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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
28 February 1997
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s



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


February 1997


2
Speaking before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat accused Israel of procrastination in implementing its part of the peace agreements. He said Israel was trying to evade or not to attend meetings of the committees set up to solve important questions. He also accused Israel of pursuing its settlements policy and the policy of closures. He said Israeli restrictions of the movement of people and goods between Israel and the Palestinian territories was costing Palestinians some $7 million a day. (Reuters)

Saeb Erakat, PA Minister of Local Government and head of the Palestinian negotiating team in the negotiations with Israel said in an interview with the Voice of Palestine radio that he had sent letters to the United States peace envoy Dennis Ross and the EU special envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos warning them of the danger of the peace process collapse as a result of Israel’s breaches in the agreements. He also demanded that Israel stop unilateral acts in East Jerusalem. (DPA)

In his speech before the Davos forum, President of Egypt Mubarak urged Israel to resume without delay peace negotiations with Syria and Lebanon. He rejected, however, the Middle East peace initiative of the President of France saying that the United States was playing the primary role. (DPA)

3

In an interview with Al-Hayat, Mr. Arafat said that thirty-four points of the Oslo agreements are still unresolved. Among the points mentioned were the release of the Palestinian prisoners, the opening of the Gaza airport and seaport and the safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In
Mr. Arafat’s view, the permanent status negotiations should not begin until those points are settled. (AFP)

For the first time since a Jewish settler massacred dozens of Palestinian worshippers in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, Israel reopened Hebron’s main Al-Shuhada (Martyrs) Street on 3 February. According to the Agreed Minute attached to the Hebron protocol, the process of the street reopening should be fully completed within four months. (Reuters)

PA President Yasser Arafat called on the European Union (EU), to play a political role in the Middle East peace process in addition to its economic contribution. At a press conference at the Hague after his meetings with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and Foreign Minister Van Mierlo, Arafat said he continued to insist on a EU role in the peace process. Noting that the EU was “by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians”, Foreign Minister Van Mierlo added that the EU was not seeking “a place at the negotiating table” but wanted to make itself useful and put its expertise at everyone’s disposal. The Netherlands holds the rotating Presidency of the EU for the first half of 1997. An interim cooperation accord between the EU and the PA is expected to be signed on 24 February, in Brussels. (AFP)

In an easing of the closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel allowed some 6,000 Palestinian workers to enter its territory for work. According to Israeli military officials, the number of day labourers from the West Bank will remain the same at 28,000. Some 55,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip hold work permits for Israel. Only Palestinians who are married and over the age of 28 have been issued the papers. Foreign workers have filled many of the jobs once held by the Palestinians. Some 100,000 foreign workers, mostly Thais, Romanians and Filipinos, have entered Israel legally over the past three years. Another 100,000 illegal workers are also estimated to be in the country. (AFP, DPA)

4

The Government of Israel published a newspaper advertisement in Ma’ariv offering about 120 houses for sale in 30 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing also said the ministry planned to sell plots of West Bank land to build 4,550 new homes for settlers this year. The new proposal includes building 1,159 new housing units in the religious settlement Emmanuel near Nablus and 1,122 in the Efrat settlement, south of Bethlehem. A 128 square-meter (1,376 sq-ft) home with a small yard in the Kedim settlement near Jenin reportedly has a bargain price of US$54,000, while a similarly sized home in central Israel would sell for at least US$300,000. Ha’aretz reported that the Construction and Housing Ministry proposal for 1997 is part of a broader plan to build some 35,000 new homes for Jewish settlers. (AFP, Reuters)

Spanish Trade Minister Jose Norniella signed an agreement with the PA Finance Minister Mohammad Nashashibi, in accordance with which Spain would provide US$50 million in low interest loans for use on Palestinian infrastructure projects. (AFP)

6

The Israeli authorities refused to allow Eissa Qaraqi, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team on prisoners and head of the Prisoners’ Club, a rights group for Palestinian detainees, to visit Ashkelon prison in southern Israel. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the release of the prisoners, aimed at working out the logistics of the releases, are due to begin on 12 February. (AFP)

Yasser Abdel-Ghani al-Hamshari (name as reported), 21, a second year student at Bir Zeit University’s commerce department, died at the Ramallah Hospital of gunshot wounds sustained during the September 1996 gun battle between the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian police in Tulkarm where he was caught in a crossfire and shot by Israeli soldiers. (AFP, Reuters)

