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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 2002
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



December 2002

1

An Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at a car carrying an Islamic Jihad commander and two other members of the group between the town of Beit Lahya and the Jabalia refugee camp, injuring one of them and three bystanders. (Reuters)

2

Israeli troops backed by two tanks and two armoured vehicles opened fire on Palestinians shopping for food ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday in a crowded market in Jenin, killing a Palestinian teenager and wounding 16 people. IDF sources said troops were sent to enforce a curfew and returned fire after armed men shot at them, and that soldiers shot dead a youth who climbed onto an armoured vehicle, being “worried he was carrying a bomb or had an explosive belt.” Witnesses said gunmen fired only after the Israelis opened fire first killing the 15-year-old and wounding many in the initial round of fire, which sent shoppers running for cover. They said the teenager had been shot dead while working at his family's cigarette stand. (Reuters)

The IDF said it had killed a Palestinian gunman posing as an Israeli soldier who had attacked an IDF post near the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was avenging Israel’s failed attempt to assassinate one of its field commanders in a helicopter gunship attack the previous day. A senior Israeli military commander said the gunman, dressed in an Israeli army uniform and armed with an assault rifle and grenades, had fired first and soldiers shot back killing him. The army said one soldier had been lightly wounded. (Reuters)

A spokesman for the IDF Civil Administration said Israel was “demolishing several buildings which have been abandoned for the last 20 years [in Hebron],” adding that the buildings were “not Palestinian homes.” But the Palestinian mayor of Hebron, Mr. Mustafa Natsheh, said the buildings housed 30 families and that this was “part of an overall Israeli plan to impose their grip on the Old City.” Under the Israeli plan, secure travel zones would connect the Jewish enclaves in Hebron, where some 450 settlers live, and the neighbouring “Kiryat Arba” settlement to the Tomb of Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi). The buildings would be demolished to widen the route between Hebron and “Kiryat Arba,” the Israeli official said, adding that warrants for the demolitions had been issued, but their implementation could be delayed if the owners appealed against the order to the IDF Central Command. (Reuters)

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said in a report that more than 70,500 Palestinian families depended on the olive harvest for their livelihood but in many cases had been scared away from their groves by armed Israeli settlers who had carried out “systematic and violent attacks” on harvesters from October until early November 2002, when security forces began taking stronger steps to stop the violence. “Since the beginning of the current harvest season, the acts of violence against olive harvesters have been more frequent and intense than in previous seasons,” said the report. The group also said security forces should have taken better protective measures, as “neither the lack of preparation for coping with armed settlers nor the reluctance to confront them can justify the systematic eviction of Palestinians working on their own land.” Responding to the report, police spokesman Rafi Yafeh said eight settlers had been arrested in connection with attacks and police were doing all they could to enforce the law. An IDF spokesman said Palestinians had been asked to coordinate their harvesting with military commanders to ensure their safety but in most of the incidents cited by B’Tselem the army had not been notified in advance. (Reuters)

The UN World Food Programme said the IDF had blown up a warehouse in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalia refugee camp during an incursion in the night of 30 November 2002, destroying 537 metric tonnes of food after preventing aid workers from removing it first. Local programme director Jean-Luc Siblot said in a statement: “WFP should have been permitted to remove the food. This act has been carried out against basic humanitarian principles… WFP is asking the Government of Israel to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and take full responsibility for the losses incurred by the agency.” “The food, which was housed on the ground floor of a three-storey building and clearly marked as WFP property, mainly comprised donations from the European Commission and Sweden and was to be distributed by the Ministry of Social Affairs to some 41,300 destitute people affected by the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip.” The statement estimated the loss at US$271,000. Israel Radio reported that the EU had criticized Israel for this action. (The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, www.wfp.org)

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

The Secretary-General is extremely concerned at the demolition by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of the World Food Programme warehouse on Saturday night in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. He supports the request by the World Food Programme that the Government of Israel thoroughly investigate this incident.

The Secretary-General once again calls on the Israeli authorities to live up to their commitments and obligations to facilitate emergency humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territory.
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8537 of 2 December 2002)

An exchange of fire erupted between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians in Tulkarm, where the IDF was attempting to arrest militants. A 21-year-old Palestinian was killed in the shootout and several more were injured. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian worker was killed and nine others wounded, as shooting broke out between Israeli troops and armed militants. According to eyewitness reports, Palestinian militants had fired a Qassam rocket at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) industrial zone, on the border between the northern Gaza and Israel, just as a group of Palestinian workers were leaving work. Within seconds, Israeli troops returned fire with tank shells and machine guns towards the source of the rocket fire. Palestinian hospital sources said the 36-year-old victim had been killed by shrapnel but it was not immediately known which side had fired the projectile. The IDF continued its sweeps for militants, saying it had arrested eight suspects in Jenin. Witnesses said troops had also captured a wanted Hamas member in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

3

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters that the US was “deeply troubled by reports that Israeli forces [had] destroyed a UN World Food Programme food warehouse in Gaza” on 30 November, adding that the US thought it was “critical that the Israelis investigate the circumstances of that incident and take immediate steps to ensure that civilians and humanitarian facilities [were] not harmed.” Mr. Reeker reiterated the US support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism but called on Israel to take steps to prevent civilian casualties and urged that military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory end as soon as possible. Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa called the Israeli destruction of the warehouse “barbaric”. (AFP)

French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau said the French Government was “seriously troubled” by the destruction of a WFP warehouse by the IDF on 30 November 2002 and demanded that Israel compensate the UN agency for its destroyed stocks. (DPA)

Israeli settlers were planning to build new housing in 14 West Bank settlements, Ma’ariv reported. According to “Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza” leader Bentzi Lieberman the construction would take place over the coming three months. An internal report by a settlers’ regional council said the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry would invest in the construction of some of the new neighbourhoods, while development work in neighbourhoods already built in other settlements would continue. According to Ma’ariv, the Housing and Construction Ministry had initiated the construction of 1,894 new housing units in the West Bank during 2002. (DPA)

Israeli soldiers had shot dead a 95-year-old Palestinian woman taking a taxi home after a medical check-up in Ramallah, Palestinian witnesses and medics said. The troops had opened fire on the van the woman had been riding in when it tried to bypass rubble that Israeli forces had used to block the road between Ramallah and her home village of Atara. Israeli military sources said soldiers had shot at the tyres of a Palestinian vehicle travelling on a prohibited road north of Ramallah, after the driver had ignored orders to halt. They added that they did not know of anyone injured or killed. Medics said the old woman had been hit by a bullet in the back and two other women in the taxi had been wounded. One of the passengers said troops had fired without provocation. PA Minister Saeb Erakat stated: “We condemn this war crime of killing in cold blood a 95-year-old woman and we hold Israel fully responsible”. (DPA, Reuters)

The IDF said it had arrested 12 Palestinians across the West Bank, as part of its campaign to track down militants suspected of planning and launching suicide attacks. The suspects had been rounded up in the areas of Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus. (Reuters)

The United Nations General Assembly took action on the four draft resolutions considered under agenda item “Question of Palestine”. The draft on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (A/57/L.34) was adopted as resolution 57/107 with 109 votes in favour, four against and 56 abstentions; the draft on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (A/57/L.35) was adopted as resolution 57/108 with 108 votes in favour, four against and 56 abstentions; the draft on the Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (A/57/L.36) was adopted as resolution 57/109 with 159 votes in favour, five against and no abstentions; and the draft on the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/57/L.37) was adopted as resolution 57/110 with 160 votes in favour, four against and three abstentions. The Assembly also took action on the draft resolutions considered under agenda item “The situation in the Middle East”. The draft resolution on Jerusalem (A/57/L.44) was adopted as resolution 57/111 with 154 votes in favour, five against and six abstentions.

The IDF had closed two Israeli-Palestinian security liaison offices in Jenin and Ramallah, as part of moves to restore military rule of the Palestinian Occupied Territory, Ribhi Arafat, head of the liaison offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said, adding that only four other offices were left in the West Bank and two in Gaza. Palestinian policemen had been ordered out of the Jenin office “due to their current lack of a spirit of cooperation and because the presence of armed Palestinians in an army post poses a danger for our forces,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that a recent bomb blast at the entrance to a liaison office in northern Gaza had “shown once again the level of risk to which our soldiers are being exposed.” (AFP)

Chairman Arafat, in a letter carried by WAFA on the occasion of the upcoming end to the month of Ramadan, appealed for “greater [Arab] cooperation and solidarity,” while noting that “the living conditions of the Palestinian people [were] dramatic as a result of the blockade and the escalation of aggressions and Israeli crimes against [their] land, [their] towns and villages and holy sites.” (AFP)

The Vatican planned to enlarge its presence in the Middle East in an effort to encourage peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran told the Rome-based Missionary Service News Agency. In order to end the conflict in the region, the parties must “agree to respect each other, to respect each others’ legitimate aspirations, to respect international law and Jerusalem must be assured of an internationally guaranteed special status,” he said, adding that he condemned all forms of terrorism. (AFP)

4

IDF helicopters attacked PA buildings in Gaza City, killing one person and wounding four others, in what Israeli security sources confirmed was an Israeli assassination of a senior Palestinian militant. Palestinian medical officials said the dead was Mustafa Sabbah, 34, a guard working at the chemical department of the PA Ministry of Agriculture. Israeli security sources said Mr. Sabbah was a high-ranking member of the “Popular Resistance Committees”, responsible for attacks on Israeli tanks, in which seven soldiers had been killed. Witnesses to the attack said two Israeli helicopter gunships had fired three missiles at the PA complex in Gaza City in the early afternoon. Palestinian security sources reported that two missiles had hit the ground near the Ministry, while the third had hit the building, causing the casualty. The targeted complex contained buildings housing offices of the Ministries of Agriculture, Information, Health, Labour and Education, as well as of the Palestinian preventive security organization. Earlier, Israeli soldiers searching caves near Hebron had killed two Palestinians, both of whom had been armed, after shots had been fired at the soldiers from one of the caves, Israel Radio reported. (AFP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz)

