Thursday, December 23, 2004

IDF operations continue in Khan Yunis, where 2 Palestinians are killed in an explosion at the home of a leading Hamas mbr.; Palestinians say IDF tanks shelled the house, whereas the IDF says the men were preparing a bomb that exploded prematurely. The IDF withdraws fr. Khan Yunis late in the day, pledging to return as necessary to halt rocket fire, calling the open-ended operation Operation Violet Iron. The IDF turns over security control of Bethlehem to the PA security forces btwn. Christmas Eve and Armenian Christmas on 1/19; says it will give IDF soldiers manning checkpoints around Bethlehem special instructions on how to handle Christian tourists. The IDF tightens Palestinian movement around Nablus; fires on residential areas of Bayt Hanun (among the injured are children ages 2, 11, 14), Rafah; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Qalqilya and nr. Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarm. Palestinians fire at least 12 mortars at Jewish settlements in s. Gaza, causing minor damage but no injuries. (AFP, HA 12/23; VOI 12/23 in WNC 12/25; NYT, WP 12/24; PCHR 12/30)

Palestinian municipal elections begin, with voting in 26 West Bank municipalities. Hamas wins 27% of the seats, Fatah 59%. (PM 12/23; JAZ 12/23 in WNC 12/25; AP, NYT, WP, WT 12/24; JAZ 12/25, JAZ, VOP 12/26 in WNC 12/28; PR 12/29; MEI 1/7)