Chronology 16 February–15 May 2006

 16 FEBRUARY–15 MAY 2006

 As the quarter opens, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continues Operation Blue Skies (launched 12/28/05) to prevent Palestinians fr. firing crude homemade rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, enforcing a 1.5-mi-deep no-go zone along the n. Gaza border using artillery fire fr. inside Israel, occasional air strikes, heavy surveillance fr. air and sea, and construction of a border fence along the n. Gaza border (see Quarterly Update in JPS 139). The IDF also continues to restrict the flow of Palestinian goods and individuals into and out of Gaza: Rafah operates 8 hrs./day for entry and exit of individuals to and from Egypt; Erez is open as the sole entry of Palestinian workers to Israel (the IDF has issued 5,000 permits but only 2,500–3,500 workers can pass because of slow processing by the IDF); Qarni is open for the transit of goods (360 trucks/day entering Gaza, 75 trucks/day exiting with agricultural goods); Sufa, for the import of raw materials only, is closed since 2/14. In the West Bank, the IDF maintains 100s of checkpoints and roadblocks, effectively separating the northern and southern West Bank, cutting off access to the n. Jordan Valley, and restricting movement within those cantons. Work also continues on Israel's separation wall. The IDF conducts arrest raids in and around Balata refugee camp (r.c.), Nablus and nr. Bethlehem, Hebron (occupying 1 house as an observation post), Jenin. A Palestinian woman fr. Bethlehem attempts to stab an Israeli police officer outside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, is arrested. (HA 2/16; OCHA 5/22; PCHR 2/23)
 The IDF bars Palestinians under age 45 fr. attending Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque; raids al-Khadir nr. Bethlehem, arresting 6 youths (aged 14–17) for throwing stones at Israeli vehicles along nearby Route 60; conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Qalqilya. (PCHR 2/23)
 The IDF tightens restrictions on Palestinian movement around Ramallah in the morning, coinciding with the convening of the new Palestinian Council (PC) session (see below); sends troops back into al-Khadir (see 2/17), sets up roadblocks, conducts ID checks looking for youths who threw stones at Israeli cars on Route 60, arresting 2; raids, searches a Palestinian home in Hebron, severely beating but not arresting 1 resident; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Aida r.c., arresting 2 15-yr.-old Palestinian boys. A Jewish settler is stabbed, wounded apparently by a Palestinian nr. Ma'ale Adumim. (HA 2/20; PCHR 2/23)
 The new Palestinian Council (the second elected since the PC was formed in 1995) is sworn in in Ramallah, with Gazan reps. participating by video link, since Israel barred their passage to the West Bank. PA Pres. Mahmud Abbas invites the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform party to form a cabinet. (WT 2/18; NYT, WP, WT 2/19; al-Hayat al-Jadida 2/19 in WNC 2/20; MM 2/20) (see Quarterly Update for details)
 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 Hamas-led 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 cash-strapped 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 communiqué 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) (see Quarterly Update)
 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) (see Quarterly Update)
 The IDF expands its Balata arrest operation to the wider Nablus area, fatally shooting Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades leader Ahmad Abu Sharikh, AMB Nablus cmdr. Muhammad Shatawi in apparent assassinations; firing on stone-throwing youths, wounding 12. The IDF also shells the n. Gaza no-go zone, damaging several homes in Um al-Nasser n. of Bayt Lahiya but causing no injuries; severely beats a Palestinian teenager in Hebron; demolishes a Palestinian home nr. Tulkarm; fires on residential areas of al-Fawwar r.c. nr. Hebron, wounding 2 Palestinians; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Azariyya nr. Jerusalem, Tulkarm, and nr. Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin. Palestinians fire a rocket fr. n. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. (AP, IMEMC, MM, NYT, WT 2/20; VOI 2/20 in WNC 2/21; IMEMC, NYT 2/21; PCHR 2/23; YA 3/1)
 The IDF closes the Qarni crossing after a roadside bomb explodes nearby inside Gaza, causing no damage or injuries; continues operations in and around Nablus for a 3d day, clashing with local Palestinians in Balata r.c., wounding 18; demolishes a Palestinian home in Hebron; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron, in Qabatya. Armed gunmen from the Amr Abu Sitta Battalions (a Fatah offshoot) raid the Khan Yunis municipal building and a municipal garage, ransacking the offices and stealing the keys for all municipal vehicles, after municipal officials refuse to loan the group a bulldozer to level land for a barracks. (IMEMC 2/21; NYT, PCHR 2/22; PCHR 2/23; NYT 3/4)
 After the AMB fires 3 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries, the IDF fires at least 15 artillery shells at n. Gaza, 1 of which hits an apartment building in Bayt Lahiya, wounding a 2-yr.-old Palestinian boy. The IDF also reimposes 2 roadblocks outside Jericho that were removed under the 3/16/05 agmt. turning over security control of the city to the PA, citing the PA's 2/9 release of wanted AMB, Islamic Jihad mbrs. fr. the Jericho jail; continues arrest raids, house searches nr. Nablus; finds an empty rocket casing in a search in Qabatya; bulldozes a USAID-funded public park and playground in Azun nr. Qalqilya, saying it was built without permission (USAID donated $80,000 of the $120,000 cost); fires on residential areas of Bani Na`im nr. Hebron. Israeli undercover units, driving a car with Palestinian plates, raid Allar, search a home, arrest a wanted Palestinian. Some 20 armed gunmen fr. the al-Yasir Brigades (an AMB offshoot) temporarily occupy the Rafah governorate offices to protest the appointment of a Khan Yunis resident as the new Rafah governor, demanding that the governor be a Rafah resident. (AFP, PCHR, XIN, YA 2/22; PCHR 2/23, 3/2)
