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 April 19th through to April 25th, 2008.
Israel rejected a truce offer by the Hamas movement, while the Israeli army conducted at least 39 military invasions into Palestinian communities, in the West Bank and kills seven in Gaza these stories and more coming up stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s Marry Smith with the details:
A group of Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists reclaimed an evacuated Israeli military post near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday. The post is located at the main road that connects the village of Ein-Qinyah with the nearby city of Ramallah; several years ago the army installed a checkpoint and a military post there, separating the village from Ramallah. The land on which the military post is located is privately owned by farmers from the village of Ein-Qinyah.
On Thursday, nonviolent activists opened the road and took over the military post. The army evacuated this military post two months ago, settlers then came and installed caravans in preparation to take over the land and make a settlement.
Abdullah Abu Rahmah, of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in the nearby village of Bil’in, one of the organizers of the event, told IMEMC that as soon as the army knew about their presence soldiers opened fire:
‘We removed the Israeli flags and installed Palestinian ones after we came into the military post. Shortly after the army came and opened fire on us they attacked us with live rounds, we hid but a car that belongs to Reuters news Agency was hit with live rounds and sustained damage.’
Several hours later Israeli troops and settlers attacked the peace activists with rifle buts and batons. Two activists were kidnapped by the Israeli soldiers and taken to a nearby Israeli settlement. Troops forced the protesters out then closed the road and retook the military post.
On Friday, the villagers of Bil’in located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah conducted their weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village land. Villagers from Bil’in along with Israeli and international peace activists marched towards the location of the Wall which is separating the village from its land. As soon as the protest reached the gate of the Wall soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Scores of protesters were treated for gas inhalation.
Meanwhile Friday afternoon, dozens of residents of Shabateen village , north west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah marched to the construction site of the Separation Wall on their agricultural lands. After reaching the site, the residents stopped the Israeli bulldozers from working there and attacked one of them. Then the Israeli army fired rounds of live ammunition on the demonstrators. Dozens of residents were injured, four critically, by the army fire.
Also on Friday midday around 100 villagers from Al Khader village located near Bethlehem city in the southern part of the West Bank, supported by a small number of international and Israeli peace activists, protested the illegal wall Israel is building on the village land. The Friday prayer was held in the street, in the presence of around 30 Israeli soldiers. The protest ended after speeches by the Local Committee Against the Wall and Settlement Construction were delivered.
For IMEMC.org this is Marry Smith.
The Political report
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid an official visit to Washington D.C., while Israel rejected a truce offer by the Hamas movement that controls Gaza, IMEMC’s Fuad Al-Zir with the details:
On Friday, Israel dismissed a ceasefire offer presented by the ruling Hamas party in Gaza. The offer was presented through Egyptian mediators. Israel brands the offer as a maneuver by Hamas in order for the group to re-arm and reorganize after recent fighting with the Israeli army in Gaza. David Baker is the spokesman of the Israeli government,
In Gaza, the ruling Hamas party said it presented positions to the Egyptian side, including a six-month truce with Israel, to be confined to the Gaza Strip, and later extended to the West Bank.
Items of the ceasefire proposal include lifting a ten-month-long Israeli embargo on Gaza, as well as a halt of all Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip. In return, Hamas would offer a halt of all attacks on Israel involving home-made rocket shells, and the cessation of weapons smuggling through the Gaza-Egypt border line in southern Gaza. Fouzi Barhum of the Hamas movement talked about the Egyptian mediation:
‘ the ball is now in the court of the Israeli occupation, which has used to be updated by the Egyptian leadership on such efforts, and we state very clearly that we have far complied with the Egyptian officials, with the higher interests of our people and showed great a deal of flexibility towards stopping the aggression and lifting the siege. Therefore, the Israeli occupation should now respect such an Egyptian effort and meet the need for calm and security in the region’.
Other Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza had reservations about the proposed ceasefire, because it dos not involve the West Bank, but Hamas says that all the factions have agreed principally to the offer.
