Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine
Let's begin our weekly report with Palestinian nonviolent actions against the wall and settlements in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
A number of peaceful demonstrators were attacked on Friday afternoon by the Israeli military in Ertas village, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, while protesting against Israeli plans to confiscate land in the area. Approximately 70 residents of the village marched to Palestinian-owned land that is threatened with annexation to nearby illegal Israeli settlements.
Israel is attempting to confiscate parts of the area in order to link the Efrat settlement with the settlement bloc of Ma’ale Adumim, an act that will, in turn, lead to the annexation of additional lands and the isolation of Palestinian areas through the construction of the Wall and the settlement chain around them.
The residents arrived at the threatened area a short time after Friday prayers. They were met by an Israeli force that punched, kicked and assaulted them. Husam Jubran, a Palestinian activist from the "Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem" campaign, stated:
Among those attacked was IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura. In addition to assaulting the IMEMC correspondent, Israeli forces unsuccessfully attempted to confiscate his camera. After a short standoff, residents left the area, promising to return the following week.
Also on Friday, Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Umm Salamoneh, located to the south of Bethlehem, carried out their weekly demonstration against land confiscation and the construction of the illegal wall that will isolate the village from its rightfully-owned agricultural land.
As it has done in the past, the Israeli army established a network of checkpoints and roadblocks around Umm Salamoneh, closing it to activists seeking to join the villagers in their non-violent protest.
In addition to closing off the area, the Israeli army kidnapped 2 local organizers, identified as Mohammed Brejieah and Abdullah Hajaj, as they traveled to the demonstration on Friday morning.
Despite the efforts of the military, the protest went ahead as planned and local residents were joined by a number of international peace activists. After Friday prayers, demonstrators marched towards the land scheduled for confiscation. On their way, the group was stopped by soldiers, who beat both protestors and journalists covering the action.
Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that a military force surrounded the demonstrators, preventing them from either moving forward or returning to the village. After a brief scuffle which saw five Israeli activists kidnapped, the organizers decided to bring the demonstration to a close.
The village of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah,
on Friday witnessed the weekly protest against the construction of the illegal Israeli wall in the area. As with every week, local residents were joined by a number of international activists in their demonstration, the main theme of which, this week, was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
As they have on previous occasions, Israeli troops established roadblocks and checkpoints on the path of the demonstration and showered protestors with tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets before they even reached the Wall. George, a Greek peace activist and eyewitness told IMEMC:
Seven people, including a child and a British activist identified only as Alice, were injured in the attack. A group of Israeli peace activists sneaked behind military lines and managed to make their way to the gate of the Wall before they were abducted and taken to an unknown location. As a result of excessive use of tear gas, several olive groves caught fire and a number of trees were damaged.
Palestinians and their supporters around the world have marked the fortieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week. Many vigils, commemorations and rallies have been held both inside and outside Palestine, as well as educational events, films and lectures.
Events were held daily from June 5th to June 10th, marking the anniversary of the war which saw Israel capture East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria in just six days.
In Tel Aviv, organizers set up a duplicate of a checkpoint to bring home to the Israeli public the reality of the occupied West Bank, which dotted by over 500 such checkpoints, impeding the freedom of movement of the Palestinian people.
Non-violent protests were held in Bethlehem and throughout the West Bank, with more planned for this coming weekend.
In a special report published on the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation, the UK-based human rights group Amnesty International accused Israel of widespread human rights abuses.
The 45-page report, titled 'Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank', also highlighted Israel's policy of land-grabbing, and demanded an end to its expansion of Jewish-only settlements. Amnesty International called for the urgent deployment of an effective international mechanism to monitor human rights in the occupied territories.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, gave a statement on the anniversary of the occupation, in which he declared that "the only way to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and to seek a political solution".
He urged Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and the whole region to seek both an end to the occupation and a negotiated political resolution to the ongoing conflict.
