Israel Removes Settlers from Gaza - History

Israel Removes Settlers from Gaza - History

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> World History > Middle East > 2005- Israel Removes Settlers from Gaza

2005- Israel Removes Settlers from Gaza

In August 2005 Israel unilaterally removed its settlements from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the Northern part of the West Bank. Israel's decision was driven by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, long considered a supporters of the settlers, who came to the conclusion that settlements were becoming a strategic burden. He believed that Israel would be better served by taking unilateral actions instead of holding protracted negotiations with the Palestinians. His actions were strongly opposed by many Israelis including those in his own party. Despite fears of widespread violence opposition to the withdrawal was largely limited to passive resistance.

Gush Katif

Gush Katif (Hebrew: גוש קטיף ‎, lit. Harvest Bloc) was a bloc of 17 Israeli settlements in the southern Gaza strip. In August 2005, the Israeli army forcibly removed the 8,600 residents of Gush Katif from their homes after a decision from the Cabinet. Their communities were demolished as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Midnight Wednesday marked the final deadline for Jewish settlers to evacuate their 21 settlements in Gaza. Of the 8,500 settlers in the Palestinian territory, approximately half had left their houses in the days preceding the cut-off date. The situation remains tense, however, as the remaining residents have been joined by an estimated 5,000 supporters who have vowed to resist Israeli police and military forces ordered to remove those defying Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “unilateral disengagement” plan.

About 50,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to Gaza for the operation. On Sunday night, the border between Israel and the settlements was closed, and on Monday and Tuesday Israeli forces issued formal eviction notices to the settlers. Almost 1,000 protesters were arrested as they tried to enter Gaza in support of the settlers, but despite police and army roadblocks, and border checkpoints, thousands more right-wing and ultra-Orthodox activists entered Gaza in advance of the forcible removals.

In the West Bank, out of a total of 120 settlements, four of the smallest and most isolated are being removed. The Ganim and Kadim settlements were fully evacuated on Wednesday, and the two others are expected to be closed shortly.

Despite the protests in Gaza, a Sharon aide told Haaretz that all 21 settlements could be cleared by Friday. Most settlers have negotiated short extensions on the deadline for evacuation with army commanders in return for their voluntary departure. In some cases, residents have barricaded themselves in synagogues or behind barbed wire, but claim that they will not violently resist their removal.

Clashes over the evacuation have so far been largely confined to those between the Israeli forces and outside protesters, most of whom are reportedly teenagers from West Bank settlements. On Tuesday, about 50 people were arrested following a standoff at the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim. According to the New York Times, “the most serious incidents occurred when one young man threw a caustic liquid, probably ammonia, into the eyes of a police cameraman, and another tossed urine on a woman police officer and paint on a senior commander.”

In the Morag settlement, a female soldier was stabbed with a needle by a protester on Wednesday. In other cases, the settlers’ supporters lit bonfires and tyres, threw stones and bottles, barricaded the entrances of settlements, and slashed the tyres of police and army vehicles.

Despite the violence, the Israeli government and security forces have made every effort to placate the settlers, most of whom believe they have a biblical entitlement to Gaza, as part of a “Greater Israel”. The evacuation procedure has been codenamed “Brotherly Hand”, and everyone from Sharon to ground-level army commanders has repeatedly expressed their support and sympathy for the settlers. “We will show all the sensitivity that a family forced to leave its home deserves,” declared Colonel Erez Katz.

Such sensitivity stands in marked contrast to the Israeli army’s destruction of Palestinian homes and farmlands. More than 3,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories have been destroyed since the Sharon government came to power in 2001. As Amnesty International described in a 2004 report: “Forced evictions and house demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Sometimes they are allowed a few minutes or half an hour, too little to salvage their belongings. Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes.”

While the international media has hardly reported such illegal incidents of Israeli collective punishment, about 6,000 journalists from around the world, many of whom have been “embedded” in Israeli army units, are now covering the Gaza withdrawal. There have been innumerable stories in recent days and weeks examining the plight of the settler families, and portraying the religious ideologues in a highly sympathetic light.

The removed settlers have been heavily subsidised. Successive Israeli governments have provided welfare payments, economic incentives and publicly funded infrastructure development. Under the negotiated compensation package, the settlers leaving Gaza will receive money and benefits worth an average of $US250,000 per family. In addition, settlers will receive a combined amount of $US14 million in privately donated money raised in the US by James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president and current Middle East envoy for the Bush administration.

No compensation has been arranged for the 3,500 Palestinians who may lose their jobs on settler agricultural lands and greenhouses, nor for the thousands more working in the Erez industrial centre in northern Gaza, which is also likely to close.

More fundamentally, the withdrawal of the Jewish settlers will do nothing to alter the impoverishment and oppression faced by the 1.3 million Palestinian residents of Gaza. Under international law, Israel will remain the occupying power over the territory, because of the Zionist state’s maintenance of its strict control over Gaza’s air, land, and sea borders. Palestinians within the territory, who suffer from 60 percent unemployment and endemic poverty, will continue to face harsh Israeli travel restrictions to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

International reaction

The removal of the settlers has been widely praised by international leaders. A spokesperson for US President George Bush said that he supported Sharon and his “bold initiative”. British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote to his Israeli counterpart: “I believe you are right to see disengagement as an historic opportunity to pursue a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. I look forward to working with you to help achieve this, and to continue working together towards a just and lasting peace, free from the scourge of terrorism.”

The reality, however, is that the Sharon government has openly acknowledged that the disengagement scheme has nothing to do with advancing any form of negotiated peace with the Palestinians, and is actually intended to counteract any pressure for such a move, particularly from the Bush administration. As Sharon put it on August 12, “I prefer to reach an agreement with the Americans rather than to reach an agreement with the Arabs.”

Since announcing the disengagement plan, the Israeli prime minister has secured the support of the Bush administration for his insistence that the largest and most important settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank—home to some 450,000 settlers—will permanently remain part of Israel. This shift in US policy has given Sharon a green light for the ongoing and rapid expansion of Zionist settlements in these areas, as well as for the construction of the nearly completed separation wall, which effectively annexes large swathes of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and cuts off East Jerusalem from any other Palestinian area.

In a televised speech on Monday night, Sharon made an oblique reference to these strategic imperatives: “It is no secret that, like many others, I had believed and hoped we could forever hold onto Netzarim and Kfar Darom [two of the most important Gaza settlements],” he declared. “But the changing reality in the country, in the region, and the world, required of me a reassessment and change of positions.”

Sharon, previously known as the “godfather” of the settler movement, made clear his sympathy for those being removed. “Residents of Gaza, today we end a glorious chapter in Israel’s history, a central episode in your lives as pioneers, as realisers of the dream of those who bore the security and settlement burden for all of us,” he stated. “Your pain and your tears are an inextricable part of the history of our country. Whatever differences we have, we shall not abandon you and after the evacuation we will do everything to rebuild your lives and communities anew.”

He also made reference to Israel’s so-called “demographic problem”—that is, the question of securing a Jewish majority within Israel. “We cannot hold on to Gaza forever. More than a million Palestinians live there and double their number with each generation. They live in uniquely crowded conditions in refugee camps, in poverty and despair, in hotbeds of rising hatred with no hope on the horizon.”

This statement echoed similar claims that have been made in support of the disengagement plan, particularly from within the Labour Party. “We are disengaging from Gaza because of demography,” Labour leader and deputy prime minister Shimon Peres declared last week. According to one projection, taking Israel and the Occupied Territories as a whole, Jews will be the minority within 15 years. Every faction of the Israeli political establishment views this development as a serious threat to the long-term viability of the Zionist state.

Disengagement heightens crisis within Israel

The disengagement plan has opened up deep divisions within Israeli society. While opinion polls have consistently shown that at least two-thirds favour the Gaza pull-out, the influence of the settlers and their supporters is vastly disproportionate to their actual numbers, and extends right into the heart of Israel’s political and military establishment. In recent months, the Israeli press has carried numerous articles and commentaries speculating about the possibility of civil war, and of assassination threats against Sharon and his colleagues.

Of particular concern has been the threat of a split within the Israeli armed forces. The army now features an “Orthodox Regiment” made up exclusively of young settlers and ultra-Orthodox Jews. These elements have also increased their numbers in other regiments in recent years. According to Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport, writing in the latest English-language Le Monde diplomatique, about 15 percent of soldiers in fighting units are “national-religious”, as are 50 percent of low and middle ranking officers in some regiments. Since the bloody occupation of Lebanon, middle-class Ashkenazi Jews have largely shied away from military careers, allowing religious and settler groups to increase their influence, particularly within operations in the Occupied Territories, where they have no qualms about repressing the Palestinian population.

Regiments with very large religious and settler components have not been activated for the Gaza pull-out, and there does not seem to have been any significant instances of soldiers refusing orders and siding with the settlers, as had been widely feared.

While the removal of the Gaza settlers has not precipitated an immediate split in the army, the ruling Likud Party is in danger of tearing itself apart over the operation. In recent months, Sharon has been forced to manoeuvre around numerous challenges to the disengagement plan from Likud members of the Knesset (parliament) and from party members.

A number of Likud politicians have spoken at mass pro-settler rallies staged in recent weeks. At a cabinet meeting held August 15 to formally authorise the removal of the settlers, four Likud ministers voted against Sharon. Four days earlier, the prime minister revealed that one of his senior delegates—believed to be right-wing leadership aspirant Uzi Landau—had visited the US Congress ostensibly in order to lobby for additional American aid, but then secretly argued against any US money for the withdrawal.

Sharon’s most significant rival within Likud, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu resigned from his position as finance minister on August 7 in protest against the disengagement policy, which he described as “giving terror a reward”.

Despite Netanyahu’s unpopularity among the general Israeli electorate, surveys of Likud’s membership have placed him well ahead of Sharon. National elections are due to be held in November 2006, but are generally expected to be held early next year. The Israeli media has recently been filled with speculation of the possibility of a political “big bang” if the prime minister breaks with Likud to form a new party together with Labour’s Shimon Peres and the secular Shinui Party.

