Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 19.2MB || Time 21m0s || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for April 21 through May 04, 2007.
The long waited National Unity Government is facing the threat of being dissolved as a result of its inability to end the blockade.
These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Palestine and especially in Bilin and Ramallah against the separation wall and in commemoration of the International Workers Day in Bilin, and Ramallah IMEMC’s Erez Gudes has more.
In their ongoing weekly protests, local villagers of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, were joined with international and Israeli peace activists who marched together against the Israeli separation wall built illegally on their village land. This week’s protest was dedicated to Palestinian workers in conjunction with Labor day.
Protesters also raised signs demanding freedom of the press in support of local and international journalists working in the region. They called for the immediate release of the kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston. Demonstrators took to the streets and marched through the village up to the gate of the wall which separates the villagers from their land. Before arriving at the gate of the wall protester were met with the Israeli, Katie an ISM activist who was In Bil’in:
Soldiers also fired sound grenades and tear gas at the protesters, injuring three Palestinians, including two children. Several severe cases of gas inhalation were reported by medical sources in the village. Witnesses also reported that some olive trees caught on fire after tear gas canisters landed in an olive grove. The fires were quickly extinguished by local residents
On Thursday midday, Palestinian villagers from Rass Karkar and Al Ganiah villages, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with Israeli and international supporters removed an Israeli military road block on the main road between the villages and the city of Ramallah. This road block was installed by Israeli army seven years ago and disconnected the villages from the city of Ramallah, the army said that the road block was to protect a near by illegal Israeli settlement.
The villagers of Rass Karkar and Al Ganiah went to the Israeli court and won a ruling against the army, but the army refused to comply with the court ruling to open the road for the local Palestinians. Instead troops continued to force people to use another indirect road to reach the city of Ramallah in order to bypass the Jewish settlement, adding an additional hour of travel time to what used to take 10 minutes. The protesters reached the road block and tried to remove it, the Israeli army arrived to the scene and tried to stop the peaceful protesters, eyewitnesses told IMEMC that the army also started to provoke local youth, but the organizers managed to keep the protest peaceful. In the end the local youth managed to remove the road block and Palestinian cars managed to drive on the previously closed road once again.
The Israeli commander who was at the scene told media sources that the army will close the road again soon. Mohamed one of the local organizers told IMEMC that the people in the village are thinking of making this action of today as a weekly action in order to keep the road open. Among the people protesting was the Palestinian minister of information Mustafa Al Barghouthi, who said that this action today is a start of a campaign to target all the illegal Israeli army checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank.
For IMEMC this is Erez Gudes
The residents of Bethlehem area who launched “Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem” campaign weeks ago, have organized nonviolent actions during the week.
Some two hundred peaceful demonstrators in Bethlehem protested on Friday against the construction of the annexation wall in the village of Wadi Al-Neiss. The demonstration included mostly Palestinian workers in addition to international peace activists and observers to commemorate Labor day on May 1.
A large number of Israeli soldiers stopped the demonstrators who carried signs demanding an end to the construction of the wall which is annexing a very wide agricultural area to Israel. Troops prevented the demonstrators from reaching the construction site and attempted to arrest one of the protestors, however, other demonstrators managed to release him, before he was taken by the soldiers.
The protest started with the Friday prayers being held in the village close to the confiscated land. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Minister of Information and a number of Parliament Members in addition to the governor of Bethlehem Mr. Salah Al-Taamari joined the action. Dr. Barghouthi spoke to the crowed quoting the Minister of Interior of South Africa who was visiting Bethlehem before the action, that ‘the apartheid system Israel is making will fall as it fell in South Africa’.
Several other local leaders spoke, including Shaher Sa’ed, head of the Union of Palestinian Workers, who emphasized that the construction of the wall is not for security, but to increase poverty in Palestine, by separating Palestinians from their main source of income. Samer Jaber, one of the organizers of the event, said this nonviolent action in Wadi Al-Neiss is part of the Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem campaign which was launched two weeks ago with the goal of mobilizing the people of Bethlehem to resist the various forms of the Israeli occupation, including the wall, settlements, military checkpoints and roadblocks.
