Wednesday, February 16, 2011

As the quarter opens, Israel maintains a tight siege of Gaza aimed at unseating the governing Hamas authority, in control since 6/2007. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enforces a 300-m deep no-go zone inside the full length of the Gaza border and limits the Palestinian fishing zone off Gaza to 500–1,000 m off the immediate Bayt Lahiya and Rafah coasts, and 3 naut. mi. elsewhere—restrictions that place 17% of Gaza’s total landmass, including 35% of its viable agricultural areas, and 85% of the maritime areas allocated to the Palestinians under the Oslo accords off limits to Palestinians. In the West Bank, governed by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), IDF operations and restrictions on movement and access continue but are relatively low. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in Tulkarm before dawn and in Birzeit late at night; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Nablus. (PCHR 2/17, 2/24; OCHA 2/25)

Regionwide antigovernment protests, which toppled the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes last quarter, continue (see Quarterly Update in this issue and in JPS 159). In Bahrain, demonstrators for the 1st time shift fr. calling for a transition to a constitutional monarchy to calling for the ouster of the monarchy altogether. Syria sees its 1st hint of unrest when more than 500 protesters in Damascus spontaneously rally to the defense of a motorist being beaten by a police officer and refuse to disperse, chanting “The Syrian people will not tolerate humiliation” for more than 3 hrs. until Interior M Saed Samour personally goes to the scene to pledge to punish the policeman. Major clashes between govt. forces and protesters seeking regime change are reported in eastern Libya, while modest demonstrations in Yemen call for the president to step down. (NYT, WP, WT 2/17)