CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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January 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians in West Bank as Palestinian shooter killed seven Israelis in Jerusalem; Israel’s far-right govt adopted punitive measures.

West Bank and Jerusalem remained highly volatile amid deadly violence. In West Bank, Israeli forces conducted at least 900 raids, arrested at least 397 Palestinians and killed at least 35. Notably, Israeli forces 26 Jan killed seven gunmen and two civilians in Jenin; Palestinian Authority called it “massacre” and threatened to cease security coordination. Israel struck Gaza after it accused Gaza-based factions of firing two rockets into Israel 27 Jan. Palestinian shooting attacks continue to rise: gunman 27 Jan shot and killed seven Israelis in Jerusalem and injured three others; Palestinian child next day shot and injured two armed Israelis in East Jerusalem’s Silwan.

Israel’s far-right govt pursued range of provocative and restrictive policies. In incendiary action seen as eroding status quo, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir 3 Jan visited Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade, drawing condemnation from Palestinians, Jordan and other Arab states. In response to UN General Assembly resolution calling on International Court of Justice to issue opinion on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, Israeli govt 6 Jan announced retaliatory steps, including using Palestinian taxes to compensate Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks and freezing Palestinian construction in parts of West Bank. Israel pursued other hardline policies: Ben-Gvir 8 Jan ordered removal of Palestinian flags from public spaces; govt same day suspended Palestinian FM’s VIP pass facilitating travel; Knesset 11 Jan approved draft legislation to strip Palestinians convicted of terrorism of citizenship. Govt 2 Jan announced planned forced eviction of 14 villages in Masafer Yatta area near Hebron.

Govt pursued plans to weaken judiciary. Justice Minister Yariv Levin 4 Jan announced plan for judicial reform, including Knesset’s ability to override Supreme Court decisions by simple majority; tens of thousands of Israelis 8, 14, 21 and 28 Jan protested plans in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. PM Netanyahu 22 Jan fired Shas Party leader and Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri following Supreme Court’s ruling 18 Jan.

December 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel continued near-daily lethal raids in West Bank, while far-right Israeli coalition was sworn in amid fears of its anti-democratic, anti-Palestinian policies.

Israel continued raids, leading to near-daily clashes in West Bank and hostilities with Gaza-based factions. 2022 saw some of worst settler violence in decade and highest Palestinian fatalities in over 16 years; Israeli security forces killed at least 219 as of 28 Dec. Israel conducted at least 463 raids as of 28 Dec in West Bank and East Jerusalem, arresting at least 176 and killing at least 13. Notably, Israeli forces 2 Dec killed Palestinian alleged assailant in what Palestinians called “execution” in Hawara town; Israeli forces 11 Dec killed 16-year-old girl in Jenin. Israeli settler 17 Dec killed two Palestinians at Zaatara checkpoint, south of Nablus city. Gaza-based militants 3 Dec fired rockets; Israel next day carried out airstrikes against alleged Hamas sites.

Far-right coalition entered office, pursuing destabilising policies. Israel’s far-right coalition was sworn in 29 Dec and immediately took several destabilising steps, including passing laws that provide expanded powers to far-right leaders over police and Civil Administration in West Bank. PM Netanyahu previous day announced govt’s guiding principles, including expanding Israeli settlements in occupied territories, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapon and normalising relations with Saudi Arabia. Earlier, attorney general 15 Dec warned coalition’s plans could “disrupt the system of checks and balances”, while President Herzog 25 Dec voiced concern that policies could contradict “basic democratic and ethic principles”. With govt in place, plans by far-right leaders to visit Holy Esplanade and legalise settler outposts in West Bank could trigger violent escalation.

In other important developments. Fatah and Hamas 3 Dec announced they would continue Algerian-mediated reconciliation efforts in Algerian capital Algiers. Israel 18 Dec deported Jerusalem-born French-Israeli human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri. Syrian military 20 Dec reported Israeli airstrikes injured two soldiers near Syrian capital Damascus (see Syria).

November 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Double bombing rocked Jerusalem amid heightened volatility in West Bank, and victory of far-right coalition could bring even more destabilising policies in near future.

Deadly bombings struck Jerusalem as Israeli and Palestinian violence continued in West Bank. In first such attack since 2016, unclaimed bombings at two bus stops in Jerusalem during rush hour 23 Nov killed one Israeli teenager and wounded at least 18, and raised prospect of further attacks. In West Bank, near-daily clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians continued, as Israel conducted over 170 raids in West Bank and killed at least 18 Palestinians, bringing deaths in 2022 to at least 205. Palestinians killed several Israelis; notably, 15 Nov killed three in Ariel settlement. In incident that may portend greater state-sanctioned settler violence, 30,000 Israeli settlers 19 Nov entered Hebron where hundreds vandalised Palestinian properties and attacked Palestinians. Shin Bet head mid-month reportedly warned of imminent collapse of Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, in first launches since Aug ceasefire, Gaza-based militants 3 Nov fired rockets into Israel; Israeli aircraft next day struck alleged Hamas rocket-making facility in Gaza.

Right-wing coalition led by former PM Netanyahu won Israeli elections. In 1 Nov Israeli elections, voters elected most right-wing parliament in Israel’s history, as former PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc won 64 of 120 Knesset seats with 14 going to ultra-conservative, anti-Arab Religious Zionist alliance. President Herzog 13 Nov tasked Netanyahu with forming govt, which may give far-right members control of police and army; possible policies such as encouraging formation of Jewish militias could ignite violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities and occupied territories, while potential visit by far-right leader to Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade could dramatically inflame tensions.

In other important developments. In East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities confiscated or demolished around dozen Palestinian-owned buildings. UN decolonization committee 11 Nov adopted Palestinian-drafted resolution requesting International Court of Justice to provide legal opinion on Israel’s occupation. Defence minister 14 Nov revealed U.S. Justice Dept opened investigation into killing of U.S.-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Syrian state media reported Israeli strikes 13, 19 Nov killed six Syrian soldiers (see Syria).

October 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli forces conducted raids and besieged Palestinian towns in West Bank, killing at least 28 Palestinians in some of worst violence since Second Intifada; Israel and Lebanon signed maritime deal.

Violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians continued. Israeli oper-ations, clashes or gunfire killed at least 28 Palestinians during month, according to UN; Israeli forces in 2022 have killed over 182 Palestinians in occupied territories – marking deadliest year since 2006. Notably, Palestinian gunman 8 Oct killed Israeli soldier and injured three others at checkpoint near Shufat refugee camp in East Jerusalem; in response, Israeli forces same day conducted raids and blocked entrances to camp. Israeli forces same day killed two Palestinian teenagers in Jenin refugee camp. Palestinian armed group “Lions’ Den” (cross-party alliance of individuals in old city of Nablus) 11 Oct claimed responsibility for killing Israeli soldier near Israeli settlement Shavei Shomron, west of Nablus; Israel blockaded Nablus, prompting Palestinians across West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to hold strikes and protests. “Lions’ Den” 23 Oct claimed Israeli explosion killed one of its leaders in Nablus. Israeli forces 25 Oct raided Nablus city targeting “Lions' Den” alleged explosives manufacturing site and triggering largest clash in weeks, killing five Palestinians, including alleged “Lions' Den” leader; several “Lions' Den” members turned themselves in to Palestinian Authority’s security services during month. Israeli forces 28 Oct killed two al-Aqsa Brigades members near Nablus city. Hamas claimed attack by gunman 29 Oct that killed one Israeli settler at checkpoint near Kiryat Arba settlement. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers repeatedly raided Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron under army protection.

Rival Palestinian factions signed reconciliation deal. Following talks held in Algerian capital Algiers, Fatah and Hamas 13 Oct signed reconciliation deal promising new elections for Palestinian Authority presidency and Palestinian Legislative Council within one year; Fatah excluded reference to unity govt.

Israel and Lebanon signed maritime demarcation deal. Israeli and Lebanese leaders 27 Oct signed deal proposed by U.S. to demarcate maritime border along “line 23” (see Lebanon); former PM Benjamin Netanyahu opposed deal, vowing to scrap it if he gains power in 1 Nov elections.

September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

West Bank remained highly volatile as Israeli forces conducted almost daily raids and Palestinian militants clashed with both Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) forces.