PA Minister of Local Government Saeb Erakat said that the first US vote against the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel on 3 December was a “worrying indication of the extent of the alliance between [President] Bush and [Prime Minister] Sharon”. The US had in the past abstained from voting on the resolution. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Sharon told the Herzliya Conference on National Security that if he was reelected he would form a unity Government based on the “Bush framework.” Mr. Sharon said that, on the basis of this framework, after the cessation of terror and the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership, Israel would work “to relieve the military pressure and create a territorial contiguity between the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria.” According to Mr. Sharon, in the second stage of the plan, Israel would “allow the establishment of a Palestinian State with temporary borders,” adding that those temporary borders would include Areas A and B, representing 42 per cent of the West Bank, “except for areas vital for security.” The Palestinian State would be demilitarized – except for a police force, Israel would control its borders and airspace, and it would be prohibited from forging treaties with enemies of Israel. Mr. Sharon said that in the first stage the PA had to go through comprehensive security and governmental reforms that would lead to a new Government that was “honest and want[ed] peace,” while Chairman Arafat would be moved out of a position of power and into a symbolic role. Israeli Labour Party leader Amram Mitzna told the Herzliya Conference that the establishment of a Palestinian State was not a favour but actually in Israel’s interest. He explained that the formation of a State would result in greater responsibility and accountability. (AFP, Arutz-7, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli tanks and troop carriers carried out two incursions into Gaza City neighbourhhoods. An IDF spokesman said the house of a wanted Hamas militant had been destroyed and five suspected militants had been arrested during another operation into the central Gaza Strip town of Deir El-Balah. (AFP)

5

Further explaining the views he had expressed the previous day, Prime Minister Sharon told media editors in Tel Aviv that he did not rule out evacuating Israeli settlements, as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinians. “Israel will create a continuous area of territory that will allow the Palestinians to travel from the northern West Bank to the south without passing any Israeli roadblocks,” he noted, adding that a network of roads, tunnels and bridges should be created. He ruled out a road linking the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

PA Minister for Local Government Saeb Erakat rejected Prime Minister Sharon’s statements on Palestinian statehood as a repetition of old ideas of a long-term interim solution on less than half of the West Bank and three-quarters of the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians “want[ed] peace, but not at any price”. Calling the proposal “not serious” and “nothing new”, Chairman Arafat’s Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Mr. Sharon was “trying to sabotage all peace efforts, including the Road Map plan”. Chairman Arafat himself, in a statement published by WAFA, called on Mr. Sharon to implement all agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians. (AFP, DPA)

Prime Minister Sharon’s adviser Raanan Gissin said Mr. Sharon had approved plans to extend the “northern section of the [security] fence” separating Israel from the occupied territories. Mr. Gissin said the Government now had to find the budget resources for it, but that the track for the fence had been agreed on. He added that the new 42km section of the fence would be built in northern Israel, from Megiddo Junction and eastward, past the Gilboa mountains, to the town of Beit Shean. “Because of the increase in the wave of terror, they must increase the track to this area, especially after the recent infiltrations. There is a breach [in security] there,” Mr. Gissin said, referring to the place where Palestinian gunmen killed six Israelis on 28 November. (Reuters)

6

Israeli troops killed at least 10 Palestinians, including two UNRWA staff members, during a 3-hour pre-dawn raid supported by tanks and helicopter gunships on the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. At least 15 others were injured, three of them seriously. The IDF reportedly entered the camp in search of a fugitive wanted by Israel for attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the Gaza Strip. It blew up the home of the fugitive and of a second militant. Chairman Arafat called the operation “a new massacre” against the Palestinian people, and in a statement published by WAFA the PA said the Israeli Government was “continuing its policy of death and destruction”. The IDF said most of those killed had been armed fighters and that at least four Hamas militants were among the dead. The high death toll and the timing of the assault, during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, made tens of thousands of Palestinian attend the funeral for the 10 victims. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)


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

The Secretary-General is gravely disturbed by the Israeli military attack in the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip early this morning. The attack during one of the most important Muslim holidays, Eid al Fitr, left ten Palestinians dead. Most of those killed were civilians -- including two staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this attack.

The Secretary-General deplores the loss of innocent civilian life. He has repeatedly urged Israel to refrain from the excessive and disproportionate use of deadly force in civilian areas. He wishes to remind the Government of Israel of its obligations as an occupying power to protect the civilian population, and urges them ensure that the IDF behave with greater restrain and discipline and in conformity with international humanitarian law.

The Secretary-General once again stresses that only a political solution offers the two parties a viable way out of the current conflict and the possibility of real security for both sides.
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8542-PAL/1931 of 6 December 2002)

Referring to the Bureij refugee camp operation, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen in a statement “condemn[ed] what appear[ed] to be the indiscriminate use of heavy firepower in a densely populated civilian area”, adding that UNRWA would carry out a detailed inquiry into the deaths. Mr. Hansen pointed out that “The tragic death toll for UNRWA staff has now risen to five people in the course of this year. This loss of civilian lives, of people working for a humanitarian UN agency, is completely unacceptable,” he said. (AFP)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, issued a statement in Brussels reacting to the events in the Bureij refugee camp. He said he had “learnt with consternation about the Israeli military operation in the Bureij Palestinian refugee camp this morning. A massive intervention of that type in a densely populated urban area can only lead to the loss of innocent lives, as was the case today. This sort of excessive use of force cannot be conducive to the lowering of tension and an end to the cycle of violence, towards which all should be working”. The EU Presidency also issued a statement in which it “strongly condemn[ed] military or other violent actions directed indiscriminately against a civilian neighbourhood, whether Palestinian or Israeli,” noting there could be “no justification for the high number of killed and injured”. (www.eu2002.dk)

With reference to the Bureij refugee camp operation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement broadcast on state television that the Chinese side appealed to Israel to “immediately stop its armed intrusion, so as to create conditions for the resumption of peace and stability in the region.” (AFP)

Israeli troops had arrested 15 Palestinian militants in and around Jenin and five in the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF. (AFP, DPA)

7

Israeli Border Police shot dead a wanted Islamic Jihad militant in Silat al-Hartiyah, about 8km north-west of Jenin. Five other Palestinians were wounded, two by gunfire, as soldiers chased the man through the streets of the village. Ten Palestinians were arrested. Sixteen Palestinians were also arrested in Bethlehem. (Ha’aretz)

In a television interview, Prime Minister Sharon said secret talks had been held with people “from the Palestinian leadership” – but not Chairman Arafat. Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said contacts had been going on “for a few months,” but would not reveal the identity of those involved. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat rejected these claims as “baseless” and said Mr. Sharon was trying to appeal to more moderate voters ahead of upcoming elections. (AP)

The PA accused Israel’s security agencies of setting up a fake Al-Qaeda cell in Gaza, with Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath reportedly presenting the details to foreign diplomats in Gaza. Prime Minister Sharon’s adviser Ra’anan Gissin called the allegation “sheer nonsense”. Head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service in the Gaza Strip Rashid Abu Shbak said the alleged Israeli plot had the goal of tricking “recruits” into believing they were working for Al-Qaeda and monitoring them, and in one case Israel had been able to kill a senior militant by luring him to a spot where he had been promised weapons supplied by Al-Qaeda would be waiting. According to Mr. Abu Shbak, the Mossad had used a Palestinian “collaborator”, now in a Palestinian jail, to post recruitment notices in mosques and give messages to those the Mossad hoped to enlist. Those who telephoned the numbers listed in notices spoke to Israeli secret agents posing as Al-Qaeda members. Palestinian officials also said they were holding three suspects who believed they were getting money from Al-Qaeda to buy weapons and recruit members in the Gaza Strip, while in fact being manipulated by Israeli security. (AP, Reuters)

8

IDF troops arrested five Palestinians from Nablus and placed a permanent iron roadblock in central Nablus to check vehicles when a closure was not imposed on the city. Palestinian sources told Israel Radio that the roadblock, the first of its kind in a West Bank city, had been placed opposite the Governor’s office, on one of the main thoroughfares in the city. According to the IDF, the roadblock was intended to monitor Palestinian traffic between Nablus and the refugee camps surrounding it. (Al-Bawaba, Ha’aretz)

Under cover of heavy shooting, IDF tanks and bulldozers moved into the outskirts of Bureij refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip. According to eyewitnesses, troops supported by seven tanks and two bulldozers conducted searches in farming areas, which were not very heavily populated. No injuries were reported. Another two tanks and a bulldozer raided a farm in Deir el-Balah, near Bureij. (Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers killed a Palestinian woman and wounded her three children, aged four, six and fifteen, and a second woman in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said soldiers saw a group of Palestinians, some of them armed, approaching the “Rafiah Yam” settlement, and opened fire on them, then saw Palestinians take four wounded away, while two others escaped. The IDF spokesman’s office said it had no information about women or children having been shot. Palestinian witnesses said the woman and her three children had been walking to their home in Rafah, near the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, when IDF troops opened fire from a nearby position at the Tel Sultan refugee camp. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The New York Times, Reuters)

Two Israelis who refused to be drafted into the IDF, in protest over its activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, were sentenced for the sixth time, now to jail terms of 28 and 35 days, bringing the total to 161 consecutive days in jail for one and 134 consecutive days for the other. The “Yesh Gvul” movement said that, since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, 180 soldiers had served jail terms for refusal to serve, 146 of them reserve soldiers, 16 conscripts and 18 pre-draft youths. As of this date, five people were in jail for refusal to serve, all of them reservists. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

