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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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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

Violence continued between Israeli security forces and Palestinians across Israel-Gaza fence, in West Bank and Jerusalem. In Gaza, militants 1-10 Feb launched near-daily rocket attacks into Israel to which Israeli security forces retaliated by striking Hamas targets in Gaza. Egypt and UN 13 Feb maintained ceasefire discussions. Militants 15 Feb launched at least two rockets into Israel, prompting Israel to strike Hamas in Gaza. After three days of no cross-fence attacks, Israel 19 Feb increased fishing zone off Gaza to fifteen nautical miles and issued 2,000 additional travel permits for Palestinian businessmen. Israeli security forces 23 Feb shot dead member of Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who they claimed was trying to plant bomb in Israel-Gaza fence area, Israeli bulldozer mutilated body while attempting to retrieve it; in response, PIJ 23-24 Feb launched over 80 rockets at Israel, which prompted Israel to launch airstrikes targeting PIJ in Gaza and Syria, leaving six dead. Egypt and UN mediated ceasefire 24 Feb. Israel 27 Feb eased restrictions on Gaza after two days of calm. In West Bank, Israeli security forces 5 Feb killed Palestinian protesting against U.S. peace plan in Hebron; clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians 6-7 Feb left three Palestinians dead in Jenin and Qaffin towns; Palestinian security forces 18 Feb opened fire on Palestinians in Qabatiya city, killing one. Israeli PM Netanyahu 25 Feb said he would advance plans to build some 3,500 homes for Israelis in E1 area near Ma’ale Adumim settlement. Israel 27 Feb approved construction of 1,739 homes for Israelis in West Bank. In Jerusalem, Israeli police 6 Feb killed Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who had opened fire at them at Holy Esplanade; police 22 Feb killed Palestinian attempting to stab them. In Syria, suspected Israeli airstrikes near Damascus 6 Feb reportedly killed over twenty govt troops and Iranian-backed militants; 27 Feb reportedly killed Hizbollah commander near Golan Heights.

January 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

U.S.’s release of its Middle East peace plan provoked Palestinian anger further dimming prospects for peace; meanwhile violence along Gaza-Israel fence continued at low intensity and Israeli security forces clashed with Muslim worshippers at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. U.S. 28 Jan published plan that proposes “Palestinian state” with capital on outskirts of Jerusalem and recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. Palestinian President Abbas rejected plan as “conspiracy”. In Gaza, Palestinian militants 15 Jan fired four rockets into Israel prompting Israel to retaliate against Hamas sites in Gaza. Militants mid-Jan began again to launch incendiary balloons toward Israel, prompting Israel to strike Hamas targets in Gaza several times mid- to late Jan. Israeli security forces 21 Jan killed three Palestinians who crossed into Israel. Militants late Jan launched at least ten rockets at Israel, which again retaliated against Hamas in Gaza. Qatar 26 Jan disbursed $7mn to Palestinians in Gaza. In Jerusalem, Israeli security forces 7 Jan reportedly attacked and arrested a dozen Muslim worshippers at Holy Esplanade. Several hundred Muslim worshippers 17 Jan protested at Holy Esplanade prompting security forces to disperse crowds. Security forces clashed again with Palestinians at Holy Esplanade 24 and 31 Jan. In days following release of U.S. peace plan 28 Jan Palestinian protests continued across West Bank. Israel 5-6 Jan approved construction of 1,936 homes for Israelis in Area C in West Bank; 12 Jan approved plans to create seven new Israeli nature reserves and expand twelve existing ones in West Bank. In Israel, PM Netanyahu 21 Jan said that, if re-elected in March polls, he would annex Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in West Bank; soon afterward Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz said that if his party won, he would annex Jordan Valley but only as part of international agreement. In Syria, suspected Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets 9-14 Jan killed at least eleven.

