Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine
Let's begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Palestine against the wall and settlements.
Residents of the village of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, joined by international and Israeli supporters, today marched against the construction of the illegal wall that separates the village from its farming land as they do each week.
Shortly after Friday prayers, the protestors moved towards the gate of the illegal Wall which farmers have to pass through to reach their land. Scores of soldiers blocked the way with razor wire and military barricades. As soon as demonstrators reached the main roadblock, they were fired upon with tear-gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets. The attack injured six protestors, among them two internationals.
In addition to injuries sustained, 3 Israeli demonstrators were detained, one of whom is current serving in the Israeli army. Upon being detained, the man stated his military number, unit and name. Despite this he was beaten up and held for approximately one hour. Upon his release, the man stated that he was ashamed of what the army was doing in the area and vowed not to return to service.
As the soldiers continued to attack non-violent protestors, a number of masked youths from the village managed to bypass the soldiers’ lines and reach the fence surrounding the illegal wall.
Sources in the village also reported that since last week, the Israeli army has been invading the village on a daily basis and attacking local non-violent activists and those who help to organize the demonstration.
In related news, an Israeli military court released Iyad Burnatt, the coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Construction of the Wall and Settlements, after fining him 4000 NIS and barring him from visiting the site of the wall for 10 days, effective from as of Thursday.
Burnat was assaulted and then kidnapped by Israeli soldiers at last week’s demonstration.
Resident of the village of Artas, located to the south of Bethlehem in the southern part of the West Bank, along with international and Israeli supporters, protested against the illegal confiscation of land in the area on Friday.
The protest attempted to march to an area of land scheduled for confiscation. The land is to be confiscated to make way for a sewage system for the nearby illegal Israeli settlement.
A massive number of soldiers blocked the path, demanding that protestors go home. Demonstrators, however, stood their ground and convinced the soldiers to allow them to pass.
Sami Awad, Director of Homeland Trust, a non-violent org in Bethlehem, and attendee of today’s demonstration, stated that the aim was not to provoke the soldiers.
Four way summit in Egypt offers nothing to Palestine’s plight
A four-way summit was held in Sharm El-Sheikh sea resort in Egypt in order to, according to Egyptian officials, bolster the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority after he formed an Emergency government, and to isolate Hamas who took control of the Gaza Strip by force.
The summit joined, Abbas, with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and was supervised by Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, and King Abduallah II of Jordan. No Hamas representatives, who have a 63% majority in Palestinian Parliament, were invited to the talks.
However, Palestinian observers say that without an implementation of Palestinian demands the talks could negatively affect presidents Abbas' strength, Hussam Jubran, a Palestinian political analyst has monitored the summit.
At the talks, Israel agreed to begin a monthly transfer of part of the Palestinian tax revenues seized by Israel, which total nearly 800 million dollars, in addition to the release of 250 Fatah prisoners, who according to Israeli conditions do not have Israeli blood on their hands and must sign a waver denouncing violence and terrorism.
Yet, Olmert remained conspicuously silent on the issue of easing travel restrictions in the West Bank or the border crossings at the Gaza Strip which is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis according to United Nations reports.
Abbas in his speech at Monday's summit urged Olmert to resume what he described as "serious talks" on a future Palestinian State, adding that the region is now "at a cross roads between peace and violence".
"For my part I asked my partner prime minister Olmert to start real political negotiations that has an agreed upon time-table to create the independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. We have responsibility towards our people who elected us to fulfill justice, peace and end the Israeli-Arab conflict."
Abbas and Olmert agreed to establish a joint committee that would be in charge of discussing the Israeli withdrawal from the areas it reoccupied since the outbreak of violence in September 2000.
For its part, Hamas says that this summit had nothing to offer to the Palestinian people. Fawzi Barhoum Hamas spokesperson in Gaza:
"This was a formality summit to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas official support, it is not a summit that will benefit the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause"
One day after the summit, Abbas outlawed all armed groups in the West Bank excluding official Palestinian Authority security services. The decision was widely rejected by all resistance groups who said that Abbas has no right to force the resistance fighters to lay down their weapons as long as the Israeli occupation is ongoing.
On the same day, Israeli troops invaded the Gaza Strip with tanks and military vehicles and carried out air strikes killing 13 Palestinians and wounding a dozen others, and later troops invaded Nablus in the West Bank killing one and taking 30 others prisoner.
In his speech, one day prior to the summit, dismissed Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh of Hamas said that President Abbas has violated the Palestinian basic law by forming an emergency government.
