Weekly Report, September 28 – October 4

Eighth Anniversary of the Intifada Sees No Improvement for Palestinians
[September 28 – October 4]

By MIFTAH – West Bank

The 28th of September marked the eighth year of the second Palestinian Intifada, an uprising which began after former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s highly controversial visit to the Haram El-Sharif in Jerusalem accompanied by hundreds of Israeli police. Palestinians took to the streets, protesting not only the visit but the continuing occupation. Since then, at least 4,871 Palestinians have died.

On the same day as the anniversary, settlers went on the rampage in Palestinian villages, killing an 18 year old Palestinian shepherd boy. Palestinian sources claim he was shot by Israeli settlers while Israel says he picked up a live hand grenade which then exploded. A number of settlers also entered the Palestinian village of Kfar Addik, injuring 4 Palestinians and damaging property and cars. On October 2, settlers went into the village of Kfar Qaddum, burning Palestinian olive trees, a devastating act against Palestinians as they enter the important season of olive harvesting.

This rise in settler attacks has worried Israeli politicians as they have come under increasing international criticism for their illegal settlement expansion, amongst other things. PM Ehud Olmert has also come under severe criticism from his own government after he gave an unusual interview to an Israeli newspaper on September 29. In the interview, he declared that Israel must withdraw from east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israeli Army Radio also reported that PM Olmert had prepared a map for final status negotiations which would see the evacuation of Israeli settlements in parts of the Jordan Valley and southern Hebron district as well as the Gaza Strip. In return, Israel would keep three major settlement of Ma’ale Adumim near Jerusalem, Gosh Azion south of Bethlehem, and Ariel in Nablus. The other final status issues include the status of Jerusalem, refugees, prisoners, and water, all of which must be resolved for any peace process to be successful.

On September 30, the Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry published a disheartening report on water contamination. The report made clear that West Bank water reservoirs are at risk of contamination from wastewater, affirming that 58 million cubic meters of untreated waste are flowing into Palestinian streams. For the first time, officials from the Ministry as well as the Israeli Nature and Parks Service sampled all streams in the West Bank, testing nearby sewage treatment efficiency to gauge what damage has been caused to the environment. The report censured Israeli settlers specifically for pumping contaminated water into the sewers. The Palestinian Ministry of Environmental Protection and other environmental organizations have also repeatedly reported in the past that sewage is allowed to flow out of settlements and into neighboring Palestinian towns and agricultural lands.

Millions of Muslims around the world celebrated Eid ul-Fitr this week, commemorating the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan. For Palestinian Muslims, this year the Eid fell on September 30, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Thousands of Palestinian Muslims headed to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem to pray, yet again braving increased security, closures, and longs delays at checkpoints around the city. Israel imposed a total closure on the Palestinian Territories for the duration of Rosh Hashanah, preventing Palestinians from leaving the Israeli controlled West Bank and Gaza Strip, except in humanitarian cases.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas offered congratulations to Muslims around the world celebrating Eid ul-Fitr. After visiting the tomb of former President Yasser Arafat, he said he hoped the coming year would see "national unity and an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

Despite the occasion of the Eid, Israeli forces raided homes on October 3 in the village of Al-Ebayat, arresting 20 Palestinians. On the same day, which also happened to be the last day of the Eid, Israeli soldiers and settlers clashed with Palestinians seeking to harvest olives from their land, including in Ar-Ras. In the Palestinian town of Ni’lin, a group of 40 international and Israeli activists clashed with Israeli settlers as they accompanied Palestinians to their lands on the far side of the separation wall in order to harvest the olives from village trees. The settlers tried to prevent the activists and the Palestinian families from reaching the trees, which they claim do not belong to them since the building of the separation wall.

A demonstration against the separation wall was also held on October 3 in the village of Al-Ma’sara near Bethlehem. International, Israeli and local Palestinian civilians participated in the event, which the Israeli army dispersed with sound bombs and tear gas. Israeli aggression continued in Jenin where, on the morning of October 4, the Israeli army stormed the city, entering and digging up graves in the Martyrs Cemetery. It is not clear what they were searching for. However, the Israelis intensified their military presence and imposed several additional checkpoints. They also entered the village of Sa’ida in Tulkarem, arresting three young men from the same family, including two brothers.

A report published on October 3 by Atlas Sport, a Palestinian sports foundation, found that 375 Palestinian sportsmen had been killed since 2000 by the Israeli army, with another 2000 injured. In addition, dozens of sports facilities and buildings have been destroyed in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, preventing Palestinian youth from engaging in high-level competitive sports or even club sports. The report contained accounts of Israeli actions targeting the activities of the foundation, its athletes and affiliates, which prevent many from arriving at competitions and practicing their sports.

In internal Palestinian politics, September 28 saw the release of 30 Fatah affiliated prisoners by the Hamas government in Gaza. Hamas claimed this was an expression of good will towards the national reconciliation talks due to take place later this month. However, on October 4, a new military group calling themselves the Hizbullah Brigades issued a statement announcing their intent to begin operations against the Israeli occupation.

Finally, Ibrahim Khreisha, former Secretary General of the Palestinian Legislative Council, took on the position of Palestinian ambassador to the UN, where he was sworn in on the evening of October 3.

(Originally published in MIFTAH – www.miftah.org. Republished in PalestineChronicle.com with permission.)

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