|By Daniel Breslau|
Week 1,980 of occupation
Settlers as victims?
On Monday, thousands of settlers and their sympathizers attempted to block intersections throughout Israel. They were met by thousands of police who managed to clear the roads within one hour without firing a shot, dragging off 300 protesters in the process.
If the pro-settlement demonstrators did not succeed in bringing Israel`s traffic to a halt, they had much greater success in capturing the media`s attention. As has frequently been the case in recent months, the plight of the occupied was overshadowed by the plight of the occupiers, while all of the predations of the occupation remain in force.
Over the week, IDF forces made at least 20 incursions into Palestinian towns. On Thursday, May 12, alone, houses were raided in Hebron and five different villages in the West Bank and Gaza. In most cases, arrests were made, houses were searched and often seized for military use, checkpoints were set up, and curfews imposed. In one incursion, in the Hebron neighborhood of al Karantina, Widad Mohammed Kamal al-Qa`oud al-Tamimi, 57, was fatally injured as soldiers forced their way into her house. Also on Thursday, the IDF raided the Palestinian Flour Company in al Kerara, near the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza strip. The soldiers held all 40 staff members of the company, and forced one worker to accompany them, as a `human shield,` while they searched the rest of the building. The fifth floor of the building was commandeered as an army lookout site.
On Monday, May 16, Omar Asrawi was shot to death by IDF soldiers at the Jabara checkpoint, near Tulkarem. The soldiers claimed that Asrawi approached them, wielding a knife, and did not stop after orders and warning shots. However according to eyewitnesses and an investigation by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Asrawi was unarmed, and was approaching the soldiers with his hands in the air when they opened fire.
Israeli officials confirmed on Monday that the wall would be around the large settlement of Ma`ale Admumim, East of Jerusalem. With construction to begin this summer, the Ma`ale Adumim `loop` will extend deep into the West Bank, further hampering travel between the northern and southern Palestinian communities, and completely cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The so-called E-1 area between the 32,000-strong settlement and Jerusalem will also be included on the `Israeli side` of the wall.
On the same day, Israel`s High Court of Justice lifted a ban on constructing the annexation wall around the large settlement city of Ariel, in the northern West Bank. The court had placed temporary injunctions on construction in March, after petitions from residents of villages along the wall`s route, who would be cut off from their farmlands. Now the court has ruled that security considerations of protecting the settlement outweigh the concerns of the Palestinain farmers. The court decided that the state`s promises to provide gates for the farmers, and to compensate them for losses, are sufficient.
Escalation in Gaza
After a Hamas fighter was killed early Wednesday morning near Rafah, either by IDF fire or while making a bomb, and also against the backdrop of the Hamas-Fatah dispute over the Rafah election results, Hamas resumed mortar and rocket attacks on Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded Wedneday afternoon with a missile strike on a group who were firing mortars from within the Khan Yunis cemetary, killing Hamas militant Ahmed Shahwan.
Abu Mazen begins to disarm militants
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), has directed his security forces to begin gathering weapons from militants on a list supplied by Israel. In the cities of Jerich and Tulkarem, which were returned to Palestinian Authority control in March, Abu Mazen worked out a deal with the militants by offering them positions in the Palestinian security forces in exchange for surrendering their weapons and submitting a written pledge not to engage in attacks against Israel.
Israel was delaying release of 400 prisoners and the transferral of additional three West Bank cities (Bethlehem, Kalkilya, and Ramallah) to Palestinian security control, on the grounds that the PA was not disarming the wanted militants. Israel will now be expected to carry out these obligations.
Israel has also given its consent to allowing Palestinian police to carry weapons, for the purpose of restoring civil order in the cities that have been turned over. IDF sources insisted that Israel will continue to operate in the cities under Palestinain Authority control as it sees fit.
The old city of Hebron continues to be a flashpoint for continual settler attacks on Palestinian civilians and their property, often with the tacit cooperation of IDF soldiers. On Thursday, May 12, settlers from the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron attacked stores and houses with a barrage of stones and empty bottles. That evening, settlers of the Avraham Avinu settlement made the latest of many attempts to break into the home of the al-Sharbati family, in their efforts to intimidate the family into leaving, and to annex the house to their settlement.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports two additional attacks by settlers: On Sunday, May 15, settlers from the Ma`on, in the Hebron area, attacked Palestinian farmers as they worked their land. On Monday, settlers from Kdumim, in the northern West Bank, destroyed 30 dunams of olive trees in the neighboring village of Qaddoum, to clear the land for the settlement`s expansion.
Sources: Ha`aretz, International Middle East Media Center, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ynet, international news agencies.