Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kadima head Shaul Mofaz arrives in Washington for his 1st official visit as Israel’s vice PM in charge of overseeing peace process issues. He meets with U.S. secy. of state Hillary Clinton and U.S. security officials and urges the U.S. to support reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, stating that the greatest threat to Israel is not Iran but a Palestinian demographic majority. He presents his own peace plan (1st unveiled in 2009 and not endorsed by Netanyahu), which calls for the creation of an interim Palestinian state with temporary borders on 60% of the West Bank, land swaps making up for the other 40%, and Israel’s permanent control over most settlement areas. (WP 6/20)

Israeli drones and warplanes carry out another 5 air strikes across Gaza, leaving at least 2 armed Palestinians and 1 Palestinian child dead and 10 Palestinians (2 armed, 8 civilian) wounded. The strikes include (1) an air strike on Gaza City targeting 2 members of the Salafist Tawhid and Jihad (TAJ) group whom Israel now alleges were involved in the 6/18 attack on Israel from the Sinai (1 TAJ member is killed, 1 is wounded; a family picnicking nearby is also hit, leaving a 13-yr.-old Palestinian boy dead, and 4 mbrs. of his family, including 3 children, seriously injured); (2) 2 missiles fired at a rocket-launching team in Rafah (1 armed Palestinian killed, 1 wounded); (3) air strikes on 2 IQB training camps in Jabaliya r.c. and Nussayrat r.c. (injuring 5 bystanders in nearby homes). Meanwhile, Palestinians fire more rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, damaging a house but causing no injuries. Since 6/17, Israel has carried out at least 17 air strikes on Gaza, and Palestinians have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars. By late evening, Hamas officials in Gaza say that Gaza’s factions have agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel to end 3 days of cross-border violence. In addition, Israeli naval vessels fire on and detain 3 Palestinian fishing boats off the n. Gaza shore, questioning 6 fishermen (all released on 6/21). In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Salfit, and nr. Hebron and Jenin; conducts late-night patrols in Jericho. (YA 6/20; NYT, PCHR, WP 6/21; PCHR 6/28; OCHA 6/29)

Overnight, the YESHA settlers’ council reaches a deal with the Israeli government to peacefully evacuate Ulpana outpost in exchange for a promises that 300 new housing units will be built in neighboring Beit El settlement and that the deal would not be used as a precedent for deciding the fate of other unauthorized settlement outposts. Meanwhile, some 1,000 Israeli police officers undergo special training to prevent violence and injuries during the Ulpana evacuation. (NYT 6/20)

Several U.S. representatives from both parties testifying before the House Armed Services Comm. recommend that the Pentagon begin preparing for military action against Iran, including expediting deployment of bunker-busting munitions that could target Iran’s underground facilities. (WP 6/21)