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Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for January 16th to January 22nd 2010
President Barack Obama expressed this week concern over the Palestinian – Israeli peace talks, as military attacks were reported in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 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 Elliot Salt:
Non-violent protests were reported on Friday at the villages of Bilin, Nilin, Dier Natham, and Al Nabi Saleh in the central west bank along with Al Masara village in the southern West bank.
The protests began after the mid-day prayers and finished later in the afternoon. At the village of Dier Natham, Israeli troops attacked villagers homes after the protest and kidnapped one local youth. Six people were injured in these protests when troops dispersed villagers using rubber coated steal bullets.
Moreover, Israeli troops injured two civilians and kidnapped four others at the village of Al Nabi Saleh during the anti-wall protest there.
Elsewhere Israeli soldiers showered villagers, along with their international and Israeli supporters, with tear gas in the villages of Bilin and Nilin, central West Bank.
Meanwhile in the southern village of Al Masara soldiers did not allow protesters to reach their land where Israelis are building the wall. After the protest dispersed peacefully, Israeli troops invaded the village and kidnapped a local organizer for the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement Construction.
Earlier this week Israeli troops kidnapped four Palestinian civilians during a pre-dawn invasion targeting the village of Nil’in on Monday. Israeli troops told their families that they have been detained for their involvement in the weekly nonviolent protests against the Israeli built wall on villager’s lands. In 2004, the international court of justice in The Hague ruled that Israel’s wall is illegal.
The villagers of Bil’in have held weekly protests against the wall for the past five years. In the nearby village of Nil’in, protests kicked off two years ago. Last week, Israeli troops arrested three organizers from the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlement Construction.
Local activists groups say the military has detained at least 128 villagers in the past six months in connection to the weekly anti wall protests. Currently, the Israel’s army is holding at least six members of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements under charges of incitement against the military.
For IMEMC.org this is Elliot Salt.
The Political Report
President Barack Obama expressed this week concern over what he termed his own misjudgment about peace by both Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, internal Palestinian divisions are yet to be sorted out. IMEMC’s Ruben O’Shea has the story:
As US peace envoy George Mitchell visits the region to re-engage Washington’s efforts to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis, President Obama, voiced his concern over both sides’ inability to reach a peaceful arrangement.
With Israel hinting at the possible resumption of settlement activities, dubbed by Washington as illegal and to be stopped immediately, Palestinians reiterated their lack of willingness to resume peace talks unless Israel halts all forms of settlement construction in both the occupied West Bank, and the Arab city of east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other Israeli officials were reported as stating that Israel would resume settlement construction in 8 months and that Palestinians will lose their opportunity for peace.
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, reaffirmed his position that there will be no peace negotiations with Israel until the government stops all settlement activities.
United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said in New York on Thursday, that unless both Israelis and Palestinians agree on peace soon, the region would likely face increased tension. Ban called on both sides to resume peace talks immediately.
In internal Palestinian politics, the rival Hamas and Fatah parties are yet to reach a unity deal, based on an Egyptian-produced conciliation paper. On Thursday, the Hamas party in Gaza reiterated their demands that changes need to be made to the Egyptian paper before they will sign it.
The Fatah party has already signed the paper, in October of last year. Hamas’ refusal to sign is based on reservations including those on elections and security arrangements once a deal is forged.
Hamas and Fatah have been engaged in a power struggle since Hamas won the January 2006 elections.
For IMEMC.org this is Ruben O’Shea.
The Gaza Strip Report
A number of Israeli attacks were reported this week targeting the Gaza Strip. One fighter was also reported dead of wounds sustained during an earlier mission. From Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari have the details:
Dozens of Palestinian homes were flooded in the Gaza Valley area on Monday evening, and hundreds of families were rendered homeless after Israel opened one of its dams that were overfilled heavily with rainwater.
Local civil defense teams, and medics of the Military Medical Services in Gaza, rushed to rescue the flooded area and rescued seven residents who reached a near death situation they were swept away by the flood.
The Civil Defense teams said that this was a deliberate Israeli attempt to flood the area after the Israeli authorities opened the dams allowing the water through.
Last year, the same area was flooded, leading to destruction of property and several casualties.
Israeli tanks opened fire, on Tuesday at midday, at residents’ homes located in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Local sources reported that tanks stationed at the southern Israeli-Gaza boarders shelled homes located in the eastern part of Rafah city.
A number of homes sustained damage, but no injuries were reported. Witnesses said that the shelling caused panic among the residents.
Palestinian medical sources reported, Wednesday, that a fighter of Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, died of wounds sustained last week in northern Gaza.
The fighter was identified as Ghassan Salim Al Tarabeen, 21, from Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
He was wounded in an explosion that took place on January 12, and was hospitalized at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. On January 12, the Brigades stated that one of its fighters was killed and three others were wounded in a “mission” in Beit Hanoun.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank Report
This week the Israeli military conducted at least 22 invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those attacks, troops kidnapped 34 civilians including 4 children. IMEMC’s Walter Jones reports:
This week Israeli military invasions were reported in Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and other areas in the southern West Bank.
The ongoing illegal Israeli excavations of Jerusalem’s old city and its surrounding areas caused a collapse on Monday at dawn, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The new collapse is 10 meters deep, located a few meters away from another incident that took place last week according to local sources. Monday’s collapse is just one of many incidents that have taken place over the last year. The most recent collapse occurred at a local school for girls where 17 students were wounded.
In related news, the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem handed out demolition orders on Wednesday to five Palestinian families living in the Al-Bustan neighborhood. The orders stated that all five families have constructed their homes illegally because they did not obtain the permission of the municipality.
Al-Bustan is a Palestinian neighborhood of some 88 homes located near Jerusalem’s old city. All the homes in this neighborhood are said to be illegal by the Israeli authorities. An Israeli settlers group claim that the land Al-Bustan neighborhood is built on used to be owned by Jews prior to the creation of Israel.
Also this Thursday, Israel’s military handed out demolition orders to three Palestinian owned homes located in the northern West Bank. The houses belong to three different families living in the village of Akraba near Nablus city. The owners said that the soldiers gave no reasons or explanations for these orders.
According to the military order, the families must evacuate their homes taking all belongings in preparation for the impending demolition.
This week, Israeli troops also demolished a Palestinian owned house located in Jaba’, a village in the central West Bank. The military said the house was built without the necessary permits.
For IMEMC.org this is Walter Jones.
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 and Ghassan Bannoura.