Sunday, February 19, 2006

The IDF sends troops into Balata r.c. in what it says is the beginning of an operation targeting the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB), Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that will continue for several days, firing on stone-throwing youths who confront the troops (killing 2 Palestinians, wounding 16), occupying an UNRWA school and several homes as operational bases, demolishing a Palestinian home. The IDF also launches air strikes on 2 Popular Resistance Comm. (PRC) mbrs. attempting to lay a roadside bomb or fire rocket nr. the n. Gaza border fence, killing both; fires across the Israeli border into Gaza towards Palestinian farmers working their fields nr. Abasan, causing no injuries; erects a gate at the entrance to Kafr Haris nr. Hebron, facing Ariel settlement; conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron and in Allar nr. Tulkarm, al-Azza r.c., Bethlehem, Qabatya nr. Jenin; patrols in Tulkarm. Palestinians fire 2 rockets into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. (VOI, VOP, YA 2/19, VOP 2/20 in WNC 2/20; HA, IMEMC, NYT, WP 2/20; PCHR 2/23)

The Israeli cabinet approves steps to isolate and destabilize the new Hamasled Palestinian government, including immediately halting transfers of VAT taxes collected on the PA’s behalf, a source of some $50 m./mo. in revenues for the cashstrapped PA. The UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto reprimands Israel, saying “these are monies that belong to the Palestinians and should not be withheld.” (Israeli cabinet communique 2/19; VOI 2/19, VOP 2/20 in WNC 2/20; HA, MM, NYT, WP, WT 2/20; JP 2/20 in WNC 2/21; WP 2/21; PCHR 2/23)

Hamas nominates moderate Ismail Haniyeh, who led the Change and Reform slate in the 1/25/06 elections, as its candidate for PM to form a cabinet. (VOP 2/19 in WNC 2/20; WP 2/20)