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31 October 1997
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

October 1997


Israel freed the 61-year-old ailing founder of HAMAS from prison today and sent him to Jordan. The release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin came a day after Jordan’s King Hussein urged Israel to free the HAMAS leader who had served eight years of a life term in an Israeli prison. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Haidar Abdel Shafi, 78, a former chief Palestinian peace negotiator has resigned from the Palestinian Council. Abdel Shafi was elected to the Council in January 1996. (AFP)

PA President Arafat held talks with Egyptian President Mubarak in Alexandria about the possibility of an Arab-Israeli summit. “It would be a good idea if it were accompanied by (Israeli) determination to implement what has been agreed upon. "This summit needs good preparation and I examined the question in a detailed way with President Mubarak,” PA President told reporters after talks with Mubarak, MENA reported. (AFP)

The United States Administration again criticized Israel for failing to halt Jewish settlements in the occupied territory. “We are very concerned. The atmosphere is such that this is not helpful,” US Secretary of State Albright told the American Stock Exchange in New York where she met with investors. “Arafat needs some political space. He can’t do what he has to do if his oxygen is cut off,” she said. (AFP)


According to Israeli figures, Israel holds 3,648 Palestinians in its prisons. Since the signing of the DOP in September 1993, it has freed 7,544 Palestinians in peace gestures or fulfilment of signed deals. Only 31 of that number - women prisoners and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - have been freed under the current Government. The 30 women prisoners were released in February 1996 in partial fulfilment of the Hebron agreement. (AFP)

Qatar is keeping the fourth Middle East and North Africa (MENA) economic conference it is to host in November at the level of foreign ministers. According to the daily Al-Raya, the decision was taken because of “the unprecedented damage, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has caused to the peace process.” (AFP)

Amre Moussa, Egypt’s Foreign Minister said in an interview, which appeared in Al-Hayat that the MENA conference with Israel was more of a political than an economic event because it was tied to progress in the Middle East peace process. (Reuters)


The PA and PLO leadership called on the US to force Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as the two sides prepared for US-brokered talks on reviving the peace process. “The United States, when it demands security for Israel, must also be very clear and decisive in its stance on the issue of settlements,” they said in a statement carried by WAFA. They also declared in a statement following their weekly meeting chaired by PA President Arafat on 3 September that the future of the peace process was “very tightly bound to the American role.” (AFP)

Mohammed Nashashibi, PA Minister of Finance, told a press conference in Gaza City that the deficit “currently stands at US$116 dollars and I fear it will go higher if Israel dues not transfer all our funds.” He said Israel has so far transferred 40 per cent of Palestinian tax and customs funds, which it had frozen for over two months. (AFP)


Stuart Eizenstat, US Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs criticized the “severe” effects of Israeli sanctions on the Palestinian economy. “Full security cooperation is important, but at the same time the severe influence of the Israeli measures on the Palestinian economy do not help the peace process," Eizenstat told journalists after meeting PA President Arafat in Ramallah. (AFP)


Israel banned a Palestinian symposium on the issue of Jerusalem’s future because an official of the Palestinian Authority was to have addressed the meeting. The conference on the theme “Jerusalem and the current situation” was to have been held on 6 October at the headquarters of the Palestinian Professionals’ Union in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. Mahmud Abdallah, an organizer of the meeting, said the keynote speaker at the meeting was to have been Osman Abu Gharbiya, a senior member of Fatah movement and an advisor in the PA. (AFP)

Qatar started sending out invitations to the MENA economic conference, to be held at Doha from 16 to 18 November, and said it had no plans to delay it. “The conference will be held as scheduled and preparations for it are proceeding in the desired fashion,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Fawaz bin Ahmad al-Attiyah told official Qatar news agency. (Reuters)


Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Arafat met for the first time in eight months at Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Both “made it very clear they’re determined to work together and they conducted this meeting in a spirit of partnership,” said US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross, who arranged the 2 1/2-hour session. The two sides agreed to resume contacts at all levels. (AFP, AP, CNN, MSNBC, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times - Washington Post News Service )

Japan said it had donated US$23.6 million in aid to Palestinians inside self-rule areas and in neighbouring countries to ease their hardship following setbacks in progress towards Middle East peace. A Japanese embassy in Cairo said in a statement that US$12.6 million of the donated sum would go to the UNRWA. (Reuters)

According to the second-quarter report for 1997 prepared by the UN Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, total losses, in two months, from the recent closures could top US$227 million, nearly twice the amount disbursed by donor countries to the Palestinian people during the first half of 1997. (AFP) Israeli-Palestinian meetings originally planned to begin on 13 October in the Washington, D.C. area and having on their agenda discussions on ways of speeding up permanent status negotiations have been put off, the US State Department said. Spokesman James Rubin told reporters the focus of direct negotiations between the two sides would for the time being rest on “interim committees” meeting in the region on matters outstanding under the Oslo peace accords. (Reuters)


