Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 – 11:30
Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas seen in the central Gaza Strip March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has slammed Hamas, saying it is being “oppressive” in its crackdown on protesters in the Gaza Strip.

The movement has used excessive force to disperse protesters as part of “We Want to Live” rallies held against price hikes and the dire economic situation in the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas told Atef Abu Seif, the Fatah spokesman in Gaza and member of its central committee, in a phone call that he has honored his country.

He stressed that Hamas and its elements will end up in the “dustbin of history just like those who secede from the Palestinian legitimacy.”

Fatah has accused Hamas of Abu Seif’s assassination attempt after he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen and suffered multiple bone fractures around his body. He is reported to be in serious condition.

Abu Seif is among dozens of activists and journalists, who were severely beaten during demonstrations or arrests.

Hamas detained about 1,000 people in just a few days, dispersed more than 25 rallies with live fire and pursued activists in their homes and on the streets.

“We Want to Live” movement announced a two-day civil disobedience and public strike on Thursday, calling on people to perform Friday prayers in public squares and reject accusations by Hamas preachers against protesters.

It stressed that its peaceful protests will continue until Hamas’ government in Gaza meets the people’s legitimate demands.

The movement also called on the families of the detainees, the oppressed and the wounded to perform Friday prayers near the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

It urged them to demand the immediate release of their loved-ones, holding accountable those who ordered the imprisonment and torture of protesters and taking to court those who caused casualties in the rank of demonstrators.

Seeking safety from terror and extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Seeking safety from terror and extremism: 7 things to know for March 18

A West Bank attack has people on edge and asking questions, while judges’ ban on a Kahanist from the Knesset is praised as saving democracy or panned as a death knell for the court

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

1. Killer on the loose: A manhunt is ongoing Monday morning for a Palestinian suspected of killing a soldier, stealing his gun and opening fire on others in the area before fleeing to a nearby village.

  • Soldier Gal Keidan is killed at the scene and Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12, also succumbs to his wounds Monday.
  • According to Ettinger’s siblings, even after he was shot he managed to fire at the terrorist, though he did not hit him.
  • “He turned his car around to face him and managed to aim his weapon and get off four shots,” the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reports.
  • On Monday morning, Israeli media reports that the suspect is Omar Abu Laila, 18, from the town of az-Zawiya, and Israeli forces who raided the town overnight arrested his father and brother.
  • The reports are attributed to Palestinian media, though most Palestinian media reports attribute the information to the Israeli army.
  • The Shin Bet later confirms his identity.

2. Powderkegger: Much of the coverage of the attack revolves around the time-honored tradition of asking “Are we in an intifada yet (or at least uptick of violence)?”

  • The resounding answer from the pundit class? It certainly looks like we are heading that way.
  • The attack demonstrates that the Palestinian front is as heated up as ever,” Amos Harel writes in Haaretz. “The escalation is already here; only its final dimensions and political impact have yet to be determined.”
  • “The motivation of the terror groups, lone terrorists, or independent cells to perpetrate attacks in the West Bank is increasing,” ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes, blaming at least part of the increased tensions on “Hamas’s desire to set the territory ablaze.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai writes that terrorists don’t need an excuse to carry out attacks, but various factors have made it so inciters are “‘enjoying’ a period where it is especially ‘comfortable’ for them” from tensions over the Temple Mount, to financial crises in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The New York Times cites unnamed analysts who say domestic pressures against the terror group ruling Gaza “might well make Hamas all the more eager to redirect the public’s anger toward Israel.”

3. Operational failures: In Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua says the ability of the attacker to kill a soldier, steal his gun and get away, while other troops were nearby, points to serious failures.

  • “This seems to be an operational failure that is unthinkable after the events of the last months,” he writes, referring to other recent cases in which IDF terrorists managed to get away and avoid detection for weeks or more.
  • Yoav Limor writes in Israel Hayom that the soldiers’ readiness was “lacking.” “Had they reacted like they should have, he would have been neutralized on the spot and could not have continued his shooting spree,” he writes. “The IDF needs to check how fit the soldiers situated along the main roads and junctions are and if their abilities match the threats they are exposed to, and if their armor is enough.”

4. Defending democracy: Not surprisingly, where papers stand on the disqualification of Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit depends mostly on their politics, though everyone tries to dress up their positions as a defense of democracy.

  • “The Supreme Court decided Sunday that to prevent a slide from insane talk to insane acts, it first had to deny the legitimacy of the hateful words in a clear and unequivocal way,” Odeh Bisharat writes in Haaretz, predicting that letting Ben Ari run could lead to a New Zealand-style massacre.
  • Ben-Dror Yemini criticizes the decision in Yedioth, but only because the judges didn’t also disqualify the Ballad party and Hadash candidate Ofer Kassif, which he calls a “loss for democracy” that will only “increase extremism” in the Knesset.
  • In Haaretz, respected jurist Mordechai Kremnitzer writes a stirring defense of the court’s decision to allow every other candidate to run, but says Ben Ari is different.
  • “Studying the things he has said, as the attorney general did, revealed incitement to racism of the most disgusting, dangerous kind,” he writes. “This is indeed the type of extreme case that makes the disqualification inevitable.”

5. Backing Ben Ari: On the other side, Amnon Lord writes in Israel Hayom that even though he doesn’t agree with Ben Ari’s views, “there was no real reason to disqualify him, beyond aesthetics.”

  • Shlomo Pyoterofsky writes in Yedioth’s op-ed page that the court has “lost the public’s trust” by deciding to apply the law selectively.
  • “Trust in the professionalism and objectivity of the judges has been cracked, if not totally disappeared,” he writes.

6. Good for the right? Otzma Yehudit has fumed over the decision and demanded Jewish Home renegotiate their deal and move Itamar Ben Gvir, who is still allowed to run, into Ben Ari’s No. 5 slot, something that’s not allowed.

  • The Srugim national-religious news site reports that it’s so bad that Baruch Marzel, another Kahanist from Otzma Yehudit, is threatening to vote against the joint right-wing list that he is on.
  • But in Walla, Yakir Adamkar notes that getting Ben Ari disqualified will actually help the far-right ticket by giving it another enemy — the court — to rail against.
  • “From here out, they will campaign on the slogan ‘the judges won’t decide for the people who they will vote for, the people will decide,” he predicts.
  • Makor Rishon’s Shirit Avitan Cohen writes that problems with the party go even deeper, with some doubting Rafi Peretz’s leadership ability and “vociferous fights” over whether the party should campaign directly against New Right.