Israeli forces raided West Bank, killing several Palestinians. Israeli security forces conducted 125 search and arrest operations during month, killing at least ten Palestinians and injuring around 100. Notably, Israeli forces 1 Sept raided Balata refugee camp in Nablus city and Umm al-Sharayet neighbourhood near Ramallah, leaving two Palestinians dead. Israeli forces 5 Sept killed Palestinian in raid on Qabatiya village; next day killed Palestinian and injured 16 others during raid in Jenin city. Head of Israeli security service Shin Bet 11 Sept reported 130 shooting attacks by Palestinians against Israelis this year, increase from 98 incidents in 2021 and 19 in 2020; Palestinian health ministry 5 Sept reported Israeli forces have killed 97 Palestinians in West Bank in 2022.

Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli and PA forces in West Bank. Palestinian gunmen 4 Sept fired at Israeli military bus near Israeli settlement Hamra, injuring six soldiers. Members of Fatah’s armed wing al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Israeli army 14 Sept exchanged fire at Jalama/Gilboa checkpoint near Jenin, killing Israeli officer and two Palestinians (including PA intelligence officer). During raid on Hamas in Nablus city, PA forces 20 Sept clashed with Palestinian gunmen, killing one; PA security forces and militants next day agreed truce. Israeli forces 28 Sept killed four Palestinian gunmen and injured at least 44 during clashes in Jenin. Amid rising insecurity, Israeli security officials appeared to be debating whether to step up operations in West Bank – akin to 2002 Operation Defensive Shield during Second Intifada – or strengthen PA through economic support.

In other important developments. In East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities 5 Sept advanced plans to build new Jewish settlement. In Gaza, Hamas 4 Sept executed five Palestinians, including two on charges of espionage, for first time since 2017. Ahead of Israel’s 1 Nov general election, parties 15 Sept submitted final lists, with three far-right parties joining together and Joint List of Palestinian Arab parties splitting up. Syrian state media 6, 17 Sept reported Israeli strikes, killing five soldiers (see Syria).

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel launched offensive against Islamic Jihad in Gaza that killed dozens in worst fighting since May 2021; Israeli forces continued lethal raids in West Bank. Israeli military 1 Aug killed alleged teenage member of Islamic Jihad armed faction and arrested two others, including senior leader Bassam Al-Saadi, in raid in Jenin city, West Bank; Islamic Jihad same day declared “state of alertness”, while Israel imposed near total blockade on Gaza strip, closing crossings and blocking fuel entry. Israel 5 Aug launched “Operation Breaking Dawn” against Islamic Jihad in Gaza, killing two top military commanders and around 20 militants and destroying group’s facilities; in response, Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. Following Egyptian-led mediation, sides 7 Aug agreed to immediate ceasefire and Israel next day reopened crossings into Gaza. Gaza’s health ministry reported Israeli strikes killed 49 Palestinians and injured 350, while Israeli sources claimed 34 Israelis were injured. Meanwhile, Israel continued raids in West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, arresting over 300 Palestinians in Aug. Notably, Israeli security forces 9 Aug killed three Palestinians, including leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade cell Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, and injured 60 in Nablus city; Palestinians same day staged strikes and demonstrations across West Bank. Unidentified gunman 14 Aug wounded at least eight Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli forces 15 Aug killed Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem during raid; 18 Aug killed Palestinian and injured 30 others in clashes in Nablus; next day killed Palestinian in Tubas city. Israeli military 18 Aug raided offices of seven human rights organisations in West Bank, six of which Israel had labelled “terrorist organisations” in Oct 2021. Israeli forces 30 Aug exchanged fire with gunmen in Nablus city after three Israeli citizens entered city earlier in day. Ahead of Israeli elections slated for Nov, Knesset member Eli Avidar 2 Aug announced creation of new “Israel Free” party. Likud party 10 Aug elected former PM Benjamin Netanyahu to head of party list. Military continued strikes in Syria (see Syria). Israel and Türkiye 17 Aug restored full diplomatic ties after four years.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

U.S. President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Israel con-tinued lethal raids across West Bank, and Hizbollah deployed drones amid maritime border dispute. During 13-15 July visit, U.S. President Biden met Israeli acting PM Yair Lapid and President Herzog in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas in Bethlehem; while no major announcements were made in meeting with Lapid, Biden reaffirmed commitment to Israeli security. Biden pledged aid to Palestinians, including $100mn assistance to PA and $201mn funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), but failed to address Palestinian demands for U.S. to reopen consulate in East Jerusalem and remove Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from terrorist organisation list. In West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli forces conducted 275 raids as of 23 July, bringing total raids in 2022 to over 4,765 and Palestinian arrests to over 2,933. Notably, security forces 6 July arrested at least 40 Palestinians in West Bank, including 30 from Silwad village. In Jabaa town, Israeli forces 2 July shot Palestinian who next day died from wounds and 6 July killed another Palestinian. Palestinian 19 July stabbed man with screwdriver in Jerusalem. U.S. State Dept 4 July announced investigation into killing of U.S.-Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was inconclusive. In Gaza, Israeli security forces conducted 24 limited incursions into eastern Gaza strip as of 23 July, arresting 67 Palestinians. Four rockets were fired 16 July from Gaza into Israel; in response, Israeli army same day targeted Hamas sites. Lapid 10 July reiterated that Israel needs better solution to Gaza than rounds of fighting with Hamas. In attempt at Palestinian political reconciliation, Algeria 6 July hosted President Abbas and head of Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh for their first face-to-face meeting since 2016. Tensions between Israel and Lebanon rose over maritime border dispute after Shiite armed group Hizbollah 2 July launched three unarmed drones toward Karish offshore gas field; Israeli army intercepted all three drones. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah 13 July threatened war with Israel over maritime borders (see Lebanon). Syrian defence ministry 2 July claimed Israeli airstrike wounded two civilians near al-Hamidiyah, Tartous province (see Syria).

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli security forces continued lethal raids across West Bank, while Israel’s governing coalition collapsed, paving way for fifth election in less than four years. Following tensions around Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade in May, situation in area was calmer during month; however, risk remains of escalation around religious Eid al-Adha festivities 9-13 July. In West Bank, as of 15 June, Israeli forces conducted over 220 incursions into West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, with some turning violent, and arrested 57 Palestinians. Notably, Israeli soldiers 1 June shot dead Palestinian woman at entrance of al-Aroub refugee camp in Hebron city, prompting Palestinian protests. Israeli forces 2 June killed five Palestinians, including child, during incursions in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah cities. Israeli forces 9 June detained 24 Palestinians in 37 raids in multiple locales, marking most arrests in 24-hour period this year. Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces 10 June wounded seven Palestinians, including four children, in Qalqilya city. Israeli forces’ pre-dawn raid in Jenin refugee camp 17 June killed three Palestinians. Palestinian Ministry of Health 17 June reported over 70 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since start of 2022. Clashes 29-30 June erupted in Nablus city where Israeli forces claimed Palestinian gunmen fired on Jewish worshippers, leaving three Israelis and dozens of Palestinians injured. EU 15 June agreed to release funding to Palestinian territories for 2021 that it had withheld over concerns of content inside Palestinian school textbooks. Regional parliament of Catalonia 16 June became first parliament inside EU to pass resolution declaring Israel is committing crime of apartheid. Meanwhile, PM Naftali Bennett and FM Yair Lapid 20 June agreed to hold vote on dissolving Knesset, collapsing eight party coalition govt and making Lapid caretaker PM, after acknowledging that there was no chance to pass emergency regulations that extend Israeli civil law to settlers in West Bank; Knesset dissolved 30 June, awaiting fifth election since April 2019 to be held 1 Nov. Egypt, Israel and EU 15 June signed deal to increase liquefied natural gas sales to EU countries to help reduce dependence on Russian supplies. Shadow hostilities with Iran became more visible (see Iran).

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tensions continued in Jerusalem, Israeli forces stepped up lethal raids in West Bank, and Israeli high court authorised forcible displacement of Palestinians in West Bank. In occupied East Jerusalem, around 600 Israeli settlers 5 May stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Israeli police 16 May injured over 70 Palestinians during funeral procession of Palestinian who died of wounds sustained during April clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Tens of thousands of Israeli ultra-nationalists in annual event 29 May marched through Jerusalem’s Old City, as some chanted “Death to Arabs” and attacked Palestinians and journalists; hundreds of Israelis entered al-Aqsa compound. In West Bank, Israeli security forces stepped up raids, raising tensions with Hamas; increased public calls for assassination of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar prompted Hamas 7 May to threaten retaliation. Israel military raid in Jenin city 11 May saw U.S.-Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh killed by gunshot to head, which sparked international outcry; Israeli authorities initially blamed Palestinian gunmen before walking back claim and 19 May announced there would be no investigation; Palestinian Authority 26 May said Israel killed her deliberately, which if confirmed would mark 48th journalist killed by Israeli forces since 2000. Israeli police 13 May attacked Abu Akleh’s funeral procession in East Jerusalem, injuring dozens of Palestinians. Also in Jenin area, clashes 13 May killed one Israeli officer, one Palestinian and injured dozen Palestinians. Israeli forces 24-25 May shot dead 16-year old Palestinian during clashes at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus city and injured at least 80 other Palestinians, and 27 May shot dead 15-year old Palestinian in al-Khader town near Bethlehem city. Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property continued during month in Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilya, Hebron and Salfit cities. Meanwhile, Israeli high court 4 May rejected petition against forced displacement of around 1,200 Palestinian residents from Masafer Yatta, collection of hamlets in southern West Bank, amounting to single largest displacement of Palestinians in decades. Two Palestinians from Jenin 5 May carried out axe attack in ultra-Orthodox Elad city (near Tel Aviv), killing three Israelis and injuring four. Regionally, Israel reportedly carried out airstrikes in Syria (see Syria).