Much more is at stake in the disengagement struggle, however, than the unity of the Likud Party and the survival of the present government. Notwithstanding Sharon’s repeated declarations, his unilateral disengagement policy undermines the entire ideological framework of the “Greater Israel” strategy that has been the bedrock of right-wing politics within the Zionist state since 1967.

The Israeli prime minister has insisted that there will be no “second disengagement”, no withdrawal from the major West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, and no final negotiations for any Palestinian state. Nevertheless, the evacuation of the Gaza settlements is a break from the Likud tradition of unyielding and unconditional support for the settler movement, and represents a tacit admission that the long held hope of the Israeli right-wing to supplant the Arab population from the entire “biblical land” of Palestine is unrealisable.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sharon personally embodied the political convergence between the Greater Israel strategy of the hard-line Zionist right-wing and that of the messianic religious movement. Today he has had to recognise that Israel’s geo-strategic interests—above all the need to secure the ongoing patronage of the US—demands that he curtail the settler movement’s claims over Gaza. The long-term implications of these developments are far from clear. What is certain however is that they portend explosive social and political upheavals within Israel.

Sheikh Jarrah: Why Palestinians are facing possible eviction in east Jerusalem

Tel Aviv &mdash One of the factors that led to the current violence in Israel and Gaza is the possible eviction of 13 Palestinian families from the Skeikh Jarrah neighborhood in the disputed territory of east Jerusalem. Here's an explanation of what has been happening there, and why it has helped to inflame tension in the region.

A Palestinian resident reacts during scuffles with Israeli police amid ongoing tension ahead of an looming court hearing in an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, May 4, 2021. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

In the 1940s, Britain's control over what had been Palestine ended and ownership and control of the land was partitioned by the international community through the United Nations. But there was no agreement on the borders of two separate Jewish and Arab states. In 1948, the dispute resulted in a war, through which Israel declared independence and asserted control over more territory than had been initially proposed by the United Nations.

Many Palestinians were displaced during the conflict and became refugees. At the end of the war, Jordan had control over parts of Jerusalem, including the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which had earlier been home to a Jewish community.

In 1956, Palestinian refugee families moved into some homes in Sheikh Jarrah that were built with the support of the Jordanian government and the United Nations.

War over the borders broke out again in 1967 between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors. At the end of the "Six-Day War," Israel had occupied east Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah, and in 1980, it annexed the territory. Most countries still do not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem is important to both Israelis and Palestinians, who want at least part of it to be the capital of their future state.

In 1972, almost twenty years after Palestinians settled in the Sheikh Jarrah area, Jewish settlers started launching legal challeges to the Palestinian claims to the land, initiating a legal battle that continues today.

Jewish settlers (right) gesture during a confrontation with a Palestinian resident amid tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, May 3, 2021. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The settlers say they have a legal right to the land based on an Israeli law that permits Jews to recover property abandoned during the war in 1948. There is no equivalent law for Palestinians, who have been unable to reclaim land they abandoned or were forced to leave during the war.

Israel-Gaza Conflict

The 13 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah have been fighting efforts by settlers to evict them since 2008 in Israeli courts. Protests erupted several weeks ago after a court ruling in favor of the settlers, which cleared the way for some of the families to be evicted immediately.

The evictions were put on hold by Israel's Supreme Court, which said it would wait to deliver its verdict on an appeal of the previous ruling in a bid to ease the mounting tension in the Holy City. But as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan drew to a close, unrest at another flashpoint, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, pushed the two sides back into armed conflict.

Israeli police stand guard as a car belonging to Jewish settlers burns amid tension over the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, May 6, 2021. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The United Nations Commission for Human Rights has called the forced removal of Palestinian families a potential war crime. Israeli officials have called it a "real-estate dispute between private parties."

Israel Forcibly Removes Hebron Settlers

Israeli police, using sledge hammers, chain saws and power clippers, stormed a building in the West Bank town of Hebron early Tuesday and dragged out hundreds of settlers who had holed up there illegally, hoping to expand the Jewish presence in the volatile biblical city.

Settlers spit and hurled stones, water, oil and concrete powder as police, backed by army troops, broke through fortified doors and carried out the squatters one by one. Three settlers sealed themselves inside a concrete bunker built for the standoff.

"This is a crime against justice and against Jewish history," said Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the Hebron settlers. "I am sure we will return. Hebron has a long history and we will return."

Danny Poleg, a police spokesman, said four soldiers, 14 police officers and 12 settlers were injured during the evacuation. One settler and six police were hospitalized. Eleven settlers were briefly detained and two arrested.

Hebron, a frequent flashpoint of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, is home to about 500 Jewish settlers living in heavily guarded enclaves among some 170,000 Palestinians. Clashes are frequent.

Israel controls the center of the city, including a hotly disputed holy site holy to both Jews and Muslims &mdash the traditional burial site of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and three of their wives. Its large military presence often hinders the movement of Palestinians.

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The Palestinians control the rest of Hebron.

Meanwhile, a widely-read Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering a new peace plan that calls for a land swap with the Palestinians, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.

The report comes a day after Olmert met for private talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho, in the West Bank. The visit made Olmert the first Israeli leader to meet officials in a Palestinian town in seven years.

According to the report in Haaretz, Israel would offer the Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the territories captured in 1967. Israel would annex 5 percent of the West Bank for major settlement blocs, but equivalent territory elsewhere would be transferred to a Palestinian state.

Haaretz said Olmert has not rejected the proposal's main concepts, but the prime minister's office issued a statement expressing "amazement at this erroneous article."

"Such a plan has not been considered, nor is it being raised for discussion in any forum," the statement said.

In other developments:

After forcing one of the building's doors, police encountered 30 youths singing songs who cursed the soldiers as they entered. Many sat atop a 4-foot-high concrete bunker in which three settlers had barricaded themselves. It took police three hours to bore through the neighboring wall to remove them.

Avinoam Horowitz, a local resident and high school teacher, called the eviction a "tragedy."

"Soldiers of the Jewish people are coming to do what the worst enemies used to do to Jewish people, but they are doing it to their own brothers and sisters," he said.

The two-story building evacuated Tuesday stands in the city center's marketplace, which the army shut down in 1994, after Jewish militant Baruch Goldstein opened fire at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and killed 29 Palestinians.

The settlers initially moved into the structure &mdash a vacant store &mdash more than six years ago, variously evacuating and re-entering it as the case made its way through the Israeli court system.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the settlers' presence there was illegal, but they ignored orders to evacuate. Hundreds of supporters moved into the building in recent days, reinforcing the doors and windows with metal and concrete in preparation for the raid.

Settlers claim the property was owned by Jewish families for decades until Jordanian authorities seized it after the 1948 Israeli war of independence. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in 1967.

Elsewhere in the city, settlers have whipped up tensions by moving into a four-story building that is a gateway to the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. The settlers say they want to create a land link between the two communities.

The operation Tuesday followed the highly publicized refusal of several Orthodox Israeli infantry soldiers to take part in the evacuation. The army sentenced a dozen soldiers, including two commanders, to brief jail terms for refusing orders.

Neither side expected Tuesday's eviction to be the last word.

"We have lots of patience," said Horowitz, the teacher. "We'll do it again until we get back our property."

First published on August 7, 2007 / 7:54 AM

© 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


April–May 2021 Ramadan events

At the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2021, Jerusalem Islamic Waqf officials said that on the night of 13 April, the Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and severed the loudspeaker cables used to broadcast the muezzin's ritual call to prayer, so that the Memorial Day speech being delivered by President Reuven Rivlin below at the Western Wall would not be disturbed. Israeli police declined to comment. [1] The incident was condemned by Jordan, [64] and the Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the incident “a racist hate crime”, [64] [65] but it did not draw other international attention. [1] Same month Israeli police closed the staired plaza outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, a traditional holiday gathering spot for Palestinians. [66] [1] The closure triggered violent night clashes, the barricades were removed after several days. [66] [67] On 15 April, a TikTok video of a Palestinian teen slapping an ultra-orthodox Jewish man went viral, leading to several copycat incidents. [68] The next day, tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers were turned away from al-Aqsa, on the first Friday of Ramadan when Israel imposed a 10,000-person limit on prayers at the mosque. [68] [69] On the same day, a rabbi was beaten in Jaffa causing two days of protests. [68] On 22 April, the far-right Jewish supremacist [70] group Lehava held a march through Jerusalem chanting "death to Arabs." [68] On 23 April, after fringe military groups fired 36 rockets at southern Israel, the IDF launched missiles at Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. [68] The barrage of rocket fire came as hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem and on 25 April, the United Nations envoy Tor Wennesland condemned the violence and said “The provocative acts across Jerusalem must cease. The indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centers violates international law and must stop immediately” [71] On 26 April, after more than 40 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel while one projectile exploded inside the Gaza Strip over of the previous three days, the Security Cabinet of Israel voted in favor after an hours-long debate of an operational plan to strike Hamas if rocket fire from Gaza continues. [72] In the following days, a Palestinian boy and a 19-year-old Israeli settler were killed. On 6 May, the Israel Police shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian during a raid of Nablus in the West Bank. [73] According to Addameer, Israeli police arrested at least 61 children from mid-April during clashes in and about East Jerusalem, and 4 were shot death in three weeks. [74]

Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Sheikh Jarrah shortly before the clashes began, where he said that the houses belonged to Jews and told police to "open fire" on protesters. [66] Agence France-Presse reported that Israeli settlers had been seen in Sheikh Jarrah openly carrying assault rifles and revolvers leading up to the clashes. [66] A video was posted of Ben-Gvir, in a joking exchange with the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Arieh King, mocking a Palestinian resident shot by Israeli police during a protest. [75]