7. More than a tweet: Ilhan Omar doesn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of Congress for her words, but she still appears to be making an effort to get back into the Democratic party’s good graces.

  • An op-ed by Omar in the Washington Post, which she says is needed to explain her foreign policy outlook, doesn’t address the accusations against her of using anti-Semitic tropes. Rather it slickly expounds on her support for a two-state solution, and various other mainline talking points.
  • “My goal in speaking out at all times has been to encourage both sides to move toward a peaceful two-state solution. We need to reinsert this call back into the public debate with urgency. Both parties must come to the table for a final peace deal; violence will not bring us any closer to that day,” she writes innocently.
  • Mark Dubowitz of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracy is one person not buying it, writing on Twitter that it seems like it came from a crisis communications firm.

Mark Dubowitz

@mdubowitz

When I was throwing out those anti-Semitic bombs, all I really wanted was a more “inclusive foreign policy.” This reads like an oped written by a crisis communications firm for one of their so misunderstood clients.

Washington Post Opinions

@PostOpinions

An op-ed from @IlhanMN:

I’ve seen firsthand the devastating toll of war. We need an inclusive foreign policy. https://wapo.st/2TWdW20 

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Rabbi Achiad Ettinger dies after being shot near Ariel in northern West Bank

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Father of 12 succumbs to injuries from Sunday terror attack

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger dies after being shot near Ariel in northern West Bank; relatives say he managed to fire at attacker after being wounded

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was shot March 17 at the Ariel junction and succumbed to his injuries the following day (Nadav Goldstein/TPS)

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was shot March 17 at the Ariel junction and succumbed to his injuries the following day (Nadav Goldstein/TPS)

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger died of his injuries Monday, a day after being shot by a Palestinian terrorist during an attack in the northern West Bank, a family spokesperson said.

Ettinger, 47, was a father of 12 from the settlement of Eli. Doctors had been working to save his life since the attack near Ariel Sunday morning in which a soldier, Gal Keidan, was also killed.

Ettinger was shot in the head and neck as he drove by the Ariel Junction by terror suspect Omar Abu Laila, 19, who had stolen Geidan’s gun and opened fire on passing cars, according to the IDF.

He was rushed to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva in critical condition and doctors worked for a day to save his life before he succumbed to his injuries, the hospital said.

IDF soldiers seen during a raid in the village of Bruqin near the West Bank town of Salfit on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Relatives of Ettinger told reporters Sunday that despite having been shot and bleeding profusely, he turned his car around and fired four bullets in the direction of the attacker, who managed to escape in a vehicle abandoned by a fleeing driver.

“This self-sacrifice characterized him over the years,” his family said in a statement, noting his decision to live for several years in south Tel Aviv “to strengthen Jewish identity” in the working class neighborhood.

His family asked that his organs be donated, Ettinger’s sister told reporters.

“We hope that after the great mourning we will see this nation unite, and from this great unity we will also see great joy,” the statement from the family read.

Ettinger leaves behind a wife and 12 children; his oldest daughter is 22 and his youngest is a year old.

Undated photo of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger (L) and his family. (courtesy Ettinger family)

“We are shocked and in pain, and we expect that Israel will deal harshly with the murderers,” a family friend told the Ynet news site on Monday. “A family with 12 children who now must bury their father is hard to grasp.”

Ettinger was the founder of south Tel Aviv’s Oz V’emuna hesder yeshiva, which combines Torah study with military service for young men. He was also active in the campaign against African migrants in the city’s southern Neve Sha’anan neighborhood.

Israeli forensic workers inspect a car near the scene of a deadly terror attack near the Ariel Junction in the West Bank on March 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

A number of Ettinger’s students gathered at the seminary to pay condolences to the man many of them looked up to as a father figure.

“He was like a father to me,” one student told Ynet. “He used to always tell me ‘I’m not impressed by success, I’m impressed by hard work.’ He called me 14 minutes before the attack, but I was studying and I missed the call.”

The funeral procession for Ettinger was scheduled to leave Eli at 2 p.m. and pass through Ariel Junction, where the attack took place, before concluding at the Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a deadly attack near the Gitai junction in the West Bank, on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

“The people of Israel mourn over the murder of the late Rabbi Achiad Ettinger. I wish to send condolences to his family at this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.

“Rabbi Ettinger’s life’s work will continue with us even after his passing, and the strength he gave his students and the community he led will continue to strengthen us through this enormous grief and sorrow,” said President Reuven Rivlin in a statement.

Ettinger’s colleague Rabbi Yaron Adorian eulogized him as a “wonderful man” who worked tirelessly for others.

“Everyone has their own personal story about this wonderful man,” Adorian said. “There aren’t many people like him, who put aside his personal like and entirely devoted himself to the community, the Jewish people and the rest of the world.”

An Israeli police officer is seen at the scene of a deadly terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Sunday, March 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Alexander Dvorsky, a soldier shot and injured by Abu Laila when he drove to nearby Gitai junction and opened fire again, remained in serious condition Monday.

The manhunt after Abu Laila was still ongoing Monday. Israeli security forces detained his father and brother in the nearby town of Az-Zawiya, according to the Ma’an Palestinian news site. Authorities believe Abu Laila fled into the village of Bruqin on foot after the attacks.

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Jordan King Meets Abbas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Jordan King Meets Abbas, Stresses Need to Break Peace Deadlock

Wednesday, 19 December, 2018 – 10:00
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on December 18, 2018, shows Jordanian King Abdullah II (R) meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at Basman Palace in Amman. Yousef ALLAN / AFP / Jordanian Royal Palace
Amman – Asharq Al-Awsat
Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday stressed during talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the need to break the stalemate in the peace process by launching serious and effective peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The Royal Diwan said the King reiterated that negotiations should be based on a two-state solution.

During the talks, which were held at the Basman Palace, the King also stressed “Jordan’s rejection of unilateral Israeli actions, including building settlement units and expropriation of Palestinian-owned lands in the occupied West Bank, which are a real obstacle to achieving just and lasting peace based on the two-state solution.”

He called on the international community to assume responsibility and put pressure on Israel to cease its practices that breed more violence, said the Royal Diwan in its statement.