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Violence continued to run high across Israel, West Bank and East Jerusalem, leaving three Israelis and over dozen Palestinians dead, as tensions flared at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police on second Friday of Ramadan on 15 April stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque firing rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades, injuring over 150 Palestinians and arresting near 500, as some Palestinian youths threw stones and fireworks at police; rumours of Israel’s intention to restrict Muslim access spread on social media during month. Further clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in and around Holy Esplanade 17, 21 April reportedly injured dozens. Israeli police 20 April stopped hundreds of ultra-nationalist Israelis from entering flashpoint Damascus Gate. Israeli police again raided Al-Aqsa on third and fourth Fridays of Ramadan 22, 29 April, injuring over 70 Palestinians. In Tel Aviv city, Palestinian gunman from West Bank city of Jenin 7 April killed three Israelis in bar; police next day shot dead suspected gunman in Jaffa, and Israeli soldiers 9 April raided house of gunman and killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad member in Jenin. Elsewhere in West Bank, Israeli forces killed over dozen Palestinians; notably, 2 April killed three Palestinian Islamic Jihad members at Arraba junction south of Jenin; 10 April killed four Palestinians including two women and teenager in separate incidents. Israeli troops 13-14 April reportedly killed at least six Palestinians, including 14-year-old, in Jenin city, Silwad town and Nablus city. Meanwhile, Palestinians 10, 11 April vandalized Jewish shrine Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. Israel 18 April shot down first rocket fired from Gaza since Jan 2022 and 19 April responded with airstrikes targeting alleged weapons manufacturing site in Gaza; 21 April carried out air raids in central Gaza, while several rockets were launched 20-21 April into southern Israel. Yamina party member Idit Silman 6 April quit govt coalition claiming it was not living up to right-wing values; defection stripped govt coalition of parliamentary majority. Regionally, Israel 9 April reportedly launched airstrike near Masyaf city in Syria’s Hama province; 14 April reportedly fired missiles at Syrian military positions near Syrian capital Damascus (see Syria).

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Deadly violence at hands of Israeli forces and Palestinians rose, leaving at least dozen Palestinians and 11 Israelis dead; tensions could escalate ahead of April religious holidays. In occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli forces 6 March shot dead Palestinian after he stabbed Israeli police officer at Bab Hutta Gate, and next day killed Palestinian who stabbed two officers at Cotton Merchants’ Gate. Israeli soldiers 6 March killed Palestinian teenager who threw fire bomb at army post in Abu Dis village outside Jerusalem. Risk of escalating violence, which could potentially trigger wider confrontation, remains high ahead of Muslim holy month Ramadan and Jewish holiday Passover in April. Israel’s Supreme Court 1 March halted eviction of four families in flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. In West Bank, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians protesting Israeli settlements and forced evictions, and carried out arrest raids. Notably, Israeli forces 1 March shot dead Palestinian near Beit Fajar town and killed two others who came under fire during arrest raid in Jenin refugee camp. Israeli forces 15 March killed Palestinian teenager during clashes in Balata refugee camp, near Nablus city, and shot dead Palestinian in Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah city; same day killed Palestinian during raid in Rahat town in Naqab/Negev desert. Israeli forces 31 March killed two Palestinians during raid on refugee camp near Jenin city. Israeli bus passenger same day shot dead Palestinian who allegedly stabbed another passenger near Jewish settlement. Palestinian citizens of Israel – identified as Islamic State (ISIS) supporters – 22, 27 March attacked Israelis in Beersheba and Hadera cities, and Palestinian resident of West Bank 29 March carried out gun attack in Tel Aviv, leaving total of 11 people dead, including three police officers; Israeli forces began detaining Palestinians without charge for fear of further attacks ahead of Ramadan. Regionally, Israeli airstrike 7 March killed two Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders near Syrian capital Damascus; Iran 13 March fired missiles claiming to target Israeli “strategic centre” site in Iraq (see Iran, Syria and Iraq). Israel 27-28 March hosted unprecedented summit attended by FMs of U.S., United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Morocco, in part to discuss Iran.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah remained tense flashpoint, while Palestinian Central Council convened for first time since 2018. In occupied East Jerusalem, tensions ran high in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which remained critical flashpoint of friction. Most notably, in provocative move, far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvit 13 Feb reopened makeshift office in Sheikh Jarrah claiming to protect Israeli settlers, prompting clashes between Palestinians, settlers and police, injuring at least 14. EU and Palestinian Authority (PA) same day voiced concerns over potential for wider outbreak of violence. Israeli police 18 Feb violently dispersed protesters at weekly demonstration against eviction of Palestinian Salem family initially scheduled in March; court 22 Feb ruled to freeze judgment until at least after Ramadan in April. In West Bank, Israeli special forces 8 Feb carried out extrajudicial killing of three Palestinians in car in Nablus in first such operation since Second Intifada; dozens in Gaza and West Bank next day protested killings. Israeli forces 14-15 Feb killed two Palestinians during clashes in Silat al-Harithiya and Nabi Saleh villages. In first meeting since 2018, Palestinian Central Council (PCC) 6-7 Feb appointed members close to Palestinian President Abbas to Executive Committee; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, second largest Palestinian faction after Fatah, and other smaller factions boycotted meeting, accusing Abbas of stocking Palestine Liberation Organization leadership with loyalists. PCC 9 Feb announced suspension of security cooperation with Israel and recognition of Israeli state until latter recognises Palestinian sovereignty and halts settler activities; similar statements in 2018 and 2015 had not been implemented. NGO Amnesty International 1 Feb published report accusing Israel of apartheid against Palestinians; Israeli govt and allies, including U.S., UK and Germany, rejected findings. Syria 9 Feb fired anti-aircraft missile toward Israel in response to alleged Israeli attack on Syrian capital Damascus that killed one soldier and injured five; Israel same day carried out airstrike on Syrian missile batteries. Syrian state media 16 Feb reported Israeli shelling targeting Zakiya town. On Lebanese border, tensions rose with Hizbollah (see Lebanon).

