Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 16 m 0s || 14.6 MB || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for June 28th, through July, 4th, 2008.
As Hamas calls for the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, two Palestinian patients died in Gaza due to the Israeli siege. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
We begin our weekly report with recent nonviolent actions in the West Bank. IMEMC’s Sam Orwell has the details:
Three activists were injured by Israeli forces on Friday in the weekly protest against the separation wall in Bilâ€™in; near the West Bank city of Ramallah: two of them are French activists and the third one is Mohamad Ali Abo Sa’di 65 years old. Additionally dozens of protesters were treated for tear gas inhalation.
Villagers from Bilâ€™in marched together with international and Israeli solidarity activists after Friday prayers, carrying Palestinian flags and banners demanding the removal of the Israeli wall and settlements.
As protesters approached the separation wall, Israeli forces prevented the villagers from reaching the gate that is supposed to provide access to their lands, and opened fire on them with tear gas canisters, sound bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets. Three were injured and scores of protesters were treated for gas inhalation.
The Israeli army attacked a peaceful protest organized by the villagers of Um Salamunah located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday morning; three protesters were kidnapped by the army. Local sources said that scores of villagers supported by Israeli and international peace activists marched from the main entrance of the village towards the lands that are in danger of being confiscated due to the building of the Wall.
The participants held Palestinian flags and banners condemning the Israeli actions of building of the wall and also calling for the unity among Palestinians. Soldiers attacked the protesters and kidnapped three activists, one Israeli, and two Palestinian. When other protesters tried to stop the jeep from taking them away troops forced the activists, using riffle but and batons, out of the way.
Later in the day and also near Bethlehem, the village of Al Khader organized on Friday midday a nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village’s land.
At least 150 Palestinians from the village of Al Khader along with international supporters staged the protest at the nearby settlers’ road. The march started with midday prayers held near the army checkpoint there, and then speeches were delivered by local organizers.
Israeli soldiers arrived at the protest and announced that the area was a closed military zone and asked the protesters to move away. Protesters stood their ground and staged a protest for another hour or so. In his speech Samier Jaber, an organizer in Al Khader said that ‘on this special day for Americans who are celebrating their independence, Palestine is calling for that right’.
For IMEMC.org this is Sam Orwell.
The Political Report
Palestinian Prime Minister of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, emphasized on Thursday the need for the Rafah crossing terminal to be reopened in agreement with all parties concerned, IMEMC’s Jane Smith has the details:
Haniya’s statement came after riots ripped through the terminal on Wednesday as thousands of stranded Palestinian travelers and patients attempted to cross to the Egyptian side of the terminal, prompting the Egyptian authorities to close the crossing.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmad Abuelghiet, described the Wednesday incidents as ‘ a silly attempt to breach the border lines’, while warning of grave consequences and asserting that Egypt always tries to ease the travel of Palestinians in and out of the besieged Gaza Strip.
The Hamas-dominated government denied that the event was planned and blamed Israel’s procrastination in reopening the border crossings for the eruption of the events, in a time in which Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have been trapped between the closed border crossings since June 2007.
Hamas and Israel agreed two weeks ago to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal, which would see the gradual reopening of Gaza’s crossings in return for the halting of the firing of Palestinian homemade shells.
As for the Rafah crossing terminal, which Egypt controls, Cairo wants the crossing to be reopened in accordance with the 2005 U.S-brokered agreement and in coordination with the Palestinian presidency, which has not held sway in Gaza for more than a year now.
On a related issue, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, confirmed this week that talks over the release of captured Israeli soldier, Gil’ad Shalit, would continue, expecting what he termed ‘painful decisions’ for the deal to be concluded.
Israel and the Hamas party have been negotiating a possible prisoner swap deal, through Egyptian mediators. The deal would see the release of a few hundred Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, yet Israel insists that it will not release some of the names on Hamas’ list.