According to The Korea Herald the Korea International Cooperation Agency, the Republic of Korea’s organization in charge of implementing international grant programmes, allocated US$1 million in aid in 1997 to the areas under the jurisdiction of the PA. (Chamber World Network via NewsEDGE)

PA Minister of Tourism Abdallah Hijazi announced that the first ever Palestinian national museum would be built on the Mediterranean shore in Gaza City at a cost of US$200,000. The total cost of the project, however, would be US$3 million, as items of Palestinian national heritage, currently spread out in homes and storehouses, will have to be collected. (AFP)

7

Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the release of all Palestinian female prisoners held by Israel, as part of a commitment made to the PLO. An Israeli cabinet statement gave no detail as to the date of the release. According to Palestinian sources, only 25 of some 5,000 Palestinian prisoners are women. Pursuant to the September 1995 Interim Agreement women prisoners were due to be released in the first stage of the release i.e. upon the signing of the agreement. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

9

Prime Minister Netahyahu and PA President Arafat met at Erez checkpoint between the Gaza Strip and Israel to discuss the implementation of the Hebron protocol and lay groundwork for further detailed discussions on the permanent status issues. They decided to establish eight joint negotiating committees to tackle such issues as the operation of the Gaza sea and airports, safe passage corridors from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip and the release of Palestinian prisoners. The talks also dealt with issues pertaining to East Jerusalem, Israeli settlement activity and further Israeli redeployments in the West Bank. (AFP, DPA, Financial Times, Reuters)

Israel’s Finance Minister Dan Meridor asked the Knesset finance committee to approve Shk25.5 million (US$4.8 million) in loan guarantees to encourage investment in Jewish settlements. The guarantees were suspended by the previous (Labour) Government in order to facilitate peace negotiations with the PLO. (AFP, Financial Times)

The Yishpar Company, a Sony representative in Israel, signed an agreement, with the PA to build a TV studio near the El-Arub refugee camp outside Hebron. The project would cost some US$300,000. (AFP)

11

Several hundred Palestinians clashed with IDF soldiers over the confiscation of a large tract of land near Tulkarm. According to an IDF spokesman, some 300 Palestinians from Tulkarm and the nearby village of Ar-Ras gathered to prevent a team of surveyors from measuring the land, which Israeli authorities had sold to private investors to establish a quarry. Residents of Ar-Ras said the land covers some 800 hectares (1,700 acres) and had been illegally seized from them by Israel. Eight Palestinians were reported injured in the incident. (AFP, DPA)

12

An Israeli-Palestinian joint committee on economic affairs reached an agreement for each side to repay debts to the other amounting to more than US$50 million. Israel would pay the PA some US$30 million in taxes levied on products sold to Palestinians in the Palestinian areas before those areas came under the jurisdiction of the PA. The PA agreed to pay debts to Israel (mainly hospitals, Bezeq Israel Telcom, a state-run telephone company, the Mekorot water company and other companies) amounting to over US$20 million. (AFP, Reuters)

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel Front, a group of 17 Knesset members from several parties of Israel’s ruling coalition, threatened to withdraw their support for Prime Minister Netanyahu unless a Jewish settlement is built in East Jerusalem. The group insists on the construction of the Har Homa estate in the southeastern part of the city. The other suggested projects are a link road and a highway to the satellite settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. The city chief of police Arie Amit warned that breaking ground at Har Homa would be like “a starting signal” for serious unrest. (DPA)

Implementing the Hebron protocol, Israel reopened part of the produce market in Hebron, closed since February 1994, when a Jewish settler massacred 29 Muslim worshippers in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

13

French Defence Minister Charles Millon offered his country’s assistance in helping Israel reach a peace agreement with Syria an Lebanon. Speaking in Jerusalem after meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Levy, Millon said it was necessary to reach an overall accord, which would be “guaranteed by the United States, Europe and, in particular, France”. He added that the accord must be based on the principle of land for peace. (AFP)

Israeli soldiers stopped about 20 Jewish settlers from protesting against the reopening of the Hebron produce market. The settlers were trying to stop Palestinian merchants from cleaning and renovating stores in the market. Scuffles and shouting matches erupted. The settlers were escorted away by the IDF. The Israeli soldiers reportedly took away the ID cards of the shopowners. (AFP, Reuters)