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in West Bank, Hamas and Israel exchanged fire in Gaza, and Israeli forces clashed with Bedouin pro-testers in Negev desert. In West Bank, Israeli police 5 Jan ran over elderly Palestinian activist in Umm al-Khair village who attempted to prevent police from confiscating unregistered Palestinian cars; man later died from injuries. Israeli forces 6 Jan shot dead Palestinian in raid on Balata refugee camp; Israeli settler same day ran over and killed Palestinian at Beit Shira checkpoint. Israeli soldiers 12 Jan assaulted Palestinian-American man near Ramallah city and left him blindfolded and bound; man was found dead next day after suffering heart attack. Israeli soldier 17 Jan shot dead Palestinian attempting to stab him at bus stop at Gush Etzion junction in West Bank. Israeli forces 28 Jan reportedly injured at least 26 Palestinians while dispersing rallies in Beita town and Beit Dajan village. Meanwhile, Israel 5 Jan indefinitely shelved plans to approve construction in controversial E-1 area of West Bank. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities 19 Jan evicted family and demolished house in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood; French, German, Italian and Spanish foreign ministries same day urged Israel to stop construction of housing units in East Jerusalem. In Gaza, two rockets were fired 1 Jan into sea near Tel Aviv; Hamas said launch was unintentional and Israel responded by striking alleged Hamas missile manufacturing sites; Hamas then fired two anti-aircraft missiles toward Israeli helicopters. Islamic Jihad-affiliated administrative detainee 4 Jan ended five-month hunger strike after Israel announced release date for Feb; Islamic Jihad had previously threatened violence if detainee died. In Negev desert, Israeli forces 12-13 Jan cracked down on Bedouin citizens near Sawe al-Atrash and Beer Sheeva protesting tree planting by Jewish National Fund, considering forestation part of govt effort to expel them from legally unrecognised land; crackdown led to injuries and dozens of arrests; United Arab List party (member of governing coalition) condemned move, threatening to boycott parliamentary voting. Reaffirming Israel’s intention to deepen ties with Jordan, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz 5 Jan met Jordanian King Abdullah II in Jordan’s capital Amman.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Violence and unrest ran high in East Jerusalem and West Bank as Palestinian attacks killed two Israelis and Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians. In occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian 4 Dec stabbed to death Israeli near Damascus Gate; border police subsequently shot dead assailant in what UN human rights office called “apparent extrajudicial execution”. Palestinian girl 8 Dec stabbed Israeli woman in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. Meanwhile, following U.S. pressure, state planning committee 6 Dec delayed approval of settlement project in Atarot, East Jerusalem. In West Bank, Israeli forces 6 Dec shot dead 16-year-old Palestinian who allegedly drove car into Jbara military checkpoint, injuring Israeli soldier. Israeli forces 10 Dec shot dead Palestinian during protest against illegal settlements in Beita village; 12 Dec killed Palestinian in Nablus city during clashes following arrest raid. Palestinian gunmen 16 Dec opened fire on Israeli settlers’ car leaving illegal outpost Homesh, killing one Israeli. In response, Israeli settlers launched reprisal attacks throughout West Bank; notably, 25 settlers 17 Dec attacked couple in Qaryut village. Israeli forces 21 Dec shot dead Palestinian allegedly attempting to drive into military checkpoint near Mevo Dotan settlement; next day, killed Palestinian near al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah who military claimed opened fire on them from passing car. Israeli troops 31 Dec shot dead Palestinian near Ariel settlement. Palestinians 11 Dec held first phase of municipal elections in West Bank; Hamas boycotted vote. UN data 27 Dec revealed 450 settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties or property damage in 2021, compared to 358 attacks in 2020. In rare visit to Israel, Palestinian Authority President Abbas 28 Dec met Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and announced “confidence-building measures”; Hamas condemned talks. Meanwhile, Israel 7 Dec completed construction of ‘iron wall’, including fence, underground wall and radar system surrounding Gaza Strip. Internationally, Israeli FM Lapid 9 Dec visited Egypt for talks with Egyptian President Sisi and FM Sameh Shoukry on consolidating ceasefire with Hamas; PM Bennett 12 Dec began first official visit by Israeli leader to United Arab Emirates. Syrian state media 7, 15, 28 Dec reported Israeli airstrikes on Latakia port (see Syria).

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Suspected Hamas gunman conducted first deadly shooting in Jerusalem in years, while Israeli settler violence and Palestinian protests continued in West Bank. In occupied East Jerusalem, security forces 17 Nov killed Palestinian teenager after he attacked two border police officers with knife in Jerusalem’s Old City. Palestinian resident of Shuafat refugee camp identified as member of Hamas 21 Nov shot five people in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing Israeli man. Meanwhile, four Palestinian families facing forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood 2 Nov rejected “compromise deal” offering protected tenancy status for 15 years in exchange for recognising settler organisation’s ownership of land. Israeli police 22-23 Nov raided home of Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith; Ghaith was summoned for interrogation 25 Nov and placed under renewed house arrest. In West Bank, Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians during olive harvest continued; notably Bat Ayin settlers 12 Nov injured three in attack in Surif city. Settlers 15 Nov injured six Palestinian farmers in armed attack in Al-Qibabat near Israeli settlement Homesh. Palestinian health ministry 5 Nov announced Israeli troops killed 13-year-old Palestinian during weekly protest against expansion of illegal settlements near Elon Moreh; clashes in Beita town same day wounded two Palestinians. The Washington Post 9 Nov published report detailing Israel’s surveillance system of Palestinians across West Bank. Israeli forces 16 Nov killed Palestinian belonging to Islamic Jihad militant group in Tubas city during raid. In Gaza, Qatar and Egypt 17 Nov signed agreement to supply fuel and building materials to Gaza. UK 19 Nov moved to ban Hamas, whose military wing is already prohibited, in its entirety, sparking condemnation from Hamas. EU diplomats 24 Nov visited Gaza strip to assess humanitarian situation. Israel’s parliament 4 Nov approved first budget in over three years. Internationally, Israel, U.S., United Arab Emirates and Bahrain 10-15 Nov held first joint military naval exercise in Red Sea. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz 24 Nov signed memorandum of understanding with Morocco, formalising existing unofficial security cooperation. Syrian state media reported Israeli airstrikes on 3, 8, 17, 24 Nov; notably airstrike 24 Nov killed two and injured seven (see Syria).

October 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tensions ran high amid increased Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in West Bank and worst clashes since May hostilities at Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. Israeli settlers stepped up attacks on Palestinians and their property in West Bank throughout month; daily incidents of vandalism and violence from 3 Oct mainly targeted villages in northern occupied West Bank surrounding Nablus and Salfit cities. Notably, settlers 15, 16 Oct attacked family in Yasuf village, injuring four, and 16 Oct injured at least 12 Palestinians in Burin village. In West Bank, Israeli forces 1 Oct injured at least 19 Palestinians protesting against settlements. Israeli soldiers 14 Oct killed Palestinian teenager allegedly throwing Molotov cocktail near Bethlehem city. In first such move in decade, Israel’s defence ministry 19 Oct approved residency for 4,000 undocumented Palestinians in West Bank. Israeli housing minister 24 Oct announced advancement of 1,335 housing units in West Bank settlements, in addition to plans to approve additional 3,100 settlement units. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police dispersed, arrested and beat Palestinians at Damascus Gate in worst clashes since May hostilities; security forces 18, 19 Oct raided Damascus Gate area, injuring at least 31 and arresting 35. Local Israeli magistrate court 6 Oct lifted ban on Jews silently praying at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade, sparking Palestinian protest; Jerusalem District Court 8 Oct overturned ruling. Jerusalem planning committee 13 Oct approved land expropriation from Palestinian area Khirbet Tabalya to build over 1,000 housing units in illegal settlement Givat Hamatos, marking first Jewish neighbourhood to be constructed beyond Green Line in at least 20 years. Israeli govt 22 Oct designated six Palestinian civil society organisations as terror groups, effectively outlawing them. Meanwhile, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh 3 Oct arrived in Egyptian capital Cairo to meet Egyptian intelligence officials. In Golan Heights, Israeli PM Bennet 11 Oct announced plans to build two new illegal settlements, prompting protest same day by local Syrian Druze population. Israeli sniper allegedly killed Syrian man with suspected ties to Iran on Israeli-Syrian frontier in occupied Golan Heights; Israeli airstrikes 8, 30 Oct reportedly struck Syrian capital Damascus (see Syria).

September 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Unprecedented jailbreak from Israeli maximum-security prison prompted Palestinian solidarity protests across Israel, West Bank and Gaza. Six Palestinian prisoners 6 Sept broke out of Israel’s maximum-security Gilboa prison, northern Israel; Israeli security forces immediately launched largest nationwide manhunt in decades, arresting dozens of Palestinians, including minors and families of fugitives. Jailbreak sparked prison riots; notably, Palestinian prisoners belonging to Islamic Jihad 8 Sept set fire to cells in Rimon and Ketziot prisons in southern Israel, and Palestinian prisoners across Israeli jails 17 Sept began hunger strike. In solidarity, around 500 Palestinians 8-9 Sept protested in Jerusalem and across West Bank, including in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus cities. Palestinians 10 Sept announced “day of rage” in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israeli forces same day raided Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound to disperse sit-in protest; Israeli fire severely wounded Palestinian man (who later died) at gates of compound in stabbing attack. Palestinians in West Bank’s Jenin city 19 Sept threw rocks and explosives at Israeli troops. Israeli authorities 10-19 Sept announced rearrest of all six fugitives. Separately, over 500 Israeli settlers and security officers 22 Sept stormed al-Aqsa compound during Jewish holiday Sukkot. In West Bank, Palestinian military court in Ramallah town 27 Sept held first hearing into case of 14 members of security forces charged with June killing of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat; Israeli forces 26 Sept killed four Hamas and one Islamic Jihad member in gun battles in Biddu town; dozens of Israeli settlers 28 Sept assaulted Palestinians in al-Mufkara village in South Hebron Hills, injuring four-year-old. Israeli forces 30 Sept killed Palestinian gunman near Jenin. In Gaza, Israeli troops 2 Sept shot dead one Palestinian as over 1,000 gathered along border in nightly protests against block-ade. Gaza factions 12-13 Sept fired rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrike 13 Sept. Palestinian President Abbas gave Israel one year to withdraw from occupied territory to 1967 borders or Palestine would withdraw recognition of Israel. Israel 3 Sept carried out airstrikes near Damascus (see Syria). Israeli PM Bennett 13 Sept met President al-Sisi in first official Israeli visit to Egypt in over decade.

