Saturday, August 19, 2006

In Gaza, the IDF allows EU monitors to open the Rafah crossing in both directions for a day for the 1st time since 8/11. Some 30 Palestinian journalists protest in Gaza City against the 8/14 kidnapping of 2 Fox News journalists, demanding their immediate release; Islamic Jihad also denounces the unknown kidnappers for having “silenced the voice of freedom and justice.” In the West Bank, the IDF makes a predawn raid on the Ramallah home of Palestinian Authority (PA) Dep. PM and Education M Nasir al-Sha‘ir (Hamas affiliated), arresting him without charge; patrols in al-Til nr. Nablus, firing on stone-throwing youths who confront them, wounding 4; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Jericho and nr. Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Ramallah; raids an Islamist charity nr. Hebron, confiscating a computer and some files, vandalizing the offices. At a checkpoint outside Nablus, an armed Palestinian fatally shoots an IDF soldier, is shot dead; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claims responsibility. In Gaza, 100s of PA security officers storm banks, burn tires, demanding that banks return fees deducted fr. cash advances received on their unpaid wages. (NYT, WP, WT 8/20; WP 8/21; OCHA 8/23; PCHR 8/24)

In an action the UN deems the 1st violation of the 8/14 truce, the IDF stages an overnight helicopter raid on Budai nr. Baalbek, sending 2 helicopters to drop 2 Humvees and more than 100 IDF Sayaret Matkal commandos dressed in Lebanese army uniforms to raid the village, under the cover of sonic booms fr. Israeli warplanes, in an apparent attempt to assassinate or capture senior Hizballah leader Shaykh Muhammad Yazbek, a Budai resident, or to free 2 captured IDF soldiers; the unit attempts to run a Hizballah checkpoint outside the village but Hizballah mbrs. engage them, forcing a retreat, killing 1 IDF soldier, wounding 2. (Lebanese security reports 3 Hizballah mbrs. are killed; Hizballah does not confirm.) Israel claims that the attack was a defensive action to prevent arms smuggling fr. Syria to Hizballah, that it will continue to conduct such raids until “proper monitoring bodies are established on the Lebanese borders.” Lebanon calls the action a “flagrant violation” of the truce, threatens to halt deployment of the army to the south. (AP, al-Manar TV, Voice of Lebanon 8/19; NYT, WP, WT 8/20; NYT 8/21; WT 8/23)