As the quarter opened, Israel and the Palestinians both stated they were observing a cease-fire in Gaza that went into effect on 11/26/06, though near-daily cross-border incidents occurred. Israel’s siege of Gaza, in place since Hamas took control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) on 3/28/06, remained, as did heavy restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. Today, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops on the n. Gaza border fire on several Palestinians collecting scrap metal nr. the border fence n. of Bayt Lahiya, wounding a 12-yr-old boy. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in ‘Aida refugee camp (r.c.) nr. Bethlehem, Azun nr. Qalqilya, Qalandia r.c. (exchanging fire with Palestinian gunmen, leaving 2 IDF soldiers wounded), Tulkarm and nr. Hebron, Jenin; fires on stone-throwing Palestinians in and nr. Hebron demonstrating against Israel’s new construction at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount (see 2/6/06 in the Chronology in JPS 143); fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at 10s of Palestinians, as well as Israeli and international activists, taking part in the weekly nonviolent demonstration against the separation wall in Bil‘in, injuring 8.
Jewish settlers fr. Tel Rumeida in Hebron occupy a Palestinian home next to the settlement; the IDF evicts the settlers but declares the area a closed military zone, barring the Palestinian family fr. returning. Jewish settlers fr. Kiryat Arba in Hebron vandalize Palestinian homes, shops; the IDF observes but does not intervene. A Fatah mbr. dies of injuries received in recent clashes in Jabaliya with members of the PA Interior Min.’s predominantly Hamas Executive Support Force (ESF). PA health sector employees in the West Bank begin an open-ended strike to protest the PA’s failure to pay their salaries. (OCHA 2/21; PCHR 2/22)
The IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in Jenin town and r.c., firing on residential areas, causing no injuries. Jewish settler children fr. Ramat Yishai in Hebron chase, beat several Palestinian children; the IDF observes but does not intervene. Jewish settlers fr. Susia nr. Hebron vandalize several Palestinian homes, beat a 65-yr.-old Palestinian. Jewish settlers fr. Yitzhar uproot 170 Palestinian olive trees nr. Nablus. The family of a Fatah mbr. who died in Jabaliya on 2/16 sets fire to the home of Change and Reform Palestinian Council (PC) mbr. Yusif al-Sharafi, exchanges fire with ESF mbrs., destroying 2 homes but causing no injuries. (OCHA 2/21; PCHR 2/22)
In the West Bank, the IDF conducts patrols in Tulkarm, fires tear gas at Palestinian students outside a school; raids shops in Qalqilya, forcing them to close; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron and in Nablus, Tulkarm town and r.c. (OCHA 2/21; PCHR 2/22)
In the West Bank, the IDF sends undercover units into al-Walaja nr. Bethlehem and al-Zababda nr. Jenin, searching homes, confiscating cell phones, arresting 1 Palestinian; conducts additional arrest raids, house searches in Jalazun r.c. nr. Ramallah, Qabatya nr. Jenin and nr. Hebron, Nablus. Jewish settlers fr. Avraham Avino settlement in Hebron vandalize Palestinian property, beat several Palestinians, seriously injuring a 6-yr.-old Palestinian boy. (OCHA 2/21; PCHR 2/22)
The IDF sends bulldozers into Gaza e. of Dayr al-Balah to level 150 m of Palestinian land along the border. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Qalqilya and in Jenin r.c., Qabatya. Unidentified assailants kidnap, quickly release unharmed 3 American women taking photographs outside Balata r.c. nr. Nablus. Egyptian border guards in Rafah arrest a Palestinian attempting to cross fr. Gaza into Egypt through a smugglers’ tunnel carrying an explosive belt; steps up border patrols in response. (NYT, OCHA, WP 2/21; PCHR, WT 2/22)
In the West Bank, the IDF sends undercover units into Jenin r.c., where they assassinate Islamic Jihad mbr. Mahmud Abu Obeid, an alleged bomb maker; also sends undercover units into Bayt Jala to arrest a wanted Palestinian; conducts arrest raids in and around Bethlehem and Tulkarm, nr. Hebron, and in Balata r.c. nr. Nablus, Jenin town and r.c.; demolishes a Palestinian home northwest of Jerusalem. In Gaza, a Palestinian farmer is killed when he accidentally detonates unexploded IDF ordnance. Palestinians fire at least 1 rocket fr. Gaza toward Israel that lands inside Gaza nr. Bayt Lahiya, wounding 6 Palestinians. Egyptian security forces conduct raids in Egyptian Rafah, detaining 2 Palestinians connected to the Palestinian arrested on 2/20, charging them with plotting suicide bombings; Egyptian authorities say they have arrested 23 Palestinians and Egyptians in the n. Sinai in recent days. In Gaza City, unidentified assailants detonate an explosive device outside the home of a PA police officer, causing damage but no injuries. (IFM 2/21; PCHR, WP 2/22; OCHA 2/28; PCHR 3/1)
IDF soldiers on the Gaza border fire on Palestinian farmers who stray nr. the border fence e. of Gaza City, wounding 1. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in Qabatya, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and nr. Jenin; demolishes a poultry farm (killing 1,000 birds), a sheep pen nr. Hebron. (OCHA 2/28; PCHR 3/1)
