Israeli Army Invades Beit Jala - Call for International Solidarity Against Extra-Judicial Killings and Invasion of Palestinian Lands

Yesterday's extra-judicial killing, authorized by Israel's "small security kitchen" composed of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Benyamin Eliezer, of Palestinian leader Abu Ali Mustafa was immediately followed by Palestinian protests and violent confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces all over the 1967 occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Among others, shooting was renewed yesterday in the early evening hours between Palestinian forces in the West Bank town of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) and Israeli army forces stationed in the Israeli settlement of Gilo next to Jerusalem, resulting in the slight injury of an Israeli settler. Consequently, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon felt called upon to fulfill his promise, made several weeks ago, that "one more shot on Gilo, and Israeli will enter the PA controlled town of Beit Jala."

At around 01:00 this morning, Israeli tanks and ground forces moved into Beit Jala, coming from the northwestern hill tops. The Israeli movement was confronted with the resistance of Palestinian security forces and residents of the area. One Palestinian security officer, Muhammad Sammour (25) from the Gaza Strip, was reported killed and several persons injured, among them a journalist of the Voice of Palestine radio. As for now (Tuesday, 09:00 a.m.), the Israeli invasion has come to a stand-still, with Israeli tanks stationed in the upper part of the center of Beit Jala in the area of the Orthodox Club. Israeli armed forces control the whole north-western section of the town adjacent to the Gilo settlement and have imposed a curfew on the residents.

Israeli media report that the army has taken control of five Palestinian homes from which fire was allegedly opened on the Gilo settlement. A decision is yet to be taken by the Israeli security cabinet about the possible demolition of these homes, and about whether the current invasion will be permanent or temporary. According to reports of Palestinian residents of the adjacent Aida refugee camp, Israeli armed forces have also occupied a building on the north-western border of the camp. The inhabitants, a family of 20 persons, have been locked into one room, while Israeli soldiers use the rest of the house as a base serving to back-up the Israeli forces present in the center of Beit Jala. Shooting continues, and according to Palestinian sources, the Israeli attack against Aida refugee camp is intensifying and Israeli forces have reached the UNRWA school in the camp.

BADIL Resource Center calls for massive protests against the Israeli policies of de-legitimizing the Palestinian leadership and popular resistance, extra-judicial killings, and the re-invasion of Palestinian controlled territories in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. We are in urgent need of world-wide and strong solidarity to stop the current escalation of Israeli violence against the Palestinian people.

In particular, we call upon the participants at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban to take all possible action in order to set the foundations of a world-wide solidarity movement that can isolate the racist and colonialist positions and policies of Israel and its main supporter, the United States, by combining the forces of Arab and international solidarity with the Palestinian people and the worldwide movement against globalization. Only sustained solidarity can put an end to occupation, colonialism, and racism in Palestine and re-establish justice and peace in our region.