By: Daniel Breslau
Week 1,989 of occupation
The standoff between Israeli police and thousands of opponents of evacuation of settlements dominated headlines this week. But while this internal political struggle was going on, so was the most violent week in the occupied territories since the Sharm al-Sheik truce in February.
The Israel-Palestinian Authority-Hamas triangle
In response to the escalation of Israeli operations in the West Bank, and as a challenge to Palestinian President Abu Mazen, Hamas reinitiated firing of Qassam rockets at Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip, and towns inside Israel.
After an Israeli civilian in the Nativ Ha`asara community near the Gaza Strip was killed by a Qassam rocket, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave the go-ahead for a renewed assassination campaign against Hamas. Seven Hamas activists were killed in two attacks on Friday. Israel claimed that the attacks were preventive measures, and did not constitute a renewal of the targeted assassination policy. Israeli courts have ruled that assassinations are illegal as retaliatory measures, but are allowable to prevent an imminent attack. In addition to these extra-judicial killings, throughout Friday and Saturday the Israeli Air Force fired missiles at numerous targets in the densely populated refugee camps of Dir el Balah, Jabalya, and Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, an Israeli sniper assassinated Sa`id Syam, a leader of the Hamas military wing, the Qassam brigades, in the Khan Younis camp.
At least eleven Palestinian civilians were injured in the missile attacks. The assassinations were not successful in stopping the Hamas rocket attacks, which continued through the weekend.
The IDF also killed an unarmed Palestinian militant, Mohammad Al Asi, in Nablus, on Thursday, July 14. Witnesses report that soldiers surrounded the house where Al Asi was visiting. When Al Asi fled, soldiers fired at him. Those present said that soldiers had a chance to arrest the unarmed Al Asi after shooting him in the leg, but continued firing into his body at close range. The army claims that Al Asi was active in planning Islamic Jihad attacks, while those at the incident, as well as local leaders of the Al Aqsa Brigades insist that he belonged to their organization and was not involved in recent attacks.
The Israel-Hamas hostilities have also inflamed tensions between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. Two Hamas members were killed when PA security personnel attacked a Qassam rocket launching site. Fighting broadened on Tuesday, July 19, when members of the Fatah-aligned Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade burned a Hamas-linked research center. At least 15 were injured in Tuesday`s fighting in the Jabalia refugee camp. The violent clashes ended after intensive Egyptian mediation.
Hamas has agreed to preserve calm, but has also called for the dismissal of the Palestinian Authority Interior Minister, Nasser Youssef, who has taken a hard line against challenges to the Authority`s exclusive control of security in the Gaza Strip.
West Bank incursions
IDF incursions throughout the West Bank are too numerous to list here. They have continued without regard to Palestinian efforts to prevent attacks on Israel. Here are the incidents from the busy early morning hours of just one day, July 14, as reported by the Palestine Center for Human Rights:
- 00:30 IDF moves into `Attil village, north of Tulkarm, raiding and searching a number of houses and transforming five of them into military sites after holding each family in one room of their house.
- 00:30 IDF moves into Saida village, north of Tulkarm, raiding a house belonging to the family of Ashraf `Awni Mustafa `Abdul Ghani, who had been already killed by IDF. They force his wife and four children out and transform it into a military site. According to the wife, an Israeli soldier stole US$4623 from the house paying no attention to her protests.
- 00:30 IDF moves into al-`Asakra village, southeast of Bethlehem, raiding and searching a number of houses, arresting Khaled `Ali `Asakra, 21.
- 01:00 IDF moves into al-Zahiriya village, south of Hebron. They raid and search at least 20 houses in the eastern part of the village, claiming that they are searching for banned materials. They also search a number of residents of these houses. The soldiers remain in the village until 10:00.
- 02:00 IDF moves into the southern part of `Assira village, south of Nablus, raiding and searching a house belonging to the family of Sa`ad Mahmoud Abu Hamad, 21, and arresting him.
- 02:00 IDF moves into al-Majd village, southwest of Hebron. They raid and search a number of houses and arrest Bashir Ibrahim Masharqa, 18.
- 03:00 IDF moves into Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin. They raid and search a house belonging to the family of `Abed Mustafa Tazaz`a, 26, and arrest him.
- 04:00 IDF moves into Fahma village, southwest of Jenin. They raid and search a number of houses.
- 04:00 IDF moves into Kufor Ra`ei village, southwest of Jenin. They raid and search a number of houses.
On Monday, 18 July, IDF forces positioned at Abu Houli checkpoint, south of Deir al-Balah, opened fire at Palestinian civilians who were waiting at the checkpoint, which was closed, to prevent them from crossing it. 14-year-old Ragheb `Abdul Rahman Ahmed al-Masri, from Deir al-Balah, was killed by a live bullet. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that the child was not waiting to cross the checkpoint, but was offering help to many civilians who had waited at the checkpoint for a number of days.
17-year-old Ma`ath Jamal Sulaima was shot and killed by IDF troops in Salfit. The soldiers had opened fire on stone-throwing youths, who were protesting the extra-judicial killings that had taken place earlier that day.
On Wednesday, July 20, 12-year-old Yazan Mousa, was stabbed to death near Nablus. Witnesses to the event say that Mousa was attacked by Jewish settlers. Israeli police say the incident is under investigation.
On Thursday, 14 July, In the village of Amateen, near Qalqilya, 400 Palestinian residents, joined by Israelis and internationals, protested the theft of more than 300 dunams of their land for construction of the wall. An additional 1000 dunams of their lands will be separated from the village by the wall. On Friday, the IDF imposed a curfew on the village, to be maintained until construction of the annexation wall in the area is completed.
In the weekly demonstration in Bil`in, on Friday, 15 July, nineteen participants were arrested after crossing into the area declared a closed military zone. All were released except for two members of the popular committee against the wall,
Abedallah Abu Rahme and Akram Al-Khateeb, who were accused of engaging in violence, contrary to eyewitness and videotape evidence. Participants report that the IDF soldiers entered the village in order to provoke stone throwing, and thus created a pretext to define the demonstration as violent and prosecute the organizers.
Sources: Ha`aretz,IMEMC,ISM, Palestine Centre for Human Rights, Wafa