 On the 5th day of IDF operations in the Nablus area, IDF fire on stone-throwing Palestinians in Balata r.c. escalates into heavy exchanges btwn. the IDF and local AMB mbrs., leaving 3 wanted AMB gunmen, 2 Palestinian bystanders dead and 2 IDF soldiers, 22 Palestinian wounded (including 3 medical workers treating the injured). The IDF also fires on stone-throwing Palestinians nr. Hebron; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Dura nr. Hebron, Yabad nr. Jenin. (PCHR 2/23; DS, HA, MM, NYT, REU, WP, WT 2/24; PCHR 3/2)
 The IDF officially ends operations in the Nablus area, but reenters Balata r.c. and Nablus late in the evening, patrolling streets and firing on residential areas; fatally shoots 2 Palestinians laying roadside bombs along the Gaza border nr. Dayr al-Balah; makes an air strike on 3 AMB mbrs. driving in Bayt Lahiya, missing the vehicle, injuring 2 bystanders in an apparent assassination attempt; shells uninhabited areas nr. Rafah, causing no damage or injuries; fires on 3 unarmed Palestinians attempting to sneak into Israel fr. Gaza nr. Dayr al-Balah to find jobs, killing 1 Palestinian, wounding 2; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron (occupying 1 house as an observation post), in Silwad nr. Ramallah; patrols in Askar r.c. nr. Nablus; fires on stone-throwing Palestinians in Bayt Umar nr. Hebron. Elsewhere in Gaza, a Hamas mbr. dies in a mysterious explosion, possibly while preparing explosives. A Jewish settler fr. a settlement nr. Jericho shoots, wounds a Palestinian farmer working his nearby land. (REU, XIN 2/24; NYT 2/25; PCHR 3/2)
 The IDF makes a rare raid into Jericho, turned over to PA security control on 3/16/05, to arrest a wanted AMB mbr. who is also a mbr. of the PA security forces; fires on residential areas of Bani Na`im (wounding 2 Palestinians); conducts arrest raids, house searches in Budrus nr. Ramallah, Hebron (firing on residential areas, wounding 2 Palestinians); patrols in, fires on residential areas of Jenin town and r.c.; raids the PA Customs Dept. in Hebron, confiscating fireworks; sends troops into al-Khadir to arrest 3 Palestinian youths for stone-throwing. After IDF warplanes strike the n. Gaza no-go zone, Palestinians fire 2 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel; the IDF responds by shelling the no-go zone again; no damage or injuries are reported on either side. A Palestinian wounded in the IDF shelling of Bayt Hanun on 2/9 dies. (AFP, JAZ 2/25; IMEMC 2/26; PCHR 3/2)
 The IDF shells the n. Gaza no-go zone; shoots, wounds 2 Palestinian teenagers at Anata checkpoint n. of Jerusalem when they protest the physical search of a young woman; conducts arrest raids, house searches in al-Arub r.c., Balata r.c. and nr. Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus. All 4 flour mills in Gaza close, saying there is no wheat to process due to the IDF closure of the Qarni crossing; flour stocks in Gaza stores are estimated to last another few wks. (IMEMC 2/27; HA 2/28; NYT 3/1; PCHR 3/2)
 The IDF sends troops into Bani Na`im, surrounds a house in search of a wanted Palestinian who is not home, fires on stone-throwing Palestinians who confront the troops, sparking several hrs. of clashes that leave 35 Palestinians wounded; conducts overnight arrest raids in and around Jenin and in Askar r.c., Balata r.c., Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus's old city, Ramallah; uproots 10s of olive trees and bulldozes 2 animal pens for construction of the separation wall nr. Jenin; erects a metal gate, places barbed wire at the southern entrance to Jamayn nr. Nablus, which faces a settler bypass road; installs metal gates at entrances to Marda, facing Ariel settlement. The IDF also requests that the PA dig a trench 20 m long by 4 m deep near the Qarni crossing in a search for smugglers tunnels; the PA complies but no tunnels are found. (XIN 2/27; PCHR 3/2; OCHA 3/23)
 The IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Nablus. Several Jewish settlers severely beat a Palestinian woman nr. Hebron. (PCHR 3/2)
 Islamic Jihad senior military cmdr. Khalid Dadu, 9 times the target of failed IDF assassination attempts, is killed in Gaza City when he opens the door of his bomb-rigged car; Israel, which has evacuated its troops fr. Gaza in 9/05, denies responsibility; Palestinian collaborators are suspected; Islamic Jihad vows retaliation. IDF undercover units, driving a car with Palestinian plates, enter Anza nr. Jenin, raid a store, arrest a wanted Palestinian. The IDF also conducts arrest raids, searches in Bani Na`im and in and around Jenin, Nablus. Israeli police arrest 2 Change and Reform PC mbrs., a 3d Hamas mbr. touring al-Makassid hospital in East Jerusalem for "conducting illegal political activities." AMB gunmen fatally shoot 1 Jewish settler, wound a 2d at a West Bank gas station nr. Migdalim settlement nr. Nablus. (HA, IMEMC 3/1; AFP, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT 3/2; PCHR 3/9)
 The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that stocks of basic goods (including flour, sugar, cooking oil) in Gaza could run out within days unless Israel reopens the Qarni crossing (closed from 1/15–2/5, then closed again on 2/21); says shortages are so severe that aid programs are being affected (e.g., the World Food Program, which delivers flour to around 146,000 Gazans, has used up its 2 mo. supply buffer and is currently on hold). Meanwhile, costs of basic goods in Gaza are up by 25% due to shortages. Israel claims the closing is in response to an "enhanced terrorist threat" and concerns over avian flu, is not punishment for Hamas's 1/06 election victory. (REU 3/1; AFP 3/2; NYT 3/6; WP 3/16)

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