King Abdullah also reiterated that Amman stands by the Palestinian people “to restore their legitimate and rightful demands,” vowing to exert all efforts along with influential parties and the international community for a solution “that serves Palestinian interests and the rights of the Palestinian people”.

He underscored the importance of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem as a key to achieving peace in the region, stressing that “Jordan continues to carry out its historic and religious role of safeguarding Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in line with the Hashemite Custodianship over these shrines.”

Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

PM Scott Morrison says embassy won’t move from Tel Aviv until peace is achieved, but country will establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declares West Jerusalem to be Israel's capital, Sydney, December 15, 2018. (Screen grab via ABC News)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declares West Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, Sydney, December 15, 2018. (Screen grab via ABC News)

Australia on Saturday officially recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, but a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.

“The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” he said.

He said the decision respects both a commitment to a two-state solution and longstanding respect for relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Morrison also committed to recognizing the aspirations for a future state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital when the city’s status is determined in a peace deal.

While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison said his government will establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and will also start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status of determination,” he said, adding that work on a new site for the embassy was under way.

The prime minister said it was in Australia’s interests to support “liberal democracy” in the Middle East, and took aim at the United Nations, which he said was a place where Israel is “bullied.”

Australia had on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia ahead of the expected announcement by Morrison.

Protesters wave Palestinian flags during a rally against the US plan to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at Monas, the national monument, in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

While Australia’s then-foreign minister Julie Bishop said in June that “the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem,” Morrison said in October that he was “open-minded” regarding following the American example.

But Morrison’s statement was seen by many Australians at that time as a political stunt. Critics called it a cynical attempt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Saturday that the decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but not move the embassy there was a “humiliating backdown” from the October by-election campaign.

“What I’m worried is that Mr. Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest,” Shorten told reporters.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its capital.

Tourists look at the view of the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount from the lookout of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old city of Jerusalem, on November 28, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For decades the international community maintained that the city’s status should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December, and opened its embassy there in May.

Morrison’s mid-October announcement that he was “open-minded” to following the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital drew criticism at home. Australia’s spy agency warned the move could provoke further violent unrest in Israel, while opposition lawmakers accused the prime minister of cynically pandering to Jewish voters ahead of a crucial by-election.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem sits on a traffic circle recently named for US President Donald Trump. The compound is in the middle of Arnona, a quiet residential neighborhood in the city’s south. (Ben Sales/JTA)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat also harshly criticized the planned move, and called on Arab and Muslim countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Australia if it changed its policy on Jerusalem. In a tweet Tuesday morning Erekat said that various Arab and Muslim summits have adopted resolutions committing to ending diplomatic ties with any country that recognizes Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.

Recognizing Jerusalem is expected to help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.

His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.

But the move still risks heightening unrest, not least in Australia’s immediate neighbor and the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.

The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.

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IDF Soldier Seriously Injured In Another Terrorist Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

