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Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for January 9th to January 15th 2010
Eight Palestinians, among them one child, were reported dead this week in the Gaza Strip as Israel announced its intention to resume construction in West Bank settlements. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank. The Israeli military have stepped up its campaign of targeting local organizers of those nonviolent activities. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura with the details:
On Friday the villagers of Bil’in and Nil’in, central West Bank, and Al Ma’ssara, southern West Bank protested the Israeli built wall on their lands. The villagers were joined by Israeli and international supporters.
At the village of Bil’in the protesters were met with live rounds, and tear gas. Six people were injured by the army fire. In Nil’in scores surfed tear gas inhalation. While in al Ma’sara protesters were attacked by soldier’s batons and rifle butts, no injuries were reported.
The Israeli military considers protest organizing illegal. According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee Israeli troops have arrested 94 residents of Nil’in village in connection to the protests since they started nearly two years ago. In Bil’in, 34 residents have been arrested over the past six months. Eyad Burnat is head of Bil’in’s popular committee against the wall and settlement construction. He says that arrests will not stop the movement:
‘This is a new Israeli policy to stop the popular struggle, because it effects the Israeli propaganda, and exposes the true violent face of the Israeli army. That is why they want to stop it by arresting the organizers of those events, but at the end we say the struggle will continue even if they arrest us all.’
The Israeli military policy does not stop at invasions and arrests. Some organizers report intimidation too. Mahmoud Zwahra is from the village of Al-Ma’sara near Bethlehem, where people have organized against the wall for the past three years.
‘At the end of this year they started to phone us, they said that will not allow any demonstrations in the village and if we going to see one we are going to arrest you and put you in the black list meaning they will not allow us to travel.’
Currently, the Israeli military is holding eight members of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The army says all are suspected of incitement against the military. All are currently being held based on secret evidence that their lawyers have no access to, and without any charges brought against them in the military court.
For IMEMC.org this is Ghassan Bannoura
The Political Report
Israel announced this week it would resume settlement activities in the occupied West Bank in eight months from now. Such an expected resumption coincides with renewed accelerated efforts by Washington to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiation table. IMEMC’s Ruben O’Shea has the story:
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday that settlement construction would resume after the 10-month-long pause ends.
Also this week, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has granted the local municipalities of the settlements permission to continue granting permits for construction, so that construction can be renewed immediately after the end of the 10 month period, due to end at the end of September.
Hagit Ofran, head of the Settlement Watch unit at the Israeli non-governmental organization, Peace Now, said this is a bad sign from the government:
Under pressure from Washington, Israel declared a temporary halt to its settlement activities on many posts in the occupied West Bank. The move was met with dissatisfaction from the Palestinian side, which demands a complete freeze of such activities, so that peace talks can restart.
Meanwhile, U.S peace envoy to the region, Gorge Mitchel, renewed his efforts this week, trying to convince both Palestinians and Israelis to return to the negotiating table. Mitchel warned Israel that Washington would consider cutting off financial assistance if they do not commit to peace talks, based on settlement freeze.
Palestinian negotiators reiterated this week, their refusal to resume peace talks until Israel stops settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians want peace talks that are based on the U.S-backed Road Map peace plan, which demands Israel to stop all forms of settlement activities.
In another news, senior exiled Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouq, blamed Israel for the failure of a prisoner swap deal between his party and the Israeli state. Abu Marzouq expected Israel’s response to Hamas’ list of prisoners the party wants to see released within the would-be deal.
Since 2006, Egypt has been mediating a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, based on exchanging captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, held in Gaza, with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Recently, a German mediator intervened but with no concrete progress.
At the internal Palestinian level, the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank demanded that the rival Hamas party, in the Gaza Strip, sign an Egyptian-mediated conciliation paper.
Salah Albardaweel, a Hamas legislative member in Gaza, asserted this week that his Hamas party is willing to sign the paper but with guarantees that would preserve what he termed the ‘ national interests’ for the Palestinian people, including Palestinian resistance factions’ right to resist the Israeli occupation.
