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Welcome to Palestine Today a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, for Wednesday May 18, 2011

Amnesty International’s annual global human rights report for 2011 has slammed Israel’s human rights record both in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The report, which described the human rights revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa as “inspirational”, has condemned Israel’s conduct in multiple areas including the justice system, the Gaza blockade, human rights accountability, housing demolitions and settlement activity, torture and excessive use of force, freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

The organisation labelled the blockade of Gaza as a form “collective punishment in breach of international humanitarian law” in the report and has called for it to be lifted. The report says the blockade leaves Gazans entirely dependent on international aid, which in turn has been severely restricted by the Israeli military. Amnesty International noted in the report that the delay and denial of permits for Palestinians to travel from the Palestinian enclave for medical reasons resulted in instances of death. The organisation also condoned the use of “lethal and arbitrary force” on the international “freedom flotilla” carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in May of last year.

In related news, Amnesty International has called on the Israeli state to undertake a full, impartial and independent investigation into the Israeli military actions during the Nakba day commemorations. At least 12 people were killed and hundreds injured around the West Bank and on Israel’s borders to Lebanon and Syria and the Gaza Strip. The report noted claims of the extensive use of tear gas, rubber coated bullets, stun grenades and live bullets. The organisation also raised concerns that the controversial Israeli “Nakba laws”, recently passed by the Knesset, are contradictory to basic rights of free speech.

Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has urged Fatah (of which he is a member) and Hamas to implement the unity agreement signed in Cairo as soon as possible. Barghouti is currently serving 5 life sentences for allegedly instigating the second intifada. He is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, having been elected whilst imprisoned.

According to Barghouti, ‘Hamas and Fatah should work loyally and faithfully to accurately implement the agreement. They should also use the 2005 prisoners’ document as their guide because it offered substantial solutions to the most complicated cases. I believe the Palestinian people will not be lenient with those who try to manipulate this reconciliation and with Palestinian national unity.’

On Wednesday, the World Bank released a report commending state-building efforts by the PA, noting in particular its success in creating ‘strong public institutions’. However, the World Bank also noted that more work needs to be done to eliminate corruption and improve public services. Considerable polling evidence indicates that most Palestinians consider corruption to be widespread.

A total of almost 11 500 UNRWA workers held a strike on Wednesday in the Gaza Strip to protest against the alleged wrongful dismissal of 3 employees. All non-essential services have been shut down.

Protests against conditions in Israeli jails have continued recently, with two additional institutions joining the hunger-strikers’ action. The protest is intended to secure the release of a number of prisoners from solitary confinement and has been ongoing for three weeks so far. Some have been in solitary confinement for a number of years. There are over 7000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, most of whom are political prisoners and prisoners in

Thats all for today from the IMEMC. This was the Wednesday 18th of May’s daily roundup of news from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We hope you will join us again tomorrow. This was brought to you by Husam Qassis and me David steele