Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank
Let's begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
One Palestinian resident suffered bruises to his body and two international peace activists were detained during a peaceful anti-Wall demonstration in Me'sarah village south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday.
The rally took place after the weekly Friday prayers were held on lands that have been threatened with confiscation by the Separation Wall. The villagers were joined by international and Israeli supporters.
The protesters delivered speeches saying that around 1700 dunums of land have been confiscated by the construction of the Wall, which has also divided the area. The speakers affirmed their determination continue their peaceful opposition to the construction of the Wall on privately owned land in the village.
The villagers of Bil'in, west of Ramallah and a group of International and Israeli peace activists held their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on land stolen from the village. This week's rally was entitled "towards a Palestine clear of settlements, Wall and discriminating roads" and was held in conjunction with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. An Israeli soldier who had previously served in the Israeli army in Bil'in participated in this week's demonstration.
From the barbed wires near the construction site of the wall, Israeli soldiers showered the protesters with gas and sound bombs, and fired rubber-coated bullets. Dozens of residents suffered from inhaling gas.
Also near Ramallah on Friday a peaceful protest was attacked by Israeli soldiers. Two protesters were detained and more than fifteen injured, among them a journalist. The demonstration was attended by hundreds of the residents of the village of Beit U'r and the nearby villages surrounding the West Bank city of Ramallah. Also present were members of the Palestinian Legislative council, International and Israeli peace activists, and a local Society of Friends of Freedom and Justice of Bilien.
After reaching the settlement road known as road 443 and conducting the Friday prayers there, the group was confronted by Israeli soldiers who attacked the protesters with batons. The road 443, which cuts through Palestinian villages and connects them to the rest of the West Bank, was closed to Palestinians seven years ago by the Israeli army and since then, only Israeli settlers have been allowed to use it.
A United States-sponsored conference on peace in the Middle East, was launched this week with the participation of Palestinians, Israelis, 16 Arab States, other country representatives and international organizations. IMEMC's Nate Bremen has more:
The Annapolis summit, Washington says, is meant to restart a stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process, on the basis of a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace.
Palestinians have been demanding that this conference should be based on the core issues that divide Palestinians and Israelis, such as the problem of Palestinian refugees, the occupation of East Jerusalem and the borders of a future Palestinian state. Fahmi Alza'areer, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, explained to IMEMC the basis for Palestinian participation.
"The negotiations will start and our position is clear. Such negotiations should embrace the resolutions of the international authorities', such as the General Assembly and the Security Council as well as the Road Map for peace blueprint and the Arab peace initiative, in order to regain the Palestinian people's rights and the issues Jerusalem , the refugees, sovereignty and security".
Israel has recently been demanding that the Palestinians recognize it as a 'Jewish state' and that this is the basis for any talks that would follow after the summit. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, from his part, expected no agreement by the end of 2008. On the contrary, U.S President Bush, claims that peace between both sides has become nearer than ever. President Bush's tenure in office will come to an end next year, so Bush is looking to achieve peace before he leaves the White House.
Talal Oukal, a Gaza political analyst, told IMEMC, that the timing of the Annapolis summit is unsuitable for the Palestinians.
"The current Palestinian political division will reflect on the Palestinian position, which means that the Palestinians will be expected to give more concessions. Such a position will also leave an impact on the Arabs' stance indefinitely".
Oukal's comment comes after thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank took to the streets as the Annapolis conference was being held on Tuesday, to voice their strongly-worded rejection to the peace talks, which they fear will reduce their legitimate rights.
"We won’t recognize Israel, we wont recognize Israel", with these words, large crowds in Gaza and the West Bank, including political factions, civil society organizations and ordinary Palestinians, expressed their objection to the current peace talks.
Gaza is now controlled by the dismissed Hamas government, while the West Bank is ruled by the Fatah-loyal forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, after the Islamist group, which never recognizes Israel, took over the coastal region in mid June.
In response to the West Bank demonstrations, Abbas' forces violently dispersed protesters, killing two and wounding dozens more.
Meanwhile, the Chief of the Arab States League Amr Mousa, was quoted early this week as saying that the Arab participation does not mean 'normalizing with Israel'.
Mousa said "our position is clear, the Arab peace initiative remains the basis for any peace talks with Israel".
Speaking to Haaretz online Daily from Washington, where he took part in the Annapolis summit, Mr. Tony Blair said that he believes that negotiations without progress on the ground simply will not work, referring to the fact that despite repeated pleas to Israel since 2000, Washington has failed to secure the halt of Israeli settlement activities and the construction of the Wall on the West Bank lands. Mr. Blair is the envoy of the Quartet committee for Middle East peace, comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
The Palestinian refugee situation remains one of the most contentious issues which Israel refuses to discuss. According to United Nations General Assembly resolution 194 of 1949, Israel must allow for the return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who Israel displaced in 1948 from historical Palestine. Palestinians are concerned that if a Jewish state is recognized, refugees will have no hope to return, despite UN resolution 194.
In 1967, the United Nations Security Council, issued resolution 242, which demanded Israel to immediately withdraw from the Palestinian lands it occupied on June 5, 1967, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. United Nations' records estimate that there are 4.2 million Palestinian refugees, scattered across the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
For IMEMC.org this is Nate Bremen.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 12 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those invasions, the Israeli army kidnapped at least 30 Palestinian civilians. IMEMC's Brenna Marie with the details:
With the kidnappings this week, the total number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 2,476.
Palestinian medical sources in Beir Zeit town, near the West bank city of Ramallah north of Jerusalem, reported on Saturday evening that a 55-year old man died of a heart attack after Israeli soldiers fired concussion grenades near his shop. The incident took place as the army invaded the Al Marj area in the town, and clashed with dozens of youth who hurled stones and empty bottles at them.
