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Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

On January 11, hundreds of Palestinian activists set up protest tents in the so-called E1 corridor between the settlement of Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem in one of the most creative nonviolent resistance movements against Israel’s continued settlement expansion. Residents of the Palestinian areas of Al Tour, Essawiyeh, Al Zaim and Anata have been handed eviction orders from their land in order for Israel to implement its declared expansion of 3,000 new settlement homes in the area.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bilin, said the activists had set up the village of Bab Al Shams, or 'Gate of the Sun', in protest against Israeli settlements.

"We will not be silent while settlements and the colonization of our land continues, and confirm that the village will endure until the rightful owners of the land are installed," Abu Rahma said.

Over 25 tents and a medical clinic have been set-up in the E1 area by protestors from all over the West Bank. The name of the village was inspired by Lebanese author Elias Khoury's novel, which tells the story of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. "Israel has imposed facts on the ground for decades amid the silence of the international community, and the time has come to change the rules of the game, we are owners of this land and we will impose the reality on the ground," Abu Rahma said.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, among others, praised Palestinian the Bab Al Shams initiative.

"This initiative is a highly creative and a legitimate non-violent tool to protect our land from Israeli colonial plans," a statement from her office said. “What is happening at Bab Al Shams is a reminder of the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed for the exclusive use of land for Jewish Israeli settlers all over Palestine," Ashrawi said.

At press time, Israeli occupation authorities declared Bab Al Shams a closed military zone and have handed activists evacuation orders, also preventing more supporters from reaching. Around 200 people have been on the premises including 20 foreign activists since yesterday, vowing they would resist eviction. According to Abu Rahma, it would take no less than 800 Israeli soldiers to get them out. “We expect we will be oppressed at any moment, but that will not stop us” Abu Rahma said.

Israel is not holding back on its oppressive measures in other places, for sure. On January 11, one Palestinian, Anwar Muhammad Al Mamlouk, 22 was killed in the northern Gaza Strip from Israeli gunfire. Another man was seriously wounded. According to an Israeli military spokesman, "dozens of Palestinians approached the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip in an area which is forbidden for entry.

In the West Bank, settlers destroyed olive trees in the Nablus-area village of Qusra on January 11. Dozens of settlers from the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh raided Qusra in the early morning hours uprooting at least 210 olive trees, according to anti-settlement official Ghassan Daghlas.

A day earlier, on January 10, Esh Kodesh settlers also fired on Qusra villagers, shooting Samer Masameer, 26 in the leg. Dozens of settlers from the Yitzhar settlement also clashed with Palestinians near Urif, south of Nablus wounding two. Tareq Zedan al-Safadi 22, was shot in a live bullet in his leg.

Meanwhile, Palestinians were still recovering from the storm that hit the region last week, which claimed the lives of three people who were drowned in floods. On January 9, civil defense teams found the bodies of two women – Samah Kanaan and Hana Samire who had been missing from the day before. The women had drowned in flashfloods in Tulkram. Attorney Maher Bariyeh was also killed in Tulkarm when his car got stuck in the floods.

According to agricultural minister Waleed Assaf, the rain and snow caused serious damage to the agricultural sector, with an estimated NIS 30 million in losses in crops and greenhouses which were damaged in the strong winds. Infrastructure losses were estimated at NIS15 million at least. The Cabinet met on January 11 to assess the losses and damages in addition to ways to compensate farmers and those whose homes had been damaged in the storm. Hundreds of homes were flooded, especially in the northern West Bank, Hebron and Rafah.

On the internal front, President Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on January 10 after separate meetings with Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi in Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation.

The parties agreed that the sides would immediately begin to implement previously signed deals, a senior Egyptian official involved in the talks said. The Egyptian official said the talks had been held in a "positive spirit", and that Fatah and Hamas would meet again in the first week of February to work out a timetable.

Presidential advisor Nabil Abu Rdaineh, also said the talks with Meshaal were held in a "positive atmosphere". The parties are ostensibly to begin implementing the Cairo and Doha agreements on reconciliation signed last year and begin practical steps towards general elections and forming a national unity government of independent figures.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to criticize President Abbas for meeting with Meshaal, saying the fact that Abbas met with the head of ‘a terrorist organization’ meant he was not interested in peace.

On January 6, President Abbas issued a decree giving the cabinet two months to come up with regulations to issue identity documents bearing the State of Palestine.

Passports, identity cards, population records, vehicle and driving licenses, and postage stamps are included in the decree. This follows similar amendments stipulating that official papers should bear the State of Palestine header, and embassies to use the State designation.

Once again, Netanyahu’s office responded by calling the measure "devoid of any political meaning and creates no practical impact on the ground".

"A Palestinian state will only be created as part of a peace agreement with Israel," the statement said.

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said Israel's opposition to the measure would not change their course. "Since when does the occupier allow the occupied to attain liberation and self determination?" he remarked.

"If we had waited for Israeli approval, we would still have been living in the time before the PA because Israel doesn’t want any Palestinians to live in this land and this is a fact."

Finally, six Palestinians were killed in Syrian refugee camps this week in spite of an agreement between the rival forces and camp committees to keep the refugees out of the conflict. According to the agreement, Syrian regime forces would not bomb the camps, namely the Yarmouk camp and armed forces, including the Free Syrian Army would keep their weapons out.

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