Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 17.3 MB || Time 19m 0s ||This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for April 26th through to May 2nd, 2008.
U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, stated this week that both Palestinians and Israelis should now set the borders of the Palestinian state, while Israeli army attacks in the Strip this week left 10 Palestinians killed. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s John Orwell with the details:
On Friday, dozens of villagers from 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’s land. This week, the protest was against the wall and in solidarity with Palestinian workers to mark International Workers Day on Thursday.
As soon as the mid-day Friday prayers were finished in the local mosque, 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. Immediately after 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.
On Friday, two nonviolent protest took place in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. An anti-Wall demonstration brought together at least two hundred residents of the al Ma’sarah village near Bethlehem, as well as dozens of International peace activists.
Demonstrators marched from a high school in the village of Al Ma’sarah towards the construction site of the Separation Wall on the village’s farmlands. Work began a year and a half ago no the village’s lands, aimed at confiscating and isolating ten of thousands of dunums of Al Ma’sarah’s land, located south-west of Bethlehem.
As the protestors were about reach the construction site of the Wall, the Israeli army installed military roadblocks and prevented them from proceeding any further.
Mohammad Brejieh, the media spokesperson of the Popular Committee, said that two Palestinians were injured. He added that the Israeli army took many tight procedures to prevent the International peace activists from reaching the village by installing many roadblocks and closed the roads that lead to the village.
Meanwhile the Popular Committee of Al-Khader village, located near Bethlehem, organized a non-violent demonstration in protest of the construction of the illegal Israeli segregation barrier, as well as the discriminatory and oppressive Israeli policies used daily against Palestinians.
On Friday about 300 residents of Al Khader, along with international and Israeli activists, gathered in the village. The village’s residents performed their Friday prayers at Al Nashah Israeli checkpoint located at the entrance of Al Khader.
Afterwards Dr. Mustafa Al Barghuthi, a Palestinian MP, gave a speech calling for the continued resistance against the wall and the Israeli settlements. Soldiers were deployed, but the protesters stood their ground for nearly an hour before deciding to end the action.
For IMEMC.org this is George Rishmawi.
The Political report
U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice , stated this week that both Palestinians and Israelis should now set the borders of the Palestinian state, before reaching an agreement by the end of 2008. The IMEMC’s Fuad Al-Zir has this story and more:
Condolleeza Rice said that demarcating the borders of the Palestinian state would require that Israel keep the illegal settlement enclaves it has previously established on Palestinian land.
Also this week, Rice stated that she believes that there is a chance for the two sides to conclude a peace deal by the end of this year, asserting that Washington would, in the meantime, keep sidelining the Islamist Hamas party until the party opts for peace as a ‘strategic choice’.
In the Jordanian capital of Amman, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, discussing possible chances for resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks on the basis of the two-state solution.
Earlier in the week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, concluded a visit to Washington, in which he met with US officials, including president George W. Bush.
Abbas asked Bush to help pressure Israel to end its settlement construction drive on Palestinian lands and to advance the peace talks between the two sides.
Spokesperson of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, described Abbas’ Washington visit as unsuccessful, urging him to declare the peace negotiations with Israel a failure, and to focus instead on commencing internal dialogue to end the Hamas-Fatah rivalry and reshape Palestinian politics.
In defense of the Palestinian Authority’s negotiation strategy, Chief Palestinian negotiator, Ahmad Qurai, said that the Palestinians know their rights well and know how to claim them,.
Meanwhile, Israeli media sources said that Omar Sulieman, chief of the Egyptian intelligence service, will visit Israel next week to brief Israeli officials on a ceasefire deal which Palestinian factions agreed to on Wednesday.
The deal, mediated by Egyptian officials, stipulates that Israel would halt its attacks on Palestinians and lift the siege on Gaza, and that resistance groups in Gaza would stop firing homemade shells for a period of six months.
Israel had earlier rejected the offer, branding it a ‘maneuver by the ruling Hamas party in Gaza to rearm and reorganize’ after recent fighting with the Israeli army in Gaza.
Also in Gaza this week, the killing of a Palestinian mother and her four children by the Israeli army in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday provoked worldwide condemnation. United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, urged the Israeli armed forces to ensure protection of civilian lives.
