Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with the nonviolent action in the village of Bil'in near the city of Ramallah. IMEMC's Manar Jebreen with the details:
As has been the case for the last two and a half years, the villagers of Bil'in, along with their international and Israeli supporters, conducted their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village land. This week, French parliamentarians, municipality leaders, union representatives, left wing political faction officials and other EU officials joined the villagers of Bil'in.
The theme of the protest on Friday was encouraging the Palestinians to continue the non violent resistance against the illegal Israeli wall and settlements, and the continuation of the joint national work to accomplish justice for peace.
As with each week, the protesters marched after the midday Friday prayers, towards the location of the wall. On the way the Israeli soldiers established a military barricade and warned the protesters that if they crossed, they would be attacked. The protesters tried to cross as soldiers showered them with tear gas, rubber coated metal bullets and sound grenades. Nine were injured, among them an international supporter and a Palestinian journalist.
In addition to the nine injured, four protesters were kidnapped by the Israeli groups; one American, one Israeli and two local village organizers, Mohammed Al Khateeb and his brother Mustafa.
Midday on Thursday the Israeli army attacked a peaceful demonstration on the settlers' road known as road 443 which had been organized by villagers from several villages west of Ramallah,. Sources at the protest told IMEMC that the protesters marched towards the road, then held midday prayers there. Shortly after, the Israeli army attacked the participants with rifle-butts and batons. No injuries or kidnappings were reported.
For IMEMC.org this Manar Jbreen.
In political news this week, several members of the Palestinian negotiating team rejected demands by the Israeli government that they recognize Israel as a 'Jewish state.' Meanwhile, Russian officials announce that Syria will attend the Annapolis peace summit. IMEMC's John Smith has more.
This week marks the 19th anniversary of Palestinian Independence Day, during which the late President Yasser Arafat announced the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The event was marked with a series of demonstrations across the Palestinian territories and with a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterating willingness to achieve a just and comprehensive peace with Israel. Abbas also spoke of his desire to bring an end to Hamas rule in Gaza and to make a success of the Annapolis peace conference.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday announced that the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government had agreed to a peace plan that involved Israel bypassing the commitments laid out to it in the first stage of the road map plan.
The agreement, if true, means that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams will discuss final status issues at the Annapolis summit before the removal of the illegal Israeli settlements that currently litter the West Bank.
Chief Palestinian negotiator for the summit Ahmad Qureia on Tuesday confirmed that limited progress had been made in the ongoing talks, adding that such negotiations were both difficult and complex, and calling for the imposition of a timetable of implementation post-Annapolis. Sa'eb Erekat, Chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, reiterated Qureia's request, adding that the Quartet should mediate and adjudicate between the Palestinians and the Israelis in a fair and unbiased manner.
Of the ongoing talks, President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday declared that the Palestinian Authority would accept no peace settlement that did not include east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Abbas also warned of the consequences of a failure to negotiate a peaceful solution, arguing that, with ongoing Israeli procedures against the Palestinian people, the continued existence and construction of the illegal Israeli wall and the continued incarceration of approximately 12,000 Palestinian people in Israeli jails, the region would quickly return to the quagmire of violence and tension that has blighted the political landscape for so many years.
Meanwhile, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday stated that he planned to introduce a Knesset bill demanding that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, stating that such recognition must form a prerequisite to the upcoming Annapolis conference. The call was rejected by Qureia, who criticized the Israeli government for linking nationality and ethnicity, arguing that "there is a two-state solution, a Palestinian state and an Israeli state."
Syria will attend and participate in the forthcoming Annapolis peace summit, Russian government officials told Israeli representatives on Thursday. The news follows earlier reports that Syria had agreed to attend the conference after receiving guarantees that it would be sent a direct invitation. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had previously indicated that Syria would only attend if the issue of the annexed Golan Heights was on the agenda for discussion.
While the Israeli government has so far refused to agree to such a demand, several high-ranking Israeli ministers have recently touted the possibility of an Israel-Syria peace deal, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak indicating the 'need' to address relations between the two countries.
In other news, deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Monday stated that President Abbas is rendering national dialogue impossible by placing unrealistic demands on the Hamas movement, adding that while Hamas was ready for talks, President Abbas remained unwilling.
The Hamas movement also poured scorn upon the Annapolis conference, with Dr. Ahmad Yousef, Haniyeh's political advisor, on Wednesday arguing that Annapolis would be added to the list of failed meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders held since the Madrid conference in October 1991.