9

Addressing an IDF operational meeting, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said most of recent civilian Palestinian deaths were brought about by the “complexity of operating in populated areas,” Israel Radio reported. A statement released after the meeting said that most of the harm caused to innocent people was a result of the complexity of the situation in the territories and only a small number of incidents had been caused by a failure to follow standard procedure. (The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)

IDF troops carrying out searches near the village of Beit Lid and the “Enav” settlement, south-east of Tulkarm, had shot and killed a Palestinian who was fleeing and failed to stop when ordered by soldiers, Israel Radio reported. Palestinian sources said the man was autistic. (Arutz 7, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

The Supreme Court of Israel put a temporary hold on plans by the Government to demolish 15 Palestinian houses in Hebron, pending an appeal against the demolition orders that would be heard by the Court on 18 December. (AP, The Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, in an interview published in Al-Quds, warned that the PA had run out of funds and might not be able to pay its employees’ salaries. “The decline in revenues, drop in aid and Israel’s withholding of our money has left us unable to work normally”, he said. “Ability to pay salaries at the beginning of the month requires that Israel pays the PA its dues”, he added. The PA had been able to continue paying salaries using aid from the EU and Arab countries and taking loans from banks. However, Mr. Fayyad said the banks were not willing to lend the PA any more money, since it had already amassed US$40 million in loans to pay salaries, which it was now unable to repay, and Arab and European aid had also declined in recent months. (DPA)

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Chairman Arafat said that there was as yet no change in plans to hold the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections on 20 January, but “So long as Israeli tanks and troops continue to occupy the Palestinian cities, we may postpone them.” Chairman Arafat said Palestinian officials would need at least 90 days to prepare for the elections. In an interview to Reuters the previous day Mr. Arafat had said that “at least one month [before elections], they have to withdraw from all our cities and towns so that our people will start their [political] campaigns.” (DPA, Reuters)

PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath said in an interview with AP that Palestinians should only use violence against Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in self-defence, saying “armed Israeli settlers who are firing at Palestinian civilians are part of the Israeli military power, but the settlers who are not carrying weapons and who are not participating in any attacks against Palestinians are Israeli like any other Israeli occupier.” For the Palestinians to halt any attacks, Mr. Shaath said the Israelis must “stop targeting Palestinian civilians and all types of aggression like assassinations, invasions and arrests.” (AP)

Ma'ariv reported that, after UN officials had sharply criticised the IDF following the killing of Iain Hook on 22 November, Israeli security officials had prepared a secret report accusing UNRWA of “assisting terrorism” by providing “infrastructure for carrying out ‘terrorist acts’” and claiming that in some cases militants hid out in UNRWA installations. The report also cited the case of an UNRWA ambulance driver who had been arrested and admitted he had used his ambulance to transport ammunition and messages between militant groups, while another militant had said an UNRWA school in Nablus housed shooting ranges and ammunition storehouses. (DPA)

A 25-year-old Palestinian woman had been killed by Israeli gunfire in the Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus, Palestinian sources said. She had been riding in a car with her husband and mother, when Israeli troops opened fire with automatic weapons, killing the woman and slightly wounding the others. It was unclear what had provoked the fatal shooting, but the city had been under curfew at the time. The IDF did not comment immediately on the incident but said it would check for details. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli bulldozers razed three Palestinian houses in the Rafah refugee camp, on the southern Gaza Strip border with Egypt. According to the IDF, the houses hid a tunnel used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. (AFP, DPA)

Israeli troops opened fire on a bus belonging to UNRWA and wounded a 20-year-old Palestinian student. “The army fired on a UN-marked bus carrying students from the UNRWA training college in Gaza City back to their homes in the south, hitting one boy in the back”, UNRWA spokesman Paul McCann was quoted as saying. The incident took place at a checkpoint near Khan Yunis. The boy had been lightly injured, medical sources said, adding that the incident had occurred when the bus attempted to go past a line of people who had been waiting at the checkpoint for several hours. (AFP, DPA)

A survey, sponsored by the Washington- and Brussels-based organization called Search for Common Ground, recorded the reactions of Israelis and Palestinians to the possibility of establishing a Palestinian State on the basis of the 1967 borders. The poll indicated that 72 per cent of the Palestinians would be willing to renounce violence if Israel would agree to the creation of such a State on terms acceptable to the Palestinians. A similar percentage on the Israeli side said it would be ready to favour the establishment of a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders if they were confident that the Palestinians would genuinely forgo violence. About 80 per cent of Palestinians surveyed supported non-violent methods like mass demonstrations and almost 65 per cent of Israelis believed that the use of armed force against Palestinian civilians led to more violence. Common Ground’s Executive Vice-President Susan Collin said the survey demonstrated that the gap between the two sides was not ideological but rather it was “mistrust [that blocked] a basic underlying willingness to stop the violence and move toward a settlement”. The Palestinian part of the survey was conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, a Palestinian organization, through 599 face-to-face interviews from 17 to 21 November; the margin of error was given as 4 per cent. A polling organization affiliated with Tel Aviv University interviewed 508 Israeli Jews by telephone from 24 to 26 November; the margin of error in this case was given as 4.5 per cent. (Ha’aretz)

10

Referring to the wounding of a Palestinian student riding an UNRWA bus the previous night, the IDF issued the following statement: “In the light of UNRWA’s claim that a bus was hit and a young Palestinian was injured, an initial investigation was undertaken, the results of which show the IDF did not recognize a hit on a bus or on any other vehicle in the place and did not injure anyone”. Troops had identified a number of vehicles among those waiting to cross the checkpoint, which had started driving towards an army position in the area, and soldiers had fired warning shots to drive them away, the statement said, adding that nothing and no one had been hit. (AFP)

The IDF had arrested eight suspected Palestinian militants in the Nablus area. (AFP)

A wanted Hamas militant, Yassin Al-Aghah, was shot dead by IDF soldiers and a special unit of border guards operating near Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, after he had resisted arrest. Another man, whose identity was not established, had been arrested by the army. Palestinian security sources and the killed Palestinian’s family said he had been killed by the army after his arrest. They also said that his brother and a cousin had also been arrested during the same incident. Medical sources in Khan Yunis told AFP the brother and cousin had later been released and were at the Nasser Hospital, in moderate condition. They confirmed Mr. Al-Aghah had been with them when he was shot dead in Israeli custody. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei said it would be “practically impossible” to hold elections as planned in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Addressing journalists in Paris, after meetings with President Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Mr. Qurei said the elections could not be held “in the shadows of the Israeli tanks” and noted that the month remaining until 20 January was not a sufficient enough period to allow the Palestinians “to take the measures necessary to hold democratic elections”. PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath was also quoted later as having said that the “agreed date for elections [20 January] would never allow the Palestinian leadership to finish all the needed preparations in order to hold it, so it is very essential to postpone it”. “Elections would be held as soon as the Israeli army pulls out its troops and tanks from inside the towns and cities”, Mr. Shaath said. (AFP, DPA)

Israel and the PA had reached an agreement on the release of frozen tax revenues to the latter, Ha’aretz reported. Under the agreement, brokered by the US, the money would be transferred directly to PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. Israel had recently transferred NIS130 million (about US$28 million) to the PA and would continue with regular transfers once a month, on condition that US accountants would check the Palestinian budget to ensure the money was used for legitimate purposes and “not to fund terror”. According to Ha’aretz, Minister Fayyad said that, in addition to the funds transferred by Israel, Saudi Arabia had donated US$15 million to the PA, enabling it to pay its employees’ November salaries. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Following two-day talks among EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller told a news conference that the Ministers had agreed on the importance of the Quartet finishing its work on the Road Map without further delay and that “a clear, detailed and unified position on the Road Map must come out of the Washington meeting on 20 December”. He noted that agreement among the Quartet members was “very close”. (AFP, Reuters, www.eu2002.dk)

China had signed an agreement with the PA to provide US$2.5 million for reconstruction projects, Minister Shaath told journalists in Gaza City after signing the deal with Chinese envoy Wu Jiuhong. He said the money would be used to repair and rebuild houses destroyed by the Israeli forces during the intifada. Mr. Wu was quoted as telling XINHUA news agency that “China has been supporting the Palestinians economically and politically since the early 1960s”. (AFP)

UNRWA appealed for US$94 million to carry out emergency relief operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory during the first half of 2003. Launching the appeal in Jerusalem, the Agency noted that over two years of violence, curfews and closures have had a “catastrophic” impact on the humanitarian conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinian refugees living in the area. Some 22 per cent of children were suffering from acute or chronic malnutrition, while unemployment now exceeded 50 per cent and over 60 per cent of the population was living on less than US$2 a day. “UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in the region and is the only organization with the kind of infrastructure able to have an major impact on the living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank”, said UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen, adding that “So rapid has been the humanitarian collapse that it will take an emergency programme of the scale we present today to prevent a complete breakdown in Palestinian society”. With US$32.4 million, UNRWA hoped to provide some 222,000 worst-affected families, comprising 1.1 million people, with regular supplies of iron-fortified flour, chickpeas, olive oil and other staples. The Agency also planned to create almost one million job opportunity days for refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, thus injecting much-needed cash into the local economy and providing meaningful temporary employment. The appeal also envisioned a major rebuilding programme to replace or repair shelters that continued to be destroyed or badly damaged in Israeli military operations. Additionally, UNRWA aimed to supply extra medicines, medical staff and mobile clinics for refugees cut off from health care by curfews and closures. In the education sector, a large-scale distance-learning project was planned to help children whose schooling was being disrupted by the long periods when they or their teachers could not reach their classrooms. “It is my hope and my wish that the international community responds generously and urgently to help UNRWA help the Palestinians,” Mr. Hansen said. UNRWA’s appeal pointed out that the Agency had asked donors for US$173 million in 2002 but only US$92 million had been pledged so far. (AFP, UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/News; see also UN Pres Release PAL/1932 of 10 December 2002)