Hamas’ ceasefire initiative comes with the backdrop of deteriorating humanitarian conditions, largely because of the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave of Gaza since Hamas control there in June 2007.
In Gaza, John Ging, operations director of United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, described the current situation in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid an official visit to Washington D.C., where he is expected to meet with U.S President George W. Bush, within efforts to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Washington revived such talks last November on basis of a two-state solution by the end of 2008. Such a solution has been recently accepted by the ruling Hamas party in Gaza. Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, reiterated this week his party’s willingness to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 border lines, provided the dismantlement of all Israeli settlements and the establishment of east Jerusalem as its capital.
Haniya, however, asserted that Hamas will not recognize Israel if the movement’s criteria for a Palestinian state are not met. In the meantime, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa, dismissed the possibility to reach a solution by end of 2008, saying that what is needed is to evaluate the Palestinian-Israeli talks by the middle of this year to see what steps can be taken.
King Abdullah of Jordan, during a meeting in Washington with President Abbas, voiced the need to reach a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a stalemate between the two sides.
Concurrently, Russian foreign minister Sirgi Laverov, expected that in May his country will play host to a Palestinian-Israeli peace conference similar to the one held last November in Annapolis. The new conference would be a bid to bridge the gap between the two sides on contentious outstanding issues.
Among such issues are the occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, and the borders of future Palestinian state.
While Hamas has shunned peace talks until Israel halts its offensives and siege against the Palestinian people, the Abbas government in Ramallah has been engaged in peace negotiations with Israel.
The democratically-elected Hamas party has been denounced by western governments, including the United States and Israel, as international players want Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce ‘resistance’ against the Israeli occupation.
For IMEMC.org this is Fuad Al-Zir.
The Israeli attacks
The Gaza Strip
As Israel still holds the Gaza Strip under siege , Israeli army attacks on the Palestinian coastal region leave seven Palestinians killed. From Gaza, IMEMC’s Rami Al Mughari explains:
Palestinians sources reported that the Israeli army has kidnapped 20 Palestinian civilians so far during an ongoing military operation targeting the town of Beit Hannon in the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon.
An elder Palestinian man from the northern Gaza Strip was killed earlier on Thursday morning after Israeli army tanks rolled into the area and began shooting heavily. Witnesses said that more than 30 Israeli armored vehicles, including tanks, thrust a few hundred meters into Beit Hanoun as accompanying bulldozers began razing vast areas of Palestinian-owned farm lands in the area.
On Wednesday, an Israeli drone fired at least one missile on a Palestinian house in the Alamal neighborhood of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, causing light damages to the house, with no casualties reported.
Also, in southern Gaza, two Palestinian fighters of the Saraya aL-Quds brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, were reportedly wounded late yesterday night after an Israeli drone fired a missile on them to the east of Kahn Younus city. Local medics described one of the injuries as a critical.
On Monday evening, an Israeli ground-to-ground missile and concurrent ground invasion resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. The Israeli military reported killing one Palestinian with a tank-fired missile, and two Palestinians in an invasion of northern Gaza by the Gavati unit of the Israeli military.
The Israeli army killed one Palestinian resistance fighter, injured four others and kidnapped at least 27 civilians during an invasion targeting the northern part of the Gaza strip on Monday.
On Monday at dawn, Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded the town of Beit Hannon. Troops searched and ransacked homes before kidnapping 27 civilians from one family, local sources reported.
The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, said that Ikremah Abu Odah, 22, one of their brigades fighters was killed, and four other civilians were injured when an Israeli drone fired missiles at a group of resistance fighters who were trying to prevent the army from invading.
Witnesses said that troops left Beit Hannon late on Monday morning. Meanwhile another civilian was killed overnight during an Israeli air raid targeting the city of Rafah in the southern part of the coastal region.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
The West Bank
The Israeli army conducted at least 39 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank this week. During these attacks, Israeli troops kidnapped at least 72 Palestinian civilians, including 13 children, IMEMC’s J Sheridan with the details:
The Israeli army invasions this week were focused on the cities of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Hebron. With 72 people kidnapped by the army this week, the number of Palestinian civilians kidnapped by the Israeli army from the West Bank since the beginning of 2008 has mounted to 1,014.
