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  • February 18, 2021

    In the West Bank, Israeli settlers set fire to 1 Palestinian-owned truck in Kafr Malik. Palestinians protested Israeli-inflicted electricity blackouts in Jiftlik. 5 Palestinians were arrested,...

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In the West Bank, Israeli settlers set fire to 1 Palestinian-owned truck in Kafr Malik. Palestinians protested Israeli-inflicted electricity blackouts in Jiftlik. 5 Palestinians were arrested, including 1 Palestinian who was arrested after being summoned for interrogation, and 4 teens were arrested in Hebron for throwing snow at Israeli forces. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians during a raid in Issawiyya; 3 Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated bullets, others suffered tear-gas related injuries, and 2 were arrested. 10 other Palestinians were arrested, including 9 who allegedly threw snow at Israeli police in Shu‘fat, Jabal Mukabir, and the Old City, and 1 was arrested at the Haram al-Sharif compound and reportedly beaten by Israeli police. In Gaza, Israeli forces made incursions and leveled land east of Dayr al-Balah. (WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA 2/18; WAFA 2/19; PCHR 2/25)

The PA said the UAE is sending a shipment of 20,000 Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine doses to Gaza via the Rafah crossing. Israel allowed on 2/17 2,000 doses of the same vaccine to enter Gaza from the West Bank after refusing to let them enter Gaza. (AP, HA 2/18)

Israel announced that Palestinians from the West Bank working in Israel will be allowed to return to the West Bank from 2/21 after having to stay in Israel from the beginning of the 3d Israeli lockdown on 12/27/2020. The Palestinian workers have not and will not be offered a COVID-19 vaccine by Israel, according to a statement by the Israeli health ministry on 2/10. (HA 2/18; WAFA 2/20)

Nasser al-Kidwa, a member of the Fatah central committee, said he is involved in forming an alternative slate to Fatah and called on Marwan Barghouti, who is imprisoned in an Israeli jail, to join him. Al-Kidwa said the new slate is meant to change the PA, not to reform it. The Palestinian Central Elections Commission also warned that its website could have been hacked and asked Palestinians to verify their data and report anything unusual. (PCHR 2/18; HA 2/21)

Israel extended its ban of inbound and outbound flights until 3/6 to avoid the spread of COVID-19 mutations from other countries. (HA, JP 2/18)

Russia mediated in a prisoner swap between Israel and Syria where 1 Israeli woman who had entered Syria a couple of weeks prior was released to Israel in exchange for 2 Syrian nationals, nullifying a sentence given to a Druze woman in the Israeli-occupied Golan heights. According to Axios, Israel had meant to exchange 1 Syrian prisoner who had 14 years left of a sentence, but he opted to finish his sentence in Israeli jail rather than going to Syria. Israeli forces then arrested 2 Syrian shepherds in the buffer zone who were then released in the prisoner swap. Haaretz reported that the prisoner exchange deal included an undisclosed clause which could potentially anger the Israeli public. Later reports suggested that Israel has promised to provide hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to the Syrian government as the undisclosed clause. 2 days later, the Israeli military removed a gag order revealing that the secret clause was that Israel would pay for millions of the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik V on behalf of the Syrian government. (AJ, AP 2/17; AP, AX, HA, HA 2/18; AJ, HA, HA, TOI 2/19; AJ, HA, HA, NYT 2/20; AP 2/21)

Israel announced that it and the U.S. have started developing a 4th missile shield called Arrow 4 to counter potential threats of ballistic missiles from Iran. The International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM) said that Israel is expanding the Dimona nuclear facility, believed to be used for manufacturing material for nuclear weapons. IPFM made the discovery using satellite images. (GDN, HA, JP 2/18; JP 2/21; AP, HA 2/25)

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said the U.S. would return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement if Iran came back to full compliance with the deal. Iran has gradually stopped complying with the agreement after the Trump administration left the deal in 2018. Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded that Iran would “immediately reverse all remedial measures” if the Biden Administration lifted all sanctions. Iran has told the U.S. and the other JCOPA partners that if the U.S. doesn’t start reversing sanctions by 2/23, Iran will ban short-notice inspections by UN officials. The U.S. announcement came after Secretary Blinken had a meeting with JCPOA partners the UK, France, and Germany. (AJ, REU 2/16; AJ, AJ, AP, REU 2/17; AP, AP, HA, HA, REU, REU, VOA 2/18; AJ, AP, HA, REU 2/19)