On Saturday morning Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists accompanied a Palestinian farmer to his land near Al Khader village, in the southern West Bank Bethlehem district. Their intention was to plough the agricultural land in preparation for planting crops. However, the land is being occupied by an illegal Israeli settler. This settler is a convict, who has been permitted by the Israeli court to spend the remainder of his sentence there.
The land in question is the centre of a complex situation. Recently, the Israeli settler named Hanan, was charged with the attempted armed robbery of a bank in Israel. The Israeli court sentenced him to 8 years in prison, 6 of which he has served. However, the convict suggested to the court that he ‘imprison’ himself for the remaining two years in an illegal settlement outpost on Palestinian land instead. Bizarrely, the court agreed
Later in the week on Friday, a massive group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers while working on their lands that are close to the illegal settlement post, a small force of Israeli police were at the scene, when settlers attacked the farmers with rifle buts and batons, police officers tried to move the settlers away, settlers attacked and assaulted the police officers.
On Saturday, Palestinian farmers along with international and Israeli peace activists were protesting Israeli theft of Palestinian land in Yatta, a village located south of Hebron in the West Bank. The non-violent demonstrators were violently attacked by 200 Illegal Jewish settlers, accompanied by soldiers, who want to annex the land to the nearby settlement of Sosia. Local Palestinian police reported that some of the farmers sustained bruises after settlers attacked them with rifle buts and batons.
Embargo may lead to dissolving Unity Government
Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh, warned Thursday of dissolving his coalition government if the US-led economic and political embargo remains in place.
Haniyeh was quoted as saying that forming another coalition is not an option now, the only option is dissolving the current government.
The Prime Minister’s statement came amidst Arab and international calls to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to call for early elections in a bid to end the economic siege.
Earlier this week, Hamas’ exiled political leader, Khaled Mash’al, warned of a third Intifada within the next three months, if the international boycott continues.
Top Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Sae’b Ereikat, also warned this week of a potential collapse of the Palestinian National Authority unless the Hamas-led coalition government manages to end the embargo and contain internal unrest.
Earlier in the week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, voiced optimism that the embargo would be lifted gradually. Abbas’ remarks came after a seven-country European tour to garner support for the coalition government. On Thursday, he said he too might be forced to resign if the sanctions are not lifted.
Palestinian Interior Minister, Hani Alqawasmi, tasked with trying to assuage the internal civil unrest, also renewed his threat to resign on Tuesday, unless cooperation with security officials, loyal to the rival Fatah party, improves. Alqawasmi threatened to resign two weeks ago, but his resignation was rejected by the Palestinian Authority.
Ghazi Hammad, Spokesman of the Palestinian Unity Government, said earlier this week that his government is interested in a sustainable ceasefire with Israel, following further deterioration of the security situation in the last few weeks.
But the Israeli military announced it was planning a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of cracking down on the Palestinian resistance’s homemade rockets fire.
Meanwhile, the Arab Quartet comprised of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates will meet in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh resort. They hope to divine mechanisms that can help reactivate the Arab peace proposal of 2002.
U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is expected to urge the Arab quartet for further promotion of the Arab initiative, even though Israel has refused it.
The Arab initiative calls for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands, in compliance with United Nations resolutions, including withdrawals from Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It also calls for Israeli recognition of Palestinian refugees’ right to return. In exchange, Israel could enjoy a full normalization of relations with its 22 surrounding Arab countries.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has called for the resignation of Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, following the release of the Winograd commission, which gave Olmert an F for his handling of the Lebanon War last summer. She was joined by a chorus of Israeli political figures, including Israeli opposition and Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. Minister of Defense Ameer Peretz and former Israeli Army’s chief of Staff Dan Halutz, were also heavily criticized for Israel’s failure to achieve any of its goals during the war.
