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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 January 2003
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


January 2003


1

Three teenage Palestinians were killed by IDF troops in the northern Gaza Strip. Col. Ofer Shafran, based in the area, said they had been spotted climbing a security fence protecting the “Elei Sinai” settlement. “They were dressed in dark civilian clothes and were advancing in a crouch, commando-style,” he said, adding that they had found two wire-cutters and a knife on their bodies. The three were identified as Tareq Dawass, 14, his cousin Mohammad Dawass, 16, and Jihad Abed, 13. Early Israeli reports had quoted the IDF as saying the three victims were not armed and were thought to be workers trying to reach the area to look for jobs. In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian carrying a bomb in a bag between the “Immanuel” and “Yitzhar” settlements, south-west of Nablus. The device exploded when the soldiers opened fire after challenging the man, the IDF officials said. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

IDF troops and tanks besieged The Martyrs’ Cultural Centre in the village of Dura, near Hebron, where 100 people were attending the wake for two Islamic Jihad militants who had carried out an attack on the “Otniel” settlement on 27 December 2002. Clashes between the Palestinian mourners and the Israeli soldiers erupted in the area, with young men throwing stones at the soldiers and the soldiers shooting and firing tear gas canisters. According to medical sources in Hebron, at least five Palestinians had been injured by the Israeli troops, who also tore down the banners hanging outside the Centre mourning the two Islamic Jihad militants. (DPA)

The IDF said its forces had demolished the Nablus home of a Palestinian who had bombed a fast-food stand in the central Israeli town of Herzliya in June 2002, killing a girl, as well as the Khan Yunis home of a Hamas member who had been killed by IDF in December 2002. (Reuters)

Israel would resume monthly transfers of US$27 million in tax revenues to the PA “immediately after the Palestinians start their monetary system,” according to an Israeli Finance Ministry official. Another official said agreement had been reached with the United States, under which US accountants would monitor the PA’s accounts to make sure the unfrozen funds were not used to finance terrorism. Ha’aretz reported that an agreement, a first between the current Israeli Government and the PA, had been signed at the beginning of the week by PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Finance Ministry Director-General Ohad Marani. The document spelled out the conditions and monitoring mechanisms for the transfer to the PA of Palestinian tax revenues collected by Israel. However, the accord related only to taxes collected in the future and not to frozen revenues of about NIS2.5 billion that had accumulated in the Israeli Finance Ministry. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)


2

The IDF sent infantry and armour, supported by assault helicopters, into the Nuseirat, Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps in central Gaza Strip, as part of its “continuing battle against terrorism.” Ambulance workers said several Palestinians had been wounded before Israeli forces had withdrawn from Nuseirat and Bureij after a two-hour overnight operation. After daybreak, the army began an operation in Maghazi, sending in 10 tanks and APCs and detaining 13 people, including six Palestinians from the same family, before pulling out several hours later. An IDF spokesman said the operations were partly aimed at militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Palestinian security officials and residents in Rafah said the IDF had destroyed 25 houses, with 19 razed to the ground and six others badly damaged. The army said it had destroyed only four houses that had been used by “terrorists to fire on our troops and throw grenades.” Palestinians retorted that, while heading for those targetted buildings, the bulldozers had destroyed surrounding houses belonging to refugees. The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, said it had fired a missile at the Israeli forces as they were destroying the houses, while the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for planting a roadside bomb in the area, which injured two IDF soldiers when their bulldozer drove over it. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

IDF troops arrested Samih Abu Bakhar, a leading Fatah militant in Tulkarm. Palestinian sources said four other Palestinians belonging to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades had been arrested after the troops surrounded a house in Tulkarm. Four Islamic Jihad members had been arrested in the village of Anabta, east of Tulkarm. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A 10-day-old Palestinian baby died on the way to Nablus hospital after the ambulance carrying it was prevented from passing an IDF roadblock. (Ha’aretz)

Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the PLO, met in Damascus with representatives of 10 Palestinian groups based there. Following the three-hour meeting, Mr. Kaddoumi told reporters that the talks dealt with the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and how to maintain resistance to the Israeli occupation until the political situation changed. “We are ready to carry the olive branch in one hand and to hold a gun in the other. We are ready to resist and to negotiate at the same time,” he said. “Resistance and uprising are our choice so long as serious political negotiations are not in hand. Resistance is the correct road to attain our national targets.” Hamas representative Imad al-Aalami said there had been agreement at the meeting that national unity should be based on continuation of the uprising. (AFP)

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem announced that, for the first time since the previous intifada, more than 1,000 Palestinians were held in administrative detention by Israel. There were currently 1,007 administrative detainees in IDF holding facilities – 881 in the Ketziot prison, 111 at the Ofer detention centre and 15 in various local detention facilities. In addition, as of December 2002, there were 11 administrative detainees in various Prison Services facilities. In January 2002, there were 36 administrative detainees. B’Tselem urged the Israeli Government to release all administrative detainees immediately and to discontinue the extensive use of this measure. Detainees against whom there was evidence should be brought to a fair trial and given the right to present their case. (Ha’aretz, B’Tselem press release at http://www.btselem.org/)

Israeli guards fired tear gas and stun grenades in a detention camp next to the IDF’s “Ofer” base, west of Ramallah, to break up a protest by Palestinian prisoners over alleged mistreatment. Israeli medics and Palestinian human rights workers said several dozen Palestinians were suffering from tear gas inhalation at the camp holding some 700 Palestinians. “There was a disturbance and an army force at the camp used teargas to disperse the violent demonstration. Now it is over,” an Israeli military source said. Khalida Jarrar, from the Palestinian human rights group Addameer, said the prisoners had declared a hunger strike in the morning to protest at alleged beatings by camp guards when detainees were taken to a nearby military court. A Reuters cameraman at the scene saw flames rising from a tent used to house some prisoners and Israeli ambulances stationed outside. Three MKs, members of a Knesset committee on children’s rights, had charged the previous day that Palestinian minors (i.e. 16- to 18-year-olds) held at the “Ofer” base suffered from cold, hunger, lack of medical treatment and abuse by IDF soldiers. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Based on data supplied by the military police and the IDF’s Judge Advocate-General’s office, Ha’aretz reported that so far indictments had been submitted against 37 IDF soldiers for alleged offences committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the outbreak of the intifada, but only two of these related to incidents in which a Palestinian had been killed. In total, by the end of 2002, the military police had launched 281 investigations into such alleged offences, of which only 20 dealt with incidents in which Palestinians had been killed. Another 10 involved exchanges of fire, in some of which people had been injured; 122 related to allegations of violent behaviour by soldiers; 32 dealt with property crimes; 61 involved reports of looting; 29 pertained to the alleged use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields” and 7 cases were categorized as “miscellaneous.” In 75 of these cases, the investigation was still continuing. In about 100, the Judge Advocate-General had closed the case, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the submission of indictments. In addition to the military police investigations, several dozen soldiers faced disciplinary action. The data revealed that only five of the 37 indictments related to incidents involving gunfire. Another 7 pertained to allegations of violent behaviour, and 15 involved property offences. In addition, two indictments were filed against a reservist battalion commander and a soldier in his unit on charges of unbecoming behaviour, i.e. abuse of Palestinians, and the use of Palestinians as “human shields.” Another soldier was tried in a military court on charges of looting during “Operation Defensive Shield.” The Judge Advocate-General refused to give information on the status of the trials, in which these indictments were filed. (Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers moved into the village of Beit Kahil, north of Hebron, and demolished the house of Mohammed Barawish, the head of the Islamic Jihad in Hebron, according to an Israel Radio report. Ten people living there were left homeless. However, the Israeli forces reportedly abandoned a plan to destroy the family home of Wafa Idris, who had become the first female Palestinian suicide bomber, as the explosion would have destroyed much of the surrounding Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

3

“We recognize Israel’s need to take legitimate anti-terrorist action,” US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, noting, however, that “steps such as displacement of people through the demolition of homes and property exacerbate the humanitarian situation, and undermine trust and confidence.” “We are further disturbed by reports that the demolition of homes in recent weeks has resulted in the deaths of two civilian occupants inside”, Mr. Boucher added, and urged “Israel to consider the consequences of actions such as these and take all appropriate measures to ensure that civilian casualties do not result from Israeli anti-terrorist actions”. (AFP, Reuters)

IDF troops re-established control of the “Ofer” detention camp near Ramallah, following a night of protests by Palestinians held there. The detainees, many of them held in administrative detention and living in overcrowded tents, burnt some of them in protest at their living conditions, the Palestinian “Prisoners Club” said. Some 50 detainees were injured by Israeli forces, who put down the revolt with teargas and stun grenades, detainees told AFP. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

4

IDF said it had demolished two abandoned houses in Rafah used by Palestinian militants. According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, three Israeli bulldozers backed by a tank had entered the Brazil neighbourhood of Rafah demolishing three houses, which were private family homes, near the border with Egypt. As the bulldozers began demolishing the houses, a group of ten activists from the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP) attempted to stop them by lying on the ground in front of them. Troops attempted to disperse the activists by firing tear gas canisters and smoke bombs towards them, shooting in the air, and trying to cover them with sand, the correspondent said. (AFP)

An 18-year-old Palestinian, Muhamad Haji, had been critically wounded in the head by Israeli troops who had opened fired on stone-throwers near the Burqa village, just north of Nablus, Palestinian medical sources and witnesses said. An IDF spokeswoman said a group of Palestinian youths had begun throwing stones at a military vehicle in the village and troops had employed what she referred to as “crowd dispersal measures.” (AFP)

5

About 300 Palestinians and international activists partially removed an Israeli earthwork blocking the road from Nablus city centre to the Balata refugee camp. Taking advantage of the lifting of an Israeli curfew for the day, the crowd first worked on the large pile of earth and concrete with shovels and, when no Israeli forces appeared, they deployed a bulldozer to shift the debris. (AFP)

Gaza Strip Preventive Security Chief Rashid Abu Shbak denied claims made on the website of Yediot Aharonot, which quoted Israeli security officials to the effect that both the Fatah and the Hamas were developing new long-range missiles in Gaza to attack Israel. “We don’t have long-range missiles and we are not developing any of them… This is ridiculous”, Mr. Abu Shbak said. (DPA)

An IDF soldier guarding the entrance to a military base in the “Gush Katif” settlement block, in the Gaza Strip, suffered moderate wounds when he was shot by a Palestinian sniper firing from Khan Yunis. (Ha’aretz)

Defence Minister Mofaz defended the policy of demolishing houses of Palestinian militants, telling the Israeli Cabinet that it had an accumulated effect of deterrence. Since Israel had begun the current wave of demolitions, 29 “terrorists” had voluntarily given themselves up to protect their families, Mr. Mofaz claimed. (DPA)