Palestinian seriously wounds soldier in West Bank attack before fleeing Army launches search for assailant near Beit El settlement, says serviceman taken to hospital with stab wounds, severe head injury By JUDAH ARI GROSS and TOI STAFF Today, 10:02 am 5 593 shares Illustrative: Israeli soldiers guard the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90) Illustrative: Israeli soldiers guard the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90) A Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli soldier and bashed his head with a rock, seriously injuring him, at a military post outside the Beit El settlement in the central West Bank on Friday, the army said. The assailant then fled the scene, prompting a manhunt. The Israel Defense Forces said a fight broke out between the two after the Palestinian attacker broke into the military position near Beit El, outside Ramallah, where Israeli forces have been searching for the terrorist who committed a shooting attack on Thursday, killing two soldiers and seriously injuring a third serviceman and a civilian woman. Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories FREE SIGN UP “During [the fight], a terrorist struck the soldier with a rock from a short range,” the army said. The military later added that further investigation revealed that the assailant had stabbed the soldier as well. According to the IDF, the assailant was also injured in the attack, though it was not immedately clear to what degree. “The investigation is continuing,” the army said. The 21-year-old soldier was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in serious condition. The serviceman was unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator. Doctors said he was in life-threatening condition. Troops launched searches in the area to find the attacker. Embedded video חדשות עשר ✔ @news10 אירוע חמור ליד בית אל: מחבל חדר, השליך אבנים – ופצע חייל קשה • @OrHeller עם הידיעה המלאה >> https://www.10.tv/news/178301 3:04 AM – Dec 14, 2018 See חדשות עשר’s other Tweets Twitter Ads info and privacy The attack took place close to the site of Thursday’s deadly terror shooting, at a bus stop near the Givat Assaf outpost. The soldier who was injured in the shooting attack remained in critical condition Friday, while doctors said the condition of the woman who was seriously wounded had improved. The Israeli military launched a manhunt in the Ramallah area for the terrorists and sent additional forces to the West Bank to assist in the search, as well as to boost security near settlements and roads. During overnight raids, soldiers arrested 40 Palestinians throughout the West Bank who were suspected of involvement in terror and rioting, 37 of whom the Israel Defense Forces said were known Hamas operatives. Thursday’s attack came on the heels of a shooting Sunday by Palestinian terrorists outside the Ofra settlement, in which seven Israelis were injured. Among the wounded was a pregnant woman whose baby died after being delivered prematurely. A senior IDF commander indicated the same Hamas terror cell carried out the two drive-by shooting attacks, which occurred along the same highway. Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90) Additionally, a Palestinian stabbed two Border Police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City early Thursday before being shot dead. Late Wednesday night, Israeli security forces conducted a series of raids in the Ramallah area to find the terrorists responsible for Sunday’s shooting. At least four suspects were arrested and one, Salih Omar Barghouti, 29, was shot dead after troops said he tried to attack them while attempting to escape in the village of Kobar, outside Ramallah. Hamas later claimed Barghouti as a member. Hours after the Givat Assaf shooting attack, the army said a Palestinian man attempted to ram his car into a group of soldiers who were taking part in the effort to find the gunman outside the town of el-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah. The troops opened fire, killing the man, later identified by Palestinian officials as Hamdan al-Arda. One soldier was lightly injured. The Palestinian man’s family denied the army’s claims, saying it was not an attack, but rather a traffic accident. Arda, a 56-year-old aluminum factory owner, was hard of hearing, his relatives told the Haaretz daily. Separately, Israeli troops located a terrorist who killed two Israelis in October at the Barkan industrial zone after a two-month manhunt. The suspect was killed in a shootout with troops overnight Wednesday-Thursday. There has been an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks, after months of relative calm in the area, raising concerns of a potential renewed outbreak of regular, serious violence in the region. READ MORE: Israel & the Region IDF Israel Defense Forces West Bank Beit El 593 shares COMMENTS ISRAEL MEDIA REVIEW The coming storm: 8 things to know for December 14 Thursday’s deadly attack in the West Bank underlines warnings about the flammability of the West Bank, but responses don’t come without controversy By JOSHUA DAVIDOVICH Today, 9:51 am 0 19 shares Road blocks in the West Bank following a terror attack where two Israeli soldiers were shot by Palestinian terrorists, and two more seriously injured, December 13, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90) Road blocks in the West Bank following a terror attack where two Israeli soldiers were shot by Palestinian terrorists, and two more seriously injured, December 13, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90) 1. Headed for an explosion? Is Israel on the cusp of another inexorable slide into violence with the Palestinians, this time in the West Bank? That’s the question on many people’s minds the day after a shooting near Ramallah left two soldiers dead and another fighting for his life. Unlike the 2015 so-called lone-wolf intifada, there is a sense (likely filtering from the IDF down to the loyal army of military correspondents) that what is happening in the West Bank is different. Top down rather than grassroots, and the work of cells rather than solitary assailants operating on impulse. That’s thanks to an army assessment that thinks there may be a connection between the group who carried out the attack outside the Ofra settlement and those involved with the shooting attack outside the Givat Asaf outpost. Analyst Yossi Yehoshua in Yedioth Ahronoth calls the “wave” (his word), “the realization of warnings from the military to government, which alerted them over fears of an increase in violence if the political stalemate with the Palestinians continues.” (Such a warning is a near-constant fixture of army assessments, often because it’s true, but also because nobody wants to be the officer who said everything is swell right before a fresh outbreak of violence.) “It’s hard to be surprised by the wave of terror this week in the West Bank,” Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes. “Anyone who has followed the statistics over the last months has seen a clear trend: attempts to carry out attacks were on a constant upswing, and only operations by the Shin Bet and IDF have prevented a mass of casualties until now.” Haaretz’s Amos Harel notes that an officer giving a briefing Thursday appeared uncharacteristically shaken, giving the impression that the West Bank is facing another wave of violence. “The ability to stop this trend in the coming days, before it spreads, depends mainly on the forces in the field – on whether a wave of copy-cat attacks will translate into another success for terror,” he writes. 2. Collective punishment on the table: During the last wave of violence, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (and later Avigdor Liberman) was praised for making efforts to keep collective punishment against the Palestinians to a minimum. It seems however that Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be taking a different tack, with the army already making the rare move of putting up a cordon around Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government. In 2015, most attackers were captured or killed on the spot. That has not been the case this time around, with the terrorist who carried out the Givat Asaf attack getting away, and reportedly making off with the gun of one of the victims. “The army is determined at this point to stop the wave of terror and find the terrorist, even at the price of hurting Palestinians daily lives,” Amir Bohbot writes in Walla, describing large traffic jams around the West Bank thanks to the cordon around Ramallah and checkpoints set up in other spots. The biggest loser, according to Bohbot, is the Palestinian Authority, which is watching the army hem it in while Hamas gets to brag about successes against the occupation. “The PA got hit doubly this week,” he quotes an officer telling him. In Yedioth, Nahum Barnea writes that there are arguments both for and against collective punishment. While noting that only oppressive regimes such as colonialists or genocidal leaders have seen any success from punishing a population as a whole (and even that is limited), making sure that innocent Palestinians are not harmed has also not been proven as a salve against popular uprisings, such as the First Intifada, which occurred at a time of relative prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza. “In general, the decision has been made on the basis of politics, not security,” he writes. With the defense minister doubling as the prime minister and likely soon to enter a fight for his political life, one can see where this is leading. 3. Build, baby, build: Another response has been for the government to increase building in the West Bank as a form of punishment (never mind that the fact that Israel uses settlement building as a punitive measure says clearly what it thinks of the enterprise). Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories FREE SIGN UP On Thursday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit officially approved the use of a legal tactic that will allow for the de-facto legalization of roughly 2,000 illegally built Israeli homes throughout the West Bank. The move came after Netanyahu vowed to increase building as a response to the attacks, saying in a statement that beffudled many that he would “legalize thousands of homes in communities in Judea and Samaria that were built in good faith and which have yet to be legalized, some for decades.” There’s more too. Haaretz reports that, “On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to discuss a bill to legalize a series of outposts and settlements. The proposal seeks to supply settlements whose status has yet to be confirmed with services that would prevent their demolition until they receive official status.” But there’s also some confusion: “It is not clear what the full implications of the bill would be. Most established outposts are already connected to water and electricity, largely via nearby settlements. The authorities refer to such outposts as recognized localities; budgets from both ministries and West Bank regional councils are transferred to them on an ongoing basis,” the paper reports. 4. Pressure builds: A sign of the political pressure Netanyahu is under because of the attacks was on display Thursday night, as some one thousand right-wingers rallied outside his residence in Jerusalem and called for his resignation. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan told the crowd that he wasn’t seeking resignation, but action: “I call on Netanyahu to wake up! The people elected you to head a national government, but this government is behaving like the Barak government at the beginning of the Second Intifada,” Dagan said, referring to former prime minister Ehud Barak, on whose watch the uprising erupted in 2000. “We hope to see you crush the terrorist authority.” At the same time, settlers near Givat Asaf and elsewhere in the West Bank rioted and hurled rocks at Palestinian cars as they raged over the attacks. 5. Settlements as strategic bases: In Israel Hayom, Gershon Hacohen, a former high-ranking military officer, writes that there is a strategic importance as well to approving more building as a response to security challenges. “Without wide swaths of Jewish settlement, as there is in the West Bank today, the IDF would have a hard time maintaining a presence in the area and doing its job effectively,” he writes, pointing to the role Jewish settlement ringing Nablus played for soldiers taking part in 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield. “Where there are Israeli settlements near Nablus, they are used by Israeli forces as a protected launching point for repeated operations within Nablus. The IDF works to protect settlers, but mostly its operations there are to protect the coastal areas and the Tel Aviv region.” Not all settler leaders are enamored with the idea of building being tied to terror, as ToI’s Jacob Magid explained in September. 6. Soldiers remembered and rumors debunked: The two soldiers killed in Thursday were named as Yovel Mor-Yosef, 20, and Yosef Cohen, 19, both from the Netzach Yehuda brigade made up of more religious soldiers. Some reports Thursday indicated that Cohen, from an ultra-Orthodox background, had been disowned by his family for enlisting, and they had already mourned him (some ultra-religious families will sit shiva for a family member who leaves the fold). However, Haaretz reports that in fact his step-father, who heads a yeshiva that encourages work alongside Torah study, encouraged him to join the army, and his mother eventually accepted his choice as well. “These rumors are unspeakably evil and low,” mother Adele Cohen is quoted as saying, regarding the reports that the family had already mourned him. “I don’t know if I can forgive anyone for that. It never happened. I’m amazed at how brazen people can be, lying and inventing things that give people a bad name. I don’t know how anyone could devise such a thing.” Mor-Yosef, meanwhile, is praised for insisting on volunteering for combat duty the morning he was killed. “He spoke with his father this morning and Yovel said that he was supposed to go home after being on duty all night, but volunteered to switch with other people so they could rest,” his uncle tells Hadashot news. “This was ordained from heaven.” 7. ‘Noah didn’t stop telling his story’: Buried among all the security news Thursday was the death of Noah Klieger, 92, a sports journalist, editor, historian and Holocaust survivor who was well-known in Israel as a chronicler of the horrors of that period and the struggles afterward. Yedioth, which employed Klieger since the 1950s as an editor and columnist (he continued to write until recently) runs a series of appreciations, including from President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu, former IDF chief Benny Gantz and others. “Thanks to him, and a few others like him, the Shoah remains an institution in Israel and around the world. Every speech he gave in every place raised the memory of the Holocaust,” Eitan Haber, a Yedioth columnist, writes in one obituary. The paper also runs a full translation of a speech that Klieger gave to the UN last year that drew wide attention (or as wide attention as speeches at the UN about the Holocaust go). While Klieger was well known in Israel, he is nearly unknown in the English-speaking world. By coincidence, just last month, Harper’s Magazine happened to run a profile of Klieger which had been translated from German and is worth a read to get a sense of who the man was. “Noah’s the driven man who never gave up, who was never able to stop talking about Auschwitz, who swore to himself seventy years ago: If I get out of here alive the world must know, because then all this won’t have been in vain. He continues to confront his memories today, despite the fact that so many of his fellow survivors chose never to talk about their experience again, never to relate the horrors—not even to their children,” Marco Lauer writes. 8. Losing the memory-keepers: Together with Elie Wiesel and Aharon Appelfeld, Klieger marks the third writer whose life was marked by perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust to die in the last two years, underlining the intensive efforts to make sure survivors are heard as time runs out. The Associated Press reports that another loss Thursday was Alter Wiener, 92, who recently appeared before lawmakers to press for mandatory curriculum about the Holocaust and genocide in Oregon, where he lived. Wiener was killed while crossing a street near his home, according to the AP. “He spoke to thousands of Oregonians about his experiences, making nearly 1,000 appearances at schools, libraries, churches, conferences and charitable events,” the agency notes. READ MORE: Israel & the Region Israel media review Hebrew media review West Bank terror attacks 19 shares COMMENTS

