Palestinians mourn the loss of Abu Hamdiyeh and Anabta teens [March 31 - April 6]
On Tuesday morning, April 2, Maysara Ahmed Abu Hamdiya, 64 from Hebron, died in Soroka Hospital in Be’er Saba’. Abu Hamdiya had been suffering from cancer of the throat and had been recently transferred from prison to the hospital. Abu Hamdiya, married and a father of four children, was a major general in the PA security forces. He was initially detained by Israeli forces in May 2002, and was tried and convicted of being a member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, and participating in attacks against Israeli forces. He was initially sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment; however, on 22 April 2007, an Israeli court increased the sentence to life imprisonment. Diagnosed with cancer of the throat four months ago, his illness was at an advanced stage. In late March, Abu Hamdiyeh was finally admitted to the hospital, after the cancer spread to his spinal cord. Since the time of Abu Hamdiya’s initial arrest, he was denied family visits by the Israeli authorities however, some members of his family were allowed to visit him more recently, following the deterioration of his condition. Israeli authorities had rejected all demands for his release.
Lawyer Jawad Bulous, Director of the Legal Unit in the Palestinian Prisoners Club, was quoted in the media as saying that he visited Abu Hamdiya in Soroka Hospital two days before he passed away. Abu Hamdiya’s hands and feet were bound, and the Israeli guards refused to remove the restraints during the visit. Bulous stated that Abu Hamdiya had been in very serious condition, and was unable to speak.
On April 6, results of an autopsy on the body of Abu Hamdiyeh showed that his death was caused by medical negligence, according to a Palestinian official. The results showed that Israeli prison service neglected the medical situation of Abu Hamdiyeh for several years, Minister of Prisoners' affairs Issa Qaraqe said. He accused Israel of deliberately neglecting the prisoner who suffered from throat cancer. Qaraqe pointed out that Abu Hamdiyeh had been suffering from pain in his body since 2003, but Israeli prison authorities only gave him antibiotics and painkillers.
Expressing his sorrow and condolences, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad praised Abu Hamdiyeh's distinguished role in the national struggle for freedom and said "his contributions to the just cause of our people will remain alive in our national memory and continued struggle for freedom." There are 25 Palestinians diagnosed with cancer in Israeli jails. Some 207 Palestinians have died in Israeli jails since 1967, including 54 who died from medical negligence, the Palestinian Authority says.
Several clashes were reported on April 5 following the news of Abu Hamdiyeh’s deah. In al-Khader village near Bethlehem the coordinator of the local popular committee against settlements and the wall said that the clashes took place near al-Nashash military checkpoint, where protesters set tires on fire and soldiers fired tear gas canisters at them. He added that dozens were hurt by tear gas inhalation. Additionally, in the Kufr Qadum village east of Qalqiliya, Murad Shteiwi, spokesman for the local popular resistance committee, stated that Israeli troops raided a demonstration in solidarity with detainees in Israeli jails. Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but there were no immediate reports of injury. Clashes also broke out this week in Jerusalem. Several Jerusalemites were beaten and arrested on April 2 at a protest at Damascus Gate in solidarity with prisoners in Israeli jails. Israeli authorities have imposed strict restrictions on the entry to Jerusalem since then, particularly during Friday noon prayers at Al Aqsa.
Funerals for two Palestinian teenagers from Anabta, near Tulkarm were held on April 4. Soldiers in the area opened fire at Amer Nassar, 17, killing him instantly in what Israel described as a response to a Palestinian targeting a military post. The second victim, Naji al-Balbisi, 18, was only discovered after Israeli forces detained the body for several hours, and then at 4 a.m. they handed the body to a Red Crescent ambulance. Nearly 1,000 people turned out on the streets of Tulkarem in the aftermath. Mourners carried the youths’ body as the crowd chanted slogans condemning the attack. The incident came as clashes broke out in the West Bank -- particularly Hebron -- between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians protesting over the death of Maysara Abu Hamideyeh, who was given a military funeral in his hometown of Hebron.
On April 3, it was reported that the United Nations will provide financial support to thousands of Gaza families affected by last year's conflict with Israel thanks to a Saudi donation of nearly $16 million. "Over 7,000 refugee families in Gaza will receive financial support from UNRWA to repair and reconstruct homes damaged during the November conflict," the refugee agency said in a statement. UNRWA's Gaza operations director Robert Turner praised the "quick and generous donation by the Saudi Fund for Development. "We have never before been able to provide this scale of support for war-damaged refugees," he said. The total cost of the damage caused to Gaza -- which included the complete destruction of 200 homes and partial damage of another 8,000 -- was estimated at more than $1.2 billion.
UNRWA, however announced on April 4 that it would close its offices in Gaza after angry Gazans broke into them in protest of agency cuts on cash allowances to the most needy. UNRWA admitted to the cuts due to budget deficits but said it would provide the alternative of temporary employment to the families. Turner said the offices would only reopen after the agency is given guarantees that no other riots would take place.
Hamas re-elected Khaled Meshaal as its leader on April 2 despite past criticism of him by movement hardliners in the Gaza Strip. A diplomat in the region said Egypt and Qatar had lobbied strongly on behalf of a reluctant Meshaal before the vote in Cairo by about 60 Hamas leaders who had met through the night. Mashaal had indicated previously he would not seek another term, but in an interview on the 3rd, he downplayed the idea he would represent Hamas to run in presidency elections; but did say however, that heading the PLO “was a possibility.”
Finally, on March 31, a group of settlers from the "Yitzhar" settlement, established on Palestinian land south of Nablus, threw stones at school buses with students from the Ramon School for Girls on their way home from a fieldtrip to Qalqilya. As a result, 11-year-old Bushra Farah Abdul-Qader Kohla sustained cuts in the right side of her face after a stone hit her in the face. Also, many others sustained scratches because of the scattered glass.