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Settlers Attack

1. Soldiers Beat Non-violent Demonstrators, Arrest Three
2. Settlers Attack
3. Mary’s Journal: Daily Life in Tel Rumeida
4. Corporate Complicity in the Ethnic Cleansing of the Jordan Valley
5. Anamaria’s Journal: Not Welcome Anymore
6. Update on Nablus Incursions
7. Bil’in Demonstration Calls For Boycott of Israeli Products
8. Hamas forms new security branch
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1. Soldiers Beat Non-violent Demonstrators, Arrest Three
April 22nd, 2006

For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/22/soldiers-beat-non-violent-demonstrators-arrest-three/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills-
Israeli Occupation Forces beat non-violent Palestinian, international, and Israeli demonstrators this morning after declaring the area a Closed Military Zone. No map of the Closed Military Zone was ever shown to the protestors.

At-Tuwani villagers, Palestinian activists, Christian Peacemaker Team members, Operation Dove members, and Israeli activists from Ta’ayush were protesting against the Israeli authorities’ plan to build an 80cm ‘security’ wall along one side of bypass route 317.

An Israeli high court case appealing against the wall is currently in process. Despite this, construction continues further along the road towards Susiya.

Yehuda Golan, a retired Brigadier General with 31 years of service in the Israeli military and a member of the Council for Peace and Security, said, “I do not have a shadow of a doubt that this is not an act of security. This is a wrongful and irresponsible use of the term ‘security’ for other objectives.”

The demonstration began this morning at about 10:30am when demonstrators were confronted in At-Tuwani, a village south of Hebron, by about 30 Israeli soldiers, Border Police, and Special Forces. The protestors were blocked by police and jeeps, but went around them and reached bypass road 317.

The police then told the demonstrators that they could stay along the road as long as they didn’t block it. The demonstrators obliged and stood off the road along the sides.

After 20 minutes the police told the crowd that they had to go back. The police asked the Palestinians where they were from, and told them they had to return to their homes.

A few minutes later the police started pulling people off the side of the road to arrest them. They grabbed two Israelis first, and then a Palestinian from At-Tuwani, Hafiz Haraymi.

As the police started to drag Hafiz away his 75 year-old mother tried to prevent the arrest by getting in between Hafiz and the police with members of the Christian Peacemakers Team. Soldiers and police beat everyone away, shoving Hafiz’s mother to the ground several times and stepping on her stomach. She had to be evacuated to the hospital. Hafiz was taken to a jeep and handcuffed.

Activists stayed to wait for news and were told Hafiz was arrested for hitting soldiers with a stick. Video footage shows that he did not, and it will be aired on Channel 1 in Israel this evening.

For more information contact:
Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron- 02 222 84 85

A report on the impact of the wall can be found at www.cpt.org/hebron/hebron.php

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2. Settlers Attack
April 23rd, 2006

22 April- A gang of 30 militant Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian grocery shop today, and assaulted the owner’s son and several others.

The settlers flung sharpened metal bars as “spears” through the open doorway smashing produce jars and knocking goods from the shelves. They also threw stones, punched and kicked a group of Palestinian children playing just outside, and assaulted Radi Abu Aeshah (16) who is the owner’s son.

International Human Rights workers were also attacked when they stood between the shop-front and the gang. The settlers only stopped when confronted by soldiers from the Israeli Army. The gang, composed of teenagers and older boys all in Orthodox Jewish dress of white shirts, black pants, and skull-caps and led by an adult man, then moved off into a near-by Palestinian olive grove, where several Palestinian families live.

Tension had been building in Tel Rumeida all afternoon. Settler children spat at, and verbally abused human rights workers in the mid afternoon. A group of seven teenagers then threatened the same workers, and were overheard complaining that they were “not enough,” to make a successful attack. The teenagers, who were unaware some of the HRWs spoke Hebrew, said they would meet at the home of Baruch Marzell, founder of the ultra-extremist Chayil Party (Jewish National Front) to make a plan.

Some hours later, at approximately 3:45pm, the gang marched through Shuhada Street, in the old city near the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassa. They then turned left just before the Army checkpoint and marched up the hill where they attempted to attack some human rights workers who had become concerned for local Palestinians’ safety. The HRWs were backed up against a wall and only saved by the intervention of a squad of Israeli soldiers who happened to be patrolling at the time. The gang continued up the hill, where the attack on the shop, owned by Hassin Abu Aeshah, took place.