Fights broke out when the Israeli army bulldozed down 10 fruit stands run by Palestinians on the side of the main road near the town of Halhoul north of Hebron. Israeli soldiers scuffled with vendors who resisted while the army bulldozers tore down the stands, some of which are the size of large shacks. (AFP, Reuters)

Interfax reported that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov would hold talks with the leaders of Israel, Arab States and the PA during his visit to unspecified countries on 24-31 October. Promoting dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians will top the agenda, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov. (AFP)

Meeting in Jerusalem, PA Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath and Israeli Treasury Director-General Shmuel Slavin decided that they would resume regular work of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), suspended after the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations broke down in March. (Reuters)

Palestinians in Jerusalem closed their schools and shops in an all-day strike to protest Israeli settlement moves East Jerusalem. (AFP)

Israel rejected PA requests for President Arafat to begin using the Gaza airport. Fayez Zaydan, Head of the Palestinian Aviation Authority, said that the two sides had signed a protocol last May allowing the PA President’s plane to begin using the airport but the Israelis later required that Arafat inform them two days in advance of plans to use the airport, Zaydan said. (AFP)


Jordan broke off security cooperation with Israel following a botched assassination attempt by Mossad agents against a HAMAS leader in Amman. (AFP)


According to WAFA, the European Union signed an agreement with the PA to provide up to US$12 million in financing for a Gaza Strip hospital, the Palestinian news. Work on the hospital at Khan Yunis began several years ago but was halted for lack of money. (AFP)

The PA has yet to decide if it will send a delegation to the MENA economic conference scheduled to take place at Doha, Qatar, from 16 to 18 November. The PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath told journalists that the PA was yet to discuss the invitation it had received to participate in the forum. Qatar said on 11 October that it had invited 92 countries to the forum and expected some 2,500 foreign participants. Several Palestinian Council members are demanding that the PA link its participation with progress in the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

Israel and the PA resumed regular security cooperation meetings. Head of Shin Bet, internal security service, Ami Ayalon and his Palestinian counterparts Amin al-Hindi, Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub discussed a wide range of issues including the transfer of intelligence on terrorist groups. Haaretz reported that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai had instructed the Israeli negotiating teams to close deals with the Palestinian side wherever possible. (The Jerusalem Post)


Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen said in Damascus after talks with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic Hafez al-Assad that she was carrying a plea for peace and urged Syria and Israel not to allow tension to escalate in the Middle East. (Reuters)

A West Bank brokerage house is laying the groundwork for what it hopes will become the first mutual fund of the fledgling Palestinian stock market. United Securities, based in Ramallah, said it was raising a projected 500,000 Jordanian dinars (US$705,000) for an investment portfolio from investors in self-ruled Palestinian areas and overseas. (Reuters)


Following the release by Israel of US$57 million of frozen Palestinian funds, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance said that it would demand Israel pay 2.5 million shekels in interest owed by the PA after the Israeli freeze forced it to borrow money to cover salary payments to its workers. (AF, Reuters)


Israeli troops dispersed a peaceful Palestinian protest maintained outside a home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud since it was taken over by settlers in September. Haj Abed Abu Diab, head of a group that campaigns for Palestinian land rights, said soldiers and police detained four Palestinian youths overnight at the site and seized three tents used by the protesters. (AFP, Reuters)

EU Middle East envoy Miguel-Angel Moratinos, speaking in Tunis after a meeting with Tunisian Foreign Affairs Minister Said Ben Mustapha and Defence Minister Habib Ben Yahia, said that Israel and the Palestinians had reacted positively to an EU-proposed code of conduct on the peace process. The code of conduct, approved by EU foreign ministers in early October, proposes that both sides safeguard what has already been achieved in the peace process, introduce confidence measures in the fight against terrorism and abstain from unilateral measures harming the peace process. (Reuters)

Israel began to allow the entry into the Gaza Strip of equipment for the unfinished Palestinian airport , under construction near Rafah, after months of refusing its release from the Israeli port of Ashdod. (AFP)

The PA toured foreign diplomats around Jewish settlements in the West Bank in order to show them the damage they inflicted on the Palestinians. The tour, led by the Palestinian Ministry of Information, took the ambassadors of Colombia and Ireland and representatives from other European countries to settlements north of Ramallah. The tour included a visit to an industrial zone connected to the settlement of Ariel, which the Palestinian officials said was dumping waste on Palestinian land and polluting nearby water sources.(AFP)


According to a Moroccan official, Morocco will postpone a meeting of European Union and Mediterranean countries’ ministers planned for this month because it does not want an Israeli delegation to attend. The meeting, involving ministers from 27 countries, was to be held in Marrakesh on 30 and 31 October and focus on industrial cooperation. (Reuters)