A recent poll by the popular Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published24 hours after the release of the Winograd report, shows that 40 percent of those asked favor early elections. One hundred thousand Israel’s protested in Tel Aviv demanding Olmert’s resignation, while Haaretz published a poll citing 68% of Israelis want him out. Olmert has so far refused to resign, saying he would rather stay in office to fix his mistakes.
Meanwhile, Palestinian deputy-prime minister, Azzam Al-Ahmad, expects that the ongoing political standoff in Israel in light of Wingord report will have a negative impact on Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
The West Bank
Three resistance fighters said to be with Islamic jihad were ambushed in a car near the west bank city of Jenin late Friday night. Witnesses told IMEMC that an undercover Israeli army unit using Palestinian cars shot at the moving vehicle, injuring all three passengers. Immediately following, the undercover moved in and assassinated all three at point blank range. This week the Israeli army conducted at least 28 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 55 Palestinian civilians, were kidnapped, including 6 children and one woman. This brings the total number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank this year to 1,062. IMEMCs George Rishmawi has more.
Israeli forces invaded villages and searched homes in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and nearby villages of Beit Omer and Ithna on Wednesday. One civilian was injured and another three kidnapped by the invading troops. Ibraheem Al Timizi, 40, was shot and injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire at him during the invasion into Ithna village. Medical sources reported that the man suffered a moderate wound in his leg and was moved to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Also on Wednesday, a massive Israeli army force accompanied by a military bulldozer invaded the city of Jenin and the Jenin refugee camp both located in the northern part of the West Bank. Israeli troops kidnapped four civilians while the bulldozer chased two Palestinian journalists covering the event. The bulldozer apparently tried to run the journalists over. They escaped only to be met by Israeli troops who forced them to leave, prohibiting from reporting the invasion..
On Tuesday, Israeli troops stationed at Qalandia checkpoint, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, attacked a Palestinian Labour Union demonstration that was organized for International workers day. The soldiers aggressively used rifle butts, batons and tear gas to attack the peaceful protesters. Palestinian medical sources reported that several people were injured including Mahmoud Khalifa a member of the Labour Union and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israeli soldiers used batons against Palestinian member of Parliament Qeis Abd Eulkarim and a cameraman working for Dubai TV.
The demonstration was organized in commemoration of Labor Day, in an attempt to highlight the insufferable unemployment rate of 40%, and the sanctions, which are acutely exacerbating the crises.
And, on Monday, a group of illegal Israeli settlers attacked and ransacked Al Aqtab mosque and the nearby Islamic Waqf offices in the Southern West Bank city of Hebron. The settlers, under the protection of the Israeli army, stormed the two Muslim cites, took all the furniture out onto the street saying they will burn it all during a coming Jewish holiday.
Aqtab mosque and the nearby Islamic Waqf offices have been closed by the army for the last five years. The army forbids Palestinian residents from praying in the mosque while simultaneously allowing Israeli settlers to attack it. The settlers plan on turning the centuries-old mosque into a synagogue.
In other news, the joint operation unit of Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, and Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive charge near an Israeli army unit near Jenin on Tuesday, causing no injuries.
For IMEMC this George Rishmawi reporting from the West Bank.
The Gaza strip
On Wednesday, The Israeli army fatally shot a Palestinian civilian and kidnapped his brother in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Wednesday. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura has more.
Mas’od Suboh, a Beit Lahia resident in northern Gaza strip, was shot with multiple live rounds in the head by the Israeli troops stationed near the supposedly evacuated settlement of Aili Sanayi. The troops then kidnapped his brother, according to witnesses. Palestinian medical teams managed to retrieve the man’s body and take it to Kamal Adawn hospital.
Three Palestinian resistance fighters were also killed on Saturday by Israeli army gunfire, according to Palestinian medics in Gaza.