August 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Supreme Court offered deal to Sheikh Jarrah residents, Gaza factions fired rockets at Israel, and Israel exchanged retaliatory attacks with Hizbollah for first time in years. Israel’s Supreme Court 2 Aug offered compromise deal to Palestinian families under threat of expulsion from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, East Jerusalem, that would allow residents to remain in homes as tenants providing they pay annual fee to settler organisation; both residents and settlers rejected deal. In West Bank, Israel 11 Aug issued initial approval to begin construction of 863 housing units for Palestinians in villages in Area C (under full Israeli civil and military control) for first time in years, and pushed plans for 2,000 settlement homes. Elsewhere in West Bank, Palestinians in Beita town near Nablus city 6 Aug clashed with Israeli forces, leaving Palestinian man dead and dozens injured. Undercover Israeli forces 16 Aug killed four Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp during arrest raid of individual suspected of ties to Gaza-based militant factions. During raid on Balata refugee camp near Nablus, Israeli forces 24 Aug killed 15-year-old boy; Israeli forces have shot and killed over 40 Palestinians in West Bank since May. Israeli Defence Minister Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 29 Aug held first high-level meeting in decade to discuss security and economic cooperation. In Gaza, ceasefire between Israel and Hamas grew increasingly fragile after rockets fired from Gaza at Israel for first time since May; factions 16 Aug fired two rockets at Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians 21 Aug marked 52nd anniversary of burning of Al-Aqsa mosque along border wall, where Israeli forces fired tear gas and live ammunition, injuring over 40 Palestinians. Israel same day launched air raids on four Hamas targets, wounding 11 Palestinians. Separately, Hizbollah claimed responsibility for salvo of rockets fired from Lebanon 6 Aug at disputed Shebaa farms area, triggering retaliatory attacks with Israel, including first Israeli air force strikes in Lebanon since 2013/2014 (see Lebanon). PM Bennett 27 Aug met U.S. President Biden, reportedly presenting “Plan B” strategy on Iran comprising small military and diplomatic actions.

July 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli forces fired live ammunition at Palestinians in West Bank, while Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as PM Bennett challenged status quo at site. Following Palestinian protests in recent weeks at Evyatar settlement in Beita town near Nablus city, Israeli settlers 2 July vacated settlement while govt kept structures intact and maintained military presence until land status is determined. Israeli forces 9 July fired on hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators in Beita, wounding over 370, including 31 with live ammunition; during protests, soldiers 23 July shot Palestinian teenager who died next day. Israeli settlers buttressed by Israeli soldiers 3 July entered Qusra village, Nablus, and attacked local residents; Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition, killing one Palestinian and injuring 24 others. Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence 23 July claimed military are complicit in “drastic surge” in settler violence this year. Elsewhere in West Bank, Israel 7 July demolished Humsa village in Jordan valley for seventh time in less than one year, displacing 65 Palestinians, including 35 children. In Beit Ummar town, soldier 29 July shot and killed Palestinian man attending funeral of 12-year-old boy killed by Israeli forces previous day. In Jerusalem, Israeli police 18 July stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, firing tear gas and sponge-coated steel bullets to disperse Muslim worshippers to allow over 1,000 Israelis to visit compound. PM Bennett same day said Jews must have “freedom of worship” at site, suggesting dramatic revision of status quo, but next day backpedalled, stating Jews must have right “to visit”. Hamas same day warned of escalation. Palestinian Authority (PA) Head of General Authority of Civil Affairs Hussein al Sheikh 25 July apologised for death of Nizar Banat, who was killed by PA security forces during late June protests, called it “unfortunate accident”. In Gaza, Israeli military 3 July launched air raids on alleged “weapons manufacturing site”, fourth raid in Gaza since May ceasefire. Meanwhile, Israel’s governing coalition 6 July failed to renew “family reunification” law for first time since 2003; law bars Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from attaining residency and citizenship in Israel.

June 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli forces launched wave of arrests inside Israel and suppressed Palestinian protests in West Bank amid attacks by settlers; ceasefire between Israel and Hamas faced strains. Following May deadly fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian factions that triggered widespread violence across Israel and West Bank, Israeli forces sought to restore security in what Palestinian activists claimed was attempt to suppress protests. Israel 3 June concluded operation that led to arrest of 2,142 citizens, 90% of them Palestinian. Israeli border police 5 June detained journalist Givara Budeiri, releasing her after four hours; International Press Institute director Barbara Trionfi same day slammed arrest. Israeli police 6 June detained twins Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd over their activism against removal of families from East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah; police same day clashed with protesters outside station before Muna’s release. In Jerusalem, Israeli-run municipality 7 June issued demolition orders to residents of al-Bustan area in Silwan neighbourhood, giving some 1,500 Palestinian residents 21 days to evacuate and demolish their houses; court hearing on matter postponed until 7 Aug. Thousands of Israelis 15 June rallied in nationalist march around Jerusalem’s Old City chanting “death to Arabs”. While attempting to suppress protest, Israeli police injured over 30 Palestinian protesters. Citing marches, Hamas 15 June flew incendiary balloons into southern Israel; Israel 15-17 June struck Hamas military compounds in Gaza in first strikes since ceasefire, leaving no casualties. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 3 June arrived to aid reconstruction plans. In West Bank, Israeli settlers 8 June shot and mutilated Palestinian man after setting fire to Palestinian-owned land in al-Rihiya village, south of Hebron city; settlers fired live bullets at Palestinians attempting to extinguish fire. Israeli forces 11 June shot and killed four Palestinian residents protesting illegal settler outpost in Beita town. Palestinian security forces 24 June killed prominent activist Nizar Banat, outspoken critic against Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security coordination with Israel, leading to protests throughout West Bank against PA, which police repressed. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 3 June arrived to aid reconstruction plans. New Israeli govt led by ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett 13 June sworn in following power-sharing agreement between eight opposition parties, ousting Benjamin Netanyahu as PM.

May 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel’s forced evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and restrictions on worshippers sparked widespread unrest and 11-day war with Gaza’s armed factions that killed hundreds. Israeli police 7 May clashed with young Palestinians protesting planned expulsions in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and worshippers observing Ramadan at Al-Aqsa mosque inside Old City, injuring over 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers; Israel’s restrictions and attacks on worshippers as well as police raids in compound continued over following days, injuring 1,000 Palestinians by 10 May. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem 10 May protested Jewish ultra-nationalist plans to march through Old City toward al-Aqsa to mark Jerusalem Day, leading to police raids that injured some 300 Palestinians even as Israeli authorities same day redirected march. Responding to events, Hamas’ military wing admonished Israel to halt violence. Joint Chamber of Palestinian Resistance Factions in the Gaza Strip 10 May issued ultimatum for Israel to withdraw forces from al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah and release detainees by 6pm; shortly after deadline expired, Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem. Israeli forces 10-21 May heavily bombarded Gaza as Palestinian factions fired thousands of rockets into Israel; fighting killed at least 248 Palestinians in Gaza, including some 66 children, and 12 people in Israel, including two children, before ceasefire went into effect 21 May. Amid Gaza hostilities, unprecedented wave of violence erupted throughout Israel’s mixed cities and neighbourhoods. Notably, govt 12 May declared state of emergency in Lod city for first time since 1966 to contain widespread violence, including Jewish gunman 10 May killing Palestinian and Palestinian same day setting fire to synagogue; Israeli ultranationalists 12 May attacked Lod’s Al-Omari mosque, prompting mayor same day to declare “civil war”; Israeli police late month made 1,550 arrests, 70% of them Palestinians. Palestinians held protests throughout West Bank in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza; Israeli forces 14 May responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition and 16 May killed 13 Palestinians and injured 1600 others. Palestinians in West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Israel 18 May held strike for first time in decades.

