Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In the West Bank, hundreds of armed Israeli settlers visit the Saint Saba Monastery outside Bethlehem overnight, sparking a tense confrontation between their IDF escort and Palestinians in the area; there are no clashes or injuries reported. Separately, Israeli settlers puncture the tires of several Palestinian vehicles and spray racist graffiti on nearby walls in Yasuf village near Salfit overnight; uproot approximately 100 trees on a Palestinian farm near Hebron; and damage a Palestinian vehicle’s windshield near Nablus. Israeli forces uproot approximately 200 cactus seedlings from a Palestinian farm near Nablus. IDF troops arrest 9 Palestinians during raids near Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, Tubas, Jenin, and Tulkarm; and patrol near Nablus, Hebron, and Ramallah. An IDF raid in Dahaysha refugee camp sparks minor clashes; 1 Palestinian is injured. Unidentified assailants throw stones at an Israeli settler family driving near Hebron, lightly injuring a settler infant. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces arrest 7 Palestinians at a checkpoint at the entrance to Issawiyya and 15 more Palestinians during raids in the neighborhood. They also demolish 2 Palestinian homes in Jabal Mukabir. Along Gaza’s border, IDF troops shoot and injure a Palestinian bird-hinter approaching the border fence near Gaza City. Off Gaza’s coast, Israeli naval forces open fire on Palestinian fishing boats near Jabaliya refugee camp, causing no damage or injuries. (HA, MNA, MNA 12/18; MNA, MNA, WAFA 12/19; PCHR 12/20)

UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov reports to the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the Israeli authorities approved or advanced approximately 2,200 new housing units in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements between 9/13 and 12/14, marking a record low since the UNSC established its current monitoring system with Resolution 2334 of 12/2016. (HA, TOI, YA 12/19)

The Wall Street Journal reports that the secret U.S.-backed effort to build a relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia has ground to a halt recently following the Saudi government’s removal of 2 top officials involved in the killing of a dissident journalist in Istanbul on 10/2. The killing and the ensuing international outcry have reportedly restricted Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “room to maneuver” and “dampened [his] appetite for risky foreign policy endeavors.” Israeli prime minister Netanyahu said as recently as last week that the killing of the journalist was “horrific,” but that it did not overshadow the value of a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. (HA, TOI, WSJ 12/18)