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Date posted: January 19, 2013
By MIFTAH

Fatah and Hamas agreed, yet again, to moving forward with reconciliation efforts, with a deal finalized between Fatah leader Azzam Al Ahmad and Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq taking place in Cairo earlier in the week. This meeting was preceded by one between the Ďtitansí, President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal last week, which paved the way for further meetings between the two sides under Egyptian sponsorship.

According to the two sides, they will begin to implement past reconciliation agreements signed in Doha and Cairo, which have yet to be implemented. This means the Central Elections Committee [CEC] will resume voter registration in the Gaza Strip and a national unity government will be formed by January 30.

Also part of the agreement between the two parties is that the public freedoms committee and social reconciliation committee would resume work by the end of January. The parties also agreed to stop issuing negative press releases about each other.

According to Fatah leader Yahya Rabah on January 18, the new government will be comprised of technocrats and dignitaries not affiliated to any political party. The governmentís tasks will be to supervise parliamentary and presidential elections and oversee administrative procedures, he said.

Meanwhile, back at home, the Israeli government is cracking down on the newest form of popular resistance, setting up Ďvillagesí on confiscated Palestinian land. Israeli troops first evacuated the Bab Al Shams village, set up on Palestinian land confiscated for settlement construction in the so-called E1 zone on January 13. The soldiers and police beat protesters and arrested as many as 20. The tents, which remained temporarily, were also then torn down on January 16, with the entire area declared a closed military zone. Protesters attempted to return to the site on January 15 disguised as wedding goers but were evicted as soon as Israeli forces realized what was going on.

On January 18, a similar movement erected a new tent site in the village of Beit Iksa, northwest of Jerusalem. Palestinian activists set up three tents and a small building, naming the village Al Karamah.

According to local sources, around 400 Palestinians performed Friday prayers in the open area. Saed Yakrina, an activist from nearby village Beit Ikza, said the camp was "a message to Israel and all democratic societies that we are human, and we want peace."

It was not long before Israeli authorities closed off the checkpoint at the entrance to Beit Iksa to prevent more people from reaching the site. Still, protesters already inside said they would continue building, hold cultural activities in the evening and plant olive trees on the confiscated land. Beit Iksa was recently served orders for the confiscation of nearly 500 dunams of land.

Israel is taking counter measures of its own. On January 16, Israel's housing ministry released government tenders for the construction of 198 new settlement units in Efrat and Kiryat Arba, both Hebron-area settlements.

According to the Israeli organization Peace Now, approval for settlement construction in 2012 shot up by "record level" in comparison to the previous two years. The anti-settlement organization said Israeli authorities issued 3,148 tenders in 2012 - the highest single-year figure in a decade - compared with 1,321 in 2011 and 663 in 2011.

House demolitions also continued this week. On January 17, Israeli forces razed 60 facilities including homes, shacks and animal pens in the northern Jordan Valley villages. The facilities belonged to 13 families from the villages of Al Maleh and Khirbet Al Meeta.

On January 15 Israeli forces demolished two homes in east Jerusalem. The first was in the Sur Bahir neighborhood where authorities demolished the home of Aref Hussein Amireh, housing 14 people from two families.

The home of Nasser al-Rajabi in Beit Hanina was also demolished that day. Al-Rajabi said he was given no prior notice before the demolition, adding that Israeli forces arrived early in the morning, removed all the furniture and then razed it to the ground. Eight family members were living in the home.

A day earlier, on January 14, three homes and two animal pens were demolished in Bedouin communities east of Yatta by Israeli forces.

On January 15, 16-year old Sameer Awad from the Ramallah-area village of Budrus was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. The boy, who was leaving school after finishing final exams was shot from behind, say medical sources and eyewitnesses. Awad received live bullets to the head, chest and foot. Israeli military sources say a group of boys were throwing stones and empty bottles at troops when Awad was shot, but denied that he had been shot from behind.

Twelve Palestinian refugees were killed on January 17 and more than 20 were injured in a Syrian government airstrike on Damascus. According to Al Yarmouk news, four women and six children were among those killed in the strike on the Husseiniyeh refugee camp near Damascus.

Finally, finance minister Nabil Qassis said on January 17 that the government would pay public sector workers partial December salaries on Sunday, January 20. The announcement comes after Saudi Arabia transferred $100 million on January 16 to the PA. The government is still waiting for the promised Arab security net of $100 million a month to arrive.

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