Click here to download or listen to MP3 File || 16.4 MB|| Time 18m0s This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for May 12 through 18, 2007.
While the Palestinian prepare to commemorate 59 years of Al-Nakba, factional infighting in Gaza Strip kills dozens of Palestinians and Israeli army launches several air strikes killing 17 others. 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 Bethlehem and Ramallah against the wall, IMEMC’s John Smith has more:
Stop the bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign Continues
Around 60 Palestinian, Israeli and International protesters gathered in southern Bethlehem on Friday to commemorate the 59th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba and to protest against the construction of the annexation wall on Palestinian land. After a series of speeches and Friday prayers, the protesters attempted to march to the village of Um Salamoneh, but were blocked by around 60 Israeli soldiers and border police with full gear. A scuffle ensued, where soldiers beat and kicked protesters in an attempt to force them back.
Several protesters were lightly injured and treated on the scene. Two Israeli activists were detained and were released few hours later.
Failing to go on the road, protestors went through the fields to the construction site of the wall. Protestors removed pipes and parts of the wall at the sections where it was still under construction.
As the army arrived, the protestors marched towards them, forcing them back. Protestors sat on the ground for a time before Mahmoud Zawahra, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements who organized the action, spoke to the soldiers saying, “Instead of being here as occupiers, you should and live with your families,” adding, “You should be ashamed of yourselves to be among the very few military occupation forces on earth in the 21st century.”
Asked if there would be more action, Husam Jubran, one of the few Palestinian trainers in nonviolence, told IMEMC that the popular committee in Bethlehem adopted a campaign called “Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem” which aims to mobilize more people in the Bethlehem area to resist the wall, settlements, checkpoints and all forms of the Israeli occupation.
On Wednesday morning, at least 30 Palestinian, International and Israeli peace activists and farmers attempted to prevent the Israeli army from bulldozing land near the village of Artas, south of Bethlehem. The protestors arrived at the site after receiving news that bulldozers were approaching the village.
The Israeli army is bulldozing the land near the Monastery in order to build the wall in the area. Troops prevented the peace activists from reaching the bulldozers and claimed the area as a closed military zone.
When asked, troops failed to provide any evidence proving that the construction site was a closed military zone.
On Thursday, the popular committee activists set up tents on the site and decided to stay overnight to guard the area from further bulldozing attempts.
In the West Bank village of Bil’in Palestinian and international peace activists marched after the Friday prayer to the construction site of the wall in the village. Two members of the Palestinian parliament also joined the weekly nonviolent demonstration, organized this week to commemorate the Nakba.
Speakers at the demonstration stressed the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to the land they were expelled from in 1948 according to United Nations Security council 194.
Protestors also carried Palestinian flags and signs and banners calling the factions of Fatah and Hamas to stop their infighting and lay their weapons down, calling on the leaders of both groups to make the cease-fire a reality or to step aside.
Troops at the protest fired tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and water cannons at the participants. At least eight people were lightly wounded including three internationals and a journalist. Other journalists were treated for gas inhalation.
A cornfield caught fire after some of the tear gas canisters fired at the protestors landed in it. The Popular committee held the Israeli army responsible for burning the field.
Scores of Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday afternoon in the old city of Hebron in the southern part of the West Bank, demanding that the Israeli army remove the road blocks that make Palestinian life difficult. The Israeli army has installed a network of military watchtowers and road blocks in the old city of Hebron near the illegal settlements, which are originally Palestinian homes that the settlers and the army took by force from their Palestinian owners.
Today the local community in the old city protested, the action taking place near one of the military roadblocks. The protesters chanted anti-apartheid and anti-occupation slogans, holding banners proclaiming ‘No Peace with settlements’.
Also in Hebron, in a protest organized by local Palestinian peace groups against Israeli road blocks and checkpoints, Israeli troops detained five Israeli peace activists and injured a number of Palestinians on Wednesday. The protest was organized at an Israeli road block located in the southern part of Hebron city.
After some time, soldiers arrived at the location of the protest and attacked the peaceful demonstrators with batons and rifle butts, inuring a number of Palestinians. Palestinian security sources reported that five Israeli peace activists were detained by the Israeli troops during the protest and that three Palestinian residents were injured after they were severely beaten by the soldiers.
For IMEMC this is John Smith
Palestinians Commemorate 59 years of Al-Nakba
The Nakba, meaning catastrophe in English, commemorates the period of history in which Jewish gangs attacked Palestinian towns in an effort to drive the indigenous population off their land and establish a Jewish state on the lands of historic Palestine. The Nakba occurred in 1948.
For the first time since the original event, internal fighting in the region has prevented residents of Gaza form commemorating the event. However, residents of the West bank this year marked a double Nakba, expressing deep concerns about the situation in the coastal region.
