Thursday, December 22, 2005

Islamic Jihad mbrs. fire 2 rockets fr. n. Gaza towards an IDF base nr. Ashkelon, injuring 5 IDF soldiers; the IDF retaliates with artillery fire on the launch site, killing 1 Palestinian bystander in adjacent Jabaliya r.c.; Israel warns that it could send ground forces back into Gaza. The IDF also raids Nablus, assassinates local PFLP cmdr. Bashar Hanani (also reported as Bashar Khalani), AMB mbrs. Ahmad Jayyusi and Anas Hamad; shells areas northwest of Bayt Lahiya, wounding a farmer working his land; sends troops into Qabatya, fires on stone-throwing youths who confront them, wounding 5 Palestinians; raids, searches a building in Qiffin nr. Tulkarm, confiscating files fr. and sealing the offices of the Loans Association, Palestinian Peoples Party, Popular Campaign against the Wall, and Union of Agricultural Relief Comms.; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah and nr. Hebron, Jenin; uproots 200 Palestinian olive trees northwest of Hebron to erect a gate cutting al-Jaba village off fr. a nearby Jewish settlement. In the evening, the Israeli security cabinet approves new measures, known as Operation Blue Skies, aimed at curbing Palestinian rocket fire fr. Gaza, including using artillery, helicopter, and gunboat fire to enforce a new n. Gaza buffer zone; more stringent monitoring of the Gaza Strip by air; “other steps we have not taken until now,” but does not immediately give orders for the IDF to implement the plan. (BBC, IMEMC, JTA, PCHR, PM, XIN, YA 12/22; BBC, HA, IMEMC, JTA, NYT, WP, WT 12/23; PCHR 12/29)