In the West Bank, the IDF demolishes a communal water cistern nr. Hebron; conducts patrols in Dura nr. Hebron (randomly checking Palestinian IDs), Tulkarmtown and r.c. (firing on stone-throwing Palestinians who confront the troops); conducts arrest raids, house searches in Nablus, Tulkarm town and r.c. and nr. Jenin. Palestinians fire 2 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. In ongoing raids in Egypt (see 2/21), Egyptian security forces discover 1 ton of explosives (mostly TNT recovered from land mines) hidden nr. the border with Gaza that they believe was intended to be smuggled into the Strip; say that they have now arrested 57 Egyptians and Palestinians believed to be part of a network planning bombings in the Sinai targeting Israeli tourists, but also including 3 Palestinians who allegedly confess to being mbrs. of Islamic Jihad and to plotting to carry out suicide attacks in Israel. On the 2d anniversary of the 1st weekly nonviolent protests in Bil‘in against the separation wall, 10s of Palestinians and Israeli and international activists demonstrate; the IDF fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades to disperse them, beating some, injuring 13 (including a CNN cameraman). (WP 2/24; NYT 2/25; OCHA 2/28; PCHR 3/1)
The Israeli navy fires on Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza coast nr. Dayr al-Balah, causing no damage or injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF confiscates 199 dunams (d.; 4 d. = 1 acre) of Palestinian land w. of Jenin nr. Yabad to expand Road 585; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Jenin town and r.c., Nablus, Qabatya, Qalqilya and nr. Hebron, Jenin. In Gaza, unidentified assailants detonate an explosive device outside the apartment of senior PA security officer Col. Sulayman Khadir, wounding 4 bystanders, causing extensive damage. (OCHA 2/28; PCHR 3/1)
In the West Bank, the IDF makes an overnight raid on Nablus, reportedly uncovering an Islamic Jihad pipe bomb factory in the Old City, exchanging fire with Islamic Jihad mbrs., causing no reported injuries. Troops withdraw and then reenter Nablus before dawn, this time declaring the start of Operation Hot Winter—the largest military operation in the West Bank since 7/06 and the largest in Nablus in 3 yrs.—sealing the city, imposing a curfew, taking over TV and radio stations, conducting house-to-house searches, barring access to 2 hospitals, reportedly uncovering a 2d bomb-making factory and finding a LAU hand-held guided missile and launcher (either stolen from the IDF or purchased on the Israeli black market); 2 IDF soldiers, 6 Palestinians are wounded in exchanges of fire; an Associated Press photographer films IDF soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to act as a human shield, leading troops into Palestinian homes—a violation of international and Israeli law. The IDF also conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron, Jenin. Nr. Hebron, suspected Palestinian assailants fatally stab a Jewish settler. Jewish settlers fr. Avigail nr. Hebron uproot 30 Palestinian olive trees. Overnight in Khan Yunis, 5 Palestinians are killed, more than 40 wounded in a family feud with factional overtones, raising concerns that intra-Palestinian fighting, which has tapered off since Fatah and Hamas reached a national unity agmt. in Mecca on 2/8 (see Quarterly Update in JPS 143), might resume: The fighting begins when mbrs. of the Khawareh clan, relatives of a Fatah mbr. killed in factionalfighting on 1/07, fatally shoot Hamas mbr. Muhammad Ali Ghalban, whom they blame for his death, sparking exchanges that leave 2 Khawareh relatives, 2 bystanders dead. On the Rafah border, 1 Palestinian is killed, 6 are injured when a smugglers’ tunnel they are digging collapses. Palestinian workers at Qarni crossing strike for the day, forcing the crossing to close. Unidentified gunmen in Bureij r.c. fire on an ESF post, causing no injuries. In Israel, Israeli police raid 2 companies in Ramat Gan that do business with companies in Gaza, arresting several employees on suspicion of funneling money to Hamas, Islamic Jihad. (AP, HA, NYT, WP, WT 2/25; AP, HA, NYT, WP 2/26; OCHA 2/28; AP, PCHR 3/1; WP 3/3)
The IDF continues operations in Nablus, clashing with Palestinian gunmen, leaving 1 unarmed Palestinian dead, 8 wounded. During operations, a curfew remains in place, with the IDF bulldozing and damaging several Palestinian homes and shops to widen access to the Old City for IDF vehicles, raiding and searching homes, rounding up 10s of Palestinians for interrogation, continuing to occupy Palestinian TV and radio stations, broadcasting the names of 7 wanted mbrs. of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB) for whom they are searching, reportedly uncovering another 2 bombmaking labs. The IDF also demolishes 6 Palestinian homes nr. Tulkarm, 3 bedouin shacks nr. Azariyya; conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron. Israeli authorities report that 2 Palestinian teenagers have been arrested and have confessed to the stabbing death of a settler on 2/25. A Palestinian wounded in the family feud in Khan Yunis on 2/25 dies. (NYT, WP 2/27; OCHA 2/28; PCHR 3/1)
The IDF withdraws fr. Nablus, officially suspending (but not ending) Operation Hot Winter, which has left 1 Palestinian dead, 5 wanted men (and 10s of other Palestinians) arrested. The IDF also detains an Italian film crew in Hebron making a documentary on Palestinian children in the city; conducts arrest raids in and around Hebron, in Jenin, and nr. Bethlehem, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tulkarm. IDF troops on the Gaza border e. of Rafah fire on farmers who stray nr. the border fence, causing no injuries. The Israeli navy fires on Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast nr. Rafah, forcing them to return to shore, causing no damage or injuries.