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Date posted: March 09, 2013

Palestinians buried the first casualty of the recent prisoner protests on March 8 in a massive funeral in the victims hometown. Mohammed Asfour was shot and critically injured two weeks ago during protests in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Afour was shot in the head by Israeli forces in his village of Aboud near Ramallah and immediately slipped into a coma before passing away yesterday.

More than 5,000 people were reported to have attended the funeral procession. Israeli forces clashed with the funeral-goers, firing tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets into the crowd.

On the same day, 22-year old Omar Wady was shot east of the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. Medics said Wady was injured in the chest and is in a critical condition.

Yesterday also saw fierce clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshipers at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque Compound. Dozens of Israeli soldiers and police stormed the compound after several protesters threw rocks and two firebombs at them following Friday prayers. Several Palestinians were injured and arrested and an Israeli policeman was struck with a firebomb.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank went on several rampages as well this week. On March 8, a group of settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd north of Ramallah killing five of his sheep. According to settler-monitoring official Ghassan Daghlas, settlers from the Aad settlement outpost attacked Kamal al-Nasan near Al-Mughayyir village, beating him severely, before killing his sheep.

120 olive trees were also uprooted the same day by settlers south of Nablus. On March 5, 100 olive trees were uprooted in Nahaleen, a Bethlehem-area village, also by Jewish settlers.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army issued new orders on March 5 to their troops, stipulating that they could open fire at Palestinian protesters who throw firecrackers at them. According to the Israeli army, the firecrackers, which are often shot through metal pipes, could cause serious burns or blindness and are as dangerous as a firebomb.

On March 7, Israeli authorities handed eviction notices and 26 demolition orders to residents of Khallet Athaba, east of Yatta. The troops ordered the demolition of 10 homes, six wells, four bathrooms, four sheep pens and two traditional ovens, according to spokesperson for the hamlet Mahmud Hamamdeh.

Residents were ordered to evacuate April 7; around 55 people live in the at-risk homes, Hamamdeh said.

On March 4, following a decision by the Israeli Transport Ministry to designate Palestinian-only buses for workers entering Israel, two buses were burned down south of Qalqiliya by unknown arsonists. The move has been condemned as racist by Palestinians and Israeli-human rights organizations.

"Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan," Jessica Montell, director of the B'Tselem rights group, said on Army Radio. "This is simply racism. Such a plan cannot be justified with claims of security needs or overcrowding."

On March 7, UNICEF published a detailed report on the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli jails. According to the report, Palestinian children are subject to widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law.

UNICEF said it had identified some examples of practices that "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".

The pattern of ill-treatment includes ...the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints," the report said. Such practices appear to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised".

Meanwhile in Gaza, UNRWA announced on March 5 that it has cancelled the 2013 Gaza marathon, after the de facto Hamas government refused to allow women to participate.

"This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate," a statement from UNRWA said.

Hamas justified its position in a statement, saying that it regrets UNRWA's decision to cancel the marathon. "We informed UNRWA that we agreed to hold the marathon, but with conditions related to the conservative Palestinian culture."

Another unfortunate incident took place on March 5 when Palestinian students of Birzeit University attacked the car of British Consul-General Sir Vincent Fean, smashing a mirror.

According to eyewitnesses and reporters on the scene, as Fean got in the car after a meeting with the universitys president Khalil Al Hindi, students attacked it with rods causing minor damage before the driver sped away. The consul general was scheduled to take part in a symposium at the university, but the event was cancelled.

The British Consulate issued a statement afterwards, expressing regret for the incident. "Sir Vincent had hoped to underline Britains deep commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, and the urgency of progress on the peace process in 2013sadly, such a dialogue was not possible on this occasion. Sir Vincent remains absolutely committed to building his relationship with the Palestinian student community, and hopes to have the opportunity to pursue this dialogue in future, the British representative said.

Palestinian preventive security service detained 19 students for interrogation.

On March 3, Finance Minister Nabil Qassis handed in his resignation, saying the government had failed to address a gaping budget deficit.

"No decision has been taken to lower the deficit substantially, and on the contrary it is growing ahead of ratifying the 2013 budget," Qassis said in comments to Al Ayyam newspaper. While Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told his cabinet that he had accepted Qassis' resignation, President Abbas has yet to follow suit.

Finally, on March 7, President Abbas gave a televised speech on Palestine TV on the occasion of International Womens Day, praising the role of Palestinian women throughout the struggle and vowing to uphold their status and rights. We will never accept truncated freedom for our societys other half, he said.

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