Thursday, May 22, 2014

In the Gaza Strip, IDF troops conduct a limited incursion to level land close to the border fence nr. Khan Yunis. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts house searches and arrest raids in 1 village each nr. Hebron, Qalqilya, and Salfit at night; patrols in 1 village nr. Hebron in the afternoon, and in 2 villages nr. Hebron, and 1 village each nr. Nablus, Ramallah, and Salfit at night. Israeli settlers use bulldozers to level Palestinian-owned land nr. Salfit. (MNA 5/22; PCHR 5/29)

Israeli PM Netanyahu says that “the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground” among Israel’s political class, particularly in light of the collapse of U.S.-led negotiations, in an exclusive interview published by Bloomberg View. Netanyahu’s office subsequently clarifies that this is not a reference to any intention to evacuate settlements. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett welcomes the remarks and urges the adoption of his plan, which would include the annexation of parts of the West Bank. Meanwhile, senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi condemns talk of unilateral steps as a way to bypass talks, while U.S. State Dept. spokesperson Marie Harf responds to Netanyahu’s remarks by emphasising that “no one should take any steps that undermine trust, including unilateral.” (Bloomberg, HA, YA 5/23)

China and Russia veto a UN Security Council (UNSC) res., drafted by France, referring the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation into possible war crimes. The 13 other mbrs. of the UNSC vote in favor. It is the 4th time that China and Russia have blocked Western-drafted resolutions on Syria since spring 2011. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says that the last 100 tons of Syria’s declared stockpile of precursors for poison gas and nerve agents are ready for transport, but Syrian authorities say it is too dangerous to move them for the time being. (AFP, AP 5/23)

Gunmen kill Shadi al-Manaei, leader of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, along with 3 other mbrs. of the Egypt-based militant group, in a drive-by shooting in c. Sinai. Egyptian officials say that the attack is likely revenge for the group’s killing of local tribesmen as “collaborators.” (AP 5/22)

Lawmakers allied with Hizballah boycott a session of Lebanon’s parliament, blocking the body from electing a new pres. This is the 5th failed attempt in the past mo. Lebanon’s current pres., Michael Suleiman, is scheduled to leave office on 5/24, the last day of his 6-year term. (AP 5/22)