Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 13.8MB || Time 15m 0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for March 1st through to March 7th, 2008.
The Palestinian President protested against the Israeli attacks on Gaza by halting talks with Israel, those attacks left 77 Palestinians killed this week. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s Alisa Sprout with the details:
Protesting attacks on Gaza
Palestinians all over the West Bank, Gaza strip, Israel and refugees in other countries are this week protesting the Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip which left 77 Palestinians dead this week.
Protests in the West Bank were organized by the local and international NGOs, Human right groups and political factions. Fayez Al Saqa, a Palestinian MP attended one of the protests in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem:
‘We are protesting the barbarian Israeli attacks on our people in Gaza, and we demand the international community to support the Palestinian nation in those critical times and force the Israeli army to stop attacks on our people.’
The Israeli army attacked the protests and killed two school students in the cities of Hebron and Ramallah.
Dozens of the residents of Bilâ€™in near Ramallah took to the streets on Friday in their weekly march protesting against the confiscation of village land and illegal construction of the wall in the village.
The residents were joined by a number of international and Israeli peace activists, in addition to a number of supporters of the Palestinian Democratic Federation Party (FIDA), who are celebrating their eighteenth anniversary. Protestors carried signs condemning the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and others demanding the dismantling of the wall that is causing serious hardships to farmers in the village.
The protestors were stopped by Israeli soldiers at the iron gate in the wall and were prevented from reaching their confiscated land. Troops used tear gas and sound bombs to force the protestors to leave.
Palestinian youth who were in the march responded by throwing rocks at the soldiers, who, in turn, fired rubber-coated steel bullets. As a result, a number of Palestinians and Internationals were treated for gas inhalation. Meanwhile an Israeli peace activist identified as Marina and a Palestinian protestor identified as Naji Shouha were wounded by the rubber-coated steel bullets; their wounds were described as moderate.
For IMEMc.org this is Alisa Sprout.
The Palestinian President protested against the Israeli attacks on Gaza by halting talks with Israel, while U.Sâ€™ Secretary of State, and arrives in the region for two-day visit in order to calm the situation, IMEMC’s Jane Smith With the details:
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday, halted talks with Israel in protest against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip which, by Friday of this week left 77 Palestinians, including 50 civilians, dead. Abbas stated that the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip ‘are more than a holocaust’.
Prior to the latest escalation of attacks, Israelâ€™s Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust, said that the Israeli army would bring a â€œbigger Shoahâ€ to Palestinians in Gaza if the home-made Qassam attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that this week, although he is planning to continue negotiations with the Palestinian President Abbas, the Israeli army would continue attacks on the Gaza Strip to stop home-made shells from being fired into nearby Israeli towns. Sergio Yani an Israeli political analyst from Jerusalem tolled IMEMC that Olmert needs to maintain the attacks to keep his government, which is mainly formed of right wing Israeli political factions.
‘Israel decided to take off troops from the ground, attacks from the air , which made the highest causalities will continue, for internal issues the Israeli government need two shows, one is the show of negotiations and nothing is being achieved, the second show is the show of blood, attacking Hamas and destroying Gaza.’
In the midst of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, the U.S secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived to the region, and met with Egyptian, Palestinian and Israeli top officials in an effort to revive the Palestinian â€“ Israeli peace talks, and demand both Palestinians and Israelis resume talks.
The Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have been advancing very slowly, without concrete results, since they were first revived at a summit in Annapolis last November. In a press conference with President Abbas in Ramallah Secretary Rice said:
‘We look forward to the resumption of those negotiations; Hamas in its activities including launching of rocket attacks against Israeli citizens has created conditions that made it very difficult.’
Rice made no mention of the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza – other than to regret civilian causalities and repeat that Israel has a right to defend itself.
On his part, Abbas did not announce that he will resume talks with Israel, but he said negotiations, the only way for peace will start if Israel stops attacks on Gaza:
‘The solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can never be reached through violence, but negotiations. No one can, under any pretext, justify the Israeli army attacks.’
On the other hand, the Hamas movement regarded Riceâ€™s visit as representative of a blessing from America for the Israeli attacks against the Palestinians. Fawzi Barhum, Hamas spokesperson in Gaza:
‘Rice wants to aviate the international attention from what is happening in Gaza to press conferences and photo- shoots with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to cover those crimes, all of this is an American Israeli plan to destroy the Palestinian nation’
Prior to his meeting with Secretary Rice, President Abbas announced that he has been willing to broker a truce between Hamas, the party that controls Gaza, and Israel since June 2007. As part of the truce called for by Abbas, the Palestinian President allocated 5 million USD to aid the besieged Gazans. Mohamed Al Hurani, a leader of Abbas’s Fatah party:
‘If Israel wants be serious in the negotiations they have to stop the attacks, if the talks to continue, first their have to be a deal to stop the attacks on the Palestinians, an its is important that those meeting achieve smoothing.’
On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu Al Gheit, met with the U.S Assistant secretary of State for Near East Affairs, David Welch, to discuss the efforts of the Israelis and the Palestinians, how to achieve calm, and how to push the political process forward.
