Sunday, May 20, 2007

During the day in Gaza, the IDF fires on Jabaliya r.c., seriously wounding a Palestinian woman inside her home. In the evening, Olmert convenes his security cabinet, which authorized the IDF to step up attacks on Hamas, Islamic Jihad. Soon after, the IDF makes an air strike targeting IQB cmdr. Samih Farwanah in Gaza City, who is at the home of Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform Palestinian Council (PC) mbr. Khalil al-Haya, assassinating Farwanah, killing 7 of Haya’s relatives, wounding more than 12; fires a missile at Hamas mbr. Nasser Hammuda, biking through Gaza City, wounding him in an apparent assassination attempt; makes an air strike on an alleged Hamas weapons factory in Gaza City, killing 1 Palestinian security guard, wounding 3 bystanders; makes an air strike on the home of an Islamic Jihad mbr., destroying it and a neighboring meeting hall, causing no injuries; shells residential areas of Bayt Lahiya, heavily damaging 2 homes, wounding 6 Palestinians. Palestinians fire at least 12 rockets, 2 mortars fr. Gaza into Israel, damaging 2 trucks on the Israeli side of the Qarni crossing but causing no injuries. In Rafah, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB) mbr. is injured when explosives he is handling detonate prematurely. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in al-Arub r.c nr. Hebron and in and around Bethlehem, Jenin town and r.c.; raids 4 TV and radio stations in Nablus seizing computers and broadcasting equipment; begins bulldozing 130 dunams (d.; 4 d. = 1 acre) of apricot and date orchards nr. Artas nr. Bethlehem to make way for the separation wall. Under IDF escort, Jewish settlers fr. Efrat nr. Bethlehem uproot Palestinian trees nr. the settlement. Jewish settlers fr. Karme Tzur nr. Hebron unleash an attack dog on a Palestinian farmer working his land nr. the settlement, injuring him. Meanwhile, Hamas, Fatah observe a ceasefire during the day; stores begin to reopen and residents venture out for the 1st time in a wk. (HA, IFM, NYT, PCHR, WP 5/20; HA, NYT, OCHA, PCHR, WP, WT 5/21; OCHA 5/23; PCHR 5/24)

Overnight, Lebanese police and soldiers raid several homes in Tripoli in an attempt to capture a group connected to the tiny militant group, Fatah al-Islam (FI), that was suspected of carrying out a bank robbery on 5/19. The raids spark gun battles that quickly spread throughout the city and to the outskirts of Nahr al-Barid r.c. (pop. 40,000), where FI is based. When FI forces leave the camp to ambush and capture nearby army positions, the Lebanese army fires tank shells, mortars into the camp, quickly precipitating massive clashes (including RPG, heavy weapons fire by FI) that continue throughout the day. In total, at least 27 Lebanese soldiers, 20 FI mbrs., and 9 Palestinian civilians inside the camp are killed and scores are wounded during the day. By nightfall, the army regains control of areas surrounding the camp, seals the camp to prevent militants fr. escaping; cuts water and electricity to the camp to urge a surrender. Syria closes several border crossings n. and w. of Tripoli in reaction. Separately, a car bomb explodes nr. a shopping mall in the Christian neighborhood of Achrifiyya in Beirut, killing 1 Lebanese woman, wounding 12; no group claims responsibility. (AP, NYT, REU, WP, WT 5/21; WT 5/24; NYT 6/20, 7/7)