An undercover unit of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) backed by 15 military vehicles stormed into and imposed curfew on the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem and two adjacent refugee camps on Sunday and extra-judicially executed two Palestinians, identified as Loai Assadi and Majed Samir al-Ashqar.
Palestinian military liaison officer in Tulkarem Abu Haitham told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that the IOF troops left the town, its adjacent refugee camp, and the nearby Nur Shams camp early Monday and retained the bodies of Assadi and al-Ashqar.
Israel Radio on Monday identified Assadi as a top commander of the Palestinian anti-occupation group the Islamic Jihad.
WAFA reported that during the incursion IOF troops surrounded a house where the victims were, in the Murabat Hannoon neighbourhood, amid gunfire.
In the month since Israel’s unilateral ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces have killed 24 Palestinians, including three children, and arrested more than 750 Palestinian activists in the West Bank.
The latest two deaths brought the Palestinian death toll in the past week to six, and to more than 3,950 the overall Palestinian toll since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada (uprising) against the 38-year old Israeli occupation on September 28, 2000.
The Palestinian National Institute for Information (PNII) puts the toll at a total of 4,172 in the past five years.
According to the figures released on Sunday by the PNII, 45,718 Palestinians were injured over the same period, 8,600 Palestinians were being held in 25 Israeli jails, 580 of them detained before the Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) started, adding that 1000 of detainees are suffering from different diseases.
Israel also destroyed 645 security buildings and installations of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), as well as 71,470 Palestinian houses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the PNII added.
The Palestinian Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC) estimates that during the period of the first Intifada (December 1987 to December 1993), the IOF killed 1,282 Palestinians (of whom 332 were children) and injured 130,472 Palestinians more.
Among the injured there are those that remain with permanent disabilities. Furthermore, approximately 57,000 Palestinians were arrested (many of whom were subjected to systematic physical and psychological torture), over 481 were deported and 2,532 had their homes demolished.
Meanwhile, the IOF have begun to fire tightly packed mini-bean bags (fatal if fired from a distance of less than three metres) at Palestinian protestors demonstrating against Israel’s Apartheid Wall in the West Bank village of Belin, Ha’aretz reported.
The Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper quoted demonstrators who had been injured in protests against the Wall in Belin as saying that they had been hit by a sack packed with tiny balls. A picture of the sack was printed in the paper.
The bean bags were designed by the IOF as a non-lethal means of dispersal, but the newspaper said they could prove fatal if fired from a distance of less than three metres.
An IOF spokesman described the sacks as a ‘weapon for dismantling riots’ and said that their use had ‘been approved by all relevant officials’.
Previously the security forces had relied on tear gas canisters, rubber-coated bullets and percussion grenades to break up the four-month old protests in Belin.
Meanwhile the Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei on Sunday announced a new plan aimed at disarming the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, training the anti-Israeli occupation group’s activists, and incorporating them into the official security services of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
Qurei announced the plan after meeting with his top security chiefs, including the PNA Interior Minister Nassr Yousef, in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
PNA ministers said that the plan when carried out would be as a significant step toward establishing law and order in the occupied Palestinian territories.
‘We have agreed today to establish five new camps for training and hosting’ the activists, Qurei said, referring to the Al-Aqsa Brigades members.
He told reporters that the disarmament efforts would begin in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus, and then move into other areas.
Qurei added that PNA security chiefs will meet in the northern West Bank city of Nablus next week to evaluate, report on the security situation there, and provide the government with their recommendations.
However, the plan is threatened by the Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank, Qurei warned, saying that the new restrictions imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the West Bank roads were undermining the peace process after he himself was stuck at a checkpoint for 45 minutes.
An angry Qurei told reporters that he had been stopped at an IOF mobile checkpoint to the east of Ramallah as he was driving from his offices in Abu Dis on the outskirts of east Jerusalem.
‘The Israelis say the road closures are to defend themselves, but it is really just a procedure to make our lives difficult, especially during Ramadan,’ he said.
‘This does not help the peace process but only makes difficulties for all Palestinians – not just me,’ he added.
Separately the PNA Interior Minister Nassr Yousef, the top Palestinian security commander, said camps for training the would-be incorporated Al-Aqsa Brigades activists would be operational ‘within weeks’.
‘We are making efforts to finish the Al-Aqsa Brigades and bring them inside the security apparatus and protect them,’ Yousef told reporters after the meeting with Qurei and security chiefs.
‘We have a plan to train them in the Palestinian security forces. This plan will begin in the next few weeks,’ he said.
Al-Aqsa spokesmen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said they were confident the movement would join the new plan.
‘In principle there are no problems,’ Abu Ahmad, an Al-Aqsa official in Gaza, was quoted as saying.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is linked to the ruling Fatah movement, led by President Mahmud Abbas.
Meanwhile on Saturday, PNA Minister for Civil Affairs Mohammad Dahlan, a former security chief and a leading member of Fatah, called on armed activists to set aside their weapons and move toward democracy.
Dahlan, 44, arrived in Gaza on Saturday after treatment in Belgrade for a serious back complaint.
Dahlan told his supporters that the coming stage would be the stage of democracy. It was time for Fatah to control their arms, end the chaos in Gaza and focus on winning the parliamentary vote, scheduled for January 25.
‘We are the pioneers in the Fatah movement and we should put an end to the division. We should be united. It’s time for democracy,’ Dahlan said.