The settlers have a long history of violence and intimidation against the Palestinian population of Hebron, but the Passover holiday period has seen a dramatic rise in the number and ferocity of their attacks. During the weeks around Passover, the settlers receive thousands of visitors, some of whom join-in attacks on Palestinians, Palestinian property, and the HRWs who attempt to protect them. Attacks have become common. HRWs report an average of two to three attacks occur each week in Tel Rumeida. Today’s attack was the third such organized attack to occur on Shabbat.

For more information:
Roger 059 994 3157
Tom 054 236 3265

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3. Mary’s Journal: Daily Life in Tel Rumeida
April 23rd, 2006

For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/23/marys-journal-daily-life-in-tel-rumeida/

Everyday but Friday, we are out on the street watching as children go to school, which starts at 7.45am. It’s usually quiet, though today about 15 visiting settlers attacked Anna and BJ and 3 EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel) people. They are not badly hurt (one was kicked and another hit on the foot by a stone) and are now still at the police station making a complaint.

I went down to Shuhada street to see them and on the way back called at the house of a doctor. It has been Passover holiday and there was a closed military zone for three days. During that time, soldiers who often use his roof for surveillance hung an Israeli flag from his roof. They went into the kitchen of his house, knocked everything off the bench and attached the bottom of the flag to his kitchen window. They also abused his niece who was studying in the house and damaged the desk she was using.

When I saw the flag yesterday, it seemed like the episode in the film “Sound of Music”, when Captain von Trapp comes home from his honeymoon and finds the swastika hanging from his house! However, the doctor does not have the luxury of pulling the flag down. He would be arrested! I approached a soldier outside the doctor’s house and said the flag should not be there. Baruch Marzel (stood for the Knesset and didn’t get a quota) and two other settlers came past and spoke to the soldier. They called me Nazi etc, which is nothing new. They yelled at me and I probably yelled back! One came up really close threatening but doing nothing. I told the soldier he should be intervening. I said “It is your job to protect this settler from me”! But he obviously didn’t think that the settler needed protecting and nor did I! I usually ignore settlers but was cheesed off about the flag and knew that I was safe. An officer I like was just up the road in his jeep. He had the door open and asked me what was the matter. I told him about the Israeli flag. He didn’t seem to think it mattered. He said that I was lucky with these soldiers because I caused trouble and others might not put up with that. I said that other soldiers might like me too. We decided to agree that we liked each other but didn’t like what each other did!

So today, when I came home, after tea and very nice slice with the doctor and his wife, I rang Neta of ISM to check about the law. I can’t do anything about the flag legally but did ring the DCOs office about. I don’t expect much because I think that the nice officer is from that office. The young women who answer the telephone there are always very nice to me. And I am always polite and thank them nicely. And sometimes I get the result I want! I also had my breakfast of cold fried egg in pita bread and heated up coffee. Then I started writing this. We have a new desk top computer, with internet, so I played a few games too.

At 12.30pm, Andy and I went out to watch children coming home from school. I accompanied two small Abu Aeshah boys up to the soldier, outside the Tel Rumeida settlement. The soldier wanted to watch me instead of the children. But I finally convinced him that I would go no further if he would watch the kids. There were settlers out, which scares the children, but there was no trouble. I pray that the day will come when they feel safe enough to walk rather than run the last stretch. I waited for Samir Abu Aeshah until 2.00pm but he must have been visiting today. Then Andy and I went down through the checkpoint to buy some food. I bought bread, bananas, tomatoes, dates, walnuts and sausage for the cat. By this time it was getting rather hot. So I came inside and Anna and BJ returned from the police station.

I had a call from a man from Al Jazeera wanting to talk to Anna about the attack. He was with a man from Reuters and they were held up at the checkpoint. I went there with Anna. On the way, a young Palestinian man said “You are needed at the checkpoint”! Border police were detaining all the men and checking their ID cards. This has become a daily event during the Passover holidays! I had thought that my being there made a difference and the newsman confirmed this. They could understand what the border police said to each other when I arrived. Nobody is held more than 15 minutes after I get there! But it may be an hour otherwise. So Anna came back with the newsmen and I stayed at the checkpoint for nearly 2 1/2 hours until the border police left. I had a call from a woman at Al Jazeera. She wanted to give me her email so I decided to be cheeky. I borrowed the pen that the border policeman was using to write down IDs. I think he was too bemused to object. Then home and a bit more typing.

