Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The PA sets 7/9/2011 as the start date for municipal elections in the West Bank. (WT 2/9)

In the morning, unidentified Palestinians fire 2 mortars fr. Gaza into Israel, causing light damage but no injuries. In the afternoon, Islamic Jihad mbrs. fire 2 more mortars into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Late in the evening, the IDF retaliates with an air strike, destroying an abandoned plastics factory in Gaza City (an alleged weapons manufacturing facility), also damaging a nearby PA Health Min. warehouse used for storing medicine, a textile factory, and a school and lightly injuring 11 Palestinian civilians (including 4 children). An hr. later, the IDF makes 2 air strikes on an Islamic Jihad training site in Khan Yunis (injuring 2 Islamic Jihad mbrs.) and a smuggling tunnel on the Rafah border (no injuries). Also during the day, the IDF makes a brief incursion into s. Gaza e. of Shuka village to level lands and clear lines of sight, firing on nearby residential areas to keep Palestinians indoors, causing no injuries. UNRWA reports that it has resumed 3 stalled construction projects in Gaza after Israel allowed in 2 large shipments of construction aggregates (see 2/1). In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night patrols in 1 village nr. Tulkarm; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Tubas, in Nablus, and nr. Hebron. (YA 2/9; PCHR 2/10; OCHA 2/11)

Egyptian demonstrators hold the largest rally in Tahrir Square to date and surround the parliament building, rejecting government proposals for an extended transition and demanding Mubarak’s immediate removal and dissolution of parliament. Huge demonstrations are also held in Alexandria, Suez, and other cities. Egyptian labor unions begin a nationwide general strike to observe a “Week of Steadfastness” with demonstrators. Since 2/4, Mubarak has released some activists arrested since 1/25, allowed government contact with the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time, agreed in principle to lift emergency regulations and allow a free press, formed a legal panel (all Mubarak loyalists) to explore constitutional changes demanded by protesters, announced 15% raises for civil servants and pensioners, and vowed to open corruption investigations of senior government and NDP party officials. Some opposition figures note (e.g., WP 2/7) that some of these steps were significant and might have been enough to appease protesters 2 wks. ago, but that the mood has shifted significantly since then and these steps are now seen as far too little. Another round of massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square is called for Friday 2/10. In the interim, labor strikes and demonstrations grow and spread nationwide. (NYT, WP, WT 2/8; NYT, WP, WT 2/9; NYT, WP, WT 2/10; see also NYT, WP 2/6; NYT, WP, WT 2/7)