Sheikh Jarrah property dispute

The Sheikh Jarrah district houses the descendants of refugees expelled or displaced from their homes in Jaffa and Haifa in the Nakba of 1948. [76] [77] Today, around 75 Palestinian families live on this disputed land. [78] The long-running dispute over land ownership in Sheikh Jarrah is considered a microcosm of the Israeli–Palestinian disputes over land since 1948. [79] Currently, more than 1,000 Palestinians living across East Jerusalem face possible eviction. [78] Israeli law allows Israeli land owners to file claims over land in East Jerusalem which they have owned prior to 1948, except where expropriated by the Jordanian government, [80] but rejects Palestinian claims over land in Israel which they owned. [81] The international community considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory held under Israeli occupation and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on Israel to stop all forced evictions of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, saying that if carried out the expulsions of the Palestinians would violate Israel's responsibilities under international law which prohibit the transfer of civilians in to or out of occupied territory by the occupying power. A spokesman for the OHCHR said that such transfers may constitute a "war crime". [33] Human rights organizations have been critical of Israeli efforts to remove Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, with Human Rights Watch releasing a statement saying that the disparate rights between Palestinian and Jewish residents of East Jerusalem "underscores the reality of apartheid that Palestinians in East Jerusalem face." [82] Israeli human rights group estimate that over 1,000 Palestinian families are at risk of eviction in East Jerusalem. [83]

A Jewish trust bought the land in Sheikh Jarrah from Arab landowners in the 1870s in Ottoman Palestine. However, the purchase is disputed by some Palestinians, who have produced Ottoman-era land titles for part of the land. [84] The land came under Jordanian control following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. [85] Following the war, Jewish residents were expelled from East Jerusalem, and Palestinians from Israel. [78] In 1956, the Jordanian government, in cooperation with the United Nations' organization for refugees, housed 28 of these Palestinian families on land owned by Jewish trusts. [78] [85] After the Six-Day War the area fell under Israeli occupation. [86] In 1970, Israel passed a law that allowed previous owners to reclaim property in East Jerusalem that had been taken by Jordan without having ownership transferred. [78] [80] Under this law, in 1972, the Israeli Custodian General registered the properties under the Jewish trusts which claimed to be the rightful owners of the land. [78] [86] The trusts then demanded that the tenants pay rent. Eviction orders began to be issued in the 1990s. [86] In 1982, the families allegedly agreed to recognise ownership of the Jewish trusts' claim to the land, which was then endorsed by the courts. They later said this agreement had been made without their knowledge, and disputed the original ownership claims by the Jewish trusts. [78] These challenges were rejected by Israeli courts. [78] Palestinian tenants say that Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the area since the land is outside Israel's recognized borders [87] this view is supported by the UN Human Rights Office. [78]

In 2003, the Jewish trusts sold the homes to a right-wing settler organization, which then made repeated attempts to evict the Palestinian residents. [84] [78] The company has submitted plans to build more than 200 housing units, which have not yet [ when? ] been approved by the government. [78] These groups succeeded in evicting 43 Palestinians from the area in 2002, and three more families since then. [34] In 2010, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected an appeal by Palestinian families who had resided in 57 housing units in the area of Sheikh Jarrah, who had petitioned the court to have their ownership to the properties recognized. [86] An Israeli court had previously ruled that the Palestinians could remain on the properties under a legal status called "protected tenants", but had to pay rent. The move to evict them came after they refused to pay rent and carried out construction. [88] In 2021 Israel's Supreme Court was expected to deliver a ruling on whether to uphold the eviction of six Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on 10 May 2021, after a court ruled that 13 families comprising 58 people had to vacate the properties by 1 August. [34] On 9 May 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court delayed the expected decision on evictions for 30 days, after an intervention from Attorney General of Israel Avichai Mandelblit. [42] On 26 May 2021, the court ordered Mandelblit to submit his legal opinion on the matter within two weeks. In a related case, the Jerusalem District Court is holding a hearing on appeals filed on behalf of seven families subject of eviction orders from the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan. [89] According to Haaretz, Mandelblit notified the court on 7 June that he would decline to present a view on the case [90] a new hearing date of 20 July was set. [91]

According to the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, this approach to property rights is unacceptable in international law. [86] The Jerusalem-based non-profit organization B'Tselem and the international Human Rights Watch cited discriminatory policies in East Jerusalem in recent reports, alleging that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Israel rejected the allegations. [92] [93] East Jerusalem is effectively annexed by Israel, and Israel applies its laws there. [34] [33] According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the area is a part of the Palestinian territories that Israel currently occupies. [33] United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel that evicting Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem is among the actions by both sides that could lead to "conflict and war." [94]

Political instability

The 2021 Palestinian legislative election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, originally scheduled for 22 May 2021, was indefinitely postponed on 29 April 2021 by President Mahmoud Abbas. [95] [96] [97] Hamas, which was expected to do well in the elections, called the move a "coup", [97] and some Palestinians believed Abbas had delayed the election to avoid political defeat for his party Fatah. [66] [98] [99] Analysts say the postponement contributed towards the current crisis, [38] and encouraged Hamas to resort to military confrontation rather than diplomatic tactics. [100] [101] [102] [103] Opinion pieces in NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy argued that by taking responsibility for the rocket fire, Hamas had improved its standing among Palestinians wary of the delayed elections. [104] [105] [106] [103]

In Israel, the 2019–2021 Israeli political crisis saw four inconclusive elections which left Israel functioning under a caretaker government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to persuade several extreme-right politicians to form a coalition. [107] [1] The presence of right-wing Israeli politicians Ben-Gvir and King contributed to the crisis. [107] The New York Times said Netanyahu was trying to instigate a crisis to build support for his leadership, and thus allowed tensions to rise in Jerusalem. [1] [108] An article in The Conversation dismissed this as "conspiratorial", arguing that although the crisis has given Netanyahu a political opportunity, he "was not looking or hoping for a major conflict with the Palestinians to help him hold onto power". [109]

Palestinian protests began on 6 May in Sheikh Jarrah, but clashes soon spread to the al-Aqsa Mosque, Lod, other Arab localities in Israel, and the West Bank. [32] Between 10 and 14 May Israeli security inflicted injuries on approximately 1,000 Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem. [26]

Sheikh Jarrah

Palestinians and Israeli settlers first clashed on 6 May in Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are at risk of being evicted. Palestinian protesters had been holding nightly outdoor iftars. On 6 May, Israeli settlers and members of the far-right political party Otzma Yehudit set up a table across the street from Palestinians. Social media videos showed both sides hurling rocks and chairs at each other. Israeli police intervened and arrested at least 7 people. [110] Israeli police subsequently engaged in extensive spraying of Sheikh Jarrah's Palestinian homes, shops, restaurants, public spaces and cultural institutions with Skunk, a lasting stench used to contain protests. [111]

Al-Aqsa Mosque

On 7 May, large numbers of police were deployed on the Temple Mount as around 70,000 worshippers attended the final Friday prayers of Ramadan at al-Aqsa. After the evening prayers, some Palestinian worshippers began throwing previously stockpiled rocks and other objects at Israeli police officers. Police officers fired stun grenades into the mosque compound, and into a field clinic. [38] [68] [112] A mosque spokesman stated the clashes broke out after Israeli police attempted to evacuate the compound, where many Palestinians sleep over in Ramadan, adding that the evacuation was intended to allow access to Israelis. [56] More than 300 Palestinians were wounded as Israeli police stormed the mosque compound. [113] [114] Palestinians threw rocks, firecrackers, and heavy objects, while Israeli police fired stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets at worshippers. [36] [56] [114] [115] The storming came ahead of a Jerusalem Day flag march by Jewish nationalists through the Old City. [114] [116] More than 600 Palestinians were injured, more than 400 of whom were hospitalised. [41] Militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel the following night. [38]

More clashes occurred on 8 May, the date of the Islamic holy night of Laylat al-Qadr. [117] Palestinian crowds threw stones, lit fires, and chanted "Strike Tel Aviv" and "In spirit and in blood, we will redeem al-Aqsa", which The Times of Israel described as in support of Hamas. [118] The Israel Police, wearing riot gear and some on horseback, used stun grenades and water cannons. [117] At least 80 people were injured. [117]

On 10 May, Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa for the second time, [119] injuring 300 Palestinians and 21 Israeli police. [41] According to the Red Crescent, 250 Palestinians were hospitalized for injuries and seven were in critical condition. [119]

Also on 10 May, a video showing a tree burning near al-Aqsa began to circulate on social media. Below in the Western plaza, a crowd of Jewish Israelis was singing and dancing in celebration of Jerusalem Day. Yair Wallach accused them of singing "genocidal songs of vengeance." The crowd cheered the flames with words from a song from Judges 16:28 in which Samson cries out before he tears down the pillars in Gaza, "O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!" [120] Witnesses differed as to whether the fire was caused by an Israeli police stun grenade or by fireworks thrown by Palestinian protesters. [121] Although the fire happened just 10 meters away from al-Aqsa, there was no damage to the mosque. [121]

West Bank

After Friday prayers on 14 May, Palestinians protested in more than 200 locations in the West Bank. Protesters hurled stones and Israeli soldiers responded with live fire and tear gas. [122] As a result, 11 Palestinians were killed in the clashes. [123] A Palestinian man who attempted to stab a soldier was shot, but survived no Israeli soldiers were wounded in the incident. More than 100 Palestinians were injured. [124] [125] There have been daily demonstrations since the escalation in Gaza. [126] As of 16 May, a total of 13 Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli troops by 14 May. [24] On 17 May, three Palestinian demonstrators were killed in clashes with the IDF. [127]

According to Al Arabiya, Fatah has backed a call for a general strike on 18 May in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Palestinians in Israel have been asked to take part. [128] In an unusual display of unity, [129] the strike went ahead and "shops were shuttered across cities in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and in villages and towns inside Israel". [130] During the day of protests and strikes, a Palestinian man was killed and more than 70 wounded in clashes near Ramallah and two Israeli soldiers were injured in a shooting attack. [127] Large crowds also gathered in Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron while police deployed water cannons in Sheikh Jarrah. [131]