December 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Low-level violence persisted between Israeli forces and Palestinians along Gaza-Israel fence. Palestinians in Gaza resumed weekly “Great March of Return” protests along Gaza-Israel fence 6 Dec after three-week suspension. Palestinian militants 7 Dec fired three rockets from Gaza into Israel, two were intercepted and one landed in field; Israel responded with airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. Israeli aircraft 17 Dec killed Palestinian approaching fence. Palestinian militants launched two rockets at Israel night of 18-19 Dec, one was intercepted and one landed in field; Israel retaliated by bombing three Hamas sites and temporarily reducing Palestinian fishing area. Palestinians 25 Dec launched rocket toward Ashkelon in Israel, where PM Netanyahu was addressing campaign rally; Israel intercepted rocket and responded by striking several Hamas targets in Gaza. Hamas 26 Dec said it would suspend weekly demonstrations along Gaza-Israel fence until April and would then reduce their frequency to monthly. In West Bank, Palestinians 9 Dec launched general strike and clashed with security forces in Hebron after Israeli defence minister approved construction of new settlement there. Ahead of anniversary of Hamas’s founding, security forces night of 11-12 Dec arrested a dozen senior Hamas officials across West Bank. Israel 15 Dec reduced power supply to Palestinian residential areas in several cities to pressure Palestinian electric company to pay outstanding debt. In Israel, after Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz failed to form coalition govt, Israeli lawmakers 11 Dec passed bill to dissolve parliament and hold new elections 2 March. PM Netanyahu won Likud party primaries 26 Dec with over 72% of votes. In Syria, suspected Israeli airstrikes targeting Iranian weapons depots 7 Dec killed at least five.

November 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Violence flared in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad leaving 34 Palestinians dead. In Gaza, militants fired ten rockets into Israel night of 1-2 Nov, one landed in Sderot; Israel same night struck Hamas sites in Gaza leaving one Palestinian dead. Israeli airstrike 12 Nov killed Islamic Jihad senior leader and his wife in Gaza City. In next two days Islamic Jihad launched over 450 rockets and projectiles into Israel (most intercepted or landed in fields) to which Israel responded with airstrikes on Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza killing at least 34 Palestinians, including sixteen civilians. Despite Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad that came into effect 14 Nov, sporadic strikes continued. Hamas cancelled weekly protests along Israel-Gaza fence 15, 22 and 29 Nov. Israel 23 Nov shot down drone near fence and Israeli security forces 29 Nov shot dead one Palestinian protester near fence area. In West Bank, EU 5 Nov contributed some $18mn to Oct salaries and pensions of Palestinian Authority civil servants. Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians commemorating anniversary of death of Yasser Arafat, former leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, 11 Nov left one Palestinian dead near Hebron. U.S. 19 Nov said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal under international law. Thousands 26 Nov demonstrated in cities across West Bank against U.S. policy change, dozens injured. In Israel, following elections in Sept, parties continued attempts to form coalition govt but to no avail. Israel’s attorney general 21 Nov indicted PM Netanyahu on corruption charges. In Syria, Israeli airstrike targeting Islamic Jihad member in capital Damascus 12 Nov killed at least two. Following Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Hama and near Palmyra, suspected Iran-backed forces 19 Nov launched four rockets from Syria toward Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, all intercepted. Israel next day launched airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian positions in and near Damascus leaving at least 23 dead.

October 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Low-level violence continued between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Gaza-Israel fence and Palestinian Authority (PA) took steps to ease financial crisis in West Bank. In Gaza-Israel fence area, clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters 4 Oct left one protester dead; two rockets launched from Gaza hours later fell short of Israeli territory. Following 14 Oct meeting between Gaza-based Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad and Egyptian officials, Egypt released about 80 Islamic Jihad prisoners, most returned to Gaza. At southern end of strip Israel 17 Oct shot down drone near fence. Qatar 27 Oct began disbursing $7.5mn to Palestinians. Israeli jets 29 Oct downed drone over Gaza. In West Bank, amid deepening financial crisis, PA and Israel 3 Oct agreed to reactivate joint committees established under Paris Protocol (framework for Israeli-Palestinian economic relations) to discuss economic issues; after PA agreed to receive tax revenues collected by Israel in West Bank, which it had rejected since Feb, Israel 6 Oct transferred $428mn to PA. Israel continued to withhold portion of tax revenues which PA had earmarked for families of prisoners and martyrs. PA 7-11 Oct signed agreements with Egypt aimed at strengthening economic relations. PA 15 Oct said it would pay its employees salary arrears for April, May and June in coming days and pay those for July, Aug and Sept in coming months. PA President Abbas 16-17 Oct met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi capital Riyadh and agreed to establish joint bodies to increase trade. Israeli security forces 18 Oct killed Palestinian wielding knife near Tulkarem. After PM Netanyahu failed to form coalition govt by 23 Oct deadline, Israeli President Rivlin that day mandated leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz to form one instead. Lebanese army 13 Oct said Israeli drone had illegally entered its airspace; Lebanese civilian 23 Oct shot down Israeli drone within Lebanese territory.