14

Jewish settlers began demolishing a Palestinian house in Hebron, confiscated by the Israeli authorities in 1979. The settlers said they intended to build a 10-unit apartment complex in Hebron. According to an IDF spokesman, the settlers had no permit to build. (Reuters)

Hundreds of Palestinians, joined by Israeli peace activists from the Peace Now movement, held prayers on land near Tulkarm in protest against its confiscation for stone quarries to be developed by Israeli investors. (AFP, Reuters)

16

Israeli and Palestinian delegations began a new round of negotiations at Ma’ale Hahamisha west of Jerusalem. The agenda for the opening of the round included arrangements for Palestinian seaport and airport in Gaza, safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, economic, civil, financial affairs and “people to people” cooperation. The Israeli delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Levy, the Palestinian - by Mahmud Abbas, member of the PLO Executive Committee. After a 60-minute plenary session, the delegations split up into committees while the heads of the delegations met privately. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

18

PA President Yasser Arafat, on a two-day official visit to Moscow, met at the Kremlin with the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin to discuss progress in the peace process. A Russian-Palestinian statement would be released after the meeting. In addition to the President, Arafat is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and the State Duma (lower house of parliament) speaker Gennady Seleznyov. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The first ever Palestinian stock market was officially opened in Nablus. By the opening time, only 23 companies had been registered. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The IDF detained four Palestinian workers in Hebron for conducting renovations on a house, near a Jewish settlement in the centre of the historic old city. The Palestinians said the project (carried out by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee) was aimed at reviving the decaying Arab old city and preventing Jewish settlers from expanding their enclaves by seizing the vacant houses. (AFP)

Glyn Davies, a Department of State spokesman, at a news briefing criticized a decision by the Israeli Government to press ahead with a road-building project around East Jerusalem. Davies said the United States would have preferred that the action just taken by the Israeli Government not have been taken at this time. The spokesman reminded that the US had said to both parties since the Hebron agreement that they should act in ways, which built confidence and enhanced prospects for future progress. (Reuters)

Israel ordered the demolition of a building in Beit Surik, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, meant to serve as an UNRWA school. A spokesman for the Israeli military administration in the West Bank accused the PA of illegally granting a building permit to UNRWA for a school in an area still under full Israeli control. Ahmad Abed Rahman, the secretary-general of the cabinet of the PA President, condemned the order and said Israel had control only of security in the area, not civilian affairs. In a meeting between the Israeli civil administration and UNRWA officials, Israel issued the order informing the representatives that they must destroy the building or Israel would. A spokesman for UNRWA said they were looking into the matter and had not yet decided what action to take. (AFP)

19

PA President Arafat, speaking in Moscow at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov, said he was in “acute need” of Russia to “overcome the difficulties, which block the peace process”. He called on the Russian Federation, United States and the EU to convince Israel not to go ahead with the building of new Jewish settlements. Arafat also invited President Yeltsin and Patriarch of All Russia Alexy II to visit Bethlehem for the 2,000th anniversary of Christ’s birth. (AFP, AP)

Israeli police raided a number of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem suspecting them of affiliation with the PA. Among the raided institutions were the Higher Council of Tourism, the centre for small business ventures, the centre for social studies, the offices of the Arab Studies Association and the offices of Saint Ives Human Rights Association. The police teams, including plainclothes officers, entered the institutions and questioned their occupants about the nature of their organizations and as to how long they had been operating. They also took pictures of the institutions. (DPA)

20

In an interview on the Turkish State-run TV Channel TRT, PA President Arafat urged the United States, the Russian Federation and the EU to protect the peace process and make Israel abide by the agreements it had signed with the Palestinian side. He also asked Turkey to protect the peace process. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

21

Speaking before businessmen in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he planned to build 6,500 homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem at Jabal Abu Ghneim [referred to as Har Homa by the Israelis], located on a hill between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. If constructed, the new Jewish settlement would connect with two other settlements of Givat Arba and Givat Hamatos, which along with the Gilo settlement would completely envelop East Jerusalem’s southern part. To the east of the city lies the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, while the planned highway around Jerusalem would cut off Palestinian expansion in that direction. According to Khalil Tufakji, who monitors Israeli settlement activity for Orient House, building 6,500 housing units on Jabal Abu Ghneim would bring in 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish residents, completely overturning the demographics in Jerusalem. (AFP, Reuters)

22

The PA Cabinet again warned Israel about the dangerous consequences of building new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The Cabinet statement called on the Palestinian people to act to ensure the failure of “settlers and Israeli enterprises involved in the construction of settlements in Palestinian territories.” (AFP)

