Thursday, March 24, 2011

Palestinians fire at least 7 mortars, 6 homemade Qassam rockets, and 2 manufactured Grad rockets fr. Gaza into Israel during the day, causing no injuries. Israel retaliates with several air strikes and tank fire on Hamas buildings and a launching site, lightly injuring 3 Palestinians. The largest strike (4 missiles) targets the fmr. PA General Intelligence building outside of Jabaliya in the evening, heavily damaging the building and collaterally damaging 30 homes, 4 businesses, and 2 schools. Sources say that Hamas seems to have stepped back fr. rocket and mortar fire since its large barrage on 3/19, with most fire now coming fr. Islamic Jihad and other groups. In the West Bank, the IDF demolishes 3 wells nr. Bethlehem (all more than 100 yrs. old); bulldozes a Palestinian road nr. Salfit for the 2d time in 3 mos. (Jewish settlers seek to annex the waterrich area to the Yakir and Revava settlements; Palestinian residents paved the road to claim ownership and repaved it after the IDF bulldozed the 1st time); patrols in 4 village nr. Qalqilya, 4 nr. Ramallah, and 2 each nr. Jenin (where troops fire tear gas at stone-throwing youths who confront them, causing no injuries) and Jericho, as well as searching 2 open areas nr. Tulkarm. (HA, IsRN, JP, JTA 3/24; NYT, WP, WT 3/25; PCHR 3/31; OCHA 4/1)

By this date, allied air strikes on Libya have reportedly “all but destroyed” the Libyan air force and air defenses and the focus has shifted to targeting Qaddafi’s ground forces. At this stage, NATO takes the lead fr. the U.S. in enforcing the no-fly zone. The intervention is not enough to give Libyan rebels the upper hand, however; fierce fighting continues nationwide through the end of the quarter. (NYT 3/24, 3/25)

In Yemen, Pres. Saleh, responding to growing pressure (see 3/18), reins in the military and states that he would step down if he could arrange “an honorable transfer of power” that would keep the govt. in “safe hands.” Over next 2 wks., Saleh and the opposition hold talks but cannot reach an agreement. Meanwhile, protests continue (mostly nonviolent, ranging in size fr. the 1,000s to around 100,000). (NYT, WP, WT 3/25; NYT, WP 3/26–27; WP 3/28, 3/29; NYT 3/29; NYT, WP 3/31–4/1;NYT 4/3)