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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
30 September 1999
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
Monthly media monitoring review

September 1999


The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA President Yasser Arafat in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh, ending eight months of stalemate in the peace process. The signing ceremony was attended by US Secretary of State Albright, Egyptian President Mubarak, and Jordan King Abdullah. A declaration of principles on the permanent status agreement is scheduled for mid-February 2000, and the two sides have allowed themselves one year to reach a permanent peace agreement. In the next few days Israel will start withdrawing its troops from parts of the West Bank. By January 2000, Israel must have withdrawn from 11 per cent or 230 square miles of the West Bank. The agreement also involved the release of 350 Palestinian prisoners, with 200 security prisoners to be released in a few days. It also set out dates for building a seaport in Gaza and for an opening of a safe passage route which Palestinians can use to travel from West Bank to Gaza. The Israeli cabinet endorsed the accord by a 21-2 vote. (AP, AFP, BBC News, Reuters)


Two car blasts in northern Israel killed three people, probably the bombers themselves, and left an Israeli civilian in critical condition. The first blast ripped through a car in Tiberias, while the second blast went off minutes later in the city of Haifa. Both the PA and the Israeli Government said the car bombs would not derail the peace process. Reports identified the bombers as Israeli Arabs. (AP, BBC News, Reuters)


The PA Cabinet approved the new peace deal, making it clear that it would not tolerate attempts of internal opponents to undermine the agreement by violence. (AFP, Reuters)

Israel’s Supreme Court barred security service interrogators from using physical force. Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza said the Shin Bet security service had no right to use the interrogation methods, which had been inflicted on thousands of Palestinians detained over the years on suspicion of anti-Israeli activities. The practices included violent shaking of detainees, tying them up in painful positions for extended periods, and depriving them of sleep. The ruling was hailed by human rights lawyers as a victory against methods they described as torture. (AP) Israel’s Supreme Court barred security service interrogators from using physical force. Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza said the Shin Bet security service had no right to use the interrogation methods, which had been inflicted on thousands of Palestinians detained over the years on suspicion of anti-Israeli activities. The practices included violent shaking of detainees, tying them up in painful positions for extended periods, and depriving them of sleep. The ruling was hailed by human rights lawyers as a victory against methods they described as torture. (AP)

The United Arab Emirates warned Walt Disney that it could jeopardize lucrative business interests in the Middle East over its planned millennium exhibition depicting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. UAE Information and Culture Minister, Sheik Abdullah, said Arab and Muslim States were considering measures against Disney if it did not agree to allow US-based Arab and Islamic groups to visit the exhibit before its opening to ensure that the Israeli wing did not contain anything harming Jerusalem and distorting its Arab and Islamic history. (Reuters)
8 Israel’s cabinet approved the first of three West Bank troop withdrawals under the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, with a vote of 17-1, and one abstention. Under the first pullout, Israel is to hand over seven per cent of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority although it will retain security control over the area. The Palestinians will then control in whole or in part 36 per cent of the West Bank. Under the accord, Israel must withdraw in stages from 11 per cent of the West Bank, giving the Palestinians a total of 40 per cent. (AFP)


The Israeli Government released 199 Palestinian prisoners as part of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. There were 200 due for release but one refused to leave jail, saying he had only a few days of his sentence left. The Israeli authorities would not allow another detainee to be released in his stead. Eight busloads of prisoners from two Israeli jails – Ashkelon and Hafha were taken to crossing points at Ramallah, Hebron and the Gaza Strip. The next release of 150 prisoners is scheduled for 8 October. (AFP, AP, BBC News, The Jerusalem Post)

Five Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets fired by Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem. Clashes erupted when several thousand Palestinians heading to work in Israel were stopped by Israeli Army following a decision to seal off the West Bank and Gaza Strip at midnight of 8 September. The closure of the territories was imposed following reports of possible anti-Israeli attacks ahead of the Jewish New Year to be celebrated this weekend. (AFP)

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation, said Germany would provide 360 million marks (US$195 million) this year and next to support the Middle East peace process. The money would be used mainly for projects to guarantee fair access to water supplies and to provide an effective use of water and environmentally-friendly waste disposal. (DPA)

Israel transferred to the PA civil powers in 7 per cent of the West Bank after PA President Yasser Arafat approved the maps, which were agreed under the recent accord. Israeli security officials said the transfer of powers would be in 16 civilian areas, including electricity, postal service, water and control of religious and archaeological sites. The PA would exercise civilian control over the area, which totalled almost 400 square kilometers (160 square miles), while Israel would maintain security authority. (AFP, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times)


PA Culture and Information Minister Abed Rabbo had been confirmed as the leader of the Palestinian team which would conduct final status talks with Israel, according to a statement issued by PA Information Ministry. He would be joined by Nabil Shaath, PA Minister of International Cooperation and Development; Faisal al-Husseini, PLO official in charge of Jerusalem affairs; Nabil Qassis, minister reponsible for the Bethlehem 2000 Project, and Akram Haniyeh, a journalist and political adviser to PA President Arafat. (AFP)

Haim Ramon, Israel’s minister in charge of issues concerning Jerusalem, held a meeting with Faisal Husseini, PLO official at the Orient House in East Jerusalem. During the meeting, Mr. Husseini called for the release of Palestinian prisoners who were residents of East Jerusalem as part of the recent Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. Israel had refused to release prisoners in this category, arguing that the detainees were Israelis as a result of its annexation of East Jerusalem. Mr. Husseini also called for a halt in the destruction of Palestinian homes, as well as the confiscation of residence permits from Palestinians who left Jerusalem for a number of years. For his part, Mr. Ramon objected to diplomatic activities carried out at Orient House. (AFP)


