Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jan. 22 he will be lifting restrictions on Israelis building settlements in East Jerusalem. The statement said, "My vision is to enact sovereignty over all the settlements." Immediately after the announcement, hundreds of building permits were approved by the municipal government. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu delayed lifting restrictions for two weeks to wait for then-US president Barack Obama to leave office. (The restrictions on Jerusalem's urban planning committee had been imposed in response to pressure from the Obama White House.) Netanyahu will be meeting with Obama's successor Donald Trump at some point in the near future. In a statement to Reuters, Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction." Netanyahu and his ministers also decided Jan. 22 to postpone discussion of annexing a West Bank settlement.
Israeli forces on Feb. 21 demolished a Bedouin school for children in the Abu al-Nuwaar community near the town of al-Eizariya in the occupied West Bank, a spokesperson for the al-Jahalin Bedouin community said. Atallah al-Jahalin told Ma'an News Agency that Israeli forces, accompanied by 30 vehicles and a delegation from Israeli's Civil Administration, raided the area and destroyed the sole school in the community. Residents said Israeli forces told them the school was demolished because concrete structures were forbidden in the area. The Israeli forces also reportedly seized the contents of the school. Al-Jahalin added that Israeli forces briefly detained two youths who were protesting the demolition, both of whom were released after the demolition. After the demolition, primary students held a "sit-in" where the school once stood while wearing their uniforms and holding school books in protest.
Israeli forces on Jan. 6 demolished five dwellings housing Palestinian Bedouin families in the Abu Nuwwar community east of Jerusalem—part of the wider E1 corridor—leaving 25 people homeless. Dawood al-Jahalin, a spokesperson for the Abu Nuwwar Bedouin community, told Ma'an News Agency that Israeli military and police vehicles surrounded the area at around 8:30 AM, before bulldozers demolished five dwellings and an agricultural structure. The families were not given any time to remove their belongings before the dwellings—made of steel, wood, and canvas—were torn down, he said. "I showed them a court decision banning demolition, but the officer in charge refused to see it and instead told me he had a demolition order from the Civil Administration," al-Jahalin said.
Israel carried out an air-strike on the Gaza Strip Oct. 5 in response to a rocket attack from the territory—said to have been claimed by the "Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade," a Salafist organization apparently affiliated with ISIS. Two rockets fired at Israel the previous night; one exploded in an open area in Eshkol, causing no injuries or damage, while the second failed to reach Israeli territory. The Omar Brigade—named after a figure who helped Abu Musab al-Zarqawi set up al-Qaeda in Iraq a decade ago—has also claimed responsibility for rocket fire on the Israeli cities of Sderot and Beersheba last month. More air-strikes on Gaza were launched following a rocket launched Oct. 10, which was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. The new air-strikes reportedly hit Hamas targets. (Haaretz, Oct. 11; Ma'an, Oct. 10; JP, AFP, Oct. 5) The ISIS franchise in Gaza had been previously named as the "Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sept. 22 that Egypt violated international law during the creation of a "buffer zone" between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to HRW, the creation of the buffer zone required demolition of more than 3,200 buildings in the Sinai Peninsula between July 2013 and August 2015, resulting in the displacement and eviction of "thousands of families." The Egyptian government maintains that the buffer zone is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons from the Gaza Strip to separatist rebels in Sinai who are affiliated with the Islamic State. HRW asserts that the manner in which the buffer zone was created violated international law in multiple respects, including treatment of civilians and proportionality under the laws of war, the right to housing contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the right to property contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. HRW called on the Egyptian government to halt the demolitions in Sinai, provide for adequate compensation of land owners, create a fair resettlement plan for the displaced, and studying whether less destructive means could be employed to neutralize the smuggling tunnels.
Bulldozers backed by Israeli forces destroyed the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev Desert on July 2 for the 86th time in the last four years. "Israeli bulldozers forced their way into the village under the protection of dozens of Israeli forces," Attia al-Asam, who heads the regional council of "unrecognized" Bedouin communities in the Negev, told Turkey's Anadolu Agency. Israeli forces surrounded the village and displaced the population before demolishing the homes, the local leader added. Saleem al-Wakili, a 57-year-old Bedouin resident, added: "It is the 86th time they destroyed my house and I will rebuild it tomorrow. The Israelis are trying to exile us from our land by demolishing our homes, but they will not succeed."
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."
At Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, local Bedouin families are emptying their homes, loading belongings into vans as soldiers look on from armored cars. At eight border villages, 680 houses—homes to 1,165 families—are being demolished to create a "security zone." Residents were ordered to evacuate on 48 hours notice. Some monetary compensation is being offered, but no provisions for new housing have been made, and landlords are jacking up rents in the Sinai in response to the sudden demand. Dynamite as well as bulldozers is being used to demolish the villages. The operation will result in a buffer 13.5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide. But some Bedouin pledge to resist relocation. A woman at Ibshar village said: "I'm not leaving my house even if they kill me. I was born and raised in this house. If they want the terrorists, they know where they are. There’s no need to force us from our homes." (Middle East Eye, Nov. 6; Reuters, Nov. 5)