This Week in Palestine 012607
This week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org , for January 19th through January 26, 2007.
The Israeli army kills four residents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while civil unrest leaves six dead and at least fifteen injured in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issues a building permit for a synagogue at the doorstep of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Weekly Peaceful actions in the West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with this week's peaceful actions against the annexation Wall and other stories in the West Bank
On Friday Palestinian villagers from Bilin village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli peace activists conducted the weekly non-violent demonstration against the wall in the village. The main focus point of today's demonstration was the impending construction of a Jewish synagogue on land stolen from Palestinian residents near Al Aqsa Mosque in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The demonstration started in the village and proceeded to the gate in the wall, where Israeli soldiers were waiting for the demonstrators. Immediately, Israeli forces showered the non-violent peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, sound bombs and metal rubber-coated bullets. Eight people were injured in the demonstration today in Bilin, including two journalists and one child. Iman Hamad an ISM volunteer was in Bili'n today:
A wedding took place on Friday in land bulldozed to make way for the illegal Israeli Wall in the village of Umm Salamuna, near Bethlehem in the southern part of the West Bank. Residents of neighboring villages attended the wedding along with international and Israeli supporters, and the couple declared their commitment to each other and to the threatened land of the village. Um Salamuna stands to have 700 dunums of agricultural land annexed and 270 dunums confiscated for the route of the Wall. Ten villages surrounding Bethlehem stand to lose 70,000 grape vines and 1000 olive trees.
Scores of international peace activists protested on Saturday against the wall Israel is building in the West Bank City of Hebron. They gathered at the entrance of Alshuhada Street in Hebron city and chanted slogans against the Israeli army and settler practices across the city, including the annexation Wall, which has swallowed vast areas of the Palestinian-owned lands.
The demonstrators called for the reopening of the road leading to the Alharam Ibrahimi mosque, (also known as Tomb of the Patriarchs), which has been closed to Palestinians since 1994, as well the halting of Israeli settlers' attacks on the Hebron residents. Several thousand Israeli soldiers are guarding approximately 400 Israeli settlers of the major settlement of Kiryat Arba', which is built on Palestinian-owned lands in the city.
The Israeli army attacks
This week Israeli army attacks caused four Palestinian fatalities and 19 injuries, including one child, in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Israeli troops conducted at least 22 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions at least 80 residents including one child and two women were abducted by the Israeli army.
Attacks on Gaza
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Wednesday morning that Israeli soldiers stationed east of Dir Al Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, shot and killed one Palestinian youth. They also shot and wounded two others and took them to an unknown destination. Dr. Khalid Al Najjar, head of the Al Aqsa Hospital stated that the boy, identified as Mahran Zakariyya Abu Al Maseer, 17, died of a gunshot wound in his stomach.
Palestinian medics said that the army handed them the body of Al Maseer, and informed them that two other people were injured and had been taken prisoner. According to local sources the three civilians were standing in the street when the incident occurred, however, The Israeli army claimed that the three were shot while trying to sneak into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The two detainees were released late at night after interrogation.
On Wednesday evening, under-cover Israeli army forces infiltrated through an area east of the city of Gaza, and fired at members of the Palestinian National security forces, injuring two. A Palestinian resident of Khan Younis City, southern Gaza Strip, died on Tuesday from wounds he had sustained last September during an Israeli army invasion into his village. Medical sources identified him as Ziyad Abu Sa'ada, 23, of the Kheza'a village, to the east of Khan Younis.
Two Palestinian children were shot and wounded by Israeli army gunfire on Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip. They were identified my medical sources as Yousef Hajouj and Mohammad Abu Hashish, both 16.
Palestinian security sources reported that an Israeli Naval vessel intercepted a Palestinian fishing boat sailing near the Rafah shoreline of southern Gaza on Tuesday. Israeli officers abducted three men from on board their boat; they were identified as Ismail Bassalah, Samir Bassalah and Issam Elnada, the sources added.
Since the Israeli army launched a massive military attack on various parts of the Gaza Strip in June 2006, roughly 500 Palestinians have been killed and another 4000 injured.
Attacks on the West Bank
One Palestinian was killed and several others were injured when a large Israeli army force invaded the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Thursday morning. Troops blockaded all entrances to the city and surrounded a residential building in the northern part of the city. They claimed that 'wanted' Palestinians were hiding inside and forced people outside by threatening to open fire.
Fadel Balawna, 17, was shot dead by troops claiming he was an Islamic Jihad operative. Medical sources said that the soldiers did not allow ambulances to access the area for over an hour.
On Saturday evening a Palestinian construction worker was shot and killed by an Israeli guard in Be'er Shiva town, in southern Israel. Father of six, Mohammad Kamal Battat, 30, died of his wounds at Soroka Israeli hospital in Be'er Shiva. An eyewitness reported that the Israeli guard in question was allowing them to sleep at the construction site where they work in return for a certain amount of money that would be paid by the Israeli contractor in charge of the site.
