Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 11.9 MB|| Time 13m0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for May 26 through June 1st, 2007.
Norway decides to channel aid to the Palestinian government, and a British University Union joins the academic boycott of Israel. On the ground, the Israeli army continues to attack Palestinians has killed 19 this week. 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.
On Friday, the villagers of Bil’in, located near the central west bank city of Ramallah, alongside Israeli and international supporters, conducted their weekly protest against the construction of the illegal Wall that is being built on village land.
Before the protestors arrived at the gate of the wall which separates the village from its land, they were blocked by razor wire that the army had installed on the road. Upon arrival, soldiers threatened the non-violent protestors that they would fire tear gas and sound bombs if they crossed the wire. True to form, when protestors started to cross, soldiers opened fire with sound bombs, tear-gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring seven protestors, among them one child and one international.
In addition to the injuries, several tear gas canisters landed in a nearby olive orchard causing several fires which severely damaged a number of olive trees. Israeli soldiers also kidnapped three Palestinian protestors who were also part of the local popular committee against the Wall and settlement activity in the village. Troops detained them for several hours before releasing them.
A non-violent demonstration took place on Friday, at midday in Artas village, in the southern Bethlehem district. Some sixty Palestinian, Israeli and international activists gathered in an area where, two weeks ago, a demolition executed by the Israeli military had taken place and trees belonging to the Abu Swai family had been uprooted.
Local youths threw stones and boulders into a ditch, where construction of a sewage dump for the nearby Efrata settlement is set to begin in the near future. Many protestors stood on a large mound of rubble where they chanted slogans and waved Palestinian flags.
Around twenty soldiers watched the demonstration from afar, but did not attempt to disrupt the action or even speak to the participants. The demonstration ended an hour later, when the protestors dispersed. No injuries or kidnappings were reported.
The Israeli army and settlers attacked a non-violent protest against the Annexation wall in Bani-Na’em, near Hebron in the southern West Bank, on Friday at midday. Palestinian Information Minister, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, participated in the protest. Israeli troops and settlers assaulted women, land owners and a number of journalists, kidnapping 6 civilians, among them one journalist.
A large number of Israeli soldiers and settlers surrounded the demonstrators during the protest. The participants of the nonviolent protest were greatly surprised by the violent attacks carried out by the army and settlers. Dr. Barghouthi criticized the attack and declared that these actions would not prevent the Palestinian people from protecting their land and protesting against the Annexation Wall.
Norway decides to channel aid to the Palestinian government and British University Union to boycott Israeli
The Norwegian government has decided to channel direct economic aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, thus breaking a 16-month-old international economic embargo on the Palestinian people. The Quartet of the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia, continues to demand the Palestinian government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts past agreements, before sanctions are lifted.
Norway, which is not a member state of the European Union, had earlier hinted at the possibility of breaking the siege. According to statistics published recently, 85% of the Palestinian population now live under the poverty line.
In the meantime, the British University and College Union has called on its members to boycott Israeli academic institutions over continued Israeli practices against the Palestinian people, which involve the restriction of movement, arbitrary arrests, the killing of Palestinians and blocking the work of academic organizations in Palestine.
The Israeli army this week abducted Palestinian Education minister, Nasser Eldin Elsha’er, from his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Meanwhile, Ann Linde, the international secretary of the Swedish Socialist Party, Sweden’s largest political group, on Wednesday told Palestinian information minister and government spokesman, Mustafa Barghouti, that her party acknowledges all sections of the national unity government.
Mona Mansour, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the Palestinian government would file a case against Israel at the international court of justice in protest at the arrest by Israel of 35 Palestinian officials in the West Bank, including the education minister Naser Eldin Alsha’er and Fatah PLC member, Jamal Terawi. French authorities have also slammed the Israeli abduction of Palestinian ministers.
President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah this week proposed a mutual ceasefire with Israel in order to halt the latter’s unabated attacks against the Gaza Strip. Abbas’s offer stipulated cessation of Israeli air strikes in Gaza in return for a halt in the firing of Palestinian homemade shells into Israel.
Israel refused the initiative and decided to step up targeted killings of Palestinian resistance fighters from both the governing Hamas party and the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza. Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas, earlier this week described Israeli actions in Gaza as an indication of Israel’s ‘moral bankruptcy and failed politics’.
Since May 17, scores of Israeli air strikes on Gaza have claimed the lives of at least 53 Palestinians, including nine children. Meanwhile, Palestinian resistance homemade shells have killed two Israelis and injured some 20 others in Sderot town, to the north-east of Gaza.
The Israeli minister of pensioner’s affairs, Rafi Eitan, stated that he believed it is possible to install an international peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip. The spokeswoman of the Israeli Prime Minister, Miri Essin, dismissed such a possibility, saying that security in the Palestinian territories is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority.
A similar belief was voiced by the Israeli party Meretz, which proposed that the Arab League take control of the Gaza Strip, in an attempt to end the current cycle of violence. Palestinian information minister, Mustafa Barghouti, rebuffed the suggestion, saying this undermine the Palestinian people’s right to an independent sovereign state, with Jerusalem as capital.
King Abdullah II of Jordan called on the American administration to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiation table.
The Jordanian Monarch’s remarks came during a meeting with a U.S congressional delegation in the Jordanian capital of Amman early this week.