11

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian militant who had tried to resist capture by running across the rooftops of the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. He was identified as a member of the PFLP. According to Palestinian sources, he had recently become active in the Islamic Jihad. Israel Army Radio reported that the IDF had arrested at least 34 suspected militants across the West Bank and Gaza Strip overnight, eight of them on Israel’s “wanted list” belonging to the Islamic Jihad. Three members of the PFLP had been arrested by special Israeli forces in Ramallah. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF said it had opened an investigation into the incident of 9 December 2002, in which a Palestinian woman had been killed by troops near Nablus. It said troops had fired warning shots at the taxi carrying her after the driver ignored calls to halt. Such shots were usually fired in the air and sometimes at car tires. But an IDF spokesman said that “against regulations” the car had been hit during the warning fire. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israel’s Film Ratings Board said it had decided to ban the film “Jenin, Jenin”, by Israeli Arab actor and director Mohammed Bakri, for a “distorted presentation of events in the guise of democratic truth which could mislead the public.” “It is a film which strikes deeply at the sensibilities of the public, which could mistakenly think that Israeli soldiers are perpetrating war crimes systematically and intentionally,” the Board said in a statement. According to Israeli Army Radio, Mr. Bakri would appeal the decision to the Israeli High Court of Justice. (AFP, Reuters)

PA Minister of Health Ahmed Al-Shibi told reporters that WHO and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should “urge Israel to stop the intentional killing of innocent Palestinian women and children” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Al-Shibi said that, since September 2000, the IDF had killed 162 women and 531 children under the age of 18, noting that, since January 2002 alone, 116 Palestinian women and 226 Palestinians under 18 had died. He said that most of the women and children were victims of shells fired by Israeli soldiers during raids and incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “They were not involved in the conflict, and they were killed while they were sleeping in their homes, or practicing their normal daily [lives],” he said. “The whole world and human organizations must save the medical life of the Palestinians, and oblige Israel to implement the international laws and the Geneva Convention,” Mr. Al-Shibi added. (DPA)

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Phil Goff ended a visit to Iran with a call for new efforts to address what he argued was the root cause of mounting Islamist militancy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is the Palestinian conflict that most gives sustenance to terrorist groups. It gives terrorists a cause on which to build support”, Mr. Goff told AFP in an interview. “Our view is that the war against terrorism will be won not simply by suppressing it militarily, though we are willing participants in that process, but rather by backing that up with removing the causes that give rise to terrorism. And first and foremost that has to be seen as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We condemn the Israelis, we think they are wrong to be settling territory that they do not have a legal entitlement to, we think they are wrong to use disproportionate force,” he said. “The Palestinians have to get their act together. But, when you look at the conditions under which Palestinian people live, it is simply unacceptable,” he added, while calling for the PA to be “totally unequivocal in its opposition to extremist violence”. Mr. Goff said he would visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2003, where he would repeat an offer to send peacekeepers. (AFP)

Three Palestinian youths were wounded, one critically, when an Israeli tank responded to stone-throwing with heavy machine-gun fire in Nablus’ Balata refugee camp. In the town’s Askar refugee camp, two men affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were captured by an Israeli undercover unit backed by troops. An IDF spokesman said only one wanted Palestinian had been arrested in the Askar camp, identifying him as Sultan Saed, a Fatah member sought for a number of shooting attacks against Israelis. (AFP)

12

A Tel Aviv district court ruled that Israel had the legal right to try West Bank Fatah leader and Palestinian Council member Marwan Barghouti and to keep him in jail for the duration of his trial. Mr. Barghouti’s lawyers said they planned to file an appeal with the Israeli High Court of Justice against the decision, which they described as “political”. Mr. Barghouti had said an Israeli court could not try him because the Oslo agreements promised diplomatic immunity to Palestinian Council members. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinians who had apparently attempted to infiltrate from the Gaza Strip into Israel overnight, Israel Radio reported. The five were spotted trying to climb the border fence near the “Karni” crossing point east of Gaza City. Five ladders were later found at the fence, the report said. Earlier, the IDF had shot dead a Palestinian militant, as he had tried to penetrate the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip carrying hand grenades and an automatic rifle. An IDF spokesman said they were searching for two more Palestinians who accompanied the suspected attacker. The PFLP claimed responsibility for the attempted infiltration, saying it had been carried out to mark its 35th anniversary. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Following a meeting in Rome between Pope John Paul II and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, the Vatican released a statement saying the Pope had “expressed interest in the situation in Bethlehem with the approach of Christmas and the President promised that, if there will not be warnings of terror operations, the Israel Defense Forces will redeploy outside Bethlehem.” An Israeli official later told AFP that Israel considered that the conditions for a withdrawal did not exist at present. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Unveiling the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Secretary of State Powell said the US had “a deep and abiding national interest in bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end”. “Get the terror and the violence down, then we’re in a position to get movement from the Israeli side”, he said addressing the Palestinian people. He reiterated the US Administration’s belief that the creation of a democratic, viable Palestine was possible in 2005. “The peace will require from the Palestinians a new and different leadership… Israel will also be required to make hard choices, including an end to all settlement construction activity”, he added. (AFP, Financial Times, The New York Times, Reuters)

Two Israeli soldiers, a man and a woman, deployed at an outpost near the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in Hebron to protect Jewish settlers, were killed in an ambush by Palestinian gunmen late in the day. Israel Radio reported that the fatal shots had been fired from within a house and the gunmen had fled, apparently into the Palestinian-controlled sector of Hebron. Separately, a Palestinian militant was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers in southern Israel, near the Gaza Strip “Kissufim” crossing point. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

13

Israeli armoured bulldozers demolished three Palestinian houses in Hebron, in the area where two Israeli soldiers had been killed by Palestinian gunmen the previous day. An IDF source said one of the houses destroyed was the spot from which the shots had been fired against the soldiers. Two other houses belonging to Hebron-area militants were also destroyed. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) claimed responsibility for the shooting of the two soldiers. (DPA, Reuters)

A 32-year-old Hamas member was shot dead by Israeli troops in the village of Thabra, south of Bethlehem, as he tried to evade arrest. Three Islamic Jihad militants were arrested in the operation, and the house where all four had been hiding was demolished by the IDF, which later withdrew from the village. (AFP, Reuters)

Regarding the 12 December 2002 killing of five Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel from near the “Karni” crossing point in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said it was a “tragic event” but noted “they were five suspicious persons in a prohibited area”. The five proved to be unarmed labourers trying to sneak into Israel to find work. Relatives preparing the bodies for burial said the men were all from the same extended family and included two brothers. (Reuters)

Referring to the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said that, despite its good intentions, the project did not “touch on the basic problem, which is the cause of the other problems, and that is the lack of a Middle East settlement”. He added that it was time “to settle the conflict, put an end to the Israeli occupation, and give a chance to the people of the region to live in peace” and “to cooperate in building prosperity and a better future”. (AFP, Reuters)

A leading Hamas militant was killed by the IDF during an incursion into the Nur Shams refugee camp, near Tulkarm. Tareq Abed Rabbo, 23, a wanted member of the Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, had been shot dead by troops who had surrounded his house, the sources said. Four other Palestinians were wounded, one seriously. Fierce clashes had broken out earlier, as the IDF raided the camp in search for another wanted militant, a member of the Islamic Jihad. (AFP, Reuters)

The EU Summit in Copenhagen adopted the “European Council Declaration on the Middle East,” which said, inter alia, that the European Council attached the highest priority to the adoption by the Quartet on 20 December of the Road Map for Middle East peace. The declaration also reiterated the EU position that “expansion of settlements... violates international law, inflames an already volatile situation and reinforces the fear of Palestinians that Israel is not genuinely committed to end the occupation.” It condemned all acts of terror and called upon Israel to facilitate “the efforts of those Palestinians seeking to take forward the reform process and to bring an end to the violence” and to “stop excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings.” Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller of EU Presidency-holder Denmark told reporters he was confident that “the United States and the European Union will look upon the Road Map with the same eyes.” Regarding Israeli objections on the timing of the Road Map’s release, Mr. Møller said he thought that “the Israeli electorate has the right to know about the two States solution we are proposing and then they can decide whether to support it or not.” (AFP, full text of the Declaration at http://www.eu2002.dk/main)

15

Two Palestinian teenage sisters were seriously wounded, as IDF tanks and bulldozers moved into the Palestinian-controlled Oreiba area, on the outskirts of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, a few hundred metres from the “Morag” settlement, and demolished 17 houses, Palestinian security officials said. More than 200 people were left homeless, said the mayor, Saed Zoarab. The IDF said the buildings were abandoned structures used by Palestinian gunmen as cover when firing on Israeli soldiers and detonating explosives, and Palestinians were not allowed to enter the area. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Six Palestinians working for foreign news agencies - AFP, AP and Reuters - were detained by IDF troops in Nablus for five hours, as they covered a clash between IDF troops and stone-throwing youths. The IDF spokesman’s office said the group of journalists were violating the curfew in the city by being outside without press accreditation; the Israeli Government had withdrawn press accreditation from Palestinian journalists a year earlier. Earlier in the day, IDF troops had arrested five wanted Palestinian men in the West Bank. Arrests had been carried out in Bethlehem and Nablus, as well as in the village of Jabba, south of Jenin. (Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Sharon announced at the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting that Chairman Arafat would not be allowed to attend Christmas ceremonies in Bethlehem and the troops would not pull back from Bethlehem before Christmas, even while allowing tourists to go there for celebrations. Israeli Public Radio reported that the IDF was considering a possible withdrawal from the centre of the town for Christmas. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The New York Times)

