Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In Gaza, Israeli authorities close both the Kerem Shalom and the Erez border crossings. In 2 separate incidents, IDF troops stationed e. of Gaza City fire warning shots at Palestinian farmers approaching the border fence, causing damage. Later, IDF troops stationed along the n. border open fire on a group of Palestinian farmers, causing damage to a car but no injuries. They also arrest 2 Palestinians nr. the border fence e. of al-Maghazi r.c. Unknown assailants set fire to a car belonging to the spokesperson of Gaza’s union of civil servants in Gaza City. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts house searches and raids in 1 village each nr. Hebron, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, arresting 2 Palestinians and issuing arrest summons to 1; patrols in 4 villages nr. Hebron, and in and around Tulkarm; evacuates and demolishes the “Gate of Jerusalem” protest tent camp in Abu Dis for the 11th time, forcing hundreds of Palestinian and international activists to leave the area and detaining 7. Israeli forces demolish a marble factory nr. Jenin. Israeli settlers poison a Palestinian family’s water tank in Hebron, but it is discovered before anyone is hurt; assault 2 Palestinian farmers outside a town nr. Jenin, injuring both; throw stones at Palestinian vehicles outside a village nr. Jenin, causing damage. A Palestinian drives his car into a group of IDF troops in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, injuring 1; the man is arrested. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces arrest 3 Palestinians in Haram al-Sharif. They also conduct house searches and raids in Bayt Hanina, Issawiyya, Ras al-Amud, and al-Tur, arresting 8 Palestinians. (JP, MNA, TOI, WAFA 3/17; PCHR 3/19)

National elections are held in Israel to determine the makeup of the 20th Knesset. Despite early exit polls predicting a close result, the Likud Party wins 30 seats, making it the largest bloc. During the day, Israeli PM Netanyahu attempts to increase voter turnout among his supporters by saying that Palestinian citizens are voting in “droves” and that their participation will lead to a victory for the left-wing factions. (AFP, BBC, HA, JP, NYT, TOI, YA 3/17; HA, JTA, WAFA 3/18)

The PA announces that it will operate under an emergency budget for 2015 starting on 4/1, as the economic crisis precipitated by Israel’s ongoing tax revenue freeze continues (over $400 m. is currently being withheld). Employees will continue to receive only partial salaries and govt. offices will receive 50% less funding than in 2014. (REU, TOI 3/17)

Reps. of the U.S. and Iran continue their negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program for a 2d day in a row and reportedly discuss the open letter that 47 Republican senators sent to Iran’s leaders on 3/9. (AFP, AP, JP, TOI 3/17)