Thursday, March 21, 2019

Along Gaza’s border, IDF troops open fire on a group of Palestinian minors congregating near al-Bureij refugee camp; 1 Palestinian is injured. The Israeli press reports that the Palestinians were launching incendiary balloons into southern Israel. Later in the day, an Israeli tank shells a Hamas post in southern Gaza, injuring 7 Palestinians. The IDF says that the strike was retaliation for the launching of incendiary balloons into Gaza earlier in the day. In the West Bank, an Israeli settler driver rams and moderately injures a Palestinian in central Hebron. The settler then flees the scene. Separately, settlers throw stones at Palestinian homes in Urif near Nablus, causing damage and sparking a minor confrontation with residents of the village. Unidentified assailants throw a firebomb at an Israeli vehicle near Nablus, lightly injuring the 2 settler occupants and damaging the vehicle. Meanwhile, IDF troops patrol near Nablus, Hebron, and Ramallah. Israeli forces shut down a number of streets in central Hebron to make room for Israeli settlers to celebrate Purim. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces disperse an event at the French Cultural Center on the grounds that it was co-sponsored by the PA. They also arrest 2 Palestinians during late-night raids in Ras al-Amud. (HA, MNA, MNA, TOI, WAFA, WAFA 3/21; MNA 3/22; PCHR 3/28)

U.S. president Donald Trump tweets, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” His tweet reverses decades of U.S. policy and runs counter to several UN Security Council resolutions and international law. It comes in response to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for the international community to recognize Israeli control over the Golan Heights, and it is widely seen as a boon for Netanyahu’s chances the upcoming Israeli election on 4/9. Trump later says, in an interview with Fox Business Network, that his tweet was not an effort to support Netanyahu’s re-election campaign. “I hear [Netanyahu] is doing okay,” he says. “Whoever’s against him is also in favor of what I just did.” In response to Trump’s tweet, an EU spokesperson says that the EU has no plans to change its position on the Golan Heights. “The EU, in line with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory.” (HA, JP, MNA, NYT, TOI, YA 3/21; HA 3/22)