Chronology 16 May–15 August 2007

Compiled by Michele K. Esposito

16 MAY

As part of an ongoing crackdown on Hamas in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) makes an air strike on a Rafah building controlled by the Executive Support Force (ESF)—a branch of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Interior Min. loyal to Hamas-affiliated PM Ismail Haniyeh—killing 3 ESF mbrs. and wounding at least 21 ESF mbrs., 3 members of the Fatah-affiliated PA Preventive Security Force (PSF) in a PSF office nearby, 3 bystanders (including 2 journalists). Hamas mbrs. fire 12 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, hitting a home in Sederot, moderately injuring 1 Israeli, and hitting a transformer, cutting electricity to 24,000 residents. The IDF responds with an air strike on a house nr. Jabaliya refugee camp (r.c.), killing 2 Hamas mbrs., wounding 3. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert convenes his security cabinet which authorizes the IDF to carry out “severe and harsh” attacks on Gaza, including assassinations of resistance leaders, to prevent further rocket fire, effectively ending the 11/26/06 Gaza cease-fire, frequently violated by both sides. Meanwhile in Gaza, factional fighting btwn. Fatah, Hamas (ongoing since PA Pres. Mahmud Abbas [Fatah] deployed 1,000s of PA security forces under his control without coordinating with either independent Interior M Hani al-Qawasmi, who resigned in protest, or ESF cmdrs. on the ground) escalates sharply, particularly in Gaza City, leaving at least 20 Palestinians dead, 10s wounded, and a number of Fatah and Hamas mbrs. kidnapped. Among the incidents: an Egyptian official is fatally shot by Fatah mbrs. while walking the streets of Rafah with Fatah and Change and Reform legislators to test the intra-Palestinian cease-fire declared on 5/15; Hamas mbrs. ambush a PSF vehicle not knowing that it is transporting Hamas detainees, killing 5 Hamas mbrs., 2 PSF mbrs.; Fatah makes a retaliatory strike on an ESF post outside the Interior Min.’s offices in Gaza City, firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), killing 4 ESF mbrs.; some 200 Hamas mbrs. attack and occupy the home of PA internal security head Rashid Abu Shibak (who is not home at the time), killing at least 4 bodyguards; Hamas mbrs. fire mortars at Abbas’s Gaza residence, causing no injuries; Hamas mbrs. fire antitank rockets at the PA General Intelligence base nr. Shati’ r.c. (After Fatah’s attacks today, the ESF, which has largely remained in its barracks, deploys “to respond with all our power” to further attacks.) Among the wounded are 8 Palestinian civilians among 200 who turned out in Gaza City to protest the interfactional violence and who placed themselves btwn. Fatah and Hamas gunmen to prevent further clashes. Palestinians in Ramallah observe a 1-day general strike to protest the factional violence. Midday, Hamas announces a unilateral cease-fire to begin at 8:00 p.m. local time, and Abbas calls on Fatah mbrs. to follow suit, but gun battles resume within hrs., leaving 2 Fatah mbrs. dead, 10 Palestinians wounded (included in totals above). Israeli Vice PM Shimon Peres says that Israel would respond favorably if Abbas asked for assistance in quelling the violence. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the IDF conducts arrest raids in al-Til nr. Tulkarm (deliberately setting fire to a Palestinian home, damaging 5 others), neighboring Allar, and in and around Balata r.c. and Nablus. Jewish settlers fire on Palestinian homes in Bayt Furik nr. Nablus, causing no injuries; the IDF intervenes, removes the settlers. (BBC, HA, REU 5/16; IFM, NYT, WP, WT 5/17; PCHR 5/21; OCHA 5/23; PCHR 5/24)