Postscript. Two days later the Israeli flag was removed!!
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4. Corporate Complicity in the Ethnic Cleansing of the Jordan Valley
By Tom
April 23rd, 2006

Photos soon at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/23/corporate-complicity-in-the-ethnic-cleansing-of-the-jordan-valley/

I was convinced by a friend to take a trip to the Jordan Valley this week. This is my fourth trip to Palestine but I have never visited the region and have heard relatively little about it. This is symptomatic of the condition of the valley, it is largely forgotten by the international community and is rarely visited. This isolation serves the Israeli state’s aim of annexation and ethnic cleansing of the valley.

I travelled to the Jordan valley from Ramallah. Ramallah’s cosmopolitan atmosphere contrasts starkly with the rural isolation of the valley just 45 minutes away. The valley is impossible for most Palestinians to travel to. Only Palestinians who were born in and live in the valley have ID to travel through the checkpoint. Others must apply for a permit from the army local administration (DCO). One of my Palestinian travelling companions, a worker with a local NGO, was detained at the checkpoint at the entrance to the valley while soldiers checked her permit.

As we drove through the valley toward Al Jiftlik we saw neatly cultivated fields on either side of the road, thousands of Dunums of palm trees and commercial crops like tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Scores of greenhouses stretched along the road past the illegal settlement of Mekhora. Many of the greenhouses were neighbored by packing houses owned by Carmel Agrexco.

Carmel Agrexco (www.agrexco.com) is a 75% Israeli state owned company dealing with 70% of the exports of settler fresh produce from the West Bank. A majority of their goods come from the Jordan Valley. They are able to transport their produce from packing houses in the valley to European markets within 24 hours and have distribution depots in most countries in Europe. They distribute their produce to most major supermarket chains in the UK, but like the Jordan Valley their name is not widely known.

The price of a box of tomatoes bought from the Carmel Agrexco is the suffering of the Palestinian population of the Jordan Valley. From 1967 Israel has sought to establish settlements in the valley and deprive the Palestinians of access to the land. In 2006 6 400 settlers live in 13 illegal settlements in the valley and 52 000 Palestinians. 95% of the land is controlled by the settlers who also control 98% of the water.

Palestinians live in 36 villages which are not permitted to expand. In the
Israeli controlled areas the building of new structures is not permitted and repairs on existing structures are also forbidden. These building regulations are enforced by demolitions of structures which the IDF deem ‘illegal’.

Agriculture in the valley is being strangled by the expansion of settlements and by the fact that all Palestinian produce grown in the valley must go through Tayasir checkpoint to reach markets in the rest of Palestine.

Farmers must pay middlemen to take their produce to the checkpoint, be subjected to humiliating searches by the IDF, transfer the goods to another vehicle on the other side of the checkpoint before driving it to the market.

This whole process takes around eight hours or more and drives down profit for farmers making farming barely financially viable. The only other alternative is to work as an uncontracted, casual day labourer on one of the illegal settlements for, on average, 40-50 shekels a day on land stolen from Palestinians.

Carmel Agrexco gave disclosure in a UK court case to the effect that they
have packing houses in the illegal Israeli settlements of Mekhora, Mehola,
Argaman, Ro’I, Hamra, Gaddid and Bet Ha Arava in the Jordan Valley. These settlement are making a fortune out of the suffering of the local
Palestinian population. An international campaign is needed to challenge
Carmel Agrexco and show that the international community will not accept the ethnic cleansing of the Valley

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5. Anamaria’s Journal: Not Welcome Anymore
April 22nd, 2006

I arrived at the airport 4 hours before take off. I was through check in after just one hour and no problems. But when I went through passport control, the woman there looked at the computer screen and went away with my passport. She came back a few minutes later with 2 other women and asked me to follow them.

A man joined them and asked me where I have been, and what I have been doing. I answered the usual, and they asked no more. Then I was taken to a room, where I had to place my baggage on a table. Then they told me that they thought there was a bomb in it. Now they had control over everything in my bags, and also over my body. There were 7 people in the room to perform this action.

I was taken into a small dressing room, where one of the women examined my body, first with her hands, close and unpleasant, then with an instrument. It was beeping at my chest because of some metal in my bra. So I lifted up my shirt and bra to the shoulders and rolled down my pants and underwear. And I yelled, “Are you happy now? Do you like me? Are you satisfied? Enjoy it now, because I won’t do it again!” They seemed sheepish, but they searched my trousers and finished that part.