April 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Amid tensions in Jerusalem, Jewish extremist attacks injured over hundred Palestinians; President Abbas indefinitely postponed elections, raising prospects of major protests in coming weeks. In Jerusalem, Israeli police 13 April clashed with Palestinians near Damascus Gate who were demonstrating against restrictions on gatherings to mark start of Ramadan previous day. Police 15-16 April arrested boy suspected of posting videos on TikTok showing Orthodox Jews being slapped in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem; in response to videos, far-right Jewish supremacists chanting “death to Arabs” 22 April attacked Palestinians and skirmished with police in East Jerusalem, injuring over hundred Palestinians and 20 police officers. Protesters overnight 24-25 April clashed with police; authorities 26 April removed barricades around Damascus Gate, relieving tensions. In Jaffa, old district of Tel Aviv city, police 18 April arrested at least two Palestinian citizens of Israel for allegedly attacking yeshiva (religious school) head; incident next day triggered clashes between Israeli and Palestinian protesters that injured two police officers. In West Bank, Israeli soldiers 5 April fatally shot Palestinian man and wounded his wife in village near Ramallah town, claiming car sped toward checkpoint; soldiers 9 April shot Palestinian child in eye with rubber bullet in Hebron. Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas 30 April cancelled Legislative Council elections scheduled for 22 May. Palestinian electoral commission 3 April had approved 36 candidate lists, including “Freedom List” headed by Yasser Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qidwa and Fadwa Barghouthi, spouse of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, in direct challenge to official Fatah list. Hamas 30 April condemned cancellation as “coup”, while decision raised prospect of protests given high voter registration. In Gaza, Israeli jets 16 April struck Hamas targets in response to rocket fire into southern Israel; militants 23 April fired more rockets into Israel. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu’s trial 5 April resumed; President Rivlin next day asked Netanyahu to form governing coalition by 4 May following inconclusive results of 23 March election. Internationally, Israel blamed Iran for 13 April missile strike on Israeli commercial vessel in Gulf of Oman (see Iran). Errant missile from Syria 22 April exploded in near Dimona nuclear plant in southern Israel, triggering retaliatory Israeli airstrikes (see Syria). 

March 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in West Bank, Palestinian factions pledged support for electoral process, and Israel’s fourth election in two years resulted in deadlock. In West Bank, Israeli settlers 10 March attacked Palestinian Saeed Alyan Awad and his family near Mitzpe Yair settlement, south of Hebron, leaving him with cracked skull and broken jaw. Israeli soldiers same day detained five Palestinian children aged eight-13 in South Hebron Hills after settlers accused them of trespassing. Israeli settlers 12 March threw stones in Palestinian neighbourhood in northern West Bank, damaging two cars. Israeli human rights group B’tselem mid-month reported 94 violent attacks by Israelis against Palestinian civilians between 21 Dec 2020 and 13 March 2021. Israel 12 March issued banning order prohibiting Palestinian Authority (PA) Governor of Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith from communicating with President Abbas and other officials. Israel’s Jerusalem municipality 17 March asked courts to reactivate demolition orders for dozens of buildings housing 1,500 Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. In sign of internal party rifts ahead of Palestinian summer elections, President Abbas 11 March xpelled Yasser Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Kidwa from Fatah over his attempt to field separate list of candidates for legislative poll in May. As concern rose over uncertain outcome of legislative election, Abbas 16 March rejected request from Israel and U.S. to postpone vote. PA, Central Elections Commission and 15 Palestinian factions 16-17 March convened in Egyptian capital Cairo for second round of national dialogue; parties agreed mechanism to form new Palestinian National Council while factions affirmed support for electoral process. In Gaza, Hamas 14 March announced that Yahya Sinwar was re-elected as head of movement’s political bureau in Gaza. Israel 24 March carried out night-time airstrikes on Hamas positions in response to rocket fire. Over 10,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel 5, 12, 19 March demonstrated against police brutality and criminal gangs. Israel’s 23 March election produced no clear winner; PM Netanyahu’s bloc won 52 seats, nine short of threshold to form govt, setting stage for arduous coalition negotiations and possible fifth election. Israel 12 March conducted airstrikes in Syria (see Syria).

February 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

International Criminal Court (ICC) opened door to potential probe into alleged war crimes, Israel continued de facto annexation of West Bank, and Palestinian factions prepared for elections. In major decision, ICC 5 Feb ruled it has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes that may have been committed in occupied Palestinian territories; U.S. same day expressed “serious concerns” about ICC ruling while PM Netanyahu 6 Feb called it “pure antisemitism”. In West Bank, Israeli forces 1, 3 Feb demolished Bedouin Humsah al Fouqa village for second time, displacing over 130 inhabitants. NGO Jewish National Fund 11 Feb shifted policy, authorising official and direct purchase of West Bank land to expand existing Israeli settlements in Area C or adjacent areas. Israeli settler 5 Feb shot dead Palestinian man near Ras Karkar village. Ahead of Palestinian legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 22 May and 31 July, respectively, representatives of fourteen Palestinian factions at meeting in Egyptian capital Cairo 7-9 Feb agreed to form unity govt following elections; Palestinian Authority President Abbas also formed “electoral court” with jurisdiction over electoral process. To unify party, senior Fatah official 11 Feb attempted to convince imprisoned popular leader Marwan Barghouti not to run for president. Central Elections Committee 17 Feb announced 2.6mn voters (93%) registered to vote in West Bank and Gaza, excluding Jerusalem residents. After Abbas 20 Feb issued decree on public freedoms, Hamas 25 Feb released 45 Fatah-affiliated prisoners. In Gaza, authorities 17 Feb received shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine after Israeli authorities delayed shipment. Egypt 9 Feb opened Rafah border crossing with Gaza indefinitely. Hamas 19 Feb held internal leadership elections. Meanwhile, Israel’s political parties 4 Feb completed electoral slates ahead of 23 March elections. Netanyahu 8 Feb pleaded not guilty in corruption trial. Israel and Syria 18 Feb concluded Russian-mediated prisoner exchange, involving release of Israeli woman and two Syrian shepherds. Israel 3, 15 and 28 Feb reportedly launched airstrikes in southern Syria (see Syria). After explosion 25-26 Feb hit Israeli-owned cargo ship in Gulf of Oman, causing material damage, Defence Minister Benny Gantz 27 Feb suggested “likelihood” of Iranian involvement.

January 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel continued de facto annexation of West Bank while Palestinian Authority (PA) set date for elections this year following breakthrough in talks between Hamas and Fatah. Israel advanced de facto annexation of West Bank: govt 11 Jan announced construction of nearly 800 settler homes in Itamar, Beit El, Shavei Shomron, Oranit and Givat Zeev settlements as well as Nofei Nehemia outpost; UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 18 Jan urged govt to “halt and reverse” decision. Israeli govt 19 Jan issued tenders for 2,572 settler units in East Jerusalem. Elsewhere in West Bank, Israeli forces 1 Jan shot and injured Palestinian man; 5 and 26 Jan reportedly killed Palestinian man over alleged knife attacks. In major breakthrough, Palestinian political parties Hamas and Fatah 6 Jan agreed to hold elections in Palestinian territories, which will be first in 15 years; PA President Abbas 15 Jan signed decree setting legislative and presidential elections for 22 May and 31 July, respectively. Guterres 16 Jan welcomed deal, calling it “a crucial step towards Palestinian unity”. Palestinian PM Shtayyeh 18 Jan called on EU to send team of international observers to monitor polls. Meanwhile, Palestinian MFA 11 Jan called on UN Security Council to stop Israeli govt’s excavations at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade, specifically at Western Wall/al-Buraq Square and near al-Maghariba/Dung Gate, accusing Israel of “Judaising” some sites. Following 11 Jan meeting of “Munich Quartet” (Germany, Jordan, Egypt and France) in Egyptian capital Cairo aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace process, four FMs called for relaunch of “credible negotiations”. New U.S. administration 26 Jan confirmed commitment to two-state solution. In Gaza, unidentified assailants 18 Jan reportedly fired two rockets into Israel; Israeli airstrikes same day struck Hamas targets. After normalisation deal with Israel announced in Oct, Sudan 6 Jan formally signed Abraham Accords in its capital Khartoum. World Health Organization and human rights organisations criticised Israeli govt for withholding COVID-19 vaccines from Palestinians in occupied territories: NGO Amnesty International 6 Jan accused govt of “institutionalized discrimination”. Jerusalem’s District Court 11 Jan postponed PM Netanyahu’s corruption trial to 8 Feb. In Syria, suspected Israeli air raids struck Iran-linked targets (see Syria). 

