Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 15.5 MB || Time 17m 0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for February 2nd through to February 8th, 2008.
The Palestinian government demand more American pressure on Israel and Israeli army attacks this week leave 20 Palestinian dead, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Palestine and Israel, IMEMC’s Elisa Sprout with the details:
Six Palestinian civilians were injured at midday on Friday when Israeli troops attacked a nonviolent anti-wall demonstration in the village of Al Khader, located near Bethlehem city in the southern West Bank.
The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Al Khader organized the protest to demonstrate against the illegal construction of the annexation wall on land owned by village farmers. Around 500 villagers, foreign citizens and Israeli peace activists marched toward the nearby Israeli settlers’ road, which separates the village from its farm lands. The protest started after Friday prayers were held at the site of the road.
Protesters originally planned to reach the construction site of the wall, but soldiers utilized barbed wire to block the way. As protesters reached this barricade, soldiers showered them with tear gas and sound grenades. Among the six injured were three children.
In addition, a 62 year old man named Khalil Salah had to be admitted to hospital after receiving wounds to the head, when a sound grenade exploded nearby. Omer Jaber of Al Khader Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements spoke to IMEMC:
Also on Friday, the villagers of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli supporters, conducted their weekly protest against the Israeli wall being built illegally on the villager’s land.
Like each week, the protest started after Friday prayers, with participants marching from the village center towards the construction site of the wall.
Israeli troops installed a military barrier to block the path of the demonstration. As the protesters reached it, troops showered the demonstration with tear gas and shot rubber-coated steel bullets. One Palestinian teenager, Saarie Khalil, 18, was shot in the arm with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
For IMEMC.org, this is Elisa Sprout.
Prime Minister of the Palestinian caretaker government, Salam Fayyad, stated on Thursday that Washington should apply more pressure on the Israeli government to carry out its peace obligations. This and more with IMEMC’s Marguerite Mancy:
Fayyad also expected that a Palestinian state wonâ€™t be realized by the end of 2009, given what he termed ‘Israel’s inaction towards realizing peace’. On Thursday, Fayyad left for Washington to ask for more financial commitments to help improve the rapidly deteriorating Palestinian economy.
In the meantime, media reports said that Palestinian negotiator, Ahmad Qurei and Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, have been holding secret talks on outstanding final status issues, including settlements, Palestinian refugees, borders of the future Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.
In his visit to the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, envoy of the International Quartet Committee for Middle East Peace, maintained that Israel should put an end to the occupation, including the cessation of settlement construction in the West Bank, as a part of Israel’s obligations under the U.S sponsored road map peace plan of 2003.
In Gaza, a delegation of 10 European parliamentarians expressed concern this week over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, calling on Israel to alleviate the human suffering there by ending the siege that it has imposed for the past eight months. The delegation also called on Israel to cease settlement building in the West Bank thereby giving peacemaking between the two sides a chance.
As result of the Israeli siege on Gaza, to date ninety Palestinian patients have died as a result of the lack of medical supplies and Israeli restrictions on the movement of patients seeking medical treatment. Scores of other patients are facing a similar fate if the siege continues. In the meantime, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, demanded this week the Israeli government to stop all its ‘collective punishment’ measures against the Gaza Strip, specifically the closure and the cut in fuel supplies.
Abbas also called for a mutual parallel ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. The call was rebuffed by Hamas who described this call as ‘extortion’, aimed at undermining Palestinian resistance. At least 17 Palestinians have been killed this week due to Israeli air strikes and ground invasions. Hamas has been arguing that resistance to the Israeli occupation should remain in place until Israel halts its attacks on the Palestinian people in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Spokesman of the Hamas movement in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, pointed to the international community to promote calm in the region,
‘If the international community were really concerned about calm in the region, it should pressure the occupation in order to halt its attacks on the Palestinian people.’ The Islamist Hamas group took control over the coastal region in June 2007 amidst a power struggle with President Abbas’ Fatah party.