A Palestinian child sustained critical wounds on Tuesday night after an Israeli settler hit him with his car near the city of Hebron in the southern part of the West Bank.
Ahmad Al Titti, five years old, was standing beside his father on the main road connecting the city of Hebron to rest of the West Bank, when an Israeli settler rammed the child with his car.
On Tuesday night five Palestinian civilians were injured during an army invasion targeting the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Israeli troops stormed the city, and soldiers opened fire at the civilians in the street. Meanwhile, local youth clashed with the invading troops, witnesses said.
On Saturday afternoon, Israeli forces backed by armored vehicles broke into the al Huda local market in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The al Huda market belongs to the Islamic Charitable Society.
Troops handed the tenants of a two day ultimatum to evacuate the stores and offices in the market in accordance with a decision made by the Israeli authorities to confiscate and the seal all of the charitable society’s buildings and their belongings.
The Islamic Charitable society runs several projects in Hebron, including three schools and two orphanages. On 25 February 2008, the Israeli army ordered the closure of all properties and institutions funded by the Islamic Charitable Society. The order was to be implemented on April 1st.
The Society filed an appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which on April 2nd gave the army four days to file its justification for its closure and evacuation. The High Court of Justice has not yet made a decision on the matter. A new ultimatum date of Monday, April 28th has been issued by the Israeli military.
The Israeli army radio reported that two Israeli security guards were shot dead at an Israeli industrial zone located near the northern west Bank city of Tulkarem on Friday morning.
The Israeli army reported that Palestinian fighters shot the two guards and then fled the area into the city of Tulkarem using an Israeli car. The Al Aqsa brigades of Fatah calmed responsibility for the attack.
For IMEMC.org this is J Sheridan.
Palestinians in Haifa held three events marking the 60-year anniversary of the Nakba this week. From Haifa, IMEMC’s Aaron Lakoff has more.
The Palestinian community living in the northern city of Haifa, located within the 1948 borders of Palestine, held three public events this week to commemorate the 60-year anniversary of the Nakba, and the fall of Haifa. While Israel continues to refer to the anniversary as the, quote, ‘liberation of Haifa’, Palestinians in the city gathered to present their side of the city’s history.
The events held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were organized by the Popular Nakba Commemoration Committee. They included a festival called ‘This is Arab Haifa,’ in which participants lit candles and put up signs indicating the original street names, as well as an educational panel on Wednesday night with testimonies from Haifa Nakba survivors.
On Tuesday night, approximately 75 people gathered on the roof of Beit Al-Najadah, the house where the Palestinian resistance finally fell to the Carmeli brigade of the Haganah on April 23, 1948.
Haifa is frequently promoted by Israel as a place where Arabs and Jews live together in peaceful co-existance. However, Hilani Shahadi, a Palestinian school teacher from the region of Haifa thinks differently,
‘Especially people who live in Haifa are still facing many problems and difficulties, especially when it comes to houses, available spaces to live, and economic life.’
In some areas of Haifa such as the Bat Galim beach and Wadi Salib, many houses of Palestinian refugees are still standing, abandoned and sealed up. In recent years, Israeli authorities have been demolishing such houses. Shahadi explains more on this situation,
‘What’s defined as ‘absentee propertee’ is like a taboo area, and arabs are not allowed to get close to those areas. They are not allowed to get access, they cannot rent. And even if you offer a deal to rent that place, a lot of Arabs cannot meet the very high standards set by those institutions which do their best to minimize the number of Arabs who can be involved and who can go back to those areas.’
Today, the population of Haifa is over 260 thousand, 82% of which is Jewish. Across Palestine, many events are being planned in the coming weeks to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, including demonstrations, art festivals, and a right of return march departing from Nazareth to destroyed Palestinian villages.
For IMEMC.org, this is Aaron Lakoff.
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.