Palestinians Offer Truce Extension, Israel Says No
- Palestinians Offer Truce Extension, Israel Says No
3 August 2003
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told
his Israeli counterpart in a meeting on Sunday that he would urge
militant groups to extend a temporary truce if Israel implemented
its part of a "road map" to peace.
But his proposal was rejected by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom who demanded the Palestinian Authority (PA) dismantle the
"terror infrastructure" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including
the disarming of militant groups.
"We are ready to extend the truce through dialogue with Palestinian
groups if the Israelis make real steps to implement the road map,"
Shaath told Reuters after his meeting with Shalom at the Israeli
Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Shaath called on Israel to withdraw its troops from Palestinian
cities, release Palestinian prisoners, halt expansion of Jewish
settlements on occupied land and take additional steps mandated by
the road map.
Shaath said he and Shalom failed to agree on the idea because "the
Israelis asked us to destroy the Palestinian organizations and
arrest the leaders of the organizations." He declined to say for how
long the truce would be extended.
Israel has expressed reservations about a three-month truce declared
by Palestinian militant groups on June 29, saying it is no
substitute to the dismantling of "terror groups." It accuses
militants of using the lull of the cease-fire to rearm.
Israel's Channel One television quoted Shalom as telling Shaath that
Israel would not move to the next stage of the U.S.-backed road map,
which envisages a Palestinian state by 2005, until the PA dismantled
the "terror infrastructure."
Shalom told Army radio after the meeting that the Israeli government
was determined to uphold the government of moderate Palestinian
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to its "commitment to dismantle the
Palestinian officials warn of a civil war if they crack down against
militant groups and say the most effective way of halting violence
in a 34-month-old uprising for independence is if Israel implements
its part of the peace plan.
It was not immediately clear whether militant groups such as Hamas
and Islamic Jihad would agree to extend the cease-fire. They have
threatened to call off the truce unless Israel releases all 6,000
Palestinian prisoners in its jails.
Meanwhile, an Israeli committee on prisoners was meeting on Sunday
night to determine the names of about 450 Palestinian prisoners
earmarked for release some time this week.
Israeli media reported the committee would ease the criteria of
prisoners eligible for release to allow those still awaiting trial
to be freed.
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Separation fence traps 12,000 Palestinians
By Arnon Regular
31 July 2003
Israel has finished building 147 kilometers of the section of the
separation fence in the northern West Bank and the Jerusalem area
during the first phase of construction, according to a report
compiled by follow-up teams comprised of representatives from the
European Union, United States, Norway, United Nations and World
The report, released last week, also found that the second phase of
construction has begun in the Gilboa and the Beit She'an valley,
both in the Jordan Valley region.
The teams' monthly reports form the basis for the formulation of
foreign countries' stance on
the fence and their policies on sending aid to Palestinians harmed
The report on the first phase of construction warns of the changes
that the Defense Ministry instituted in the path of the fence in the
Jenin area, including a 12-km. intrusion into Palestinian territory
to include the settlements of Homesh and Mevo Dotan on the Israeli
side of the fence.
The primary focus of the report is the initial Palestinian reaction
to the fence. About 12,000 Palestinians in 15 villages will be
imprisoned between the fence and the Green Line, and many of them
will be cut off from social services, schools and their own
agricultural lands - in addition to the lands confiscated from them
so that the fence could be built in the first place, the report
The report paid special attention to the influence that the fence
could have on the rural area of Jenin, which was hit particularly
hard in the intifada. The fence affects 36 villages in the Jenin
area, some of whose residents will no longer be able to work in
Israel as they used to do before the intifada.
The residents of five villages bordering the fence, including Taibeh
and Jalama, have relatives on the Israeli side, village leaders told
the people who compiled the report. Hundreds of Israeli citizens
lived in these villages before the construction of the fence, but
many have since moved to the other side of the Green Line.
Seventy Israeli citizens lived in Jalama before the fence began
going up, but village leaders estimated that 50 of them moved to
villages on the Israeli side of the fence and left a lot of property
behind, apparently fearing that Israel would confiscate their
identity cards if they stayed. But the village leaders didn't
discuss the even broader phenomenon of women who have moved from
Palestinian-controlled territory to Israel.
The report also described an entrepreneurial side effect: Business
is booming along the breaks in the fence where people will be able
to move between Israel and the West Bank, including Jalama, Taibeh
and the Etzion Bloc area.
Despite the economic situation, 15 stores opened up in Jalama in
2003 on top of another 15 in 2002; no stores were opened in 2001.
