Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Israel releases elected Hamas-affiliated speaker of the Palestinian parliament ‘Aziz Dwayk, jailed nearly 3 yrs. before as part of an IDF arrest sweep targeting Hamas leaders in the wake of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit’s capture; some 40 other Hamas legislators remain in custody. The release raises speculation that a Hamas-Israeli prisoner exchange deal to free Shalit is imminent. A wk. after making public comments about Arabs that were denounced as racist, Israeli internal security M Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitainu) makes a highly controversial 90-min. visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, including entering the mosque, to “review police deployments” at the site. He says his visit was coordinated with Muslim authorities, which they deny. A similar visit to the compound by Ariel Sharon in 2000 sparked the al-Aqsa intifada. In the West Bank, the IDF levels 500 d. of Palestinian land in Issawiyya on the outskirts of Jerusalem to “preserve the natural beauty of the city [i.e., Jerusalem]”; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Tulkarm. Jewish settlers fr. Avnei Hefetz settlement nr. Tulkarm erect a tent in nearby Kafr Labad village, previously bulldozed by the IDF, with the aim of expanding the settlement. (NYT, WP, WT 6/24; OCHA, PCHR 6/25)