On Sunday, Israeli military Special Forces kidnapped Fadi Hamad, the head of the Birzeit university student council. The incident occurred on the road linking the al Jalazoon camp with the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Approximately ten Israeli military vehicles invaded and took over the residential streets of Azzoun village Tuesday mid-afternoon, abducting two young men and shooting three teenagers with live ammunition.
According to eyewitnesses, at around 2:45 in the afternoon, over 200 Israeli soldiers, including Special Forces, entered the old city quarter from different directions. They positioned themselves at various points on the narrow lanes, fired live bullets and threw sound bombs while closing in on the home of a Palestinian man they were attempting to abduct.
For IMEMC.org this is Brenna Marie.
The Gaza strip
An Israeli source this week said that the preparations for a massive ground invasion of Gaza are complete, while during the past week Israeli attacks left 12 Palestinians killed. IMEMC's Rami Al Mughari has more:
Israeli officials said the thousands of troops and dozens of tanks currently stationed on the Gaza border are not going to launch an invasion unless Palestinian resistance factions fire homemade shells across the border first.
On the early hours of Thursday morning, Palestinian medical sources declared that two Israeli air strikes killed four Palestinians near Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Another two were killed when the Israeli military ambushed resistance fighters in Al Qarara town, south of Khan Younis.
On Wednesday afternoon, Israeli naval forces killed one Palestinian Police Officer and injured three others near the southern Gaza city of Rafah, local sources reported. The officer was killed when naval forces opened fire at Khan Younis beach.
Another three members of the Qassam Brigades were killed on Wednesday in an air strike near the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. On Tuesday morning, Palestinian medics pronounced dead Ali Alsufi, a 55-year-old farmer from the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Witnesses said that the Israeli army swept into eastern Rafah city, opening fire on farm lands, killing al-Sufi, injuring three of his brothers, and abducting at least four others.
Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile on a group of resistance fighters in northern Gaza, killing a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. The man was later identified as 22-year-old Fadi Abdelsattar.
A fresh Israeli air strike on northern Gaza on Monday left one Palestinian resistance fighter killed and four other residents injured, medics confirmed. Palestinian media sources said that 24-year-old Abdelkareem Al Ja'ber of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, was killed, and four others were injured, after an Israeli drone fired a missile on a group of resistance fighters in northern Gaza.
In Beit Lahyia town, also located in the northern part of the Gaza strip, one man was killed and another injured when Israeli army tanks opened fire at residents' homes on Monday afternoon. Israeli media sources reported earlier that two Palestinian homemade shells were fired Monday into southern Israel, but reported no injuries or damages.
For IMEMC.org this Rami Al Mughari in Gaza
Palestinian security forces attack journalists in Ramallah and Bethlehem, while unknown groups attack several areas of the Gaza strip, IMEMC's John Orwell with the details:
At least one Palestinian boy was reported injured on Saturday as a series of attacks ripped through the coastal region. Local medical sources announced that 18-year-old Fadi Abu Etawi, was wounded by shrapnel after a mysterious blast occurred during the night in the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of aL-Buraij. Similar incidents were reported in Gaza city and the nearby Al Maghazi refugee camp.
As leaders commenced the Annapolis conference in Maryland on Tuesday, Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank and Gaza Strip to voice their opposition to the summit.
In Ramallah, scores of Palestinians responded to a call by the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements and a number of other nongovernmental organizations by protesting in the city center. Palestinian police later attacked the demonstration, arrested at least 20 people, among them five journalists who were released later in the day, and injured several.
In Hebron on Tuesday, one man was killed by Palestinian Authority security forces during an anti-Annapolis rally. Medical sources said that the man was shot in the heart and died instantly. The man, along with approximately 2,500 others, was participating in a rally organized by the Hizb Ut-Tahrir movement. More than 30 people were arrested during the demonstration.
On Wednesday, fifty seven Palestinians were injured, several of them seriously, when Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire in Hebron City during a funeral for the man killed on Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon in Bethlehem city, Palestinian security forces attacked the Hizb Ut-Tahrir movement's protest against the Annapolis conference, injuring at least 20. Among those injured were three journalists, including detained IMEMC’s Photographer and News Producer Ghassan Bannoura. Bannoura was assaulted and detained for several hours. A medical check-up reveled that he suffered severe bruises to his back and neck and a light fracture in his right leg.
In Gaza City, thousands gathered in the city center in response to a call by the ruling Hamas party and the Islamic Jihad movement. Leaders of both movements delivered speeches declaring the Annapolis conference as yet another agreement aimed at killing the Palestinian cause and the dream of freedom.
Earlier in the week, Palestinian media sources in Bethlehem city reported that a Palestinian journalist was kidnapped by unknown gunmen on Saturday night. He was released on Sunday afternoon. They demanded he publish false news about Palestinian officials. Hafeth Asakra, a journalist working at the Palestinian News Agency, Maan News, told IMEMC how he was kidnapped.
"I was going to my work at Maan News agency, a jeep that was driving behind me stopped and a gun was pointed at me. They forced me into the jeep and told not to make noise because they didn’t want any one to know what's happening"
The Palestinian Authority in the West bank, led by Fateh-affiliated President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed Monday to have disarmed and disbanded several armed resistance groups associated with their rival party Hamas. Hamas media sources reported on Saturday that members of the Preventive Security Forces, loyal to the Fateh movement, detained two prominent Hamas leaders on Saturday afternoon in the West Bank after barring them from holding a press conference in Ramallah.
For IMEMC.org this is John Orwell.
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 Louisa White and Ghassan Bannoura.