Wednesday, December 19, 2018

In the West Bank, Israeli forces raze an area of Palestinian farmland near Nablus. IDF troops arrest 6 Palestinians during late-night raids near Hebron and Ramallah; and patrol near Nablus and Hebron. Israeli settlers assault and injure several Palestinian farmers working their lands near Hebron. In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces arrest 3 Palestinians during late-night raids in Hizma and Issawiyya. Along Gaza’s border, IDF troops open fire on Palestinian shepherds working near Dayr al-Balah, causing no injuries. Israeli forces also conduct a limited incursion to level land near al-Bureij refugee camp. (MNA, MNA, WAFA 12/19; PCHR 12/20)

The undersecretary of the PA’s Agriculture Ministry, Abdallah Lahlouh, says that the PA has not been officially informed of any new Israeli policy to ban imports of fruits and vegetables from the West Bank, but that the PA will respond in kind if the recent reports of a ban continue. Although it was not publically announced at the time, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel ordered such a ban on 12/17 after the PA barred Palestinian meat-sellers from buying lamb from Israel on 12/2. (TOI, TOI, WAFA 12/19)

Israel’s Knesset passes a first reading of a bill that would allow the IDF to order the expulsion of the families of Palestinian assailants from their homes, despite objections from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and senior IDF officers. The Knesset also passes a first reading of the so-called Young Settlement Bill, which would allow for the temporary retroactive authorization of certain settlement outposts in the West Bank and which the Israeli cabinet unanimously approved on 12/16. (HA 12/19; HA 12/20)

At a UN Security Council meeting on alleged violations of Resolution 1701, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presents new information that he claims shows the extent of Hezbollah’s tunneling operations along the Israel-Lebanon border. He also says that Israel “gave UNIFIL precise information about the location of [1 of the tunnels],” but that compromised Lebanese army officers leaked the information to Hezbollah, allowing the group to conceal certain offensive operations. “Lebanese army officials are working for Hezbollah, while UNIFIL is not working to fulfill its mandate in the region in the necessary manner,” Danon alleges. While several UNSC members condemn Hezbollah’s tunneling activities, the UNSC takes no action at today’s meeting. (HA, HA, TOI, YA 12/19; TOI 12/20)

UN World Food Programme (WFP) country director Stephen Kearney announces that funding shortfalls have forced “drastic” cuts to food aid initiatives planned in the West Bank and Gaza in 2019. Starting on 1/1/19, the WFP plans to suspend food assistance to 27,000 people in the West Bank and reduce by 20% the food aid delivered to 166,000 additional recipients across the occupied Palestinian territories. “The major donor that we have had in the past years has been the U.S.,” Kearney says. “They have cut funding, not just to UNRWA, who work with the refugees in Gaza, but also to the rest of the humanitarian community, including WFP.” A WFP spokesperson says that an additional $57 million would be needed to maintain the current level of food aid in 2019. (AFP, AJ, REU, TOI 12/19; MEE 12/20)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announces that it has filed a legal challenge to an anti-BDS law in Texas on behalf of 4 Texans who either lost their jobs or lost the opportunity to be hired after they refused to renounce their support for boycotts against Israel or its settlements in the West Bank. “Whatever you may think about boycotts of Israel, the bottom line is that political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest,” says an ACLU lawyer. “The state cannot use the contracting process as an ideological litmus test or to tell people what kind of causes they may or may not support.” Texas’s anti-BDS law, which requires all state contractors to certify that they do not support or participate in any boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements, has been on the books since 5/2/17. (HA, TOI 12/19)