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Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for March 6th to the 12th, 2010
U.S Vice President, Joe Biden, visited the region this week in an attempt to revive stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Meanwhile, Israeli military and settler attacks targeting Palestinian communities were also reported this week. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned.
This week non-violent activities were organized in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura with the details:
On Friday anti wall protests were organized at the central West Bank villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, and al-Ma’sara village, southern West Bank. Israeli soldiers used tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets to suppress those protests.
Dozens suffered effects of tear gas inhalation at all three protests. At village of Bil’in two local youth suffered light wounds after being hit with rubber coated steel bullets fired by Israeli troops. On Tuesday of this week, the Israeli army informed farmers near Ramallah city, central West Bank, of Israel’s intention to confiscate 2.5 acres of land to start a new section of the wall on it.
Earlier in the week, farmers along with international and Israeli volunteers replanted olive trees the army had destroyed a week earlier at the town of Beit Jala, southern West Bank.
Nonviolent protests were also organized this week at different locations in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians organized a nonviolent protest on Wednesday, to demonstrate against the Israeli built wall around the costal enclave.
The Popular Committee against the Israeli Wall organized the demonstration. People gathered at Gaza City and marched towards the buffer zone at the borders with Israel.
Protesters marched with Palestinian flags and banners demanding the halt of Israeli attacks on Palestinian farmers in the area. Israel troops frequently open fire on Palestinians at the borders in the Gaza Strip. The army claims that the buffer zone and the wall are built for Israel security.
On Tuesday, Palestinians along with international supporters organized a protest at the Erez crossing at the northern Gaza Strip borders protesting the Israeli army attempts to create a buffer zone in the area. The protest started in Beit Hanoun town, in northern Gaza Strip.
For IMEMC.org this is Ghassan Bannoura.
The Political Report
U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, visited the region this week in an attempt to wrap up the latest diplomatic efforts to jumpstart stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The visit has not gone smoothly. Israel brazenly announced new settlement plans in the West Bank, despite U.S. calls to halt expansion. IMEMC’s Ruben O’Shea, with the details:
On Wednesday, the Israeli peace group Ir Amim, announced that the Israel controlled Jerusalem Municipality currently has a total of 50,000 new settlement homes in the works.
Ir Amim says most of the units planned will be built in different parts of East Jerusalem, but many will be in Palestinian neighborhoods. 20,000 homes are currently in the official stages of planning and licensing.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s government approved another 1,600 new homes on Tuesday. The rest of the settlements are in preliminary planning stages.
In December of last year, the Israeli government declared a 10-month settlement freeze to pave the road to restarting the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. The ten-month period has yet to conclude. Israel’s declaration to freeze construction was made in response to demands by both the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and the U.S administration as a pre-condition for the resumption of talks.
Ziyad al-Ehmory, the Director of the Jerusalem Center of Economic and Social Rights, said the latest actions suggest tacit support from the U.S. administration with regards to Israel’s settlement policy.
‘Apparently there is an agreement between Israel and the US on the settlements issue because we see new construction every time a US official comes to visit. Clearly this is a message from Netanyahu that Israeli needs two conditions met before the peace talks can move forward. One is the Jewish identity of Israel, and the other is that Jerusalem is its unified capital.’
Officially, the US has called for an end to Israel’s settlement expansion. Vice President Biden condemned the newest round of settlement approvals, stating that they undermine efforts to restart the Middle East peace process.
The Palestinian Authority reaffirmed its position this week that there will be no direct or indirect talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues.
Currently, there are 500,000 Israeli settlers living in West Bank settlements, with 20,000 of those living in Jerusalem settlements. Under international law all Israeli settlements in the West Bank including Jerusalem are illegal.
Meanwhile, the national unity plans featuring Hamas and Fatah are still deadlocked. Hamas’ MP in Gaza, Salah Albardaweel, expressed his hopes that such unity is near, yet he reaffirmed his party’s reservations to the Egyptian-produced paper for conciliation.
For IMEMC.org this is Ruben O’Shea.
The Gaza Report
One man was reported killed, and others were injured in the Gaza Strip this week. The army continued to besiege the coastal region as bombardment continues. From Gaza IMEMC’s Rami al-Meghari reports:
Palestinian medical sources reported, Thursday night, that a resident was wounded when the Israeli Air Force fired missiles at a factory in al-Qarara, north of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Severe damage was caused to the factory and a number of surrounding homes as it is located in a residential area.
Local sources reported that the factory only manufactures plastic products for residential use.
On Friday at dawn, the Israeli Air Force fired missiles at the border area between Raffah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and Egypt. The shelling apparently targeted a tunnel; damage was reported, but no injuries.
Earlier in the week, Israeli tanks opened fire, Wednesday afternoon, at resident’s homes and farm lands located close to the eastern Gaza Strip borders.
Residents reported damage to their homes and groves, but no injuries. Local sources said that the shelling was concentrated near the evacuated Israeli settlement of Nahal Oz. The bombardment was accompanied with fake air raids by Israeli jet fighters in the area, witnesses told local media.
In another incident, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported, Monday night, that a Palestinian youth died following an electric shock in a tunnel in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
The youth was identified was Nidal Mahmoud Dahleez. He was killed on Monday evening while working in one of the siege-busting tunnels. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in similar accidents in the last two years, and hundreds wounded. The tunnels have become a main source of supplies due to the Israeli siege on the coastal region.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank report
This week, Israel’s army conducted at least 18 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those attacks, troops detained 14 Palestinian civilians including two children. IMEMC’s Walter Jones has the story:
This week’s invasions were focused in the southern and northern areas of the West Bank. Also this week Israeli settlers attacks on Palestinian villagers were reported.
A group of fundamentalist Jewish settlers burnt on Thursday at night an olive grove in Safa village, in the southern part of the West Bank. Dozens of settlers torched the grove whilst the Israeli army failed to intervene.
The residents called the local civil defense and firefighters but the army prevented them from reaching the fire. Soldiers also attacked an international peace activist and confiscated his camera for taking pictures of the assault and the soldiers. The land in question is 6.17 acres planted with olive and some evergreen trees.
Israeli settlers’ assaults were reported on Monday in two Palestinian villages near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. At the village of Oreef, settlers closed the road leading to the farmer’s lands and set fire to a farming machine that belongs to one of the villagers.
Also, in the nearby village of Qarout, settlers erected roadblocks using metal nails to stop farmers from plowing their land. The settlers were from the nearby settlement of Shilo, local sources reported. Villagers say the settlers want to stop them from using their land so settlers can expand their settlements.
Elsewhere a group of armed Israeli settlers attacked, on Wednesday, the village of Burin, northern West Bank, and destroyed a car there. Witnesses told media that the settlers came from the nearby settlement of Yetshar. They attacked villager’s homes, vandalizing property, and then set a car on fire before leaving.
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.