Israel Releases Jerusalem Governor, 9 Fatah members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Releases Jerusalem Governor, 9 Fatah members

Monday, 3 December, 2018 – 10:00
Gheith and members from Fatah movement warmly welcomed after their release. AFP
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat
Jerusalem magistrate court released on Sunday Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Governor Adnan Gheith and nine activists of Fatah movement, but it banned them from entering the West Bank for two other weeks.

The prosecution confirmed that their arrest was due to their “involvement in military activities serving the interests of PA security services” and their role in pursuing Palestinians who sell real estate to Jews.

The prosecutor spoke about Gheith and his colleagues’ role in arresting one of the Palestinians, who was suspected of selling real estate to settlement associations, and torturing him in intelligence prisons in Ramallah.

He said that the Israeli government decided to fight this phenomenon and punish every Palestinian who contributes to it.

In addition to releasing Gheith, the court decided to release Hatem Mahlus, Alaa Abu al-Hawa, Amer Awwad, Khalil Bashir, Mohammad al-Qaq, Ahmad Mustafa, Iyad Hadra, Hadi Mahmoud and Hussam Abu Isnineh.

According to the lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Mohammad Mahmoud, the court decided to release Geith and the rest of the detainees because their arrest turned into a major political scandal.

Notably, these arrests have raised a wave of public protests in Jerusalem and its environs.

Administrative and educational cadres and students of al-Umma Secondary School in Al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, organized Sunday morning a rally to express solidarity with Governor Gheith.

They raised banners calling releasing Gheith and all the other prisoners.

In addition, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education circulated an order in schools throughout the governorates to organize a silent sit-in for three minutes in support for Jerusalem’s governor and his fellow detainees.

It also asked these schools to use the school radio to talk about the detainees and the role of the students in defending Jerusalem and its Arabism.

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 – 09:30
The Palestine Liberation Organization office is seen in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2017. (File Photo: Reuters)
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun
The Palestinian leadership supports any Russian move to revive the political process in order to bring an end to the Israeli occupation, said Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Youssef.

Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, Abu Youssef stated that the PLO is confident of any role played by Russia and hopes that there will be a serious approach to starting a path leading to ending the occupation.

“We asked its (Russian) officials to join forces with most of the world’s countries in order to block US decisions against the Palestinian people and their rights,” asserted Abu Yusuf.

He described Russia as a “friendly country” of the Palestinians that has always supported the rights of the Palestinian people.

He explained that “basically we were looking forward to an effective Russian role within the mechanism of an international alternative to the path of the previous settlement, which was exclusively sponsored by the United States.”

“We expect Russia, China, the EU to be a major part of the international mechanism. We want an international role in the face of the deal of the century.”

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would be ready to host a meeting between Palestinians and Israel and to act as a mediator.

“It is impossible to create stability in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq, without a solution to the oldest regional problem, the Palestinian problem,” Lavrov said on his trip to Rome.

