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Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for December 12th to the 18th , 2009
As the Israeli military siege on Gaza leaves one patient dead, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central committee renewed this week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank.
With IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura:
The villagers of Bil’in central West Bank staged on Friday their weekly protest against the Israeli wall built on their land.
This Friday the demonstration organized by the local Popular Committee against the Wall was joined by dozens of supporters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
As every Friday since five years now a number of international and Israeli peace activists and people from Bil’in and neighboring villages took part to the demo.
After the Friday prayers, people headed towards the gat of the wall separating villagers from their land.
When the demonstrators approached the wall the Israeli soldiers fired sound bombs and tear gasses at them. Dozens were treated locally for the effects tear gas inhalation.
In the City of Jerusalem on Friday the Israeli police and military attacked a nonviolent protest organized by Palestinians against continued settlement construction in the city.
Police officers arrested 20 people. The police said they arrested some protesters because they marched without permission.
Palestinians were joined by Israeli and internationals supporters. The protest were staged at the Palestinian neighborhood of Shikh Jarah were Israeli is evicting Palestinian families to build a settlement.
For IMEMC.org this is Ghassan Bannoura.
The Political Report
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s central committee renewed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office. In the meantime, an agreement on a national unity deal between Fatah and Hamas remains elusive. IMEMC’s Zak Brophy has the story:
Israel refused this week to endorse a prisoner swap deal with the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, based on Hamas’s demands for the release of a number of senior Hamas leaders from Israeli jails, in return for an Israeli soldier who Hamas has been holding in Gaza since June2006.
Several of those on Hamas’s list have been sentenced to long prison terms. Egyptian officials and more recently a German broker have been attempting to mediate a deal in which Hamas agrees to send these senior prisoners into exile. Israel has so far refused to accept.
Talks continue on a prisoner swap deal that would lead to the release of at least 1000 Palestinian prisoners, including high-profiled Palestinians such as the popular Fatah leader Marwan Albarghouti and Secretary General for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, in exchange for the Israeli soldier, Gil’ad Shalit.
Meanwhile, the rival Hamas party in Gaza has refused to accept the renewal of the term in office for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Although the move approved this week by the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas no longer considers Abbas as the legitimate president of the Palestinian people as his term in office came to an end last January.
In other news, Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, hinted at the possibility of Israeli resuming extensive settlement construction in 10 months from now, after Israelâ€™s declared pause in settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.
United Nations Envoy to the occupied Palestinian territories, Robert Seri, told the UN Security Council this week that the recent Israeli so called freeze on settlement building is actually only a ‘slow down in construction’ and not a halt.
Settlement building in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem is considered to be a serious obstacle in the path of peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Despite repeated demands from America that Israel stop all forms of settlement building, Washington has yet to enforce a change on the ground. Palestinians refuse to resume peace talks with Israel until Israel complies with such demands.
Elsewhere, Top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Eriqat, praised this week the EU’s decision to resume the mandate of EU observers at the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza Strip. EU officials had agreed to monitor the crossing in 2005 after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip but withdrew their support when Hamas came to power in 2007.
In Cairo, Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, was quoted as saying that his country wants Hamas to sign a unity deal with Fatah, based on an Egyptian conciliation paper on which Fatah has already signed.
Suleiman’s remarks came during talks in Cairo between independent Gaza-based factions and dignitaries over a possible unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
For IMEMC.org this is Zak Brophy.
The Gaza Strip Report
In the Gaza Strip this week the Israeli military attacked border areas and a patient died due to the Israeli siege on the costal region. From Gaza IMEMCâ€™s Rami Al Megahri reports:
A Palestinian patient died on Tuesday after he was prevented by the Israeli military to leave the coastal region for medical care in Egypt. Waleed Madi, 38 years old, had Tuberculosis. Palestinian doctors were unable to treat him locally because of the siege.
Staying in the Gaza Strip, three Palestinian civilians were found dead on Tuesday afternoon inside a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Palestinian sources reported that the Egyptian military have located the three men, who are from the same family, under the rubble as the tunnel they were trying to go through collapsed on Monday night.
Palestinian medical sources identified the three as 18-year-old Mahmoud Al Louh, his brother Ahmad, 17 and Fathi Al Louh, 45. Since Israel placed the Gaza Strip under siege, the tunnels at the Gaza-Egypt boarders became a main source for much needed supplies for the 1.5 million Palestinians living the Gaza Strip.
On Monday Israeli soldiers invaded the Industrial Area located near the Erez Crossing, west of Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and kidnapped two young men, local sources reported.
According to the source, Israeli troops advanced approximately 350 meters into northern Gaza while Palestinian workers were trying to remove the rubble at the industrial area that was shelled by the Israeli military during the war on Gaza last January.
In other news the Israeli military allowed food and fuel supplies to enter the besieged Gaza Strip this week.
The army allowed 90 trucks of food into the coastal region and supplied the only power plant in Gaza with fuel needed to generate electricity, local sources said. They also allowed truckloads of flowers to leave the Gaza Strip.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Megahri in Gaza.
The West Bank Report
The Israeli army conducted this week at least 16 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and troops kidnapped 17 civilians. IMEMCâ€™s George Rishmawi Reports:
The Israeli military attacks this week where focused around the cities of Nablus and Jenin, in the north, as well as Bethlehem in the south. Among those kidnapped this week there were three children.
The Israeli police attacked a festival organized by Palestinians in Jerusalemâ€™s Old City on Thursday. The festival was organized by the Palestinians Authority to mark the end of the Jerusalem the Capital of Arab Culture activities.
Witnesses said that Israeli troops and police attacked people gathered near Damascus Gate using batons and rifle butts. Officers then rounded up a number of participants and arrested them. At least 20 people sustained cuts and bruises in the police attack, medical sources said.
Earlier this year the city of Jerusalem was chosen by the Arab League to be the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009.
The Israeli government banned all activities related to the event. Israel says Jerusalem is its capital and does not belong to Palestinians. Israel occupied the city of Jerusalem during the 1967 war.
Elsewhere the Israeli army removed a military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday morning.
Witnesses told local media that soldiers removed the concrete blocks and the gate of the checkpoint known to Palestinians as Al Taneep. Troops then allowed people to drive though without stopping them.
The Israeli army has about 500 military checkpoints around Palestinian major cities and between villages in the West Bank. Those checkpoints effectively divide the West Bank into 64 separate areas.
For IMEMC.org this is George Rishmawi.
And that’s just some of the news from This Week in Palestine. For regular updates, please visit our website at www.IMEMC.org. Thank you for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem. This week’s report has been brought to you by Dina Awwad.