Arab communities in Israel

During the evening and night of 10 May, Arab rioters in Lod threw stones and firebombs at Jewish homes, a school, and a synagogue, later attacking a hospital. Shots were fired at the rioters, killing one and wounding two a Jewish suspect in the shooting was arrested. [132]

Widespread protests and riots intensified across Israel, particularly in cities with large Arab populations. In Lod, rocks were thrown at Jewish apartments and some Jewish residents were evacuated from their homes by the police. Synagogues and a Muslim cemetery were vandalized. [133] A Jewish man was critically wounded after being struck in the head by a brick, and died six days later. [16] In Acre, the Effendi hotel was torched by Arab rioters, injuring several guests. One of them, Avi Har-Even, a former head of the Israel Space Agency, suffered burns and smoke inhalation, and died on 6 June. [17] [134] [135] In the nearby city of Ramle, Jewish rioters threw rocks at passing vehicles. [136] On 11 May, Mayor of Lod Yair Revivio urged Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to deploy the Israel Border Police to the city, stating that the municipality had "completely lost control" and warning that the country was on the brink of "civil war". [137] [138] Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in Lod on 11 May, marking the first time since 1966 that Israel has used emergency powers over an Arab community. Border Police forces were deployed to the city. A nighttime curfew was declared and entry to the city was prohibited for non-resident civilians. [136] [139] Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana announced the implementation of emergency orders. [139]

Unrest continued on 12 May. In Acre, a Jewish man was attacked and seriously injured by an Arab mob armed with sticks and stones while driving his car. In Bat Yam, Jewish extremists attacked Arab stores and beat pedestrians. An Arab motorist was pulled from his car and severely beaten in the street. The incident was caught live by an Israeli news crew. [140] [141]

As of 13 May, communal violence including "riots, stabbings, arson, attempted home invasions and shootings" was reported from Beersheba, Rahat, Ramla, Lod, Nasiriyah, Tiberias, Jerusalem, Haifa and Acre. [142] An Israeli soldier was severely beaten in Jaffa and hospitalized for a skull fracture and cerebral hemorrhage, a Jewish paramedic and another Jewish man were shot in separate incidents in Lod, a police officer was shot in Ramla, Israeli journalists were attacked by far-right rioters in Tel Aviv, and a Jewish family that mistakenly drove into Umm al-Fahm was attacked by an Arab mob before being rescued by other local residents and police. [143] Israel Border Police forces were deployed throughout the country to quell the unrest, and 10 Border Police reserve companies were called up. [144] In an address to police in Lod, Prime Minister Netanyahu told them not to worry about future commissions of inquiry and investigations into their enforcement during the riots, reminding them of the way the police had suppressed the Palestinian Land Day riots of 1976. [145] [146]

By 17 May, the rioting had mostly died down. [16] However, on 18 May, Israeli-Arabs, together with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, held a general strike in protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians. [147] Numerous employers threatened to fire Arab workers who participated in the strike. The management of Rambam Hospital in Haifa sent letters to their Arab employees warning against participating in the strike, and the Ministry of Education came under heavy criticism from teachers throughout Israel after it sent requests to the principals of schools in Arab towns asking for a list of teachers who participated in the strike. There were some instances of employees who participated in the strike being unlawfully dismissed without a prior hearing as required under Israeli law. [148] The Israeli telecommunications company Cellcom paused work for an hour as an act in support of coexistence. The move led to calls for a boycott of Cellcom among Israeli right-wingers who accused it of showing solidarity with the strike, and several Jewish settlement councils and right-wing organizations cut ties with it. Cellcom's stock subsequently dropped by two percent. [149]

Throughout the riots, Arab rioters set 10 synagogues and 112 Jewish homes on fire, looted 386 Jewish homes and damaged another 673, and set 849 Jewish cars on fire. There were also 5,018 recorded instances of stone-throwing against Jews. By contrast, Jewish rioters damaged 13 Arab homes and set 13 Arab cars on fire, and there were 41 recorded instances of stone-throwing against Arabs. One Arab home was set on fire by Arab rioters who mistook it for a Jewish home. [150] No mosques were set on fire and no Arab homes were reported looted during the unrest. [151] By 19 May, 1,319 people had been arrested for participating in the riots, of whom 159 were Jewish, and 170 people had been criminally charged over the riots, of whom 155 were Arab and 15 Jewish. [152] On 23 May, it was reported that 10% of those arrested over the riots were Jews, with the vast majority of those arrested being Arabs. [153] On 24 May, the police launched a sweeping operation to arrest rioters called Operation Law and Order, deploying thousands of police officers to carry out mass arrests of suspected rioters. By 25 May, over 1,550 people had been arrested. [154] On 3 June, the police announced the completion of arrests, of 2,142 arrested, 91% were Arab. [155]

Hamas delivered an ultimatum to Israel to remove all its police and military personnel from both the Haram al Sharif mosque site and Sheikh Jarrah by 10 May 6 p.m. If it failed to do so, they announced that the combined militias of the Gaza Strip ("joint operations room") would strike Israel. [43] [156] [157] Minutes after the deadline passed, [158] Hamas fired more than 150 rockets into Israel from Gaza. [159] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that seven rockets were fired toward Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh and that one was intercepted. [160] An anti-tank missile was also fired at an Israeli civilian vehicle, injuring the driver. [161] Israel launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip on the same day. [162] Hamas called the ensuing conflict the "Sword of Jerusalem Battle." [163] The following day, the IDF officially dubbed the campaign in the Gaza Strip "Operation Guardian of the Walls." [164]

On 11 May, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets at Ashdod and Ashkelon, killing two people and wounding more than 90 others. [161] [165] [166] A third Israeli woman from Rishon LeZion was also killed, [167] while two more civilians from Dahmash were killed by a rocket attack. [168]

On 11 May, the 13-story residential Hanadi Tower in Gaza collapsed after being hit by an Israeli airstrike. [169] [170] The tower housed a mix of residential apartments and commercial offices. [171] IDF said the building contained offices used by Hamas, and said it gave "advance warning to civilians in the building and provided sufficient time for them to evacuate the site" [170] Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 137 rockets at Tel Aviv in five minutes. Hamas stated that they fired their "largest ever barrage." [172] In addition, an Israeli state-owned oil pipeline was hit by a rocket. [173]

On 12 May, the Israeli Air Force destroyed dozens of police and security installations along the Gaza Strip Hamas said its police headquarters were among the targets destroyed. [174] Over 850 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel on 12 May. [175] According to the IDF, at least 200 rockets launched by Hamas failed to reach Israel, and fell inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas also struck an Israeli military jeep near the Gaza border with an anti-tank missile. An Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded in the attack. [176] [177] [178]

On 13 May, Israeli forces and militant groups in Gaza continued to exchange artillery fire and airstrikes. Hamas attempted to deploy suicide drones against Israeli targets, with an Israeli F-16 engaging and shooting down one such drone. [179] The Iron Dome intercepted many of the rockets fired at Israel. [180] A series of Israeli strikes targeted the headquarters of Hamas' internal security forces, its central bank, and the home of a senior Hamas commander. [181] On 14 May, Israel Defense Forces claimed to have troops on the ground and in the air attacking the Gaza Strip, [182] although this claim was later retracted and followed with an apology for misleading the press. Israeli troops were reportedly told that they would be sent into Gaza and ground forces were reportedly positioned along the border as though they were preparing to launch an invasion. [183] That same day, the Israeli Air Force launched a massive bombardment of Hamas' extensive underground tunnel network, which was known as "the metro", as well as above-ground positions, reportedly inflicting heavy casualties. It was suspected that the reports of an Israeli ground invasion had been a deliberate ruse to lure Hamas operatives into the tunnels and prepared positions above ground to confront Israeli ground forces so that large numbers could then be killed by airstrikes. According to an Israeli official, the attacks killed hundreds of Hamas personnel, and in addition, 20 Hamas commanders were assassinated and most of its rocket production capabilities were destroyed. However, the estimated Hamas death toll was revised to dozens, as information came out that senior Hamas commanders had doubted that the ruse was genuine and only a few dozen Hamas fighters took positions in the tunnels. [184] [100] [185] [186] In total, 160 Israeli Air Force aircraft fired 450 missiles at 150 targets, with the attacks lasting about 40 minutes. [187] [188] Also on 14 May, a Hamas drone was downed by Israeli air defense forces. [189]

On 15 May the IDF destroyed the al-Jalaa Building in Gaza, which housed Al Jazeera and Associated Press journalists, and a number of other offices and apartments. [190] [191] [192] [193] The building was hit by three missiles, approximately an hour after Israeli forces called the building's owner, warning of the attack and advising all occupants to evacuate. [192] [193] [194] The press agencies demanded an explanation the IDF said at the time that the building housed assets of Hamas military intelligence. [193] [194] [195] [196] [197] On 8 June Israel said that the building was being used by Hamas to develop an electronic system to jam Iron Dome. AP demanded proof of this Hamas did not immediately make any comment. Israel said that they did not suspect that AP personnel knew of Hamas's use of the building, and offered to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza. [198]

The Israeli Air Force carried out another large-scale series of raids against Hamas' tunnel network on 17 May, bombing over 15 kilometers of underground passages, with 54 Israeli jets dropping 110 bombs. The homes of nine Hamas commanders and a home used by Hamas' military intelligence branch were also bombed. [199]

During the fighting, Hamas militants with anti-tank guided missiles repeatedly took positions in apartments and behind dunes. These teams were identified by IDF reconnaissance units and subsequently destroyed in pinpoint attacks. [200] At least 20 such teams were destroyed by Israeli air and ground forces. [201] On 20 May, a Hamas anti-tank missile attack on an IDF bus lightly wounded one soldier. The attack came moments after a group of 10 soldiers had disembarked from the bus. [202]