When I came out again they looked through all of my baggage. I had some maps and information from the UN and the booklet “Truth Against Truth, A Completely Different Look at the Israeli-Palestine Conflict.” One of the female police read some of it. Then they wanted to search my backpack without me watching, but I refused to leave and told them that I did not trust them with my things.

One of the men got really angry and shouted that if I did not cooperate they would have the police arrest me, put me in prison, hold me back so I would not catch the flight etc. I said, “Good. I don’t care, because I love to be here. Now I am your problem.” Once more the man was shouting all the same stuff and said that I could stay there until I was ready. I waited a half hour and then they came back to look through everything again.

I was escorted to the plane few minutes before take off. But not before one of the women said that I was not welcome in Israel any more.

Anamaria
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6. Update on Nablus Incursions
April 22nd, 2006

Today, April 22nd, the army invaded Nablus again, which they have done almost everyday since last Monday, evacuating soldiers in houses that they have occupied. Today 5 people were hit with rubber bullets, one of them below the eye. One of them was a reporter with Reuters, Ashraf Sharwis, who was filming an armoured vehicle the open, but far from the kids throwing stones. They hit him with a rubber bullet in the leg, and he moved closer to the TV jeep but continued to film. Then they shot him again in the shoulder and he was evacuated in an ambulance. At the same time (another shot or the same bullet, I don’t know) hit a very young kid that was standing next to the reporters and ambulance and was not throwing stones. I would estimate his age is about 11 or 12 years old.

Lauren, ISM Nablus
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7. Bil’in Demonstration Calls For Boycott of Israeli Products
April 22nd, 2006

For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/22/bil%e2%80%99in-demonstration-calls-for-boycott-of-israeli-products/

Today’s weekly Bil’in demonstration was themed around the boycott of Israeli products. Demonstrators carried signs calling for a boycott, and the support of Palestinian products. Packages of Israeli snacks and drinks were also attached to the placards with large X signs crossed through them.

The demonstration approached the gate in the apartheid fence, singing and chanting. As always, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals participated together. Behind the gate was stationed two Border Police jeeps upon which several Israeli soldiers stood menacingly with riot shields, swinging their solid wooden clubs at us. Some of us got the impression that they were a new unit of soldiers since we didn’t recognize any of them and they were acting extremely aggressive, in contrast to last week’s Bil’in demonstration (although Palestinians from the village later told us they were not new).

We continued to sing and chant against the Wall and the occupation, banging stones in rhythm on the metal gate. Several of the boxes and packages of Israeli products were set alight in a symbolic act of refusal to cooperate with the occupation. After this, attempts were made to open the illegal, apartheid barrier gate, even while the soldiers beat us with their clubs, causing several injuries. Palestinians, Israelis and internationals shook the gate until it swung open. Some damage was also caused to the gate as its dislocation was attempted for a short while. Throughout all this, the soldiers were becoming more and more aggressive and violent toward the demonstrators.

After the gate was swung back, the demonstration started regrouping, singing and chanting non-violently as usual. Soon after this, the soldiers threw a sound grenade at the unarmed crowd, causing it to retreat swiftly. The reaction to this from some of the village shabab (young people) was to fight back with stones, pelting the Border Police jeeps with stones as they opened up on them with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. This had the effect of making them retreat into their jeeps, and gave the Palestinian demonstrators a chance to retreat to a safe distance to avoid arrests. Israelis and internationals moved out of the way to avoid the crossfire. The activists moved in to perform a sit-in on the road when the exchange died down and the soldiers emerged from their jeeps en-mass, seemingly to makes arrests. They beat several of the demonstrators, causing many painful injuries and nearly breaking the hand of Abdullah Abu-Rahme, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee.

Three Israelis and one Palestinian (Mohammed Khatib from the Popular Committee) were arrested and released later in the day.

Photos from the AP newswire (online temporarily):
news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/060421/481/jrl12704211437
news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/060421/481/jrl12404211437
news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/060421/481/jrl12204211439
news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/060421/481/jrl12504211428

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8. Hamas forms new security branch
April 23rd, 2006
By Laila el-Haddad
http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/

Something strange is happening in Gaza.

Municipality workers are actually working.

The streets seem a bit cleaner.

And for once, I actually saw a policeman arresting a criminal in a dramatic pick-up the other day, much to the chagrin of his gang, who stoned and shot at the police car (futilely), and the “oohs” and “aahs” of onlookers (including myself).