Meanwhile Hisham Yousef, the Chief of Cabinet for the Secretary General of the Arab League, criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza, as well as the Israeli army’s actions against Gaza’s population, saying that the Gaza Strip is on the verge of an unprecedented disaster, for which Israel will be held completely and solely responsible.
For IMEMC.org this is Fuad Al-Zir.
The Israeli attacks
The Gaza Strip
As Israel announced this week its intentions to lower the scale of military operations targeting the Gaza Strip, army attacks in the Strip this week left 10 Palestinians killed. IMEMC’s Aaron Lakoff has the details:
Israeli security sources reported on Tuesday that the Israeli army intends to lower the scale of military operations targeting the Gaza Strip in coming days in order to avoid any possible escalation in the region during the Israeli independence day holidays.
Israeli radio reported that despite the tragic accident in Beit Hanoun on Monday, which left seven civilians dead, including four children, Hamas will not create an escalation.
Rather than militarily engaging Israel for the time being, the movement has decided to wait for the Egyptian mediation efforts to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel. Israel is yet to respond to this truce offer.
An Israeli shell tore through a Palestinian home in the northern Gaza Strip village of Izbit Abed-Rabo, near Beit Hanoun, early Monday morning, killing four siblings under the age of six and their mother. The army also killed one fighter who was a member of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, as well as another 17-year old.
Dr.Mo’awiya Abu Hasanin, chief of the Emergency and Ambulance Department at Gaza’s health ministry, confirmed that the four children and their mother were from the Moatiq family.
On Wednesday evening, an Israeli army shelling which targeted a workshop in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, killed one prominent leader of Al Quds brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Five Palestinians including two children were wounded, and least two of them escaped with serious injuries.
Two Palestinians were killed and another two children were injured by Israeli army fire in separate attacks targeting the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, stated that an unmanned Israeli airplane fired a missile at 40 year-old Nafith Manssour, a leader in the brigades, and killed him.
Manssour was walking in one of the streets of Al Shabura Refugee camp located near Rafah city when the unmanned airplane attacked him. Khoulod Ingeliy, a young bystander, was injured in the attack.
Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, 12-year old Imad Kadeh sustained critical wounds after he was shot in the head by the Israeli army during an invasion targeting the Al Faraheen area, east of Khan Younis, located in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. During the same invasion, Israeli forces also shot and killed 55-year old Mohamed Abu Duka.
For IMEMC.org this is Aaron Lakoff.
The West Bank
The Israeli army conducted at least 36 military invasions this week into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those attacks Israeli troops kidnapped 37 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children. IMEMC’s Mannar Jibrein has the details:
The Israeli army invasions and settlers attacks this week were focused on the cities of Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Bethlehem. With 38 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 1,051.
On Friday afternoon, a number of Israeli settlers attacked the villagers of Tuwani, near Hebron. The settlers, who were armed with automatic assault rifles, demanded the Palestinian villagers to evacuate the village, claiming that the land where the village is located belongs to them.
Two Italian activists working with other international peace activists in the village, were assaulted by the settlers. One of the Italian men wounded in Tuwani spoke to the IMEMC over the phone,
On Thursday morning, the Israeli army attacked Anssar Al Sagien, a local NGO located in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Local sources reported that Israeli troops invaded the city of Jenin and surrounded the building were the society’s offices are located. Soldiers then searched the offices and confiscated documents and computers belonging to the organization.
Anssar Al Sajeen is a Palestinian NGO that deals with Palestinian Political Prisoners detained by the Israeli army by providing them with training courses, education, and aid work.
On Wednesday at dawn, Israeli troops raided the Al Shariya girls orphanage and school in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. They destroyed a sewing workshop in the school’s basement.
The raid came after an ultimatum of April 28th was given by the Israeli army General of Command to close and evacuate all properties and institutions funded by the Islamic Charitable Society, including the Al Shariya school. The Israel army claims that the Islamic Charitable Society has ties to Hamas, but the society denies this allegation.
Rachid Rachid is an English teacher at the Al Shariya school for boys, also administered by the Islamic Charitable Society:
< Actuality â€“ English>
Also in Hebron on Tuesday a group of radical Israeli settlers attacked local Palestinian homes. Witnesses reported that a dozen armed Israeli settlers from the illegal Qiryat Arba settlement, located in the eastern part of Hebron, hurled stones and empty glass bottles at residents’ homes and cars. Witnesses added that several homes sustained damage and a number of cars were also wrecked in the attack.