December 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel normalised relations with Morocco and proceeded with de facto annexation of West Bank, while collapse of its unity govt triggered new elections. In fourth deal of its kind, U.S. President Trump 10 Dec announced normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco. Amid growing speculation over potential normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia, senior Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal 6 Dec condemned normalisation agreements, while Saudi cabinet 8 Dec reiterated commitment to 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Palestinian Authority (PA), Jordan and Egypt 2 Dec agreed to form joint committee to set up international peace conference aimed at resolving Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Qatari capital Doha, PA President Abbas 14 Dec met with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani who confirmed Qatar’s support for Palestinian cause. In West Bank, following PA’s decision to resume security cooperation with Israel last month, Israel 2 Dec released more than $1bn of withheld tax revenue to PA in first transfer since June. Israeli forces 4 Dec killed Palestinian teenager during protest against Israeli settlements; 21 Dec killed Palestinian man who allegedly fired toward Israeli officers in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli home demolitions continued in West Bank, including in Jericho, Ramallah and Hebron cities; notices for evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem expanded, notably in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods. Knesset 17 Dec legalised 65 Israeli outposts in West Bank that were previously deemed illegal by domestic Israeli laws. In Gaza, unidentified group 25 Dec reportedly fired rocket into Israel; retaliatory Israeli airstrikes next day wounded at least two Palestinians. EU Heads of Mission 8 Dec visited Gaza to assess impact of COVID-19 outbreak and Israel’s blockade. Armed groups in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, 29 Dec conducted first joint military exercise. Following longstanding tensions within Israeli coalition govt between Blue and White and Likud parties, Knesset 22 Dec failed to meet deadline to pass budget, triggering fourth round of elections in less than two years; new elections scheduled for March 2021. Following postponement of maritime border talks with Lebanon scheduled for early Dec, U.S. Sec State Pompeo 22 Dec said Israel and Lebanon remained “far apart”.

November 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel bolstered de facto annexation of West Bank settlements, and Palestinian Authority (PA) resumed security cooperation with Israel. In largest demolition in West Bank in years, Israeli forces 4 Nov bulldozed entire Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa, rendering homeless more than 71 Palestinians. Authorities 9 Nov issued eviction notices to dozens of Palestinian businesses in Wadi al-Joz area of East Jerusalem. Israel’s ministry of housing opened tender for the construction of over 1,200 housing units in Givat HaMatos in Jerusalem in move poised to sever geographic contiguity between Jerusalem and West Bank. Israeli forces 4 Nov killed off-duty Palestinian security forces officer in Nablus; soldiers 25 Nov shot and killed Palestinian allegedly attempting to ram car into checkpoint near Jerusalem. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 19 Nov made first visit by top U.S. diplomat to Israel’s West Bank settlements; signalling increased support for Israel, he announced foodstuffs originating from Area C in occupied West Bank would carry “Made in Israel” label and U.S. would define Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic. PA 17 Nov announced resumption of security coordination with Israel in occupied territories following May suspension due to prospective de jure annexation; PA justified move by citing Israeli letter signalling commitment to past agreements, including Oslo; PLO 11 Nov confirmed willingness to resume peace talks with mediation of new U.S. administration. In Gaza, unidentified groups 15, 21 Nov fired rockets into Israel; Israeli air force retaliated with strikes in Gaza city and Khan Younis. Hamas and Fatah delegations 3-16 Nov met in Egypt’s capital Cairo to discuss reconciliation. Meanwhile, Israel continued diplomatic normalisation efforts: Israel and Bahrain 18 Nov entered negotiations over opening of mutual embassies; PM Netanyahu 22 Nov reportedly met Crown Prince bin Salman in visit to Saudi Arabia. Israel and Lebanon 11 Nov held third round of negotiations over maritime border delineation. Israeli air force 18 Nov killed three in airstrikes on Syrian army and Iranian Quds Force installations in Syria in retaliation for explosives allegedly planted on Israeli-occupied Golan Heights by Iran-linked forces. 

October 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tit-for-tat attacks between Gaza factions and Israel continued, while internationally Israel normalised relations with Sudan. Building on normalisation deals last month, Israel intensified bilateral activities with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain: Israeli and UAE FMs 6 Oct met in German capital Berlin in first ever public meeting; Knesset 15 Oct approved normalisation deal with UAE by large majority; Israeli delegation in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, 18 Oct signed memoranda of understanding on economic and trade cooperation. In third deal of its kind, U.S. President Trump 23 Oct announced normalisation of relations between Israel and Sudan. In Gaza, Palestinian armed groups 5 Oct fired single rocket into southern Israel; Israeli air force retaliated against military site in southern Gaza causing material damage, no casualties. Hamas and Islamic Jihad 14 Oct threatened to end ceasefire if Palestinian hunger striker Maher al-Akhras dies in Israeli custody. Militants 16 Oct launched two rockets into southern Israel; Israeli air force same day responded with airstrikes against military installations. Hamas 5 Oct announced intention to hold internal elections in early 2021. Meanwhile, Israeli justice ministry 1 Oct approved moratorium on demolition of buildings in East Jerusalem citing COVID-19 concerns. Palestinian Authority (PA) 2 Oct issued first batch of building permits for Palestinians in Jordan Valley in bid to assert sovereignty over Area C. Israeli defence ministry 14-15 Oct approved additional 5,000 settlement household units in West Bank in move that advances de facto annexation. Elsewhere in West Bank, Israeli forces 5 Oct killed Palestinian youth in Tulkarem city; Israeli soldiers 24 Oct allegedly beat to death Palestinian protester north east of Ramallah. PA 7 Oct reiterated commitment to hold international conference to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in coordination with U.S., UN, EU and Russia. In first non-security-related talks in three decades, Israel and Lebanon 14 and 28 Oct engaged in U.S.-mediated discussions at UN base in Naqoura town, Lebanon; PM Netanyahu 15 Oct rejected prospect of “real peace” with Lebanon so long as Hizbollah “effectively controls Lebanon.” Amid record daily COVID-19 cases, demonstrations in Tel Aviv continued against govt corruption and handling of pandemic despite strict lockdown. 

September 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israel signed bilateral normalisation agreements with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain; Hamas and Fatah announced deal to hold elections and tit-for-tat attacks broke out between Gaza militants and Israel. At White House ceremony, PM Netanyahu alongside Emirati and Bahraini FMs 15 Sept signed deal to normalise relations. Ahead of signing, President Abbas 3 Sept chaired meeting with Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to define unified response, calling for formation of popular committees to oversee resistance activities against occupation and later stressing need to unite Palestinian political system. At Arab League meeting, UAE and Bahrain 9 Sept defended deal by citing Israel’s commitment to halt prospective West Bank annexation. Following failure of Palestinian efforts to get Arab League to pass resolution condemning deals, Palestinian PM Mohammed Ishtayeh 14 Sept called for reconsidering relations with league, describing forum as “a symbol of Arab inaction”. Hamas and Fatah 24 Sept announced deal to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections, PA presidential elections and Central Council elections for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Across West Bank, Israeli security operations led to numerous arrests and clashes that caused injury of at least 70 Palestinians and two Israelis; notably, Israel 7 Sept detained over 45 Palestinians in Hebron in largest arrest campaign this year while skirmishes between Palestinians and settlers near Ramallah early Sept broke out. In sign of Israel’s ongoing de facto annexation of West Bank, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz 6 Sept approved construction of 5,000 settler housing units. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 10 Sept visited amid efforts to mediate prisoner exchange talks between Hamas and Israel. Despite late Aug ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, armed factions 15 Sept protested normalisation deals by firing around 15 rockets into southern Israel, wounding two in Ashdod; Israeli air force retaliated with airstrikes. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Gaza despite lockdown, heightening fears of major outbreak in blockaded territory.  In Israel, coronavirus cases rose rapidly; govt 13 Sept imposed a three-week national lockdown. Weekly anti-govt protests continued despite health restrictions: thousands 12 Sept gathered outside PM Netanyahu’s residence denouncing corruption and govt’s handling of pandemic.