“We support the need for a resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We confirm again our offer from several years ago to host a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preconditions,” asserted the Russian Minister.

It is not clear if Lavrov’s statement meant that Russia would play a role in the political process or merely an attempt to bring the views closer and break the deadlock.

A few weeks ago, Russia’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, confirmed his country’s support for the initiative proposed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold an “international peace conference.”

Bogdanov praised “Abbas’ wise stances that support stability in the region on the basis of the international legitimacy resolutions.”

The Russian official reiterated his country’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to determine their fate and to establish an independent state on the 1967 border, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas is seeking to launch an international peace conference, which will result in an international mechanism involving the quartet committee, including the United States, and European and Arab states, consisting of five or seven states under the umbrella of the United Nations, which is at the heart of a political process with the Palestinians and Israelis.

Abbas tried to convince France of his initiative, but French President Emmanuel Macron was not convinced, unlike his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who launched a two-phase conference in 2016 and 2017.

The Palestinian President personally worked to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch an international peace conference using his influence in the region.

The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow Abed al-Hafeez Nofal said that Russia, and not just the US, now has an effective role in the region due to the great changes that have taken place in the Middle East.

US officials said President Donald Trump wanted to see the plan executed in February, but his advisers would prefer a more cautious approach, given the political crisis that swept through Israel over the past week.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that reaching peace is currently impossible and that Trump should focus his energy elsewhere until the Palestinians are ready to compromise.

“I think, personally, it is a waste of time,” Shaked said.

Abbas has repeatedly declared that he would not even listen to the plan after the US declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy to the city, and other decisions taken by the US administration against the Palestinian Authority.

Israel says Washington is the only country capable of overseeing negotiations.

Gaza Strip: Truth, Knowledge, History Of Human Disaster

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Gaza Strip

Introduction The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000, as Israeli forces reoccupied most Palestinian-controlled areas. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement was postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides had not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT’s death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip. A November 2005 PA-Israeli agreement authorized the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt under joint PA and Egyptian control. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The international community refused to accept the HAMAS-led government because it did not recognize Israel, would not renounce violence, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the PA. HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. The PLC was unable to convene throughout most of 2006 as a result of Israel’s detention of many HAMAS PLC members and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions on other PLC members. Violent clashes took place between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007, resulting in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL in February 2007 signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of Presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG’s dismissal and has called for resuming talks with Fatah, but ABBAS has ruled out negotiations until HAMAS agrees to a return of PA control over the Gaza Strip and recognizes the FAYYAD-led government. FAYYAD and his PA government initiated a series of security and economic reforms to improve conditions in the West Bank. ABBAS participated in talks with Israel’s Prime Minister OLMERT and secured the release of some Palestinian prisoners and previously withheld customs revenue. During a November 2007 international meeting in Annapolis Maryland, ABBAS and OLMERT agreed to resume peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a final peace settlement by the end of 2008.
History Ancient history until mid 16th century (15th century BC-1517)

The first recorded mention of the city of Gaza was a reference by Pharaoh Thutmose II (18th dynasty; 15th century BC), though the actual habitation no doubt predates that official record. It is also mentioned in the Amarna letters, an archive of clay tablets with diplomatic and administrative correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru in the New Kingdom.

Because of its strategic position on the ancient trade route of Via Maris, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia, Gaza experienced little peace in antiquity. Throughout its history it was a prosperous trade center, sitting as it does on the ancient Sea Road.

The area was under Egyptian occupation for over 300 years when the Philistines took control and settled the city and surrounding area. Gaza became an important Philistine trading center and part of the Pentapolis (league of five cities).

The Bible makes a reference to Gaza as the place where Samson was delivered into bondage by Delilah and where he died while toppling the temple of the god Dagon.[1][2] It fell to the Israelite King David in 1000 BC.

The area fell to the Assyrians in 732 BC, to the Egyptians, to the Babylonians in 586 BC, Persians in 525 BC, and the Macedonians. Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great met stiff resistance there in 332 BC. After conquering it, he sold its inhabitants into slavery.[3] [4] [5]

In 145 BC Gaza was conquered by Jonathan the Hasmonean (Brother of Judah the Maccabee). In Hellenistic and Roman times the harbour, about 3 miles (5 km) from the city proper, was called Neapolis (Greek: “New City”).

It was conquered by Arabs in the 630s after a siege during which the Jewish population of the city defended it alongside the Byzantine garrison. Believed to be the site where Muhammad’s great grandfather was buried, the city became an important Islamic center. In the 12th century, Gaza was taken by Christian Crusaders; it returned to Muslim control in 1187.

Ottoman and British control (1517-1948)

In 1517 Gaza fell to the Ottomans and was part of the Ottoman Empire until the First World War.

Starting in the early 19th century, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt. Though part of the Ottoman Empire, a large number of its residents were Egyptians (and their descendants) who had fled political turmoil.[6]

The region served as a battlefield during the First World War (1914-18). The Gaza Strip was taken by the British in the Third Battle of Gaza on 7 November 1917.

Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British Mandate of Palestine under the authority of the League of Nations.

Jews were present in Gaza until 1929, when a long-running dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem escalated and erupted into a series of violent demonstrations and riots and forced the Gaza Jews to leave the area. After that the British prohibited Jews from living in the Gaza area, though some Jews returned and, in 1946, established kibbutz Kfar Darom near the Egyptian border. [8]

British rule of Palestine ended with the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.

Egyptian occupation (1948-67)

According to the terms of the 1947 United Nations partition plan, the Gaza area was to become part of a new Palestinian Arab state. Following the dissolution of the British mandate of Palestine and 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, Israel declared its independence in May 1948. The Egyptian army invaded the area from the south, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[9]

The Gaza Strip as it is known today was the product of the subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Egypt and Israel, often referred to as the Green Line. Egypt occupied the Strip from 1949 (except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis) until 1967. The Strip’s population was greatly augmented by an influx of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled or were expelled from Israel during the fighting.

Towards the end of the war, the All-Palestine Government (Arabic: حكومة عموم فلسطين hukumat ‘umum Filastin) was proclaimed in Gaza City on 22 September 1948 by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan over the Palestinian issue. The government was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country. It was little more than a façade under Egyptian control, had negligible influence or funding, and subsequently moved to Cairo. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.

Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.[10] The refugees were never offered Egyptian citizenship.

During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were overrun by Israeli troops. International pressure soon forced Israel to withdraw.

Israeli occupation (1967-2005)

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip again in June 1967 during the Six-Day War. The military occupation lasted for 38 years, until 2005. However, Israel retains control of air space, territorial waters, offshore maritime access, the population registry, entry of foreigners, imports and exports as well as the tax system.[2]

During the period of Israeli occupation, Israel created a settlement bloc, Gush Katif in the south west corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, comprising some 20% of the total terroritory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel’s security concerns. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that period the military administration was also responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.

In March 1979 Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Among other things, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War. The final status of the Gaza Strip as with relations between Israel and Palestinians was not dealt with in the treaty. The treaty did settle the international border between Gaza Strip and Egypt. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to the region beyond the international border.

In May 1994, following the Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. The Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority to administer and police the Strip. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement extending the Palestinian Authority to most West Bank towns. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.

The PA rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption. Exorbitant bribes were demanded for allowing goods to pass in and out of the Gaza Strip, while heads of the Preventive Security Service apparatus profited from their involvement in the gravel import and cement and construction industries, like the Great Arab Company for Investment and Development, the al-Motawaset Company and the al-Sheik Zayid construction project. [11]

The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005 (the day after Tisha B’av) and was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the nearby Erez bloc were dismantled with the removal of all 9,000 Israeli settlers (most of them in the Gush Katif settlement area in the Strip’s southwest) and military bases. On 12 September 2005 the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip. To avoid any allegation that it was still in occupation of any part of the Gaza Strip, Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, which is a narrow strip adjacent to the Strip’s border with Egypt, after Egypt’s agreement to secure its side of the border. Under the Oslo Accords the Philadelphi Route was to remain under Israeli control, to prevent the smuggling of materials (such as ammunition) and people across the border with Egypt. With Egypt agreeing to patrol its side of the border, it was hoped that the objective would be achieved.

Palestinian Authority control (2005-2007)

In accordance with the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the settlement blocs and military areas) in 1994. After the complete Israeli withdrawal of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, the Palestinian Authority had complete administrative authority in the Gaza Strip.

Since the Israeli withdrawal the Rafah Border Crossing has been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an Agreement finalised in November 2005.

Israel continues to assert control over activities that rely on transit through Israel, as well as air space over and sea access to ports in Gaza. Israel approves all immigration to and emigration from Gaza via Israel, as well as entry by foreigners via Israel, imports and exports via Israel, and collection and reimbursement of value-added tax in Israel.

Palestinians and others maintain that the Israeli occupation is not over because of this Israeli control. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem said in November 2006 that “the broad scope of Israeli control in the Gaza Strip creates a strong case for the claim that Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip continue.”[3] University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, law professor Iain Scobbie noted in 2006 that “Israel retains absolute authority over Gaza’s airspace and territorial sea. It is manifestly exercising governmental authority in these areas…. it is clear that Israeli withdrawal of land forces did not terminate occupation.”[4] And according to some Palestinians, Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip continued. “They control the water, the sky and the passages. How can you say occupation is over?” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in 2005.[5] Similar viewpoints have been presented by many other Palestinian organizations and leaders.[6][7][8] The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights also argues that the Gaza Strip remains occupied by Israel.[9]

Prior to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the United States considered the Gaza Strip to be an Israel-occupied territory. Following the withdrawal, no official US government statement has been made on the status of the Strip. However, the CIA World Factbook (an official U.S. government publication), which was last updated in 2007, continues to list the Gaza Strip as an Israeli-occupied territory.

On the other hand, Israel and others claim that Gaza is no longer occupied as it doesn’t exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip.[12][13] According to the The Hague convention of 1907 ‘Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army’, and ‘the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.’ It also says that ‘[The occupying power] must safeguard the capital of these properties [like public buildings , real estate, and other land], and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.’ It seems clear that Israel is in no such position regarding the Gaza Strip, as the IDF doesn’t control any part of Gaza anymore. Israel doesn’t administer any property belonging to Gazans nor any means of transportation. The Hague convention also implies that occupation is a condition applying between states. When the Israeli army left Gaza, an unclear legal situation was created, as Gaza doesn’t belong to any sovereign state. Moreover, some argue that, if Israel would still occupy Gaza, this would mean it has the right or even the duty to maintain law and order there. [14]

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. However, when a Hamas-controlled government was formed, continuing to refuse to recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to honour agreements previously made by the PLO, Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union froze all funds to the Hamas-controlled government. They view Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In December 2006, news reports indicated that a number of Palestinians were leaving the Gaza Strip, due to political disorder and economic stagnation there.[10]

In January 2007, fighting continued between Hamas and Fatah, without any progress towards resolution or reconciliation. The worst clashes occurred in the northern Gaza Strip, where Gen. Muhammed Gharib, a senior commander of the Fatah-dominated Preventative Security Force, was killed when a rocket hit his home. Gharib’s two daughters and two bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by Hamas gunmen.[11]

At the end of January 2007, it appeared that a newly-negotiated truce between Fatah and Hamas was starting to take hold .[12] However, after a few days, new fighting broke out.[13] Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas’ presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.[14]

In May 2007, the deal between Hamas and Fatah appeared to be weaker, as new fighting broke out between the factions. This was considered a major setback.[15] Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both factions.[16]

Fighting spread in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched an air strike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. Some Palestinians said the violence could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.[17]

Hamas spokeman Moussa Abu Marzouk placed the blame for the worsening situation in the Strip upon Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions upon Gaza resulted in the “real explosion”.[18] Expressions of concerns were received from many Arab leaders, with many offering to try to help by doing some diplomatic work between the two factions.[19] One journalist wrote an eyewitness account stating:

Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it’s been.[20]

Hamas control (2007-Present)

In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Fatah (Palestine Liberation Movement) intensified. Hamas routed Fatah, and by 14 June 2007, the Gaza Strip was completely overrun by Hamas, which now effectively controlled the Gaza Strip and proclaimed itself to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas responded by declaring a state of emergency, dissolving the unity government and forming a new government without Hamas participation. PA security forces in the West Bank arrested a number of Hamas members and closed some Hamas offices.