The witness added that the contractor and the guard quarreled as the guard demanded to be paid, and threatened to kill the Palestinian workers if the money was not paid. As the workers arrived at the building the guard demanded they pay him; when they refused he produced a weapon and shot Mohammad Kamal Al Battat.
In the West Bank at least 60 Palestinians were abducted this week, among them two women. On Thursday morning, during a three-hour long military operation in Deir Samit village near Hebron, forces abducted the wives of two Palestinian detainees after attacking and searching their houses. The women were identified as Taghrid Al-Suweti and Muntaha Al-Suweti. Taghrid is the mother of a seven year old child and Muntaha has two children, aged two and three.
On Sunday two leaders of Fateh and three hospital workers were abducted by Israeli forces in Jerusalem during an annual celebration of the movement, which was taking place in al-Maqassed hospital. They were taken to Al Masqupia detention center for questioning and released later.
On Wednesday night, Israeli settlers abducted a youth in Hizma village, northeast of Jerusalem. Eyewitness reported that three settlers had abducted Ra'fat Al Khateeb, 16, from the main road that links Hizma with Jericho. The boy was taken to a nearby settlement, cut with blades and beaten until he fell unconscious and was then dumped near his village. He was later moved to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem's Old City a 16 year old Palestinian boy was arrested on Wednesday morning after he was attacked by an Israeli settler.
Loay Hdaib was taken from his home on Al-Wad Street by police after the attack on him escalated, sources in the city reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has issued a permit for the construction of a synagogue in occupied East Jerusalem. The group receiving the permit, Ateret Kohanim, openly advocates a policy of transfer of Palestinians to Jordan. The synagogue will be built only 50 meters away from the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque on land owned by Palestinians. A geographical expert called the project, "part of a full expulsion of Arabs from the holy city".
On Tuesday evening the Jerusalem Municipality oversaw the demolition of two Palestinian homes in Al Sawahra Al Sharqiyya town, east of Jerusalem after claiming that they were illegally constructed. The houses belong to the Al Taweel family of nine, and the Diab family of eight. Both Mr Diab and Mr Al Taweel are living on social benefits due to paralysis and heart disease, respectively. Mr. Al Taweel said that a court decision is pending regarding the demolition orders, and added that the families did not receive any eviction notices. The Israeli Jerusalem Municipality has destroyed seven Palestinian homes since the beginning of the year.
The unrest in Palestine
In Ramallah city on Thursday unknown gunmen fired at the Canadian and German embassies, according to Palestinian security sources. No injuries were reported and a probe into the attack was launched.
On Tuesday afternoon Palestinian resistance fighters of Al-Aqsa Brigades released three French security men that the movement had seized in the northern West Bank city of Nablus the same day, according to al-Aqsa Brigades' source. The three had aroused suspicion, as the kind of weapons they carried suggested that they were undercover Israeli soldiers. Witnesses said shots were fired in the air as the men, with their heads covered, were led away by gunmen. PLC member and Fateh leader in Nablus, Nasser Joma talked to IMEMC:
"The Palestinian Resistance men thought that the French guards were undercover Israeli troops, and seized them. After a while it was discovered that they were French guards, and French consulate officials have just arrived to take them back. I saw them, they are fine."
Israeli undercover troops often enter Palestinian territories to assassinate or arrest resistance fighters and leaders. Joma blamed the security department at the French consulate for dispatching armed security men to a highly sensitive area, referring to Nablus. On Monday night an explosion occurred at Al Arabiya Television office in Gaza City, causing excessive damage. No injuries were reported. The attack was denounced by both the armed wings of Fateh and of Hamas. Palestinian journalists in Gaza announced a strike on Tuesday in protest against the attack.
Meanwhile, a group of armed men calling itself the Swords of Islamic Righteousness claimed responsibility for bombing the Al-Arabiya office in Gaza City. Police blame the Swords of Islamic Righteousness for as many as 47 attacks on internet cafes and other sites.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met yesterday at a high-profile conference in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the revival of negotiations between the two sides. Livni declared support for a Palestinian state while refusing to recognize its democratically elected Hamas-led government, calling it a "terrorist organization." Abbas, to whom the US has pledged millions of dollars in military aid this month, stressed the importance of working together, especially on the economic front.
The meeting followed a discussion between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert last month. Olmert promised the release of some Palestinian prisoners, as well as some of the Palestinian tax revenues that Israel has illegally withheld since Hamas took power last year. The promised $100 million was transferred on January 18. $560 million remain in Israeli possession. Olmert also promised to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank by removing some of the hundreds of Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints.
Abbas and Olmert are expected to hold a three-way summit with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the beginning of next month in an attempt to push the talks forward. President Abbas is expected to also meet with German Foreign Minister Angela Merkel in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum.