16

Israeli soldiers shot dead two Hamas members near Beit Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip, who appeared to be planting a bomb near the border fence. Soldiers stationed at the “Yakinton” outpost near the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement, in the south of the Strip, shot dead a third Palestinian early in the morning, while two others who were with the 21-year-old man escaped. The IDF said Palestinian militants had been firing in the area throughout the night, so when the soldiers saw three “suspicious” men approaching the outpost they opened fire. The killed man’s family said he had been hit when he went out during the night to check the irrigation system on the family farm. (DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli police had arrested a settler living in the “Havat Gilad” settlement outpost, west of Nablus, on suspicion of attacking a Palestinian, Israel Radio reported. The Palestinian, a resident of the village of Tell, south-west of the city, complained to the police that he had been attacked by settlers, who beat him with clubs, set dogs on his donkey and stole a bag of figs and cash from him. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israel said it would allow Palestinians to resume running buses between cities and towns in the West Bank, restoring connections that had been virtually severed for more than two years, but passengers would be subjected to security checks. The buses would be allowed to run every day from 6 am to 4:30 pm local time on main roads but must pass through Israeli army checkpoints, where passengers would switch buses and would be checked by soldiers. Owners of Palestinian bus companies in Nablus said they had been informed by Israeli authorities that the buses could begin running on 17 December and, in the meantime, company managers were getting the necessary permits for bus drivers from the civilian arm of the IDF. (AP)

Clashes erupted as IDF soldiers lifted a curfew in Nablus. The troops opened fire on Palestinian students throwing stones at tanks, wounding seven protesters, including a 15-year-old who was in serious condition, doctors said. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Blair, speaking in the House of Commons, announced he was inviting “leading Palestinians to come to Britain in January to a conference along with members of the Quartet and other countries from the region closely involved in supporting the reform efforts. It will discuss progress on reform and look at how the international community can help… It is in the interest of both the Palestinians and the Israelis that these reforms succeed so we can make a reality of President Bush’s vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” (Ha’aretz)

17

The PA issued a statement by Chairman Arafat, stating that he “in principle” accepted the US-proposed Road Map for peace in the region, while calling on the Quartet, Jordan and Egypt to guide the peace process in the right direction. Senior Palestinian negotiator and PA Minister Saeb Erakat urged the Quartet to adopt the Road Map, saying the PA was “very interested” because it could stem the ongoing worsening of conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (DPA)

Prime Minister Sharon, in a television interview, said he would not discuss the US Road Map until the new Israeli Government was formed after the elections of 28 January 2003. He added that there were “several ‘Road Maps’ under discussion” but gave no further details. (AFP)

The World Bank approved US$45 million in emergency grants for social and municipal services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to ease suffering among Palestinians. The World Bank’s Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, Nigel Roberts, said the US$25 million Second Emergency Services Support project (ESSPII) would help pay for basic health, education and welfare services, and the US$20 million Emergency Municipal Services Rehabilitation Project (EMSRP) would be used to sustain water, power and waste services. (DPA)

Israeli troops stationed near the settlement of “Gadid”, in the southern Gaza Strip, had shot dead a Palestinian resident of nearby Khan Yunis, medical sources said, adding that 17-year-old Ahmed Zeidan had been shot in the head when Israeli soldiers opened fire on the Al-Namsawi neighbourhood. A 65-year-old resident had also been wounded during the incident. Residents said Israeli troops had opened heavy fire on the neighbourhood after Palestinian militants had fired a mortar shell that landed near the settlement, causing no injuries. Earlier, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl had been seriously injured when the IDF destroyed three houses in Rafah. The girl had been shot in the leg by Israeli troops backing up bulldozers, as they destroyed the three houses. (AFP, DPA)

Steve Hibbard, Canada’s Representative to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in an interview with Reuters, said Canada was seeking Israeli and Palestinian agreement on a plan to eventually deploy international peacekeepers in Palestinian areas to help end the conflict. “An international peacekeeping presence could contribute to a peaceful solution. We’re not subscribing to a particular model. We’re working with both sides to have a plan ready when the time is appropriate”, Mr. Hibbard said, adding that it would be up to the sides involved to work out a model, agree when such a force might start work and decide how long any transitional period would last before a final settlement was reached. (Reuters)

18

Israeli soldiers stationed on the border between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt had shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian, witnesses and medical sources reported. The soldiers had opened fire during clashes with a group of Palestinians in the al-Brazil neighbourhood in Rafah. (AFP, DPA)

A survey carried out by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC) found that 80.7 per cent of Palestinian respondents wanted the intifada to continue, with 46 per cent saying its goal should be to replace Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with an independent Palestinian State, while another 47 per cent believed the goal was to “liberate all of historic Palestine”; 16.6 per cent opposed the continuation of the uprising. A majority, 69.3 per cent, thought military operations against Israeli targets were a suitable response to the current political situation, compared to 24 per cent who opposed such actions, as not in the interest of Palestinians. 62.7 per cent supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. 44.7 per cent supported a continuation of attacks both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, saying they saw no difference between such attacks; another 18.8 per cent supported attacks in Israel only and 12.1 per cent favoured attacks against settlers and soldiers in the occupied areas alone. While 49.7 per cent thought the continuation of the intifada, coupled with negotiations, was the best way to achieve Palestinian national goals, 58.3 per cent also supported combining “popular resistance” with “military” attacks. A majority of those questioned – 72.1 per cent – reported feeling pessimistic about the chances of a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, 57.2 per cent thought the peace process was still alive, either because it was heading for an unknown future or because negotiations with Israel could be resumed one day. The JMCC polled 1,200 adults throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 4 and 12 December 2002. (DPA)

Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, in a sermon delivered ahead of Christmas, called on both, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, saying “If the present leaders do not succeed in making peace, there is only one solution: open the way to other leaders, perhaps they will succeed better where the present ones have failed.” He also said that the militarization of the intifada “had been a grave tactical mistake.” “If Palestinians had resisted Israeli tanks with an olive branch, they would have neutralized [Prime Minister] Sharon’s military machine,” Patriarch Sabbah told journalists after delivering his public address. But he added that “those being oppressed are the Palestinians. Israelis have to ask themselves why Palestinians are behaving this way instead of just saying it’s terrorism.” “If you take away the occupation, you stop all the violence,” he said, and described Israel’s decision to ban Mr. Arafat from attending the 24 December Christmas midnight mass in Bethlehem as “a useless measure.” Patriarch Sabbah said he had been informed by the IDF that the Bethlehem curfew would be lifted for Christmas. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Israeli Supreme Court extended by two weeks an order preventing the demolition of Palestinian houses and stopping the construction of a promenade along the Worshipers’ Lane in Hebron. (Arutz 7)

In a letter to Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, Amnesty International said “Members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) who commit grave human rights violations and war crimes, such as killing children and other unarmed civilians, recklessly shooting and shelling densely populated residential areas or blowing up houses on top of people and leaving them to die under the rubble are not brought to justice and held accountable for their acts,” whereas “conscripts and reservists who refuse to serve, precisely to avoid participating in such acts, are sent to jail for months.” Amnesty noted that some 180 conscientious objectors and “refuseniks” had been jailed over the past 26 months. (AFP, DPA; full text of the press release at: www.amnesty.org)

19

IDF gunfire had killed an 11-year-old Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip, as she opened a window in her house in Rafah, her relatives said. IDF sources said they had no information about a girl having been shot but said an army patrol had exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the area. According to witnesses, soldiers stationed at the “Tarmit” outpost on the border with Egypt had opened machine-gun fire at a residential area and one of the gunshots had hit the child in the chest. The IDF said it was checking the report. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Seven Israeli settlers were arrested and several soldiers injured during the evacuation of the “Giborei Hevron” outpost that had been established last month on the road to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, at the spot where 12 soldiers had been killed in an ambush. A Defence Ministry statement said the mobile homes on the site constituted “an illegal outpost on private Palestinian land.” A total of around 200 settlers were evacuated from the outpost, including several dozen who had arrived the previous night to reinforce those already there, after the rumours of the planned evacuation spread. Settlers vowed to soon rebuild the outpost. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

IDF demolished the Tulkarm house of the Palestinian who had carried out the 10 November 2002 attack on Kibbutz Metzer, calling the action “a message to suicide attackers and their partners in terrorism that there is a price to be paid by those who partake in terror.” His father was arrested. (Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

The World Bank said in a statement that the Italian Government would grant the PA €10 million in aid under an agreement signed in Ramallah, in the presence of Chairman Arafat, “to help relieve the economic and social hardship caused by the current political crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”. The funds would “be dedicated to damage repair and emergency job creation projects in the areas of health, education, water and agriculture as well as small scale community-based infrastructure projects.” (AFP)

A Palestinian had been killed and another wounded when Israeli tanks opened fired at their car near Jenin, Palestinian security officials told AFP. (AFP)

Israel’s Labour Party unanimously approved a new election platform, which called for renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, while at the same time continuing Israel’s battle against terrorism. If no Palestinian negotiating partner was found, a Labour-led Government would opt for a “unilateral separation” from the Palestinians, according to the principle that “the Jews will get what is Jewish and the Palestinians what is Palestinian”. This meant Israel would withdraw from 65 per cent of the West Bank, except for the largest settlements blocks there, and from the entire Gaza Strip, where it would evacuate all settlements, evacuating a total of 35,000 settlers. At the same time the platform called for confiscating pockets of land southwest of Bethlehem, west of Jericho and southeast of Hebron, as well as a long strip along the West Bank border, north of Jerusalem. The entire Jordan Valley would also remain under Israeli security control. This would mean that around 55,000 Palestinians would continue to live under Israeli control. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

