Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 15.5 MB|| Time 17m0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for May 19 through 25, 2007.
Nonviolent resistance continues to grow in Palestine against the wall and settlements while the Israeli army stages deadly air strikes against the Palestinians who continue to call for international observers and protection. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Palestine in Bethlehem and Ramallah against the wall and settlements.
At least two hundred Palestinians, accompanied by a number of Israeli and International peace activists marched to the confiscated land in Artas village, south of Bethlehem, on Friday after the noon prayer. A number of other international and Palestinian activists joined after they played a soccer game at the path of the wall in Wadi Neiss.
The villagers demanded the Israeli army stop bulldozing their land and uprooting their trees. Troops prevented the villagers from entering onto their land and pushed them away.
Mohammad Odeh, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in the West Bank
Several attempts by the villagers and their supporters to break through the army line failed as more reinforcements arrived in the area. Troops took prisoner one of the international protesters and refused to release him, despite a proposal by the protestors to end the demonstration if the activist was released.
Samer Jaber, an Palestinian activist of the Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign said there will be many nonviolent actions in several villages in Bethlehem and today’s action will not be last.
Last Saturday, Israeli bulldozers began bulldozing land and uprooting trees in order to prepare for building a sewage system for the benefit of the adjacent Israeli settlement of Efrat, which according to the villagers will badly affect their agriculture.
The settlement is built on land confiscated from Artas, Al-Khader and the nearby villages. This settlement is part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which Israel is planning to keep control of although it is entirely built on occupied land in the West Bank.
The villagers along with international supporters camped at the land for few days before the army stormed their camp and removed the tents on Sunday morning and took prisoner several Israeli peace activists.
In the afternoon, a press conference was held in during which Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Minister of Information, stressed the importance of the nonviolent resistance against the wall and settlements.
Following the press conference the local and foreign media left the site, after which Israeli troops charged the villagers and assaulted them after they had replanted the trees uprooted in the morning.
In addition to several others, Dr. Barghouthi was also pushed and beaten by the soldiers.
On Monday afternoon, the Israeli security guards fired on a number of journalists who were covering a nonviolent protest by the villagers. The security guards opened fire at Nael Shyukhi, Reurters’ reporter and cameraman, and IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura.
Troops arrived to the site and took prisoner three of the village’s residents. The three were bailed out four days later pending a court hearing. They were accused of allegedly throwing rocks at the bulldozers, a charge that they vehemently deny. Adham, one of the three arrestees told IMEMC that they were beaten badly by the Israeli soldiers in the Gush Etzion settlement.
In their weekly anti-wall nonviolent protest, the villagers of Bilin west of Ramallah, joined by a number of International and Israeli peace activists marched against the construction of the wall on their land. Protesters carried signs condemning Israel’s construction of the wall, stating that it is illegal according to International law and the International Court of Justice.
The demonstration arrived at barbed wire installed by the army to prevent the activity. At this point, using a mega phone, troops called on the demonstrators not to come any closer to the barbed wire, after which tear-gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets were fired at the protestors. The gas bombs caused fire in the adjacent fields which are planted with Olive trees.
Six, including a journalist were injured. The journalist was shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet. Several were treated for gas inhalation. Troops also assaulted journalists and attempted to take their cameras. Mohammad Al-Khateeb, coordinator of the popular committee and an Israeli journalist identified as David were take prisoner by the army.
Palestinians call for international observers
Israeli army attacks on the Gaza Strip have steadily increased over the past week, claiming the lives of 38 Palestinians, including 7 children and other bystanders.
Israel claims that its attacks that have so far devastated several Hamas-affiliated executive force outposts in Gaza and that they are a ‘response to the homemade shells’ the Palestinian resistance factions have fired on nearby Israeli towns.
Palestine’s permanent observer at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, called on Thursday for installing international observers in the Gaza Strip, voicing stark rejection of Israeli strikes in Gaza under the pretext of preventing homemade shells fire.
