Chronology 16 February –15 May 2009
Abstract: 

 

This section is part 102 of a chronology begun in JPS 13, no. 3 (Spring 1984). Chronology dates reflect Eastern Standard Time (EST). For a more comprehensive overview of events related to the al-Aqsa intifada and of regional and international developments related to the peace process, see the Quarterly Update on Conflict and Diplomacy in this issue.

 

16 FEBRUARY

 

As the quarter opens, Israel’s near total blockade of Gaza enters its 21st month, since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 6/07. Israel continues to bar exports fr. Gaza, strictly limit imports, and ban all but VIPs and emergency medical cases fr. transiting the border. Imports include limited commodities and enough staple goods and fuel for electricity, emergency services, and cooking to preclude a humanitarian crisis, but are insufficient to meet daily needs, adequately maintain basic services, or repair the heavy damage fr. Israel’s 23-day assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead (OCL), which ended on 1/18/09. Today, Palestinians fire 2 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) respond with 2 air strikes on tunnels on the Rafah border, causing no injuries. In Bayt Lahiya, 1 Palestinian scavenging scrap metal is killed, 4 are injured when they accidentally trigger unexploded IDF ordnance (UXO). In the West Bank, the IDF bulldozes 20 olive trees on a plot of Palestinian land on the s. border of Ni‘lin, declaring it a closed military zone; conducts synchronized late-night arrest raids, house searches into Tulkarm, neighboring Nur Shams refugee camp (r.c.), and 5 nearby villages; conducts similar late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Hebron; closes a gate in the separation wall nr. Dahiyat al-Barid (located btwn. the separation wall and the Green Line nr. Jerusalem), forcing villagers to travel 1–2 hrs. through the Qalandia crossing to access the rest of theWest Bank. The Israeli government authorizes the confiscation of 1,700 dunams (d.; 4 d. = 1 acre) of Palestinian land in the villages of al-Ma‘sara, Umm Salamuna, and Wadi al-Nas nr. Bethlehem for expansion of Efrat and Gush Etzion settlements (2,500 new housing units, increasing the settler population there fr. 9,000 to 30,000). (Mideast Mirror 2/16; NYT, WP 2/17; OCHA 2/18; PCHR 2/19; OCHA 2/24)

 

17 FEBRUARY

 

The IDF makes air strikes on 10 smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border and a Hamas-affiliated police station in Khan Yunis, which has been bombed repeatedly, causing no injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF raids an Islamic charity in Tulkarm that provides assistance to 1,450 orphans, confiscating computers and documents, and sealing the building; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Jayyus (severely beating 3 Palestinians), nr. Tulkarm. (OCHA 2/18; PCHR 2/19; OCHA 2/24)

 

18 FEBRUARY

 

In Gaza, UN and Hamas officials report the theft of a cache of IDF UXO fr. OCL that was being held at a storage site guarded by Hamas police; police say unknown individuals stole the explosives when police fled the site fearing an attack by IDF drones operating in the area; the UXO had been collected by Hamas police and turned over to the UN for safe disposal. IDF troops on the s. Gaza border fire on Palestinians and international activists working their land nr. the border fence, wounding 1 Palestinian farmer. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Nablus, and nr. Hebron, Jenin, Salfit. Jewish settlers accompanied by IDF troops level land nr. Yatta village s. of Hebron for construction of a settler-only bypass road. (NYT, PCHR 2/19; OCHA 2/24; PCHR 2/26)

 

19 FEBRUARY

 

The IDF makes an incursion into Gaza, injuring 2 armed Palestinians (most likely a rocket-launching squad; see UN report in 2/24 below); shoots, wounds an unarmed Palestinian who strays close to the n. Gaza border fence; makes several air strikes on the Rafah border (injuring 1 Palestinian reporter). Israel further restricts the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 3 nautical miles (see Quarterly Update for details). In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron, Tubas; fires live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the separation wall in Ni‘lin (injuring 4). (Middle East Newsline 2/19; OCHA 2/24, 2/25; PCHR 2/26)

 

20 FEBRUARY

 

Palestinians detonate a roadside bomb nr. the Gaza border fence, sparking an exchange of gunfire with the IDF that leaves 2 armed Palestinians dead. In the West Bank, the IDF sends undercover units in a car with Palestinian license plates into Qabatya nr. Jenin to arrest a Palestinian; enters Bayt Umar village nr. Hebron to chase several stone-throwing youths, raiding 2 homes and a store, occupying rooftops, and firing on residential areas, wounding 1 Palestinian, arresting 2; fires live ammunition, rubbercoated steel bullets, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the separation wall in Ni‘lin (injuring 9); fires live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists, some of whom throw stones at IDF troops, taking part in a demonstration against the separation wall in Bil‘in (10s suffer tear gas inhalation); uproots 70 olive seedlings on a Palestinian plot nr. Efrat settlement nr. Bethlehem; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in al-Fara‘a r.c. nr. Tubas, nr. Bethlehem and Jenin. (OCHA 2/24, 2/25; PCHR 2/26)

After nearly 2 wks. of consultations with top 2/10/08 election vote-getters Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), Israeli pres. Shimon Peres taps Netanyahu to form a government. Netanyahu quickly opens coalition talks with various parties. (IFM 2/20; NYT, WP 2/21; WP 2/23; NYT 2/24) (see Quarterly Update for details)

 

21 FEBRUARY

 