In addition, the IDF sank Hamas' fleet of small unmanned submarines designed to explode under or near Israeli naval vessels or oil and gas drilling rigs. [184] Hamas tried repeatedly to attack Israel's Tamar gas field. [203] At two least attempts to launch attacks with autonomous submarines were intercepted. [201] In one instance, a Hamas team was spotted launching the submarine. An Israeli navy vessel destroyed the submarine while it was still close to the shore and the Israeli Air Force subsequently attacked the team which launched it. [204]

By the end of the campaign, over 4,360 rockets and mortar shells had been fired at southern and central Israel, an average of 400 per day. [201] [57] About 3,400 successfully crossed the border while 680 fell in Gaza and 280 fell into the sea. [201] [57] [205] The Iron Dome shot down 1,428 rockets detected as heading toward populated areas, an interception rate of 95 percent. [206] Some 60–70 rockets hit populated areas after the Iron Dome failed to intercept them. [57] The attacks killed 6 Israeli civilians, among them a 5-year-old boy and two Israeli-Arabs, as well as three foreign nationals working in Israel: an Indian woman working as a caregiver in Ashkelon and two Thai workers who were killed when the packing house of a community in southern Israel close to the Gaza border took a direct hit. Three other Israeli civilians including an 87-year-old woman died from injuries sustained after they fell while running to bomb shelters during attacks. [207] [208] [209]

The IDF estimated that it destroyed 850 rockets in strikes on the Gaza Strip and also severely degraded local rocket manufacturing capabilities in strikes on about three dozen rocket production centers. In addition, Israel assassinated numerous Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders with airstrikes. Nearly 30 senior Hamas commanders were assassinated by the IDF during the campaign. Israel's ability to locate senior commanders to such an extent indicated extensive Israeli intelligence penetration of Hamas' ranks. [210] [211] [201] [183]

In three instances, Hamas attempted to launch cross-border raids into Israel to kill or kidnap soldiers and civilians, utilizing tunnels that approached but did not cross into Israeli territory to enable its fighters to get close. All of these attacks were foiled. In one instance, a group of Hamas fighters were struck before entering a tunnel and in two other instances the groups were targeted while in the tunnels. A total of 18 Hamas fighters were killed. The IDF also claimed that seven Hamas drones that crossed into Israeli airspace were shot down, including at least one by an Iron Dome battery. [201] An Israeli drone was also accidentally shot down by an Iron Dome battery. [212]

According to Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur, Israel systematically thwarted Hamas' tactical innovations and destroyed the military infrastructure it had prepared for a future war, which proved "ineffective or outright useless". [210]

The United Nations said that more than 72,000 Palestinians had been internally displaced, sheltering mostly at 48 UNRWA schools in Gaza. [213] [30] After the ceasefire, less than 1,000 displaced Palestinians were sheltering in UNRWA schools, down from a peak of around 66,000. [214]

UNWRA discovered a cavity 7.5 metres under one of its two schools in Gaza that had been damaged by Israeli air strikes. The structure had neither an exit from or entry into the school's premises, and the organization strongly condemned both the IDF and the Palestinians responsible for building the tunnel. [215]

Lebanon and Syria

On 13 May at least three rockets were fired from the coastal area of Qlaileh just South of the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh in the Southern Lebanese district of Tyre across the Israeli–Lebanese border, according to the IDF, landing in the Mediterranean Sea. Hezbollah denied responsibility for the rocket launches and Lebanese Army troops were deployed to the area around the refugee camp, finding several rockets there. [216]

On 14 May, dozens of Lebanese demonstrated on the Israel-Lebanon border in solidarity with the Palestinians. A small group of demonstrators cut through the border fence and crossed into Israel, setting fires near Metulla. IDF troops fired at them, killing one who was later identified as a member of Hezbollah. Another was wounded and later died of his injuries. [217] [218] [28] That evening, three rockets were fired from Syria, while two of them hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but fell in uninhabited places. [219] [220] [221] The following day, Lebanese demonstrators damaged the border fence with Molotov cocktails and other items. [217]

On 17 May, six rockets were fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel but the rockets failed to cross the Lebanese-Israeli border. The Israeli military responded by firing artillery shells across the border in the direction of the rocket fire. No one was injured in the incident. [222]

The IDF said that on 19 May four rockets were fired from near Siddikine village in the Tyre District of Southern Lebanon towards Haifa. One was intercepted, another landed in an open area, and the remaining two fell into the sea. The Israeli army responded with artillery fire. [223]

Thirteen people were killed in Israel, [10] including two children, one Indian woman [13] and two Thai men living and working in Israel. [224] By May 18, the Magen David Adom ambulance service had treated 114 injuries directly related to rocket attacks, and another 198 indirectly related to rocket attacks. [12]

After the ceasefire, UN and Gaza Health Ministry sources stated that 256 Palestinians had been killed, [19] [20] including 66 children and 40 women, and almost 2,000 wounded, of whom over 600 were children, and 400 women. [20] Four of the killed women were pregnant. [60] Israel claimed that of those killed at least 225 were militants, [2] while according to Hamas 80 Palestinian fighters were killed. [21] One of the children killed was claimed by a militant group to be a member of its Al-Mujahideen Brigades. [163]

According to Israel, approximately 640 Palestinian rockets fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip, resulting in casualties. [225] [3] [226] It is disputed whether some of the first victims on 10 May died as a result of an Israeli airstrike or an errant Palestinian rocket. [41] [227]

According to Amira Hass, 15 Israeli strikes have targeted individual family dwellings, causing multiple deaths among members of the 15 families living there. [228] When the ceasefire came into effect, the Palestinian National Authority set the number of entire families killed at 20, and announced it will lodge a complaint at the International Court of Justice for "war crimes" in that regard. [229] Palestinian journalist Yusuf Abu Hussein was killed in an Israeli airstrike in his home on 19 May, prompting outcry from the International Federation of Journalists. [230] An Israeli airstrike on 20 May killed a disabled Palestinian man, his pregnant wife, and their three-year-old daughter. [231] A later investigation found that Hamas militants had built a military structure inside a Palestinian elementary school. [232]

A Hamas commander, identified as Mohammed Abdullah Fayyad, as well as three high-ranking Islamic Jihad commanders were also killed. Another Hamas member was killed on 11 May. The deaths of the five commanders were confirmed by official statements of both the groups. The deaths of other militants are suspected but not confirmed. [233] [234] [227] Bassem Issa, a top Hamas commander, was killed. [235] [236]

In a study that monitored 29,000 incidents from 123 countries, calculations for the last decade rank Gaza in 9th place among cities where civilians are killed or injured by explosive weaponry. Gaza was the ninth most affected territory in terms of numbers. In 764 incidents of explosions, some 5,700 civilian casualties died, 90 percent of the total. This puts it in second place worldwide among the cities affected by bombing in terms of the proportion between civilians and militants killed. [237]

On 18 May, Egypt pledged $500 million in efforts to rebuild Gaza after the missile strikes. [238] Qatar likewise pledged $500 million. [239]

Medical facilities and personnel

Hamas has been accused by Israel of using medical facilities to cover its activities. The Ministry of Health is run by the Hamas government, and wounded soldiers are often treated in civilian hospitals. As of 17 May, the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have caused the following damage, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

  • 4 hospitals run by Gaza's ministry of health, including the Indonesian and Beit Hanoun hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • 2 hospitals run by NGOs
  • 2 clinics, one run by Médecins Sans Frontières, and one, the Hala al-Shawa clinic, in disuse at the time.
  • 1 health centre
  • 1 Palestine Red Crescent Society facility. [240]
  • Dr Moein Ahmad al-Aloul (66), a leading Gaza neurologist, killed when his house in the Rimal quarter collapsed after an Israeli strike on shops on the building's ground level. His 5 children were also killed in the strike. [241]
  • Dr Ayman Abu al-Auf, the Al-Shifa Hospital's head of internal medicine and director of Gaza's COVID-19 response, killed by falling rubble after a strike on al-Wehda Street, a controversial strike that killed over 40 people. 12 members of his extended family were also killed. [240][242]

By 18 May, seventeen hospitals and clinics in Gaza had suffered damage, according to The New York Times. [243]

The Israeli strike on the Rimal clinic also shut down the only COVID-19 laboratory in the Strip, rendering further screening for the pandemic impossible. [244] [243]


According to a post-ceasefire UNOCHA estimate,

  • 1,042 housing and commercial units, spread over 258 buildings, were destroyed
  • 769 further units suffered severe damage.
  • 53 schools were damaged
  • 6 hospitals and 11 clinics were damaged. [45]
  • The IDF claimed it had destroyed 60 miles of Hamas's underground tunnel system, nicknamed the Metro. [45]


3,424 claims of compensation for property damage have been filed by Israelis as a result of the fighting: 1,724 related to damage to motor vehicles. [45]

China, Norway and Tunisia requested a public United Nations Security Council meeting for 14 May while the United States objected. The council has met privately twice but has not been able to agree on a statement over United States objections.