On another development this week, Cairo ruled out the possibility of reopening the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza unless coordinated with Abbas’ government in the West Bank. Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmad Abu el-Gheit has reportedly said that the terminal should be reopened in line with the 2005 US brokered arrangement, following the Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September of that year.
Israel has conditioned lifting the siege on Gaza on the establishment of European observers and video cameras to monitor the movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip, a matter that Hamas has recently refused for it wants exclusive Egyptian-Palestinian control over the Gaza-Egypt border crossing.
Talks on reopening the Rafah crossing terminal took place following the flood of nearly 700 thousand Palestinians from Gaza into nearby Egypt since January 23rd. The crossing terminal was closed immediately after Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in June 2007. Gazans entered Egypt to obtain the food, medical supplies, and other essential goods made scarce by the Israeli closure and siege.
According to a public opinion polled conducted in January by Al-Najjah University in Nablus, 73% of the 1360 Palestinians survey would support Abbas’ forces taking control over Gaza’s crossings. Media reports over this week revealed that Palestinians and Israelis discussing a possible prisoners swap, in which captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, held in Gaza since June 2006, would be freed in return for some hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. However, no further details have been reported.
For IMEMC, this is Marguerite Mancy.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
The Israeli army this week conducted over 35 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, troops kidnapped 54 Palestinian civilians, including nine children and a young woman. IMEMC’s Caroline Johns with the details:
This week, further abductions took place around the cities of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah and Hebron. With the kidnappings this week, the number of Palestinian civilians abducted without charge by the Israeli army since the beginning of 2008 stands at 307, from the West Bank alone.
On Monday, the Israeli army extrajudicially assassinated two Palestinian resistance fighters of the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement. The attack took place in Qabatiya village, southeast of Jenin, in the northen part of the West Bank.
Undercover Israeli forces launched the ambush on Monday at dawn. A third fighter was injured and transferred to a local hospital. Witnesses reported that, after shooting the two fighters, Israeli troops did not allow local medics to access the casualties, leaving them to bleed to death. The brigades named the two killed as 31 year old Ahmad Abu Al-Rab and 23 year old Ammar Zakarna.
On Saturday, three children were injured when the Israeli army attacked and searched homes in the village of Al Khader, located near Bethlehem city in the southern West Bank.
The Israeli army also attacked and searched the house of Mohamed Al Herbawi, located in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday at dawn. On Wednesday, the Hamas movement released a video of Al Herbawi and his comrade Shadee Z’Ghayer, both from Hebron city, claiming responsibility for the Dimona suicide attack on Monday. Hamas stated that Al Herbawi and Z’Ghayer are members of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamasâ€™ militant wing.
The attack on the southern Israeli city of Dimona that targeted a shopping mall, left the two Palestinian attackers and an Israeli woman dead. Israeli sources reported 10 Israelis were also injured. Israeli police sources said that one of the attackers detonated his explosives, while the other was shot dead by a police officer before he was able to detonate a second explosion.
Hamas was not the only group that claimed responsibility for the attack. On Monday afternoon, shortly after the attack took place, other Palestinian resistance groups claimed responsibility for the Dimona bombing, including Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
In a joint statement, faxed to the press, all parties named the suicide bombers as Musa Arafat from Khan Younis and Louai Al-Aghwani from Gaza City. The groups said that the two had entered Israel through the Sinai desert.
For IMEMC.org, this is Caroline Johns.
The Gaza Strip
This week, Israeli attacks on Gaza have left 18 Palestinians dead. Among them was a patient prevented by the Israeli army from leaving Gaza to receive medical treatment. From the Gaza Strip, IMEMC’s Rami Al Mughari:
One Palestinian resistance fighter was killed and two injured when Israeli fighter jets shot several missiles at a Palestinian car in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on Monday afternoon. The Popular Resistance Committees, a Palestinian resistance group based in the coastal region, said that one of its leaders, identified as Amer Karmoot, was killed in the attack. Medical sources revealed that two others were also injured in the attack,.one of which remains in critical condition.
