospital, while Abdullah Abu Rahamah, the coordinator of the village’s ‘popular committee against the wall and settlements’ was kidnapped by the Israeli forces. He was released after four hours.
In related news, Alberto de Jesus, also known as Tito Kayak, was released after he was kidnapped by the army Israeli army and detained for five days. He was detained at last week’s demonstration after performing an incredible non-violent stunt at the demonstration. Despite Israel’s tight security, he managed to scale a 100 meter Israeli communications tower and unfurl the Palestinian flag at the Bil’in wall. Tito is a well-known activist for Puerto Rican independence. In the year 2000, in a widely publicized stunt, he climbed the statue of liberty in New York unfurled a Puerto Rican flag.
On Friday at midday, Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists held a non-violent demonstration near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, protesting against illegal Israeli settlement expansion and the Illegal Wall.
Over one hundred non-violent activists gathered at the junction on route 60, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat, and stood near the busy road holding large banners bearing anti-occupation slogans such as ‘Stop Bethlehem Bleeding’.
A number of villages in the Bethlehem district are under dire threat from the construction of the illegal Israeli separation wall and the expansion of settlements. Thousands of dunams of agricultural land has been lost and thousands of people are being confined to ghettos. Israeli troops attempted to herd the demonstrators away from the roadside and attempted to obscure the banners by forming a human wall.
However, some demonstrators climbed atop a concrete block around three meters high and waved Palestinian flags and bunches of red, white, green and black balloons. Local Palestinians gave speeches in English and Arabic praising the demonstration and calling for further non-violent resistance.
The demonstrators marched around 100 yards along the road towards the Palestinian village of Um Salamoneh and the illegal settlement of Efrat, chanting anti-occupation slogans. The non-violent demonstration came to an end peacefully, amongst dozens of armed Israeli troops.
This action is part of the ‘Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign’, an effort by a number of activists in the Bethlehem area. Among these activists are members of various political factions and popular resistance groups, who are actively opposing the wall, settlements, land confiscation and all other practices of the Israeli military occupation in the Bethlehem area.
This campaign relies entirely on the method of civil nonviolent resistance as a form of resisting the occupation. It utilizes the normal channels of interaction within the local communities in order to ensure maximum participation by the people in these activities. This campaign also attempts to carry out ongoing active nonviolent resistance in the Bethlehem area as a whole.
Early this week, Palestinian interior minister Hani Al Qawasmi, withdrew his resignation after it was rejected by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Al Qawasmi, an independent minister, decided to step down 10 days after he had announced a security plan, aimed at ending lawlessness and security lapses in the Palestinian territories. IMEMC asked Hamas spokesperson Dr Ghazi Hamad about the reasons behind the resignation:
Local and media sources said that ‘lack of cooperation among security officials’ is the genuine reason behind the resignation. Over the past few days, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been on an international tour in order to garner support for the coalition government, after the Quartet renewed their boycott of the Palestinian Authority. The Quartet have announced that the sanctions will continue ‘until Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previously signed peace agreements with Israel’.
Some European countries, like France and Greece, however, believe that the 14-month economic embargo should now be lifted. The Palestinian finance minister, after meeting with U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, voiced optimism over possible new horizons. Salam Fayad warned of the continued international embargo upon the Palestinian Authority, declaring, ‘this won’t help make the PA financially sustainable and might ultimately lead to the collapse of the PA’.
A similar warning was also issued by Palestinian information minister, Mustafa Barghouti. Washington has pledged to transfer a total of $59 million in support of President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Authority has been struggling through extremely poor economic conditions over the past 14 months after the commencement of the international aid boycott following the victory of the Hamas movement in the January 2006 elections.
The West Bank
During the week, the Israeli army conducted at least 30 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, Israeli forces killed eight civilians, including two children. Israeli military forces kidnapped 44 Palestinian civilians, including eight children and a young woman. The number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has now risen to 1,007. Also this week, Israeli troops occupied a house in Saffa village, northwest of Ramallah, transforming it into a military base.
Four year old Karem Zahran was shot and killed in the village of Deir Abu Mish’al, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. He was among local youths who threw stones at Israeli soldiers, searching homes in the village for ‘wanted Palestinians’.
