Monday, May 20, 2013

U.S. Secy. of State John Kerry leaves for Oman, on a Middle East trip that will also take him to Jordan, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories, his 4th visit to the latter in recent mos. The focus of Kerry’s trip is the possible Syria peace conference as well as the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. As Kerry departs, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat says that they are making every effort for peace talks to succeed, revealing that in the previous 2 mos. Kerry met with Pres. Abbas 5 times, Erakat 3 times, and that there are almost weekly telephone conversations. (AFP, AP, REU 5/20)

Israel cancels an official visit by a UNESCO delegation, scheduled to inspect historical sites in Jerusalem’s Old City. The fact-finding commission was set to spend 5 days in Jerusalem before submitting a report at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Israel’s Foreign Ministry claims that the visit has been postponed because the Palestinian side “tried to make it into a political event.” The visit originated in a 4/23 decision by Israel, the PA, and UNESCO to remove 5 resolutions critical of Israeli actions from the agency’s agenda in exchange for the delegation’s visit. (MNA 5/16; HA 5/20)

Off the coast of the Gaza Strip, Israeli naval vessels open fire on Palestinian fishermen, causing no damage or injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts house searches and arrest raids in 1 village nr. Tulkarm in the afternoon, and in Tulkarm, Balata r.c. in Nablus, and 1 village each nr. Hebron and Jenin at night, patrols in 2 villages nr. Ramallah in the morning, 1 village each nr. Jenin and Qalqilya in the afternoon, and in 2 villages nr. Salfit, 1 village each nr. Jenin and Ramallah, and in Nablus at night. (PCHR 5/23)

Unidentified gunmen open fire at a police camp and al-Awja border crossing in the Sinai, causing no casualties. Egyptian police deploy reinforcements in the area. Seven security officials remain kidnapped. (AFP, AP 5/20)