The coronavirus is now present in Gaza, the populous Palestinian enclave blockaded by air, land and sea since 2007. An epidemic would be calamitous. Hamas should tighten public health measures; Israel should loosen restrictions so that medical supplies can enter and afflicted Palestinians can leave.
Originally published in Middle East Eye
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces continued in occupied territories while Israeli annexation plans stalled; anti-govt protests erupted across Israel. Clashes 1-13 July between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in West Bank left at least 70 Palestinians injured. Israeli security forces 9 July shot dead Palestinian man and injured another near Kifl Haris village, bringing number of Palestinians killed in West Bank this year to 17. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority (PA) 2 July announced it would pay only 50% of civil servants’ salaries, if above 1,750 shekels, for May and June; move comes after PA early June rejected tax revenues that Israeli authorities collected on its behalf. In Gaza, Fatah and Hamas leaders in rare joint press conference 2 July reaffirmed Palestinian unity in light of looming Israeli annexation of West Bank. After unknown assailants 5 July launched three rockets into Israel, Israel Defence Forces 6 July struck Hamas positions in Gaza; no casualties reported. While PM Netanyahu did not proceed with anticipated annexation of portions of West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany in joint statement 7 July warned Israel that annexation would have implications for bilateral relations. Israeli protesters throughout month and across country gathered on weekly basis over govt’s mismanagement of COVID-19 and economic crises; some assemblies saw violent clashes between protesters and police. After thousands of Israeli protesters 21 July marched from PM Netanyahu’s residence in West Jerusalem to Knesset, dozens of demonstrators 22 July blocked entrance to parliament; police arrested at least 34. Thousands of Israeli protesters 23-24 July in Jerusalem demanded Netanyahu’s resignation; police dispersed protesters with water cannon and arrested dozens. In Syria, Israel 20 July reportedly launched air raids targeting suspected Iranian and Iran-linked targets south of capital Damascus; five members of Iran-backed militia reportedly killed and a dozen more wounded, including seven Syrian govt soldiers (see Syria). Iranian officials reportedly accused Israel of involvement in series of incidents in Iran, including 2 July fire at uranium enrichment facility in Natanz (see Iran). Tensions also increased between Israeli forces and Hizbollah militants following 27 July purported border incident (see Lebanon).
Israel is pursuing new ways of cementing its grip on occupied East Jerusalem, further enmeshing the city’s Palestinians while maintaining a Jewish majority within the municipal boundaries. These schemes could spark conflict. The new Israeli government elected in September should set them aside.
A standoff looms between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police over a shuttered building at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. Israel and Muslim religious authorities should reopen the building to lessen tensions at the sacred site, where small incidents have blown up into prolonged violence before.
A ceasefire agreement has brought Israel and Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas back from the cusp of yet another calamitous war. However fragile, it offers a rare opportunity for all parties to finally break the cycle of recurring hostilities that has killed thousands since 2007.
Israel and Hamas stand on the brink of another full-scale confrontation in Gaza. The only viable exit from the ongoing cycle of escalation is for international actors to use carrots and sticks to bring about intra-Palestinian reconciliation, thereby allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the Gaza Strip.
Facts on the ground in Syria are defining the contours of the country’s political future and also the geography of a looming clash between Israel, Hizbollah and other Iran-allied militias. Russia should broker understandings to prevent a new front from opening.
Cairo’s public condemnation of Israeli unilateralism in Ramallah is a blow to (Benjamin) Netanyahu’s narrative that Israel's Arab partners are indifferent toward annexation if not desirous of it.
This is the first time [Palestinian Prime Minister] Shtayyeh has acquired significant support among Palestinian people as a potential long-term successor to [Palestinian President] Abbas.
Even Netanyahu’s critics are appreciative of his risk averseness [toward Coronavirus], and the clear majority of Israelis thinks he performs well.
There needs to be a serious exploration — not another empty threat from the president’s office — of what dismantling the [Palestinian Authority] looks like.
[Trump's peace plan's] message to the Palestinians, boiled down to its essence, is: You’ve lost, get over it.
Netanyahu fears this incident lacks a broader U.S. strategy and would either merely escalate dynamics without restraining Iran’s nuclear program and regional activities.
The plan could pave the way for an Israeli takeover of the holy site in Jerusalem.
Originally published in Al Jazeera
The Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively quiet for the past 13 years. The latest tit-for-tat threatens the balance.
Originally published in The American Prospect
Fighting in Gaza killed 25 Palestinians and four Israelis on 3-6 May. In this Q&A, our Israel/Palestine Analyst Tareq Baconi links the violence to a continuing failure to ease restrictions on Gaza as agreed in a November ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s dominant Palestinian group.