PNA slams ‘collective punishment’

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The Palestinian leadership on Sunday condemned the ‘unjustified’ extra-judicial execution of a Palestinian activist and slammed Israel’s tightening of the closure it imposed on the occupied territories as ‘collective punishment’.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) extra-judicially executed Palestinian anti-occupation activist Nihad Abu Ghanem, 27, near the northern West Bank town of Jenin on Sunday.

Palestinian hospital officials said Abu Ghanem died after being shot in the head, abdomen and chest.`

He was the top Islamic Jihad local leader in the northern West Bank town of Burkin near Jenin, and was ‘wanted’ by the IOF for two years.`

IOF officials claimed Abu Ghanem was killed when Israeli troops, during a routine patrol in the northern West Bank, spotted an armed Palestinian. They claimed that a gunfight broke out, and he was shot and killed.`

His death brought to more than 3,944 the overall Palestinian death toll since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada (uprising) against the 38-year old Israeli occupation on September 28, 2000.`

IOF also shot dead three Palestinians aged 15-18 near the Gaza Strip-Israel borders and a Palestinian man near Jenin, claiming he was armed, earlier in the month.`

IOF killed 218 Palestinians in the first nine months of 2005.`

In an official statement issued Sunday night and released by the official news agency WAFA, the Palestinian leadership denounced Abu Ghanem’s ‘unjustified’ assassination.`

Reiterating its commitment to quietness and truce, its call for returning to the negotiation table and implementing the UN-adopted roadmap peace plan, the leadership called on Israel to end its assassination policy, which claimed ten Palestinian lives in September.`

The Palestinian leadership’s statement also called on Israel to stop building its Apartheid Wall on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.`

Israel’s High Court of ‘Justice’ on Sunday accepted a state petition to cancel a temporary injunction preventing the building of the Israeli Apartheid Wall through the neighbourhood of Dahiyat al-Barid near the town of A-Ram, at the northern entrance to Jerusalem.“

Separately, PNA Minister of Planning, Ghassan Khatib, described the Israeli measures enforced after the killing of three Zionist settlers as ‘collective punishment.’`

The PNA leadership also denounced the killing of three Israeli settlers near Bethlehem, saying it considers such operation a ‘terrorist act’ that harms the Palestinian higher interests and credibility in the world.`

But Israel reacted by cutting off all contacts with the PNA and sealing off the West Bank.`

The three Israeli illegal Jewish settlers were killed on Sunday afternoon and four others were wounded, one seriously, when gunmen opened fire on a hitchhiking station at the junction of the colonial settlement bloc of Gush Etzion in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. “

Immediately Israel suspended all security coordination with the PNA and tightened the closure it has imposed on the West Bank since the beginning of the Jewish holidays.`

The closure was tightened further during the 25-hour fast of the Day of Atonement, which began at sunset Wednesday and ended an hour after sundown on Thursday.`

Israeli police went on alert on Sunday ahead of the week-long Sukkot holiday, which began Monday night.`

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: ‘There is also a temporary suspension of contacts between the Defence Ministry and military personnel and Palestinian counterparts.’“

At a late-night meeting in Tel Aviv with the military’s top brass, Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister Shaul Mofaz decided on a series of measures to clamp down on Palestinians under occupation.`

Mofaz said that the IOF will operate ‘inside’ the Palestinian controlled areas adding that ‘the Palestinians will feel the presence of the army among them.’“

He added: ‘As long as the terror attacks persist, Israel will not be able to continue the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.’`

The new measures would be in effect for the long term.`

Palestinian police and security men were advised to step aside in order to avoid clashes with the IOF, Israeli media reported.`

Mofaz claimed ‘the Palestinians are not doing anything serious’ adding ‘these measures will remain in force until they take real steps’ against armed groups, an Israeli official said.`

Private Palestinian vehicles have been banned from travelling along West Bank roads and the IOF returned to its policy of encircling West Bank Palestinian towns.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office said IOF troops will re-deploy around West Bank cities and limit Palestinian movement on main roads via checkpoints and other means.

‘Israel removed roadblocks and made a number of humanitarian gestures to ease up on the Palestinians,’ said David Baker, an official in Sharon’s office.

He alleged: ‘It’s unfortunate the Palestinians have exploited these measures.’

The Israeli army imposed a curfew on Bethlehem and began a search operation.

Exit from Bethlehem and Hebron was blocked.

Palestinian cars will be banned from the area and arrest raids will be increased, Israeli officials said.

The latest crackdown came soon after the publication of a UN report which said that delays at Israeli checkpoints have resulted in unattended roadside births and even the deaths of some women and infants.

The ‘State of world population 2005’, was distributed on Saturday in a press conference at the PMC premises in al-Beira, by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).`

Meanwhile, some 700 anti-Israeli occupation activists have been detained during the past few months.`

The detention spree will be stepped up, ‘largely around Bethlehem and Hebron,’ an IOF source revealed on Sunday without giving further details.`

Nineteen Palestinians were detained in the West Bank overnight, the IOF said on Sunday.`

In the northern West Bank village of Kufr Qallil, IOF troops on Sunday detained Majdi A’amer, 33, and A’assem A’amer, 22, whom the soldiers used as a human shield to detain a third Palestinian.“

Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday banned using Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’ by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in arrest raids, saying it violates international law.“

However Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister Mofaz said the IOF would appeal against the court’s ruling.