Israeli troops detained the critically wounded Zahran for an hour and half before he was handed over, now dead, to a Palestinian ambulance. Talal Iedah, the ambulance driver, says that the ambulance was then held up for another half an hour on its way to Ramallah hospital:
‘One hour and half prior to this, the army unit that shot the boy called an Israeli army ambulance. The paramedics were not qualified to deal with such an injury, and the army did not do anything to help the boy. After that, the army gave us the body and we were on our way to Ramallah. The army then stopped and detained the ambulance for another half an hour at Atara checkpoint before allowing us to go through to Ramallah.’
Of the eight people killed over the weekend during Israeli army attacks on the West Bank, three were civilians, among them two children. The remaining five were members of the armed resistance to the Israeli military occupation. In violation of international law, and despite an Israeli high court ruling specifically banning the use of human shields, the Israeli army continues to force Palestinian civilians to walk in front of their military vehicles during military operations. Eyewitnesses in Balata refugee camp near Nablus reported that Israeli troops forced one of the camp’s residents, Mahmoud Ji’arim, to walk with the soldiers as they searched the camp for five men. Mahmoud talks about his experience:
‘They attacked and searched our house and forced my family into one room and took my Identity Card. Then, they took me with them to search a nearby house in my street. They made me walk in front of them as a human shield. After they had searched the house they kept me for 30 minutes then gave me back my identity card, and I went back home.’
The Israeli army has continued to impose a tightened siege on Palestinian communities and has imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. On Sunday morning, April 22nd, the army imposed a total closure on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, marking the day of the creation of the Israeli state 59 years ago.
During the week, the army wounded 18 civilians, including two children, a journalist and four women. Palestinian medical sources in Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that two brothers, aged 7 and 4, were ‘moderately injured’ when an explosive object, left behind by the Israeli army, detonated near them.
On Monday morning, illegal Israeli settlers attacked and injured Palestinian farmers from the village of Halhoul, north of the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank. The settlers from Kurmitsur settlement, located on land stolen from the local village, attacked the farmers who were working on their land, just outside of the barbed wire fence surrounding the settlement.
Israeli media reported that an Israeli and a Palestinian were injured in a shootout in east Jerusalem on Monday morning. According to Israeli sources, a Palestinian opened fire at an Israeli car, wounding the driver in the arm. A Palestinian bystander was hurt by flying shrapnel.
The Gaza strip
Israeli warplanes fired a missile at a civilian car in northern Gaza, killing at least one passer-by, identified as Kamal Annan, and injuring two others – believed to be Islamic Jihad members. The Islamic Jihad movement has claimed responsibility for a series of homemade shells fired at nearby Israeli towns over the past several weeks. Witnesses said that the Israeli shelling took place on the Salah Eldin main road in the northern Gaza Strip, She’sha’a area, close to the so-called ‘Israeli civil administration’ building.
Medical sources confirmed that the body of the victim Annan arrived at the Al Awda hospital, torn apart due to the severity of the wounds. A number of homemade rockets were then reportedly fired at the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. Israeli media sources reported that six Israeli residents of Sderot were wounded as a result.
Saturday’s air strike on northern Gaza comes as part of a series of Israeli actions in Gaza over the past few weeks. The Israeli army has reinforced their presence on the Gaza-Israel border, claiming to be ‘cracking down on the rocket fire of Palestinian resistance groups’. Israeli attacks on Gaza are in violation of a ceasefire agreement between Palestinians and Israel in November 2006, reached after the Israeli army committed a massacre of 19 civilians in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun.
In a sign of what seems possibly to be the beginnings of a new Israeli military campaign against the Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses reported Israeli warplanes dropped warning leaflets on Monday at dawn in the northern areas of the Gaza Strip. The leaflets threatened that, if Palestinian resistance groups continued to fire homemade Qassam shells at nearby Israeli towns, the army will invade the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources reported late on Wednesday night that a Palestinian fighter died of wounds sustained in November 2006. Omer Abu Shari’a, 26, was critically injured when an Israeli warplane shelled his car. Abu Shari’a is said to have been an activist of the Al- Aqsa brigades, the main armed wing of the Fatah movement.
Earlier on Wednesday night, several Israeli military vehicles invaded the Sufa area, south-east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. In addition, one Palestinian was shot and injured in an Israeli attack in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Soldiers advanced for a distance of 200 meters into the Jabalia area, and started bulldozing and uprooting Palestinian agricultural lands. The invasion was carried out by three tanks and several armoured vehicles.
In a separate attack, one resident was shot and injured by Israel military fire as the army operated in Jabalia town. Dr. Muawiya Hassanen, head of the Emergency Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, reported that Salah Zeida Asaliyya, 18, was shot with a live round in his shoulder. He was hit when soldiers based near the Abu Safiyya area, opened fire at several houses in the area.