On 12 May, it was announced that Hady Amr, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs and Press and Public Diplomacy, would be sent to the region "immediately." [245] Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations showed no sign of progress. [246] Amr arrived in Tel Aviv for discussions on how to achieve a "sustainable calm" ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting on 16 May. [196]

On 13 May, Hamas made a proposal for a ceasefire, stating that it was prepared to halt attacks on a 'mutual basis'. Netanyahu informed his cabinet that Israel had rejected the overture. [61] On 13 May, U.S. President Joe Biden held telephone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden stated that "Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory." [247]

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire, "out of respect for the spirit of Eid", making reference to Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic festival which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. [248]

On 16 May, Biden held telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Mahmoud Abbas. [249]

Following the third UN Security Council emergency meeting in a week, the United States used its veto power to block a proposed statement drafted by China, Norway, and Tunisia and supported by the other 14 members of the council. No vote was held on the statement. The draft statement called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and condemned the violence in Gaza [241] [250] it urged all parties, especially Israel, to use restraint, [250] but made no mention of the rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. [251]

On 18 May, the Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias becomes the first European official to visit Israel and Palestine, followed by a visit to Jordan, in consultation with France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the United States as part of the efforts for brokering a ceasefire between the two parties, [252] while France announced the filing of a resolution with the UN Security Council calling for a cease-fire, in coordination with Egypt and Jordan. [62] The resolution could be circulated as soon as 19 May. Security Council press and presidential statements require approval of all 15 members while resolutions do not. [62]

On 19 May, Biden held a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing to his Israeli counterpart that "he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire." [253] [254] Furthermore, multiple news sources announced that the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas intends to travel to Israel, and possibly the Palestinian territories on 20 May to discuss the escalating conflict. [255] [256] On 20 May, the foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia visited Israel to express support and solidarity with Israel. [257]

Israel and Hamas agreed to cease hostilities from 20 May. [258] [259] A ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations between Israel and Hamas was enacted at around 2:00 AM on 21 May 2021, ending 11 days of fighting. The final proposal by Egypt was voted on by the Israeli cabinet and was unanimously approved, and Hamas also indicated their acceptance of the peace deal. Other than a minor skirmish at Al-Aqsa Mosque, there were no substantive violations of the ceasefire throughout the day on 21 May. In the hours before the Egypt-brokered deal, Biden had spoken with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about brokering such a deal. Biden later described the deal as "mutual" and "unconditional" and expressed his belief that both sides deserved to live in safety. Both sides claimed victory in the conflict. [2] [260] The truce tentatively concluded the fourth war between Israel and the Islamist militant group since 2008. [261]


Just hours after the ceasefire came into effect, what the New York Times described as a 'small skirmish', [262] in which 20 Palestinians were reportedly wounded, and 16 arrested, [263] [264] between Israeli police and Palestinians took place just outside the Al Aqsa mosque. The incident occurred after noon prayers, when most of the tens of thousands of worshipers had left the site. A few in the remaining group waved Palestinian flags Israeli police entered to confiscate the flags and disperse the crowd. The Israeli version is that hundreds of Palestinians threw stones and firebombs on the arrival of the Israeli police. The Palestinian version is that the violence erupted only when the police entered the compound. [264]

On 22 May, according to an Egyptian diplomat, two teams of Egyptian mediators were in Israel and the Palestinian territories with the intent to "firm up" the cease-fire deal and to secure a long-term calm. [265] Blinken planned to visit Israel and the West Bank on 26–27 May with the same idea. [266] The UN security council finally released an agreed statement calling for full adherence to the truce and stressing the immediate need for humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians while reiterating the need for a 2-state solution. The statement made no reference to Hamas. [267] [268]

After international pressure was applied, on 23 May Israel agreed to permit the transfer of food and medical supplies furnished by the United Nations and Physicians for Human Rights, aid workers, and journalists into the Gaza Strip, but on 24 May refused transfer. [269] On 25 May, coinciding with a state visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel, aid was permitted to enter the strip. [270]

At the end of May Hamas said it would begin launching rockets again if the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah were allowed to go ahead a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court was expected within a month. [78] UNHCR was to investigate "systematic discrimination and repression" in Israel and Palestine to identify the root causes of the crisis. [271]

Amid continuing communal tension and protest, the Israeli police force said it had arrested 348 suspects in late May as it rounded up alleged participants in the unrest, confirming reports from human rights organisation Adalah which said at least 200 Palestinians in Israel had been arrested that week, and described the raids as a way to "intimidate and exact revenge". [272]

On 5 June, at Sheikh Jarrah, border police forcefully detained an Al Jazeera reporter wearing body armor marked "press". Israeli police said the journalist was detained after she was asked for identification, refused and pushed a police officer. [273] On 6 June Israeli police detained Muna al-Kurd. Her father told reporters that the 23-year-old activist was detained after police raided their home in Sheikh Jarrah and said that the police also delivered a notice ordering her twin brother Mohammed El-Kurd to surrender himself to authorities. He and his sister are running a social media campaign against the expulsions of Palestinians from their homes. [274] [275] The pair were later released. [276]

Efforts to broker a longer-term truce between Israel and Hamas followed a day of escalating tensions on 15 June after a new Israeli government allowed a scaled down and rerouted march by far-right Israelis through the city, with dozens chanting "Death to Arabs". Gaza militants sent several incendiary balloons into Israel, causing 26 fires, and Israeli aircraft struck military posts in Gaza. Some reconstruction material has begun to enter Gaza through Egypt but Israel is currently limiting what can arrive through its crossing points and blocked the supply of financial aid from Qatar. Israel and Hamas disagree on whether to include a prisoner swap as part of any stronger cease-fire deal. "The U.N. is in contact with all relevant parties on matters related to the cessation of hostilities,"said Tor Wennesland, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. "This has been going on for a while and will continue with the view of having some arrangements put in place that could stabilize the situation. This is still a work in progress with more to be done." [277]

Israeli and Palestinian reactions

On 9 May 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court delayed the expected decision on evictions for 30 days, after an intervention from Attorney General of Israel Avichai Mandelblit. [42] Israel Police also banned Jews from going to the al-Aqsa plaza for Jerusalem Day festivities. [278] [279] On 10 May, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing, including for humanitarian aid. [280] Due to rocket fire on 11 May, the Israel Airports Authority briefly halted air travel. [281]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the actions of the Israeli police and said that Israel "shall not allow any radical element to undermine the calm." He also said "we firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem." [282] Israeli officials asked the Biden administration not to intervene in the situation. [283]

On 10 May 2021, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, issued a statement that the "brutal storming and assault on worshipers in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards is a new challenge to the international community." [284]

On two separate occasions, Christian groups in Jerusalem issued statements commenting on the outbreak of hostilities. Kairos Palestine attributed the uprising to deprivations suffered, and called for the recognition of the rights of everyone as the only way to break the cycle of destruction. A joint declaration on 7 May, signed by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic Patriarchs of the city, together with prominent Heads of Churches of Jerusalem - who had all earlier expressed deep concern for Israeli plans under radical settler pressure to annex unilaterally West Bank land- blamed the growing tensions 'mainly' on the destabilizing effects of right-wing settler groups on the fragile realities of Jerusalem. Their denunciation was followed up by a similar statement issued on 12 May by the Middle East Council of Churches, representing 28 denominations in the area. [285] [286] [287]

Israel's Minister for Public Security Amir Ohana called for the release of the Israeli man arrested for the shooting of an Arab in Lod, arguing without providing evidence that the suspect was acting in self-defense and law-abiding citizens bearing arms assist the authorities. According to a Guardian report, the statement seemed to encourage mob violence. [61]

A spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad said that Israel "started the aggression on Jerusalem. If this aggression does not end, there is no point to diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire." [288] Hamas gave an ultimatum to the Israeli government, saying if they did not remove forces from the mosque by 2 a.m. on 11 May, then they would conduct another rocket strike. [289]

Netanyahu convened an emergency security meeting on 11 May, and schools in several parts of Israel were closed. [290] Israeli president Reuven Rivlin condemned the riots in Lod, describing them as a pogrom. [291]

The New York Times Has An Israel Problem

The New York Times has for the last 40 years – roughly, ever since the execrable Tom Friedman began reporting “from Beirut to Jerusalem” — become ever more anti-Israel, in its biased reporting, in its Israel-calumniating columnists, in its scolding editorials, in the articles it puts on the opinion page from outside contributors who find fault always and everywhere with the colonial-settler state of Israel. Recently the paper has increased its near-daily dose of venom Prof. Jerold Auerbach examines three examples of anti-Israel bias here: “Fantasies of Israel’s Disappearance,” Algemeiner, May 21, 2021:

Just when it seems that The New York Times might finally set aside, at least for the moment, its unrelenting obsession with Israeli “occupation” of “Palestinian” land, it falls into the same anti-Israel rut that has long framed its discomfort with the Jewish state. Sometimes in bits and pieces, other times in columns by its own journalists or outside contributors, the consensus invariably is to blame Israel first.

So it was in its May 21 edition. In his front-page article, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Patrick Kingsley revealed his obsession with Israeli “occupation” of the “West Bank” (its Biblical homeland of Judea and Samaria). Seemingly unknown to him, that label referred to Jordan’s occupation of territory west of the Jordan River between 1948 and 1967. So it remained until Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War restored the land Biblically identified as Judea and Samaria to the Jewish state. Kingsley seems either oblivious to that history or determined to disregard it.

Apparently Patrick Kingsley believes that the correct toponym for that area west of the Jordan River that the Jordanians seized in 1948 is “the West Bank,” while “Judea and Samaria” are used only by wild-eyed Israeli settlers trying to convince the world — just imagine! – that the territory in question has a long historical link to the Jews. Actually, it is “the West Bank” that is the toponymic usurper, for the term “West Bank” only came to be used in 1950, when the Jordanians decided that, in order to sever the Jewish connection to the land, that area would henceforth be known as “the West Bank.” Kingsley might have enlightened his readers with a short history lesson, letting them know that there is a historical precedent for this renaming of Judea and Samaria as the “West Bank” by Jordan. After the Bar Kochba revolt was suppressed in 135 A.D., the Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the Roman province of “Judea” to “Syria Palaestina” or “Palestinian Syria,” which then was shortened to “Palestine.” Hadrian had wanted to sever the Jewish connection to the land by eliminating “Judea” and substituting “Palestine.” The Romans did not succeed in effacing the place names Judea and Samaria, that were in the Bible and thus were in continuous use in the Western world for more than 1800 years — until Jordan rechristened the area as the “West Bank” and most of the world cravenly went along with that name change. How many people today think it is Israel that is being unreasonable and aggressive – those colonial-settlers! – by insisting on calling that area “Judea and Samaria” instead of by its “correct” name, the one that Jordan concocted only in 1950, “the West Bank.”