August 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tit-for-tat attacks escalated between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza; Israel and United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed deal to normalise relations, while anti-govt protests in Israel gathered steam. In Gaza, militants 2-18 Aug launched near-daily cross-fence attacks into Israel – mostly incendiary balloons and flaming kites – to which Israel responded by striking Hamas targets in Gaza. In response to attacks, Israel 11 Aug closed Kerem Shalom crossing, 13 Aug halted fuel shipments to Gaza and 16 Aug closed fishing zone off Gazan coast. Israeli measures cut electricity supply in Gaza down to less than 4 hours per day, prompting militants in Gaza 19-21 Aug to launch around dozen rockets into Israel. Israel responded with retaliatory strikes against Hamas in Gaza; tit-for-tat attacks continued until 30 Aug; Hamas 31 Aug announced it had reached ceasefire agreement with Israel. After recording first four community-spread COVID-19 cases, Hamas 24 Aug imposed total lockdown in Gaza. In West Bank, Israeli security forces’ fire night of 6-7 Aug killed bystander amid clashes with Palestinians in Jenin; night of 19-20 Aug Israeli forces fatally shot Palestinian allegedly preparing to attack Israeli civilians near Deir Abu Meshal village. In Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police 17 Aug shot and killed Palestinian who stabbed police officer. In Israel, Palestinian 26 Aug stabbed to death Israeli rabbi in Petah Tikva city. Israel and UAE 13 Aug signed U.S.-brokered deal, with UAE agreeing to full normalisation of relations with Israel in return for “suspension” of West Bank annexation; PM Netanyahu same day said annexation plans remain “on the table”. Across Israel, large-scale protests over govt’s mismanagement of COVID-19 and economic crisis continued; most notably, some 20,000 gathered 29 Aug outside PM Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem calling for his resignation. In north, security forces night of 2-3 Aug killed four “terrorists” allegedly planting explosives near security fence between Israel and Syria in southern Golan Heights; suspected Israeli airstrikes 3 Aug reportedly killed around fifteen members of Iran-backed militia in Syria; suspected Israeli airstrikes 31 Aug left at least two dead in Syria. Israel night of 6-7 Aug downed drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon. Hizbollah snipers night of 25-26 Aug allegedly opened fire on Israeli troops near Lebanese border; Israel responded by bombing Hizbollah posts in Lebanon.

July 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

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).

June 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Clashes continued in occupied territories while tensions between Israeli govt and Palestinian Authority (PA) remained high and could escalate further in July amid possible Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank. Clashes 2-15 June between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in West Bank left 25 Palestinians injured, including nine children; Israeli forces 26 June shot and injured nine Palestinians in Kufur Qaddoum in West Bank during protest against Israeli settlements. Israeli police officers 23 June shot dead Palestinian driver near East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu’s annexation plans – cabinet discussions over which can begin 1 July – prompted criticism at home and abroad: settler leader David Elhayani 3 June publicly criticised U.S. President Trump for endangering existence of Israel; United Arab Emirates Ambassador to U.S. 14 June warned annexation would jeopardise Israel’s efforts to improve relations with Arab countries; over 1,000 parliamentarians from 25 European countries 23 June signed joint letter describing plan as “fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace”. Following President Abbas’s mid-May suspension of all agreements with Israel, PA reportedly shut down channels of communication. After PA 3 June rejected tax revenues Israeli authorities collected on its behalf, PM Shtayyeh 9 June announced PA would be unable to pay civil servants’ salaries. PA 15 June announced it will start issuing personal documents for Palestinians without validation by Israeli authorities. PM Shtayyeh 9 June said PA had submitted counter-proposal to U.S. peace plan to international mediators; proposal reportedly includes establishment of demilitarised, sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital.  United Arab Emirates 9 June sent second shipment of COVID-19 aid to Palestinian territories via Israeli airport; PA next day condemned move. In Gaza, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) 15 June launched airstrikes in southern Gaza strip in retaliation to rocket fired from Gaza. Hamas 25 June called Israeli annexation plan “declaration of war”. Militants in Gaza 26 June reportedly launched two rockets into Israel, IDF next day launched airstrikes in southern Gaza strip. In Syria, Israel reportedly launched numerous airstrikes throughout month on suspected Iranian and Iran-linked targets (see Syria).

May 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tensions between Israeli govt and Palestinian Authority (PA) rose amid possible looming Israeli annexation of West Bank; meanwhile new Israeli coalition govt was sworn in. In West Bank, Palestinian 12 May killed Israeli soldier during raid in Yabad near Jenin in first Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) combat fatality this year; Israeli security forces next day killed Palestinian teenager in Al-Fawar refugee camp near Hebron. IDF soldiers 29 May killed Palestinian driver in East Jerusalem; Israeli police officers 30 May killed autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli govt 3 May seized municipal power from PA in Hebron, placing Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories in control of planned Israeli construction works around Ibrahimi Mosque; PA’s ministry of foreign affairs condemned move “in the strongest terms”. Israel’s Defence Minister Naftali Bennett 6 May approved construction of 7,000 new settlement units in West Bank. Israeli govt 9 May issued military order banning banks in occupied territories from processing payments to families of Palestinians formerly or currently held imprisoned in Israeli jails. United Arab Emirates (UAE) 19 May sent COVID-19 aid bound for Palestinian territories via Israeli airport, marking first direct flight between UAE and Israel; PA 21 May rejected move as “cover for normalisation”. In Gaza, IDF 6 May struck three Hamas positions in northern Gaza strip in retaliation to rocket fired from Gaza into Israel; no casualties reported. Israeli parliament 17 May swore in coalition govt led by PM Netanyahu and Benny Gantz; Netanyahu reaffirmed intention to carry out annexation of West Bank. In response, PA President Abbas 19 May announced suspension of all agreements with Israel and U.S., including security coordination. Following late April alleged Iranian cyberattack on Israeli civilian water and sewage installations, Israel 9 May reportedly launched cyberattack on Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. In Syria, Israel early May reportedly launched numerous airstrikes on Iranian and Iran-linked targets; outgoing Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett 18 May claimed Israeli airstrikes on Iranian-backed forces were forcing Iran to begin withdrawing from Syria (see also Iran and Syria). PM Netanyahu’s trial over corruption charges began 24 May.

April 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Israeli govt tensions with both Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas persisted amid COVID-19 outbreak, while PM Netanyahu and opposition leader forged power-sharing deal as step toward breaking political deadlock. In West Bank, Israeli authorities early April announced temporary suspension of demolition of Palestinian homes in Area C. PA 3 April called on Palestinians working in Israel to return to Palestinian territories following rising COVID-19 cases recorded among workers, and asked Israeli govt to release political prisoners, citing inadequate health care; Israeli forces 14 April shut down testing clinic in Silwan, East Jerusalem, citing clinic’s cooperation with PA. Israeli security forces 22 April killed Palestinian after he stabbed Israeli police officer at checkpoint near Jewish settlement Ma’ale Adumin in West Bank. After cutting funding in 2017, U.S. mid-April pledged $5mn support for East Jerusalem hospitals to help curb COVID-19. In Gaza, after authorities 21 March recorded first two COVID-19 cases, Hamas and PA in April said they hold Israel fully responsible for outbreak in Gaza Strip given its thirteen-year-long blockade; Israel’s Defence Minister Naftali Bennett 3 April said Israel would allow World Health Organization to deliver medical supplies to Gaza Strip if Hamas releases four Israeli prisoners. PM Netanyahu of Likud and Blue and White opposition leader Benny Gantz 20 April signed agreement to form unity govt with rotating 18-month premierships; Israeli non-profits have appealed to Supreme Court against several components in agreement, notably one allowing Netanyahu to act as PM despite outstanding indictments; Likud indicated that if Supreme Court would accept any of the appeals, Israel would hold fourth election. Coalition agreement text also endorses West Bank annexation, providing there is “full U.S. consent”; Arab League 30 April condemned West Bank annexation plans as “new war crime”.

March 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

As COVID-19 began to take hold in Israel, West Bank and Gaza, violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces continued at low ebb in West Bank and third set of elections in Israel failed to produce clear winner. In West Bank, Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces 11 March near Beita following rumours that Israel intended to create new settlements; Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian teenager. Palestinian Authority (PA) early March protested Israeli Defence Minister Bennett’s approval of “sovereignty road” between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim settlement that enables Jewish settlement in E1 area. PA 6 March declared state of emergency following first reports of COVID-19 in West Bank. After Israel 13 March closed crossings into Palestinian territories, PA 18 March restricted movement across borders with Jordan and Egypt, as well as through checkpoints into Israel. U.S. 11 March changed description of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens” in human rights report. In Gaza, accidental explosion in Nuseirat refugee camp 5 March killed ten. Authorities in Gaza 22 March reported first COVID-19 cases. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh 2 March met Russian FM Lavrov in Moscow, and Islamic Jihad’s leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah led delegation to Moscow following week. In Israel’s 2 March elections, PM Netanyahu fell short of securing majority in parliament. President Rivlin 16 March tasked Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz with forming new govt. Gantz split Blue and White party, leading half of it into negotiating national emergency govt, in which for eighteen months premiership would rotate between Netanyahu, who would go first, and Gantz. Govt 15 March postponed Netanyahu’s trial to 24 May citing COVID-19.

February 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine