Thursday, March 21, 2013

U.S. Pres. Barack Obama meets with Palestinian pres. Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah, discussions that Palestinian officials later characterize as disappointing in regards to positions on settlements and prisoners. Obama then delivers a speech to Israeli students in which he says further settlement construction is ‘‘counterproductive’’ to peace efforts, and urges the Arab world to ‘‘take steps toward normalizing relations’’ with Israel (See Documents in JPS 168 for excerpts). In Gaza, Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh dismisses Obama’s visit and says ‘‘American policies perpetuate the Israeli occupation.’’ (JP, MNA, REU 3/21)

Palestinian militants fire rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, damaging 1 home in Sederot but causing no injuries. A small Islamist group called Mujahidin Shura Council claim responsibility for the launch, having previously claimed a 6/2013 attack on Israel from the Sinai. In response, the Israeli military announces that it is reducing the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in Gaza to 3 naut. miles, as well as closing Kerem Shalom crossing. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 1 village nr. Jenin and 1 village nr. Ramallah in the morning, and in 1 village nr. Tulkarm at night; conducts house searches and arrest raids in 1 village nr. Ramallah at night. (JP, MNA, REU 3/21; PCHR 3/28)

A court in Cyprus convicts Hizballah member Hossam Taleb Yaccoub of plotting against Israeli interests on the island. Yaccoub was arrested on 7/13/12 after a tip off by Israeli intelligence. (REU 3/21)

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech at the Shrine of Imam Reza in which he indicates openness to nuclear talks but is not optimistic about success. He also says that international sanctions have failed to isolate Iran. (WP 3/21)