Thursday, January 31, 2013

A UNHRC investigation into Israel’s settlements in the West Bank publishes its conclusions, declaring such activity a contravention of the Geneva Convention and thus a potential war crime under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The investigators, led by French judge Christine Chanet, call on Israel to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all settlers. Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejects the report, calling it counterproductive and the result of a ‘‘one-sided and biased approach towards Israel.’’ PLO Executive Comm. member Hanan Ashrawi welcomes the report, saying that the Palestinians are encouraged by its ‘‘candid assessment of Israeli violations.’’ (JP, REU 1/31)

Area council head for the Gush Etzion settlement bloc Davidi Perl says that the Israeli Defense Ministry has moved forward plans to build 346 housing units in Tekoa and Nokdim settlements. (JP 1/31)

In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 1 village nr. Ramallah in the morning, and in ‘Ayn al-Sultan r.c. nr. Jericho and 1 village each nr. Jericho and Ramallah at night; conducts house searches and arrest raids in Bethlehem and 1 village each nr. Hebron and Jenin at night. (PCHR 2/7)

Senior Hamas official Yahya Moussa denies recent reports (see 1/30) that Khalid Mishal told Jordan’s King Abdallah to inform U.S. pres. Barack Obama that Hamas accepts the two-state solution. (MNA 1/31)

Syria and its allies condemn the presumed Israeli attack on a site close to the Lebanese border, which the Syrian military says struck a research center and which Western officials stated was a convoy of anti-aircraft batteries headed toward Lebanon for Hizballah. Israeli officials refuse to comment. Syrian amb. to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali says that the country may choose a ‘‘surprise’’ response to Israeli ‘‘aggression,’’ while Syria also summons the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights to formally protest the raid. Russia says that if reports are confirmed, then the Israeli attack is a violation of the UN Charter and is ‘‘unacceptable.’’ The Arab League condemns what it calls Israel’s ‘‘cruel aggression,’’ while Hizballah releases a statement expressing ‘‘solidarity’’ with Syria and calling the strike ‘‘barbaric aggression.’’ (AFP, AP, FT, REU 1/31)

Iran writes a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency to announce its plans to install and operate advanced uranium-enrichment machines. The U.S. says that installation of new Iranian centrifuges would be a ‘‘provocative step.’’ (REU 1/31)

Pres. Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, Republican Chuck Hagel, is questioned at a Senate Armed Services Comm. hearing, and is attacked by Republic lawmakers over his record on Israel and Iran. Hagel repeated his apology for his previous use of the term ‘‘Jewish lobby’’ in a 2006 interview with Aaron David Miller, and says it was wrong to suggest that pro-Israel groups ‘‘intimidate’’ Congress into doing ‘‘dumb things.’’ (AP, JTA, REU 1/31)