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Occupation magazine - Weekly summary

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The Weekly Summary 13-17 March


By Adi Dagan

Based on Haaretz newspaper and the pchrgaza.org human rights website. (information is from pchrgaza.org unless indicated otherwise)

The week in politics:

During the week preoccupation continued with the report on settlement outposts and the government authorized the recommendations of the Sasson Report. The government authorized the establishment of a ministerial committee that will give the government suggestions for a detailed decision on the implementation of the recommendations within 90 days. The committee will appoint nine ministers, at the head of whom will be Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. In the decision that the government authorized she is obliged to evacuate the 24 outposts that were set up after March 2001, but there is no obligatory date by which the evacuations must be completed. Nevertheless, it was determined that the security establishment had to modify security legislation in the occupied territories within 30 days, with the tendency to broaden the authority of the courts in the territories, so that they can sit in judgment on Israelis who commit infractions, such as taking mobile homes to the territories without permission. Accordingly the Attorney-General is authorized to evaluate the need to take judicial measures against anybody who was involved in the illegal construction of outposts, according to the report. (Haaretz)

On Tuesday there was the opening ceremony of the renovated Yad Vashem museum with the participation of senior delegations from 40 countries, mostly from Europe. The event was considered a propaganda success for Israel because the participation of heads of government and senior ministers from all over the world was considered a sign of identification with, consolidation of relations with and support for Israel. The slogan of the event was `Remembering the Past, Shaping the Future`. The present was omitted but that was not passed over in silence and on Tuesday thousands demonstrated in Ramallah against the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who refuses to visit the separation fence. (Haaretz) Israeli, Palestinian and international activists sent a letter to Annan protesting against his ignoring the fence.

Riding on Israel`s strengthened position, Haaretz reported that Ariel Sharon is expected to announce to US President George W. Bush that Israel opposes the Palestinian Authority`s request to open negotiations on permanent borders.

Equipped with pots and eggs, and with cries of `Abu-Mazen - we`re hungry`, thousands of Palestinian workers stormed the building of the Legislative Assembly in Gaza. They demanded that the Palestinian Authority find work for them and take action to open the Erez checkpoint so that they can cross into Israel. Meanwhile the Israeli army reported this week that 47% of Palestinians are living below the poverty line. The poverty line in the Palestinian Authority is US$2.10 a day per person (about 9 shekels a day or 270 shekels a month). This was reported by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the occupied territories, Gen. Yosef Mishlav, to a session of the Knesset`s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. Gen. Mishlav indicated that the rate of unemployment in the territories in 2004 was about 29%-34% in the West Bank and 40% in the Gaza Strip. According to the General, there was a marked decline (abt. 40%) in the number of Palestinians working inside Israel, but there was a 24% rise in the number of Palestinians working in the settlements. (Haaretz)

This week saw the second anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an army bulldozer on 16 March 2003 at the age of 24, as she was trying to stop the demolition of houses that was going on at the scene. In Haaretz newspaper it was reported that the family of Rachel Corrie is demanding compensation from Israel. The family claims that Corrie was struck even though she was wearing a bright jacket and had used a megaphone to identify herself as a peace activist. The Corrie family claims that the bulldozer operator used unreasonable force. According to the family, it was not an act of war, and the IDF was acting without danger to the lives of its members. They say that to this day they have not received the full results of the IDF`s investigation of the matter. (Haaretz)

The IDF published this week in Haaretz that an inspection revealed that the Gaza Division destroyed 25 houses in Rafah without authorization from the Southern Command. Gen. (Res.) Zev Livneh, who examined the matter of the demolition of 25 houses in Khan Yunis in October of last year, indicates that the decision on the demolition was made at the command of the Gaza Division HQ, without authorization from the Southern Command, as is required. Last week Livneh submitted his findings on the matter to the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General (Rav-Aluf) Moshe Yaalon. The demolition of the houses took place during Operation `King`s Court` that was carried out by the IDF`s southern brigade in the Gaza Strip at the end of last October. The original plan of the operation, which was authorized by the Southern Command, permitted the demolition of two houses that belonged to the families of members of known terrorist activists. But in the end about 25 houses were demolished, some of them occupied and some of them ruins without roofs.

On Thursday 17 March 2005 after many delays, Jericho was handed over to the security control of the Palestinian Authority. According to Haaretz, according to the agreement between the two sides, from now on the IDF will refrain from actions inside the city. The roadblock at the western exit of the city will be moved to allow Palestinians free movement towards Ramallah. In its place a checkpoint was set up beside Kibbutz Yitav, a bit to the north, in order to block the unauthorized passage of Palestinians to the Jordan Valley Highway, Route 90. At the southern exit, the Vered-Jericho roadblock, the IDF will refrain from controlling the entry of Palestinian vehicles from East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem-Hebron area. Exit past the roadblock still requires Israeli inspection. The Naameh roadblock, at the northern exit from Jericho, will remain in place. The Palestinians were given control in Aujeh village, north of Jericho. Uniformed Palestinian police, armed with pistols, are allowed to be there, but they do not have security authority over the part of the Jordan Valley Highway that passes through there. The police are to focus on preventing criminal activity in Aujeh.