Store owners said they expect to get a lot of business from Israeli
The apartheid wall is contributing to the slow death of the roadmap,
By Khaled Amayreh from Hebron
31 July - 6 August 2003
Soldiers patrol outside an Israeli army detention centre in the
occupied West Bank. Changing an earlier decision, the Israeli
cabinet agreed to include 210 members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas
among the some 540 Palestinian detainees to be freed this week The
use by President George Bush of the word "problem" to describe the
apartheid wall Israel is building in the West Bank drew some
positive reactions this week and generated a modicum of
encouragement and optimism among Palestinians. However, the
continued building of the wall, notwithstanding American
reservations, is effectively killing hopes for any just and
equitable peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"This is not a security or separation wall. This is Israel's means
to effect ethnic cleansing and steal more Palestinian land and
prevent the creation of a genuine and viable Palestinian state,"
said Mustafa Barghouthi, head of the Palestinian National
Initiative, a non-governmental group dedicated to resisting Israeli
apartheid and colonialist occupation.
"This criminal wall will bisect the West Bank into closed ghettos
and townships that are cut off from each other. There is absolutely
no way a Palestinian state can be established with this wall in
Barghouthi's views are shared by nearly all the Palestinians as well
as by a growing number of peace-minded Israelis.
Even the US, Israel's guardian/ally, is beginning to get the
message, as evidenced by Bush's remarks.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continues to insist
that the wall is no more than a "security wall" aimed at preventing
Palestinian guerrillas from infiltrating into Israel.
This claim, dismissed by Palestinians as a cheap, malicious lie,
seems also to be losing currency in Washington, although not to the
extent desired by the Palestinians, or required to stop the wall
from destroying the entire peace process.
Bush, responding to a reporter's question during his joint press
conference with visiting Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
last Friday described the wall as "a problem" saying he had
discussed the issue with Sharon and that he planned to discuss it
again with him during their White House meeting on Tuesday.
"It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians
and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank."
Bush's words apparently had little or no impact on Sharon's thinking
or, indeed, on his government's actions.
On 28 July, just 24 hours before Sharon and Bush met at the White
House, the Israeli government decided to allocate another $170
million for the completion of the wall in the northern West Bank.
The provocative measure indicates that Sharon is either not taking
Bush's remarks seriously enough or that he is actually willing to
confront and even defy the American administration.
In any case, Israeli actions on the ground speak louder than any
statements by Israeli or American officials.
On Monday, Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of Palestinian,
Israeli and international activists, protesting what one north
American student described as the "crime of our time". Eight
protesters were injured by rubber-coated bullets, one seriously.
The brutal suppression of the symbolic protest demonstrated Sharon's
determination to impose his own roadmap on the Palestinians,
irrespective of what the Americans and the rest of the world may or
may not think.
Meanwhile, Israel has been continuing its repression of the
Palestinians on a daily basis, while claiming to be "relaxing"
restrictions on them. This week, the Israeli government announced
that the Jewish settler population in the West Bank had increased by
nearly 5000 people since the beginning of 2003.
Moreover, the Israeli peace movement Peace Now has published fresh
reports revealing how Sharon's government is continuing to encourage
settlers to build more settlement outposts in lieu of those outposts
removed by the Israeli army.
Seeking to divert attention from the bleak reality in the West Bank,
the Israeli government this week highlighted the removal of three
roadblocks in the Ramallah region. Both Israeli officials and the
Hebrew media presented the removal of the three dirt mounds, known
as the Surda and Ein Arik roadblocks, as a great Israeli concessions
However, the measure didn't impress the Palestinians who said that
Israel removed only three out of 162 roadblocks erected outside
Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps all over the West Bank
and manned by trigger-happy soldiers who don't hesitate to open
fire, with or without reason, with the intent of killing
Indeed, as the PA premier was meeting with Bush at the White House
on Friday, one of these trigger-happy soldiers guarding a roadblock
in the northern West Bank fired a burst of machine- gun fire on a
passenger car, killing four-year-old Ghassan Kabaha and injuring his
six- and seven- year-old sisters.
Seeking to evade the crime, the Israeli army described the
"incident" as a "mishap", very much like the estimated other 408
mishaps in which 408 Palestinian children lost their lives to
Israeli soldiers' bullets during the past 30 months.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), one in
five Palestinians killed by the Israeli army and paramilitary Jewish
terrorists is a child. Though the rate of killing since the
beginning of the current truce has dropped sharply, the Israeli army
continues to fire heavy machine- guns into Palestinian population
centres, particularly in the Gaza Strip, on an almost daily basis.
Among the latest victims of this indiscriminate shooting were three
teenagers and an eight-year- old, Youssef Abu Jaza, who was hit in
the knee when soldiers shot at a group of youngsters and children
playing football in Khan Younis.
Palestinian officials have actually ridiculed the Israeli decision
to remove the three Ramallah roadblocks, dismissing the measure as a
public relations tactic aimed at deceiving world public opinion and
distracting attention from the construction of the apartheid wall.
"They have removed three and left 159 others in place. This means
that it will take another 53 meetings between Bush and Sharon to
remove all the remaining roadblocks," said PA official Saeb Ereikat.
"Then imagine how many meetings it would take to overcome other
issues pertaining to Jewish settlements, borders, Jerusalem and the
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