In a companion article Lara Jakes, diplomatic correspondent for the Times Washington bureau, ignores a different reality. She refers to “more than 5.7 million Palestinian refugees” who receive financial aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA). The agency is a scam there are only an estimated 30,000 actual Palestinian refugees still alive. But their descendants, unto eternity it seems, will continue to be labeled “refugees” so that UNRWA employees will continue to have jobs and Israel can perpetually be blamed (in the Times) for the Palestinian “refugee” problem. Recognizing the scam, the Trump administration halted lavish UNRWA funding but, predictably, President Joe Biden has restored it.

Lara Jakes should not have uncritically accepted the notion that there are “5.7 million Palestinian refugees,” but rather, taken the time to explain to readers that UNRWA simply decided, on its own, to treat the status of “Palestinian refugee” as an inheritable trait, so that the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, world without end, of he original refugees, are also regarded as “Palestinian refugees” themselves. She could have noted that no other group of refugees – there have been tens of millions since World War II — is similarly privileged, and no one at the U.N. has ever questioned why this special dispensation should exist for the Palestinians alone. These “5.7 million Palestinian refugees” are entitled to receive the full panoply of benefits — housing, education, medical care, family allowances – that UNRWA, largely funded by the West, supplies in such abundance. The true figure for the “Palestinian refugees” – that is, those who actually left Mandatory Palestine/Israel in the period 1947-1949 – is 30,000, and those numbers decrease every year, while the UNRWA rolls constantly increase, as each new generation of pseudo-refugees is born. Jakes might have tried to make her readers aware of this unique definition by UNRWA of “Palestinian refugees” as including all the descendants, no matter how many generations removed, of the original refugees. Instead of accepting, without comment, UNRWA’s figure of “5.7 million Palestinian refugees,” she might have tried to make her readers think about the matter, and whether such privileged treatment of that one group of “refugees” is justified. But that would take thought. How much easier to simply repeat what others have been saying.

The centerpiece of the Times trifecta of criticism of Israel was a column by Yousef Munayyer, identified as “a writer and scholar at the Arab Center in Washington, DC” Munayyer — born in the city of Lod, a site of intense fighting during Israel’s War of Independence — grew up in New Jersey and (like the renowned Palestinian advocate Edward Said) became a staunch advocate from the land of the United States for presumed Palestinian rights in the Land of Israel.

As Munayyer sees it, the Hamas-initiated Gaza war represents the Palestinian goal of “breaking free from the shackles of Israel’s system of oppression.” These “shackles” include “the impending expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.” The only problem (ignored by Munayyer) is that these homes are not theirs in 2008 the Israel Supreme Court affirmed that the property is owned by the Sephardi Jewish community, which purchased it more than a century ago.

What “system of oppression” by Israel is there in Gaza? No Israelis are in the Strip the last Israelis pulled out in 2004. Israel provides Gaza with electricity and with three billion gallons of water yearly. Like Egypt, Israel does blockade certain materials from entering Gaza — not food or medicine, but only those that have a military use, including the building of tunnels. It is Hamas itself that oppresses the people of Gaza. It is Hamas that threatens, imprisons, and even murders, any who dissent from its despotic rule. It is Hamas leaders who have stolen so much of the aid money meant for the people of Gaza. Just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have amassed fortunes of at least $2.5 billion each, while there are also 600 upper-echelon Hamas millionaires living in villas in the Strip. About that oppression of the Palestinians by Hamas, Youssef Munayyer has nothing to say.

As for the “impending expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in…Sheikh Jarrah,” what Munayyer dishonestly describes as “their homes” are in fact properties which Israeli courts have repeatedly concluded belong to Jewish owners, who not only have the deeds to prove their ownership, but also the testimony of the squatters themselves, who have admitted to not owning the properties in which they now live.

Grounded in this false claim, Munayyer writes: “Palestinians across the land who identified with the experience of being dispossessed by Israel rose up, together.” In translation, Palestinians were justified in pursuing their false claim of property ownership with waves of violence in Jerusalem and a cascade of rockets from Gaza. Palestinian defiance, especially in Gaza where Arabs are “caged and besieged,” exposed the “ugliness” of Israeli rule. The only problem is that Israel does not rule Gaza Hamas does, and bears full responsibility for launching waves of rockets — against Israel.

Munayyer seems to favor the (preposterous) goal of “equal rights in a single state if the two-state solution fails.” But the two-state solution has failed because Palestinians have repeatedly rejected it, preferring the disappearance of Israel, by war if necessary. The alternative, for Munayyer, is another fantasy: “equal rights in a single state.” That would only require Israel to relinquish its identity as the Jewish state that it is, and always will be — a state, he fails to notice, where twenty per cent of its population are Arab citizens.

As Auerbach notes, every proposal for a so-called “two-state solution” that Israel has made has been rejected unceremoniously by the Palestinians. In 2000, Ehud Barak offered Yassir Arafat almost the entire West Bank, but Arafat wanted it all, wanted Israel to agree to be squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines he walked out. In 2008 Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas 95% of the West Bank, as well as part of Israel as territorial compensation, and even agreed to put the Old City of Jerusalem under international control. Just like Arafat with Barak, Mahmoud Abbas simply walked out.

But even a two-state “paradigm,” Munayyer suggests, is “dead.” Why? Because, predictably, “Israel buried it under settlements long ago.” In the end Munayyer is the perfect New York Times advocate for the disappearance of the world’s only Jewish state. Not coincidentally, it is located in the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

There are many versions of the “two-state solution,” ranging from those that would require Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines, to the Trump proposal, according to which Israel would retain 30% of the West Bank but would, in compensation, give up two enclaves of land on the Negev border that would be included in the Palestinian state. If the “two-state paradigm” (not “solution”) is dead, it’s because the Palestinians have refused to accept any of the offers made so far, or even to negotiate on the basis of those offers. Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank (a/k/a Judea and Samaria) is entirely licit under international law. The League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine delineated the area to be included in the future Jewish National Home it included all the land from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west. Jordan’s seizure of the West Bank in 1948 did not deprive Israel of its right and title to Judea and Samaria Jordan for 19 years (1948-1967) was merely the “military occupier” its claim to sovereignty was recognized by only two countries, the United Kingdom and Pakistan. When Israel won the West Bank in the Six-Day War, this victory did not create a new right, but allowed the Jewish state to exercise its pre-existing right, under the Mandate, to that territory. Israel has long shown its willingness to give up territory for the sake of peace. It returned the entire Sinai to Egypt, comprising fully 87% of the territory Israel won in the Six-Day War. It removed all of its citizens from Gaza in 2004. It has shown a willingness to agree to the Trump plan, according to which it would not only give up 70% of Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the “West Bank’), to a Palestinian state, while retaining 30%, either for security reasons, like the Jordan Valley, or because there are other compelling reasons, historical, religious, and demographic, for retaining them. Given that there are now half-a-million Israelis living in the West Bank, those living in the major settlement blocs will not be uprooted. Israelis vividly remember the national trauma over the removal of 9,000 Jews from Gaza in 2004 and have no desire to repeat that experience. In addition to giving the Palestinians 70% of the West Bank, Israel was willing, under the Trump plan, to give the Palestinians two large enclaves of land inside Israel that would compensate them for the 30% of the West Bank Israel would retain. Yet Mahmoud Abbas refused even to look at the plan.

For Munayyer, the two-state solution is “dead” because it “was buried under the settlements.” He is refusing to recognize Israel’s claim, according to the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine, to all of the land on which those “settlements” have been built. He insists that the settlements are obstacles to any “two-state solution” and therefore would have to be removed if such a “solution” is to be found. The necessary condition precedent for a “solution” would be, according to Munayyer, one where those half-million Israelis are removed from the West Bank, and Israel is again squeezed within the 1949 armistice lines, with a nine-mile wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea.

Munayyer now seems to favor the (preposterous) goal of “equal rights in a single state if the two-state solution fails.” Apparently he thinks Israeli Jews would be willing to live in a single state, consisting – as of this year — of 6.9 million Jews and slightly more than 6 million Arabs (2.16 million in the West Bank, 2 million in Israel, and 1.9 million in the Gaza Strip). Given the higher fertility rate – though it has, admittedly, gone down dramatically – of Palestinian Arab women as compared to Jewish women, and also given the likelihood that the Arabs in this “one state” would use their political power to bring in other Palestinian Arabs exercising their “right of return,” Israeli Jews might within a few years become a minority in their own homeland, and what was always supposed to be the only Jewish state could instead become, if Yousef Munayyer were to get his way, the 23rd Arab one.

Fortunately, the Israelis are not – and never will be — in the mood to commit national suicide. There is still a reasonable, carefully crafted, and spectacularly generous offer still available for the Palestinian Arabs (who would be provided not only with land for their state equal in area to 100% of the West Bank, but with a $50 billion aid package as well) to accept — the Trump administration’s “Peace-To-Prosperity” plan, ready to be acted upon.

Strike From Gaza Kills 2 as Israel Topples 6-story Building

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip—A strike launched from Gaza killed two Thai workers inside a packaging plant in southern Israel on Tuesday, police said, hours after Israeli airstrikes toppled a six-story building in the Palestinian territory.

With the war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, Palestinians across Israel and in the West Bank went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies. The general strike could further widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the West Bank last week.

Roads leading out of Palestinian towns were blocked in the morning to prevent those who wanted to go to work from leaving.

Since the fighting began last week, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes it says are targeting Hamas’ militant infrastructure, while Palestinian militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets from civilian areas in Gaza at civilian targets in Israel.