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up minutes apart in a central Tel Aviv area, near the old bus station, where many foreign workers lived. Twenty-three bystanders were killed and some 100 wounded in the first such attack in six weeks. The victims included citizens of Romania, Ghana and Bulgaria. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility in a phone call to the Lebanese TV station Al-Manar. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also claimed responsibility and in a statement identified the bombers as Nablus residents. (AP, Ha’aretz)

In southern Gaza, Israeli attack helicopters had fired missiles at what the IDF said was a weapons factory that manufactured mostly mortars, Israel Radio reported. Palestinian sources said a second building had been hit as well and the blasts had wounded eight people and cut off electricity. Israeli troops also staged an incursion into Rafah, with helicopter gunships firing on the town’s refugee camp, as some 20 tanks moved in and troops arrested an Islamic Jihad activist and demolished his house. A second incursion of similar size was mounted in another part of Rafah, but the raids were not thought to be in reprisal for the Palestinian double suicide attack in Tel Aviv. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The PA condemned the double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, saying in a statement it would firmly confront those who had carried out the attack and those behind it. It described the attack as “a dangerous terrorist operation” targeting Israeli civilians and foreign workers and said it rejected the “logic of revenge which justifies attacks on Israeli citizens”. The EU condemned the twin bomb attacks in Tel Aviv calling them an “appalling and wicked criminal act” that would set back the cause of Palestinian statehood. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said in a statement the violence between Israelis and Palestinians “will only end when both sides make a sincere commitment to the peace process.” In a separate statement, the Greek Government, which assumed the EU’s rotating six-month presidency on 1 January, condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the suicide bombings and expressed its condolences. President Bush branded the bombings “a despicable act of murder” and said Secretary of State Powell had called Prime Minister Sharon to express America’s condolences. Asked about Israeli retaliation, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the bombings in Tel Aviv were “a huge attack on the Israeli people and on many others who work in Israel who weren’t Israeli citizens who either lost their lives or were wounded.” “Israel has a right to defend itself in a variety of ways, but Israel needs to always be mindful of the consequences of its right to self-defence,” Mr. Fleischer noted. (AP, DPA)

6

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the double suicide bombing by Palestinian militants yesterday in Tel Aviv that killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 100. He sends his deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims. The Secretary-General reiterates his long-standing position that such terrorist bombings are morally reprehensible and completely unjustified. They also run counter to every effort to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis.

Violence cannot solve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Secretary-General calls on all Palestinians to pursue non-violent policies, as embodied in the international effort to end the crisis through the Quartet and its Road Map for a just and comprehensive peace. Mindful of the tragic killings that shatter lives on both sides, the Secretary-General also urges the Government of Israel to act with restraint in responding to this deadly attack and to help de-escalate the current violence.
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8575 of 6 January 2003)

In retaliation for the Tel Aviv twin suicide bombings, Israel decided to ban from travelling the Palestinian delegation due to attend a conference in London on PA reform and rejected Britain’s appeal to reconsider. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC radio: “While of course such bombings and terror require a prompt security reaction, it all emphasizes the need for there to be a political process which brings the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples together.” “The six million people who live in Israel and the three-and-a-half million people who live in parts of the occupied territories can only live in peace if they are going to have a future,” Mr. Straw added, noting that he “greatly regret[ted]” the Israeli Government’s decision. Foreign Minister Netanyahu had told Mr. Straw that Britain was causing a “reverse effect” by focusing on allowing terrorists to attend the conference instead of focusing on fighting terror, Itim reported, with Mr. Straw responding that Israel was the one creating the reverse effect and that instead of concentrating on terror, Israel was keeping back those Palestinians interested in reform. Full details of the conference, set for the following week, had not been announced, but Israel had not been invited to attend. Senior Palestinian negotiator and PA Minister Saeb Erakat said the ban on Palestinians going to London amounted to “forbidding talks on an eventual resumption of the peace process” and called for immediate international intervention “to stop Israel’s actions.” PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the delegation was still preparing for the meeting. Israel also decided to prevent Palestinians from attending the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) meeting scheduled for 9 January in Ramallah, where a vote was due to take place on the Palestinian constitution draft. “To prevent the PCC from convening means to prevent the Palestinian people’s representatives from openly debating the constitution of the future Palestinian State,” Mr. Erakat told Reuters. Prime Minister Sharon and his Security Cabinet had reportedly also decided to close three Palestinian universities “in the coming days.” (AFP, BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A Palestinian youth was shot and wounded in clashes, which erupted as Israeli forces backed by helicopters entered the Al-Far’a refugee camp, north-east of Nablus. (AFP)

Residents of the town of Salfit had found the body of a 21-year-old member of the Palestinian security forces from Jenin who, they said, had been wanted by the IDF. The circumstances of the man’s death were not immediately clear. (DPA)

The Israeli Navy imposed a blockade of the Gaza Strip, banning Palestinian fishermen from going out to sea, in what reportedly was a further retaliation for the previous day’s twin suicide bombings in Tel Aviv. In southern Gaza, an armoured column backed by helicopters raided the town of Rafah, arresting a wanted Islamic Jihad militant and leaving seven wounded. (AFP)

7

In an overnight incursion, some 30 tanks and armoured vehicles backed up by helicopters moved into Palestinian-controlled territory in the central Gaza Strip, around the Maghazi refugee camp, reportedly in search of weapons. Three Palestinians were killed and four injured, among the latter a 10-year-old girl, in the exchange of fire that ensued. The IDF also entered the Khan Yunis sector in the south of the Gaza Strip, where bulldozers destroyed several homes. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The IDF dynamited two houses belonging to Palestinian militants near Nablus. One of the houses, in the village of Beit Furik, used to belong to Haddash Abu As-Saud, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who had been killed in May 2002 in an attack against the nearby “Itamar” settlement, which had resulted in the death of three Israelis. The second, in the village of Beit Dajan, belonged to Kamil Abu Hneish, a leading member of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the PFLP, who figured on Israel’s most wanted list. The IDF considered him responsible for sending a Palestinian gunman to attack the “Itamar” settlement in June 2002, an attack that had resulted in the killing of a mother and three children. The IDF had arrested 19 wanted Palestinians in the West Bank overnight, including an Islamic Jihad militant in the area of Hebron. Israel Radio said the man was responsible for carrying out an attack in the settlement of “Otniel”, in which four Israelis had been killed. The radio also reported that Israeli soldiers had opened fire and seriously wounded a Palestinian militant in the village of Shweikeh, north of Tulkarm. (AFP, DPA)

In further reprisals for the 5 January bombings in Tel Aviv, Israel confined senior Palestinian officials to their cities and barred all other Palestinians under 35 from leaving the West Bank or Gaza Strip. PA Minister and chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said Israel had issued orders to PA Ministers and senior officials not to leave their cities. According to Mr. Erakat this was “new proof that Israel wants to destroy the Palestinian Authority”. A PA Labour Ministry official in Gaza said 4,000 workers aged under 35 who had been previously allowed to enter Israel to work had been turned back, with only 1,350 others allowed through. (AFP)

Prime Minister Blair’s spokesman said preparations continued for the London meeting on PA reform. The UK Government was in contact with the Israeli Government “at the highest level” and continued to believe that the meeting was “necessary”. A letter to Prime Minister Sharon was in the process of being sent by Mr. Blair, “explaining the context of the meeting we are proposing”, the spokesman said. The letter would say that that the meeting was “not part of a wider negotiation” but “aimed specifically at the narrow but important issue ... of Palestinian reform” and would urge that PA officials be allowed to attend. Separately, in a speech to a gathering of British ambassadors, Prime Minister Blair stressed that commitment to Middle East peace was essential to winning support for a US-led drive to disarm Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction. “The reason there is opposition over our stance on Iraq has less to do with any love of Saddam, but over a sense of double standards. The Middle East peace process remains essential to any understanding with the Muslim and Arab world”, Mr. Blair said. (DPA, Reuters)

US State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said the US had been speaking to the Israeli Government about the London meeting on PA reform, as they thought “the idea of a conference [was] a good one”, which they had welcomed and would like to see “go ahead.” (AFP, Reuters)

President Chirac, in a traditional New Year’s address to the diplomatic corps at the Palais de l’Elysée, urged Israelis and Palestinians to end the violence in the Middle East and called upon the international community to bring them back to the negotiating table. He said that they all knew the solution. “It comes by stopping terrorism and violence and respecting international law, by the return of the occupied territories and the dismantling of settlements, through the creation in the Palestinian territories of a viable and democratic State, one that coexists in peace with Israel, one that is guaranteed of its security,” he said. (AFP)

8

An 18-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead by the IDF in the northern West Bank village of Seida, near Tulkarm. According to Palestinian witnesses, the man was a civilian standing on the roof of a building near a house, which soldiers were demolishing when one of them opened fire at him. An army spokesman said that the IDF had responded to Palestinian fire and that the man had been armed. Another Palestinian man was gunned down during an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, outside the settlement of “Neve Dekalim”. In Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp clashes broke out, as the IDF re-imposed a curfew after several days’ respite during the Orthodox Christmas celebrations. Palestinian youths hurled stones at the Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. There was no immediate report of injuries. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The EU said that Israel’s decision to ban Palestinians from attending the London meeting on PA reform was hampering efforts to end the violence in the region. A statement issued by the Greek EU Presidency called on Israel to lift the travel ban because the decision “perpetuate[d] hatred and extremism.” In Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said Prime Minister Sharon’s response to the Palestinian double suicide bombing on 5 January was regrettable. Following a meeting in Ramallah with Chairman Arafat, EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos told reporters he would ask Israel to cancel the measure, as it was important to hold the conference, “not only for the Palestinians, but for the benefit of the entire international community and the situation in the region”. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Russia urged Israel to lift its travel ban on Palestinian officials set to attend the London meeting on PA reform. “We hope that the Israeli Government will take another look at their decision and refrain from other steps limiting the freedom of movement of Palestinian officials”, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, while calling on the Palestinian leadership to crack down on “terrorist” acts. (AFP)

Israel’s National Security Council Chairman Ephraim Halevy met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher in Cairo. Mr. Maher later told reporters that the meeting had been useful because it had allowed Egypt to express its viewpoint that “Israel’s policy of force had failed,” and it should be stopped because its only result was more victims on both sides. He said he had urged Israel to “move in the direction of serious negotiations with the representatives of the Palestinian people in order to reach a final settlement based on two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security.” (AFP, Reuters)

A report published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said Palestinians numbered 8.3 million at the end of 2002, including 3.6 million in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the rest scattered around the world. The report specified that 2.3 million Palestinians lived in the West Bank and another 1.3 million in the Gaza Strip. Jordan had the largest concentration of Palestinians abroad, with 2.7 million according to the PCBS report, which did not specify if Jordanians of Palestinian origin were included in the figure. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 46.4 per cent of the population was aged under 15, while the annual birth rate ran at around four per cent and the average family size was six. The population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was expected to double over the next 19 years. Israel had 1.1 million Arab inhabitants, or descendants of Palestinians, out of a total population of 6.6 million, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

