Israeli troops invade several West Bank areas and kill an unborn baby in Nablus, while Palestinians implement a security plan to contain internal violence. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
Let's begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Palestine and especially in Bilin and Ramallah against the wall
In the weekly non-violent protest conducted each Friday in the village of Bilin near the central West Bank city of Ramallah 7 non-violent protesters were injured and another 10 were detained by the army. As is the case every week, villagers, side by side with Israeli and International peace activists marched today towards the gate of the illegal wall built on the village's land.
Upon arrival at the gate of the wall, Israeli troops waiting there opened fire on the protesters, injuring 7 of them. One was seriously injured in the leg by a rubber coated bullet and had to be moved to a nearby hospital. Iyad Burnat, one of the organizers of the protest stated:
“As we arrived at the construction site of the wall, the Israeli soldiers shot several tear gas bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets at us. One of the protestors was hit from a distance of 3 meters and the bullet penetrated his leg. When we attempted to give him first aid, troops beat us and arrested us.”
10 protesters in total were detained by the army: 6 of them were Israelis and 4 Palestinians. Among the protesters today was the Arab Israeli Knesset member Jamal Zahalka.
Approximately 50 protesters gathered in Wadi Niis on Friday to continue the weekly non-violent demonstrations against the construction of the Wall that have been happening in the area over the last few months. The wall, which is allegedly being built for the security of the nearby Efrat Settlement, will annex over 70% of the land belonging to the nearby village of Um Salamoneh.
This week's action is part of the "Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem" campaign launched in April to nonviolently resist the building of the wall in the Bethlehem area. Several nonviolent actions have been organized in Bethlehem area through the campaign since it was launched. Samer Jabier one of the campaign organizers stated:
This week the protest had a dual theme, as speakers called for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who has been held by an Islamist group in Gaza called the Army of Islam since March 12. As usual, prayers were held on the land that is to be annexed by the wall; watched over by approximately 30 Israeli soldiers.
After prayers, protesters moved to walk along the route the wall will take across the land but were prevented by the soldiers. Despite provocation by the soldiers who pushed and hit protesters, the non-violent character of the demonstration was maintained at all times.
Last Saturday As part of the “Stop the bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign”, dozens of peaceful protestors marched from both sides of the illegal annexation wall between the southern West Bank villages of Al Khass and Al Numan on Saturday at noon. They met at the razor wire-topped fence to hold a non-violent demonstration against the illegal Israeli barrier from both sides of the fence that cuts the village of Al Noman from its sister Al Khass village and the rest of the West Bank.
In 1967, the Israeli government annexed the land of Al-Numan village to Jerusalem but the population were not granted Jerusalem residency. Therefore, the people of Al Numan are effectively imprisoned in their homes, which are now deemed 'illegal' by the Israeli state since the illegal separation barrier enclosed the village in the Jerusalem municipality-controlled area. The villagers hold Bethlehem identification cards issued by Palestinian Authority.
Palestinians Oppose US security plan, Israel has reservations
This weekend, Egypt hosted a trilateral meeting involving Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, Jordanian Foreign Minister, Abdel’lah Alkhatib and Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livnin, as part of the Arab States league's efforts to activate a peace proposal approved in March at the Arab summit in Riyadh.
The peace proposal calls for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands of 1967, and Israeli acceptance of the Palestinian Refugee's Right to Return, in return for normal Arab-Israeli relations.
Israel refused the offer, objecting to clauses concerning the refugee problem, and calling for an amendment.
Also this week, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas commented on Israeli reservations to an American confidence building measures proposal, saying that these benchmarks are the basis for future Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Given that the American proposal seems overwhelmingly weighted in Israel's favor at this time, Israeli reservations do not bode well for the success of future talks.
These benchmarks, submitted by U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice to both Palestinians and Israelis, call for reciprocal actions, leading eventually to easing of Israeli restrictions in the West Bank and reopening a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank.
Palestinians are opposed to the American plan, as it involves resumption of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian information minister, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, refused ‘assuming the role of safeguarding Israel’ and saying that the question of Palestine cannot be reduced to a problem of checkpoints.
In a related development, a recent report by the Washington-based World Bank, has sharply criticized the Israeli military checkpoints and the wall in the West Bank, pointing out that 50 percent of West Bank lands have been swallowed.
According to Palestinian figures, there are more than 500 Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the West Bank.
On another development, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called for pushing forward the peace process. Solana was attending a conference on the Iraq situation taking place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm Elsheikh.
In the meantime, leftist European Union MPs called for lifting an internationally-imposed economic embargo on the Palestinian people, of which the EU is a part.