September 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tit-for-tat attacks between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza continued and Israel retaliated against Hizbollah for its strike in north. In Gaza, clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters near fence area 6 Sept left two Palestinians dead. Same day Palestinian militants fired five rockets into Israel, one landed near Sderot, no casualties reported, and Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza. Palestinian drone 7 Sept damaged military vehicle in Israel, prompting bombing of three Hamas targets. Hamas night of 9-10 Sept reportedly shot down Israeli drone near Rafah in south. Palestinian militants 10 Sept fired two rockets into Israel over Askhelon and Ashdod where Israeli PM Netanyahu was addressing campaign rally, both intercepted. Attacks between Israel and Palestinian militants continued 11 Sept. Israeli forces 25 Sept shot dead Palestinian near fence area during weekly protests. Following alleged Israeli drone strikes on Hizbollah assets in Lebanese capital Beirut late Aug, Hizbollah 1 Sept launched missiles from Lebanon into Israel, hitting military vehicle, causing no casualties. Israel same day fired artillery and conducted airstrikes targeting Hizbollah assets near border, no casualties. Hizbollah 9 Sept claimed it shot down Israeli drone over southern Lebanon. Following unclaimed airstrikes in Syria 8-9 Sept that left eighteen Iranian and Hizbollah combatants dead, Iran-backed militia in Syria 9 Sept fired several rockets toward Israel, which fell short of Israeli territory. Iraqi PM Mahdi 30 Sept said Israel was responsible for attacks in Iraq on Iranian-backed militia. PM Netanyahu 10 Sept pledged that, if re-elected after 17 Sept legislative elections, he would annex Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea region in West Bank along Jordanian border. Israeli cabinet 15 Sept held meeting in Jordan Valley; Netanyahu same day vowed, if re-elected, to annex Jewish-settled parts of Hebron city in south of West Bank. Legislative elections resulted in stalemate between Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc and Benny Gantz-led centre-left bloc with neither winning enough seats to form govt.

August 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Clashes erupted at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade between Muslim worshippers and Israeli police and fighting along Israel-Gaza fence area left at least nine Palestinian militants dead. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered to pray at Holy Esplanade on first day of Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha 11 Aug, which coincided with Jewish holiday Tisha B’Av. After rumours spread that police would allow Jews entry in violation of status quo, clashes broke out between Muslims and police leaving at least 61 Palestinians and four police officers injured. Later that day, police authorised Jews to enter, allowing some 1,700 Jews to be on site. Jordan, custodian of Jerusalem’s sacred sites, condemned Israel’s 11 Aug decision to allow Jews access on that day; Jordanian MPs 19 Aug recommended that govt expel Israel’s ambassador and reconsider Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Israeli police 15 Aug shot dead Palestinian youth who stabbed policeman near Holy Esplanade. In Gaza, Israeli forces 1-17 Aug killed at least nine Palestinian militants who approached fence. Militants fired rocket into Israel 16 Aug, Israel intercepted it and same day struck Hamas targets in Gaza. Next day militants fired three rockets into Israel, two intercepted, one landed in Sderot. Two suicide bombings 27 Aug at police checkpoints in Gaza city left three officers dead; Hamas declared state of emergency throughout Gaza. In West Bank, Israel 5-6 Aug approved construction of 2,304 houses for Israelis in Area C. Following deadly stabbing 7 Aug of Israeli soldier near Migdal Oz settlement, Israeli security forces in Beit Kahel village 10 Aug arrested two Palestinians suspected of attack; Israel blamed Hamas. Suspected Palestinian bombing 23 Aug killed Israeli near Dolev settlement. Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary group accused Israel of conducting airstrikes on their assets in Iraq (see Iraq). Israeli airstrikes 24 Aug hit Iranian forces near Syrian capital, Damascus, leaving five dead (see Syria). Suspected Israeli drone strikes targeted Iran-backed militants in Lebanon; Lebanese President Aoun 26 Aug called attack on Beirut “declaration of war” (see Lebanon).

