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 January 5th through January 11th, 2008.
This week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with the US President, George W. Bush while Israeli army attacks continue in the West Bank and the Gaza strip resulting in the deaths of seven Palestinians, these stories and more coming up stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Bethlehem and Ramallah, IMEMC’s Eva Cohen with the details:
The villagers of Bil’in located near the Central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters conducted their weekly demonstration against the illegal Israeli wall on Friday.
The theme of this week’s demonstration was calling on the international community to recognize the Palestinian rights to freedom and statehood, releasing Palestinian political prisoners from prison and lifting the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. As is the case each week the protesters marched from the village centre towards the construction of the illegal wall Israel is building on the village land.
As soon as the protestors reached a barricade set up by the Israeli soldiers just outside the village, Israeli troops open fired on the unarmed protesters injuring two of them. Among those injured was Abdullah Abu Rahmah the coordinator of the Popular Resistance against the Wall and Settlement Committee in the village of Bil’in.
Abu Rahmah sustained injuries in the head and was transported to a local hospital in the city of Ramallah. Also today a group of villagers from Bil’in along with Israeli supporters went to the villagers’ land located on the Israeli side of the wall and planted olive trees to enforce the idea that the land is for the villagers and it was illegally trapped behind the wall by Israel.
Earlier on Friday morning one international non-violent protestor was injured during a peaceful protest that took place in a village in the Southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Around 200 Palestinian villagers, Israeli and International supporters marched against the illegal Israeli wall that is being built in the village of Um Salmumah located near Bethlehem city. As soon as the peaceful protest arrived at the location of the construction of the wall Israeli troops stationed there open fired on the protestors and attacked them with rifle butts and batons leading to the injury of one international supporter. Local sources said that the man was moved to a nearby clinic for treatment.
The demonstration finished shortly after several speeches were delivered by local villagers urging the international community and the US President George Bush, who visited the Bethlehem city on Thursday, to stop Israel from building illegal settlements in Palestinian areas and remove the illegal wall that is being constructed on stolen Palestinian land.
For IMEMC.org this is Eva Cohen
This week the US President visited the region in an attempt to revive the stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, IMEMC’s Caroline Jones with the details:
As part of his visit to the region US President George Bush and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Thursday morning in the central West Bank city of Ramallah where they had brief talks and afterwards held a joint press conference.
Bush arrived in Israel on Wednesday. His visit to Israel is the first since he took office seven years ago. Bush landed in the Israeli Ben-Gurion International Airport, where he was met by the Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Prime Minister Ehod Olmert.
In his welcoming speech, Bush said that this was a year for real peace not just talk. He also renewed his commitment to the Jewish Israeli state.
Bush said that among the objectives of his visit is to push forward the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, which was re-instated last November during the one day conference that took place in Annapolis. Hours before Bush arrived in Ramallah several Israeli army invasions were reported across the West Bank and an Israeli military attack on Gaza left two dead.
At the Annapolis conference Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed to restart the peace process based on the US-backed Road Map Peace Plan that was stopped for years.
The Road Map states that Israel should stop its attacks and settlement activities in Palestinian areas and in return the Palestinian Authority must stop the armed resistance against Israel. Israel continued its attacks and settlement activities in the Palestinian areas, leading the peace process to a deadlock, leaving the Palestinian president with one option which was to ask Bush for more involvement in the peace talks.
First to take the floor was President Abbas who welcomed Bush, deemed his visit historic and began by saying that Palestinians wish for peace:
‘Our Palestinian Nation that committed to peace as a strategic choice wants to see through your support to end the suffering and to build an economy without restrictions.â€
Bush failed to mention any of the core issues that Palestinians strive to solve, but instead focused on fighting ‘terrorism.’
In both the West bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem– where Bush made stops — scores of Palestinians protested US polices in the region. In Ramallah city outside the press conference dozens of Palestinians were wounded and at least ten arrested when Palestinian police attempted to disperse a demonstration opposing Bush’s visit.
Later at midday the US President arrived at the Nativity Church located in the centre of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Palestinian Authority Security forces had placed the city under strict security measures since the previous night, restricting movement between villages and towns neighboring Bethlehem, in effect shutting down the entire city. Husam Jubran is one of the protesters from Bethlehem:
On Thursday evening, Bush said in a press conference in Jerusalem that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian land that started in 1967 to enable the creation of a viable Palestinian state. He also urged a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees that would involve paying them compensation.
A group of Israeli settlers living illegally in the Palestinian territory, the West Bank, attempted to establish a new colony in the area outside Hebron on Wednesday. They said the outpost was meant to give a message to George Bush, who has previously given his wholehearted support to Israel’s settlement policy.
Although Bush gave a nonchalant statement that â€œOutposts, yeah, they ought to goâ€, during his Jerusalem press conference on Wednesday, he made no firm commitment to challenge Israel’s policy of expansion in any meaningful way.
In fact, US policy under Bush has been to promote Israel and give approval to Israeli settlement expansion, as a 2003 letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demonstrates. In that letter, during the height of the current open conflict, Bush praised Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the frenzied settlement expansion going on at that time.
Palestinian political left factions and Hamas issued statements saying that Bush’s Visit is not going to accomplish anything if Israel continues to attack the Palestinians and build settlements on Palestinian lands, an issue that has rated Bush as the most unpopular US president among Palestinians.
Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri is Spokesman for Hamas:
‘Bush is an unwelcome guest, the Palestinians do not build hopes from his visit because he came to support the Israeli interests over the Palestinian rights and this was clear from Bush’s statement at the beginning of his visit when he said that he guarantees the security of Israel as a Jewish state.’
Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006; the US refused to recognize the Authority of Hamas and continued to support Abbas and his Fatah party.
For IMEMC.org this is Caroline Jones.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 33 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions the Israeli troops kidnapped 93 Palestinian civilians, including 13 children. IMEMC’s Jenny Smith with the details:
The Israeli invasions and kidnapping this week were focused in the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron.
The three day military offensive in Nablus finished on Saturday with the operation leaving 38 injured, among them 2 disabled civilians. In addition the Israeli offensive on the city had cost the city 40 million Israeli Shekels’ worth of damage.
On Monday undercover Israeli forces ambushed a Palestinian resistance fighter in the village of Burken near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Fawaz Frihat 18, a fighter for Al Qudes Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, was found shot in several parts of his body and his hands tied behind his back, witnesses reported.
Frihat is originally from the village of Al Yamon located near Burken village. The Israeli army stated that Frihat clashed with Israeli troops and sustained wounds but managed to escape. Palestinian medical sources said that the fighter was shot several times and some of the wounds he sustained were from close range.
Two Palestinian civilians were injured by Israeli army fire at midday on Saturday during a military attack on the village of Azon located east of Qalqilia city in the northern part of the West Bank.
Local sources reported that at least 10 Israeli military vehicles stormed the village at midday on Saturday; troops searched homes and opened fire at civilians. Israeli soldiers imposed a curfew in the village not allowing residents to leave their homes. After some time, troops left the village.
For IMEMC.org this is Jenny Smith.
The Gaza Strip
The Israeli army attacks on Gaza left 6 Palestinians dead this week as the coastal region started to suffer from a blackout which is a result of Israel-imposed fuel supplies being cut, IMEMC’s George Rishmawi with the details:
Two Palestinians have reportedly been killed and three others wounded on Wednesday when the Israeli artillery opened heavy fire towards a gathering of Palestinians near a house in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun.
Witnesses said that Israeli fire hit a Palestinian-owned house in the city, where a group of people were gathering just close to the house. Medical sources confirmed the death of Khadra Wahdan, a woman in her twenties and Mohammad aLkafarna, a 16-year-old, as well as the injury of three others in the latest Israeli shelling.
Earlier in the day, Israeli army fire claimed the life of one Palestinian fighter and injured six others during an attack on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahya. Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahya are the closest destinations to the northern Gaza-Israel border, where the Israeli army claims Palestinian resistance groups launch homemade shells onto nearby Israeli towns.
Palestinian medics reported on Sunday that three Palestinian residents including a woman and a teenager, have been killed by Israeli gunshots in the central Gaza Strip of Buraij refugee camp.
The sources added that at least 50 others have been wounded by gun shots, rockets from war planes and shelling from tanks. Israeli media sources said on Sunday that two Israeli soldiers have been slightly injured following an exchange of gun fire with Palestinians.
This week the Gaza Strip has begun to suffer a renewed blackout as power outages still go on due to shortage of fuel supplies after Israel has ruled a large reduction of the fuel it provides Gaza with, on a daily basis.
The sole Gaza power plant recently managed to bring one more power transformer from Egypt, however, the transformer can only generate half of the power due to cuts in fuel supplies. The coastal region needs at least 450,000 litres of fuel to produce 75 megawatts of power to overcome the current blackout.
To deal with this electricity crisis, the power plant had set up an operation schedule, to distribute the plant’s production to the various parts of the Gaza Strip. The electricity cuts range from 4 to 8 hours daily.
In October 2007, Israel started making large cuts to daily fuel supplies to Gaza, within what Israel says are ‘measures to prevent Palestinians from firing homemade shells onto nearby Israeli towns’.
Human rights groups worldwide branded the measure a ‘collective punishment policy’, as United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has urged Israel to reconsider its actions against Gaza. In June 2006, Israeli aircraft struck the power plant, damaging four transformers out of the six which are used to provide Gaza with 45 percent of its electricity, the remaining quantities being provided by Israel.
For IMEMC.org this Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
Six Palestinians were injured in an unknown explosion in Gaza while in the West Bank Hamas accuses the Palestinian security forces of torturing members of the movement, IMEMC’s Kate O’Connor has the details:
Palestinian sources reported that five Palestinians from the same family were injured on Monday evening when an explosion hit their home located in Gaza city. Medical sources reported that five members of the Al Batsh family which included children reached the hospital late Monday after an explosion that hit their house.
The reasons of the explosion are still unknown; eyewitnesses said that an Israeli army helicopter was in the area at the time of the explosion.
Responding to a statement by Lieutenant Ahmad Al Haddar, head of the Palestinian National Security in the Bethlehem district, regarding the arrests of members of the Hamas-formed Executive Force in Bethlehem over the last two days, Hamas issued a statement of denial.
The Security Forces announced that they had arrested members of three groups belonging to the Executive Force in Bethlehem. The Executive Force formed by Hamas in Gaza last year, was labeled as illegal by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas stated that there are no executive force members in Bethlehem or any other place in the West Bank and accused the Palestinian Security Forces, loyal to Fatah, of arresting and torturing members of the movement under such claims.
Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, in 2007 Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian political factions, were engaged in a power struggle over Authority that left Hamas in control of the Gaza strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank.
For IMEMC.org this is Kate O’Connor.
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.