US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross returned to the Middle East to supervise the work of nine Israeli-Palestinian committees discussing outstanding issues. The committees deal with the establishment of a Palestinian seaport and airport in the Gaza Strip and the creation of “safe passage” routes for the Palestinians across Israeli territory between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Hassan Abu Libdeh, head of the Palestinian Authority Census Department, said at his office in Ramallah that 6,000 university graduates would carry out a historic census in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem on 10 December. Preliminary results will be released on 4 January. The US$6 million cost of the census is being covered by the UN, Switzerland and United Kingdom. It would be the first time a census is conducted by the Palestinians themselves. (AFP)


Israel’s Foreign Minister, David Levy, said Israel was softening its position on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “We want to move forward and not create a situation that would make all our efforts to advance the process irrelevant,” Levy told Israel Radio. “Therefore, there are efforts to continue with (only) the necessary minimum” of construction. (AP) Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordanian Water Minister Munzer Haddadin set up a joint development authority in a meeting held in Jerusalem. According to the statement issued by Mr. Sharon’s office, the talks between the ministers to iron out the details of the authority - to oversee water, tourism, agricultural and industrial projects in the Jordan Valley - were held in a “good atmosphere”. The ministers agreed they would speed up plans for projects in the Jordan Valley located along the border between the two countries, said the statement. (AFP)

In a first sign of progress after months of crisis, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators said they were closer to agreement on the operation of a Palestinian airport in the Gaza Strip. An aviation agreement between Israel and the PA began to emerge at a three-sided meeting among Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, US Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross, and chief PA negotiator Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). (AP, The Jerusalem Post)


Israel authorized the Palestinian Authority to issue ID cards directly to the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Under the new system, Palestinians will apply for the identity documents directly to the PA, said Shlomo Dror, an IDF spokesman. The Palestinian officials dismissed the move as cosmetic and charged that Israel was still holding back progress on the core issues of the peace process. (AFP, AP)

Israeli troops beat a Palestinian unconscious near a Jewish settler enclave in Hebron. Palestinian journalists who arrived to report on the incident were attacked by Jewish settlers. Sabber Abu Sinena, 27, said he was on his way to the vegetable market with his two children when paramilitary border policemen stopped him and asked to see his identification. “Suddenly, they started beating me. There were four soldiers in the beginning and then others came. At least 10 soldiers beat me with their hands and their guns on my back and stomach and between my legs,” he told Reuters from his Al-Ahli Hospital bed in Hebron. (Reuters) 22

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, a senior aide to PA President Arafat, said the high-level Israeli-Palestinian meetings over the past ten days by US special envoy Dennis Ross were fruitless. “There has been no real progress to resume the peace process,” he said. He added that the meetings yielded no movement on key issues of Jewish settlement building and overdue land transfers in the West Bank. The US State Department spokesman , however, stated the US had narrowed some gaps between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly regarding the airport, seaport and safe passage. (AFP, Reuters)


In a statement issued in Gaza City, the Palestinian Authority called for the United States to make serious preparations for Israeli-Palestinian talks next week and warned of the consequences if they fail. “The American administration must seriously prepare for these high level talks because if they fail to achieve a result, that will only have negative consequences for the entire peace process,” the statement said. (AFP)

PA President Arafat left for visits to France, Germany and the Netherlands. He is scheduled to meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris, his first stop, and deliver a speech at the headquarters of UNESCO. (AFP) Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, as well as representatives of Shimon Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, were asked by Qatar to attend the MENA economic conference at Doha scheduled to take place from 16 to 18 November. The Center is to be financed by international donations, which organizers hope will build up an endowment fund of US$25 million by mid-1999. (AFP)


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov arrived in Beirut on the first leg of a Middle East tour aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process. His tour includes stops in Syria, Israel, Ramallah in the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt. (AFP)


Receiving the credentials of the Moroccan ambassador at Vatican City, Pope John Paul II expressed his concern over Jerusalem. He said: “I strongly hope that international efforts to find a solution to the delicate problem of the Holy City will be rewarded with a happy outcome as we prepare to enter the third millenium of Christianity. … A loyal dialogue will allow progress on the path of justice and the legitimate rights of all the communities involved” in Jerusalem’s future. (AFP)

Speaking after talks with PA President Arafat in Bonn, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said the Middle East would be a central theme at the weekend’s informal EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg. He said Germany would be calling for greater EU aid to enable the PA to arrange its finances as it asserts itself in former Israeli-occupied territories. (AFP)

Israeli troops wounded two Palestinians in clashes that erupted during marches in Bethlehem in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Similar protests took place in Nablus and East Jerusalem. (Reuters)