July 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Low-level violence continued between Israeli forces and Palestinians along Israel-Gaza fence. Palestinians in Gaza continued to protest each Friday near fence that separates Gaza strip from Israel. Israeli gunfire left hundreds of protesters injured and incendiary balloons from Gaza started fires in nearby Israeli communities. Israeli security forces 11 July shot and killed Hamas member who tried to stop Palestinian youths approaching Gaza-Israel fence, Israel claimed incident was case of mistaken identity. Hamas same day responded by firing two rockets into southern Israel, which caused no injuries. Egyptian delegation same day met Hamas leadership in Gaza to discuss measures to prevent escalation of violence and consolidate ceasefire; Egyptians also discussed ways to repair relations between Hamas and Fatah. In West Bank, Palestinian Authority (PA) 1 July said it would pay its employees 60% of their June salaries; PM Shtayyeh next day announced PA had received first instalment of Qatari loan pledged in May. UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) 29 July announced $50mn contribution from United Arab Emirates. Israeli security forces 22 July demolished dozens of Palestinian homes in neighbourhood under PA control in south east Jerusalem prompting PA President Abbas 25 July to declare that PA had suspended all agreements with Israel and assigned committee to recommend course of action. Israeli security forces 30 July defused bomb near Joseph’s Tomb, religious site in Nablus in West Bank and clashed with Palestinians there, at least four Palestinians injured, fifteen arrested. Israel 31 July approved construction of some 7,000 houses for Israelis and 700 houses for Palestinians in West Bank. In Iraq, Israel 19 July struck Iraqi army base where Iranian security forces suspected to be present, reportedly killing one Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, and another army base 28 July. In southern Syria, Israel 24 July reportedly carried out airstrikes close to Golan Heights targeting Syrian govt positions which left six Iranians and three Syrians dead.

June 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tit-for-tat attacks continued between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, and U.S. release of economic component of peace plan provoked Palestinian condemnation and protests. In Gaza, Israel 4-11 June increased and decreased size of fishing zone and, responding to Hamas’s use of incendiary balloons, 12 June banned fishing entirely. Palestinian militants 13 June launched rockets from Gaza at Israeli town; Israel next day carried out airstrikes on several Hamas targets in Gaza, no casualties reported. Following mediation by UN Envoy Nikolay Mladenov, Israel 18 June allowed fishing up to ten nautical miles off coast. Qatar 20 June began disbursing $15mn to Palestinians in Gaza. Qatar also transferred $10mn to Israel for Gaza’s fuel and 16-18 June held talks in Israel and Gaza on funding construction of power line for Gaza. In West Bank, tensions increased between Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel when Israeli soldiers 11 June opened fire on PA security forces causing injuries, afterwards claiming to have mistaken their identity. Arab League 22 June held emergency meeting on PA’s finances and renewed its commitment to provide PA safety net of $100mn per month. Israeli court mid-June approved demolition of sixteen apartment buildings containing 100 housing units in PA-controlled neighbourhood bordering East Jerusalem. U.S. 22 June unveiled economic part of Middle East peace plan outlining desired investments of $50bn, of which $27.8bn would be invested in Gaza and West Bank over ten years. U.S. convened “Prosperity to Peace” conference in Manama, Bahrain 25-26 June in bid to build support for peace plan among Arab states; several thousand demonstrated against conference throughout Palestinian territories 24-26 June. In retaliation to 1 June rocket attack from Syria into Golan Heights, Israel 2-3 June carried out airstrikes targeting Syrian govt positions, killing eight soldiers and seven non-Syrians; two Israeli airstrikes near Damascus and Homs 30 June reportedly killed four civilians. Oman 26 June announced it planned to open embassy in Ramallah.