For IMEMC.org, this is John Smith
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 30 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions, Israeli troops kidnapped at least 68 Palestinian civilians. IMEMC's Louisa white with the details:
Among those Palestinians kidnapped this week were 3 children and 2 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Thus, the number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council detained by Israeli has increased to 45, and the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 2,395.
The Israeli authorities continued their campaign against 'unrecognized' Arab villages in the Negev desert, demolishing four homes on Thursday. The regional council of the 'unrecognized' villages reported that the Israeli authorities demolished four homes in three different areas. The villages are not officially recognized by the state of Israel, despite the residents having lived there prior to the creation of Israel in 1948.
A group of Israeli settlers on Thursday set fire to an olive grove in the northern West Bank village of Dir Al Hatab, east of Nablus. The blaze damaged more than fifty trees. Local sources said that Israeli soldiers prevented fire-fighting vehicles from reaching the village, leaving the farmers to fight the fire alone.
Israeli military forces injured one child during an invasion of the Hebron area, located in the southern West Bank, in the early hours of Saturday morning. The boy, Mohammad al Tal, 14, sustained moderate injuries when Israeli soldiers randomly opened fire during an invasion of al-Thahriya town in southern Hebron. While clashes broke out between local residents and invading soldiers during the attack, no abductions were reported.
Also on Saturday, one member of the al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, was reportedly injured during an Israeli army attack on Nablus city.
For IMEMC.org this Louisa White.
The Gaza strip
In a new wave of attacks, the Israeli army this week killed at least five Palestinian in Gaza, in addition to conducting several limited ground invasions across the region. From Gaza, IMEMC's Rami Al Mughari has more:
Two Palestinians were killed and a further four wounded in an Israeli strike on the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, medical sources reported Thursday.
Media reports indicated that those killed were members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah. Of those injured, one currently lies in a critical condition. Eyewitnesses said that the air strike targeted a car as it drove through Beit Lahiya. Palestinian medical sources on Saturday evening reported that three Palestinians, two of them children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip during the course of the day. Of those killed, one is thought to have been a member of a Palestinian resistance faction. The identity of the man remains unknown.
Later in the afternoon, two brothers, were shot and killed by Israeli forces invading the al-Mughazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The two children were identified as Jihad Nabahen, 16, and his brother Ibrahim, 17.
Elsewhere, two people, including one physician, were seriously injured in an Israeli missile strike targeting an area east of Jabalia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The physician, Waheed Saleh, 47, was seriously injured after the army targeted his vehicle with one missile.
During the week, the Israeli army also conducted several ground invasions targeting different part of the Gaza strip, kidnapping scores of Palestinian civilians. The army later released all but one man.
The Israeli army has continued with its escalation of attacks against Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza. In the last three months since Hamas established control in the coastal region, at least 80 Palestinians have died as a direct result of Israeli military operations.
For IMEMC.org this Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
A new wave of internal clashes between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions has this week claimed the lives of eight Palestinians and left at least one hundred more injured. IMEMC's Jane Sahouri with the details:
At least seven Palestinians, including one child, were on Monday killed and over 100 injured during a mass rally in Gaza city commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat. Hamas sources reported that that the Gaza police force attacked the rally after an armed man, said to be a Fatah gunman, opened fire from a nearby rooftop, a claim denied by the Fatah movement who later argued that the Hamas-affiliated police force had opened fire without cause.
Later in the evening, six Palestinians were wounded during a funeral for one of those killed in earlier clashes. Local sources reported that the six were injured in the Deir al-Balah area of the Gaza Strip after mourners clashed with police forces of the de facto government in Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday declared three days mourning for those killed in the clashes.
Two explosive devices were detonated near a police station in Gaza city on Wednesday night. The circumstances of the explosion remain unclear and no-one has been arrested in connection with the attack. Meanwhile, a similar explosion on Thursday killed one Palestinian civilian and seriously injured another. Again, no motive has been established for the attack.
The Hamas movement in the West Bank on Wednesday released a statement criticizing the ruling Fatah party for unfairly targeting Hamas supporters. The Hamas movement challenged the arrests of 1100 Hamas members by Fatah-led Palestinian security forces, and accused Fatah of carrying out 1500 attacks against Hamas-affiliated mosques, schools, organizations and individuals.
Palestinian public school teachers on Monday held a one-day strike, warning that a further strike would follow in two weeks if the government failed to meet their demands for the payment of owed salaries and a wage increase, adding that the current Palestinian government must do more to save the education sector.
For IMEMC.org this Jane Sahouri.
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 Nate Bremen and Ghassan Bannoura.