On the domestic front, representatives of rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, along with other faction leaders, headed for Cairo for separate talks with Egyptian officials on ending infighting and establishing peace with Israel. Factional infighting in Gaza has claimed the lives of around 150 Palestinians in recent months. Hamas and Fatah renewed infighting early in May, just two months after establishing the first unity government.
In Israeli politics, the Israeli Labor party’s leadership election saw former Prime Minister Ehud Barak win the first round of voting.
The Israeli attacks
In the West Bank this week, the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians and wounded 13 civilians, including 2 children, a woman and a journalist. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura has more:
On Saturday Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinian resistance fighters and a civilian bystander in the Jabal al-Mukabber neighborhood southeast of Jerusalem. The two fighters exchanged fired with Israeli soldiers and were killed in the confrontation.
On Tuesday, Israeli undercover units committed two extra-judicial executions in Ramallah and Jenin. PA security officer Omar Abul-Halim, 24, was killed when undercover agents opened fire at him while he was dinning in a restaurant in down town Ramallah city. Palestinian sources in Ramallah also stated that Israeli soldiers opened fire at the vehicle of Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, the Palestinian Minister of Information, during the invasion.
The second assassination took place in Kufer Dan village near Jenin city when troops ambushed Mohammad Mer’ey, a leader in Al Aqsa brigades of Fatah, wounding five civilian bystanders.
On Wednesday night Israeli forces planted a bomb in the car of Sufian Qandeel, a local leader of the Al Aqsa brigades of Fatah in the city. The bombs exploded killing two Palestinians and injuring many more. Qandeel was not in the car and escaped the attack.
In Jericho city Israeli forces invaded the city centre, injuring and kidnapping two Palestinian security officers from the local hospital on Monday. Witnesses said that troops besieged the hospital were the injured officers were moved to, forbidding entry to and exit from the hospital. It later emerged that Israeli soldiers also damaged equipment and fired live rounds during the search of the hospital. No injuries were reported.
This week has seen at least 56 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank by the Israeli army. During these invasions, Israeli troops waged a kidnapping campaign that targeted public figures affiliated to both the Hamas and Fatah movements.
Israeli forces kidnapped 79 Palestinian civilians, including 2 ministers, 4 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, 9 mayors and 4 members of municipal councils. Most of the kidnappings took place on Thursday. Thus, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 1,300. Additionally, Israeli forces also this week stormed offices of 6 charities and cultural centers.
For IMEMC.org this Ghassan Bannoura
In the Gaza Strip this week, the Israeli army killed 13 Palestinians, including 2 civilians, whereas 2 others, including a woman, died from previous wounds. In addition, 54 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 6 children, 8 women and 2 paramedics, were wounded. IMEMC’s Rami Al Mughari has more:
The Israeli army continued to shell civilian facilities, sites of resistance groups and civilian vehicles believed to be transporting members of the Palestinian resistance.
During the week the Israeli army launched 46 missiles at several targets in the Gaza Strip. In addition to deaths and casualties incurred by these attacks, 5 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. Dozens of houses and civilian facilities were also damaged.
The Israeli army demonstrated a flagrant disregard to the lives of the Palestinian civilian population as they attacked densely populated areas while pursing members of the Palestinian resistance.
This week, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that Israel will not stop its attacks even if Palestinian resistance groups agree on the truce deal offered by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. For their part, the resistance groups stated that Israeli must halt assaults against all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before they would agree to such a deal.
The Palestinian resistance continued firing homemade shells at nearby Israeli towns and cities. On Sunday morning, an Israeli man was killed and two others wounded after a homemade shell landed in Sderot city near the Gaza strip.
Since the beginning of this latest offensive against the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have killed 53 Palestinians, including 8 children and a woman, and have wounded 174 others, mostly civilians, including 24 children, 18 women, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists.
For IMEMC.org this Rami Al Mughari from Gaza
This week, video footage of the kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston was posted on the internet, and two Palestinians were killed, due to infighting. IMEMC’s John Smith has more:
One Palestinian has been killed and fifteen injured during clashes between the Palestinian security forces and fighters associated with the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, in the northern West Bank town of Tubas Saturday evening.
According to local sources, the fighting broke out when the gunmen laid siege to the building housing the Palestinian national security forces, firing live ammunition and eventually setting the building on fire. Raed Abd ar Raziq, 30, was killed in the clashes that ensued. Fifteen others were injured; ten of whom currently lie in a critical condition.
One Palestinian civilian was killed and another injured on Friday morning when a group of unknown gunmen opened fire at them in downtown Gaza city. Medical sources identified the dead as Nimir Al Nabaheen, 50.
A video of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston has appeared on the internet on Friday. The video shows Johnston alive and well. In the first pictures seen since his abduction in Gaza on March 12, a video showing a seemingly-healthy Johnston has been posted on the internet by the army of Islam, the group that claims to be holding the reporter. In a calm statement, the reporter claims that his captors have been treating him well and that here has been no violence against him.
Johnston speaks also of the suffering of the Palestinian population, calling for the repeal of the economic embargo currently placed on the Palestinian people and referring to the “failed invasion of Iraq by America and Britain”, stating the UK administration is occupying Muslim lands against the wishes of the people who live there.
The date and circumstances of the tape’s recording remain unclear.
The Palestinian Prime Minister’s spokesman, Ghazi Hammad, confirmed earlier in the week that there are ongoing efforts to secure the release of Johnston and that he has been personally engaged in this process.
For IMEMC.org this 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 James Brownsell.