After Hamas’ victory in June it started ousting Fatah-linked officials from positions of power and authority in the Strip (such as government positions, security services, universities, newspapers etc) and strove to obtain a monopoly of fire power by progressively removing guns from the hands of peripheral militias, clans, and criminal groups, and gaining control of smuggling tunnels. Under Hamas rule, newspapers have been closed down and journalists have been harassed.[21] Fatah demonstrations have been forbidden or suppressed, as in the case of a large demonstration on the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, which was suppressed violently by Hamas security forces, killing 7 and wounding 130. [22]

Christians are being threatened and assaulted in the Gaza Strip. The owner of a Christian bookshop was abducted and murdered,[15], and on February 15, 2008, the Christian Youth Organization’s library in Gaza City was bombed.[16] Hamas condemns these attacks.

Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the EU Border Monitors at the Rafah Crossing have not been able to perform their functions under the Agreement, citing security concerns, resulting in the Rafah Crossing being mostly closed. The only land access into the Strip to Israel is via the Erez and Karni crossings. Meanwhile Hamas continued smuggling in large quantities of explosives and arms from Egypt through tunnels, as Israeli and Egyptian security reports claim. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in 2007. [17]

While clamping down on lawlessness in the Strip, Hamas has made no effort to control the continued firing of Qassam rockets from the Strip across the border into Israel, targeted at Israeli civilians. According to Israel, since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip until the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs have been fired at Israeli towns. [18] In response, Israel targeted Qassam launchers and military targets and on September 19, 2007, declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity, to make it possible to cut fuel and electricity supplies. In January 2008 the situation escalated and Israel curtailed travel from Gaza and entry of goods, and decided to cut fuel supplies to the Strip on January 19, resulting in power shortages. This brought charges that Israel was inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population, leading to international condemnation. Israel countered that Gaza had enough food and energy suplies for weeks[19]

Current situation

Abbas’ government has won widespread international support. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said in late June 2007 that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Abbas was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.[20]. The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip faces international diplomatic and economic isolation.

However, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt support reconciliation and the forming of a new unity government, and press Abbas to start serious talks with Hamas. Abbas has always conditioned this on Hamas ceding control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is supported by Syria and Iran, and is believed to have brought in large sums of money from Iran. Hamas fighters are also believed to have received training in Iran. Hamas has been invited to and has visited a number of countries, including Russia, and in the USA and EU countries, opposition parties and politicians have called for a dialog with Hamas and an end to the economic sanctions.

On January 23, 2008, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was weakened[21], Hamas destroyed several parts of the wall dividing Gaza and Egypt in the town of Rafah. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed the border into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered his troops to allow the Palestinians in, due to the crisis, but to verify that they did not bring weapons back.[23] Egypt arrested and later released several armed Hamas militants in the Sinai who presumably wanted to infiltrate into Israel. At the same time, Israel increased its state of alert along the length of the Israel-Egypt Sinai border, and warned its citizens to leave Sinai “without delay”. The EU Border Monitors have indicated their readiness to return to monitor the border, should Hamas guarantee their safety; while the Palestinian Authority has demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel has eased up some influx of goods and medical supplies to the strip, but it has curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines, while Hamas and Egypt have shored up some of the gaping holes between the two areas.[22] The first attempts by Egypt to reclose the border were met by violent clashes with Gaza gunmen, but after 12 days the borders were sealed again.[23] In mid-February there had still been no agreement reached between the parties on conditions for reopening the Rafah crossing.[24] In February 2008 an Haaretz poll indicated that 64% of Israelis favour their government holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza about a cease-fire and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit,[24] an Israeli soldier who was abducted in a cross border raid by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006 and has been held hostage since.[25][26][27]

In February 2008, Israeli-Palestinian fighting intensified with rockets launched at Israeli cities and Israel attacking Palestinian militants. An increase in rocket attacks lead to a heavy Israeli military action on March 1, resulting in over 100 Palestinians being killed according to BBC News, as well as 2 Israeli soldiers. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem estimated that 54 of those killed were not involved in hostilities, and 25 were minors. [28] . Current ongoing status is held between Hamas and Israel. Some Jewish groups are also trying to wrestle sovereignity away from Hamas, such as Baruch Marzel and Tzvi Fishman.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Israel
Geographic coordinates: 31 25 N, 34 20 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 360 sq km
land: 360 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 62 km
border countries: Egypt 11 km, Israel 51 km
Coastline: 40 km
Maritime claims: Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation
Climate: temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers
Terrain: flat to rolling, sand- and dune-covered coastal plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Abu ‘Awdah (Joz Abu ‘Auda) 105 m
Natural resources: arable land, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 29%
permanent crops: 21%
other: 50% (2002)
Irrigated land: 150 sq km; note – includes West Bank (2003)
Natural hazards: droughts
Environment – current issues: desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne disease; soil degradation; depletion and contamination of underground water resources
Geography – note: strategic strip of land along Mideast-North African trade routes has experienced an incredibly turbulent history; the town of Gaza itself has been besieged countless times in its history
Demographics In 2007 approximately 1.4 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, of whom almost 1.0 million are UN-registered refugees.[29] The majority of the Palestinians are descendants of refugees who fled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Strip’s population has continued to increase since that time, one of the main reasons being a total fertility rate of more than 5 children per woman. In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 19th of 222 regions.[25]

The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Christians.[30] The Christian population has been shrinking since Hamas’ takeover, due to tensions with the Muslim community and economic sanctions imposed by Israel. In December 2007, Israel has permitted 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas. While they are strictly travel permits, many Christian families are taking the opportunity to settle in the West Bank, despite the illegality.[26]

One of the largest foreign communities in the Gaza Strip was the approximately 500 women from the former Soviet Union. During the Soviet era, the Communist Party subsidized university studies for thousands of students from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and the territories. Some of them got married during their studies and brought their Russian and Ukrainian wives back home. However, over half of them were able to leave the Strip via the Erez crossing to Amman within days of Hamas’ takeover. From there they have flown back to Eastern Europe.

People Population: 1,482,405 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 47.6% (male 361,115/female 344,236)
15-64 years: 49.9% (male 377,927/female 361,824)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 15,454/female 21,849) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 16 years
male: 15.9 years
female: 16.2 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.66% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 38.9 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 3.74 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.049 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.045 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.707 male(s)/female
total population: 1.037 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 22.91 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.16 years
male: 70.84 years
female: 73.54 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.64 children born/woman