For IMEMC.org this is Mannar Jibrein.
Palestinians workers marked this week May Day. This May Day for Palestinian workers in Gaza comes as the labor sector is in total collapse. More than 3900 local industries have shut down since Israel began enforcing a closure on the coastal territory in June 2007. IMEMC’s Rami Al-Meghari has more:
This Gaza City cemetery is different. It’s not for human beings. The graves contain the remains of Gaza’s factories, a symbol of the collapse of local industry.
The Gaza-based Industries Federation estimates that since Israel began its crippling siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, more than 95 percent of local factories have been forced to shut down, leaving behind tens of thousands of Palestinian families without income. Amr Hammad is the executive director of the Gaza-based industries federation:
Actuality (In English)
Hammad says the collapse of Gaza’s industries is directly linked to the Israeli blockade:
Actuality (In English)
Gaza’s industrial sector included enterprises like weaving factories, food canneries, large bakeries, metal workshops, quarries and textiles. 41-year-old Nasser Al-Batran lives in the Al-Buraij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Al-Batran used to work at a weaving factory in Gaza City before the Hamas takeover of the coastal strip and the subsequent Israeli closure of the region. He now stays idle at home, struggling to feed his 7-member family.
Actuality (in Arabic)
‘I’m out of the house from morning until the evening because I can’t meet the needs of my family. When my child asks me for one shekel, I can’t afford that. A few days ago, my daughter asked to give her ten shekels for a school trip, but I couldn’t.’
When asked if he receives government aid, Naser Al-Batran explains:
Actuality (In Arabic).
‘We appeal to both the Palestinian presidency and the government in here to pay attention to laborers. Can you imagine? Those working for the presidency or those employed by the government take monthly salaries, while laborers are abandoned. How come a 100 dollar stipend Ramallah or Gaza be enough’
Al-Batran is not alone. The majority of Gazan families cannot afford essential items for daily living. World Food Programme states that 80% of Gaza residents survive on food aid. At the local market of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, vendors complain of that they are unable to sell their goods. Mazen Assemry sells chickens in the market.
Actuality (In Arabic):
‘The situation is rotten…and as you see, no one is buying chickens. The prices are high and the market is almost empty of people and cars.’
Another major setback for the economy has been the withholding of salaries of government workers. When the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the Gaza Strip in the wake of fierce factional fighting with the secular Fatah party, the administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a boycott of the de-facto government of Gaza. Government employees who continued to work in Gaza were declared ‘insubordinate’, and their salaries have been withheld. The government is the largest employer in the coastal territory.
Mohammad Al-Saftawi is a 28-year old civil servant and the son of the late Fatah leader, As’ad Al-Saftawi. He has not been paid in five months.
Actuality (In Arabic):
‘I’m a father of two children and my salary is my children’s sole source of livlihood. Actually, I have been suffering a lot because of this, especially since everyone knows I have no political affiliation. Maybe it was cut because I pray in a mosque as many Muslims do, maybe this was the reason’.
The Hamas-run Chamber of Employees estimates that the Abbas government has withheld the salaries of some 40,000 civil servants and security forces. Samir Zaqout of the Al-Mizan center for Human rights in Gaza says the withholding of salaries is ‘illegal’.
Actuality (In Arabic):
‘Hundreds of teachers had their salaries withheld, for instance, an entire school staff in the Rafah area, suffered salary cuts. This situation hampers facets of public life and deprives the residents of the Gaza Strip of their basic rights. For example, their right to education has been threatened, as a direct result of this policy, which we consider illegal and a blatant violation of law, so we demand an investigation into the case’.
Adding to the hardships caused by the collapse of Gaza’s industrial and public sector, Israel has recently tightened its siege further by restricting the entry of essential supplies such as fuel and food items. Hamas says the Strip is on the verge of exploding while it maintains it is determined to break up the siege.
Israel, the United States and other Western governments sidelined Hamas when the party took power after January 2006’s parliamentary elections. The international powers want Hamas to recognize Israel and adhere to previously-signed peace agreements. but Hamas has refused to participate in peace talks as long as Israel maintains its blockade and continues to take military actions against Palestinian civilians.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip’s civilian population remains trapped behind its border walls and the sea, with few of the basic necessities of life.
For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rami Al-Meghari in IMEMC Gaza.
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.