A statement faxed to reporters by the Hamas-linked Ezzidin Al-Qassam brigades, confirmed that three of its fighters were killed by Israeli fire, while they were on a ‘Jihad mission’. Earlier this week Israeli army officials announced they would ‘crack down on Palestinian homemade shells’, being fired on Israeli targets from Gaza.
Last November, both Israelis and Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza. But Hamas recently announced the ceasefire in jeopardy following Israel’s killing of a dozen people in the last few weeks, including shooting a 17 year old girl in the head as she looked out her window. Israeli troops stationed on the Palestinian Israeli border in the northern part of the Gaza strip also opened fire at Palestinian farmers working their land on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Fatah-linked Martyr Ayman Jouda group said that a several of its resistance fighters survived an attack Tuesday morning by an Israeli drone to the east of Gaza city. The statement admits that the group was preparing to launch homemade shells near the Nahal Auz Israeli military crossing point, when attacked with a missile from Israeli drone.
For IMEMC this Ghassan Bannoura.
Civil unrest continues this week in Palestine: Unknown gunmen kill one woman in the Gaza strip and injure a seven months old baby. IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari reports from Gaza.
Unknown gunmen fired randomly near residents’ homes in Jabalia village in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Friday. One of their stray bullets hit and injured a seven month old baby, Shahid Isma’el. The child was critically wounded and moved to a nearby hospital for treatment, medical sources in the Gaza strip reported.
The sources also said that a woman from the Khan Younis city was shot and killed by unknown gunfire on Thursday. Raghda Alghalyeeni, 24, died instantly after being shot standing in front of her house. Palestinian Interior Minister, Hani Alqawasmi, renewed his threat to resign on Tuesday, unless cooperation with security officials, loyal to the rival Fatah party, improves. Alqawasmi threatened to resign two weeks ago, but his resignation was rejected by the Palestinian Authority.
Six Palestinian family members were reportedly wounded on Monday evening in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, medics said. The injured were hurt during family clashes in the city, but no one was seriously injured.
Meanwhile, several families whose sons are being held in Egyptian jails, attempted yesterday to break into the Egyptian representative’s office in Khan Younis, demanding the release of their sons. The detainees’ families have been holding a sit-in in a tent in front of the Egyptian representative’s office over the past few days. A similar event occurred yesterday in front of the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City, where tens of angry family members, whose sons are also held by Egypt, forcibly broke into the embassy. Security forces held them back by force.
Also in Khan Younis, a Palestinian public sector tried to commit suicide on Monday by throwing him self from a window of the city municipality building. The act was in protest of not being paid his salary by the Palestinian government. The municipality stated that the man entered the Mayor’s office at around midday, opened a window and tried to jump. Other fellow employees and some of his friends rushed to him and, after several hours, convinced him not to jump.
On the same day, scores of angry teachers stormed the Ministry of Information located in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The teachers stormed the building after the Education Minister, Dr. Nasser Al Deen Sha’er, refused to meet with them. Earlier, they held a protest in Ramallah, demanding their salaries and chanting anti-Palestinian government slogans.
In other news, top Palestinian negotiator, Sae’b Eriqat, slammed the Hamas-led government on Wednesday for its failure to procure the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who has been held hostage in Gaza for 52 days. In an interview with Voice of Palestine radio, Eriqat claimed the government knows Johnston’s whereabouts. Alan Johnston, the veteran BBC reporter, was kidnapped by an unknown group outside his home in Gaza on March 12. Johnston’s captivity is the longest endured by a foreign journalist or aid worker in Gaza in over three years.
For IMEMC this Rami Al Meghari.
Economic Crisis in Palestine Continue
On Tuesday, the Union of Palestinian Teachers called for a massive demonstration in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council buildings in both Ramallah and Gaza City to demand their salaries.
The teachers went on strike on Wednesday to pressure the government to commit to the contracts with the workers. Some teachers complained that they do not even have enough money to pay for the transportation to reach their schools, even if they wanted to work.
Since March 2006 more than 165 thousand state employees have not received regular salaries as a result of the US-led embargo, which froze foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
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