Sunday, February 16, 2014

In the Gaza Strip, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops open fire on open land nr. Khan Yunis, causing no injuries. In the West Bank, IDF troops conduct house searches and arrest raids in 1 village each nr. Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, and Salfit at night; patrols in 1 village each nr. Hebron and Salfit, and in Qalqilya and 1 nearby village in the afternoon, in 3 villages and al-‘Arub refugee camp (r.c.) nr. Hebron and 2 villages nr. Ramallah at night. (PCHR 2/20)

Palestinian Authority (PA) Pres. Mahmud Abbas tells a group of visiting Israeli students in Ramallah that he does not seek to “flood Israel” with millions of Palestinian refugees or to change the country’s “social composition.” Meanwhile, at an Al Jazeera event in Oxford, UK, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat warns that Palestinians will call for a boycott of Israel and turn to international tribunals if the negotiations fail. (MNA, REU, YA 2/16)

In Egypt, a bomb explodes on a bus in Sinai, killing 2 South Korean tourists and the local driver, and wounding 12. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims responsibility, and says that a suicide bomber executed the attack. (AP, REU 2/16; JTA 2/17; REU 2/18)

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announces that it has replaced its leader, Gen. Selim Idriss, with Col. Abdelilah al-Bashir, a decision prompted by “the ineffectiveness of the command in the past few mos.,” according to an FSA statement issued following a meeting in Gaziantep, Turkey. Meanwhile, Syrian FM Walid Muallem accuses the U.S. of creating a “negative climate” for dialogue at the 2d round of talks in Geneva, as the Syrian delegation returns from Switzerland to Damascus. U.S. Secy. of State Kerry praises the opposition’s “seriousness of purpose,” and criticizes the Syrian govt. for stalling in Geneva and attacking civilians in Syria. On the Syria-Jordan border, 10 gunmen from Syria open fire on Jordanian troops as they patrol, according to a Jordanian military spokesperson. The soldiers return fire, wounding 7 and arresting 3, while suffering no injuries. (AP, REU 2/16)

Hizballah’s leader, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, says that his group intends to stay and fight in Syria because Lebanon is threatened by Takfiri groups. He also urges Arab nations to help a process of Syrian national reconciliation. (DS 2/16)