“Once observers are installed, we can verify who breaches a ceasefire’, said Mansour, in reference to Israeli claims that Palestinian groups have continued to fire rockets despite last November’s ceasefire. In the meantime, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, expressed dissatisfaction over the rocket fire against Israel, calling them ‘absurd’.
His remarks came in a news conference with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana in Gaza. Solana expressed solidarity with Gaza in the shadow of Israeli attacks, yet he gave no official reaction for such attacks. Abbas met earlier with representatives of the various resistance groups and discussed a possible restoration of the November ceasefire ‘truce’ with Israel. The groups stated that they would only agree to such a situation of the truce was extended to the West Bank.
Israel yesterday responded by arresting 33 Hamas leaders, including the education minister Naser Eldin Alsha’er, in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority called upon the international community to impose sanctions on Israel for these asserted ‘violations of international law,’ asking ‘what does Israel aim to achieve by targeting Hamas operatives in both Gaza and the West Bank?
Sirgio Yanni, an Israeli opposition activist and political analyst, answered IMEMC
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Fatah spokesman Abdelhakim denied, for his part, any assistance by the United States to President Abbas:
“When the United States claims it is backing the presidential guards, it is not actually providing anything, but rather causing great harm to Fatah movement and President Mahmoud Abbas.’
In the meantime, the PA proposed this week a mutual ceasefire with Israel to stop the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza and halt Palestinian homemade rockets. In response, Israel decided Monday to step up targeted-killing against Hamas activists in Gaza, suggesting that no Hamas leader, including Khaled Mash’al or Prime Minister Haniyeh, was immune from the possibility of attack.
Palestinian information minister and spokesperson for the national unity government, Mustafa Barghouthi, stated that Israel’s military escalation and rejection of the ceasefire offer demonstrated that Israel is not interested in just solution to the current situation. King Abdullah of Jordan, who earlier in the week hosted the World Economic Forum, warned of the Israeli military escalation on the ground, saying that these actions undermine peace efforts. Washington called on all parties for restraint, stating that Israel had the right to defend itself. Meanwhile, the Hamas movement slammed the participation of Arab states in the forum, arguing that this represented ‘normalization with the Jewish State’.
Israel has recently rejected an Arab peace proposal, citing, amongst other issues, the right of return as a point of contention. Israel rejected the Palestinians’ right to return, stipulated in the original Arab peace initiative, first drafted in 2002 and renewed during the March 2007’s Arab league summit meeting. Mohammad Baraka, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, stated that this and Israel’s escalation of military activity in the Gaza Strip demonstrated that it is not interested in any just peace.
The international Quartet for promoting peace in the Middle East (United Nations, United States, European Union, Russia) is still demanding that the Hamas-Fatah coalition government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previously-signed agreements before it wins recognition. Since last March, the Quartet has been imposing a crippling economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, while Israel has been withholding a total of 850 million US$ of PA-owned tax revenue.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
During the week, the Israeli army conducted at least 45 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, the Israeli forces kidnapped 57 Palestinian civilians among them law makers. Thus, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 1,221. IMEMCs Ghassan Bannoura has more:
At dawn on Thursday Israeli soldiers invaded several Palestinian cities and towns. They kidnapped at least thirty mayors, legislators and other Hamas officials and supporters. In the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, troops broke into the house of Palestinian education minister, Nasser Ed-Deen Al Sha’er, searched his house and took him to an unknown destination. Huda the wife of Al Sha’er described the abduction:
‘A large contingent of the army has broken into our residential building. Two soldiers stormed the rooms and confiscated all the computers from the home. Then they informed us that they have an order to abduct him. Dr. Nasses has ever excluded potentiality of his abduction. Just one year ago, when they arrested hi, they found no charges against him’.
Additionally this week, Israeli forces stormed 5 television and radio stations in Nablus and Qalqilya and confiscated their equipment. Israeli troops also stormed the offices of a number of charities and offices of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
During the attack on the local TVs and radios, Israeli soldiers forced some of those media outlets to go off air.
