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OPT: Week in review - Christmas Weekend Sees Six Palestinians Dead

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Over Christmas weekend, six Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On December 26, three Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were shot point blank by invading Israeli troops into Nablus. According to Israeli military sources, the three were involved in the earlier killing of West Bank settler Meir Hai. The three Palestinians were identified as Anan Subih, 33, Raed Al Sarkaji, 38 and Raghsan Abu Sharah. According to Anan Al Atira, Nablus' deputy governor, Subih was a former member of the Brigades and had received full amnesty from Israel after turning in his weapons.

According to Raed Sukarji's niece, Israeli forces entered her uncle's home and shot him in front of his pregnant wife and two children. When his wife tried to defend him, she was shot in the foot.

Also on the 26th, three Palestinians were shot and killed in Gaza. While Hamas sources said the three men were collecting scrap metal, Israeli army sources claimed they were trying to infiltrate the border with Israel.

The week has been wracked with violence. On December 24, a rabbi from the Jewish settlement of Shavei Shamron was shot and killed, apparently by Palestinian gunmen on a settler road between Nablus and Tulkarm. After the killing of Meir Hai, settler groups and Israeli Knesset members from Shas demanded that the army return the checkpoint that had been removed on that road, claiming that Israel's "good will gestures" towards President Mahmoud Abbas had been reciprocated with "terror." The road to Madama on the way to Tulkarm has already been blockaded, cutting off over two-thirds of village's farmland and severing the main link to the Nablus-Qalqiliya road.

As Christmas fell on a Friday this year, the occasion coincided with the weekly protests against the wall in the West Bank village of Bilin. This year, some protesters dressed up a Santa Claus and demonstrators carried a Christmas tree laden with gas canisters and stun grenades fired by Israeli soldiers at previous demonstrations over the past five years. The Israeli army responded with tear gas. The tree was in support of Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, the coordinator of the Bilin anti-Wall committee who was arrested by Israeli forces and is currently being charged with weapons possession. Abu Rahmeh has previously put on an exhibition of all the discharged tear gas canisters and grenades used by the Israeli army in Bilin, which is now a "crime" in Israel.

The Christmas spirit was still in the air though. On December 24, approximately 400 balloons were released into the Bethlehem sky as part of an event organized by OneVoice, a peace movement working in the Palestinian territory. The balloons had messages written on them calling for peace and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

On Christmas day, a deal between Israel and Hamas for a prisoner exchange still had not been finalized but reports from the Islamic movement in Hamas have hinted that something would be reached soon. According to Hamas officials in Damascus, the movement would respond to Israel's proposals within the next few days. Over the past week, extensive meetings and talks have been held both within Israeli and Hamas circles to come to a final deal. In exchange for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. While Israel says it is willing release some prisoners, it is adamant that 100-130 of them are exiled either to the Gaza Strip or abroad. These, Israel says, were involved in the murder of Israel is and cannot possibly be released into complete freedom. Hamas has so far said all prisoners must be allowed to return home but have not yet rejected the proposal outright.

It also seems that Israel is not willing to release nine prisoners on Hamas' list at all. Of these nine are West Bank Fateh Secretary Marwan Baroughti and PFLP Secretary General Ahmad Saadat. It remains to be seen what Hamas is willing to accept as a final offer. According to Izzat Al Risheq, a member of Hamas' politburo, the movement will decide on a final response in Damascus and send it to Israel via the German mediator involved in the talks.

Also on December 25, Israeli authorities handed demolition orders to 12 families of the West Bank village of Barta'a Al Sharqiya, which is wedged between the West Bank wall and the Green Line near Jenin.

Demolition orders have been rampant throughout 2009, according to OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. According to the agency, Israel has demolished 180 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, leaving 319 people without homes. All of these structures, says the report, were torn down under the pretext for their lack of construction permits.

On December 24, Egypt refused entry for Viva Palestina, a convoy of 250 trucks and ambulances full of European, Turkish and Arab donations of food and medical supplies. The convoy, which included former British MP George Galloway, was refused entry at the Nuewiba Red Sea port on its way to Gaza.

Egypt has been under harsh criticism lately, namely from the Palestinians, for the construction of a 10-kilometer steel wall along the Gaza-Egypt border, ostensibly to stop the digging of underground tunnels used for smuggling. Hamas has called for popular protests along the border, calling Egypt's structure the "wall of oppression and shame."

In Jerusalem, Israeli authorities banned Islamic leader inside the Green Line, Sheikh Raed Salah from entering the city for three weeks. The ruling was handed down on December 21 with the intention of extending it for an additional six months. According to the verdict, Salah was a "threat to public safety".

Finally, on December 19, the director of the Israeli Forensic Institute Abu Kbeir finally admitted to what many have suspected for years - that Israel harvests Palestinian organs without family consent. The director admitted that the institute had taken organs from Palestinians in the early nineties for use on Israeli soldiers, including corneas and skin patches. Israel recently lashed out at Sweden for an article written by Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom, which accused Israel of stealing organs from Palestinians killed in the Intifada.