May 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Gaza flared early May, killing 25 Palestinians and four Israelis. Israeli soldiers at Israel-Gaza fence began shooting at Palestinian protesters’ head and chest areas 2 May, prompting retaliation. Palestinian factions fired 700 rockets and projectiles into Israel and Israelis carried out 320 airstrikes in Gaza 3-6 May. Israel claimed responsibility for 5 May killing of Hamas member whom it said had been transferring money from Iran to militant groups in Gaza. Israel 4 May closed Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings and banned fishing off Gazan coast. Hamas and Islamic Jihad delegations in Cairo 5 May agreed to Egyptian-mediated ceasefire, which came into effect 6 May. As part of ceasefire agreement, Israel 12 May reopened border crossings and allowed fishing up to twelve nautical miles offshore, only to reduce fishing zone to up to five nautical miles offshore 16 May, citing Hamas’s use of incendiary balloons. Qatar 7 May pledged $480mn to West Bank and Gaza: $180mn for humanitarian aid and electricity in Gaza, $50mn grant to Palestinian Authority (PA) and $250mn loan to PA over twelve months. Following his April electoral victory, PM Netanyahu failed to form governing coalition in allotted time, instead he passed bill 29 May to dissolve parliament and hold new election 17 Sept. U.S. 19 May announced that as first phase of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative it would convene “Peace to Prosperity” economic conference in Bahrain 25-26 June; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) 20 May said it would not attend. Israel 27 May announced it had agreed to take part in U.S.-mediated talks with Lebanon on disputed maritime border.

April 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Low-level violence continued between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, new Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet took office and Israeli PM Netanyahu, after resounding win in legislative polls, began negotiations to form right-wing coalition. In Gaza, after Israel and Hamas recommitted to ceasefire and previous agreements late March, Israeli army forcibly suppressed Palestinian protests at Gaza-Israel fence area 12 April killing one protester, and in response to Palestinian shots 20 April struck Hamas target in Gaza, no casualties reported. In West Bank, Palestinian Authority (PA) PM Shtayyeh’s new cabinet – composed predominantly of members of President Abbas’s Fatah – took office 13 April. During cabinet’s first session, Abbas 15 April announced new Fatah delegation for reconciliation talks with Hamas in Cairo; FM Malki same day declared PA’s readiness to engage in peace talks with Israel if under Russian and international auspices, rather than that of U.S. Israeli settlers 3 April killed Palestinian man, after attempted stabbing; Israeli security forces 16 April arrested five men for “hostile activities”; 24 April destroyed home of teenager suspected to have carried out deadly attack against Israeli soldier in March. Palestinian prisoners 8 April launched hunger strike over disruptive technology Israel installed to prevent prisoner usage of smuggled mobile phones in prison; Israeli authorities conceded usage of public phones 15 April on condition that they supervise calls. Following 9 April Israeli legislative election, PM Netanyahu’s Likud party increased parliamentary seats from 30 to 35, strengthening Netanyahu as he prepared to begin negotiations to form right-wing coalition. U.S. Senior Advisor to President Trump Jared Kushner 17 April announced U.S. would not release Israeli-Palestinian peace plan before end of Ramadan 5 June.

March 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Flare-up in strikes between Hamas and Israel threatened ceasefire and U.S. President Trump signed decree recognising Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights, Israeli-occupied Syrian territories. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel 14 and 25 March, both times provoking heavy Israeli strikes in Gaza. Meanwhile, Egypt continued to mediate between Israel and Hamas. In Gaza, residents protested 14 March against high cost of living and unemployment; Hamas violently cracked down on crowd, and blamed Palestinian Authority (PA) for instigating protests. Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested 30 March on first anniversary of Great March of Return protests; Israeli security forces shot dead four at border. Palestinians launched rockets from Gaza into Israel night of 30-31 March, Israel responded with tank fire. Israel 31 March expanded Palestinian fishing zone off Gaza and opened Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings. In West Bank, Israeli security forces shot dead six Palestinians in five incidents, including one suspected of killing Israeli soldier and Rabbi near Ariel 17 March, and 27 March detained thirteen Palestinians for “suspected involvement in popular hostile activities”. Mohammed Shtayyeh 10 March appointed PM of PA; Hamas said new govt unconstitutional as not ratified by now dissolved Palestinian Legislative Council. PA same day announced emergency budget, following late Feb statement that it would not accept taxes collected by Israel on its behalf as long as Israel withheld taxes owed to families of, what PA called, martyrs. In Jerusalem, U.S. Consulate General – responsible for Palestinian affairs – 4 March closed with functions taken over by U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. U.S. President Trump 25 March signed decree recognising Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights, overturning decades of U.S. policy and drawing global condemnation; UN said “status of Golan has not changed”. Israel 27 March carried out airstrike near Aleppo in northern Syria reportedly targeting Iranian weapons depot and killing several Iraqi and Iranian fighters.

