Thursday, May 18, 2023

In the West Bank, Israeli forces shot and injured 1 Palestinian minor in Aida refugee camp. In East Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Israelis marched through the Old City, including the Muslim Quarter for the so-called Flag March, attacking Palestinians and Palestinian property and yelling genocidal and racist slogans such as “Death to Arabs,” “May your village burn down,” and profanities against the Prophet Muhammad. 3 journalists and 3 Palestinians were assaulted by the marchers. Israeli police also assaulted several journalists, including CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman. The U.S. condemned the behavior at the march as “outrageous and unacceptable.” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir took part in the march. Thousands of Israeli settlers, including Negev and Galilee development minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf and MKs Dan Illouz, Amit Halevi, and Ariel Kallner toured the Haram al-Sharif compound. Later Israeli forces also prevented the call to prayer before the sunset prayer from al-Aqsa Mosque. In Gaza, Israeli forces violently dispersed Palestinians protesting against the Flag March along the Gaza fence, injuring 5 with baton rounds and causing tear-gas related injuries. (HA 5/16; AJ, AP, MEE, WAFA 5/17; AJ, AJ, AJ, AJ, AJ, ALM, AP, HA, HA, MEE, MEE, MEE, NYT, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA 5/18; HA, MDW, MDW, WAFA, WAFA 5/19; WAFA 5/20; MDW 5/22; PCHR 5/25; UNOCHA 6/2)

The Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant ordered Israeli Central Command chief Yehuda Funch to authorize entry of Israeli settlers to the Homesh settlement outpost and to grant the Shomron Regional Council a plot of land to create a Yeshiva on. The move was made to prevent Palestinian landowners from successfully appealing to the Israeli High Court of Justice to have the settlers cleared from Homesh and for them to regain access to their land. U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli decision, noting that the order contravened promises made by then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 to the Bush administration and by the Netanyahu government to the Biden administration. The French foreign ministry also condemned the move, saying it contravened commitments made by Israel at the Aqaba and Sharm El Sheikh summits in February and March. According to Axios, Israeli officials had told the Biden administration that Israel does not intend to turn Homesh into a new settlement. (WAFA 5/18; HA 5/21; AJ, ALM, HA, MEE, REU, WAFA, WAFA 5/22; AX, HA, TOI 5/23; HA, WAFA 5/24)

Haaretz reported that Israeli finance minister and de facto governor of the West Bank, Bezalel Smotrich, has stressed at closer door meetings that it is Israeli policy to improve infrastructure in Israeli settlements and outposts to prepare for an additional 500,000 Israeli settlers moving to the West Bank. Smotrich also instructed government officials to draw up plans for more checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank for settlers. The U.S. responded to the reporting saying that “we view the expansion of settlement as an obstacle to peace.” The Israeli government later said that Smotrich’s statements did not represent the policies of the Netanyahu-led government. (HA 5/18; HA 5/23)

6 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a press conference outside of the Capitol building criticizing the Biden administration and their colleagues for not holding Israel accountable for the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year and for human rights violations against Palestinians in general. The 6 members, Andre Carson (D-IN), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Cori Bush (D-MO), spoke alongside members of Abu Akleh’s family. (AJ, HA 5/18)