The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, conducted a wide-scale shelling attack on Israeli targets near the Gaza Strip on Tuesday at dawn, declaring a two-year-long ceasefire over. As of the time of this report, the brigade had fired 30 homemade Qassam shells and 61 homemade mortar rounds at Israeli targets near the Gaza Strip.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Al Qassam Brigades stated that its fighters ‘showered Israeli army posts in the Gaza Strip with dozens of homemade shells and mortar shells’. Abu Ubaidah, the spokesman of the Al Qassam Brigades, stated that the firing of those shells comes as part of an operation, ‘striking against the Zionist colonies’ from the Gaza Strip, which started on Tuesday morning.
Abu Ubaidah said that the operation comes in response to ‘the Israeli army’s crimes against the Palestinian civilians and resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.’
Ten Palestinians were killed this week, three of whom civilians, among them two children.
Abu Ubaidah stated that Israel had not respected the ceasefire declared last year, saying ‘There is no calm between us and the occupation, the occupation eliminated the truce since it began, we did not trust the intentions of the occupation. It has been proven to the world that the occupation is committing crimes and they are the ones who always begin to violate any calm or truce agreement’.
Palestinian resistance fighters targeted two Israeli army vehicles in two separate attacks in the West Bank on Thursday at dawn. The first attack took place south of Jenin city in the northern part of the West Bank, where resistance fighters detonated a homemade bomb near Israeli military jeeps patrolling the area. Also on Thursday at dawn, another group of Palestinian resistance fighters targeted an Israeli army vehicle at the Atara Bierziet road near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The group also hurled three hand grenades at the vehicle.
The Israeli army did not report any casualties from either attack. The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for both attacks.
On Friday, one member of the Palestinian national security force was killed and three policemen were wounded after a number of unknown gunmen opened fire at travelers at the Rafah crossing terminal in Gaza. The incident is being investigated.
On Wednesday night, a Palestinian security officer died during an armed car chase in Al Bireh town, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Mohamed Al Ahmad, from the Force 17 security service was killed, and a further five people were injured when Palestinian forces chased car thieves and clashed with them.
One Palestinian man died on Wednesday of wounds sustained in Gaza City two months ago during factional infighting. Hassan Siam, 24, sustained critical wounds during clashes in Al Shat’ refugee camp, medical sources reported.
Also on Wednesday, dozens of relatives of a Gazan man who was abducted and killed by the “Army of Islam” group broke into the Legislative Council building in Gaza, carrying his body in protest. The group claimed responsibility for the death of Abu Sharkh, who was killed in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The relatives of the man demanded that the government tackle the abductions.
In the northern Gaza Strip, a young boy was announced dead on Monday night after having been hit by a stray bullet while playing near his home. The circumstances of the killing remain unclear.
On Sunday night, two brothers were killed by unknown gunmen in the central Gaza Strip. Haitham Abu Amro and his brother Mohammad, both in their twenties, were killed in heavy gunfire which erupted on the main coastal road. Also on Sunday, a third person, Hasan Abu Sharkh, 27, was killed in clashes that took place north of Gaza City.
On Monday two Palestinians were wounded during a clash in Gaza City. In the Shat’ refugee camp, west of Gaza City, three Palestinian civilians were reportedly wounded in a mysterious explosion that ripped through a local house. Also on Monday, a Palestinian pharmacist and his son were shot at by unknown gunmen while they were driving on the coastal road in the central Gaza Strip.
On Saturday, Ashraf El Ajrami, a journalist and employee of the Ministry of Information, was injured during clashes with the Palestinian Authority security force and gunmen from El Ajrami’s family in Jabalia town, in the northern Gaza Strip. Medical sources reported that El Ajrami was injured by shrapnel when a grenade was thrown near him. Another family member was ‘moderately wounded’.
On Wednesday, a group of Palestinian journalists and foreign media representatives protested the abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in northern Gaza six weeks ago. The Palestinian deputy prime minister confirmed on Tuesday that Johnston is still alive, whilst Palestinian security bodies are working on securing his release. The protest is part of a series of similar moves by Palestinian and international journalists in Gaza, Ramallah and London. Jo Floto, a senior producer at the BBC, who took part in the protest confirmed that the BBC, has not been directly informed about Jhonston’s status.
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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 Talhami, Polly Bangoriad, Ann Brownsell and Ghassan Bannoura.