A massive Israeli force composed of police units and Special Forces, backed with bulldozers and helicopters, stormed the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Ater, located in the Negev region, and demolished three houses on Tuesday. The Black Panther resistance group, linked to the Fatah movement, announced on Monday morning that they attacked Israeli military vehicles in the West Bank City of Jenin with two home-made shells. The Army reported damage but no causalities.
For IMEMC.org this Ghassan Bannoura.
The Gaza strip
During the week the Israeli army killed 32 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This number includes 17 civilians, 7 of whom were children. The figure also includes 7 members of one family. IMEMCs Rami Al Mughari has more:
On Wednesday afternoon, the Israeli army initiated a wide scale offensive in the northern part of the Gaza strip, seizing a number of houses for military purposes. The army expanded the offensive to include aerial attacks that targeted civilian facilities, sites of resistance groups and civilian vehicles believed to be transporting members of the Palestinian resistance.
Soon after, the Israeli government announced that it would carry out a series of extra-judicial operations that would target leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some hours after taking this decision, the Israeli air force bombarded a meeting hall belonging to the Al Haya family, located near the house of Dr. Khalil Al Haya, Hamas Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in the al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City. 10 Palestinians were killed in the attack and many more injured.
During the week, the Israeli army launched 46 missiles at several targets in the Gaza Strip. In addition to the deaths and casualties incurred by these attacks, 10 civilian facilities, a house and a number of paramilitary sites mostly belonging to Hamas and the Executive Force of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior were destroyed.
The Israeli army stated that its attacks on the Gaza strip aim to force the Palestinian resistance to stop the firing of home made rockets into nearby Israeli towns. In a bid to stop the escalation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with all Palestinian resistance groups on Thursday to reach a ceasefire agreement themselves and Israel.
All factions insisted that an end to the home made rocket attacks would require Israel to cease military operation in both Gaza and the West Bank. Yihyia Mussa, vice president of the Hamas Parliamentary bloc said that unless Israeli stops its attacks Hamas and other Factions would continue to resist
‘ As for the resistance rockets, this belief pushes us to the assumption that the political leadership of the national movements should further commit not to give the occupation’s government any kind of truce, unless Israel halts all forms of aggression against our people’
The Israeli army demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the lives of the Palestinian civilian population and attacked a densely populated civilian area while pursing members of the Palestinian resistance. Since the beginning of this latest offensive against the Gaza Strip, the army have killed 38 Palestinians and wounded at least 120 others.
For IMEMC.org this Rami Al Mughari from Gaza.
The civil unrest
President Abbas and his Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya agreed on Wednesday to a joint force to reinforce the Hamas-Fatah ceasefire while two died this week due to infighting, IMEMCs John Smith has more:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and his Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a joint force to reinforce the Hamas-Fatah ceasefire, said Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rodaina. Abu Rodaina added that during a meeting in Gaza on Wednesday, both leaders discussed possible ways to consolidate the recent ceasefire between the two parties, following a spate of bloody confrontations that have been rocking the Gaza Strip since mid May.
The joint security force, made up of forces loyal to both Fatah and Hamas, will be entitled to implement a pending security plan, outlined earlier by the resigned interior minister, Hani al-Qaqwasmi, who quit because of a lack of cooperation bewteen the rival factions, said well-informed sources. On Monday Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that two Palestinians had died from wounds sustained during earlier internal clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip.
Resident Sami Abed-Rabbo Abu Holy died on Sunday of wounds sustained during armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen near the Ministries Compound. Moneer Taneera died of wounds sustained in similar circumstances. Taneera, a member of the Hamas-formed Executive Force, was shot by Fatah gunmen in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
A senior leader of the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, was announced dead on Tuesday after succumbing to wounds sustained during last week’s Hamas-Fatah infighting. Mohamed Abu Al Khier was injured when Fatah-allied security forces opened fire at a funeral in Gaza city. He was admitted to Gaza hospital with critical wounds, but later died. Since the beginning of 2007, 150 Palestinians have been killed throughout the Gaza Strip due to Hamas-Fatah infighting, 52 of whom have been killed during the recent one-week-old wave of clashes.
For IMEMC.org this is John Smith.
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.