20

The Palestinian Central Election Committee formally recommended that Chairman Arafat delay general elections scheduled for 20 January 2003. The Committee said it needed at least 100 days to prepare for the elections, but was unable to do so because of the ongoing Israeli military presence and curfews in Palestinian cities. (AFP, Reuters)

A Palestinian man was killed and three others injured overnight during an Israeli army incursion into the town of Deir el-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. Six tanks and two bulldozers had rolled into the town, while two Israeli helicopter gunships had fired automatic machine-gun rounds, the sources said. The IDF had ordered the inhabitants of the home of a Fatah activist to evacuate the building before destroying that and two other homes. In a separate incident, Palestinian militants shot dead an Israeli rabbi from the settlement of “Netzer Hazani”, when they opened fire as he was driving in his car with his wife and six children near the “Kissufim” junction, on the main road leading to the settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. Across the West Bank, Israeli troops detained 41 Palestinians. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Defence Minister Mofaz announced that the IDF would continue to operate in Bethlehem during the holidays and that he had approved a plan for a military deployment in the city adapted for the festive season. “The Israel Defence Forces will enable the Christmas celebrations to take place,” he told Israel Radio, but added that Israel’s security and continued threats of attacks were a factor which outweighed all others. (AFP, DPA)

A joint statement issued after the meeting of the Quartet Principals with President Bush at the White House said Mr. Bush had expressed his “strong support” for the Quartet’s efforts, as well as his firm commitment to its Road Map, which would “realize his vision of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side-by-side in peace and security.” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller of EU-Presidency-holder Denmark, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten attended the meeting with President Bush and US Secretary of State Powell. During a press encounter after the White House meeting, Mr. Annan said the Quartet was determined to finalize its plan as quickly as possible and release it to the parties. “We all agree that that is the only solution,” he stressed. “Our challenge now is to work with them to get there in the next couple of years. And we are very pleased to also hear the President’s strong support for the work of the Quartet and the achievement of his vision.” (UN News Centre at: http://www.un.org/News)

The US said it welcomed the Israeli Government's recent actions against settler outposts in Palestinian areas. “The issue of settlements is obviously one that needs to be addressed. We welcome some of the actions that have been taken to curtail the illegal settlement activity”, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, speaking as the Quartet met in Washington. “I’m implying that our view on settlements per se has not changed but that there are some settlements which even the Israeli Government’s identified as illegal and they are curtailing at least that activity,” he added. (Reuters)

The United Nations Security Council held a formal meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. A draft resolution which would have had the Council condemn recent Israeli acts, including the killing of several UN aid workers, was vetoed by the United States. Twelve countries voted in favour of the Syria-sponsored draft, with Bulgaria and Cameroon abstaining. (UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/News; UN Press Release No. SC/7620; Journal of the United Nations, 21 December 2002, No. 2002/248)

21

The PA condemned the Quartet’s decision to postpone the announcement of the Road Map and criticized the US for vetoing the draft Security Council resolution. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior advisor to Chairman Arafat, told reporters “The veto encourages the Israeli Government and its army to continue violating all the international resolutions and the international law”, while “Postponing the declaration of the Road Map plan would never help the peace process and the international efforts to save it”, he continued. (DPA)

An 11-year-old Palestinian girl was shot and killed while walking home from school in the Gaza Strip. Hanin Abu Sitta was hit in the back by a bullet in Rafah and had died later in the hospital. Also in the southern Gaza Strip, a Palestinian who threw grenades at Israeli soldiers guarding the settlement of “Morag”, wounding one of them, was shot dead. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility for the attempted attack on the settlement. (AFP, Al-Bawaba)

22

The EU expressed understanding for the Palestinian decision to postpone elections. EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana comprehended the Palestinian decision, his spokesman said, but it was “important to remember that an electoral process will remain absolutely necessary when security conditions have been met”. European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten said both sides had to play their part to achieve progress towards a democratic Palestinian State. “You can’t have a free election if there is no free movement in the territories and if there are tanks in the streets,” he said in a statement. “We need an end to terrorism, an end to disproportionate reprisals and a commitment to the idea set out by the Mitchell Commission report and by the Arab League,” Mr. Patten noted, adding that there were “two necessary conditions for successful elections in the Palestinian territories,” namely “a fair administrative and legislative framework supervised by an independent electoral commission” and “a withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to closures and curfew.” (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council, at its Summit in Qatar, adopted a final communiqué, in which its members condemned the “savage actions” of the Israeli army in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and called for an end to the occupation, so that the Palestinians could have the right to self-determination and establish an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital. (AFP)

23

Chairman Arafat, speaking to reporters at his Ramallah headquarters, said he was studying the Road Map proposals. “What we have received is not a final draft, and we still have a lot of reservations,” he said. “Israel itself did not accept it yet,” he added. Israel said in its initial response that the plan did not create a strong enough link between Palestinian efforts to fight militant groups and progressing to the next stage. Israel also wanted to defer a freeze in settlement construction. Raanan Gissin, adviser to PM Sharon, said that, in the revised version, Israel would not have to withdraw from Palestinian towns until a ceasefire was in place. “There has to be a real fight against terrorism,” he said. (AP)

Speaking after talks with in Moscow with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister Netanyahu ruled out the prospect of an independent Palestinian State possessing an army and called for the concept of unlimited national sovereignty to be reconsidered. (AFP, Interfax)

The Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction had invited tenders to build 232 new housing units in the “Emmanuel” settlement, south-west of Nablus. According to Ministry spokesman Kobi Bleich, the project was needed to respond to the “growth of the population of the settlement where mostly ultra-Orthodox families with many children live.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Undercover Israeli security forces shot dead two Hamas members who were riding on a tractor near Jenin, in what Palestinian security officials said was a targeted killing. One of those killed, Shaman Soboh, 29, was on Israel’s wanted list. The other was identified as Mustafa Kash, 26. The two men had been travelling between the villages of Wadi Burkin and El-Yamou when the attack took place. Both were from Burkin, where, two months ago, the IDF had blown up Mr. Soboh’s house. In a separate incident, a Palestinian man was arrested during an early morning IDF raid on Jericho. Palestinians identified the man as Tawfiq Al-Zubin, said to have escaped from an Israeli prison five years ago. Israel confirmed it had detained a suspected member of Islamic Jihad in Jericho. (AFP, AP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian security sources in the town of Salfit, between Nablus and Ramallah, said the Israeli army had arrested two security officers in the village of Kifl Haris, just to the north, in an overnight raid on their homes. The men detained were Mohammed Al-Qaq of the preventive security service and policeman Hamza Obeid, the officials said. (AFP)

IDF forces were pulled away from the area of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The curfew on the city was also been lifted. Israeli security services would organize Palestinian bus companies to ferry Christians from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and from inside Israel, said Raanan Gissin, adviser to Prime Minister Sharon. “Anyone who wants to go to Bethlehem will have a seat” on the buses, Mr. Gissin said, adding that security checks would be carried out on those wishing to travel. (AFP, Arutz-7)

Saudi Arabia called on the international community to intervene at once to halt Israel’s “aggression” against the Palestinians and establish peace in the Middle East, the official SPA news agency reported. “The ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people and their land can only further complicate the situation, and the international community is required to assume its responsibilities and bring an end to this aggression,” Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz told a weekly cabinet meeting. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia deposited two new installments worth US$15.4 million to support the budget of the Palestinian Authority for the fiscal year 2002-2003. In a press statement, Saudi Permanent Representative to the Arab League, Ambassador Faisal bin Hasan Trad, said the Saudi Government had deposited the two installments in the account devoted to the support for the PA budget, as approved by the Arab Summit in Beirut. (SPA)

According to Jerusalem Watch, a joint effort between the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the Norwegian Association of NGOs for Palestine (Fellesutvalget for Palestina), the Planning Committee of the Jerusalem municipality had approved the plan for a Jewish settlement in Abu Dis. The plan included 200 housing units to be built on 46 dunums privately owned by Jews in the part of Abu Dis within the Jerusalem municipality. Before construction could be started, the plan had also to be approved by the district planning committee and by the Interior Minister. (http://www.jerusalemwatch.org)

24

In the Jabalia neighbourhood, north of Gaza City, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy, identified as Mohammed Breek, was killed and five other youths moderately wounded by shrapnel from a tank shell. Witnesses said they saw the youths approach a graveyard east of Gaza City and suddenly heard several explosions. The IDF said it was checking the report. Earlier, Israeli soldiers had blown up a Gaza Strip house the army said contained a tunnel used by militants to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Palestinian gunmen had fired on the troops, as they demolished several other abandoned buildings along the Gaza-Egypt border, the army said. Palestinian witnesses said the IDF had demolished 5 houses in Rafah and had damaged a mosque. The IDF denied causing damage to the mosque. (AFP, Al-Bawaba, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli tanks and troops pulled back from the centre of Bethlehem to the outskirts to allow Christmas services to go ahead. The army said there would be no troops in Bethlehem during Christmas week as long as intelligence did not indicate attacks were planned against Israeli citizens. It said Christians with special passes living in West Bank towns would be allowed into Bethlehem, as well as foreign tourists and pilgrims. Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser called it a “sad Christmas” and said the only way to end the suffering on both sides was with the creation of an independent Palestinian State. “Our message to the world is to restore peace to the town of Bethlehem and all the Palestinian territories and to give the Palestinians a chance to live as real humans”, Mr. Nasser said. (AFP, Al-Bawaba, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The French Government repeated its demand that Chairman Arafat, as well as all Christians, be allowed to travel to Bethlehem to take part in Christmas celebrations. “[France] calls on Israel to take all the necessary measures to reconcile its security preoccupations with the freedom of worshippers to move about,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. He noted that the French Government believed that preventing Mr. Arafat from going to Bethlehem was a “damaging and useless” measure that had “no security justification”. France, Mr. Valero added, “deplores” this ban. (DPA, Reuters)