In the meantime, Israeli media reports said this week that Israel and the Lebanese Hizballah party are about to conclude a prisoner swap deal, in which Israel would release hundreds of Lebanese, Palestinian and Arab prisoners, in exchange for the corpses of Israeli soldiers and information on other missing Israeli soldiers.
On the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation level, Washington and some other member states of the United Nations Security Council expressed concern over a new draft resolution, presented by Libya on behalf of the Arab states, that demands halt of Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territory.
U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was quoted as saying that the Security Council should not intervene in Palestinian-Israeli issues, as both Palestinians and Israelis continue to hold negotiations.
On the internal Palestinian level, the major rival parties Fatah, of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas of Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, traded accusations this week over the blocking of a genuine national dialogue.
On Thursday, Fatah official in the West Bank, Ahmad Abdelrahman, blamed Haniya’s visit to an abandoned Palestinian Presidential headquarters in Gaza as ‘ an indication to Hamas’s domination of Gaza’.
Meanwhile, Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza criticized recent remarks by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to foreign media outlets that Hamas should adhere to international demands.
Asked by IMEMC’s correspondent about current Palestinian efforts to bridge the gap between Fatah and Hamas for the benefit of Palestinian unity, Rabah Mhanna, a Gaza-based leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine maintained:
‘ In this respect, we have opened up the profile of political detainees of both sides in Gaza and Ramallah, with the aim of whitening the prisons there of such detainees as a preliminary step towards dialogue. Then, we have proposed forming a preparatory committee for organizing a comprehensive national dialogue and we are working relentlessly with all forces concerned’.
In June 2007, Hamas-led forces ousted Fatah-loyal security personnel and leaders from the Gaza Strip amidst factional fighting with the Fatah party.
Afterwards, Abbas outlawed Hamas and demanded an end to what he called ‘ coup against legitimacy’, before any dialogue is initiated with this party. Last month , Abbas launched an initiative for dialogue, based on a Yemeni proposal for conciliation.
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza has been sidelined by America, Israeli and western governments, since the party took power in 2006’s parliamentary elections. International players demand Hamas to recognize Israel, drop its resistance agenda and adhere to previously signed peace agreements with Israel.
For IMEMC.org this is Jane Smith.
The Israeli attacks
Two Palestinian patients died this week due to the continued siege of the Gaza Strip, meanwhile Israeli troops beat up an award winning Gazan journalist on the borders, this and more by IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari in Gaza:
Spokesman of the popular committee against the Israeli blockade, Rami Abdo, announced on Wednesday that patient number 200 died after having been unable to go for treatment outside of Gaza as Israel continues to close border crossings that have been shut for more than one year now.
Mazen Arrar, 20 a cardiac patient, died while he was waiting to enter through the Rafah crossing terminal on Tuesday but could not do so due to the continued closure of Gaza, which Israel enforced in June2007.
Arrar’s death is the second in 24 hours, as well as the eight-month-old infant Ayat Anwar Dhaik, of the Nuseirat refugee camp, after she was unable to go outside of Gaza on Tuesday.
A Palestinian woman was shot and injured by Israeli army fire near the Sufa crossing in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning. Medical sources reported that 35-year-old Aishah Attayia sustained moderate wounds in her leg and was moved to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Witnesses reported that Israeli soldiers manning the borders opened fire without any reason injuring Aishah.
On Monday night Israel informed the Egyptian mediators of the truce between Hamas which controls Gaza, and Israel, that the Israeli troops will open fire at any Palestinian that approaches too close to the borders. The Hamas movement considers this Israeli decision a violation of the truce mediated by Egypt between Hamas and Israeli three weeks ago.
The Egyptian authorities closed on Wednesday afternoon the Rafah crossing terminal after hundreds of Palestinians, mainly patients and stranded people, flooded into the Egyptian side of the terminal, as their entry has been delayed.
The angry awaiting travelers began heading for the terminal on Wednesday midday after they had been waiting since the early morning, as their entry had been delayed by the Egyptian authorities, witnesses said.
