Click on Link to download or play MP3 file File 14.6 MB || Time 16m 0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for December 29th 2007, through January 4th, 2008.
This week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for early elections, and Israeli army attacks continue in the West Bank and the Gaza strip resulting in the deaths of 18 Palestinians, these stories and more coming up stay tuned.
Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
The inhabitants of Bil’in village, located near the central west bank city of Ramallah, conducted their weekly non violent demonstration against the illegal wall that is being constructed by Israel on the village land. They were joined by international and Israeli supporters.
Shortly after the Friday prayers, the protesters left the village and headed towards the land but were stopped by a razor wire blockade installed by the Israeli troops. As soon as the protest reached the blockade, soldiers showered the protesters with tear gas, rubber coated metal bullets and stun grenades. Four protesters were injured and taken to a nearby medical centre.
On Wednesday, a group of Israeli settlers tried to build a new settlement outpost on land owned by Bil’in villagers. Farmers from the village and their families got to their lands and tried to stop the settlers from installing the outpost. The armed settlers attacked the unarmed farmers and injured three of them. On Friday, Israeli troops removed the settlement outpost.
Also near Ramallah on Friday, Palestinians from the villages which surround the city, protested at the settlers road known as road 443 with international and Israeli supporters. The army attacked the protest with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber coated bullets and injured seven people.
Road 443 is a settler road that cuts through several villages located near Ramallah and the army do not allow the local residents to use it to get to the city. Only the illegal settlers living in the illegal settlements around Ramallah are permitted to use it to get to the occupied city of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile on Friday morning 200 Palestinians, internationals and Israelis marched against the illegal wall being built on land stolen illegally by the Israeli army from the villagers of Um Salamunah, located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The protesters marched from the village towards the nearby settlers’ road known as Road 60 that cuts the village of Um Salamunah off from its land. A year ago Israel started to build the illegal wall on village land.
The protest marked the one year anniversary of nonviolent resistance to the wall in that village. Local villagers held Friday prayers on the settlers’ road then speeches were delivered. Israeli troops arrived in the area but did not attack protesters. The action finished shortly thereafter.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called this week for early elections, in a bid to end the current Palestinian political turmoil. IMEMC’s John Smith with the details:
Abbas, during a televised speech on the 43rd anniversary of his Fatah party’s founding, invited all Palestinian factions to join in the elections and urged the Islamist Hamas group in Gaza to retract what he calls ‘ a coup against legitimacy’. Abbas’s call was immediately rebuffed by Hamas as Hamas’s senior leader in Gaza , Mahmoud aL-Zahar, told reporters on Tuesday that his movement is utterly opposed to the idea.
In Cairo, Abbas reiterated the invitation, hoping Hamas would eventually comply:
‘We have already presented our view point, yet the initial responses from Gaza were discouraging. However, we hope that they resort to wisdom’.
In December 2006, Abbas announced a willingness to hold early elections in an attempt to end an internationally-imposed economic embargo on a Hamas-led government. His declaration sparked a power struggle between Hamas and Fatah until Hamas militarily took over the coastal region in June 2007.
Also this week 2000 Palestinian Pilgrims who were stranded at the Gaza Egypt borders for several days who had left the Gaza strip originally for Al Hajj in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, were able to get in through the Rafah crossing after coordination between the Palestinian President Mamhoud Abbas and Egypt.
During his visit to Cairo, Abbas called on Israel to freeze any settlement plans on occupied Palestinian lands, which he views as a stumbling block to peace talks already underway with Israel. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, and since then their ties have been described as stable.
Abbas urged U.S president George W. Bush, to speak out adamantly against settlement activities during Bush’s first visit to the region by January 9. Ahead of Bush’s visit, the Palestinian leader is set to hold talks with the Saudi officials, which would focus on latest Saudi-Arab efforts to bridge the gap between Hamas and Fatah, media reports said. The oil rich country mediated in February 2007, a short-lived ceasefire deal between the two rival Palestinian parties. Hamas continues to shun peace with Israel until it stops attacks on Gaza, removes roadblocks in the West Bank and freezes settlement activities.
At the Arab level, media sources reported that Cairo might start ‘ an aggressive diplomatic campaign’ against Israel, in response to the latest Israeli foreign minister, Tzibi Livni’s accusations of Egypt not doing enough to prevent smuggling on the Gaza-Egypt border. Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to prevent the smuggling of weapons across the border, which Cairo has refuted. Egyptian diplomats were quoted as saying ‘Instead of addressing things she does not understand, the Israeli foreign minister, should instead advance negotiations with the Palestinians.
In Israel, the Israeli ruling part of Kadima’s standing has been reportedly shaky following the possibility of reopening the Wingard report on the June 2006’s war with Lebanon, which has blamed Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, for what the report states as the ‘Israeli armies failure’ during the two-month-long war.
On Thursday Olmert met with the Jordanian Monarch, King Abdullah II, in the Red Sea resort of aL-Aqqaba, where the two leaders focused on existing Palestinian-Israeli talks, that were relaunched in Washington last November. Israel and Jordan have been bound by a peace treaty since 1994.
For IMEMC.org this John Smith.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 30 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions, Israeli troops kidnapped 35 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children. IMEMC Caroline Johns has more:
With the kidnappings this week, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank has mounted to at least 2,800 from the beginning of 2007 until the first week of January 2008.
