Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The IDF withdraws troops fr. n. Gaza, leaving 60–130 Palestinian homes and a UNRWA clinic completely destroyed or uninhabitable; sends troops into al-Shuka village nr. Rafah, cutting electricity, bulldozing large areas of agricultural land, forcing 97 families (703 Palestinians) to flee their homes (UNRWA sets up 3 tent shelters in Jabaliya r.c. to house them); fires across the border into residential areas of Nussayrat r.c., wounding 1 Palestinian; shells and fires missiles fr. helicopters at areas in and around Abasan and nr. Khan Yunis; allows EU monitors to reopen the Rafah crossing for entry to Gaza; resumes shelling of n. Gaza late in the evening. Palestinians fire 2 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF sends undercover units into Bethlehem, raiding an apartment building, checking residents’ IDs, detaining 1 Palestinian; raids, vandalizes an UNRWA office and a youth center in Aida r.c.; raids the Ramallah Governate offices and the nearby office of the Palestine News Agency (WAFA), vandalizing them, detaining 5 Palestinians, including 2 PA police officers; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Jenin. Unidentified gunmen fire on the home of a senior PSF official, killing 1 bodyguard, wounding 2. (OCHA 7/18; NYT 7/19; PCHR 7/20; OCHA 7/27)

The IDF strikes at least 110 targets across Lebanon, hitting a Lebanese army base (killing 11 soldiers, wounding 35), a home in s. Lebanon (killing 9 Lebanese civilians), targets in Baalbek; targets trucks in what is seen as a new campaign aimed at preventing Hizballah from relocating rockets, though most trucks hit are civilian ones bearing essential goods to Lebanese towns, including destroying a convoy in the Biqa‘ Valley carrying medical supplies fr. the UAE; continuing to destroy roads and bridges. At least 20 Lebanese are killed during the day. The IDF confirms that small special forces teams have been conducting “pinpoint operations” in s. Lebanon, searching for arms caches and tunnels, withdrawing quickly; today some teams clash with Hizballah mbrs. reportedly leaving 2 IDF soldiers dead, 3 injured. Hizballah fires up to 130 rockets at some 10 cities in n. Israel, killing 1 Israeli, wounding around 20 in Nahariya, also hitting Haifa, Kiryat Shimona, Safad, Tiberias. The UN estimates that 500,000 Lebanese (out of a population of 4 million) have fled their homes to escape the violence. Lebanese begin to report shortages and rising costs of essential items, such as food and gas; begin withdrawing cash from banks and converting money into dollars in preparation for long-term deflation and economic hardship. (AP 7/18; AP, REU 7/19; NYT, WP, WT 7/19)