Egypt decided Tuesday to reopen the Rafah crossing terminal to allow some dozens of patients who are in need of medical care and hundreds of stranded Palestinians at both sides of the border, to enter. The Rafah crossing terminal has been closed since June 2007.
Also this week Palestinian journalist Mohammad Omer, from Rafah, was harassed by Israeli border Authorities on his way back from a speaking tour in Europe.
Upon arrival to Jordan, he was informed by the Dutch embassy that he is not welcomed in Israel. However, the Dutch embassy coordinated his entry with the Israeli Authorities and thus he proceeded to King Hussein terminal on Thursday.
Israeli border police stopped him and detained him for interrogation; Omer told IMEMC over the phone that he was beaten by the Israeli intelligence officers. Omar won ‘Martha Gelhorn Journalism Prize 2008’ for articles he published in the Washington Report magazine, describing the hard living conditions the Palestinian people are facing due to the ongoing siege on the Gaza Strip.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 44 military invasions targeting Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these attacks Israeli troops killed one child and kidnapped 42 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children. IMEMC’s Jay Sheridan with the story:
This week’s kidnappings were focused in the cities of Jenin, Hebron and Nablus where 24 civilians were kidnapped on Thursday. With this weeks kidnappings the number of Palestinian civilians kidnapped by the Israeli army from the West Bank since the beginning of 2008 has mounted to 1,424.
Palestinian medical sources in the West Bank city of Tubas reported that Israeli soldiers shot and killed on Sunday at dawn a 17-year old youth from the city. The sources identified the youth as Mohammad Nasser Daraghma. He was standing near the main road of the city when the soldiers opened fire on him.
On Thursday evening at least six Palestinian youth were wounded by Israeli military fire after the army invaded Al Farâ€™a refugee camp, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and clashed with the local youth, who hurled stones at the invading forces.
On Thursday midday the Israeli army demolished two Palestinian owned homes in the city of Jerusalem, the Israeli army also attacked the families who tried to stop the bulldozers and injured some of them. The Israeli army says the homes were built without needed permits. Since it has occupied the city Israel has rarely given building permits to the Palestinians of Jerusalem.
Moreover an Israeli police force and army unit attacked on Thursday morning the homes of Palestinian families that live in Jerusalem’s old city. Witnesses said that soldiers fired tear gas and sound bombs at residents’ homes then searched a number of them, during the search, witnesses added that police officers detained men and beat them up. Eid Qwass, an owner of one of those homes was beaten up so badly that he had to be sent to the hospital.
Palestinian sources said that Israeli settlers fired on Tuesday homemade shells at the village of Buren located near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Local sources said that the two shells landed on open areas near a local farmer house, causing no injures or damage.
Khier Abu Amran, from the local civil defense department in the village told IMEMC that the settlers fired the home made shells from the nearby settlement of Brakha, which is built on the village land. He added that Israeli troops invaded the village and took the remains of the shells that were collected by the villagers.
The Israeli army injured a Palestinian resistance leader during an army attack on the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday at dawn. Ala Abu al Rab, the leader of the Al-Quds brigades in Jenin, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, sustained moderate wounds in the attack.
Local sources stated that an undercover Israeli army unit ambushed Abu Al Rab in Qabatiya, a town near Jenin. Troops opened fire at Abu Al Rob and injured him, but he managed to flee the scene of the attack. Abu al Rab was targeted by the Israeli army several times over the past year, the Islamic Jihad reported.
At least three Israelis have been killed and 30 were wounded, two seriously, as a bulldozer attacked a bus and a number of cars on Jaffa Street in West Jerusalem on Wednesday midday. Israeli sources said a Palestinian from Jerusalem, identified as Tayyser Dowikat age 31 carried out this attack, and was shot by Israeli police who were in the area. The attacker according to an Israeli police source had a criminal record. No Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for the attack.
For IMEMC.org this is Jay Sheridan.
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 week’s report was brought to you by _____________ and Ghassan Bannoura.