The Israeli army attack continued on Friday morning in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. In the second consecutive day of the military attack they continued to assault medical crews obstructing them from doing their work. IMEMC Spoke to Dr. Ghassan Hmdan, the director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Services:
In the old city of Nablus a Palestinian with special needs was injured. The army claimed that he had broken the curfew imposed by the Israeli army in the city. Scores of poor families who live in the old city of Nablus have appealed for Human Rights organizations to provide them with their basic needs as they were not prepared for the curfew. Israeli sources claimed that the objective of the operation was to kidnap what Israel call ‘wanted Palestinians’ and to find weapons. Troops also kidnapped at least six Palestinians.
The offensive started on Thursday at dawn as Israeli troops, supported by dozens of armored vehicles and jeeps, invaded Nablus and imposed a curfew in the Old City and the surrounding neighborhoods. By Thursday, midday the Israeli army had injured 33 Palestinian civilians, four critically. Of the 33 Palestinians injured, 4 are children and 1 is an ambulance driver.
On Tuesday Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Ifrat attacked and set fire to a Palestinian mosque located in lands owned by Palestinian farmers from the village of Al Khader located to the south of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Ifrat settlement is built illegally on lands stolen from the villagers of Al Khader. The attacked mosque is used by local farmers during their work in their lands located near the settlement.
For IMEMC.org, this is Caroline Johns
The Gaza strip
The Israeli army this week stepped up attacks on Gaza, while troops invaded several parts of the coastal region, Israeli jetfighters bounded the Gaza strip, this week the death toll in Gaza had reached 18 Palestinians, from Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Mughari has more:
Two Palestinians, said to be members of the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed early on Friday morning during an armed clash with an Israeli army force in northern Gaza.
In a statement faxed to the press, the AL Qassam brigades announced that two of its fighters were killed today when an Israeli army force exchanged gun fire with a group of fighters on the Gaza-Israel border in Beit Hanoun. on Thursday morning the Israeli army started an offensive, targeting Khan Younis town located in the southern part of the Gaza strip, and eight Palestinians have been killed.
Dr. Moaiya Abu Hassanain, head of the Palestinian Health Ministry emergency department in the Gaza Strip, confirmed eight people were killed and 38 others wounded, among them five are in a critical condition. Five of those killed are from Fayyad family. They were killed after Israeli tanks shelled their home. Dr. Moaiya Abu Hassanain talked to IMEMC:
On Thursday afternoon in several parts of the coastal region, an Israeli army jet fighter attacked homes belonging to resistance fighters and destroyed five of them. Palestinian resistance groups in the Gaza Strip issued statements saying that they fired several home made shells into nearby Israeli towns on Thursday in response to the Israeli attacks. Israeli sources confirmed that two shells hit the town of Ashkelon causing damage but no injuries.
On Wednesday the Israeli army killed six Palestinians and injured eleven others in a fresh Israeli ground offensive on eastern Gaza City. This attack occurred early on Wednesday morning, when Israeli tanks, stationed on the Gaza-Israel border, rolled into the nearby neighborhood, to the east of Gaza City, witnesses said. Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed that three of its members have been killed during an Israeli shelling east of the Gaza city.
Another Israeli army shelling from the air caused the death of two resistance fighters of the Popular Resistance committee’s armed wing. The sixth killed, was a resistance fighter for the Al-Aqsa brigades of Fatah, and was killed during a later clash with Israeli army undercover units, that were deployed on the outskirts of Gaza city later on in the day.
Meanwhile Palestinian medical sources reported that a Palestinian woman died on Wednesday because she was not allowed by the Israeli army to leave the Gaza strip for medical treatment. Miryam Judah, 32, had breast cancer. Judah is the 61st person who has died of a chronic illness since Israel placed the Gaza Strip under total siege in June 2007. Among those 61 were children, the youngest was Do’a Habib, who was five months old.
On Sunday one Palestinian woman was killed and five others injured while crossing the borders into the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said a group of 900 Palestinians who were allowed to leave the Gaza strip to go to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Hajj several months ago, were coming back through the Israeli Eriz border crossing to Gaza. They said a group of Israeli soldiers fired over the heads of the Palestinian pilgrims then fired at them, killing one and injuring five. The 900 Palestinians had been allowed to leave the Coastal Region through Israel.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
The Palestinian rival political factions Hamas and Fatah renewed their armed infighting this week; seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza during this infighting, IMEMC’ Jenny Smith has more:
Late on Monday evening, clashes reportedly broke out between the rival Fatah and Hamas parties in the Gaza Strip. Some sources have reported as many as six dead in the evening gun battles, with up to 30 wounded.
The clashes broke out after Hamas banned a 34th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Fatah party. Hamas security forces reportedly raided a university in the morning, arresting Fatah supporters, and the Fatah leadership decided to cancel the planned gathering.
Hamas and Fatah are the two major Palestinian parties â€“ Hamas was elected to power by the Palestinian people in democratic elections in January 2006, but Israel and the U.S. refused to recognize the government they formed. Instead, the U.S. and Israel called on the Fatah party, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to appoint a separate government. Hamas subsequently took control in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah took control in the West Bank.
Earlier in the Week the Fatah movement in the West Bank denounced on Sunday what it called ‘ Hamas’s crackdown on its supporters in the Gaza Strip. Fatah spokesman Fahmi al Za’arir on Wednesday accused the Hamas movement of using Fatah members who are arrested by Hamas forces in Gaza as human shields during the Israeli shelling of Hamas forces’ headquarters.
The Hamas movement this week reported that the Fatah security forces had arrested at least 30 members of the movement in several parts of the West Bank.
For IMEMC.org this is Jenny Smith
And thatâ€™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 Louisa White and Ghassan Bannoura.