Abbas and Mashaal Meet In Damascus
On Friday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, expressing his willingness to resume any peace talks with Israel in order to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian State that lives in peace with all of its neighbors, including Israel. Abbas said that if a national unity government composed of all factions or independent figures is not formed soon he will call for early elections.
It's been a month of negotiations for President Abbas. When he hasn't been meeting with Israeli officials, he's been deep in negotiations with Palestinian leaders. In their first meeting since Hamas took power last year, Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where Mashaal is based. The two agreed to resume national unity talks and took a joint stand against the continued civil unrest that continues to claim lives in Gaza and the West Bank. They also agreed to revive the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
The meeting followed a meeting between Abbas and Syrian President Basher Assad. Abbas went on to meet with representatives from Palestinian factions in exile. Abbas' meeting circuit culminated in Gaza City, where representatives of all Palestinian factions came together under the supervision of President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh. The participants agreed to form a committee that will draft an elaboration of five points of unity.
These include forming a national unity government, reactivating the Palestinian Liberation Organization, forming a national Security Council, democratizing social and professional associations, and forming a unified resistance front. Following the completion of the draft, Hamas and Fateh will hold a high-level meeting in Cairo to finalize the document, which will become the basis for a national unity government.
Internal fighting in Palestine
Renewed clashes between the rival Fateh and Hamas movements broke out in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday morning. In the last 24 hours, six Palestinians have been killed in internal fighting, and at least seven were injured - including two children. Fourteen Palestinians have been abducted, nine from Hamas and five from Fatah.
Fatah has accused the Hamas movement and it's Executive Force of besieging the house of Nabil Al Jarir, an Al-Aqsa Brigades member, which is the main military wing of Fatah, in Jabalia, in the north of Gaza. Fatah say that Executive Force members shot and killed him, and in addition, they abducted his aide.
This came after an explosion targeted the car of an Executive Force member last night, killing one member, Husam Abu Mteir, and injuring another five force members in the car. Early on Friday morning, a new wave of abductions erupted between the two rival factions. Nine Hamas members and five Fatah members were abducted by their rivals.
On Friday afternoon, eyewitnesses reported that members of Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, kidnapped three Fatah members east of Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip. In another development, gunfire was shot at a car belonging to 'Ad Dawa' radio station, which is affiliated to Hamas, and two people were injured. One of the injured, Ra'ed Subuh, 22, later died.
Medical sources in the Gaza strip reported that Mussa Asslah, died as a result of wounds he received during the attack on the executive force car on Thursday evening. Ra'ed Abu Zied was reported to have been killed on Friday during continuous clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters. At the time of this report the death toll in Gaza due to internal clashes has risen to six.
Israel recently released a total of 100 million dollars, a portion of more than 500 million dollars of customs duties due to the Palestinian Authority. The decision came amidst a growing rivalry between the two largest Palestinian parties - Hamas and Fatah - that has so far claimed the lives of at least 330 Palestinians including children and women. Although some analysts believe that the released funds are meant to bolster the position of Palestinian President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, the release of these funds will partially ease the current financial crisis in Palestine.
Bassam Zakarnah head of the Union of Palestinian Civil Servants, has announced that the salaries of all employees, security personnel and aid for prisoners' families will be paid on Sunday through the local banks. Civil servants returned to work on January 14th after a 135-day strike protesting non-payment of salaries by the government. After Hamas came to power in elections last January, the United States, the European Union and Israel imposed an economic embargo on the Palestinian people. Ghazi Hamad, spokesman of the Hamas-led government said the released funds are not a gift from Israel:
"First, these funds are Palestinian, coming out of accumulated custom and tax money, due to the Palestinian side by the Israeli side. We can not deny that the President had a role in getting this money back and the government had a similar role also in bringing about funds. So, we have no choice but to coordinate channeling such funds"
Fatah believes Israel's release of the money will help alleviate some of the Palestinians' suffering under the harsh economic conditions, which have gotten worse since the Hamas-led government took power. Mohammad Al-Hurani, a senior Fatah leader.
"It will never help President Mahmoud Abbas, as the President's office has received, from many donors, funds that have been allocated for health and education. And this money will be allocated for humanitarian projects. No doubt that the Palestinian residents realize the fact that the last year was a year of isolation and failure. Has this affected Hamas? I think it has".
The 3.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip gave a mixed reaction to the move. Baker Bashir, a teacher from Gaza.
Actuality (In Arabic)
"Since 10 months the embargo has been repressive. As for the released money, we have heard that it would not be allocated for the salaries. And this will definitely add to the bad situation. If we resort to strike again, it means that our situation became so miserable"
Since March 2006, 165,000 Palestinians have seen their salaries cut, commercial and travel crossings have been frequently closed, basic services have been cut, and poverty rates have climbed to 70%, according to Palestinian sources.
And that's just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.IMEMC.org. Thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is James Brownsell, Polly Bangoriad, and Ghassan Bannoura.
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