9

Prime Minister Sharon turned down the written request from Prime Minister Blair for the Palestinian delegation to be allowed to attend the London meeting on Palestinian reform the following week. Mr. Blair’s spokesman said the Israeli position “remain[ed] unchanged,” adding that Britain was “committed to continuing the process of dialogue with the Palestinians.” (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

A quarter of the PCC members met to discuss the new draft of a Palestinian constitution, in a show of defiance against an Israeli travel ban blocking a full quorum. PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath, who headed the committee that drafted the constitution, said approval of the document would be delayed until it was possible for the PCC to meet in full. He did not specify a date, saying this depended on Israeli measures. (DPA, Reuters)

The IDF arrested in Qalqilya Tahsin Adel Daud, a PFLP leader. He had been injured, as he jumped out of a window to escape. Mr. Daud was suspected of having carried out shooting and bomb attacks, notably a strike in Kohav Yair, Israel, and of ordering a raid on the West Bank “Karnei Shomron” settlement that had resulted in the death of two Israelis. (AFP)

10

The IDF closed the Israeli-Palestinian “District Coordinating Offices” (DCO) in Tulkarm, Qalqiliya and Nablus. Palestinian police were ordered to leave the offices and their arms were confiscated. An IDF spokesman said “the presence of armed Palestinian policemen had become a liability for Israel”. He added that the offices “had become irrelevant anyway”, stressing that humanitarian aid coordination would carry on, so as “to allow Palestinian civilians not involved in terrorist attacks to continue to lead a normal life”. Only the Jericho DCO remained functioning. Palestinian Brigadier General Rifhi Arafat, overall commander of Palestinian DCOs, said that by shutting them down Israel had strengthened its occupation in the West Bank. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Israeli troops shot dead a teenage Palestinian stone-thrower during a confrontation at the Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem. Two other youths were hospitalized with light bullet wounds. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army. In the Gaza Strip, four Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in Khan Yunis and one more in Rafah, according to Palestinian security sources. (AFP, Reuters)

In the Beit Wazzin village, near Nablus, Israeli troops used explosives to demolish the one-storey home of Darin Abu Aisheh, a suicide bomber who had blown herself up at an Israeli military checkpoint in February 2002, wounding three policemen. Six of her relatives were left homeless. (AP)

In Ramallah, the IDF arrested two PFLP officials. Hassan Fatafta, 42, for whom the Israeli military had been looking for several months, was arrested along with fellow PFLP member Ishaq Amin Khader Younes, 56, who formed part of the PFLP leadership based in Damascus, according to IDF sources. Their arrests came as Israeli security forces dismantled a PFLP cell charged with directing the group’s operations in Jerusalem. Also arrested in Ramallah was 17-year-old Hussein Hanani, allegedly a would-be suicide bomber plotting to attack a Jerusalem bus station. (AFP)

WAFA reported that the Palestinian leadership – consisting of the PA Cabinet and the PLO Executive Committee – had called on the Palestinian people “to show their restraint and not allow themselves to be dragged along by the Israeli escalation and provocation, on the approach of Israeli elections”. The leadership reiterated its rejection of violence “aimed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians” and stressed that attacks on civilians “cause great harm to [the Palestinian] cause, notably on the international level, in public opinion and with Israeli supporters of peace”. (AFP)

The US State Department updated its travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip to reflect the imposition by Israeli authorities on 7 January of cross-border travel restrictions, saying “The Government of Israel may deny entry at Ben Gurion Airport or at a land border to persons it believes might travel to ‘closed’ areas in the West Bank or Gaza or to persons the Israeli authorities believe may sympathize with the Palestinian cause and are seeking to meet with Palestinian officials… In addition, dual Palestinian-American citizens may encounter difficulties entering and/or departing Israel, the West Bank and Gaza during times of Israeli closures.” Regarding the ban on Palestinian ID holders under the age of 35, and unmarried, childless Palestinians over that age, leaving West Bank and Gaza Strip via the Allenby Bridge, Rafah, Erez or Taba border crossings, the State Department said that the ban applied to all travellers regardless of gender or any other foreign citizenship, including American citizenship. (AFP, Reuters, travel.state.gov)

11

Two Palestinian children – aged 8 and 13 according to AFP, 12 and 14, according to AP and Ha’aretz, and 14 and 17, according to the IDF – and armed with knives, infiltrated the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip. The two entered the home of the settlement’s rabbi, who fired at them but missed. Soldiers launched a manhunt for the boys during which they were wounded and captured. No Israelis were injured in the incident, but one youth required some medical attention, an IDF spokesman said. “The 13-year-old child has bullet wounds and the other is suffering from a hip fracture,” a spokeswoman for the medical centre told AFP. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

In the Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus, IDF soldiers opened fire at Palestinians throwing stones at their armoured vehicles, killing Basman Shanir, 20, who according to the IDF was preparing to throw a firebomb at troops, and wounding nine others. In the Gaza Strip, 17-year-old Zeid Baisi died of wounds reportedly sustained from an explosive device he was preparing. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Some 50 IDF armoured vehicles and 300 troops moved into Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp, exchanging fire with Palestinians and carrying out house-to-house searches before withdrawing to their positions on the perimeter of the city. The IDF characterized the operation as a routine one, adding that a curfew that had been imposed on the city and the camp had been lifted. (AFP)

IDF troops and tanks entered Khan Yunis and blew up six workshops, which contained some 35 lathes the IDF said were used to produce mortar shells and Qassam rockets. One Palestinian in his twenties, Abd al-Latif Wadi, was killed and 15 others wounded, three seriously, in exchanges of fire. IDF troops also demolished a home in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, belonging to Islamic Jihad member Mohammed Al-Masri, who had been killed when carrying out a suicide attack against an Israeli naval vessel off the Gaza coast in November 2002. An unarmed 45-year-old Palestinian man was killed by IDF fire during the demolition. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he and his Labour party would support the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, as a first step towards renewing the peace process, independently of whether violence still continued. “The first thing that we would do is to have a peace negotiation on the [sidelines] of fighting terror,” Mr. Peres told a news conference in Mexico City. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

12

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed and another seriously injured in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip targeting two wanted Hamas militants. A helicopter gunship fired at least three rockets at a car carrying the two wanted men, as it passed a hospital in southeast Khan Yunis. Sources in the Gaza Strip reported that the two killed were bystanders, while the wanted men had escaped unharmed. A senior Israeli security source confirmed an air strike on the orchard by the road between the Khan Yunis and Rafah refugee camps and said “three wanted men were hit.” (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Hazem Fanoun, 27, was shot dead on the Tarqumiya-Hebron road, near the village of Beit Kahil. An IDF spokeswoman said a group of armed Palestinians had opened fire on a tanker truck serving Israeli settlements in the area and guards had returned fire. According to Ha’aretz, Mr. Fanoun, whose family owns a number of bakeries, was delivering bread at the time of the shooting. Palestinian witnesses quoted by AFP said he had been killed by an Israeli settler who fled the scene. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Two armed Palestinians entered Moshav Gadish in northern Israel, 5km north of the Green Line and 10km from Jenin, and opened fire on the main road, killing one Israeli and wounding five. Border Policemen in an armoured jeep ran down one of the attackers, and the other was killed by the IDF after a two-hour firefight. The Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, took responsibility for the attack. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israel was preventing nearly 600 Palestinians from entering the Gaza Strip from Egypt, saying that a ban on Palestinians aged under 35 leaving the Occupied Palestinian Territory also applied the other way, Egyptian border guards said. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon told British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles that he would not reconsider his decision to prohibit senior PA officials from attending a conference on PA reform in London on 14 January. Britain’s International Development Minister Clare Short said the conference had been “destroyed” by the Israeli Government, while “there is a sense... that the whole region is being bent to Western purposes rather than justice for its own people.” The conference, nevertheless, was still to take place, with the Palestinians to be represented from Ramallah and Gaza by videoconference. “The position of the Israeli Government is up to them, but what is important is to try and create the circumstances in which we can get lasting peace in the Middle East,” Prime Minister Blair told a press conference, adding that Britain was pushing ahead with the conference because “there has been a sense in Israel and outside that unless we get the right political mechanisms in place it is difficult to make progress on the Middle East.” (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF confirmed that one of its soldiers had been killed and two others wounded in a shootout with two gunmen near the Egyptian border. According to Ha’aretz, the gunmen were Palestinians who had first entered Egypt from the Gaza Strip, before crossing into Israel. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

13

Two Palestinians were shot dead by IDF troops in the Gaza Strip, as they approached a bus that was travelling in convoy from the “Karni” crossing to the “Netzarim” settlement in the central Strip. A few minutes before that the bus had been reportedly attacked with what was thought to be an anti-tank missile that missed and caused no injuries. Troops found a Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifle and several hand-grenades next to the Palestinians’ bodies. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

According to Palestinian media reports, a Palestinian man in his seventies was wounded by IDF gunfire as he was working his land east of Gaza City. The IDF spokesman said that the army had no knowledge of the incident. (Ha’aretz)

According to Palestinian security officials, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Iyad Abu Shaar, hit by Israeli gunfire near the “Kissufim” crossing point in the Gaza Strip on 24 December 2002, had died from his wounds in an Egyptian hospital. (AFP)

Palestinian Council speaker Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) said he had requested authorization from Israeli officials to cross through two military checkpoints between his hometown of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Ramallah so that he could attend a session of the Council, but had not been given permission to make the trip. The Council said after its session, attended by lawmakers who had managed to travel as private citizens or participated by videoconference, that the ban was “aimed at preventing reforms” of the PA. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Senior Palestinian negotiator and PA Minister Saeb Erakat, writing in The Financial Times, said the conflict had deteriorated to a level where neither party could rely on mutual goodwill. “Objective and empowered third party monitors are needed to help ensure that each side is abiding by its agreements and cooperating in good faith… The international community must recognize that the two parties are not equals – one side is the occupier, the other side the occupied – and we need the help of third parties to correct that imbalance.” (The Financial Times, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

An IDF spokesman said its troops had dynamited a factory in Ramallah where explosive devices and bomb-making equipment had been found. The building belonged to a Palestinian-American, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General is extremely concerned by the level of violence and growing number of casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He deplores that during the last weekend at least nine Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in various incidents.

The Secretary-General believes that the most recent upsurge in violence and retaliation only feeds the cycle of mutual anger and hatred that leads to further civilian victims on both sides. He calls on all Palestinians to stop attacks on Israelis and to pursue non-violent policies. Equally, the Secretary-General urges the Government of Israel to exercise maximum restraint, in particular refraining from the disproportionate use of force and such actions as extra-judicial killings and demolition of houses. All parties must understand that there is no military solution to this conflict and that there is no alternative to a political settlement.