Concerning internal Palestinian politics, the Palestinian Minister of the Interior, Hani Alqawasmi, threatened to resign earlier this week, unless he is given more authority. This week also, hundreds of Palestinian police and security forces were deployed in the streets of Gaza Strip starting the implementation of a long-awaited security plan to contain the state of civil unrest in the Palestinian territories. The forces were comprised of those loyal to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the executive force which was formed by the Hamas’ former interior minister Saeed Siyam.
Regarding Israeli politics, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel-Aviv early this week, demanding that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert resigns after a report on Israeli handling of the Lebanon War last summer. The report blamed Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz for Israeli army failure.
Despite mounting popular and official pressure on him, Olmert decided to remain in office.
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 37 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions the Israeli forces killed one unborn baby after shooting the mother, and kidnapped 60 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children and a woman. Thus, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 1,123. IMEMCs Ghassan Bannoura has more:
On Thursday, Maha Al Katouni, 29, a pregnant Palestinian woman, was in her house during the Israeli army attack on Al Ein refugee camp near Nablus. During the invasion local resistance fighters clashed with the invading troops and Israeli soldiers opened fire randomly on resident's homes. One of their rounds hit Maha Al Katoumi in the abdomen, killing her 7 month-old fetus.
When an ambulance arrived at Al Katouni's house, soldiers surrounding the house stopped it and prevented paramedics from entering, leaving Maha to bleed for more than one hour. Medical sources reported that as soon as she arrived to Rafida hospital in Nablus she was admitted to the surgery room. Doctors delivered the baby and found him shot in the head by the round that hit his mother.
On Monday, soldiers stationed at Barta’a Israeli roadblock, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, forced a woman who was returning home after conducting a cesarean surgery to step out of the vehicle; soldiers ordered the woman to accompany them to the “security-checkup” room, and as she was walking, she began to bleed and fell unconscious. Later on, one of the soldiers called an Israeli ambulance and transferred the woman to an Israeli hospital.
A Palestinian boy sustained critical wounds after a group of Israeli soldiers manning Al Nashshash checkpoint located to the south of Bethlehem attacked him on Monday midday. Iyad Al Anati, 17 was attacked by a number of soldiers who forced him to the ground and beat him. Troops kept the boy bleeding for one hour before allowing a local ambulance to take him to hospital.
Also on Monday, Wurod Al Ajloni, 16 was shot in the lower part of her back as she was standing in front of her house located on the southern side of Hebron city. Witnesses reported that soldiers fired live rounds at a group of local youths standing on the street. One round hit al Al Ajloni and injured her.
Israeli army special forces attacked Palestinian detainees, in Jalbo'e Israeli detention camp located in northern Israel, using tear gas, sound bombs and live rounds. Sources from the jail stated that troops also attacked the prisoners later, when they returned to their rooms. No injures were reported.
On Monday night in Doha village near Bethlehem, a massive Israeli force surrounded the house of a local resistance leader. The troops withdrew after seven hours, leaving the house partially demolished. While they left without the leader the soldiers injured three youths among them two teenaged girls.
The Israeli army injured five Palestinian civilians as troops continued an operation in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Sunday afternoon. The five civilians were injured as Israeli soldiers opened fire and threw sound bombs randomly at the residents' homes in the refugee camp, witnesses reported.
For IMEMC.org this Ghassan Bannoura
The Gaza strip
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army conducted three limited invasions into Palestinian areas, and kidnapped three Palestinians after wounding one of them. IMEMCs Rami Al Mughari from Gaza has more:
On Saturday morning Israeli troops moved nearly 300 meters into a farm in the north of Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip. They chased and fired at a number of members of the Al Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad wounding one of them, 18-year-old Mohammed Qarmout. Israeli soldiers prevented a Palestinian ambulance from attending to Qarmout, instead arresting him and taking him to an undisclosed location.
Palestinian medical sources said on Saturday afternoon that a number of Palestinian residents were shot and wounded by an Israeli under-cover unit in northern Gaza. Dr. Mo’awiya Abu Hasanain, head of the emergency department at the Palestinian Health Ministry, told reporters that an Israeli under-cover force, hiding among trees in the Israeli evacuated settlement of Eli Sinai, opened fire at Palestinian residents, inuring a number of them.
On Monday a resident of Alburaj refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip was wounded by an unidentified object, thought to be unexploded Israeli ordnance. Sources in Gaza identified the wounded man as Jamal Kamel, aged 30. Also on Monday, an Israeli air strike wounded a Palestinian resident in northern Gaza. The Islamic Jihad announced that a group of its fighters escaped Monday afternoon an Israeli raid in northern Gaza.
For IMEMC this Rami Al Mughari.
The Israeli army invaded the village of Al Walaja west of Bethlehem and demolished a chicken coop after attacking the villagers on Wednesday. When residents tried to stop the army from demolishing the structure, the army attacked them with batons and forced them away.