In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated early in the week that his government would not be willing to carry out a US-proposed peace plan, because it would hinder what he dubbed 'security efforts' in the West Bank. His critics were quick to point out that all of the 'security areas' mentioned by Olmert are areas of heavy Israeli settlement of Palestinian land. Such settlement is illegal under international law.
The Palestinian government proposed a ten-point truce plan for a ceasefire with Israel early this week although the Israeli government has yet to respond to the plan. Palestinian resistance forces agreed to stop shooting homemade shells across the Gaza border, targeting towns in the northern Negev desert, if Israel agreed to withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip and cease its daily military attacks and targeted assassinations in Palestinian territory.
A planned meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was cancelled when Israel refused to participate in the ceasefire, or to release funds it has illegally seized from the Palestinian government.
The Israeli government has demanded that all Palestinian groups adhere to a ceasefire, while insisting that Israel be allowed to continue its military attacks and invasions.
The Foreign Policy Chief of the European Union this week brought up the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force in Gaza, but stated he did not believe that Egypt would accept such a force.
Last month, when the idea of UN Peacekeeping presence in Gaza was first proposed, Israel first rejected the possibility, saying that to deploy UN Peacekeepers would interfere with what they termed their 'security measures' in Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the External Relations Commissioner for the European Union, said that an international mechanism, which was set up last year to provide aid to the Palestinian people while bypassing the government, would extend its duties until the end of September this year.
She added that the humanitarian conditions in the Palestinians territories are "incredibly difficult" and appealed to the EU to provide additional funds to aid the Palestinian people.
The French government also released a statement this week condemning Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, pointing out that the settlements are built in violation of international law. Israel has constructed over 300 settlements in the West Bank, and transferred over 500,000 civilians into those settlements, in direct contravention of its duty as an occupying power under signed conventions and international treaties.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week, the Israeli army conducted at least 35 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, Israeli troops killed three, injured at least 16 and kidnapped 49 Palestinian civilians. Thus, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of the year has mounted to 1,349. IMEMC's Ghassan Bannoura has more:
On Saturday Israeli army undercover soldiers killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded several others. Eyewitnesses reported that the Israeli army opened fire on a group of passing gunmen, hitting brothers Rami and ‘Ala Shanay’ah. Rami later died from his injuries.
Earlier on Saturday, many houses in Nablus were left without electricity and running water when Israeli forces blew up concrete barriers blocking entry to the Old City area.
During an invasion of the city of Jenin in the northern part of the West Bank on Sunday, Israeli troops killed one Palestinian resistance fighter when the latter clashed with invading troops.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed an elderly man and wounded his wife, who was pronounced dead later, and two of his sons inside their house in Hebron. The Israeli army attacked several areas of Hebron city and the nearby villages located in the southern part of the West Bank. Yiha Al Jabari, 67, was killed and three of his family members injured when Israeli soldiers attacked and searched his home. Witnesses stated that soldiers surrounded the house and then stormed it. Upon entering, troops opened fire, killing Jabari and injuring his wife and two of his sons.
The Israeli army clamed that they opened fire after they were attacked by the family, claiming also that they attacked the house because they were looking for so-called “wanted” Palestinians. Eyewitnesses reported that they had watched the family talking to the soldier who later opened fire on them, stating that there was no reason for the soldier’s actions.
The Gaza strip
The Israeli army continued to attack the Gaza Strip this week, killing two Palestinians in the coastal region. IMEMC's John Smith has more:
On Thursday night, Palestinian medical sources reported that one resident died after being fired on by the Israeli military in the Rafah district, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Moawiya Hassanen, head of the Emergency Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, reported that the body of Fares Marzouq Abu Bakir, 23, was found near the Sufa Crossing, north-east of Rafah. Abu Marzouq was hit by several rounds of live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers stationed at the crossing. The Al Quds brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, issued a press release confirming that Abu Bakir was a brigade member.
On Wednesday, Israeli warplanes fired 2 missiles at a number of members of the Palestinian resistance in Jabalya town in the northern Gaza Strip, killing one and wounding another.
On Monday, a Palestinian fisherman was wounded when Israeli gunboats opened fire at fishing boats near the Rafah coastline.
