Israeli army lays siege on Bethlehem following token withdrawal
Occupied Jerusalem: 3 July, 2003 (IAP News)
No sooner had the Israeli occupation army made its token "withdrawal"
from Bethlehem, then Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers
took position around the town, with their huge guns trained toward
the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
The reimposition of the harsh closure on Bethlehem meant that the
city would be effectively under siege and that the residents would be
confined to their town, with nobody allowed in or out.
According to Palestinian travelers, trigger-happy Zionist soldiers
were manning several roadblocks erected at all entrances to Bethlehem
for the purpose of preventing Palestinians from leaving or entering
The Israeli army also reportedly erected roadblocks on intersections
leading to the harsh Wadi an-nar road, the only exit left to the
Jerusalem and Ramallah regions.
Access to Hebron in the south was also closed, Palestinian sources
The suffocating closure of Bethlehem is enforcing Palestinian
suspicions about Zionist intentions.
"We are glad the Zio-Nazis have left, but we are all under town
arrest, we can't leave our town, we can't go to work outside, we are
under siege," said Jeryes Bannura, a Christian businessman in
Bethlehem's twin-town of Beit Sahur.
"This entire peace process is a farce. When the Zio-Nazis respect our
very humanity, then I can be optimistic, then I can give the peace
process the benefit of the doubt."
In the northern West Bank of Tulkarm, the Israeli occupation army
reinvaded the city Thursday, imposing a strict curfew on its 80,000
The Israeli army said the harsh home-confinement was necessary
for "security reasons."
Hamas warns Israeli attacks could end cease-fire
Occupied Jerusalem: 3 July, 2003 (IAP News)
The Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, has warned the zionist
occupation regime against continuing attacks on Palestinians, saying
such attacks constitute a violation of the cease-fire between the two
The warning came from Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Dr. Abdul Aziz al
Rantisi, who warned that the continuation of Israeli attacks and acts
of killing would force Palestinian resistance groups to reconsider
the cease-fire reached earlier this week.
"If they continued to carry out acts of assassinations and attacks on
civilians, it means the cease-fire is over," Rantisi told reporters
in Gaza Thursday.
The Israeli occupation army on Thursday killed at least one
Palestinian, 32 year old Mahmoud Sharour, in the northern
Palestinian town of Qalqilya during an army incursion into the city.
Moreover, a car driven by a messianic Jewish settler ran over a
Palestinian boy, 15 year old Omar Omar, killing him on the spot.
Eyewitnesses described the incident as deliberate.
Israel defies peace plan with land grab on West Bank
Bethlehem pullout is a cover for new settlements, say Palestinians
Chris McGreal in Beit Eksa
Thursday July 3, 2003
The Israeli government has confiscated hundreds of acres of
Palestinian land on the West Bank this week - for the purpose,
Palestinians allege, of building settlements - in flagrant breach of
commitments under the US-led road map to peace. Yesterday, an
Israeli official and soldiers were marking out swaths of olive
groves and other ground outside the villages of Beit Eksa and Beit
Souriq, north of Jerusalem.
"State land. Entry prohibited," read a sign erected on village land
in the name of the civil administration of Judea and Samaria, the
Israeli body that oversees military rule in the West Bank.
The Palestinians say the Israelis plan to build settlements to link
two Jewish towns constructed on land seized from the Arab villages in
the 1980s. The accusation would fit with existing Israeli plans for
a "greater Jerusalem".
The new land seizure came on the day Israel handed over the West Bank
city of Bethlehem to Palestinian police. Church bells pealed in
celebration and Palestinian police patrolled the town with their
One Palestinian cabinet minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said Mr Sharon
was using the military's withdrawal from Bethlehem yesterday, and
Gaza earlier in the week, as a cover for land seizures.
"It's robbery," said Mr Abed Rabbo. "What they are doing is trying to
practise ethnic cleansing on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When they
steal the land of villagers, they tell them they have no future with
nothing to live on.
"The road map says they should stop the confiscation of land, they
should stop the demolition of homes, but all the Israelis do is talk
of the difficult decisions they have to make."
The first phase of the road map requires Israel to stop confiscating
Palestinian property and to freeze all settlement activity. It also
obliges Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes - but yesterday
an Israeli official accompanied by soldiers was touring Beit Eksa and
Beit Souriq, marking out the confiscated land and handing out
The soldiers arrived on Monday without warning. Although a seizure
order was made, it was only displayed in the headquarters of the
civil administration, and the residents of Beit Eksa and Beit Souriq
say they knew nothing about it.
"They didn't tell us anything," said Fateh Hababa, a teacher and
member of Beit Eksa's village council. "Some people went to speak to
them. They told us we could pick our olives but we cannot plough our
land or repair the terracing because it's not ours any more.
"All this started 20 years ago ... they have taken 4,000 acres of
land over the years. We are being squeezed out. There were 20,000
people living here in 1967. Now there are 1,300."
The seizure was supervised by an Israeli official, Mikha Yaven. He
declined to say which department he worked for or to discuss what he
was doing. "This is nothing special. My work is enforcing the law. I
can't talk," he said.
The Guardian sought an explanation for the land seizures from Talia
Fomeh, a spokeswoman for General Amos Gilad, the military
administrator of the West Bank.
"It's a bit sensitive," she said. "It's not something we want to
respond to without knowing the complicated legal issues involved."
Ariel Sharon and others on the Israeli right have made no secret of
their desire to expand Jerusalem deep into the West Bank by building
new settlements and incorporating them into the city.
Large Jewish towns, such as Ma'ale Adumim several miles east of
Jerusalem, are already administered as though part of the city.
Last month, the Israeli prime minister told his cabinet that
settlements should go on expanding despite the road map, but quietly.
"There is a master plan, that doesn't have official status but is
widely accepted, to create a Jerusalem metropolis using settlements
and roads - a Jewish metropolis," said Yehezkel Lein of the Israeli
human rights organisation B'Tselem. "Palestinians have been
restricted from moving to Jerusalem since the 1990s but they are
bringing in more and more Jews with settlements."
Mr Abed Rabbo said the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas,
raised this week's seizures at his meeting with Mr Sharon on Tuesday
but the issue was not resolved.
Mr Sharon's spokesman was not available for comment. Officially, the
land was seized under an Ottoman empire law permitting the
confiscation of abandoned property. The Israelis say the original
owners fled to Jordan in 1967, and have not returned - and so forfeit
But two of the owners of the confiscated land, one of them Mr
Hababa's father, Abdul Karim, were sitting in their homes in Beit
Eksa with the deeds to prove their claims.
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