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Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for March 13th to the 19th, 2010
In this weeks news, the Quartet Committee for Middle East Peace called on Palestinians and Israelis to start indirect talks within a period of 24 days; While Israeli escalation continue in the West Bank and Gaza. 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 George Rishmawi with the details:
On Friday anti wall protests were organized at the central West Bank villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, and Budrus in addition to al-Ma’sara village, southern West Bank.
Israeli soldiers used tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets to suppress all protests.
At Budrus village troops injured five civilians and detained eight others. Bil’in and Ni’lin villages held their weekly protest in defiance of Israeli military orders.
The Israeli army announced this week, that the villages of Bil’in and N’ilin, central West Bank, will be closed military zones every Friday for the next six months. The order forbids Israelis and international supporters from entering the villages on Friday or they will face arrests and deportation.
The two villages are sites of weekly nonviolent anti-wall and settlement protests. These protests are often joined by international and Israeli activists, especially in the village of Bil’in, that has been running Friday Protests since 2005.
Elsewhere Israeli troops fired upon a nonviolent protest against the wall in central Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The protest, organized by the local committee against the wall, began in Al Shujayiah neighborhood in Gaza city and headed towards the Israeli separation wall. Unarmed civilian protesters carrying banners and flags, were fired upon as they passed a military post near the wall. No injuries were reported.
For IMEMC.org this is George Rishmawi.
The Political Report
The Quartet Committee for Middle East Peace, involving the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, called on Palestinians and Israelis to start indirect talks within a period of 24 days. Meanwhile, tension remains in the region, following a series of developments on the ground. IMEMC’s Ruben O’Shea has the story:
Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, says peace cannot be achieved by force but rather by real actions on the ground. Ahead of the Quartet’s meeting in Moscow, the U.S Secretary of State held a phone conversation with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli media reports that Netanyahu had proposed what he called confidence-building measures between Palestinians and Israelis before the two sides begin their talks.
This week U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell had canceled his visit to the region. Mitchell was planning to meet Israeli officials to get their response regarding the government’s policy on the issue of settlements. Netanyahu announced on Monday that settlement construction will continue in Jerusalem. Political analysts say the trip was canceled due to growing anger by the Obama administration because of the ongoing Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
In their meeting in Moscow, members of the Quartet emphasized the need for the parties to reach a peaceful settlement that would lead to a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, within the 1967 borders. A statement delivered by the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon, condemned the Israeli settlements building and demanded Israel to refrain from further settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem.
In recent days, tension has peaked between Israelis and Palestinians over Jerusalem, with the Palestinian Authority rejecting holding peace talks unless Israel stops all forms of settlement activities, including eviction of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
In the Gaza Strip, the ruling Hamas party, organized ‘a day of rage,’ in protest against the Israeli escalation in East Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Gazans took to the streets in different parts of the coastal territory, chanting slogans that call for revenge for Jerusalem.
Despite the split between Hamas and Fatah , some Fatah leaders in Gaza have expressed outrage towards the events in Jerusalem, warning of the failure of the entire peace process if Israel keeps its current ‘provocative’ policies. Faisal Abu Shahla is a Fatah MP in Gaza.
‘Actually , facing the occupation and ending the occupation and while the Israelis are occupying our lands and killing our people , all of us are united . I think we will all work on that’.
In a related development, Israeli officials have threatened to respond strongly to the latest round of homemade rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, which killed a Thai worker. The homemade rocket fire was said to be in retaliation to Israeli actions in the occupied East Jerusalem.
For IMEMC.org this is Ruben O’Shea.
The Gaza Strip Report
Israel stepped up air attacks on the Gaza Strip this week while local resistance groups threatened to resume home-made shell fire at nearby Israeli targets. From Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari Reports:
The Israeli Air Force carried out a series of air strikes targeting several areas in the Gaza Strip, wounding two residents and causing excessive damage. Local sources reported that F16 Israeli jets fired several missiles at the border area between Gaza and Egypt.
The targeted area is believed to contain tunnels for smuggling goods. The two residents who suffered mild-to-moderate wounds were moved to Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. The Quds Net news website reported several residents were inside a bombed tunnel but managed to exit on the Egyptian side.
Furthermore, the Israeli Air Force fired several missiles at a blacksmith workshop in the Al Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. The workshop was totally destroyed although no injuries were reported.
In related news, Israeli soldiers detained two gazans on Thursday near the Sofa Crossing, east of Rafah. The two were riding a chariot when the army attacked and kidnapped them.
Earlier on Thursday, A foreign worker was reported killed in the Nativ Ha’asara kibbutz by a home-made Qassam shell fired form the Gaza Strip. Nativ Ha’asara is located near the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli army radio reports this is the third projectile fired from Gaza in the past 24 hours. An armed group affiliated with Fatah claims responsibility for the attack. Palestinian armed resistance groups in the Gaza Strip warn they will resume home-made shell fire if Israel continues to target Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Also this week, hundreds of Gazan students along with politicians and teachers protested in solidarity with Jerusalem. Protesters gathered near the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City. Local MPs and politicians delivered speeches demanding Arab and international support to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank report
This week the Israeli military conducted at least 13 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions troops detained 27 Palestinian civilians, including two children and a journalist. Moreover clashes erupted in Jerusalem and other cities over Israel’s polices in East Jerusalem. IMEMC’s Walter Jones has the latest:
This week’s invasions were focused on the city of Hebron, southern West Bank, in addition to Nablus and Qalqilia cities in the north.
On Wednesday of this week, Israel announced the end of its lockdown on East Jerusalem and the West Bank that had been in effect since last Friday but Israeli police keep thousands of troops on standby.
During clashes in East Jerusalem this week, at least 38 Palestinians civilians were injured by Israeli police fire.
At least 60 residents were arrested by Israeli authorities during the clashes. The clashes took place after fundamental settler groups opened a synagogue near al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem on Monday.
Tensions were already high in Jerusalem as Israel declared it’s intent to build 50,000 new settler homes last week.
Since Friday of last week, Israel had sealed off Jerusalem to West Bank residents and prevented Palestinian men under the age of 50 from entering Jerusalem’s old city. Other cities also witnessed clashes over Israeli policies in Jerusalem this week. According to local sources, many civilians were injured, including two journalists.
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 Ghassan Bannoura.