The Secretary-General remains convinced that the only way forward toward reviving a sustainable peace process is a firm commitment of the parties to end all violence and to work closely with the Quartet on the basis of its road map to a two-State solution. In this connection, he welcomes the initiative of Prime Minister Blair to convene a meeting tomorrow on the important issue of Palestinian reform. The Secretary-General very much regrets that senior Palestinian officials were not allowed to travel to London for this meeting.
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8579 of 13 January 2003)

14

IDF troops arrested a senior member of the military wing of Hamas, as well as 15 other suspected Palestinian militants, overnight in the West Bank. The Hamas member was identified as Salman Daraghmeh, 32, leader of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Tubas, a village 15 km south of Jenin. He was reportedly one of the most wanted men in the northern West Bank and had escaped several assassination attempts, while his house in the village had already been destroyed by the IDF. In Tulkarm, Israeli troops dynamited the house of Iyad Massar, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, also among those arrested overnight. (AFP)

Al-Ayyam reported that the Head of the Egyptian Intelligence Service, Omar Suleiman, had formulated a proposal for a year-long partial truce between Israelis and Palestinians. The daily said the plan had the approval of Chairman Arafat, in his capacity as head of the Fatah. According to a Fatah official, the proposal was for a halt to Palestinian attacks inside Israel in exchange for an end to Israel’s targetted killings of Palestinian militants. Al-Ayyam said the proposal also referred to the right of the Palestinians to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital and to the sole executive power of the Palestinian Authority. The daily said Mr. Suleiman had recently met two Hamas representatives in Cairo to discuss the idea and the response appeared to be “positive”. However, Gaza-based Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh told AFP that “up to now there has been no change in the movement’s position”, adding that “Nothing indicates that there will be a change, and our right to resist the occupation by every means is a legitimate right”. (AFP, DPA)

An international conference on PA reform took place at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, with Palestinian invitees participating through videolink, following Israel’s ban on their travel, which British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said was “regrettable”. The following PA officials participated in that way: PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, leading the Palestinian representation, along with Interior Minister Hani Al-Hassan, Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, Tourism Minister Nabil Qassis, Economy Minister Maher Al-Masri, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath and Justice Minister Zuhair Al-Sourani, the latter two from Gaza while the rest from Ramallah. The Palestinian representative to London Afif Safieh sat in on the talks in person. Also in attendance were, from the Quartet, US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Foreign Policy Javier Solana, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen and Russian Special Envoy on the Middle East Andrei Vdovin. Jordanian Deputy Foreign Minister Shaher, Saudi Arabian Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar Madani and Head of the Egyptian Intelligence Service Omar Suleiman represented their respective countries. In a statement at the end of the conference, Secretary Straw reiterated the participants’ support for a two-State final settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He said there had been “clear recognition that without credible Palestinian performance on security, the reform agenda will founder”. Participants had welcomed “a clear and unequivocal Palestinian declaration against violence and terrorism”. They had also welcomed the continuation of talks in Cairo between Palestinian factions and “looked forward to their successful conclusion in agreement on a comprehensive ceasefire”. On constitutional reform the Palestinian side had made a commitment to draw up, by the end of January, an outline constitution, which would provide for “a Prime Minister having specified powers” and a bill of rights. On economic reform, conference participants had recognized the “exceptional work” done by the Finance and Economy Ministers and had undertaken to continue assistance towards implementation of the PA 2003 budget. They had also agreed that the transfer of Palestinian revenues by the Israeli Government was “critical”. Participants had agreed on the centrality of the Road Map and the work of the Quartet to implement it and had “recognized that Israel must also take steps to ensure that the Palestinian reform process succeeds, and avoid actions that undermine hope in a political settlement to the conflict.” The conclusions of the London meeting would be fed into the Quartet through a meeting in February, again in London, of the International Task Force on Palestinian Reform, along with a meeting of Quartet envoys. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, www.fco.gov.uk)

In an interview with Reuters, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen warned that “If the credibility gap continues to widen, there will be less and less support for the two-State solution in both societies”, adding that it was in the interest of both sides to move forward on the basis of a two-State solution. “However, if terrorism continues and settlement activity continues – it has increased 95 per cent [in terms of the number of Jewish settlers] since the signing of the Oslo accords – then the hope for the two-State solution will gradually vanish”, he said, noting that he thought “the year 2003 might be our last chance to find a solution along those lines”. The UN envoy said he hoped any new Israeli Government would support the process of reforming Palestinian political, economic and security institutions, as demanded by the Quartet. On the PA reform efforts, Mr. Rød-Larsen said progress had been “uneven”, with excellent work in the area of finance not matched by security reform. “Terrorism prevails unfortunately. Even if the capabilities are limited under Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank and partly in Gaza, it’s apparent to everybody that much more could have been done and should be done”, he noted. Egypt had been working hard to persuade all Palestinian factions to agree to a 12-month halt to violence, Mr. Rød-Larsen said, but no ceasefire could hold without “political progress springing out of implementation of the Road Map”. The Road Map, he argued, was imperfect, but was the “only available tool” in the search for Middle East peace and its implementation would have to continue “whatever happens in Iraq”, as it would be “very dangerous for the stability of the region, with possible repercussions for the global economy, to de-focus the Israeli-Palestinian issue”. (Reuters)

Human Rights Watch released its annual report, entitled “World Report 2003”, in which it criticized Israel for killing Palestinian civilians “wilfully and unlawfully” and using them as “human shields”, while some 4,500 Palestinian men and teenagers were detained and often complained about “ill treatment during arrest and interrogation”. The organization said Israel’s “excessive use of force” and ban on international organizations, including medical institutions, and journalists from entering the West Bank during its Operation Defensive Shield last spring reflected the “effective impunity enjoyed by Israeli soldiers”. Israel’s policy of “liquidations” of some 148 suspected Palestinian militants was singled out as unjustified, when arrest should have been the appropriate measure. Human Rights Watch said at least 46 civilian bystanders had also been killed in these operations, “in violation of Israel’s obligation under humanitarian law to minimize civilian casualties”. The reoccupation of the West Bank since June 2002 and frequent raids on the Gaza Strip led to hampered freedom of movement and destruction of physical infrastructure, which resulted in the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and rampant poverty. The organization also criticized the PA for failing to stop Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. It said Jewish settlers could not be considered as “legitimate military targets” and attacks against them “violated international humanitarian law”. The growing participation of teenagers in attacks and the assassinations by militant groups of alleged collaborators with Israel, whose murderers the PA should prosecute, was also criticized. As for international mediation efforts, the report noted the repeated US vetoes or abstentions on UN resolutions that called for an end to the violence. It said US policy in the region was “inconsistent” in most of 2002, reflecting divergences among the State Department, White House and Defence Department and the influence of the US-led war on terrorism. The rights group said the EU’s political role remained weak as it was “subordinated to US policy interests” and had so far been unable to articulate a common vision on ways to solve the conflict. (AFP, full text at http://www.hrw.org)

At a special session of the UN Security Council on “Children and armed conflict”, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, among other things, raised the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on children. He said Israeli-imposed security measures had closed schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, prevented health care to be delivered to Palestinian children and created a humanitarian crisis affecting the children. In this context, Mr. Otunnu called “on the Israeli authorities to abide fully by the international human rights and humanitarian legal obligations concerning the protection, rights and well being of Palestinian children”. He also said that the use of suicide bombing was “entirely unacceptable” and the fact that “children have been used as suicide bombers and children have been killed by suicide bombings” could not be justified in any way. He called “on the Palestinian authorities to do everything within their powers to stop all participation by children in this conflict”. (DPA, UN Press Release SC/7631 of 14 January 2003)

15

The IDF arrested at least 34 Palestinian activists during widespread overnight operations across the West Bank. The arrest operations concentrated on Bethlehem, where troops seized 11 “wanted” Palestinians; the Awarta village near Nablus, where another 11 were detained; and Ramallah, where they took in six suspected militants. Soldiers opened fire at Palestinians during an army raid on the Tulkarm refugee camp, killing two 16-year-old youths. Israeli military sources said one of them had thrown six improvised explosive devices at the soldiers. Palestinians said the second youth had been killed when soldiers opened fire during clashes with stone-throwing pupils on their way to school. The IDF imposed a curfew on the city and the refugee camp following the raid. In Qabatiya, south of Jenin, soldiers shot dead a 45-year-old man, said to be retarded. Military sources said the soldiers had opened fire after the man had failed to heed calls to stop. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In Hebron, the IDF closed down the Palestine Polytechnic University and Hebron University, where some 7,000 students studied, saying they were a “hotbed for terror attacks”. College officials were handed orders telling them the colleges would remain closed for 14 days. The closures prompted brief clashes when troops imposed a curfew in the area. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In the East Jerusalem district villages of Silwan, Abu Tur and Ras al-Amud, Israeli police demolished one Palestinian-owned home and sealed off three others. The homes belonged to the families of a four-member Hamas cell, who had allegedly carried out three bombings in Israeli cities, in which a total of 36 Israelis had been killed, including a bomb attack at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on 31 July 2002. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Mustafa Barghouti, President of the Palestinian NGO Network, told AFP that the security fence being built along the Green Line was planned to cut into the West Bank in various areas, “leaving at least 11 Palestinian villages on the Israeli side of the fence”. “The area between Qalqilya and Tulkarm is the most important agricultural basket in the Palestinian territories and produces 42 per cent of all fruit and vegetables in the West Bank” he said, adding that the area Israel was planning to seize represented “10 per cent of the West Bank and also include[d] the last water reservoir used for irrigation in the West Bank.” (AFP)

Asked about Israel’s closing of Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic University, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher repeated the long-standing US position that Israel had a right to defend itself and that it should consider the consequences of its actions. He also said that the Palestinian people had a right to live their lives in “as normal conditions as possible” and questioned whether Israel’s decision to close the universities would contribute to this or to Israel’s security. The issue had been “a matter of discussion with the Israeli Government”, he added, but could not provide details of those contacts. Mr. Boucher also praised the British initiative in hosting, earlier in the week, a meeting on Palestinian reform and in working to advance that objective, thus contributing to international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said the US “found the meeting positive and constructive” and believed it would “help further the cause of reform and transformation of the Palestinian community that remain so important to us all”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

In a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, the first such encounter in many months between Ministers from the two sides, PA Agriculture Minister Rafiq Al-Natsheh called on Israel to lift its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian agricultural produce. (AFP)

