By: Yehudith Harel
Sources: Haaretz, Ynet, PCHR, IMEMC
The week started very badly, with the killing of three Palestinian children in Rafah on Saturday 9 April 2005. That and the Israeli shooting at residential areas in Khan Yunis, which elicited a Palestinian response in the form of mortars and Qassam rockets fired at settlements in Gush Katif, put the spotlight on the deteriorating situation in the occupied territories. Only by a miracle were there no more casualties, and everyone immediately feared, with reason, for the fate of the “calm” that officially prevails between the two sides. Why “officially”? Because this “calm” is to a great extent an illusion or at least one-sided in favour of Israel. Indeed there is calm on the Israeli side, but the Palestinian side is very far from enjoying any calm whatsoever. And indeed a close daily survey of events in the occupied territories paints a sorry picture that attests to ongoing military actions in the occupied territories.
The week in politics:
Against the backdrop of these events Sharon went to Washington to receive the US president’s “seal of approval” for the disengagement plan and what he intends to do in its wake: annexation to Israel of the settlement blocs and the freezing of negotiations on the permanent status. And as Sharon pays homage to the American don, in the occupied territories discomfort is growing over the performance of the Palestinian Authority, criticism of Abu Mazen’s ineffectuality is increasing, as well as for his inability to deliver the goods on the ground for his people, both on the inside and out: the execution of real reforms to deal with corruption, taking steps to stop the internal security chaos, and attaining real calm in relations with Israel, stopping the theft of land, the expansion of settlements and progress towards a political arrangement that will end the occupation. None of this has appeared on the horizon – and the fact that as of this week he still has not succeeded in unifying the Palestinian security bodies as he had promised the Americans and the Israelis has definitely cast a shadow on Abu Mazen’s position.
The weekly picture of events in the Occupied Territories:
Army raids in villages, searches of houses, and curfews:
Every day there were Israeli military raids in Palestinian communities, during which there were curfews and closures. Barriers were erected on the approaches to the communities and inside them, there were searches in houses and sometimes arrests, sometimes accompanied by gunfire, and even if there were no fatalities, there were injuries.
23 raids were carried out in Palestinian towns and villages, the largest of which was in the city of Nablus on 11 April 2005. In the course of that raid 10 Palestinians were wounded, of whom 8 were children and youths, and 11 people were arrested. There were also raids in two school buildings and a kindergarten run by the Red Crescent in the Tal Rumeida area in Hebron. The army detained 80 children and staff in one room until the search was completed.
In Qalqilya the army raided an Internet café, searched it and arrested a 16-year-old youth, Nidal Abd al-Majid Bustanji.
At least 40 Palestinians were arrested by the Israeli occupation forces.
Restrictions on freedom of movement:
Despite the promises for easing of pressures that were made at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit on 8 February 2005, the Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. The number of permanent checkpoints decreased but the army continues to set up surprise checkpoints all over the West Bank, at all hours. Most of the Palestinian communities, especially in village areas, still find themselves in a state of “encirclement” – that is, their entrances are blocked by mounds of stones and there is no free movement of vehicles to them or from them. Also many paved roads used by the Palestinian population are blocked and the number of paved roads “for Jews only”, on which Palestinian movement is forbidden, are increasing. These are the modern “settlers’ roads” that create a network of highways for Jews only. To them have been annexed a number of roads that have been “confiscated” from Palestinian users, such as the only paved road leading to Qadum village, which has been blocked for Palestinians, and the village is subject to a complete closure with no access by road. The village of Salem has now been besieged uninterruptedly for many months and even Israeli human rights activists are barred from entering it. The settler road that passes near the village is barred to Palestinians, and this rouses the ire of the residents. This week youths from the village threw stones at an Israeli military vehicle that was moving on the road. The soldiers responded immediately with live fire and arrested five youths ages 16-17.
At the beginning of the week Muslim worshippers from the occupied territories were barred from praying in the mosques of the Temple Mount [Haram al-Sharif/the Noble Sanctuary] because extremist settlers had threatened to disturb public order.
Continued construction of the Wall and land confiscations:
Construction of the Wall continued in the centre and south of the West Bank. This week construction of part of the Wall was completed that goes through A-Ram, north of Jerusalem, and cuts it through the middle. The completion of this part of the Wall has serious implications for commercial life in the part of A-Ram that is cut off from its natural surroundings, along with the Dahiyat al-Barid neighbourhood. Altogether the Wall isolates about 60,000 from their urban centre in East Jerusalem.
This week, on 7 April 2005, military orders were issued for the confiscation of 2691 dunams of Palestinian land for the purpose of continuing the construction of the Wall in the South Hebron Hills area in the towns of Yatta, Dahiriyya and al-Burj, as well as in the al-Khader village near Bethlehem and in Deir Ibza, south-west of Ramallah.
Demonstrations and confrontations with the army:
At two non-violent demonstrations organized by Palestinians this week, on 7 April 2005, against the fence in Safa west of Ramallah and Deir Balout, the army used force to disperse the demonstrators. Tear-gas grenades and rubber bullets were fired at unarmed demonstrators.
This week at least 40 Palestinians were arrested by occupation forces, including Sheikh Hassan Yusuf, a Hamas leader who violated a restraining order and went to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque. The sheikh, his son and his bodyguard were detained for interrogation as they were on their way back to Ramallah, and they were released later the same day. One of the detainees, Hasan Ali Hashshash, from the Balata refugee camp, was arrested at the Huwara checkpoint, and the Israeli army claims that he was carrying explosives.
Two Palestinian homes were seized by the Israeli army and converted into military positions. One of them is in Tal Rumeida in Hebron, near a house seized by settlers at the beginning of the month. There are houses in the area that have been abandoned by their Palestinian tenants because of repeated and prolonged harassment by settlers that made their lives impossible, and there is a fear that more houses will be seized.
The army set up surprise checkpoints at the entrances to Deir Sharaf, and in the course of searching vehicles the soldiers seriously beat a 28-year-old Tamoun resident named Tahsin Ahmad Besharat. He was not arrested.