Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Unidentified Palestinians launch 2 rockets toward southern Israel from Gaza; 1 hits an Israeli home in Beersheba, causing major damage, and the other lands in the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli aircraft then conduct approximately 20 air strikes on sites across Gaza, killing 1 Palestinian, injuring at least 7, and causing extensive damage. Hours after the exchange, there are reports “intensive” Egyptian mediation efforts and a temporary cease-fire agreement. In a joint statement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine appear to disavow the rocket fire: “We welcome the Egyptian effort to fulfill the Palestinian people's demand to remove the [Israeli] siege, and reject any irresponsible attempts meant to incite and sabotage the effort.” The Israeli authorities reject their statement, arguing that only Hamas has access to rockets with sufficient range to strike Beersheba. (HA, HA, MNA, TOI, YA 10/17; PCHR 10/18)

Hours after the exchange of rocket fire and air strikes in Gaza overnight, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman orders the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings into Gaza closed indefinitely and the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast reduced to 3 nautical miles. In the evening, Israel’s security cabinet convenes for 5 hours to discuss the situation in Gaza. They agree to impose new “rules of the game” on the weekly protests along Gaza’s border that have been held every Friday since 3/30/18, which are widely referred to as the Great March of Return. The cabinet instructs the IDF to gradually toughen its response to Palestinian attempts to damage or cross Gaza’s border fence, including incendiary balloons and kites. The new policy is reportedly based on a zero-tolerance approach. There are no further details as the cabinet agrees not to discuss the policy with the media. (EI, HA, JP, PIC, YA 10/17; HA, TOI, YA 10/18)

In the West Bank, Israeli forces demolish 2 makeshift Palestinian residential structures, a Palestinian home, and an agricultural structure in various locations near Hebron. They also continue levelling land around Khan al-Ahmar, the Jerusalem-area Bedouin village slated for evacuation and demolition. The Israeli forces sporadically clash with Palestinian and international solidarity activists in the village; 4 protesters are injured and 1 is arrested. Meanwhile, IDF troops arrest 5 Palestinians during late-night raids near Hebron, Nablus, and Tulkarm; and patrol near Salfit and Hebron. Israeli settlers assault 2 Palestinians harvesting olives near Nablus, causing moderate injuries to both. They also throw rocks at Palestinian vehicles and homes in the area, causing moderate damage. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces demolish a Palestinian home in Jabal Mukabir overnight and arrest 3 Palestinians during late-night raids in Wadi al-Juz and the Old City. (MNA, MNA, MNA, MNA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, YA 10/17; PCHR 10/18)

A Palestinian succumbs to injuries sustained when IDF troops opened fire on Palestinian protesters along Gaza’s northern border on 10/15. This brings the death toll stemming from the Great March of Return to 178. (MNA 10/17)

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says that Israel’s planned evacuation and demolition of the Jerusalem-area Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar could constitute a war crime. “Extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes [under the Rome Statute],” she says. “I will not hesitate to take any appropriate action within the framework of my authority according to the Rome Statute.” (HA, JP 10/17)

The UN General Assembly votes to confirm the State of Palestine’s status as next chair of the Group of 77 and China, with 146 votes in favor, 15 abstentions, and 3 opposed (Australia, Israel, and the U.S.). The Group of 77 and China is a group of developing countries who work together at the UN to promote their collective economic interests. It is so called because it had 77 members when it was founded and because China participates but does not consider itself a member. Leadership of the group grants the State of Palestine many of the same privileges allotted to full UN member states. (JP, MNA, YA 10/17)