16

According to Palestinian security sources, the IDF bulldozed five houses in the Brazil neighbourhood of the Rafah refugee camp, near the border with Egypt; nine other houses were damaged in the process. In the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, another three houses were demolished. In the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, troops dynamited a house which belonged to Hamas militant Salah Kamal, killed a year earlier in clashes with the IDF, which had also resulted in the killing of one Israeli soldier and the wounding of three others. In the southern West Bank, near Hebron, troops destroyed the house of a militant who had blown himself up in April 2002 in Jerusalem, killing six Israelis. According to AFP, the IDF had bulldozed or dynamited some 130 houses in the West Bank since August 2002, when it launched its demolition policy, which human rights groups condemned as collective punishment. In Rafah, the IDF had been razing Palestinian houses for much longer, creating an ever-widening strip of rubble serving as a buffer zone between the first row of inhabited houses and Israeli-controlled border posts. (AFP, DPA)

IDF troops wounded and captured a Palestinian who attempted to infiltrate the southern Gaza Strip settlement of “Slav” in the “Gush Katif” block of settlements. He was found to be carrying a Kalashnikov semi-automatic assault rifle, four magazines of ammunition and fragmentation grenades. (AFP, DPA)

The IDF arrested eight wanted Palestinian activists in the West Bank overnight. (AFP)

According to The Financial Times, Britain was pushing for a substantial international force to oversee the implementation of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Despite a gloomy assessment that the chances of reviving the peace process under the current US Administration and with Mr. Sharon in office were remote, diplomats said they had at least to consider what role a force would play, either in bringing both sides together or in monitoring how an accord could be put in place. A British diplomat was quoted as saying that planning was “still in the early stages as regards size, mandate and command structure”. “We stand ready to contribute to such a force”, he added. Reportedly, support for such a force signalled a growing acceptance among some European capitals, Canada and even among sections of the US State Department that Israelis and Palestinians could no longer revive a peace process, let alone implement one, on their own, and some international involvement would be needed. (The Financial Times)

PA Labour Minister Ghassan Khatib, speaking in Ramallah, called on international donor countries to change their policies to prevent the total collapse of the Palestinian economy. Instead of food aid, money was needed for employment projects or for emergency support for businesses, the Minister said. At the same time, donor countries could exert influence on the Israeli Government “to halt the measures that are causing the economic collapse”. According to Mr. Khatib, every second Palestinian was unemployed. Military checkpoints on the streets and curfews meant that only one in four workers could get to their places of work. Almost 200,000 Palestinians had lost their jobs in Israel. Every third business in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had shut, as a result of imposed restrictions on the movement of workers, raw materials and finished products. Many businesses only opened when they had an order. Minister Khatib’s figures indicated that two in three Palestinians lived below the poverty line. “The breakdown of the economy, the falling standard of living and the growing poverty create an atmosphere that lends itself to extremism and violence”, Mr. Khatib noted. (DPA)

Speaking with reporters following Security Council consultations, the Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, Gunter Pleuger, called on the Quartet to formally adopt their Road Map for resolving the crisis and publish it as quickly as possible after the Israeli election campaign, so that the peace process could go forward. “In this context, we feel that certain permanent structures have to be created on-site during the implementation of the Road Map, and we are looking forward to making our contribution through the European Union,” Mr. Pleuger added. (Reuters)

17

A Palestinian suicide bomber was killed when an Israeli naval patrol boat fired at his small, booby-trapped boat, about four kilometres off the shore of the northern Gaza Strip settlement of “Dugit”, causing it to explode, a leaflet issued by Hamas in Gaza said. The leaflet named the bomber as Mahmoud Al-Jeemasi, an activist of Hamas’ military wing Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

One Israeli was killed and three others were wounded in a shooting attack in Hebron. Among the wounded were a father and his four-year old daughter, both of whom suffered moderate injuries. An Israeli military source said two gunmen had approached a solitary home near the “Givat Harsina” settlement, a tiny settler enclave. He said the gunmen had knocked at the door and began shooting when it opened. One of the gunmen was killed shortly after the attack and the IDF were searching for the other. Hamas claimed responsibility in an announcement to local television stations in Hebron, saying the attack had been carried out to avenge the demolition of homes, the closure on the Palestinian Occupied Territory and Israel’s policy of targeted assasinations. It also said that Hamas would continue terror attacks against the Israeli occupation. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Launching a clampdown on the financing of militant groups, the IDF had raided a Palestinian bank in East Jerusalem, Israeli Channel Two television reported, without identifying the bank and saying only that it was “small”. The raid had been personally authorized by Defence Minister Mofaz and further such raids were expected “soon”, the channel said. (AFP)

In an interview in The Washington Post, US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz said the US stake in pushing for a Palestinian State would grow after possible war with Iraq, and noted that he preferred “concrete steps, like dealing with the settlements” over the advancing of diplomatic issues as part of a “process”. (Ha’aretz, The Washington Post)

18

Shortly after midnight, in an apparently premeditated act, several groups of settlers attacked 15 Palestinian houses in Hebron near the “Lot 26” settler outpost, where an Israeli settler had been killed on 17 January. The settlers threw stones at the houses, smashing all the windows. In the early hours of the morning, the settlers launched another wave of attacks on the same houses and on other houses further away from the outpost, taking advantage of the fact that police in the area were occupied with the funeral procession. The settlers damaged ten cars, punctured water tanks and destroyed crops. Incidents were also reported in other areas of Hebron, among them settlers torching empty Palestinian administrative offices near the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi), and along the Hebron bypass road where settlers had a clear shot at Palestinian houses along the route out of sight of police and army posts. Settlers also attacked foreign and Israeli journalists, breaking a foreign crew’s equipment and beating an Israeli crew. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Sharon said in an interview with Newsweek that he was “ready, if they [Palestinians] have taken steps against terror, to recognize a fully demilitarized Palestinian State without final borders – having only police equipped with light weapons.” “Israel will control the external borders and will have the right to fly over the territory,” Mr. Sharon explained, adding: “Now we come to phase three: if there’s no terror whatsoever, then we will have to decide about the final borders.” However, he dismissed diplomatic efforts by the Quartet, saying: “Oh, the Quartet is nothing! Don’t take it seriously! There is [another] plan that will work.” Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat later told AFP that “what Sharon is proposing is not a plan but a renaming of the occupation.” “Sharon announced today Israel’s official rejection of the Road Map and put it in his file next to Mitchell and Tenet,” Mr. Erakat noted. (AFP, Ha’aretz, http://stacks.msnbc.com/ news/861148.asp)

19

The Prime Minister’s Office clarified Mr. Sharon’s remarks published the previous day saying: “Within the forum known as the Quartet, which includes the US, UN, EU and Russia, Israel and the US see eye to eye on the suitable interpretation of and the appropriate methods for implementing President Bush’s speech, in contrast to the position of the other Quartet members. The State of Israel’s view is that the US and Israeli vision are the only actual understandings which are likely to result in peace in the Middle East.” The Prime Minister’s advisor Ra’anan Gissin said Mr. Sharon believed the Quartet’s plan was “not realistic... There is nothing in that programme that can be implemented.” (AFP, Ha’aretz, www.pmo.gov.il)

Petra news agency reported that King Abdullah II of Jordan had had talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov and that both had “insisted on the need to announce the Road Map after the Israeli elections so that we can start implementing its points and pave the way for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.” (AFP)

A 20-year-old Palestinian, Amar Aliyan, seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head during clashes with Israeli troops in Khan Yunis several days earlier, died from his wounds. (AFP)

Speaking at a Likud rally in Ashkelon, Prime Minister Sharon ruled out handing over the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in Hebron, as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. (Ha’aretz)

The Vatican criticized Israel for its failure to respect a diplomatic passport and described airport security checks on Jerusalem Patriarch Michel Sabbah as “excessive and unjustified.” The Holy See newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said Patriarch Sabbah, a Palestinian, had opted not to travel to Rome for a meeting of world faiths sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue as scheduled on 17 January, because he considered security checks at Tel Aviv airport to be excessive. (AFP)

20

Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, commenting on Prime Minister Sharon’s remarks concerning the Quartet and the Road Map, said: “The line followed by the Quartet is the line followed by the EU. If the Quartet is balanced so too is the European Union.” EU Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the Quartet remained “a very useful tool in trying to find a way out of the current situation and the fruitless killing that continues”, and the delay in publishing the Road Map did not mean it had been abandoned. “We still need a plan that takes us from aspiration to have a two-State solution within three years to ... reality,” she told a daily news briefing. “The Quartet is the forum in which this is being worked out on the international community side, and we stand by that.” “The support that we give to the Palestinian Authority is designed to enhance Israel’s security rather than the reverse,” Ms. Udwin noted, adding: “And we deny that we are in any sense unbalanced or that we fail to understand the situation.” (AFP, Reuters)

Israel Radio reported that East Jerusalem taxi drivers were being told to check the work permits of their passengers, but drivers said they were unable to do it. A Border Police spokesman said in response that they had the authority to confiscate any vehicle for a 30-day period, as a punishment for transporting illegal workers, and to impose fines, unless the vehicle was owned by either “Dan” or “Egged,” the Israeli companies. (Ha’aretz)

A large number of IDF troops surrounded Al-Quds University in Ramallah and ordered employees and students to gather in one lecture hall before searching the building. There were no reports of any arrests. The IDF also conducted extensive searches in Ramallah’s Masbah neighbourhood. The IDF had no immediate comment on these reports. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF demolished the Hebron house of Mohammed Jamil Al-Shweik and his son Taysir, both members of Islamic Jihad. The two men had been arrested for involvement in planning anti-Israeli attacks, the IDF said. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Residents of the Nazlat Issa village near Tulkarm said the IDF had notified the owners of 21 stores that their establishments, located on or near the Green Line, would be demolished to make room for building the new security fence. In a statement received by AFP, The International Solidarity Movement said it opposed the demolitions and would seek to prevent them. A spokesman for the group said another 30 Palestinians had been informed their businesses, located in the same area, would be destroyed within two weeks. (AFP, DPA)

The Palestinian leadership released a statement in Ramallah, marking the day when Palestinians had originally planned to elect a new president and parliament. “Rather than greeting democratic elections, Israel is fighting with hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers for the return of occupation,” said the statement, calling also on the international community to help the Palestinians in realizing their right to elect their leader and representatives in freedom. In an interview to CNN at his Ramallh headquarters, Chairman Arafat said, inter alia, that he would like to hold a vote as soon as possible, but it would require the withdrawal of Israeli troops. He also said he was eager for new leaders to arise and was encouraging new talent in his Fatah movement. (AFP, DPA)

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, after attending a high-level meeting of the Security Council on combating terrorism, Secretary of State Powell said the US was “fully supportive of the Quartet, which [it] helped create” and had “worked very hard to develop a Road Map that we believe will give us a way forward and will lead us on to a path that will result ultimately in the creation of a Palestinian State”. “We look forward to moving ahead with our efforts when the Israeli election is over”, he noted, adding that he thought there would be “an opportunity to put new energy into the peace process and to do something about the terrible situation that is affecting both people, both the Palestinians and the Israelis”. (AFP, Reuters)

