By: Daniel Breslau
Week 2,015 of occupation
12 January 2006 - 18 January 2006
Evacuations of outposts - a charade?
On Thursday, 12 January, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced that the planned evacuation of the Amona outpost would be delayed for at least two weeks. At the same time, Mofaz announced that he had issued orders to evacuate three outposts in the Nablus area. But on the following Monday, IDF sources stated that there was no plan to actually evacuate these outposts for a number of weeks, if not longer. The announced evacuations, it seems, were merely warnings to the settlers, and the army has only initiated `illegal construction proceedings` against the three outposts. This move gives the settlers an opportunity to tie up the evacuations by appealing in court, and gives them time to plan their expected resistance. The three outposts are Arusi Farm, near Bracha, Skali Farm, near Eilon Moreh, and Hill 725, near the settlement of Yitzhar. Settlers in these three outposts have been suspected of attacks on nearby Palestinian olive groves. Security sources said the evacuations may not take place until after the March general election.
Meanwhile, the entire Jewish settlement in Hebron has been declared a closed military zone, and all non residents found there are declared `illegal sojourners.` As for the settler families that have taken over Palestinian shops in the wholesale markets, the IDF is trying to work out an arrangement by which they would leave the market and then return legally at a later date. The IDF thus has no intention of ever returning the market to the Palestinian merchants, who have leased their shops in accord with international agreements.
The West Bank is divided
Israel has the ability to divide the West Bank into three completely cut-off regions, by closing a small number of checkpoints. Over the first few weeks of the year, Israel made movement within the West Bank increasingly difficult. Since late December, the IDF has prevented all residents of the northern West Bank from travelling to the rest of the occupied territories, by stopping them at the Za`atara junction. Thus 800,000 residents find themselves living in what is effectively a completely enclosed canton, prompting the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to accuse the IDF of imposing a collective punishment on the civilian population. The main highway connecting the towns of Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm, highway 60, has also been closed to Palestinian traffic for months.
Roadblocks and closures were more frequent and numerous around the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which started on 10 January. Palestinian civilians were not allowed through gates in the annexation barrier that almost completely surrounds Qalqilya, and could not travel between Qalqilya and the villages that have been cut off on the other side of the wall.
A deadly mistake
Two Palestinian civilians were killed by the IDF, and four others were injured, when they were mistaken for armed militants. The IDF soldiers say they saw someone with a gun on the second floor of a house in the village of Rujib, near Nablus. They fired, from a lookout post several hundred meters away, and instantly killed 24-year-old Fawzi Duweikat. The soldiers continued to fire in bursts for over an hour, apparently targeting anyone they saw moving within the house. They killed Duweikat`s mother, Nawal, and wounded four other family members. An ambulance was prevented from reaching the scene for 45 minutes, as additional rounds were fired at the house. The family did own several weapons, which they had acquired for self-defense, but they had no connection to the Palestinian fighters the army was seeking. It is possible that one bullet may have been fired from the house, although an independent investigation by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights disputed this.
The week`s events indicate the continual low-level war that is a daily fact of life in the occupied territories. For the two-week period ending 18 January, the Palestine Centre for Human Rights recorded 54 IDF incursions into residential areas, 94 arrests (including 11 children). Six houses and a shop were converted into military posts. On 12 January, the IDF killed three Palestinian militants in an attack on a house in Jenin, and on Tuesday, 17 January, a leader of the military wing of Hamas was killed in a firefight after soldiers forced their way into the apartment where he was staying, in Tulkarm.
Sources: Ha`aretz, Ynet, Palestine Chronicle, IMEMC, Palestine Centre for Human Rights.