Palestine Theater

UN Gaza report finds evidence of war crimes

A report released June 22 by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict finds that both Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during the 51-day conflict. The death toll among Palestinians is put at 2,251, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 299 were women and 551 children. A further 11,231 Palestinians, including 3,436 children, were injured, of whom 10% suffered permanent disability. Some 18,000 housing units in Gaza were destroyed in whole or part; much of the electricity network and the water and sanitation infrastructure was incapacitated; and 73 medical facilities and many ambulances damaged. Many Palestinians were uprooted from their homes or temporary shelters multiple times; at the height of hostilities, the number of internally displaced persons reached 500,000, or 28% of Gaza's population. The report notes that casualty figures gathered by the United Nations, Israel, Palestinian authorities and non-governmental organizations differ, but states that "the high incidence of loss of human life and injury in Gaza is heartbreaking."

Jewish extremists attack revered church in Galilee

An apparent arson attack damaged the revered Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha in northern Israel overnight, authorities said June 18. The Byzantine-era shrine, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is where Christians believe Jesus fed the 5,000 in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. Father Matthias Karl, a member of the Benedictine Order which oversees the site, said an external atrium was "totally destroyed" in the blaze. "The church, thank God is in good condition," he told AFP. Graffiti in Hebrew was left on another building within the complex, reading, "The idols will be cast out"—a quote from the Aleinu prayer, pointing to the work of Jewish extremists. Wadie Abu Nasser, an adviser to the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, said the attack would reverberate throughout the Christian world. "Israel's global image will be harmed," he told Israeli public radio."When you put one and one together, between the graffiti and the arson, you can reach a conclusion regarding the potential suspects." Police said 16 settler youth from the "Samaria" region of the West Bank were detained and questioned in the attack, but later released. Tabgha was targeted in a previous attack in April 2014, in which church officials said a group of orthodox Jewish teenagers damaged crosses and attacked clergy. (Times of Israel, Times of IsraelAFP, AP, June 18)

Israel frees Palestinian parliament speaker

Israeli authorities on June 9 released the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Duweik, following a year in administrative detention. The Ahrar Center for Prisoners and Human Rights Studies said that Duweik, 67, was released from the Ofer prison near Ramallah after paying a fine of 6,000 shekels ($1,565). Duweik, who is a member of Hamas, was detained from his home in Hebron during a massive arrest campaign in June 2014, known as "Operation Brother's Keeper," which was carried out in search of three missing teenage settlers. During the campaign, which lasted until June 30 when their bodies were found, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas, including leaders and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Palestine's parliament. Commentators suggested that Israel's real motive had been to drive a wedge between Hamas and Fatah, which earlier that month formed a national unity government.

SCOTUS rules in Jerusalem passport case

The US Supreme Court ruled (PDF) June 8 in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that the Constitution gives the president the exclusive power to recognize foreign sovereigns. Seeking to have his place of birth listed as "Israel" on his passport, Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky and his family appealed lower court decisions that refused to grant his request on the grounds that, since 1948, the US has not recognized any country as having sovereignty over the holy city. In a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court upheld the lower court's finding that § 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (PDF) was unconstitutional for violating the president's sovereignty in foreign relations. The law, through which Congress ordered the State Department to list Israel as the place of birth for US citizens born in Jerusalem if requested, was previously invalidated (PDF) by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2013. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito as well, urged that the law was not repugnant to the Constitution, as the document divides foreign relations power between the president and Congress.

Hamas battles ISIS in Gaza Strip

The self-proclaimed "Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem" on June 2 issued a 48-hour ultimatum for the Hamas administration to halt its crackdown on the group in the Gaza Strip, although it made no explicit threat of action if the deadline is not met. The militants also claimed responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza last week. The rocket landed near Gan Yavne in southern Israel, according to Israeli military officials. One "Islamic State" militant has apparently been killed since the ultimatum was issued. A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry identified the man only as a 'lawbreaker," and said he was shot dead after firing at security officers who came to arrest him. Over 100 alleged ISIS supporters have been arrested by Hamas security forces since the crackdown began a month ago, according to Israel Radio. (JP, IBT, i24 News, June 2)

Israel bombs Gaza; Amnesty accuses Hamas

The Israeli air force carried out four strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip hours after a cross-border rocket landed in the city of Ashdod May 26. The planes targeted training camps belonging to the Islamic Jihad in Rafah, Khan Yunis and Gaza City. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Earlier, the Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, confirmed they had fired five experimental rockets into the sea, but said one had landed accidentally in the southern Israeli city. Israel said it struck "four terror infrastructures in the southern Gaza Strip" in response to the rocket fire. The rocket was the third fired from Gaza since the ceasefire ending Israel's 50-day war on Gaza last summer. Two mortar bombs were also fired at Israel since September, according to the Shin Bet security agency. The air-strikes were the third since the end of the 2014 conflict. (Al Jazeera, May 27)

Israel court orders release of Palestinian lawmaker

A military court in Israel on May 21 ordered Palestinian lawmaker, Khalida Jarrar, be released on bail. Under the terms of her release, she is to pay a 20,000-shekel ($5,000) bond with a third-party guarantee. She is to be held three additional days pending a possible appeal. Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested last month by the Israeli military for incitement and involvement in terrorist activities after she disobeyed an Israel-ordered restriction from movement in the West Bank. She was placed under Israeli administrative detention, a system Israel says exists to prevent attacks by militants. Under administrative detention, individuals may be held captive for up to six months without being charged. The detention may be extended under a judge's approval, and evidence regarding the arrest may be withheld if deemed necessary. Some have called Jarrar's arrest a politically-fueled act, as Jarrar was instrumental in the Palestinian Authority's bid to formally join the International Criminal Court

Israeli court approves Bedouin land confiscation

Separate Israeli Supreme Court decisions issued on May 5 open the way for state authorities to forcibly evict residents of two Arab villages from their homes. The inhabitants of both villages, one in Israel and the other in the occupied West Bank, have previously been displaced following actions by Israeli authorities. "It is a sad day when Israeli Supreme Court decisions provide legal cover for forced evictions, as in the case of these two villages," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch. "The Israeli government should let these communities stay where they are, not force them to move yet again."

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