Reuters and Al-Ayyam reported that, according to the Palestinian draft constitution, the future Palestinian State would be a democracy led by a directly-elected President who would serve a maximum of two five-year terms. The President would head the executive but would name a Prime Minister to run the Government and oversee security forces. Palestine would have East Jerusalem as its capital, live in peace with its neighbours, including Israel, and have Islam as its official religion but with freedom of worship for non-Muslims. The constitution would guarantee freedom of speech, accountability, transparency and separation of powers. According to the draft, Palestinians who fled or were driven out of their homeland in 1948 had the right to return, as stipulated by the UN General Assembly. Palestinians displaced both in 1948 and in 1967 should be entitled to compensation for lost property. The draft did not determine the final borders of the Palestinian State, and the status of Jerusalem and its religious shrines, but suggested three options: no mention of borders; declaring the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to be a single geographical unit; or saying that future borders should be based on UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967). The draft constitution included 175 articles and had been compiled by a committee headed by PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath. Once approved by the PLO organs, the draft would be put to a vote in a referendum. (AFP, Reuters)

21

Israeli troops fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the Palestinian village of Nazlat Issa, near Tulkarm and on the border with Israel, as bulldozers demolished several stores. Dozens of protesters, including Israeli and international human rights activists, were forced back after they threw stones at the troops. US citizen Jonathan Elsberg said he had been hit in the leg by a tear gas canister and temporarily detained by the army. The IDF said some 28 small shops had been torn down because they had been built without permits. A B’Tselem representative said that the number of shops demolished was between 40 and 50. An unspecified number of additional owners had been notified of the impending demolition of their businesses, according to an IDF spokeswoman quoted by AFP. The shops were part of a market containing 200 stores, all of which were under threat, Palestinian officials said. The shops were reportedly the main source of living for the villagers, who depended on Arab Israeli and Jewish customers coming from Israel to do their shopping due to cheaper prices. “Israel is again destroying the Palestinian economy. It is a starvation policy”, said Ziad Salem, head of the Nazlat Issa municipal council, who was also quoted as saying that the demolitions were linked to the construction of Israel’s security fence three kilometres away, as Israel wanted to clear the area. Nazlat Issa and other neighbouring Palestinian villages had already lost land because of the construction of the fence. Israeli officials denied the demolitions had anything to do with the construction of the security fence. B’Tselem had earlier urged Defence Minister Mofaz to stop the demolitions, saying they would violate the human rights of hundreds of residents and international law. The group said it had received no reply. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The IDF blew up the family home of Fatah militant Issa Salem Darabyyeh in the village of Dura, near Hebron. In overnight operations, Israeli troops arrested 13 Palestinians, 10 of them on Israel’s wanted list. Most were members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One of the Hamas men arrested was Sheikh Skakar Amara, 42, the head of the group in the Jericho area. The IDF reimposed a curfew on Ramallah and launched a search for two Palestinians believed to have escaped from the Ofer military detention base nearby. The IDF had also arrested the wife of wanted Hamas militant Falah Nada near Ramallah, Palestinian security sources told AFP. According to the Palestinian rights’ group Addameer, 54 Palestinian women were being detained by Israel. (AFP, DPA)

PA Minister Shaath announced that the Palestinian draft constitution would be finalized within two weeks, noting that it would be “based on the separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive and the legislative,” while adding that the executive would be shared between “the President of the Palestinian republic, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.” Mr. Shaath also said the “model closest [to the Palestinian constitution] would be the French one, in that it will be a parliamentary, presidential, democratic system.” As for the borders of the future Palestinian State, Mr. Shaath said several options would be outlined in the final draft for the PLO to review. One of them would be the establishment of a Palestinian State within the June 1967 borders or the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, which he said was “accepted by most Palestinian factions, even Hamas.” (AFP)

Israeli police allegedly beat two Palestinian photographers from the AFP and the AP, as they tried to take pictures of policemen driving with two Palestinian youths strapped to the front of their jeep in Nablus. The photographers said the policemen had threatened to kill them if the photos were published. A spokesman for the Israeli army said that the incident would be investigated. French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau later said in Paris that the French Government was “troubled” by the alleged beating, as “France attache[d] great importance to freedom of the press”. (AFP, DPA)

22

The IDF arrested 18 Palestinians overnight in the West Bank and blew up what Israel said were two explosives laboratories near Bethlehem. Israel Radio reported that one of the alleged laboratories, in the Dheisheh refugee camp, contained mortar rounds and dozens of kilogrammes of fertilizer, used in the preparation of bombs, as well as hunting rifles and bullets. The family, which owned the house where the laboratory was located denied the Israeli claims. In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers demolished a house in the village of Yatta, south of Hebron. The house belonged to the family of Mohammad Nagjar, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who had been arrested a month earlier. An IDF spokesman said in a statement that Mr. Nagjar was responsible for “five anti-Israeli attacks in the Yatta area.” Residents said 16 family members had lived in the one-storey house and were now homeless. In the northern West Bank, hospital officials said two Palestinians had died overnight from wounds sustained in previous clashes with the IDF. One fatality was a 14-year-old boy, wounded during an Israeli army raid on the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus, two weeks earlier. The other was a 20-year-old man who had been injured in April 2002, during the Israeli army offensive in the Jenin refugee camp. Israeli roadblocks had prevented staff from transferring him to a hospital in Jerusalem after his condition had deteriorated and he had died in the Jenin hospital of complications, the hospital officials said. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

The IDF had arrested the wife of Ahmed Sa’adat, leader of the PFLP, the group and human rights activists reported. They said Abla Sa’adat had been detained at the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan, from where she was to travel to Brazil for a conference. Israeli officials declined to comment on the report. (AFP, Reuters)

23

UK envoy Lord Michael Levy (Labour) met in Ramallah with Palestinian delegates, as a follow-up to the talks on PA reform held in London on 14 January 2003. According to Army Radio, Israel criticized the UK for failing to coordinate the visit with it or arrange meetings with Israeli leaders. In response to the criticism, British leaders said Lord Levy was meeting only Palestinians because the purpose of his visit was to discuss reforming the PA. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The IDF raided the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis and arrested a total of 13 Palestinians, two of them accused of firing mortar bombs and home-made rockets on neighbouring settlements and army positions. Amongst the detained Palestinians were members of Hamas and the PFLP, according to an IDF spokesman. During the operation by a border guard commando unit, Palestinian militants fired shots and grenades at the Israeli forces, causing no injuries. (AFP)

Israeli troops disguised as Palestinians raided a pool hall in Tulkarm and arrested 10 people in a brief shootout. Among those detained was Hani Abu Lemun, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. No casualties were reported in the shooting. (AFP)

Spokeswoman for the Israeli civil administration in the occupied West Bank Talia Somech said demolition orders had been issued for 53 constructions in Nazlat Issa, where the IDF had razed at least 28 buildings on 21 January. “We’ve given out a total of 81 notices, including the 28 already carried out,” Ms. Somech told AFP, noting that all constructions had been built without permission in areas under Israeli administration. The Mayor of Nazlat Issa, Ziad Salem, told AFP the army had served notices on another 110 shops and 12 houses to be destroyed. The Palestinians said that 62 shops built on 28 lots had been demolished, destroying businesses that had been part of a thriving market close to Tulkarm. Mr. Salem said hundreds more families would be affected by the planned demolitions. (AFP)

Six houses and a small municipal building were destroyed by IDF bulldozers in the villages of Za’tara and Beit Ta’mir, east of Bethlehem, Palestinian security sources said, adding that the owners had not obtained the necessary construction permits from Israel. Clashes broke out between the army and house owners, leaving three Palestinians moderately injured, when soldiers answered stone throwing with teargas and plastic bullets, according to Palestinian medical sources. The houses were located next to a bypass road used by settlers. Thirty more houses had been earmarked for destruction, the sources said. The IDF did not immediately confirm. (AFP)

Late in the day, Palestinian gunmen killed three Israeli soldiers at the “Kvasim” junction, just south of Hebron, near the “Beit Hagai” settlement. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, both claimed responsibility for the ambush. (AFP, Reuters)

24

Hours after the killing of three Israeli soldiers near Hebron, Israeli tanks and troops backed by helicopter gunships struck in the Gaza Strip. In Gaza City’s Zaytoun area, helicopter missiles destroyed a metal foundry and damaged a nearby mosque. The Israeli army indicated that the destroyed foundry had been used to make munitions for Palestinian militants. Four people were reported wounded. One of the missiles struck the Anglican chapel of St. Philip’s, in a compound also housing a hospital founded by the UK Church Mission Society. Bishop Riah Abu El Assal of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem told Reuters the chapel windows had been blown out and part of the roof had caved in. Initially no casualties were reported but it was later made known that a Palestinian woman, Fatma Al-Mashharawi, in her 30s, a patient at the hospital, had died of a heart attack during the Israeli missile strike. Israeli Brigadier-General Tzvika Fogel said helicopters had fired five missiles at a suspected Palestinian weapons factory but two of the missiles had malfunctioned and one had landed “in the vicinity” of St. Philip’s. He said he had no information on the reported death. IDF engineers also dynamited the Zaytoun family home of a Palestinian militant killed in an air strike the previous year. Local gunmen clashed with troops but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Separately, in the southern Gaza Strip, IDF forces carried out an incursion into the Rafah refugee camp, on the border with Egypt. According to Palestinian witnesses and security sources Israeli troops with tanks demolished several Rafah homes that did not belong to militants. The army said the structures concealed a cross-border smuggling tunnel. (AFP, Reuters)