An Israeli soldier inspects damage to an apartment in a residential building after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashdod, southern Israel, on May 17, 2021. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo)

The latest attack from Gaza on Tuesday hit a packaging plant in a region bordering the territory. In addition to the two people killed, who were in their 30s, Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service said it transported another seven wounded people to the hospital.

Israel continued its airstrikes into Gaza, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs in its attack on the six-story building that housed bookstores and educational centers used by the Islamic University and other colleges. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.

Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time, sending them fleeing into the predawn darkness, and there were no reports of casualties.

“The whole street started running, then destruction, an earthquake,” said Jamal Herzallah, a resident of the area. “This whole area was shaking.”

Since 2012, Hamed al-Ijla had run a training center in the building, teaching first aid, hospital management and other skills to thousands of students. The only things remaining were a pile of red first aid bags, medical coats wrapped in plastic and one box of surgical gloves.

When the war is over, “I will set up a tent across the street and resume work,” he said.

Heavy fighting broke out on May 10 when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families who refuse to pay rent in a long running legal dispute on property Jewish settlers purchased in the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire.

At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks.

A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-story building that was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, on May 18, 2021. (Khalil Hamra/AP Photo) A top view shows the remains of a six-story building that was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, on May 18, 2021. (Khalil Hamra/AP Photo)

The fighting is the most intense since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but efforts to halt it have so far stalled.

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel, and water are running low in Gaza.

Palestinians in Israel, east Jerusalem, and the West Bank observed a general strike Tuesday. Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20 percent of its population. Life had already ground to a halt in Gaza when the fighting began.

The strike was intended to protest the Gaza war and call for the protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel called the strike, which was backed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where ministries and schools were closed. Most businesses appeared to be observing the strike, although Palestinians who wanted to go to work were prevented from leaving Palestinian towns in the morning to enforce compliance with the strike.

The war has also seen an unusual outbreak of violence in Israel, with groups of Jewish and Palestinian citizens fighting in the streets and torching vehicles and buildings. In both Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli forces.

The Israeli military said Tuesday it fired at 65 militant targets, including rocket launchers, a group of fighters, and the homes of Hamas commanders that the army said were being used for military purposes. It said more than 60 fighter jets took part in the operation.

The military said it also shot down a drone “approaching the Israeli border” in the northeast, far from the Gaza fighting. It did not say where the unmanned aircraft originated, but it’s possible the drone came from Syria.

The military said Palestinian militants fired 90 rockets, 20 of which fell short into Gaza. Israel says its missile defenses have intercepted about 90 percent of the rockets.

Israel’s airstrikes have brought down several buildings and caused widespread damage in the narrow coastal territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed in the fighting, while Israel says the number is at least 160 and has released the names of and photos of more than two dozen militant commanders it says were “eliminated.”

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and entirely destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said in a new report. Nearly half of all essential drugs in the territory have run out.

A man inspects the rubble of a destroyed commercial building and Gaza health care clinic following an Israeli airstrike on the upper floors of a commercial building near the Health Ministry in Gaza City, on May 17, 2021. (Adel Hana/AP Photo)

It said the bombing of key roads, including those leading to the main Shifa Hospital, has hindered the movement of ambulances and supply vehicles. Over 41,000 displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in UN schools in Gaza, which was already struggling to cope with a coronavirus outbreak. Gaza is also running low on fuel for its electricity supply and water.

Israel has vowed to press on with its operations, and the United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

“We will continue to operate as long as necessary in order to return calm and security to all Israeli citizens,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after meeting with top security officials on Monday.

The Biden administration has declined so far to publicly criticize Israel’s part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region. On Monday, the United States again blocked a proposed UN Security Council statement calling for an end to “the crisis related to Gaza” and the protection of civilians, especially children.

Among the buildings that Israeli airstrikes have leveled was the one housing The Associated Press Gaza office and those of other media outlets.

Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Israel had given the U.S. information about the bombing. Israel has not publicly provided any evidence of its claim.

Blinken, speaking from Iceland, declined to characterize the material received.

AP President Gary Pruitt reiterated the organization’s call for an independent investigation into the attack.

“As we have said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike,” he said in a statement. “We do not know what the Israeli evidence shows, and we want to know.”

In Hebron, Israel removes the last restraint on its settlers’ reign of terror

(Cartoon: Carlos Latuff)

You might imagine that a report by a multinational observer force documenting a 20-year reign of terror by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers against Palestinians, in a city under occupation, would provoke condemnation from European and US politicians.

But you would be wrong. The leaking in December of the report on conditions in the city of Hebron, home to 200,000 Palestinians, barely caused a ripple.

About 40,000 separate cases of abuse had been quietly recorded since 1997 by dozens of monitors from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. Some incidents constituted war crimes.

Exposure of the confidential report has now provided the pretext for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expel the international observers. He shuttered their mission in Hebron this month, in apparent violation of Israel’s obligations under the 25-year-old Oslo peace accords.

Israel hopes once again to draw a veil over its violent colonisation of the heart of the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city. The process of clearing tens of thousands of inhabitants from central Hebron is already well advanced.

Any chance of rousing the international community into even minimal protest was stamped out by the US last week. It blocked a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council expressing “regret” at Israel’s decision, and on Friday added that ending the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was an “internal matter” for Israel.

The TIPH was established in 1997 after a diplomatic protocol split the city into two zones, controlled separately by Israel and a Palestinian Authority created by the Oslo accords.

The “temporary” in its name was a reference to the expected five-year duration of the Oslo process. The need for TIPH, most assumed, would vanish when Israel ended the occupation and a Palestinian state was built in its place.

While Oslo put the PA formally in charge of densely populated regions of the occupied territories, Israel was effectively given a free hand in Hebron to entrench its belligerent hold on Palestinian life.

Several hundred extremist Jewish settlers have gradually expanded their illegal enclave in the city centre, backed by more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers. Many Palestinian residents have been forced out while the rest are all but imprisoned in their homes.

TIPH faced an impossible task from the outset: to “maintain normal life” for Hebron’s Palestinians in the face of Israel’s structural violence.

Until the report was leaked, its documentation of Israel’s takeover of Hebron and the settlers’ violent attacks had remained private, shared only among the states participating in the task force.

However, the presence of observers did curb the settlers’ worst excesses, helping Palestinian children get to school unharmed and allowing their parents to venture out to work and shop. That assistance is now at an end.

Hebron has been a magnet for extremist settlers because it includes a site revered in Judaism: the reputed burial plot of Abraham, father to the three main monotheistic religions.

But to the settlers’ disgruntlement, Hebron became central to Muslim worship centuries ago, with the Ibrahimi mosque established at the site.

Israel’s policy has been gradually to prise away the Palestinians’ hold on the mosque, as well the urban space around it. Half of the building has been restricted to Jewish prayer, but in practice the entire site is under Israeli military control.

As the TIPH report notes, Palestinian Muslims must now pass through several checkpoints to reach the mosque and are subjected to invasive body searches. The muezzin’s call to prayer is regularly silenced to avoid disturbing Jews.

Faced with these pressures, according to TIPH, the number of Palestinians praying there has dropped by half over the past 15 years.

In Hebron, as at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a Muslim holy site is treated solely as an obstacle – one that must be removed so that Israel can assert exclusive sovereignty over all of the Palestinians’ former homeland.

A forerunner of TIPH was set up in 1994, shortly after Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli army doctor, entered the Ibrahimi mosque and shot more than 150 Muslims at prayer, killing 29. Israeli soldiers aided Goldstein, inadvertently or otherwise, by barring the worshippers’ escape while they were being sprayed with bullets.

The massacre should have provided the opportunity for Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister of the time, to banish Hebron’s settlers and ensure the Oslo process remained on track. Instead he put the Palestinian population under prolonged curfew.

That curfew never really ended. It became the basis of an apartheid policy that has endlessly indulged Jewish settlers as they harass and abuse their Palestinian neighbours.

Israel’s hope is that most will get the message and leave.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power for a decade, more settlers are moving in, driving out Palestinians. Today Hebron’s old market, once the commercial hub of the southern West Bank, is a ghost town, and Palestinians are too terrified to enter large sections of their own city.

TIPH’s report concluded that, far from guaranteeing “normal life”, Israel had made Hebron more divided and dangerous for Palestinians than ever before.

In 2016 another army medic, Elor Azaria, used his rifle to shoot in the head a prone and badly wounded Palestinian youth. Unlike Goldstein’s massacre, the incident was caught on video.

Israelis barely cared until Azaria was arrested. Then large sections of the public, joined by politicians, rallied to his cause, hailing him a hero.

Despite doing very little publicly, TIPH’s presence in Hebron had served as some kind of restraint on the settlers and soldiers. Now the fear is that there will be more Azarias.

Palestinians rightly suspect that the expulsion of the observer force is the latest move in efforts by Israel and the US to weaken mechanisms for protecting Palestinian human rights.

Mr Netanyahu has incited against local and international human rights organisations constantly, accusing them of being foreign agents and making it ever harder for them to operate effectively.

And last year US President Donald Trump cut all aid to UNRWA, the United Nations’ refugee agency, which plays a vital role in caring for Palestinians and upholding their right to return to their former lands.

Not only are the institutions Palestinians rely on for support being dismembered but so now are the organisations that record the crimes Israel has been committing.

That, Israel hopes, will ensure that an international observer post which has long had no teeth will soon will soon lose its sight too as Israel begins a process of annexing the most prized areas of the West Bank – with Hebron top of the list.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

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Palestinian refugees leave Jewish Israel and settle in Gaza.

In the aftermath of the war, scholars estimate that more than 700,000 Palestinians left or were forced to flee their homes in the newly- formed Jewish Israel. Thousands of Palestinian refugees settled in the Gaza Strip. Many were essentially trapped between two countries𠅎gypt and Israel—that wouldn’t grant them easy passage.

As of 2018, most of the Palestinian inhabitants are the original 1948 war refugees and their descendants, many of them still living in refugee camps.


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