February 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tensions mounted at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade and Palestinian protests in Gaza flared mid-month. In Jerusalem, Jordan’s newly reconstituted and enlarged Waqf Council, leadership of Islamic organisation that administers Holy Esplanade, met for first time 14 Feb, giving larger role to Palestinian national institutions. Ending meeting, Waqf Council held prayers in area to which Israel has restricted access since 2003, Israel removed worshippers. Protest prayers 19-21 Feb led to clashes between worshippers and Israeli police, over 60 arrested. In Gaza, after week of increased protests in Jabaliya region, organisers of Great March of Return weekly demonstrations 15 Feb escalated protests at Gaza-Israel border, citing Israel’s failure to fulfil its side of ceasefire agreement. Hamas 17 Feb took control of Kerem Shalom crossing on Gaza-Israel border, expelling Palestinian Authority (PA) employees. Hamas and Islamic Jihad delegation 3 Feb met Egyptian authorities in Cairo to discuss ceasefire agreement, opening of Rafah border and disbursement of Qatari funds to Palestinians in Gaza. PA early Feb cut salaries of 5,000 employees, prisoners and families of martyrs in Gaza for alleged links to Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Mohammed Dahlan. In West Bank, following PM Hamdallah’s resignation in Jan, several political factions 4 Feb announced boycott of new Fatah govt line-up citing what they viewed as Fatah’s agenda to centralise power and deepen national rifts. Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, 11-13 Feb met in Moscow to discuss Palestinian unity, but failed to agree on closing statement. Israel 17 Feb affirmed its decision to withhold $130mn of tax money owed to PA in bid to stop transfer of funds to families of prisoners and martyrs. Regarding peace process, U.S. 14 Feb said it would unveil peace plan after 9 April Israeli elections. Ireland 19-20 Feb hosted meeting of several European and Arab countries committed to traditional peacemaking positions and Palestine Liberation Organization to coordinate stances ahead of EU and Arab League summit in Egypt 24-25 Feb in which participating states declared commitment to traditional peace-making positions.

January 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Tensions rose temporarily between Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) mid-month and violence flared at Gaza-Israel fence. Tensions between Hamas and PA mounted after PA President Abbas 22 Dec upheld ruling of Supreme Constitutional Court to dissolve Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), PA’s parliament in which Hamas held majority. In Gaza, five assailants 4 Jan raided PA building; Hamas denied responsibility and arrested five suspects. PA 7 Jan withdrew its forces from Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, citing alleged Hamas crackdown on Fatah. Hamas denied accusation and said move undermined Gaza’s reconciliation with West Bank since Egypt had conditioned border opening on PA’s presence at Rafah. Israel same day said it would delay transfer of Qatar’s third $15mn tranche to Gaza. Following call by Palestinian protest leaders, some 13,000 demonstrated at Gaza-Israel border 11 Jan; Israeli fire killed one woman and injured 25. To defuse tensions, Egypt 13 Jan opened Rafah crossing in one direction, allowing Palestinians into Gaza, and Hamas 18 Jan reportedly took steps to restrain protests. Israeli fire injured four Palestinians 18 Jan and killed one 25 Jan. In West Bank, thousands protested 15 Jan against PA’s new social security law. Israeli army carried out raids in Ramallah throughout month leading to arrests and clashes with Palestinian protestors. Clashes erupted 26 Jan between Palestinian and Israeli civilians near Jewish settlement in West Bank, killing one Palestinian. Abbas 29 Jan accepted PM Hamdallah’s resignation to enact Fatah Central Committee decision to establish new govt. Standoff between Israeli police and Jordanian Waqf guards at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade triggered scuffle between police and hundreds of Palestinians 14 Jan; Jordanian mediation led to withdrawal of Israeli police, and sheikhs intervened to calm Muslim worshippers. Israel carried out airstrikes against installations it said Iran and pro-Iranian militias were using south of Syrian capital Damascus 25 Dec and 11, 20 and 21 Jan; latter, in response to missile fired at Golan Heights, targeted Iranian Al-Quds Force and reportedly killed twelve.