Palestinian parliamentary blocs convened today in Ramallah and warned of another Nakba unless infighting comes to a halt once and for all.
Khaled Al-Seifi, a resident of the Deheisha refugee camp in the West Bank, stated,
‘The internal infighting is one more nail in the coffin of the right to return. We wish that this anniversary would have come at a time when we were more united.”
According to the United Nations Agency for Relief and Works, there are 4.2 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. UN resolution 194 of 1949 allows for the compensation and right of all refugees to return to their homeland in Palestine.
Factional infighting renews in Gaza Strip
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah canceled a planned trip to Gaza on Thursday. The proposed trip aimed to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire between the rival Hamas and Fatah parties.
The Palestinian president’s efforts come at a time of much strife in Gaza. Currently, 36 have been killed and approximately one hundred have been injured during the past six days of fighting.
Abbas was expected to hold a meeting with his Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to follow up efforts to calm the ongoing violence in the region.
Despite Wednesday’s ceasefire, witnesses have reported that gunmen are still present on the streets of Gaza. A further five persons were reported to have been killed after the ceasefire was established.
On Friday, a small-scale clash took place near the Islamic University of Gaza, commonly referred to as a Hamas stronghold. The spokesperson of the presidential guards, loyal to President Abbas, denied the university was attacked.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas called on Friday for the rival parties to halt their fighting and to instead direct their frustration at the Israeli occupation.
Sources at Abbas’s office said that he had cancelled a planned visit to Jordan, where he was expected to discuss the Arab peace initiative with King Abdullah II, in light of the ongoing violence in Gaza.
The Jordanian Monarch warned on Wednesday of infighting in Gaza, voicing concern that it would undermine any chance for peace in the region and calling on the fighting parties to resort to dialogue instead of the language of the gun.
Haniya’s advisor, Ahmad Yousef, stated his belief that the Mecca power-sharing deal, signed early in February, needed to be revised in such a way that would allow all parties concerned to fulfill their obligations, arguing that a second Mecca agreement should be ratified in the absence of security leaders.
Palestinian parliamentarians in Ramallah called on Wednesday for the dismissal of some security leaders who have not shown cooperation with regards to enforcing order on the streets of the occupied territories.
Palestinian interior minister Hani Al-Qawsmi resigned early this week over what he considered reluctance by both Fatah and Hamas to implement his 100-day security plan.
Asked on Monday by IMEMC whether there had been a lack of cooperation by the various security bodies, Al-Qawasmi stated,
“I have said before that the obstacles do not lie in the security bodies.”
Certain sections of Palestinian political society have called fro the declaration of a state of emergency across the occupied Palestinian territories in the hope of containing the current volatility in Gaza.
In a phone interview with IMEMC, Ibrahim Abrash, a Gaza political analyst and professor of politics, warned of the tense situation.
“What is going on is a prelude to a new stage, which I believe will be a very dangerous one. This infighting is intended at delivering a message that the Palestinians are not able to govern themselves. The alternative is the renewal of custody in Gaza and the West Bank.’
Internal unrest in Gaza has doubled in the past 24 hours after Israel launched air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza city and southern Rafah. The raids killed at least 14 and wounded about 70 others. Israel threatened on Thursday that it would carry out a large-scale offensive in the Gaza region.
For the first time in six months, Israeli tanks moved several hundred meters into northern Gaza on Thursday, an action not seen since an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire was reached last November.
Dozens of homemade shells have been fired by Palestinian resistance groups on nearby Israeli towns over the past few days.
Some commentators believe that the shells fired on Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups are designed to defuse tension across the volatile Gaza region and push the fighting parties toward to a joint battle with Israel instead.
Hamas’s exiled leader, Khaled Mash’al, ironically hailed the Israeli attacks on Gaza, saying “these attacks are God’s gift to the Palestinian people to put off their fighting and point their weapons at the Israeli occupation instead.”
Continued Hamas-Fatah infighting threatens a fragile national unity government which has been isolated since the Hamas-led administration took power in March 2006. Since then, about 400 people have been killed in internal violence.
Arab media outlets signaled the possibility of dispatching Arab forces to the Gaza Strip in order to help restore calm and prevent further escalation on the ground.
President, Husni Mubarak, of Egypt, voiced deep concern over the situation in Palestine, particularly amidst the ascending power of the Hamas movement in the territories. Egypt has recently cracked down on Hamas’ twin organization in the country, “the Islamic Brotherhood,” which is represented in the Egyptian parliament.
Since March 2006, the Palestinian territories have been placed under a crippling economic embargo that has caused a situation in which 85% of the population live under the poverty line and 70% of the population are unemployed.
