Wednesday, August 16, 2006

As the quarter opens,Israel’s blockade of Gaza enters its 6th mo., allowing no goods or people out (except for very limited medical emergencies) and letting only limited food and fuel supplies and a handful of diplomats and international aid workers in; Palestinians are receiving on average 6–8 hrs./day of electricity and 2–3 hrs./day of water after Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s sole generator on 6/28. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continues Operation Summer Rains (see Quarterly Update in JPS 141), which began on 6/28 after the capture of an IDF soldier in a Palestinian cross-border raid fr. Gaza on 6/25, making occasional ground incursions into Gaza, maintaining troops at the Dahaniyya airport site outside of Rafah. In Gaza, the IDF launches air strikes, destroying a empty Palestinian home in Gaza City, causing no injuries; sends at least 50 armored vehicles into the outskirts of Bayt Hanun, firing on residential areas, bulldozing large areas of agricultural land, ordering residents of 15 houses to surrender for ID checks, arresting 2 before withdrawing across the border. Also in Gaza, 1 Palestinian is killed, 3 are injured when they apparently prematurely detonate explosives they are handling. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in Azun nr. Qalqilya (firing on stone-throwing youths who confront them, wounding 2), Fahma nr. Jenin (firing on residential areas, damaging homes), Jenin town and refugee camp (r.c.; wounding 1 Palestinian), al-Khadir nr. Bethlehem (firing on residential areas); conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron, Salfit. In Khan Yunis, a 14-yr.-old Palestinian boy is killed in crossfire btwn. Hamas Executive Support Force (ESF) mbrs., Fatah gunmen. (PCHR 8/17; OCHA 8/23; PCHR 8/24)

Two days after an Israel-Hizballah cease-fire went into effect ending 34 days of war (Israel dubbed its offensive Operation Change of Direction; see Chronology in JPS 141), the Lebanese government reaches a compromise agreement with Hizballah under which only the army will be allow to “carry weapons” s. of the Litani (allowing Hizballah to store weapons nr. the border with Israel) and the Lebanese cabinet votes to order the army to prepare to deploy across s. Lebanon (a precondition for an Israeli withdrawal). The UN estimates that since 8/14, more than 200,000 Lebanese have returned to their homes and 60,000 have returned fr. Syria, leaving more than 700,000 still internally displaced. The Lebanese government now puts the comprehensive toll at 1,152 Lebanese killed and some 3,700 wounded, with numbers expected to rise as more bodies are recovered. (UN Information Service, WP 8/16; NYT, WP, WT 8/17)