IDF jets, ground forces launch new attack, reportedly destroying apartment building housing PLO "operations room"; air strike hits heart of W. Beirut, 100 yards from Wazzan...
In the West Bank, Israeli forces uproot 18 olive trees nr. Salfit to clear space for the construction of a new water supply network for nearby settlements. IDF troops patrol in Bayt Umar nr. Hebron, sparking minor clashes with stone-throwing youths; there are no injuries. They also arrest 5 Palestinians during raids nr. Hebron and Bethlehem, and patrol in and around Hebron during the day. In East Jerusalem, more than 40 Palestinians banned from Haram al-Sharif gather outside the sanctuary in protest while approx. 300 rightwing Jewish activists tour the area. Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrest 7 Palestinians during raids in the Old City. Along Gaza’s border, IDF troops arrest 2 Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel nr. Rafah. (MNA, WAFA 4/11; MNA 4/12; PCHR 4/13)
Ireland upgrades the status of the Palestinian representation in Dublin from a “delegation” to a “mission” and grants the mission head ambassador status. It does not recognize Palestine as a state or give the mission greater diplomatic privileges or immunities. Israel expresses its “regret.” (HA, YA 1/25; WJW 1/27)
OCHA reports that Israel has barred the import of industrial fuel for Gaza’s electricity plant for 2 weeks and is now internally discussing disconnecting Gaza fr. Israel’s electricity and water grid. (Gaza authorities have been able to keep electricity generation at 30% of demand by increasing the amount of fuel smuggling through tunnels fr. Egypt.) UNRWA reports that it has suspended 23 approved building projects in Gaza because of Israeli restrictions on gravel imports. Meanwhile, IDF troops make 2 brief incursion into Gaza e. of Gaza Valley village and e. of al-Maghazi r.c. to level land and clear lines of sight. Unidentified Palestinians fire 2 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. OCHA reports that since 1/19, 3 Palestinians have been injured in tunnelrelated accidents (2 crushed transporting construction materials, 1 electrocuted). (JP 1/25; PCHR 1/27; OCHA 1/28)
Some 150,000 Egyptians of all socioeconomic backgrounds inspired by events in Tunisia answer a week of calls to attend a “day of revolution” antigovernment rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today (a national holiday to honor police), bringing blankets, food, and water and vowing to continue protests until Mubarak steps down, his government is dissolved, and parliament is disbanded. (The Muslim Brotherhood does not participate to allow the voice of the people to stay at the fore.) The government cuts cell phone and Internet service to limit international coverage and mobilization efforts via social networking sites. Late at night, government security forces raided the square firing tear gas and water cannons, beating some demonstrators, and arresting others in an unsuccessful effort to drive them out. After a paroxysm of retaliatory violence that kills 1 police officer and some looting in the National Museum on the square, protesters disengage and mobilize to call for nonviolence, notably creating a cordon around the museum to protect it. Parallel protests are held in Alexandria, Suez (where violent clashes kill 2 demonstrators), and several smaller towns, with larger protests called for Friday 1/28. By this date, there have also been several days of protests in Yemen calling for Pres. Saleh’s removal, citing economic ills, corruption, and rumors Saleh plans to install his son as his successor. (NYT, WP, WT 1/25; AFP, al-Masri al-Yawm 1/26; see also NYT 1/23; AFP 1/26; NYT 1/27)
Occupied Palestine/Israel: UNRWA officials announce food trucks will be stationed outside of all Gaza Strip refugee camps until army lifts curfews. Officials also say Nusayrat camp has been without water since water main break 1/11; army will not allow UNRWA to enter camp and repair main [WP 1/17]. Commercial strike continues in most W. Bank cities [FJ 1/17].
Other Countries: Estimated 5,000 demonstrators march in Rome to protest Israeli policies in the occupied territories. Police prevent group of marchers from entering Jewish neighborhood [FJ 1/24].
Occupied Palestine/Israel: UN Undersec. Gen. Goulding is caught in midst of tear gas, rubber bullets at Balatah refugee camp; 14 camps in W. Bank and Gaza Strip remain under curfew [NYT 1/17].
IDF jets, ground forces launch new attack, reportedly destroying apartment building housing PLO "operations room"; air strike hits heart of W. Beirut, 100 yards from Wazzan's office; fighting rages near race track as IDF gains a block; IDF tank positions now in heart of residential areas of East Beirut; gunfire reported at nightfall in southeast part of West Beirut; IDF attacks shortly follow Wazzan announcement of "virtual agreement" on evacuation plan; Sharon visits East Beirut; IDF gunboats fire at residential areas swollen with Lebanese and Palestinian refugees; car bomb explodes outside devastated building, injuring and killing rescuers.
Casualties estimated at 10 (Red Cross) to 250 (PLO); Beirut radio puts toll at 100-150 (many of bodies pulled from rubble were women and children); thousands continue to flee West Beirut; damage to city water main limits water to East Beirut; 64 Syrian soldiers killed, wounded in fighting in Beirut.
Israel/ Occupied Territories: Israel continues to insist PLO leave Lebanon before international peacekeeping force arrives; Begin reportedly rejects US proposal for IDF pullback in letter to Reagan; Israeli official says any US sanctions could backfire, produce stronger IDF actions.
Palestinians/ Lebanese: Wazzan announces "virtual agreement" between US, Lebanese, PLO negotiators on terms of withdrawal; Butros, Wazzan, Sarkis confer with Habib; PLO reportedly asks Syria to accept PLO evacuees.
Arab Governments: Saudi Arabia issues first implicit criticism of US support for Israel since invasion began, saying it "denounces" powers supporting, backing Israel; Hussein of Jordan reportedly willing to offer amnesty to PLO guerrillas expelled in 1970 to facilitate peaceful resolution of Beirut crisis (100 Jordanian women prevented from delivering petition to US embassy protesting IDF siege of Beirut); Egypt's ambassador returns to Tel Aviv.
US and Other Countries: French officer arrives to study logistics of deploying French troops.
UN: USSR calls for urgent meeting of Security Council, proposes resolution to impose arms ban on Israel (US vetoes, UK abstains, France and Japan support resolution).