After his meeting with PA President Arafat in Ramallah, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said at a joint press conference: “Russia will do its utmost to get the peace process out of its current crisis. But this is only possible if the two sides abide by the agreements. … It's not just that the present Israeli Government should abide by the agreements, which previous Governments signed with the Palestinians. It should also abide by the agreements which it itself signed,” he said. (AFP)

Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners held in civilian and army prisons as part of an exchange negotiated with Jordan following Israel’s botched attempt to assassinate a HAMAS leader in Amman. (AP, AFP, Reuters)


Spain agreed to contribute nearly one million dollars over the next year for a new public garden in the Jericho. The 29-hectare (72 acres) park will have gardens, a pond and a playground for children, as part of plans to develop tourism in Jericho, the site of the world's oldest reported city. (AFP)

The Israeli army demolished three Palestinian houses in villages in the West Bank villages of Zaatara and Harmala in the vicinity of Bethlehem, including one house where a family of ten resided. (AFP)

According to Mossi Raz, Secretary-General of Peace Now, the Israeli Government was due to present a 1998 budget to the Knesset on 28 October, calling for a 20 per cent increase in spending on Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas to US$285 million. (AFP, Reuters)

US Secretary of State Albright said she had telephoned Prime Minister Netanyahu about the necessity of moving the peace process forward. “We are still pushing to have these meetings take place. ... Time is kind of petering out here. It seems to be dragging on rather more than I would have liked,” she told reporters. … “Time is really not on the side of those who want there to be results. We have a limited window, and we hope very much that we can use the time in an appropriate way. … We would like to have the people here and have them have some authority to make decisions. … We need to keep this on a fairly concise timetable,” she added. (Reuters)


The Israeli inner Cabinet met to discuss the peace process. A communiqué issued following the meeting said only that the ministers had discussed recent progress in lower-level negotiations on issues left over from interim peace accords. These concerned the opening of a Palestinian airport, sea port and industrial zone in the Gaza Strip and the establishment of “safe passage” corridors between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. No reference was made in the communiqué to the issues of Jewish settlements and further Israeli redeployment from the West Bank. (AFP)

Some 200 Jewish settlers protested as the IDF partially reopened Al-Shuhada Street, which runs through Hebron’s Jewish enclave, to Palestinian ambulances, official cars, taxis and residents of the street who received special permits. One youth was arrested after a group of teenage Jewish settlers tried to attack a Palestinian driver and Israeli police officers at the entrance to the street. (AFP, AP, Reuters) PA President Arafat told reporters in Ramallah that talks with Israel in the United States would be a “waste of time” because the Israeli negotiator would not be authorised to make concessions. (Reuters)


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov announced in Cairo that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had named Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk as his permanent special envoy for the Middle East peace process. Primakov, speaking to reporters after meetings with President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Moussa, also said Yeltsin himself would visit Egypt in April 1998 to discuss the peace process with PresidentMubarak. (AFP)

Israeli Foreign Minister Levy will travel to Washington on 1 November. Asked if the Foreign Minister was authorised to discuss an Israeli freeze in settlement construction, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shir-On said: “He can conduct negotiations on all issues on the agenda.” (Reuters)

According to Maariv and Haaretz, Israel will offer the Palestinian side a temporary cutback in Jewish settlement construction if they will drop demands to win control over more West Bank land. Foreign Minister Levy will reportedly make the offer at a meeting in Washington with Palestinian chief negotiator Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). (AFP, AP)

Israel plans to break a new opening through a 400-year-old wall surrounding East Jerusalem’s Old City to develop the area’s Jewish quarter, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing Meir Porush told Israel Radio. The plan, expected to cost about US$11 million, would open a new traffic gate through the wall, add floors to existing houses in the quarter and improve Jewish holy sites, he said. “I think that in 1998 we will see parts of this plan take shape,” Porush said. (AFP) 31

During his visit to Egypt, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov proposed a 12-point “code of conduct” to assure security in the Middle East. The code, which sets down general principles for regional security, proposes security arrangements for an enlarged security zone including, besides the parties directly involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, north Africa and the Gulf States. (AFP)

The Russian Foreign Minister blamed Israel for the stalemate in Middle East peace process. “It is clear that the present deadlock is a result of the fact that Israel's Government has deviated from the agreements and understandings concluded by the previous Government,” Primakov told a news conference. (Reuters)

Israel is planning the expansion of the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim to cover an area greater than that of Tel Aviv, stretching from Jerusalem nearly to the Jordan border. Israel has ordered the confiscation of 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land to expand Maaleh Adumim, said Shmuel Groag, an Israeli architect involved in a legal appeal against the land confiscation. The planned expansion brings the settlementss boundaries to join Jerusalem’s municipal line, then extends east to about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the Jordanian border. (AFP)
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