As the quarter opens, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continue Operation Southern Arrow, with heavy shelling and air strikes on Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire (at a rate of 10 Israeli...
In the West Bank, the IDF conducts house searches and arrest raids in Bethlehem and 1 village nr. Ramallah at night; patrols in 1 village each nr. Jenin, Qalqilya and Ramallah in the afternoon, and in 1 village each nr. Hebron and Tulkram and in Qalqilya at night. (PCHR 10/3)
Iran’s FM Zarif tells an interview on U.S. television that Iran would open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors as part of negotiations with the U.S., and in return demands an end to economic sanctions. Zarif repeats that Irna is not interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. U.S. Secy. of State John Kerry says that a deal could be reached relatively quickly and greatly improve bilateral relations. (AP, LA Times, REU 9/28)
Gunmen attack an Egyptian police station in al-Arish, injuring 1. (MNA 9/29)
A report by the European Union’s consuls general in East Jerusalem and Ramallah is leaked, revealing that the diplomats have urged the EU to implement economic sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The recommendations include that the EU ‘‘prevent, discourage and raise awareness’’ of direct investments by European companies in settlements. A previous leaked report (see JPS 163) had warned that Israeli settlement activities were ‘‘closing the window’’ on the 2-state solution, and encouraged the EU to look at ways of stopping ‘‘financial transactions in support of settlement activity.’’ (AP, HA 2/27)
In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in Tulkarm and 1 village nr. Hebron at night; conducts house searches and arrest raids in 1 village nr. Hebron at night. (PCHR 2/28)
The Israeli military reports that an errant mortar fired from inside Syria has landed in the occupied Golan Heights, causing no casualties. (AP, NYT 2/27)
At talks in Kazakhstan, Iran’s top official Saeed Jalili praises an offer of international concessions that would both allow Tehran to keep a limited amount of highly enriched uranium and also lead to the removal of some trade sanctions. Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran should be threatened with intensified sanctions and military measures—while in Washington, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce introduces a bipartisan bill to move the U.S. to work with the European Union in cutting Iran’s access to the euro. (AP, REU 2/27)
The Israeli cabinet rejects the 12/30 French proposal for a 48-hr. humanitarian truce, complaining that it lacked a mechanism to guarantee enforcement. Damascusbased Hamas leader Khalid Mishal says Hamas will consider any cease-fire proposal that includes a lifting of Israel’s embargo, but in Gaza, Haniyeh states that Hamas would not consider any proposals until Israel halts its attacks and opens Gaza’s border crossings, including Rafah.
In a briefing to Olmert’s security cabinet, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin states that Hamas’s weapons development facilities have been “completely wiped out” and “Hamas’s ability to govern Gaza has been significantly impaired.” Senior Israeli military sources speaking anonymously state that no major hardened targets remain standing but that Hamas’s military wing, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades (IQB), “has to a large extent survived the initial onslaught.”
The IDF continues to mass troops and tanks on the Gaza border, stating explicitly for the 1st time that a ground invasion is likely once wet weather clears. The security cabinet increases the number of reservists activated to more than 9,000.
Israeli actions: The IDF carries out some 60 air strikes, and the Israeli navy shells Gaza from the sea. Among the 66 sites hit by the IDF are Haniyeh’s office, the Tal al-Hawa Mosque in Gaza City (Israel claims it was used as a weapons depot), a major Islamic Jihad weapons depot in Khan Yunis (killing senior Islamic Jihad military cmdr. Amar Abu Ghalula, 3 other Islamic Jihad mbrs.), more tunnels on the Rafah border, at least 8 homes, 1 medical clinic, Hamas posts (including money exchanges). Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Gaza City, Jabaliya r.c., Khan Yunis, Nussayrat r.c., Rafah. The estimated Palestinian toll reaches 393 dead, more than 1,900 wounded.
The IDF claims to have destroyed 200 smuggling tunnels since 12/27; a Palestinian source in Rafah says the Israelis seem to know which tunnels are commercial and which are used by Hamas, and have been selectively targeting Hamas tunnels.
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 49 rockets, 15 mortars into Israel, causing no serious injuries; 4 longer-range rockets land in Beersheba, 25 mi. n. of the Gaza border, 1 of which hits an empty school, causing significant damage to 1 room.
Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 93 truckloads of food, medicine into Gaza. UNRWA issues a $34-m. emergency appeal for additional food, medical, and reconstruction aid for Gaza in the wake of OCL; the appeal is in addition to a $275-m. emergency appeal for the West Bank and Gaza for 2009 issued earlier in the month. UNRWA Commissioner-Gen. Karen AbuZayd, warning of the dire conditions in Gaza (where she currently is based), states that for the first time in her 8 yrs. with UNRWA she has begun to see Palestinians begging on the streets of Gaza.
Of note: Residents in Egyptian Rafah report a heavy military, border police, and plain-clothed intelligence presence on the Egyptian side of the border, which Egypt has declared a closed military zone, preventing demonstrations, keeping journalists away, and preventing breeches of the Rafah border from either direction. (AFP, AP, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Center, FT, IDF, IFM, JP, REU, UNIS, UNOSAT, XIN 12/31; IDF, JP, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT 1/1; WT 1/2; IDF, Sabah 1/3; WP 1/4; IFM, PCHR 1/8; NYT 1/11)
In the West Bank, observers report that Palestinian sympathy for Hamas is growing, even though overall public reaction to OCL has been muted, largely because PA security forces have been breaking up explicitly pro-Hamas demonstrations. The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron, nr. Nablus. (PCHR, WP 1/1)
As the quarter opens, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continue Operation Southern Arrow, with heavy shelling and air strikes on Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire (at a rate of 10 Israeli strikes per 1 Palestinian rocket attack) and tight restrictions on Gaza’s crossings (see Quarterly Update for details). The IDF also continues to separate the n. and s. West Bank by closing (since 4/21) the Zatara checkpoint s. of Nablus and to restrict movement into and out of the n. Jordan Valley. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continue to suffer severe economic shortages due to the U.S.- and Israeli-led economic sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) that have prevented the PA from paying government workers’ salaries for 2 mos. Today, the IDF patrols in ‘Araba nr. Jenin, firing on residential areas; conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Nablus. Islamic Jihad fires its 2d Grad rocket fr. Gaza toward Ashqelon, damaging a poultry farm but causing no injuries (see 3/28, 4/21). A Hamas mbr. is killed in a driveby shooting in Gaza City; no group claims responsibility. (MM 5/16; NYT, PCHR 5/18)