Israel annexed the village of Al Walaja to Jerusalem but regarded the Palestinian residents of the village as illegal, and refused to give them Jerusalem residency rights. The army does not allow them to build new structures in the annexed area and continuously demolishes homes
Israeli army bulldozers demolished a Palestinian owned building located in Wadi Al Joze neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Tuesday morning. The building is used to host a disabled children's society. Palestinian sources reported that Israeli army troops stormed the neighborhood in the morning before two bulldozers destroyed a building that belongs to Hanni Totah from Jerusalem. The building was used by a Palestinian NGO called Al Nojom (stars) society that works with fiscally challenged children.
On Sunday, in Rameen village, east of Tulkarem in the northern part of the West Bank, settlers from Ennav, an Israeli settlement close to the village, burnt 80 Dunams of agricultural land that belongs to the villager. Israeli soldiers obstructed several Palestinian fire-fighting vehicles as they were heading to the burnt lands. Particular difficulties ensued as vehicles had to enter Ennav settlement to surround and control the fire.
A group of illegal Israeli settlers from Beit Yater settlement, which is built on stolen land from Janiah village east of Hebron city in the southern part of the West Bank attacked and injured a Palestinian boy on Sunday morning. Ibraheem Mour, 17, sustained cuts all over his body after being attacked by a group of armed settlers while working on his land located near the settlement, local sources reported.
In the meantime another group of right wing Jewish extremists took over land that belongs to farmers from Yatta village near Hebron city. The settlers installed tents near an Israeli army post on lands that were confiscated from the villagers by the army. The Israeli army took over this land several years ago and has regularly attacked farmers attempting to access their land ever since, farmers from Yatta stated.
Palestinians start security plan to contain civil unrest
On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) forces began deployment throughout the streets of Gaza on the orders of President Mahmoud Abbas, who is the high commander of the Palestinian security forces. Joint forces, comprised of those loyal to President Abbas and others loyal to Minister of the Interior, Hani Alqawasmi, a member of Hamas, lined up in the streets in a long awaited security campaign to restore order to the unruly region.
Security officials said deployment of the forces will be completed within 48 hours of commencing. Just a few hours after the Palestinian security forces began deploying in Gaza City a group of the Hamas-linked Executive Force of the Ministry of the Interior abducted a member of the Shuhada Jenin Brigades, a group linked to Fatah, in the central Gaza Strip.
Well-informed sources told IMEMC that the abduction took place in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Khaled Nashabat, a relative of the Jenin Brigades’ leader Mahmoud Nashabbat was kidnapped.
The Jenin brigades are a Fatah-liked group that was established in 2004, following the abduction by Nashabbat’s men of former Palestinian Security Chief Ghazi Aljabali, on alleged corruption charges.
On Friday, unknown gunmen targeted a group of officers of the Palestinian National Security Forces in central Gaza City and injured eight of them. A gunfight took place during which the gunmen managed to seize the officers' car. Later officers took their car back after chasing the gunmen away. Two civilians were also lightly injured in this attack.
On Wednesday afternoon, masked gunmen attacked the premises of the Palestinian Telecommunications company (PALTEL) in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. Palestinian medical sources said that unknown gunmen fired several bullets in the air, before they forced the company’s staff out. The attack has caused damage to one of the company’s vehicles, the sources added.
Nine Palestinian civilians were injured in the southern Gaza strip city of Rafah during a family fight on Wednesday. Palestinian medical sources reported that a fight broke out between two rival families in the city leading to the injury of nine residents. One of them, Abdullah Al Hashash was critically wounded after he was stabbed in the back. All casualties were moved to Kamal Adwan hospital for treatment, the medical sources added. Early on Monday a car owned by a Fatah member in the Gaza neighborhood of Zaytoun was blown up by unknown people.
On Monday, the Palestinian government denied a newspaper report listing the alleged demands of the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston who has been held in Gaza since March 12th – the alleged demands included: a tract of land in Gaza, five million US dollars and the release of an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her role in the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. The Palestinian government has stated that Mr Johnston is alive, despite claims by a previously unknown Islamist group to have executed him. Khaled Abu Hilal, the spokesperson of the Palestinian ministry of interior stated:
"We heard about those demands from media sources, we do not now anything about them; no one has called the ministry of the interior to make those demands."
On Wednesday, an Islamist group in Gaza claimed responsibility for the abduction of Alan Johnston.
The group said it has sent out a video tape to the Al-Jazeera Arabic satellite channel, and that it demanded the release of Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Abu Omar, known as Abu Qutada, who has been imprisoned in London for linkage to Al-Qae’da in Europe. In a second audio tape sent to Aljazeera on Wednesday morning, the group stressed that any attempt by Palestinian authority forces to release Mr Johnston will be counterproductive.
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___________________________.