Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Off the coast of the Gaza Strip nr. Rafah, Israeli naval vessels open fire on Palestinian fishermen, causing damage but no injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts house searches and arrest raids in 4 villages nr. Hebron and 1 village nr. Qalqilya at night; patrols in 3 villages nr. Hebron at night. Jewish settlers attack Burin village nr. Nablus, throwing stones at schoolchildren, and assaulting a Palestinian man. Israeli forces arrive and fire rubber-coated metal bullets at villagers, causing no injuries. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers destroy 700 newly planted olive tree saplings nr. Ramallah, and in another incident, Jewish settlers demolish a Palestinian-owned agricultural shed nr. Bethlehem. In East Jerusalem, 30 Palestinian-owned vehicles nr. Bayt Safafa are vandalized, with racist “price tag” graffiti left at the scene. (MNA, WAFA 2/19; PCHR 2/20)

U.S. Secy. of State Kerry meets with PA Pres. Abbas in Paris to discuss the ongoing peace negotiations. The meeting was attended by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudayna, and PLO Amb. to France Hayel Fahoum. State Dept. spokesperson Jen Psaki says that the “few hours” spent together were focused on “narrowing the gaps between the parties on a framework for negotiations.” State Dept. dep. spokesperson Marie Harf also says that Kerry expresses concern in the meeting about recent remarks made by Erakat about a potential boycott of Israel. Both before and after the meeting, Palestinian officials sound pessimistic about the prospects for a breakthrough, with an unnamed official describing the talks as facing a “real crisis.” While in Paris, Kerry also meets with Jordanian FM Nasser Judeh. (JP 2/18; AFP, AP, JP, YA 2/19)

On the 2d day of talks in Vienna, Dep. FM Abbas Araghchi tells Iranian media that representatives of Iran and the P5+1 countries have agreed on an agenda for negotiations and will meet again in Vienna at some point during the 2d half of 3/2014. Earlier, the U.S. State Dept. describes the 2d day of talks as “constructive and useful.” Meanwhile, Israeli media reports that a U.S. delegation will visit Israel to brief the Israeli govt. on the ongoing talks with Iran. (HA, REU 2/19)

Two suicide bombers attack the Iranian cultural center in Beirut, killing 8 and wounding dozens more. The attack is claimed by the al-Qa‘ida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which says the bombing was a response to Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict on the side of the govt. (AP, DS, REU 2/19)