The international Quartet for promoting peace in the Middle East (constituted by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia) still demands the Palestinian government, now made of Hamas and Fatah, to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previously-signed peace agreements before it wins recognition.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 26 military operations on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, Israeli forces killed one child and injured five civilians including four children. The Israeli army also kidnapped 41 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura has more:
The number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 1,164. Israeli forces also demolished a house belonging to the family of an allegedly wanted Palestinian in Bethlehem this week. Palestinian sources reported on Friday that a Palestinian child died in Beit Jala public hospital, located in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, after being shot by Israeli soldiers late on Thursday night.
Israeli soldiers attacked homes in the village of Beit Fajar, located to the south of Bethlehem city. During the attack, soldiers randomly opened fire on a group of children playing in front of their homes, critically injuring Ziad Takatka, 16. The boy was moved to Bethlehem public hospital, but later died from his wounds.
A group of armed Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers east of Hebron city in the southern West Bank on Tuesday afternoon. Palestinian media sources reported that around 20 armed settlers from Kharsena, an illegal settlement built on stolen Palestinian land to the east of Hebron city, attacked Palestinian farmers with rifle butts and batons, injuring two female farmers.
Palestinian resistance attacked the Israeli army during the week, hurling stones and home made bombs at Israeli army vehicles in Nablus and Jenin. Later in the week, a group of fighters also attacked an army post near the central west bank city of Ramallah; no injuries were reported.
For IMEMC this is Ghassan Bannoura
The Gaza strip
The Israeli army continued its attack on the Gaza strip this Week. During several air strikes, 17 Palestinians were killed and more that 50 others wounded.
IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari has more;
Five Palestinians were killed on Friday morning when Israeli planes attacked several locations in Gaza city. Palestinian sources stated that the jets targeted a group gathered in the Al Zaiton neighborhood, east of Gaza city. A Hamas-affiliated site, www.palestine-info.info, reported that those killed were members of the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
Sources in the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that among the dead were Ahmad Siam, 23, Ahmad Saleh, 24, Saleh Juha, 24, Hatem Al Jabareen, 25, and Waleed Al Hijen, 25. Doctors stated that all five bodies were severely burned and mutilated. The same sources also reported scores of injured people, with at least five currently lying in a critical condition.
Palestinian medical sources reported that on Thursday night, the Israeli air force fired missiles at civilian areas east of Gaza City, killing four residents and injuring eight others. Of the four killed, three were identified as Mohammad Saleh Joha, Ahmad Saleh Siyam and Ahmad Roshdy Siyam.
Also on Thursday night, Israeli forces shelled several areas in the Al Shujaeyya neighborhood, east of Gaza city. The WAFA news agency reported that some shells landed near the Dar Al Wafa’ rehabilitation hospital. Heavy damage was sustained, but no injuries were reported.
Several houses in the Al Atatra area, west of Beit Lahia town in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, were also shelled on Thursday night. One resident was hospitalized.
For their part, Palestinian resistance groups continued to fire homemade Qassam shells at Israeli targets in the Negev and the nearby Israeli town of Siderot. Israeli sources reported damage to some buildings but no serious injuries. On Thursday evening, two Israelis were lightly injured when a Qassam shell hit a synagogue in Siderot.
On Wednesday, Israeli warplanes bombarded a building belonging to the executive force of the Palestinian interior minister, killing seven executive force members and wounding 30 other bystanders.
Local medical sources also confirmed that three people were killed and 30 others wounded in a deadly Israeli attack on a building in Rafah city. The sources identified one of the dead as Najeh Abu Sakher. Four others were pronounced dead shortly after, bringing the death toll to seven.
Later on Wednesday, an Israeli air strike killed a member of Hamas and wounded three others. Hospital sources said that Rami aL-Zaqzouq arrived dead at the Kamal Edwan hospital in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza. A Hamas source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that an Israeli unmanned drone fired a missile on an outpost, killing the man outright. This attack was the second on Wednesday after Israeli warplanes bombarded the headquarters of the Hamas-linked executive force in Rafah city
Palestinian resistance fired several Qassam homemade shells at the southern Israeli town of Siderot last Tuesday night and early on Wednesday morning, injuring four Israelis. On late Tuesday night, a number of shells hit houses in the area and injured four Israelis, among them one woman who currently lies in hospital in a critical condition.
Later on Wednesday morning, Palestinian resistance launched further shells at the town, hitting a number of houses but causing no injuries. Israeli media sources stated that one of the shells landed at a house adjacent to the house of Amir Peretz, the Israeli Defense Minister. The sources added that the Minster’s house sustained limited damage. The Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, clamed responsibility for the attack.
Palestinian resistance fighters from the Islamic Jihad group escaped an assassination attempt on Sunday in Gaza. The air strike, which took place near the border fence with Israeli in Beit Hanoun city, injured the passengers of the car, but no deaths were reported.
For IMEMC this is Rami Al-Meghari
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 Eliza Sprout.