On Tuesday, nine Palestinians were killed due to Israeli attacks on the coastal region. Seven Palestinian police officers were killed, in the late afternoon, when Israeli jet fighters shot several missiles at a police station in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Earlier in the day, two Palestinian resistance fighters were reported killed by the Israeli army during dawn clashes at the southern Gaza/Israel borders.
Seven Palestinians were killed, and five injured, during several air strikes and a ground invasion conducted by the Israeli army in the northernmost of the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. A teacher was killed and five other civilians injured when Israeli tanks, stationed on the northern Gaza-Israeli borders, shelled an agricultural college located in the town of Beit Hanoun. Medical sources identified the teacher as Hanni Na’eem. The sources added that among the five injured were three children.
Five resistance fighters from the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, were killed when Israeli jet fighters targeted them during three separate attacks on Thursday at dawn, the group stated.
The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, stated that Jawudat Nabhan, one of the groupâ€™s fighters was killed during the Israeli shelling of Beit Hanoun on Thursday at dawn.
In response to the ongoing Israeli attack on the coastal region, several Palestinian resistance groups shot a number of Qassam homemade shells at Israeli towns neighboring Gaza. The shells landed in industrial zones and open spaces, causing material damage but no injures.
Palestinian medical sources reported that one Palestinian man died on Saturday after Israeli troops prevented him from leaving the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment. Ahmad Al Shareef, 80, was pronounced dead on Satruday morning, after his heart failed, medics revealed. Al Shareef is the 90th patient to have died awaiting transit from Gaza, prevented by the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip has been under heavy siege by the Isreali military since June 2007. Two weeks ago, the Israeli army stepped up the siege and completely sealed the Gaza Strip, leaving the 1.5 million residents without food, medicine and fuel supplies.
For IMEMC.org, this is Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
As a group from Hamas in the West Bank calls on its members to give up their weapons, the Hamas movement released a Fatah official in Gaza. This and more with IMEMC’s Morwenna Pencarrow.
A group of Hamas resistance fighters from the northern West Bank city of Nablus gave up their weapons on Tuesday in a bid to end the state of internal division in the city. The fighters had recently been released from Palestinian Authority jails.
At a press conference on Tuesday the fighters stated that their action was a bid to end the state of internal unrest in the city. They added that they recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his forces.
Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006. Subsequntly, tensions built as an international economic embargo was enforced by the USA, UK, EU and Russia, and an internal bloody conflict erupted between President Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas. On June 14th 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, leaving Fatah ruling the West Bank.
The retired fighters said that their action did not mean that they were severing ties with Hamas, but they see it as more of a â€œmuch needed tactical moveâ€. The Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip stated that the members in Nablus did not represent the Hamas movement, and were forced to conduct the press conference as a result. Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman in Gaza:
‘Those who made the press conference in Nablus do not represent the Hamas movement, what they have done come after being jailed, blackmailed and pressured by the Palestinian Authority security forces. We in Hamas totally refuse to give up the weapons of resistance.’
On Saturday, the Hamas police force in Gaza released Omar Al Ghul, 52, after arresting and detaining him for six weeks. Al Ghul was appointed as an advisor to Salam Fayyad. the Palestinian prime minister, in 2007. Al Ghul was released after intensified mediation efforts by the Islamic Jihad movement.
He was arrested by Hamas police from his home in Gaza on December 14th, 2007. Having left Gaza when the movement took total control there, Al Ghul returned to his family home to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law.
The Palestinian public service employees in the West Bank went on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, organized by the Palestinian governmental workers union.
The Union President, Bassam Zakarna, stated that the strike came to protest the government’s decision to force Palestinians in the West Bank to pay all their home and income taxes, as well as water and electricity bills, before the government allows them to renew official documents, such as driving licenses and passports.
In addition, the Union is asking the government to award the public servants their overdue pay rise in relation to the cost of living and transportation costs. Last week the teachersâ€™ union and the public drivers’ society implemented a one day strike over the same issues.
During the week, the Hamas movement reported that the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had arrested over 20 members of the movement across the West Bank.
For IMEMC.org this is Morwenna Pencarrow.
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 Cybil Collins and Ghassan Bannoura.