Also on Thursday, as a response to the continuing Israeli army attacks on Gaza, a Palestinian man attacked an Israeli settlers religious school in east Jerusalem. Seven Israelis and the attacker were killed. The U.S and E.U and President Abbas condemned the attack. Libyan and other Arab countries foiled a UN condemnation of the attack, and said that the condemnation did not mention the Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
In related developments a spokesperson of the European Union stated on Wednesda night that he is holding talks with Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to discuss the possibility of reopening the Rafah Border Terminal between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. European and Israeli officials stated that one of the options is to allow residents and goods through the crossing which is only designed for the crossing of residents.
EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, stated that European Observers are willing to return to the crossing which they left after Hamas took-over the Gaza Strip nine months ago. He set the condition that Egypt should be part of any agreement regarding the EU observers and the crossing.
For IMEMC.org this is Jane Smith
The Israeli attacks
The Gaza Strip
This week the Israeli army continued to attack the Gaza Strip from the air and ground with the death toll reaching 77. IMEMC’s David Smith explains:
The Israeli army began a ground offensive targeting the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Saturday at dawn, continuing through Monday midday. The operation caused at least 69 fatalities, including 20 children and 3 women. A further 200 civilians were injured during the attack. During the ground offensive, Israeli troops obstructed the work of medical crews and even shot at them, killing a paramedic and wounding another seriously. Doctor Bassam Abu Wardah, from the Kamal Adwan hospital in the southern Gaza Strip, described the medical conditions there:
‘In fact the situation on the ground as a whole is very disastrous, due to the violent attacks we suffered lately, injuries I can’t even describe, burns, amputated limps, we have bodies that took us days to recognize because they were ripped into pieces.’
The Israeli army dubbed the three day offensive ‘Operation Hot Winter’ and deemed it â€œsuccessfulâ€. Military officials stated that the attacks were designed to stop the Palestinian resistance from firing homemade shells from Gaza toward nearby Israeli towns. Hamas stated that the withdrawal of the Israeli troops on Monday showed that the Israeli attack failed. Khalil Abu Leila, of the ruling Hamas movement in Gaza, explains:
‘This is clear evidence that the operation failed at all levels, today itâ€™s clear to everyone that invading Gaza is very difficult and can’t be done, if they invade now that they will pay a high price.’
The Israeli government on Tuesday decided again to step up attacks on the costal region. Two Palestinian resistance fighters were reported killed on Tuesday morning in separate Israeli air raids targeting the northern Gaza Strip. On Tuesday night, one fighter and one infant were killed in an Israeli ground offensive in the Al Qarara neighbourhood in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, reported that Yousef Al Sameery, one of its leaders, was assassinated in the offensive. The army also shot and killed one infant in the attack. Medical sources in Khan Younis identified the infant as Ameera Khalid Abu Aser, 2 weeks old.
Four Palestinians were killed when Israeli tanks stationed at the southern Gaza-Israeli borders near Khan Younis shelled farmland on Thursday night. The Al Quds Brigades stated that the four had been members of their brigades. Earlier in the day, one Palestinian resistance fighter was killed and another injured in an Israeli air raid targeting Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip.
In response to this weekâ€™s Israeli military attacks on Gaza, eight Israelis and an armed Palestinian were killed when the latter attacked a school for religious settlers located in west Jerusalem on Thursday night. Israeli police sources stated that the attacker was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem and gave no further details.
On Thursday morning, an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were injured, after an explosion hit their jeep east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. The Al Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, have claimed responsibility for the attack.
For IMEMC.org this is David Smith.
The West Bank
This week, the Israeli army conducted at least 45 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. In these invasions Israeli troops killed two teenagers and kidnapped some 65 Palestinian civilians, IMEMC’s Mary Firth with the details:
With the 65 civilians kidnapped by the Israeli army this week, the number of Palestinian civilians kidnapped by the Israeli military in the West Bank since the beginning of 2008 has risen to 564.
Two Palestinian children were injured when Israeli troops invaded the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday night. Jeeps and one bulldozer invaded the city and surrounded the house of a suspected resistance fighter. Troops demolished his family home and left the area on Friday morning.
Abded Al Hameed Fawaghrah, 3 years old, suffered tear gas inhalation and was transferred to hospital after invading soldiers fired tear gas at his family home. His father talked to IMEMC:
‘The army fired tear gas at my house, all my family was there, and my son has a heart condition. He was unable to breathe because of the tear gas, so I took him to the hospital.’
Earlier on Thursday morning, an elderly woman, Zakia al-‘Amory, from Balata refugee camp near Nablus city, died when the Israeli army attacked her home, in order to kidnap her son.
Eyewitnesses reported that troops invaded the home and searched for Al-‘Amory’s son. The woman was terrified and suffered a heart attack. Local sources reported that Israeli forces invaded the camp early on Thursday morning, searching for wanted Palestinians, and left the area with three Palestinians, abducted after the death of the elderly woman.
On Wednesday at midday, Israeli soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian taxi in the village of Rantis near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, injuring injured the driver.
Later in the day, Israeli troops stationed at the illegal Israeli wall near the village of Bil’in, also located near Ramallah, opened fire at a Palestinian teenager working on his familyâ€™s land, seriously injuring him.
A Palestinian teenager was killed on Monday, and several others injured, when Israeli troops attacked a protest organized by school students in the village of Al Mazra’ah Al Sarqyiah, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Medical sources said that Mohamed Al Shuraiteh, 19, was shot with live ammunition, killing him. The students were protesting against the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
One Palestinian boy was killed, and at least 45 were left injured after the Israeli army attacked protests standing in solidarity with the people of Gaza in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday.
For IMEMC.org this is Mary Firth.
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.