Haniyeh has also denied allegations that Hamas was planning to assassinate Abbas in Gaza by placing a huge explosive device under his house through a tunnel. He said, it is not of Hamas’ code of ethics to assassinate anybody.
On the other hand, senior Fatah leaders slammed Hani Al-Hassan, a co-founder of Fatah and member of its central committee, over comments he made regarding the latest political and security developments in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Hassan told Al-Jazeera TV in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that Hamas’ step was preemptive to protect itself from a plan which aims at Hamas’ destruction.
Al-Hassan, who is the senior advisor for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said what happened in Gaza is a defeat for General Keith Dayton’s plan, and not a defeat for Fatah saying that 95 percent of Fatah would not support such a plan and called for dialogue with Hamas.
General Dayton has been stationed in Jerusalem after Hamas won the Palestinian Parliamentary elections in January 2006, in a bid to destroy Hamas.
Al-Hassan accused some of Fatah leaders, clearly hinting to Mohammad Dahlan, of being part of the plan to destroy Hamas and was paid by the United States to do so.
On Thursday, Samir Mashharawi, a senior Fatah leader, who fled to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip after Hamas forcibly took control of it, harshly slammed Al-Hassan saying that he has collaborated with Hamas to carry out a coup.
Mashharawi added that Fatah has information that Al-Hassan has informed the head of Hamas’ politburo Khaled Masha’al of a possible crack down on the movement one month ago.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary General of Fatah in the West Bank told a press conference that Al-Hassan does not represent Fatah and demanded that President Abbas take legal measures against him.
During the week, the Israeli army conducted at least 23 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, the army killed one Palestinian resistance fighter, injured two civilians and kidnapped 15 Palestinian civilians. Thus, the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the army in the West Bank since the beginning of the year has mounted to 1,440. IMEMC's Ghassan Bannoura has more:
Israeli military vehicles backed by military bulldozers stormed the West Bank city of Nablus from all sides and took over the city center, the old city outskirts and several neighborhoods in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Palestinian security sources stated that the invasion was carried out by at least 100 military vehicles and that the soldiers fired many rounds of live ammunition. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli troops seized several buildings and used them to surround local hospitals. Shops in the area were also ransacked, and local radio stations were taken over and used to broadcast military orders. In addition to this, the military struck the electricity transformer in the eastern part of Nablus City, causing an electricity failure in hundreds of residences in the area.
The Israeli soldiers clashed with local resistance, and resistance fighters shelled the army with homemade bombs. One Israeli captain and at least seven other Israeli soldiers were injured, one seriously, during the clashes. On Friday morning, one Palestinian was reported as killed by the Israeli army while driving through Balata refugee camp in the early hours of the morning. The man, identified as Hitham Salah, 26, a member of the al-Aqsa brigades, was killed instantly when Israeli forces opened fire on the taxi that he was driving.
One Palestinian civilian was critically wounded during an Israeli army invasion of Jenin refugee camp, located near Jenin city in the northern part of the West Bank, on Wednesday at dawn. A massive Israeli force stormed the refugee camp and searched and ransacked scores of homes. During the attack, Israeli troops opened fire randomly on residents' homes, injuring one critically.
Also in Jenin refugee camp, one Palestinian woman was shot and injured on Saturday. Local sources stated that a massive Israeli force attacked the refugee camp and soldiers opened fire at the homes of residents, leading to the injury of Sana Mas'ud, 26. Medical sources said that Sana sustained moderate wounds to her shoulder after being hit by several live rounds.
For IMEMC.org this Ghassan Bannoura.
The Gaza strip
In the Gaza strip this week, the Israeli army conducted three invasions, during which 15 Palestinians were killed and many more injured. IMEMC's John smith has more:
At least 13 Palestinians were killed and 40 were injured in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday when the Israeli army invaded the region and attacked two neighborhoods. Israeli military sources said two troopers sustained serious wounds in clashes with Palestinian fighters during the invasion.
On Wednesday afternoon, invading Israeli Tanks shelled houses located in the Al-Shija’iyeh area in eastern Gaza. The shelling killed three Palestinians. Also, at mid-day Wednesday, two Palestinian resistance fighters were reported killed in armed clashes with the invading Israeli troops in eastern Gaza city. The two men were members of Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah.
Earlier on Wednesday, Palestinian Medical sources reported that five Palestinians, including a child, were killed and several others wounded in the Al-Shija’iyeh neighborhood in eastern Gaza when Israeli tanks and artillery shelled the crowded residential area in the early hours of the morning. Israeli forces also attacked the Abu Reida area, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, and clashed with resistance fighters. The clashes claimed the life of Dia’ Abu Dakka of the Al-Quds brigade.