2 Palestinian civilians were wounded on Saturday when Israeli troops positioned at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire at agricultural areas in the central Gaza Strip.
Since the beginning of this latest offensive against the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have killed 57 Palestinians, including 10 children and a woman, and have wounded 179 others, mostly civilians, including 25 children, 18 women, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists.
The Israeli secret police, Shin Beit, has presented a report this week to the Law and Justice Committee of the Israeli Knesset, admitting to the kidnapping of 245 Palestinians residents of the Gaza Strip over the past 11 months.
In contravention of international law, the report stated that "Shin Beit uses the interim orders which allow them to kidnap residents of the Gaza Strip, despite the Israeli withdrawal and the abolition of military rule."
This feek, four Palestinians were killed in renewed factional infighting in the Gaza Strip, and attacks against Palestinian journalists continued. IMEMC's Jane Orwell has more:
Palestinian sources in the Gaza strip reported that two Palestinians were killed in two separate incidents of infighting on Monday. Ahmad Abu Odah, 20, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen after he was kidnapped from his home in Khan Younis, located in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinians sources stated that the man was forced into a car and taken to an unknown location. After seemingly freeing him, the man was shot in back and died immediately. The man is believed to have been a Fatah activist.
Elsewhere in the Gaza strip, a gunfight broke out between two families in the city center. Mohamed Al Massrri was killed in the clash, with a further two people sustaining moderate injuries. The fight took place between the Al Massrri and Abu Taha families who last year attacked each other, a clash that led to the deaths of seven people. On that occasion, Palestinian officials managed to clam the situation and negotiate a truce between the two families.
Palestinian medical and security sources in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, reported on Wednesday night that one resident was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in an area east of Rafah. Medical sources stated that the slain resident was shot several times in his chest.
A Palestinian man, said to be a Fatah activist, was shot and killed in the coastal city of Rafah on Thursday, after renewed infighting between Hamas and Fatah. An IMEMC source in the area reported that clashes between the armed groups of Hamas and Fatah took place in the early hours of Thursday morning. According to Hamas, Fatah activists opened fire at a post belonging to the Al Qassam brigades. An activist was killed and several others were injured during the ensuing gunfight.
Meanwhile, Fatah sources have reported that one of its activists was killed when a group from the Al Qassam brigades surrounded a house and opened fire. Fatah sources identified the man killed as the activist's brother.
On Thursday night, unknown gunmen abducted a senior member of the Fateh as he was standing in front of his home in Gaza City. Palestinian media sources identified the resident as Iz Ed Deen Abu Shanab, 23, one of the leaders of Fateh, and one of the members of the Presidential Guard Forces in the Gaza Strip.
The sources added that the elderly father of Abu Shanab was also injured after the gunmen attacked him as he attempted to free his son. In a separate incident, the Hamas movement accused members of the security forces loyal to Fateh of firing four rounds of live ammunition at the legs of Dr. Fayiz Al Barawi. Al Barawi was injured and the gunmen fled the scene.
Also on Thursday, the Palestinian News Network (PNN) launched a campaign for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, kidnapped in Gaza some 13 weeks ago by an obscure militant group that demands the release of Islamic militants.
PNN website visitors can sign their names and also add comments about the issue online. The campaign organizers stated they highly value feedback from supporters as it enhances their claim for the journalist’s release.
PNN director Fadi Abu Sa'da said that the kidnapping of Johnston is a shameful act and targets the freedom of press in Palestine:
Moreover, the British Association of Journalists has expressed solidarity with the plight of Palestinians and has called for an economic embargo of Israeli products.
Armed men attacked the headquarters of a Palestinian press agency in Gaza City on Tuesday. The militants, most of them masked, broke into the offices of Palmedia and scared staff with gunshots before seizing a computer and television editing equipment. No Injuries were reported.
Last week, the radical Swords of Islamic Righteousness vowed to behead female journalists of Palestinian National Television should they do not adhere to strict Islamic dress code.
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 Dominic and James Brownsell.