Some 400 Gazans protest on the Rafah border demanding that Egypt unilaterally open the crossing into Gaza. Egypt deploys 100s of additional police and border patrol officers along the Rafah border, fearing another breach, as occurred in 1/08 (see Quarterly Update in JPS 147). On the Rafah border, 5 Palestinians are killed, 3 are injured when a smuggling tunnel collapses. In theWest Bank, the IDF raids and occupies a Palestinian home nr. Bethlehem as an observation post; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Jenin, Tulkarm. Israeli security forces raid a theater in East Jerusalem to prevent a Palestinian folklore troupe fr. performing as part of a series of events billed as celebrating the Arab League designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture for 2009 (see Quarterly Update for details), saying the program violates the ban on Palestinian political activity in the city. (WT 2/22; OCHA 2/24, 2/25; PCHR2/26)

Unknown assailants fire a Katyusha rocket fr. s. Lebanon into n. Israel, lightly injuring 3 Israelis. A 2d rocket lands inside Lebanon, causing no damage or injuries. Israel files a formal complaint with the UN, demanding stepped-up UNIFIL and Lebanese government enforcement in s. Lebanon in keeping with UN Res. 1701’s provisions to halt arms smuggling into s. Lebanon and reiterating Israel’s right to self-defense. (WJW 2/26)

 

22 FEBRUARY

 

With Israeli permission, Egypt allows Gazan university students with valid travel visas and other foreign passport holders to exit Gaza through the Rafah checkpoint; at least 600 of the 1,000 persons qualified leave the Strip. In the West Bank, the IDF makes a rare morning raid on a factory in Ramallah, questioning workers but making no arrests; takes up positions in Tulkarm at midday, randomly checking Palestinian IDs; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Bethlehem. In East Jerusalem, Israeli security forces forcibly remove a solidarity tent set up on the site of a Palestinian home demolished in 11/08. (WP 2/23; OCHA 2/24, 2/25; PCHR 2/26)

 

23 FEBRUARY

 

In Gaza, Palestinians detonate a roadside bomb nr. the Gaza border fence e. of al-Musaddar village in c. Gaza, causing no reported damage or injuries. The IDF sends troops into al-Musaddar in pursuit, exchanging gunfire with the armed Palestinians, calling in 3 air strikes on the area, injuring 2 armed Palestinians, heavily damaging 3 Palestinian homes before withdrawing 90 mins. later. Palestinians also fire 2 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no reported damage or injuries. In the West Bank, the IDF makes a large late-night incursion into Nablus to raid and search a home for weapons, blowing up part of the home, detaining 2 Palestinians for questioning, but finding no weapons; occupying and searching Asia Television offices; blowing the doors off several shops in the old city. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Jenin town and r.c., nr. Bethlehem and Hebron. Jewish settlers escorted by IDF troops enter Nablus to pray for several hours at the shrine of Prophet Joseph. In the evening, Jewish settlers in Hebron cut electricity to Palestinian houses in the center and s. of town, then rampage through the areas, damaging several homes; the IDF observes but does not intervene. (OCHA 2/24, 2/25; PCHR 2/26)

 

24 FEBRUARY

 

In the West Bank, Israel reopens a main road to Bani Na‘im nr. Hebron (closed since 2001); authorizes the Palestinian Authority (PA) to build an additional 12 police stations across the West Bank (Israel previously approved 20 and the PA has built 19); issues VIP travel permits to 120 high-ranking PA security officers and Palestinian personalities (bringing to about 390 the number of VIP permits issued to date); increases the number of Palestinian workers allowed into Israel (no figures given); allows Israeli Palestinians to visit Nablus and Jenin on weekends (intended to boost those local economies). The IDF also levels Palestinian land to expand an IDF checkpoint nr. Einav settlement nr. Tulkarm; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Bethlehem, in Hebron, nr. Jenin and Ramallah. In Gaza, IDF troops on the s. Gaza border fire on unarmed Palestinians inspecting damaged homes e. of Khuza nr. the border fence, wounding a Palestinian teenager. The UN reports that Palestinians have fired 21 rockets and mortars into Israel since 2/18, causing no damage or injuries. A Palestinian teenager dies of injuries sustained during the 1/15 IDF air strikes that assassinated Gaza’s acting interior minister Sa‘id Siyam during OCL. (IFM 2/24; OCHA 2/25; PCHR 2/26)

Israel’s new parliament, elected on 2/10/09, is sworn in. (WP 2/25)

 

25 FEBRUARY

 

The IDF carries out air strikes on smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire on s. Israel; no injuries are reported by either side. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Jenin town and r.c., nr. Hebron. (PCHR, WP 2/26; OCHA 3/3, 3/4; PCHR 3/5)

 

26 FEBRUARY

 

Palestinians fire 2 rockets into Israel, causing no injuries. The IDF responds with air strikes on 5 smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border, wounding 3 Palestinians (2 of them young children). In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night house searches nr. Jenin, but makes no arrests. A Palestinian teenager is killed and 2 are wounded when they accidentally trigger IDF UXO at a site nr. Tubas used by the IDF for live fire exercises. Israel begins construction of 65 new housing units on 3.5 d. of Palestinian land in the Arab al-Sawahara neighborhood of East Jerusalem, expanding Talpiot settlement. (HA 2/26; NYT, WP 2/27; OCHA 3/3, 3/4; PCHR 3/5, 4/29)

U.S. envoy George Mitchell begins his 2d regional tour with planned stops in Turkey, Israel, Ramallah, and Cairo. He stresses U.S. support for a 2-state solution and a halt to Israel’s settlement construction. (IFM 2/26; NYT, WP 2/27) (see Quarterly Update for details)

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