Eyewitnesses confirmed that the Israeli army used Palestinian civilians as human shields as they invaded the city, with the same sources reporting that the army invaded several homes, taking up position on the rooftops.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli air-strikes struck Gaza City, killing one man. While medical sources were initially unable to identify the body due to its mutilated state, the dead man was eventually identified as Husam Harb, 32, a member of Islamic Jihad.
Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli air strikes fired one rocket at the activist's car while he was passing through the north of Gaza City. Earlier on Monday night, Israeli gunboats shelled fishermen’s boats in the Beit Lahia Sea, to the north of Gaza City.
In a separate operation on Monday night, the Israeli army fired at residents’ homes in Beit Hanoun town. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli tanks opened fire at homes located to the northern part of the town, causing structural damage only.
On Friday, an undercover Israeli force invaded Beit Hanoun town, located in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The force was later discovered by local resistance fighters from the al-Aqsa Brigades, an offshoot of Fatah. A clash took place between local resistance members and the invading troops, forcing the troops to pull out of the town. No injuries were reported.
For IMEMC.org this John Smith.
Settlements activity continues in the West Bank
This week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a report stating that he is planning to evacuate a number of illegal West Bank outposts in the coming months. Elsewhere, residents of Nablus and the surrounding area have expressed dismay at the continued expansion the Alon Mureh settlement. IMEMC’s Louisa Orwell has more.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week announced that Israel will evacuate a number of West Bank outposts in the coming months. The last Israeli evacuation was carried out in January 2006 when nine homes in the Amona outpost were evacuated, an event marked by violent clashes between settlers and Israeli security forces. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cited a promise made to the U.S. administration by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 and a legal challenge regarding the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Migron as the basis for this decision.
Recognizing the settlement of Migron to be illegal, the Israeli Supreme Court has given the state a deadline of July 8 to update the court on the progress of its evacuation plan. Israel has already asked for several extensions from the court.
Residents of the eastern part of Nablus city, located in the northern West Bank, and nearby towns and villages have expressed shock at the continued construction of the Alon Mureh settlement. The continued construction of the settlement has been made and continues to be made at the expense of farm land that belongs to Palestinian farmers from the city of Nablus and nearby towns and villages. Abd-Al Ghani Samara, from Azmot village, says that some of the newly-constructed homes are located several meters away from his village, resulting in the fear that settlers will soon attack local Palestinian farmers.
Alon Mureh settlement contains several factories, among them a factory to produce cold cuts and kitchen equipment. The waste-water and chemicals produced by these factories is dumped on nearby Palestinian farm land. This has severely damaged the local environment, polluted the air and destroyed the water sources used by nearby Palestinian villages. The Alon Mureh settlement was built in July 1979 shortly after a military order issued by Israeli army confiscated 700 dunums of Palestinian farm land in the area.
In the early hours of Monday morning, a huge force comprised of Israeli police, border authorities, bulldozers and military vehicles began the forcible removal of families from the unrecognized Bedouin village of Um Al Hayran village in the Negev. Residents were forcibly removed in order to make way for Israeli expansion and reclamation of the land as exclusively Israeli.
The regional committee in the Negev argued that Israel is using this procedure as a barometer to measure the level of success that such procedures can expect to achieve, stating that, if successful, the removal will be extended across Israeli territory. The operation to remove residents from Um Al Haryran village was met with some resistance, resistance that the Israeli authorities attempted to counter by closing all entries to the village and kidnapping Hassan Rafayah, head of the Regional committee for the unrecognized villages.
For IMEMC.org this is Louisa Orwell.
Blair Appointed as special envoy to the ME
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's appointment as special envoy to the Middle East has been welcomed by Israel and the Palestinian Authorities, but criticized by Hamas.
The appointment, confirmed Wednesday despite objections from Russia and the EU, will make Blair the representative of the quartet of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. Blair will initially focus on issues of Palestinian governance, economics, and law and order, rather than on mediating the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. However, it is possible that his role will expand in the future.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Blair "a true friend of the State of Israel" and stated that Israel would "cooperate with him to the fullest." The Palestinian Authority also publicly welcomed the appointment, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying that Blair had assured him of his commitment to a peaceful two-state solution. The appointment was fully supported by the Bush administration.
Hamas member Ghazi Hamad, an aide to Ismail Haniyeh, criticized Blair as "always adopting the Israeli and American position," saying Blair was "not honest and was not helpful in solving the conflict in the Middle East."
Blair's predecessor, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, quit in frustration in April 2006. His role had focused solely on the economy and the transition ahead of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
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 Beth Thompson.