Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for August 15th to 21st, 2009
As U.S President, Barak Obama is set to dispatch his special peace envoy to the Middle East soon, Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Gaza continue. These stories, and more, coming up, Stay tuned.
Let's begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank with IMEMC's Ghassan Bannoura:
Dozen were suffocated with tear gas on Friday when Israeli troops attacked Bil'in villagers, central west Bank, and their international and Israeli supporters.
As is the case each week, the protesters headed towards the Wall after the midday prayers. When they got close to the gate of the wall which separates the villagers from their lands, troops started firing tear gas, causing the suffocation of dozens.
This week in Bil'in the Israeli military continued to target the organizers of the weekly nonviolent protests. On Thursday soldiers attacked the house of Mohammad Abu Rahma, age 48, and kidnapped him. Abu Rahmah is the vice president of the Bil'in village council and an organizer of the weekly nonviolent protests against the wall.
The Palestinian village of Bil'in has become an international symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle. For almost 5 years, its residents have been continuously struggling against the de facto annexation of more than 50% of their farmlands for the construction of the Apartheid Wall.
Also in central West Bank dozens of Palestinians and internationals suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation on Friday as Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest against the wall in N'ilin.
Villagers marched toward the location of the Israeli Wall, and then held the Friday prayers there. Israeli soldiers attacked the residents and international supporters by firing tear gas at them as they peacefully marched towards the Wall.
The Israeli military sealed off the village on Friday morning in an attempt to stop supporters from coming into the village for the weekly protest. Despite these efforts the villagers successfully guided their supporters in through the surrounding farm lands.
For IMEMC.org this is Ghassan Bannoura.
The Political Report
U.S President, Barak Obama, is set to dispatch his special peace envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to the region very soon. Mitchel will have in his hands a new U.S plan for peace between Palestine and Israel. IMEMC reporter Zak Brophy has the story:
U.S peace envoy, George Mitchel, will likely arrive next week to the region. According to media reports, the new peace plan he will be carrying will propose interim arrangements between Palestinians and Israelis, before a Palestinian state is declared by the summer of 2010.
Amongst these arrangements it is expected Israel will keep its command over certain areas of the occupied West Bank as well as the borders, airspace, sea ports and water resources. The drawing of final borders between Israel and the would-be Palestinian state is not mentioned. According to the plan Jerusalem will remain under Israeli control, while holy Muslim sites, will be handed over for Arab supervision.
With regards to the Palestinians, they will need to disarm all resistance factions, turning them into political parties. U.S President Barak Obama met this week with his Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts in Washington, where the leaders agreed on the necessity for resuming Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas on the other hand, asserted this week that Israel will HAVE to freeze all settlement activities on occupied Palestinian lands, in order for peace talks to resume.
After mounting pressure by the US administration, the Israeli government this week announced that it will freeze construction in the West Bank settlements. Hagit Ofran is the head of the settlement watch unit at Peace Now, the largest extra-parliamentary movement in Israel, AND the country’s oldest peace movement. She says the Israeli ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT freezing settlements construction is misleading:
Khalil Al Tafakji, a Palestinian expert on the settlements issue, says the Israeli settlement construction is a cornerstone of the current government's policies:
" The Israeli government coalition, is a very right wing coalition, meaning that what keeps it together is the issue of Jerusalem and the settlements, therefore nine of the ministers are settlers in the West Bank, including Lieberman the foreign Affairs Minster, the settlement construction that is happing in the West Bank is part of the overall government polices."
In meetings with Egyptian mediators in Ramallah, prominent Hamas figures reiterated their party's demand that Hamas political prisoners, jailed by the Fatah-led government in the West Bank, need to be released before dialogue between the two parties can resume. This is unlikely to happen in time for the two rival sides to meet before August 25th.
Media reports from Damascus, where Egyptian mediators held meetings with exiled Hamas leaders, also suggested that no breakthrough is forthcoming.
In the meantime, Egyptian president Husni Mubarak, told reporters in Washington this week that external players [any ideas who this is referring to?] blocked a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel a few months ago. Hamas in Gaza did not either confirm or deny Mubarak's remarks.
Hamas wants Israel to release 1000 detainees in Israeli prisons in return for an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas in June2006 during a cross-border attack in southern Gaza Strip.
Cairo has been trying to broker such a deal for the past few years, but with no tangible results.