Shortly after the Israeli air raid on Gaza City, and in retaliation for it, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades fired home-made rockets across the Israeli border from the northern Gaza Strip. One of them landed in the yard of a house in the Israeli town of Sderot, in the Negev desert, while another fell just south of the city of Ashkelon. Only material damage was reported. In response, the IDF staged an incursion into the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, from where such rockets were often fired. Eight Palestinians were wounded in the raid, two of them seriously. Defence Minister Mofaz, speaking on Israeli public radio, said the IDF operations under way would “shake up the sector from where rockets were fired and [would] hit the terrorist infrastructure”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Two Palestinian militants, including one woman, were killed by Israeli troops guarding the settlement of “Shavei Shomron”, near Nablus. An IDF statement said soldiers near the settlement had spotted four “suspicious people”. They called on them to stop and raise their hands, when one of them opened fire at the soldiers. In the ensuing exchange of fire two Palestinians were killed, a third was wounded, while the fourth escaped. Grenades and an explosive charge found on the Palestinians indicated they were planning to attack the settlers or the troops stationed there, according to the IDF. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was in an “alarming” state, characterized by sewage pollution and misuse and waste of water resources, and worsened by the effects of the Israeli crackdown, a report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said. “Among other factors, the occupation, the policies of closure and curfew and incursions of the Israeli military have had significant negative environmental impacts”, according to the report. The findings, it warned, were “alarming, and need[ed] to be addressed immediately”. Quoting from a group of donors that included the European Commission, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme, the report estimated that “direct damage to water supply and sewerage infrastructure from actions of the Israeli military in the West Bank Governorates between March and May 2002 amount[ed] to about seven million dollars”, not including “recently reported substantial damage to local water supply facilities such as cisterns, roof tanks and springs”. It warned that conflict-related damage to the environment added to the region’s already well-known ecological problems, which included land scarcity, a fast-rising population and the impact of global phenomena such as desertification and climate change. The report noted that most formal environmental cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians had effectively been suspended since the beginning of the intifada, although the Joint Water Committee continued to meet. UNEP officials had gone to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel from 15-22 August 2002, for a preparatory visit, and from 1-11 October 2002, when the fact-finding mission was carried out. The study had been carried out with full cooperation from the PA and the Israeli Government, said former Finnish Environment Minister Pekka Haavisto, who chaired a panel of eight experts that drew up the document. It was to be handed to a ministerial-level meeting of UNEP in Nairobi in February 2003. (AFP, www.unep.org)

It was reported that on several occasions over the past few months Israeli border police had stopped Palestinians in Hebron and forced them to choose one from among several small pieces of paper placed in a box, all of which had a punishment written on them. This “lottery”, as Palestinians had come to refer to it, had resulted in the breaking of a finger of a 14-year-old stopped while out shopping and the beating of a night watchman at one of Hebron’s stone quarries. Also recently in Hebron one person had reportedly been beaten to death and three riding in a car had been stopped, made to stand hands up against a wall for five hours, beaten and robbed of their money before being released. An IDF spokeswoman told AFP an investigation had been opened into the death of Omran Abu Hamdiyeh, 18, who had reportedly been picked up by an Israeli border police jeep on 30 December 2002 and later found with serious head wounds and taken to a hospital where he died. As for other cases of beatings, including those under the “lottery” system, she said the IDF had “failed to find substantial evidence that would justify opening an investigation”. Palestinian lawyer Azem Bishara told AFP such cases had close to no chance of ever being investigated, as “soldiers protect one another and often claim they were acting in legitimate defence”. Ronen Shnayderman of B’Tselem said “eight cases of severe beating by soldiers or border policemen have been recently documented”. “Reports say Palestinians are often taken to Hebron’s industrial area, preferably in the evening, and beaten there”, he added, noting that medical reports showed that several men were found with cracks in their skulls and ribs. “Hebron is a unique case in that the settlements are inside the city, which means that soldiers and border policemen live in the midst of the Palestinian population”, he explained, adding that Palestinians believed the army and border police had become harsher since the November 2002 killing of several of them by Palestinian gunmen and they were thus “trying to avenge their dead colleagues”. (AFP)

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad acknowledged international criticism of the handling of PA finances in the past but also outlined efforts made to introduce a new system that would guarantee financial transparency and accountability. He said the new Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), established in August 2002, would report the full size of its assets and investments on 22 February 2003. “The Fund and its strict operating regulations constitute a major milestone in the financial reform process”, Minister Fayyad said, adding that the PA had “agreed to adhere to, and [was] already implementing, the highest levels of international accounting and transparency standards”. Following its 22 February report the PIF would continue to report each and every month “line by line” on the PA’s financial position, he said. With reference to accusations of earlier mismanagement he noted that the PA had only been set up in the mid-1990s with people who did not have much experience in government and were operating under the “difficult conditions” posed by the conflict with Israel. He said that perhaps the “proudest achievement” had been that the PA had now submitted draft budget legislation for everyone to see, a further step towards achieving more transparency and financial reform. Mr. Fayyad said the PA would still need international donor support at least for the current year and thanked Arab countries and the EU for their financial assistance, particularly during the past two years. (DPA)

Palestinians jailed by Israel would go on an one-day hunger strike to protest against the placement of imprisoned West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in solitary confinement, Issa Al-Qaraqa, head of the Bethlehem-based organization called Nadi al-Asir, or “Prisoners Club”, told AFP. One of Mr. Barghouti’s lawyers charged that his client’s life was threatened in the Beersheva prison, which he said was known for its harsh detention conditions. Nadi al-Asir put the number of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons or military camps at 8,000, but military sources said there were only 5,200. (AFP)

Since the beginning of the intifada, 2,010 Palestinians had been killed as a result of the conflict and more than 21,500 had been injured, 5,058 of them by live ammunition and the remainder by rubber or plastic bullets and tear gas, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Of the 724 Israelis killed, 218 were soldiers and security forces and the rest were civilians, official IDF statistics said. 5,055 Israelis had been injured. The Palestinian Red Crescent figure counted all intifada-related deaths, including those of suicide bombers and of suspected Palestinian collaborators killed by Palestinian militants. (DPA)

After several days of delay, talks opened in Cairo between a broad spectrum of Palestinian groups on an Egyptian proposal to halt attacks on Israel for a year. (Reuters)

Enforcing strict travel restrictions imposed recently, Israeli forces had blocked hundreds of Palestinians from making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Palestinian security officials said they had been informed by Israeli counterparts that at least 1,400 Palestinians had been denied permits to leave the Gaza Strip and the West Bank this year. “A thousand of those are families of martyrs killed by Israel and the rest Israel said were barred for unclear security reasons”, a Palestinian security official told Reuters. Israeli officials were unavailable for immediate comment. In a statement, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemned the reported Israeli ban as “collective punishment” against Palestinian civilians. About 5,500 Palestinians were scheduled to leave the Gaza Strip for Mecca in groups within eight days, but at least 800 of them had fallen victim to the new ban so far, the group said. “The blockage of pilgrims is a flagrant violation of the right of people to free religion and free belief, especially of the right to worshipping and practising religious rituals”, a statement issued by the Centre said. (Reuters)

25

Israeli troops targeting small weapons factories moved deep into Gaza City late in the day, killing at least 12 Palestinians, more than half of them gunmen, in exchanges of fire, and wounding 67 more, 12 critically. The Gaza City raid came in response to the firing of Qassam rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot, in the southern Negev Desert near Gaza, the previous day. The IDF said it had targeted workshops that produced the Qassam rockets. The incursion began with columns of tanks driving into Gaza City from three directions. Tanks stopped only about 300 yards from Palestine Square, which marks the centre of the city. Helicopter gunships fired machine guns at buildings and at crowds in the streets, including gunmen, witnesses and security officials said. Israeli forces also blew up two three-storey houses of Hamas militants involved in attacks on Israelis. A missile fired by an Israeli helicopter set a fire in an industrial area in eastern Gaza City, which destroyed dozens of shops. The IDF said about 100 lathes had been destroyed and several rockets and anti-tank missiles had been discovered. Human rights groups said, however, that houses, shops and market stalls had also been destroyed in the raid. (AFP, AP, DPA, Financial Times, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

26

After the IDF pulled out of Gaza City (see above), four more rockets were fired at Sderot and the surrounding area but there were no reports of casualties or damage. Defence Minister Mofaz said that for now his aim was to stop the firing of rockets at Israeli towns but he was not ruling out reoccupying all of Gaza Strip. “We need to keep all our options open, including the option of taking over the Strip,” Mr. Mofaz told Israel Radio. During the period of the rocket attacks, the IDF had also destroyed four bridges in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, from where the rockets were said to have been fired into Israel. (AFP, AP, DPA, Financial Times, Ha’aretz)

Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that the PA would call for a session of the UN Security Council to discuss what he called “the ongoing massacres by the Israeli occupation army in the West Bank and Gaza”, calling the IDF actions a serious escalation, for which the PA was holding the Israeli Government responsible. Mr. Rudeineh also accused Israel of escalating the military campaign in the Gaza Strip as a “publicity stunt” ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections. (AFP, DPA)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General deplores the ominous escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip over the past few days. He is concerned by Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip that place Palestinian civilians in harm’s way, and deeply regrets the loss of life and injury resulting from Saturday night’s Israeli incursion into Gaza City, which left approximately twelve dead and scores wounded. He is concerned by the preceding rocket attacks against Israel launched from the Gaza Strip on Friday, and a similar attack earlier today, and believes that they are counterproductive to peace efforts such as the Palestinian ceasefire talks under way in Cairo.

The Secretary-General calls on both sides to act with restraint, in keeping with their obligations under international humanitarian law. He urges them to take steps to break the cycle of violence that has claimed so many Israeli and Palestinian lives in recent years. He remains convinced that the only way forward is a process that addresses political, security and economic issues in parallel, as set forth in the Quartet’s Road Map.
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8588 of 26 January 2003)

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Powell repeated the US call for a new Palestinian leadership and said Israel must contribute to peace by doing “more to deal with the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people” and “understand that a Palestinian State must be a real State, not a phoney State that’s diced into a thousand different pieces.” “Israel will also be required to build trust by easing the economic plight of ordinary Palestinians and by putting an end to settlement construction,” he added. (Reuters)

In a statement, the Arab League condemned Israel for its incursion into Gaza, saying it was an electioneering move ahead of the 28 January Israeli vote. (Reuters)

Israel imposed a total closure on the Occupied Palestinian Territory until the morning of 29 January, the day after the Israeli elections, to prevent Palestinian militants from sabotaging the elections. Key border crossings between the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Jordan and Egypt were also sealed off. (AP, AFP)

A 8-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and his 5-year-old brother seriously wounded by IDF fire, as they were playing in front of their house in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip. In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers stationed at the border between Rafah and Egypt opened fire and killed a 50-year old Palestinian father of six. According to medical sources, the man was killed while standing on the roof of his house in the Tal Zorob neighbourhood, apparently hit by fragments from tank shells. (AFP, DPA)

An Israeli intelligence officer was dismissed from his post because he had obstructed a retaliatory air strike in the West Bank, Ma’ariv reported. The officer said he had acted to prevent a bombing raid that could have caused the death of innocent civilians. He possessed information, which was critical for an air strike that the IDF had planned to carry out in retaliation for a deadly suicide bombing, but he had not passed it on. As a result, the strike on a PA target in the West Bank and several secondary targets in the Gaza Strip had not been carried out. The officer, who served in an intelligence unit, was brought to trial, dismissed from his post and transferred to an administrative job. According to Ma’ariv, the incident caused the IDF’s Intelligence Corps to call for the first time a meeting to discuss the question of how to deal with orders perceived as illegal or immoral. (DPA, Reuters)

