Palestinians on Sunday celebrated the 20th anniversary of the First Intifada, the popular uprising that rocked the Israeli regime to its foundations.
The Intifada uprising began with mass protests in Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on December 9, 1987 after an Israeli military vehicle ran over a group of Palestinian workers at the Erez checkpoint.
Israeli forces killed more than 1,500 Palestinians during the uprising, and left thousands of others injured or disabled.
Palestinian political factions issued statements marking the 20th anniversary of the Intifada.
Fatah asserted that it had been the spine of the First Intifada, claiming that 60 per cent of those killed, those injured and those detained during the Intifada were Fatah-affiliated.
Hamas’ statement said that the resistance will continue to be its strategy to liberate the Palestinian lands.
They described the peace agreements with Israel as schemes which will remain on paper, achieving nothing in reality.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) described the first Intifada as a blow to the Israeli occupation, reaffirming that the PRC will use resistance as the strategic choice of the Palestinian people.
PRC spokesperson Abu Mujahid said: ‘The first Intifada came as an extension of earlier Palestinian revolutions and uprisings which erupted since the beginning of the Palestinian question.
‘It came to affirm that the only way to get rid of occupation was resistance.
‘It was led by all sectors of the Palestinian population, and developed to become a nightmare for the Israelis who tried to bring it to an end by any means.
‘However, the spirit of the Intifada and resistance remained in Palestinian hearts.’
Meanwhile, ahead of an expected visit to Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) by the US President George W Bush, the Israeli government ignored Palestinian protests and a ‘US warning’ on expanding the illegal Jewish colonial settlements in Jerusalem, reported the Palestine Media Centre.
Hamas on Saturday had criticised the PNA, saying that Israel’s recent settlement expansion plan ‘was a slap in the faces of all those who attended’ the US-hosted Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said: ‘This (Israel’s settlement expansion plan) is a clear result of the international and the Arabic presence which made the face of the occupation beautiful through this meeting.’
Warning against the continued Israeli policy of expanding illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the resumption of peace talks, Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said on Sunday: ‘It is our duty towards our people and national cause to continue this struggle to stop that Israeli policy.’
Bush will visit Israel and the PNA on January 9-11, the head of the PLO negotiations department, Saeb Erekat, said last Saturday.
He added that Bush’s trip will be preceded by a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on December 19.
US and Israeli officials had no immediate comment but officials in Jerusalem confirmed that the dates given by Erekat were accurate, though Bush’s itinerary could change.
The PNA on Saturday appealed for the United States to force Israel to carry out its obligations as part of the US-backed peace plan.
Throughout the years there have been many such pleas to the US and all of them have been ignored.
Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio: ‘We loudly ask the US administration to act as the judge and compel Israel to implement its commitments which the roadmap plan specified.’
Halting the building of Jewish settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories is an Israeli obligation according to phase one of the roadmap peace plan drafted by the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia in 2003.
However, Israel has been ignoring its ‘obligations’ ever since the Oslo peace accords, without once being seriously rebuked or even chided by the US.
Erekat added: ‘If Israel goes on (with expansion of settlements), this will destroy all the efforts that aim at launching a meaningful peace process leading to end the Israeli occupation which started in 1967.’
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are due to begin tomorrow with a meeting of a steering committee that is to determine the framework of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rice said last Friday that the Israeli plan to build 307 new housing units in Jerusalem’s Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) colonial settlement beyond the Green Line does not help the peace process.
‘I’ve made clear that we’re in a time when the goal is to build maximum confidence between the parties, and this doesn’t help to build confidence,’ she said in Brussels on Friday following talks with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
Rice however did not say that the settlement building must be halted.
The Israelis took her statement as a licence to continue with the building.
To order, the Israeli government confirmed that construction of the Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem will continue despite the criticism from Rice, and because she refused to tell them to stop the building.
The Israelis remain determined to annexe East Jerusalem.
Israel’s deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon responded on Sunday to ‘US criticism’ by telling Israeli radio that Israel would not give up the Jewish settlement building plan.
Ramon said: ‘I am convinced that all Jewish neighbourhoods, including Har Homa, should be under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighbourhoods should not be under Israeli sovereignty because they pose a threat to Jerusalem being the capital of a Jewish Israel.’
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, another deputy premier, told public television: ‘Construction will continue at full flow, and our friends must be told this.
‘It is clear to the whole world that Har Homa is an integral part of Israel and that Har Homa will remain an integral part of Jerusalem.’
Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim, went as far as to openly criticise Rice’s statements on Har Homa.
He said: ‘Secretary Rice is to be praised for her part in getting the peace process restarted, but it is inconceivable that at every opportunity this will be tied to construction in Jerusalem.
‘The neighbourhood of Har Homa is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to which Israeli law applies. Accordingly, there is no obstacle to building there, as there is no obstacle to building anywhere else in Israel.’
The site of the new building lies between Arab East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Jordan and Egypt, two Arab countries who had already signed peace treaties with Israel, condemned the Israeli construction plans.
Jordanian State Minister for Information, Nasser Judeh, said the Israeli measure contravenes international resolutions that consider the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territories, the official Petra news agency reported.
Judeh urged the Israelis to immediately halt the building plans.
In Cairo last Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit also slammed Israel for its settlement expansion plans.
Abul Gheit, who was on a visit to Brussels, said that the measure runs counter to Israel’s commitments in Annapolis peace conference recently held in the United States under the sponsorship of President Bush.
Gheit said that the Israeli move also violates the trust-building measures it had pledged to take in an attempt to create a suitable atmosphere for launching serious negotiations with the Palestinian side.
The Egyptian top diplomat called on the international community, especially the countries which attended the Annapolis peace conference, to shoulder responsibilities and press Israel to give up such a ‘very negative step.’
All the pleas in the world will not stop Israel, with the Bush regime behind it, doing what it wants.
This is why many Palestinians are demanding the launching of the third intifada.