In Bethlehem’s Manger Square, Israelis peace activists joined with local Palestinian residents in protesting the IDF presence in PA-controlled areas. About 200 Israelis representing a group called “Tayush”, or Coexistence, arrived in the city, some bringing wrapped gifts for Palestinian children. The group held a protest at an army checkpoint before entering the city. Another group, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, also planned to meet with Palestinians in Bethlehem. (Arutz 7, AP, DPA)

The Jerusalem District Court sentenced a Palestinian, Nasser Abu Hamid, 31, to seven consecutive life sentences plus an additional 50 years for what the Court said was his involvement in the killing of seven Israelis. The Court found that Mr. Abu Hamid had received arms and funding for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades from Marwan Barghouti. Mr. Abu Hamid was described by Israeli authorities as a close aide to Mr. Barghouthi. In its verdict, the Court said Mr. Abu Hamid had acknowledged helping to form the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. (AFP, Reuters)

25

IDF soldiers killed a senior Hamas militant in Nablus. Palestinian sources said Ibrahim Abu Hawash, a member of Hamas’ military wing wanted by Israel, had been killed in an IDF raid on his hideout. An IDF official said Mr. Abu Hawash had been killed in an exchange of fire when he and another Hamas militant had opened fire on troops patrolling a residential area of Nablus. The official said the second militant had dragged Mr. Abu Hawash’s body into an apartment, later stormed by IDF soldiers. The second militant had been arrested and a large quantity of weapons had been found in the apartment, the official said. Palestinian residents said six Palestinians, several of them members of Hamas, had been arrested during a sweep of the area. The IDF said its forces had arrested 16 wanted Palestinian militants overnight in various operations in the West Bank. According to Israel Radio, the men arrested were members of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Fatah. In the Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers killed two armed Palestinians near the settlement of “Netzarim”. (Al-Bawaba, AFP, BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Speaking at midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah made strong appeals for an end to the strife and freedom for Palestinians from Israeli domination. “We say ‘no’ to violence, ‘no’ to terrorism and ‘no’ to oppression, but we ask you [Israelis] to understand the reason for the violence and this is occupation”, the Patriarch said. “Blood has been flowing in your cities and streets, but the key to solving this conflict is in your hands. By your actions so far, you have crushed the Palestinian people but you still have not achieved peace”, he added. (Reuters)

26

Eight Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in separate incidents in Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah and Qabatiya. In Nablus, at least two Palestinians were killed in violent clashes in the centre of the city, including an unarmed 16-year-old. Hospital officials said more than 20 people had been wounded in the fighting. In Tulkarm, undercover Border Police troops killed Jamal Nader Mohammad Yahya, 28, head of one of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades cells in the city. In Ramallah, undercover security forces killed Tanzim activist Fanal Shilani, Hamas activist Bassam Al-Askar and bystander Mahdi Obayad. A Palestinian policeman was also killed in an undercover operation; Samer Khalil Shomani had been on Israel’s wanted list and had belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an IDF spokesman said. In Qabatiyah, south of Jenin, the head of the Islamic Jihad in the town was killed in an exchange of gunfire with IDF troops. Hamzah Abu Roub, 37, opened fire on the soldiers, as they attempted to arrest him. The army also arrested 15 suspected militants in Hebron, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, in some West Bank villages and in the Gaza Strip. In Bethlehem a Palestinian intelligence officer, Metri Freij, a nephew of mayor Elias Freij, was among those detained, Palestinian sources said. (AFP, Al-Bawaba, AP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops re-entered Bethlehem and reimposed a curfew. Troops fired tear gas at Palestinians shopping near the city centre, telling them by loudspeakers to return home, and resumed patrols in front of the Church of the Nativity. The IDF also imposed a curfew on the town of Beitunia, near Ramallah. Thirty tanks entered the town. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Israeli Government said it was setting up special security zones around Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It said the army would patrol buffer zones, some several hundred metres beyond the settlement perimeters, to stop attacks by Palestinian militants. “It’s just to ensure that you have a forward defence deployment so you don’t engage the terrorists inside the compound”, said Raanan Gissin, adviser to Prime Minister Sharon. Under new rules of engagement, soldiers would be able to immediately shoot at infiltrators instead of firing a warning shot in the air first. Palestinians denounced the move, saying it was aimed at thwarting Palestinian aspirations for statehood. “Sharon wants to make sure ... that it will be impossible to create a Palestinian State because of the settlements,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. (BBC)

Hamas failed to agree on a date for further negotiations with Fatah over suicide bombings. A Hamas representative, Osama Hamdan, left the Cairo talks saying contact with Fatah would continue but the two sides still differed on the “management of the conflict with Israel, which should be handled differently.” “We have no problem discussing any point, but without preconditions”, Mr. Hamdan told The Associated Press before leaving Cairo. “Contacts will continue to set an appropriate date for talks with Fatah,” he said, adding that the talks could be expanded to include other factions, but after the next round with Fatah. (AP)

An elderly Palestinian man, Salim Marawah, 65, died near Tulkarm, after a stun grenade thrown by Israeli troops landed near him, as he was standing by his house during a raid by Israeli troops into the area. (AFP)

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said he had ordered the army to “step up the pressure and act with all the force required against terrorists wherever they are”. (AFP, Al-Bawaba, DPA, Ha’aretz)

27

At a rally organized to mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, said Israel would “be destroyed within the first quarter of this century”, and asked his supporters to “be patient”. He also told the rally of some 30,000-40,000 persons marching north of Gaza City that “The march of martyrs will move forward. … Resistance will move forward. Jihad will continue, and martyrdom operations will continue until the full liberation of Palestine”. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

IDF troops operating near Nablus arrested Sharif Abed Al-Sabah Qandil, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who was reportedly planning to carry out a suicide attack inside Israel in the next few days. After searching his house in the Askar refugee camp, soldiers found a tape recording of the man’s farewell message to his family. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Two heavily-armed Palestinian militants had entered the settlement of “Otniel”, south-west of Hebron, after the start of the Sabbath, and had killed four settlers and wounded eight, at least one of them seriously, in a shooting attack, the IDF said. One of the attackers was later shot dead in a gunbattle with IDF troops. According to Ha’aretz, IDF troops later killed the second militant near the town of Ad-Dhahariya, south-west of the “Otniel” settlement. Islamic Jihad claimed the attack in an announcement sent to the Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar. The organization said that the attack had been caried out in retaliation for the IDF’s killing of Jihad activist Hamzah Abu Roub near Jenin, on 26 December. (AFP, Al-Bawaba, AP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF intelligence unit arrested a 45-year-old Israeli Jew at the Karni crossing into the Gaza Strip and found tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rounds in his truck. They also found several weapons, but refused to divulge their type. The arrested man was a truck driver from a moshav in the south of Israel. (Ha'aretz)

The Israeli Interior Ministry confirmed the expulsion of eight Belgians who were planning to attend a conference in Ramallah. Four other foreigners, among them three Brazilians, were in custody at the Ben-Gurion Airport awaiting deportation. A government spokesperson said the Interior Ministry had information that the foreigners, among them six women, were likely to disturb the peace. The Belgians were among a 12-member group planning to take part in a four-day conference in Ramallah, at which they were planning to launch the Palestinian social forum, based on the model of the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in February 2002. The group had been detained by immigration officials when they arrived in Israel on 26 December. They had flown back to Europe on a Lufthansa flight, Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Didier Seeuws said. Belgium was not informed of the reason for the expulsions and had protested the decision to Israel. Among those expelled was Pierre Galand, chairman of the Association Belgo-Palestinienne, a Brussels-based NGO. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was quoted by XINHUA as saying that China condemned the reoccupation of Bethlehem, which he said had brought new Palestinian injuries. “China showed serious concern over the act that may lead to escalation of the already intense situation in the region,” he noted. China also called on Israel “to cooperate with the peace-promoting efforts of the international community and withdraw its army as soon as possible so as to create conditions for the resumption of regional stability”. (AFP, XINHUA)




28

A 9-year-old Palestinian girl was shot, as she was playing outside her home in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, and died two hours later after having been taken to a hospital. Palestinian sources said Hanin Abu Suleiman had been killed by shooting from the nearby “Neve Dekalim” settlement. (Al-Bawaba, AP, BBC, Ha’aretz)

The IDF destroyed two houses in the village of Dura, south of Hebron, belonging to the militants who had attacked the “Otniel” settlement the day before. (Arutz 7, CNN)

29

An 8-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead and an 11-year-old wounded, on their way home from school in Tulkarm. Witnesses said the boys had been hit when Israeli troops fired at a group of schoolchildren throwing stones. An IDF spokesman said soldiers had fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas after they had been attacked. (Al-Bawaba, BBC, The Jerusalem Post)