For IMEMC.org this is Zak Brophy.
The Gaza Strip Report
This week the Israeli military siege and attacks on Gaza left one civilian dead and a number of others injured, from Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Meghari Reports:
A Palestinian man was reported dead on Monday after he was unable to leave the Gaza Strip for the life saving medical care he needed. 44 year old Umar Al Sha'er had kidney failure. The man needed medical care outside the Gaza Strip because doctors in Gaza did not have the medical equipments to save his life.
Doctors say the siege that Israel enforced on the Gaza Strip since June 2007 has left Gaza’s hospitals unable to treat severe cases. Al Sha'er had all the needed documents to leave Gaza but the Israeli military kept stalling his request until he was announced dead on Monday, his family reported.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that the number of patients who died because of the Israeli siege has now reached 344.
In other news an Egyptian soldier was critically injured on Monday as his unit clashed with Israeli troops at the Egyptian-Israeli borders. Israeli media sources said that the Israeli troops were conducting a routine check at the borders when they spotted movement.
The Israeli soldiers opened fire in the air. Egyptian soldiers from nearby post responded to the fire, Israeli soldiers reported. The clashes that lasted for a few minutes left one Egyptian soldier critically injured. No injuries among Israeli soldiers were reported.
In related news, the Egyptian military uncovered five tunnels along its borders with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
The military said that the tunnels were discovered during a series of searches on the Egyptian side of the borders. It added that the tunnels were empty of goods and people.
According to the Egyptian military report the tunnels will be destroyed in the coming few days. The tunnels at the borders with Egypt became the source of much needed medical and food supplies to the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip after Israel started its siege on the territory in June 2007.
A Palestinian woman and her child were injured as Israeli tanks opened fire at homes located east of Gaza City on Wednesday. Witnesses reported that Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded farm lands close to the borders with Israel. As bulldozers destroyed farm lands tanks opened fire at nearby homes, leaving one woman and her child injured.
Medical sources said that the woman and her child were moderately wounded and moved to a hospital in Gaza city. Later on in the day the Israeli military opened fire at homes close to Nahal Oze crossing at the eastern borders. Damage was reported but no injuries.
A Palestinian man was injured on Thursday by Israeli military fire during an invasion targeting areas in central regions of the Gaza Strip.
Local sources reported that Israeli troops and tanks invaded areas in the central Gaza Strip then opened fire on nearby homes. One man was moderately injured and moved to a hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian armed groups announced that they clashed with the invading forces. No injuries were reported from either side.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Meghari in Gaza.
The West Bank Report
The Israeli military this week conducted at least 26 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these attacks Israeli troops kidnapped 28 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children. IMEMC’s Katharine Orwell reports:
The Israeli military attacks were focused on the cities of Qalqilia, and Nablus, in the northern West Bank, in addition to Ramallah and Hebron, in the central and southern West Bank.
In June the Israeli military said it would stop to invade the cities of Ramallah and Qalqilia, as well as Bethlehem and Jericho. However, since then the army violated its own pledge numerous of times already.
On Monday a group of armed Israeli settlers took over a Palestinian owned house near the old city of Jerusalem. The home is located in the Palestinian dominated Silwan neighborhood in East-Jerusalem and close to a UN school for Palestinian refugees.
Local sources reported that with this new settler post, there are now 40 settler posts inside the Silwan neighborhood. According to international law all settlements in occupied Palestinians territories including East Jerusalem are illegal.
On Tuesday the Israeli military issued a military order to confiscate 28 acres of farm lands near Ya'abd village in the northern West Bank.
According to local sources all the land is owned by farmers from the village and located close to the Israeli settlement of Shakid. The sources added that the military order states that the land will be used for security purposes, but the order doesn’t clarify whether the land will eventually be used by the military or by settlers.
Also in the northern West Bank Israeli troops destroyed five Palestinian owned shops in Qalqilia on Wednesday at dawn. Local sources reported that military vehicles and a bulldozer stormed an industrial zone located in the eastern part of Qalqilia and demolished five care repair shops. The sources added that the military gave no reason for the demolition.
For IMEMC.org this is Katharine Orwell.
And that's just some of the news of this week in Palestine. For constant updates, please check out our website, www.IMEMC.org. Thank you for joining us from occupied Bethlehem. This week's report has been brought to you by Dina Awwad.