27

The EU Foreign Ministers, in a statement issued in Brussels, voiced “grave concern” at the Israeli military operations in Gaza and told both Israelis and Palestinians that “terror and violence must end”. “The only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the two parties to drive the peace process forward,” noted the statement, which also called for a speeding up of Palestinian reforms. (AFP)

The Israeli Defence Ministry announced in a statement that work had begun on a new stretch of the security fence. The Gilboa fence would stretch 45 km from the Arab Israeli town of Kfar Salem in the northwest corner of the West Bank to Beit Shean in the northeast, the Ministry said, adding that the works were expected to be completed by 1 November 2003. The part of the fence already started by Gilboa region residents in December 2002 would be connected to the new fence, the Ministry said. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The IDF extended the closure of two universities in Hebron, which it had ordered closed on 15 January, as part of reprisals for a series of Palestinian attacks in the region. Campus officials said the IDF had ordered Hebron University, with 4,200 students, to be closed for another six months, while the city’s Palestine Polytechnic University, with 2,500 students, would be closed for another three weeks, a period which could be renewed. The Polytechnic appealed the decision to the Israeli authorities. (AFP)

A 17-year-old Palestinian youth was killed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, when an explosive device went off as he was following a funeral procession for the previous day’s casualties. Palestinian security sources said they would investigate the matter to establish who had planted the device. (AFP)

Israeli border police had shot dead two Palestinians late in the day, as they tried to infiltrate the “Atzmona” settlement, in the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. During the exchange of fire, two mortar shells were fired at the Israeli troops but caused no injuries. (DPA)

28

Talks among Palestinian factions on a ceasefire with Israel ended in Cairo without result. Participants, representing some 12 Palestinian groups, left without issuing a statement, but agreed to resume discussions in February. During the talks, Fatah had reportedly favoured a ceasefire, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad had rejected an unconditional halt, asking for Egypt to first secure Israel’s guarantees it would cease operations against Palestinians. “It is inappropriate to give Israel a free gift while it is involved in such a wide-scale offensive against our people”, Islamic Jihad representative Ziyad Nikhla told AP. “There could be no agreement on any truce or halting of operations”, said Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, adding that the factions had also failed to agree on another major issue on their agenda, setting up a new, unified Palestinian leadership to work out “a strategy for the struggle against Israel”. Both Messrs Nikhla and Hamdan said their factions had told their Egyptian hosts the time was not ripe for a ceasefire, referring to the Israeli elections and the possibility of a US war on Iraq. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

An explosion severely damaged a two-storey house and another home in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood, on the outskirts of Gaza City, and killed a 21-year-old bodyguard of senior Hamas official Ismail Abu Shanab, as well as a 15-year-old girl and her 17-year-old brother, reportedly children of Hamas militant Mohammed Salameh. Eleven Palestinians were wounded in the explosion, three of them seriously. Palestinians blamed it on an Israeli helicopter strike, while the IDF said a Palestinian-made bomb had exploded prematurely. In the West Bank, an exchange of fire erupted in the streets of Jenin, as about 20 Israeli tanks and jeeps entered the city to arrest wanted militants. One Palestinian militant, Rashad Arabi, was killed by Israeli troops and another Palestinian, who had thrown stones earlier, was shot and killed as he approached the body, Palestinian witnesses said. The IDF said troops on a “routine operation” had been fired at by two armed men and then returned fire. About five minutes after Mr. Arabi was shot, AFP photographer Saif Dahlah, 30, approached the body to take pictures and was shot twice in the leg. Mr. Dahlah, who was wearing a bulletproof vest with “Press” written on it, had to undergo surgery at a local hospital. He said the tank was around five metres from him when the soldier opened fire, although there was no shooting at the time to provoke the attack. Army spokesman Capt. Sharon Feingold said soldiers had only shot at armed men in the area and Mr. Dahlah might have been hit by bullet fragments. Two more armed Palestinians were later killed by Israeli gunfire in Jenin’s Old City. Palestinian officials said two boys, aged 13 and 11, had been wounded by Israeli sniper fire in the Jenin refugee camp. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

Following talks in Moscow with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Abdelouahed Belkeziz, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said: “The international community must not weaken attention to the Middle East settlement, primarily in the Palestinian-Israeli aspect”. ITAR-TASS also quoted the Minister as saying that “Russia thinks it extremely important to hold an urgent meeting of the international Quartet and to present the Road Map of the step-by-step Palestinian-Israeli settlement”. (DPA)

Some 10,000 Palestinian Muslims would be allowed to make the annual hajj to Mecca in February, the Israeli Defence Ministry announced. The Ministry said in a statement that a number of Palestinians had already started leaving via the Israeli-controlled borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and the West Bank and Jordan. However, Palestinian officials said some 300 would-be pilgrims had been prevented from crossing the Rafah crossing point into Egypt the previous week, adding that Israel had given them a list of 838 Palestinians who would not be allowed to leave for security reasons. (AFP)

29

President Bush called Prime Minister Sharon to congratulate him on his electoral victory. They had discussed “the importance of working for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, recognizing Israel’s ongoing and vital security needs, as well as the importance of the creation of a Palestinian State that can live side by side with Israel,'” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. (AFP, Reuters)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said that the aim of the EU was “not going to be changed because of the results of the [Israeli] elections,” reiterating the EU’s backing for the Road Map to create a Palestinian State by 2005. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat, in an interview on Israeli television, said he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, pointing out that he had made such proposals repeatedly, to no affect. Mr. Sharon’s spokesman Avi Pazner immediately rejected the offer. “For Israel, Arafat is out of the game and what he says does not count,” Mr. Pazner told AFP. (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF was planning to set up a military buffer zone around Tulkarm, according to army documents received by the city’s Governor Ezzedin Al-Sharif. The documents, signed by Major-General Moshe Kaplinski, GOC Central Command, included a detailed map of the planned zone and gave notice for Palestinian land owners affected by the measure to apply for compensation. “This measure was decided for military reasons and on the basis of the current security situation in the region and the resulting measures which need to be taken to prevent terrorist attacks,” said the document, specifying that the new military zone would have a length of 10 km and a width of 24 m, but did not specify what form it would take. The new zone would literally isolate Tulkarm, between the construction of the new Israeli security fence to the west and the new buffer area to the east. (AFP)

An Israeli man and his son were wounded in a shooting attack near the settlement of “Beit El” and south of the “Ofra” settlement, in the West Bank. The son, 8, was reported to be seriously wounded, while the father was wounded moderately. The two were in a car when Palestinian gunmen fired at them. The PFLP later claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

A Palestinian who had been critically injured in the IDF’s incursion into Gaza City on 25 January died from his wounds in the city’s Shifa hospital. This death brought the toll from the raid to 13. (AFP)

A Palestinian teenager was killed by heavy machine-gun fire from an Israeli tank in the Jabalia refugee camp, just north of Gaza City, according to Palestinian officials. The youth was hit in the head as army bulldozers were levelling land east of Jabalia. The IDF denied it had killed the teenager and said it had no tanks operating in the Jabalia area at that time. Palestinian officials said Israeli bulldozers and tanks had flattened around 30 hectares of orchards and farmland near Jabalia, which Israelis suspected had been used by Palestinian militants to fire Qassam rockets into southern Israel on 24 January. (AFP)

30

Israeli troops with tanks and bulldozers swept into Hebron early in the day and imposed a curfew on the residents before beginning house-to-house searches, storming PA offices and blocking major roads. Israeli public radio said the Hebron operation, which could last several days, was in response to a series of attacks in the Hebron and surrounding areas that had killed 22 soldiers and settlers in recent weeks. Security officials said five Palestinians had been detained in Hebron and surrounding villages, as some 20 armoured vehicles had deployed in the centre of the city. Palestinian officials said the troops had also shut down one television and two radio stations. In Tulkarm, two Palestinian were killed in a shootout with an undercover Israeli unit trying to arrest wanted militants. The IDF said the troops had tried to take the two into custody but opened fire when they tried to flee. One of the dead was identified as a 32-year-old member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The other could not be identified, as his body had been seized by the Israelis. Fifteen people had also been captured during the operation. In the northern West Bank village of Tammun, north-east of Nablus, 20 Palestinians had been wounded during an Israeli incursion, Mayor Bashar Bani Ouda said, but none seriously. In the Gaza Strip, two Palestinian were hurt, one seriously, when an Israeli tank opened fire on their car. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The final official results of the 28 January Israeli election, including ballots cast in garrisons, embassies, hospitals and prisons, produced the following breakdown of seats in the new Knesset (in brackets the figures for the same parties in the 1999 parliamentary elections): Likud 38 (19), Labour 19 (25), Shinui 15 (6), Shas 11 (17), Meretz 6 (10), National Union 7 (7), National Religious Party 6 (5), United Torah Judaism 5 (5), Am Ehad 3 (2), Yisrael B’Aliyah 2 (4), Arab parties 8 (10). (AFP, Arutz-7 at www.israelnationalnews.com)

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Israeli troops, searching for militants in Jenin, killed senior Hamas operative Iyad Abu Lel, 23, in an exchange of fire around the city’s fire station. A bystander, a fireman, was also killed, according to the IDF by the shooting militant but according to Palestinian witnesses by Israeli fire. In Hebron, army engineers blew up two houses, one belonging to Mahmoud Amer, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades convicted of shooting to death an Israeli baby in Hebron in March 2001, and the other to Rifaat Al-Jurdi, a Hamas member killed a year ago by a bomb he was carrying. More than 15 of the militants’ relatives were left homeless. Throughout the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested seven suspected militants. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian security sources said 10 Palestinians, eight of them aged between 10 and 15 and two aged 21 and 27, had been wounded, two of them seriously, by an Israeli tank shell, which had struck near Beit Hanoun, east of Gaza City. An IDF spokeswoman said an Israeli tank crew had spotted the Palestinians preparing to fire a home-made rocket across the border into southern Israel and had opened fire, hitting the group. (AFP)

The US was seeking a further six-week delay in issuing the Road Map for peace in the Middle East, in order to give Israel time to form a coalition Government, The Washington Post reported. The delay was needed because the make-up of the new Government would help determine its response to the plan, US officials told the daily. (AFP)

Palestinian sources reported that IDF tanks stationed close to the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip had fired a number of “flechette” munitions at a soccer field in the eastern section of the camp. Children and adults had been playing there at the time and nine Palestinians had been injured. The IDF Spokesman’s Office confirmed the use of the “flechette” munitions, noting that the shells had been fired into an open area and not at a residential district. The Spokesman’s Office added that IDF forces had “spotted a cell of three terrorists who were planning to launch Qassam rockets at Israeli territory.” According to the Palestinians, the “flechette” munitions were outlawed by the Geneva Convention but the IDF said its legal interpretation allowed for their use under certain circumstances. (Ha’aretz)

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