In the Gaza Strip, about 150 Palestinians and foreign supporters marched towards an Israeli military checkpoint to protest restrictions on Palestinian movement. When the marchers were about 50 metres away from the checkpoint, IDF soldiers fired to keep them back. A ricochet hit Tamer Ziara, 21, in the head, according to Mohammed Al-Hawaja, an organizer of the march. Mr. Ziara, a freelance cameraman for Associated Press Television News, who was covering the march for APTN, was taken to nearby Rafah Hospital where doctors said the ricochet had cut the back of his head, but that he was in a stable condition. IDF spokeswoman Capt. Sharon Feingold said the soldiers had opened fire on the crowd because they felt endangered. The military also said the demonstrators had been in an off-limits zone and soldiers had received warnings about an impending attack there. (AP, Ha’aretz)

At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein criticized the policy of “targeted killings”, prompted by reports that Prime Minister Sharon was to order more such operations in response to an earlier attack on the “Otniel” settlement. Mr. Rubinstein said that “targeted killings” should be carried out with the utmost caution and only as a last resort after attempting by other means to arrest a suspect, Israeli Army Radio reported. Prime Minister Sharon replied that his words had been distorted, but that he had ordered Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to step up the war against terrorism. (AP, Arutz 7, The Jerusalem Post)

An undercover IDF unit had arrested three Islamic Jihad members in the village of Dura, near Hebron, Israeli Army Radio reported. (Al-Bawaba, The Jerusalem Post)

Egypt released a draft agreement between Hamas and Fatah drawn up during talks the previous week in Cairo. The draft stipulated that Hamas would cease attacks against Israel if the IDF pulled back to its September 2000 positions and Chairman Arafat’s freedom of movement was restored. Key Palestinian factions would hold talks in the first week of January 2003 to try to adopt a joint political platform on sensitive issues, such as a halt to suicide bombings in Israel, an Egyptian government official told Reuters. “Egypt has invited Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to try to minimize differences and agree on one, unified stance,” the official said, adding that the talks would address issues like borders for a future Palestinian State, refugees and a halt to suicide bombings within Israel. The talks, however, would not address “continued resistance inside occupied land.” “The meetings between the Palestinian factions in Cairo are not aimed at halting the intifada,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters. “What is up for discussion is continuing the resistance in a way that achieves the aims of the Palestinian people. There is a time for armed resistance, but there is also a time for unarmed resistance,” said Mr. Maher, stressing that there was “more than one way to fight the occupation.” It was expected that such a unified platform would allow the PA to secure a two-stage ceasefire. According to PA Minister Nabil Shaath, the ceasefire would first take hold in Israel and, after an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and cities, would extend to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Al-Bawaba, AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

30

Three Palestinians were killed by the IDF: Ibrahim Faraj, a 20-year-old member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades from the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza cut through the wire fence separating Gaza Strip from Israel and was shot dead in an exchange of fire with an IDF patrol; Assem Massad, a schoolteacher from the village of Faqqua, 10km north-east of Jenin, was shot dead by an IDF soldier whose jeep the Palestinian’s car rammed, running it off the road, turning it over and slightly injuring the officer, in what the Palestinian security officials thought was an accident; 20-year old Jamal Zabaro was shot dead in Nablus, while throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, according to Palestinian officials. Israeli military sources said he was shot after he had thrown a firebomb. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Two more Palestinians were later reported killed by Israeli troops, bringing the day’s toll to five. According to witnesses, 17-year-old Amram Abu Hamediye was working at the Andalus petrol station in the industrial zone in southern Hebron when a Border Police jeep patrol arrived on the scene at around 8:30 pm. The Border Police checked a group of youths and then pulled the teenager into the jeep and drove away, returning about 15 minutes later, throwing the body of the youth out of the jeep without stopping. His friends took him to the hospital. The witnesses said the body was covered with bruises and had head injuries. Hospital officials were quoted as saying the youth had been hit with rifle butts. An IDF spokesman said later in the day that Israel was checking the report. Overnight, Hassan Abu Said, aged 40 or 42, was shot dead west of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, following an exchange of fire between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers from the “Neve Dekalim” settlement. Witnesses said an Israeli undercover unit had broken into the refugee camp, opened fire and killed the man. The medical sources said that another resident had been injured. According to Palestinian security sources quoted by AFP and Ha’aretz, the man had been killed by Israeli gunfire while at his home in the Al-Amal neighbourhood. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected an appeal by eight IDF reservists who were willing to serve inside Israel but had objected, as a matter of conscience, to serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The reservists belonged to “Courage to Refuse,” founded in January 2002 and rallying conscientious objectors who considered areas captured by Israel during 1967 to be illegally occupied. The three-judge panel, however, did not address the legality of the occupation but the issue whether conscientious objection was permissible in the army, saying it could not back the idea of “selective conscientious objection”, as such a policy could loosen the bonds that held Israelis together. “Yesterday, the objection was to [military engagement in] Lebanon... tomorrow it will be to dismantling certain settlements,” the panel of judges said, adding reservists had to go wherever the army sent them. However, the judges rejected the prosecution’s accusation that the reservists were engaged in civil disobedience, as their motives were political rather than moral. (AP, BBC, Reuters)

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released a case study exposing a serious incident in Hebron earlier in the month. According to the study, four IDF soldiers had on 3 December 2002 entered a Hebron barber shop, where they had abused five residents of the city, aged 19 – 24, for more than an hour. Among other things, the soldiers had forcibly cut the hair of two of the young men, beat them, and maltreated them, as well as the other three Palestinians. The soldiers had also used three of their victims as “human shields,” firing from over their shoulders at stone-throwers. B’Tselem said that this grave incident was only the tip of the iceberg, as cases of “punishment” and abuse of Palestinians by IDF soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory occured daily, and called on the IDF to investigate the incident immediately. However, B’Tselem said that investigation into this incident alone was insufficient and, in addition, called on the IDF to take all the measures necessary to put an end to the abuse and degradation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territory. (Reuters, full text of the press release and the study at http://www.btselem.org/)

31

The IDF arrested 10 Palestinians in the southern West Bank: a female member of the Islamic Jihad and her two brothers were arrested in their home in Beit Jalla, near Bethlehem; another woman and her teenage daughter in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp; and five students in the village of Dura, south of Hebron. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat, speaking to a rally in Ramallah on the 38th anniversary of the first guerrilla attack on Israel by Fatah’s military wing Al-Assifa, said he was still committed to a lasting peace with Israel, but that would be impossible to achieve so long as Israel continued its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its settlement policy. “The ghost of war that overshadows the Middle East represents today an open chance for the Government of Israel and its occupation army to pursue its destructive war against our Palestinian people and against our holy Islamic and Christian places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem,” Mr. Arafat said. “I fear that they will start new operations because world attention will be focused elsewhere,” he also told Belgian daily Le Soir in an interview. “That’s why I insist once again that the international community sends observers.” “There is a United Nations force in Lebanon, another on the Golan Heights and a third in the Sinai desert. Why shouldn’t they also be in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?” Mr. Arafat noted in the same interview. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

An IDF soldier was moderately injured and two civilian employees of the IDF sustained light wounds when an anti-tank missile was fired at a construction site at the “Termit” outpost in Rafah, at the southernmost edge of the Gaza Strip. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office had conducted an initial review of the updated Road Map. Ha’aretz quoted Israeli security officials, who considered the latest draft better than previous ones, but still saw some drawbacks for Israel: ambiguous formulation of Palestinian commitments, unclear timetable of actions to be taken by the two sides, and strengthened status of the Quartet that might lead to the internationalization of the conflict, which Israel was opposed to. (Ha’aretz)

A new group called “Forum of Holocaust survivors and descendants to halt the deterioration of Israeli humanism” had been circulating a petition since 15 December. “Palestinian terror is a despicable crime,” said the petition by Zvi Gil, the forum coordinator, and journalist Raoul Teitelbaum, but “we cannot clear our conscience in light of the mass, arbitrary destruction of civilians’ homes, uprooted olive trees, and orchards shaved to the ground. We cannot accept the extensive disruptions of daily life and abuse, for its own sake or not, at the checkpoints.” The petition further said that “Israeli society is descending into a quagmire of violence, brutality, disrespect for human rights, and contempt for human life” and that “domination of another people against its will contradicts the lessons of the Holocaust, morally, humanely and politically.” (Ha’aretz)

Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, GOC Central Command, ordered military police to investigate an incident that had taken place on 30 December, in which a 37-year-old Palestinian teacher, Assem Massad, had been shot dead by IDF gunfire after his car had collided with an IDF jeep. (Arutz 7)

PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad presented the 2003 budget to the Palestinian Council, the first budget since 2001. Total spending was expected to reach US$1.278 billion, while the budget deficit was estimated at US$747 million, up from US$526 million in 2001. “Revenue-making capacity [was] projected to decline to about US$531 million, while external budgetary support [was] assumed to remain at around the same level as in 2002 at US$500 million,” Mr. Fayyad told Palestinian Council members in Ramallah, who were scheduled to vote on the budget about a month later. Mr. Fayyad said the budget proposal assumed further deterioration in the Palestinian economy, which he projected would contract by seven per cent in 2003. Palestinian GDP was currently estimated at around US$2 billion. “I am confident that we are on a path that will put an end to managing public funds in a manner that greatly undermined the credibility of our public finance system,” Mr. Fayyad noted. (Reuters)

Israel did not allow 12 ambulances donated to the Palestinians by Saudi Arabia to cross into the Gaza Strip. The ambulances and a truck loaded with medicine and medical equipment, also donated by the Saudis, had been waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for a week, as Israeli authorities controlling the other side of the crossing had not responded to Egypt’s request to let the convoy go through. (AFP)

According to AFP, the Palestinian fatalities of 30 December had brought to 2,806 the toll from more than two years of the Al-Aqsa intifada, including 2,072 Palestinians and 685 Israelis. The rest were foreigners caught in the crossfire. According to Reuters, at least 1,755 Palestinians and 675 Israelis had been killed in the same period. (AFP, Reuters)

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