In Gaza, we have become accustomed to the rule of law-lessness. And people are sick of it-in fact 84% according to a recent poll, place internal security as their number priority.

This is not to say that gangs and armed gunmen somehow roam the streets as in some bad Western, as the mainstream media would make it seem. But for sure, it is brawn and bullets that win the day, and decide everything from family disputes to basic criminal proceedings.

Last week, there was a “reverse honor crime” or sorts. A man was found murdered in Gaza City after being accused of molesting a young girl (reverse, I say, because usually it works the other way around). The crime was immediately decried by local human rights organizations and people alike.

But when there is no one around to enforce the law-or rather, no one ABLE to enforce the law, other than verbal condemnations, there is little else that can be done. If the accused was jailed, his family would have inevitably intervened, hiring gunmen to break him out or taking it out against another member of his family. It’s a vicious cycle. Citizens don’t feel accountable and law enforcers are impotent.

This is where Hamas’s power of moral suasion comes into play. I’ve seen it at work in areas such as Dair al-balah, which was spared the bloody clan disputes that areas of such as Khan Yunis and Beit Lahiya suffered when the Hamas-elected Municipality leader intervened.

Of course, they have no magic wand, but they seem very effective at what they do-and their networks and ability to “talk” to people as “one of the people” resonates well.

The bigger problem is what do you do when the law enforcers themselves are the ones breaking the law?

Last week 50 masked gunmen belonging to the preventive security forces blockaded off the main street between northern and southern Gaza demanding their wages, as they have been accustomed to doing over the past few years (though the mass media would have us assume otherwise, citing the incident as “the first sign” of frustration with the new government.)

They are the same old group that has always made trouble, whether for Mahmud Abbas or Ismail Haniya, and are effectively supported by Mohammad Dahalan, which he fondly refers to in his inner circles as “little army”. Hamas and others accuse them of being a “minority” stirring trouble to attempt and speed the downfall of the new government and “score political points”.

Many of them belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB), Fateh’s rogue offshoot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this group poses one of the biggest security challenges to Hamas. They are loyal to Fateh but seemingly answerable to no one, and a contingent of them are supported by very strong figures who want nothing else but to see this new government fail.

So what is Hamas to do? For one, form their own security force.

Yesterday, the new Minister of the Interior, Saeed Siyam, held a press conference in Gaza’s Omari Mosque in the old city (an interesting choice-the oldest mosque in Gaza, and a place for the “masses”), in which he announced the formation of a new armed “operational force” headed by Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) leader Jamal Samhadana-a brawny, bearded fellow constantly surrounded by a posse of heavily armed body guards (whom I met once), and wanted by Israel for masterminding several of the highest-profile bombings of the intifada.

The all-volunteer Force would also consist of a police arm with thousands of members of armed groups such as the AMB, PRC, and Izz-i-deen al-Qassam brigades direcly subordinate to him. As if this isn’t confusing enough, this move was meant to counter Mahmud Abbas’s recent presidential order appointing Rashid Abu Shbak, former chief of preventive security in the Strip, as head of “Internal Security” which is a new entity that unites the interior ministry’s security agencies and ensures they remain under Abbas’s rule.

Have I lost you yet?

The Israeli press was quick to condemn the move ala “wanted militant to head PA police”.

However, this is probably one of the smartest moves Hamas could make during this stage.

Why? For one, the Samhadana family is one of the most powerful clans of southern Gaza. By appointing one of their own (who also happens of course to be the leader of the PRC) as director general of the police forces in the Interior Ministry, and absorbing members of the PRC and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-who account for two of the most volatile factions in Gaza, into the new force, Hamas is effectively ensuring their allegiance and making them “keepers of the Street” rather than “keepers of the clan”. They all pledged to fight (the word was more like “crush”) lawlessness and crime.

What about the money for wages? Well, simple. There ARE no wages. The new force is an all volunteer one, so the members are working for status and ideals rather that money (of course, at some point, there will be mouths to feed).

Of course, things could always backfire-and its not hard to see how, especially since Abbas does not recognize the new force, and factions have pledged to make a similar such force unsuccessfully in the past. But I think for the time being, it is a very interesting “think outside the box” move by Hamas, especially since it was official.

As usual, time will tell whether it will truly succeed in ensuring safety and security for Palestinian citizens or not.