The scheduled meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli vice premier Shaol Mofaz was postponed indefinitely today, June 30, according to a Fatah official.
The unnamed senior Fatah official said the meeting was postponed for several reasons including public opposition to the Israeli leader coming to Ramallah.
The same official applauded Abbas “for showing respect to the people’s position”.
“The whole world should consider the huge pressure internally and externally President Abu Mazen (Abbas) faces in light of Israel’s stubbornness and the ongoing settlement activities, detentions, and house demolitions,” the official said.
Popular opposition to the meeting has escalated over the past few days, with youth groups planning demonstrations and even calling for Mofaz’ arrest the minute he enters Ramallah. Mofaz, who called for the meeting said he wanted to “examine ways to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians”.
If the postponement of the Abbas-Mofaz was considered a victory among many Palestinians, so was the June 29 vote at UNESCO. The Palestinians scored the first ever listing of a Palestinian religious holy site, the Church of the Nativity, on the agency’s world heritage list.
At a news conference outside the church in Bethlehem, Palestinian officials thanked UNESCO. “We are all very happy,” said Issam Juha, the director for restoration at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation. “Today was a great day … As Palestinians we deserve our heritage like any other people in the world.”
The victory came in spite of US and Israeli resistance to the move, accusing the Palestinians of ‘politicizing’ the issue.
“This isn’t political. It was a technical decision based on merit,” Juha said. “This place is holy to all humanity, especially the two billion Christians around the world.”
Another victory was scored in Nabi Saleh, the West Bank site of weekly protests against the separation wall and land confiscation by Israeli authorities. During this week’s protests, demonstrators were able to reach a spring that was confiscated for the use of Jewish settlers, two of whom were bathing in it when the protesters arrived at the site.
A large number of Israeli forces arrived in the area and closed it but not before protesters were able to place a Palestinian flag at the site. Clashes then ensued between the Palestinians and Israeli soldiers stationed in an army tower.
The news was not all good however, this week. On June 27, senior Hamas operative Kamal Ghanaja, was killed in his Damascus home by unknown assailants. Ghanaja’s body showed signs of torture including burns when he was found. Hamas has yet to make any formal accusations as to who it believes assassinated but fingers are already pointing to Israel’s Mossad. Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak remained coy as to his government’s involvement in the murder, saying this was “not necessarily true” but that Ghanajeh “was no saint.” Ghanaja’s funeral is slated to take place in Jordan.
And while the Ulpana settlement neighborhood was evacuated this week – only to have the families moved to another section of the Bet El settlement slated for even more expansion – Israel’s housing ministry published three tenders on June 29 for 171 settlement housing units in east Jerusalem in the settlements of Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa. This week also saw an Israeli draft bill aimed at taking control over the Mount of Olives in the eastern sector of the city on claims that the oldest Jewish cemetery is located there.
On June 26, four Palestinians were killed in Syria when Assad forces shelled the Palestinian refugee camp of Deraa. Subhi Abu Khaled, Yassin Rideif, Nassim Assalti and Muutaz Assalti, were all killed in the shelling, according to local sources while another was seriously wounded and 15 homes and a mosque were damaged.
Meanwhile Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal and his delegation on June 28 in Amman. The two sides discussed developments in the region with Abdullah reiterating the kingdom’s support for Palestine.
“Jordan will continue its support to the Palestinians to ease their suffering through providing them with every possible assistance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” the king was quoted as saying. Meshaal also showed his appreciation for Jordan’s role and its support for the Palestinians.
On June 28 dozens of prisoners in the Etzion detention facility began a hunger strike against their living conditions, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, which said the prisoners initially began to return meals two weeks ago as a preliminary step. The prisoners say Etzion is crowded, breaks have been reduced from an hour to only 30 minutes and that there is not enough food for the number of prisoners. Others accused the Israel Prison Service of putting them in solitary confinement and beating them without reason.
Akram Al Rekhawi, who has been on hunger strike for over two months, is in dire health conditions, say his lawyers from Addameer, adding that independent doctors have been denied access to him. Another detainee, Samer Al Barq, entered his 38th day of hunger strike, who along with Al Rekhawi, is in the Ramleh prison hospital.
Child prisoners are also in the news this week. On June 26, a delegation of senior British lawyers released a report saying Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children in custody breaks international law. The independent report, backed by the UK government, documents testimony by the UN, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children that minors are subject to shackling, hooding and solitary confinement.
“To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture,” the report says.
Seizing children in night raids, physical and verbal abuse, and keeping them from their parents also breaks international prohibitions on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the report adds. Rights groups estimate around 700 Palestinian children are detained by Israel every year.
Finally, on June 26, President Abbas welcomed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Bethlehem. In a press conference afterwards, Putin praised Abbas for his positions towards negotiations and said his country had no problem with recognizing a Palestinian state. Abbas on his part thanked Putin for Russia’s historical support for the cause and backed the idea of holding and international peace conference.