17 MAY

The IDF makes at least 6 air strikes on Gaza, killing 9 Palestinians, wounding 10s. Air strikes target an ESF barracks outside the Interior Min. (killing 1 ESF mbr., wounding at least 21 Palestinians, including at least 10 bystanders); a civilian car (apparently mistaken for a Hamas vehicle) driving nr. Rafah, killing 2 Palestinian children, wounding their father, 2 siblings; a trailer used to house ESF mbrs. guarding Interior Min. spokesman Khalid Abu Hilal’s home, killing 1 ESF mbr., wounding 4; a Hamas base e. of Gaza City nr. Qarni, killing 4 Hamas mbrs., 1 bystander and wounding 4 Hamas mbrs., 2 bystanders; a car in Gaza City, in an apparent attempt to assassinate Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) cmdr. Imad Shabanah and a 2d senior Hamas mbr., wounding them, 4 bystanders. The IDF reoccupies an area of prime Palestinian agricultural land northeast of Bayt Hanun and northwest of Bayt Lahiya to expand its n. Gaza buffer zone, declaring the area off limits to Palestinians farmers, leveling land; deploys an artillery battery on the n. Gaza border, shelling areas nr. Bayt Lahiya and in Jabaliya r.c. (targeting Islamic Jihad mbrs.), causing no injuries; sends tanks into n. Gaza to conduct “limited ground operations” to halt Palestinian rocket fire, occupying buildings in Bayt Lahiya, and later Bayt Hanun and Jabaliya r.c. (The U.S. supports Israel’s “right to defend itself.”) A Palestinian teenager is injured in Jabaliya r.c. when he accidentally triggers unexploded IDF ordnance (IDF UXO). Palestinians fire at least 17 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, wounding several Israelis and damaging a synagogue, high school, and industrial building. (The Israeli DMin. evacuates 900 residents fr. Sederot, where most rockets have hit, taking them for a “weekend respite” at a recreation center in Netanya; about half of the town’s 24,000 residents have left.) In the West Bank. The IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Salfit, Tulkarm (firing on stone-throwing Palestinians who confront them, wounding 2) and in Hebron (also raiding a wedding in Hebron, interrogating celebrants and arresting 3), Nablus; sends troops to patrol in Bayt Fajjar nr. Bethlehem, firing on residential areas and stone-throwing youths who confront the troops, killing 1 Palestinian teenager, wounding a 2d. Meanwhile, a new Hamas-Fatah cease-fire significantly reduces violence in Gaza, though at least 6 Palestinians are killed in clashes during the day. The dead include a Hamas mbr. kidnapped, executed by Fatah; a Hamas mbr. killed by a Fatah sniper; 4 Hamas supporters killed, 14 wounded when Fatah forces ambush a funeral for 2 ESF mbrs. killed on 5/16. Hamas mbrs. also attack PA national security forces (NSF) and PSF headquarters in n. Gaza. With the PA security forces unable to guarantee his security, Abbas delays plans to go to Gaza today to discuss the interfactional fighting. (AP, HA, REU 5/17; IFM, NYT, WP, WT 5/18; PCHR 5/21; OCHA 5/23; PCHR 5/24)

18 MAY

In Gaza, the IDF assassinates IQB mbrs. Ra’ed Habib and Munir al-Jamal in an air strike on their car in Gaza City, wounding 6 bystanders; makes 5 other air strikes on Hamas and ESF targets in Bayt Lahiya, Dayr al-Balah, and Gaza City, wounding 10 bystanders, destroying 2 alleged weapons factories, damaging several homes. In retaliation, Hamas fires 17 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, injuring 2 Israelis in Sederot. The Israeli navy fires on Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza City coast, forcing them to return to shore. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in, fires on residential areas of Kafr Dan nr. Jenin, wounding 3 Palestinians; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Nablus and neighboring Balata r.c.; fires rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists holding a weekly nonviolent protest against the separation wall in Bil`in nr. Ramallah, injuring 2. Jewish settlers scuffle with Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists demonstrating against the wall in Bani Na`im nr. Hebron; the IDF intervenes, detaining 5 activists. Meanwhile, Fatah-Hamas fighting in Gaza continues, leaving 4 Palestinians dead and more than a dozen wounded. Incidents include Abbas’s presidential guard firing RPGs and mortars at the predominantly Hamas Islamic University in Gaza City. A 7-yr.-old Palestinian boy dies of injuries received in the 5/17 Fatah attack on a funeral in Rafah. (AP, WP 5/18; NYT, WP, WT 5/19; PCHR 5/21; OCHA 5/23; PCHR 5/24)

19 MAY

The IDF makes 7 air strikes on Gaza, targeting 2 Hamas rocket-launching sites in n. Gaza, killing 3 Palestinian shepherds, 1 Palestinian child; hitting a car driving in Gaza City, assassinating Hamas Muhiy al-Din al-Sirhi, also killing 2 civilians traveling with him; destroying the Gaza City home of Hamas mbr. Imad Dallul in an apparent assassination attempt, wounding him and 3 other Hamas mbrs.; destroying 4 alleged weapons factories in Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, and Nussayrat r.c., damaging nearby homes. The IDF also shells residential areas in Bayt Hanun, injuring a Palestinian woman, 4 children. In Gaza City, 3 Palestinians are injured by IDF UXO; 3 Hamas mbrs. are injured when explosives they are handling detonate prematurely. Hamas fires an RPG at an IDF bulldozer leveling land along the Gaza border fence, injuring 2 IDF soldiers; fires 5 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, starting a brush fire but causing no injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in, fires on residential areas of Nablus. Jewish settlers fr. Tel Rumeida in Hebron beat 2 international peace activists escorting Palestinian children nr. Beit Hadasah settlement. Jewish settlers fr. Itamar nr. Nablus burn Palestinian olive trees in nearby Bayt Furik. Meanwhile, at least 6 Palestinians are wounded in factional fighting in Gaza that includes a gun fight btwn. ESF and NSF mbrs. in Gaza City, a Hamas attack on a PSF base in Rafah, and Fatah’s kidnapping and malicious wounding of 2 Hamas mbrs. in Gaza City. NSF officers manning several checkpoints reportedly harass observant Muslims, ordering women to remove their head coverings and arresting bearded men on suspicion of being Hamas mbrs., raising public outrage against Fatah. Another Egyptian-brokered cease-fire (involving 3 phone conversations btwn. Abbas, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khalid Mishal) that was to go into effect at 3:00 p.m. local time is ignored by Hamas and Fatah. (NYT, WP 5/20; PCHR 5/21; OCHA 5/23; PCHR 5/24)

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