Monday, August 16, 2010

As the quarter opens, Israel has eased (as of 6/2010) its blockade on Gaza, replacing the blanket ban on imports with two lists of prohibited and regulated items, allowing in more (and more varied) food items, construction materials, and commercial goods, but keeping imports only slightly above subsistence and continuing to bar exports. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enforces a 300-meter-deep no-go zone inside the full length of the Gaza border and limits the Palestinian fishing zone off Gaza to 500–1,000 m off the immediate Bayt Lahiya (northern) and Rafah (southern) coasts, and 3 nautical miles elsewhere—placing 17% of Gaza’s total landmass, including 35% of its viable agricultural areas, and 85% of the maritime areas allocated under the Oslo accords off-limits to Palestinians. In the West Bank, Israel’s easing of restrictions on Palestinian movement between major population centers (which began in summer 2009) continues, and IDF operations are relatively few. Today, IDF troops on the s. Gaza border e. of Khan Yunis fire on a group of Islamic Jihad mbrs. burying explosive devices nr. the border fence, killing 1 Islamic Jihad mbr.; the Palestinians return fire, lightly wounding 1 IDF soldier. Hrs. later, unidentified Palestinians fire 2 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in al-‘Arub refugee camp (r.c.) and 2 villages nr. Hebron. Jewish settlers fr. Shvut Rachel nr. Nablus uproot 100 nearby Palestinian olive trees. Israel’s Housing Min. approves construction of a new settler-only bypass road to link Ma’ale Adumim settlement e. of Jerusalem with the new E1 settlement area in East Jerusalem; explaining the decision, the Housing Min. states that “the decision to freeze construction in [West Bank settlements] does not include services for existing structures.” (JP, YA 8/16; NYT 8/17; PCHR 8/19; OCHA 8/20)