On Thursday the decisions of the Cairo Conference were published. According to Haaretz newspaper, the Palestinian factions agreed to continue the de-escalation and to refrain from military actions against Israel. The document also included internal Palestinian agreements: an agreement to set up a new PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] that for the first time will include the Islamic groups, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad; the establishment of a PLO Executive Committee by the end of the year with the participation of all the factions, that will constitute the highest authority in determining Palestinian national goals; and the participation of Hamas in the local elections in May and in the elections to the Legislative Council (the Palestinian Parliament) in July.

Killed and wounded:

On 14 March 2005 Adham al-Shaalan of the Ein Beit al-Maa refugee camp west of Hebron, age 22, died of wounds sustained when the Israeli army shot him on 23 November 2004. On 13 March 2005 soldiers shot at 3 unarmed children in the Jabaliya area, when they were spotted approaching the fence that surrounds the Gaza Strip. One of the children was seriously wounded, one was arrested and the third fled. On the same day soldiers opened fire at a car east of Tul Karem, near Balaa village. A 52-year-old man was wounded in the leg by a live bullet. On 15 March 2005 soldiers shot at a youth from Qalqilya and wounded him. On 15 March 2005 an Israeli was slightly wounded by Palestinian gunfire in Hebron.

Army raids and arrests:

During the week about 20 people were arrested, including children, in army raids that were carried out in various villages throughout the West Bank. On 14 March 2005 the army conducted a raid in the village of Azzoun-Atma, near Qalqilya. On the same day they also raided the Jalazon refugee camp north of Ramallah. Additional raids were carried out in Balaa village, east of Tul Karem, in Baqa al-Sharqiyyah, north of Tul Karem, in Salem east of Nablus, in Wad al-Hurriyeh south of Hebron, in Beit Ula near Hebron, in al-Sawahra in south-eastern Jerusalem, in Habla south of Qalqilya, in al-Mukhyar north of Ramallah and in Taysir south of Jenin.

Attacks on Palestinians and damage to their property by settlers:

On 13 March settlers from Ma`on, in the South Hebron Hills east of Yatta, attacked and injured five Palestinian farmers who were on their way to their lands. On Sunday settlers damaged houses in the Wad al-Nasara neighbourhood in Hebron, causing panic among women and children. On Monday settlers from El-Matan, east of Qalqilya, damaged and uprooted about a dozen olive trees in Tulth village. On Monday a settlers car struck and injured an 8-year-old Palestinian girl in Hebron. On 15 March 2005 settlers from Kedumim, east of Qalqilya, accompanied by soldiers, uprooted 45 olive trees belonging to a Palestinian from Qadum village, to make room for a new road.

Closures, sieges, roadblocks and curfews:

The general closure continued in the occupied territories and curfews were imposed in several villages. It is now the second consecutive week that a curfew has been imposed on the Old City of Hebron. Residents are suffering from a shortage of food products and the army is preventing the opening of 90 shops, 3 institutions and 5 mosques in the city. Every day the army sets up surprise roadblocks throughout the West Bank in addition to the permanent roadblocks, at which hundreds of people are delayed for long hours. Ten people were arrested at roadblocks and taken by security forces. In the Gaza Strip the closure continued at most of the crossing-points and there continued to be severe restrictions on movement within the Strip. The siege on Palestinian communities near the settlements continued, causing serious suffering to their inhabitants. For a detailed description of the restrictions of movement in the Gaza Strip, please go to the following URL: http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2005/17-03-2005.htm

In Haaretz it was reported that only 1,300 of the residents of the Gaza Strip have permits to enter Israel. The Erez crossing in the north of the Strip was re-opened for limited movement of Palestinians. The crossing was closed for about 6 months, after a series of attacks in its vicinity in which Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed. Millions of shekels were invested in the renovation of the crossing, but even after the reopening the crossing will serve only a few more Palestinians. On Saturday evening the security establishment announced that another 500 residents of the Strip would be given permits to enter Israel, which means that the total number permitted to enter Israel will rise to 1,300.

Continuation of the construction of the separation fence in the occupied territories:

On 13 March 2005 the army announced that the government had permitted it to build a temporary fence between Jerusalem and the West Bank, in places where the construction of the fence was stopped because of judicial restrictions. On Sunday the government authorized the new route in Jerusalem that will not include the Sufat refugee camp, which will be surrounded by fences that will encompass the city of Maale Adumim, east of East Jerusalem. The encompassing of Maale Adumim by a fence will greatly impede the movement of Palestinians between the north and the south of the West Bank. The neighbourhoods of Kfar Aqab and a-Ram will be cut off from the city and their 90,000 residents, most of whom have blue Jerusalem ID cards, will be isolated and cut off from the centre of their lives. On Tuesday and Wednesday the construction of the fence continued in the area of a-Ram, separating it from Bir Naballah, Ramallah and Jerusalem. The construction of the wall continues to paralyze the important economic centre in a-Ram that was a crossing-point for merchandise between Jerusalem and the West Bank. On 13 March 2005 the army used tear-gas and clubs to break up a demonstration of women in Bilin village near where the fence is being constructed. On Monday the army destroyed a two-storey house in Semiramis, south of Ramallah, because it was near the Wall.

Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall
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