An unity deal between Hamas and Fatah has been blocked since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip amidst factional fighting with the Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces.
For IMEMC.org this is Ruben O’Shea.
The Gaza Strip Report
Eight Palestinians, among them one child, were reported dead this week in the Gaza Strip because of the continued Israeli siege and attacks, from Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari reports:
On Sunday Israel’s military killed five Palestinians during separate attacks targeting deferent areas in the Gaza Strip.
The Al Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, reported on Sunday evening that the Israeli army assassinated three of its fighters in the central Gaza Strip.
The three were killed by a missile fired by the Israeli Air Force at them in Dir Al Balah in central Gaza. The brigades stated that the three and other fighters were about to fire homemade shells into adjacent Israeli areas.
Earlier on Sunday two Palestinians were killed after the Israeli army bombarded an area in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Israeli tanks stationed close to northwestern area of the Gaza Strip opened fire at the two residents and shot rounds of live ammunition into the area.
The two were near the evacuated former settlement of Doughit. Local sources reported that the two are day laborers.
A Palestinian child was reported dead, on Monday, after he was unable to leave the Gaza Strip for the medical care he needed. Three year old Mayisarah Mussa had a heart condition, but doctors were unable to treat him in the Gaza Strip because of the siege. Doctors said that he needed an operation to save his life but the Israeli military did not give his family the necessary permission to take him out of the coastal region.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza with Mussa’s death, the number of patients who died because of the Israeli siege has now reached 368. The Israeli military started its siege on the Gaza Strip in June of 2006.
Also on Monday a young man was reported dead after he fell into a tunnel at the southern Gaza Strip borders with Egypt. Local sources identified the man as Fadi Azzam, 20 years old, from Rafah city. Witnesses told local media that Azzam fell inside a tunnel that he works in and died due to the injuries he sustained.
On Monday night The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas movement, reported that one of its fighters was killed in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank Report
This week the Israeli military conducted at least 23 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those attacks troops kidnapped 28 civilians, including 9 children. IMEMC’s John Smith has the details:
The military invasions this week were focused in the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem, southern West Bank, in addition to Nablus, northern West Bank and the central city of Ramallah.
One man was injured on Monday near Hebron city in southern West Bank. Issa Al Showaheen sustained moderate wounds when Israeli troops opened fire at his car. The Israeli military claimed that Showaheen tried to run them over with his car before they opened fire.
Two farmers and a child were injured on Wednesday at dawn, when Israeli troops attack villagers from Safa, southern West Bank, as they protested the destruction of their land.
Local sources said that military bulldozers started to uproot trees and destroy farm land that belongs to villagers on Tuesday night. As soon as the villagers knew about the military attack they rushed to their land and tried to stop it. Witnesses said that soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at them.
Two farmers sustained moderate wounds after being hit with the rubber-coated steel bullets and a five year old child was taken to hospital due to the effects of tear gas inhalation, medical sources reported.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Israeli settlers destroyed three Palestinian-owned cars at a village in northern West Bank.
Local sources announced that settlers from the illegal settlement of Shafet Jilad attacked the village of Amateen near Nablus city. The Settlers’ rampage ended by the morning and no one was injured, but three cars owned by the villagers were destroyed, witnesses reported.
In related news, Palestinian farmers from Yatta village southern West Bank accused Israeli settlers of destroying 70 of their trees on Thursday. The farmers reported that as they arrived to their lands this morning, they found that 70 of their trees had been uprooted.
The land is located near the illegal settlement of Ma’on. Settlers from Ma’on attack the villagers of Yatta regularly in an attempt to take over the land in an effort to expand the settlement, farmers reported. Ma’on settlement is built on land that was stolen by the settlers from the villagers of Yatta and nearby Palestinian villages.
For IMEMC.org this is John Smith.
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 George Rishmawi.