Israel is considering proposing that isolated Israeli settlements in the West Bank come under Palestinian sovereignty in a final peace treaty, rather than be uprooted, according to the Yediot Aharanot. The idea appeared in draft working papers prepared by the office of Prime Minister Barak prior to negotiations on a final settlement. Under the proposal, once Israel determined which settlements would be evacuated, the settlers living in them would receive the option of either moving to areas under Israeli sovereignty, or remaining under Palestinian authority. A senior official from Mr. Barak’s office was quoted as saying that the idea would indeed come up, but it was difficult to believe the settlers would accept it. (DPA)

PA President Arafat has ordered the formation of a special security force unit in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to cope with special security issues. Bashir Nafi’a, head of the special unit, told Ha’aretz that training would start in about two weeks and five bases would be set up in the West Bank, and at a later stage, a commanding post would be established in Gaza. (XINHUA)


PA Minister of Culture and Information Yasser Abed Rabbo, inaugurated the first stage of the “Museum of Memory” in Ein Sinia, 10 kilometers north of Ramallah. Mr. Rabbo said the museum would document the struggle of the Palestinian people in the last century. A large part of the museum will be dedicated to al-Nakba, or “catastrophe” – the events surrounding the 1948 Middle East war. The museum will exhibit artefacts and tools used in the daily lives of Palestinians, old land titles of properties in Israel and information about destroyed Arab villages. Mr. Rabbo also said that the story of the struggle of the Palestinian people should be part of the psychological upbringing of Palestinian generations, by informing them of the truth of what had happened on their land. Other PA officials and foreign representatives to the PA attended the ceremony. (AP, DPA)

The Israeli Center for Defense of the Individuals reported that Israel has never recognized the rights of Palestinian residents in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to family unification. The report said that both Israel and the PA had received more than 13,000 requests from Palestinians for family reunifications in the West Bank. The Center, which is charged with collecting documentation on historical background, social and legal aspects of the separation of Palestinian families in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, conducted research on 1,573 complaints received from 1961 to 1996. Marriage between residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and non-resident Palestinians is common. However, thousands of Palestinians have to live apart from their spouses, leaving their children to live for long periods without one of their parents. (XINHUA)

Mr. Isa Awa, Mayor of Izna village, which lies between Hebron and the Green Line that divides Israel and the West Bank, said the Army had issued orders to confiscate some 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) belonging to residents of his village on 5 September, just after the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. The Israeli Army orders were a direct result of that agreement and that they would not affect the land rights of Palestinian inhabitants. Mr. Awad said Palestinian houses and huts, mainly belonging to farmers and shepherds, had also been issued with eviction notices. Villagers from Beit Awla had also received orders confiscating some 1,300 hectares (3,213 acres), according to Hebron’s official land surveyor. (AFP)


The Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry has issued tenders for building 2,594 new houses for Jewish settlers in West Bank settlements, including 1,000 which were slated for the settlement of “Ma’ale Adumim.” Israeli Minister of Agriculture Haim Oron said the “building boom” in the occupied territories had not been approved by the Israeli Government. Peace Now leader Mossi Raz said Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Itzhak Levy was continuing the policies of the previous (pro-settlement) government. (Al-Ayyam, DPA, Ha’aretz, XINHUA, Yediot Aharonot)

The PA sent a letter of protest to Israeli Prime Minister Barak against continued Jewish settlement activity and land confiscations. The PA also sent letters to US Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross, EU envoy Miguel Moratinos, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as well as European, Asian and African ambassadors. PA Minister for Local Government Saeb Erekat said there could not be peace if settlement continued, and that the Israeli Government must announce its position clearly and unambiguously that it was cancelling decisions on settlement. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

PLO official for Jerusalem affairs, Faisal Husseini, said there would be no negotiations on the future of the Holy City unless Israel agreed to debate the future of the city’s Jewish, as well as Arab sectors, stating that there should be a solution for Jerusalem as a whole, not just for East Jerusalem. Mr. Husseini reiterated that the Palestinians aimed to make East Jerusalem the capital of an independent Palestinian State, and that the existence of two capitals in separate sectors of the city could create an example of good neighbourliness. (Reuters)


At the UNRWA donors’ meeting held in Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen announced that five countries would give more than $7 million in additional aid to help the Agency narrow a cash deficit. He said UNRWA needed to come up with $13.6 million by the end of the year to cover expenses. Canada, Italy, Netherlands, the US and UK were among the countries that would boost their contributions. France would provide a one-time only cash assistance that would be taken from its part of food aid to the Agency. Australia and Japan were among several countries that had already announced increased contributions at an earlier donors’ meeting. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be open on 3 October, stating that this subject had been discussed from every possible angle and the time had come to carry it out. The safe passage would enable Palestinians to travel and transport goods between the Palestinian territories for the first time. Differences, however, remained between Israel and the Palestinians over security arrangements. Israel insisted that it kept the right to make security checks on passengers and vehicles and arrest suspected Palestinian extremists on the route. The Palestinians said this would make the route a “trap” rather than a free passage for them to travel. A second safe passage route linking Gaza and Ramallah was to be opened in early 2000, under the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. (Reuters, XINHUA)

Senior Palestinian and Israeli officials began their talks on the release of a third group of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. PA Minister of State for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdul Raziq met with Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin to discuss the matter. Mr. Raziq noted that the third group comprised 151 detainees, of whom 12 were from other Arab countries, adding that the PA might host them in the Gaza Strip should they opt to stay. The third group was scheduled for release on 8 October. (XINHUA)

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