23

Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived in Amman on his first trip to an Arab State since the signing of the Hebron Protocol. Among the issues discussed with King Hussein of Jordan were the status of Jerusalem and participation of Syria in the peace negotiations. (AFP, CNN, Reuters)

24

Speaking to Israeli Army Radio, the mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert announced that the Government of Israel this week would approve the construction a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. (AFP)

The League of Arab States expressed concern about Israeli plans for a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. It was also worried over Israel’s continued policies of blockading East Jerusalem and withdrawing residence permits from the Palestinian city residents. The Arab League said the policy constituted “a premeditated campaign aimed at Judaizing Jerusalem.” (AFP)

A joint delegation of Israeli and Palestinian deputies composed of four Knesset Members and five Palestinians began talks with French officials on the role of France and the EU in the Middle East. (AFP)

25

Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that he would convene a ministerial committee meeting on Jerusalem tomorrow to approve a plan to build a Jewish settlement of Har Homa on the hill of Jabal Abu Ghneim, as it is known to Palestinians. He said: “We will build everywhere in Jerusalem and on Har Homa. It’s important for our needs and we’re building for Jews and Arabs, and it’s also our sovereign right to build in Jerusalem.” Netanyahu was expected to approve the construction of 2,450 residences for Jews, as the first phase of a plan to establish a neighbourhood of 6,500 homes for 25,000 Jews on the 185-hectare (459-acre) site. (AFP, Reuters)

In protest, some 200 Palestinians, led by Faisal Husseini, the PA official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, and local members of the Palestinian Council, walked from Bethlehem towards the Israeli checkpoint separating East Jerusalem from Bethlehem. The marchers, heading towards the hill of Jabal Abu Ghneim, were prevented by the Israeli police from reaching Jerusalem. Dismissing Israel’s promise to build housing for Palestinians, Husseini said: ”East Jerusalem needs 30,000 homes for Palestinians, but no Israeli Government has ever built a single house for them.” (AFP)

Mohammad Abdel Aziz Abu Halawi [name as reported], a 55-year old Palestinian retiree was killed and three other Palestinians were wounded in a raid conducted by the Israeli special forces in the West Bank town of Hizmeh, east of Jerusalem. A statement of the Palestinian General Security agency in Gaza City said the “soldiers of this special unit were in civilian clothes and entered the home of a Palestinian without a reason.” Saeb Erakat, the PA Minister of Local Government, delivered an official protest to Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh and demanded an investigation into the shooting. (AFP, CNN, The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service)

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters after Security Council consultations on a number of issues, Njuguna Mahugu of Kenya, the Council’s President for the month of February, said that the Council “expressed concern at the new settlement policy of Israel in East Jerusalem and hoped that restraint and wisdom would prevail so as not to undo the peace process.” (Reuters)

26

Faisal Husseini, the PA official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, made a last-minute appeal to the Israeli Government not to build a new settlement in East Jerusalem. He said there would be demonstrations if the settlement plan were approved. Security was enhanced in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank ahead of Israeli ministerial committee’s decision on the issue. Major-General Dayan, IDF commander in the West Bank, said the army had not sent reinforcements to the area but had “concentrated troops in the necessary places.” The armoured vehicles and sharp-shooters had also been deployed. (AFP, Reuters)

Speaking at the PA Ministry of Information, Edward Abington, United States Consul General in Jerusalem, told a news conference that construction of thousands of Jewish homes on Jabal Abu Ghneim and other settlement activity would create a “very, very volatile situation.” (Reuters)

Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh said that the ministerial committee on Jerusalem had approved the construction of 6,500 homes for Jews in East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim, with 2,500 to be built in the first stage. He added that the “work on the infrastructure of Har Homa” would start immediately after the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs signs the plans. (AF, Reuters)

The PA condemned the Israeli decision to build a Jewish settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim. Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, PA General-Secretary, said that the PA rejected the decision to build in Jerusalem and did not recognize the ramifications that might come from it. He added that it was a “serious violation of the peace process and a major blow to the agreements.” (Reuters)

28

PA President Arafat denounced Israel’s decision to build a new Jewish settlement in the neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim. He said: “This is a big breaching of what had been agreed upon, and it is against the United Nations resolutions and also against the American letter of guarantees and against all the agreements that had been signed.” (The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service)

* * *

CR02/04.03.97


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