The Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters on Jan. 31 banned and declared the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to be a terrorist group. Qassam Brigades is the armed branch of Hamas, which is itself an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling is based on allegations by Egyptian officials that Qassam Brigades played a role in the bombing attacks on the Sinai Peninsula last October, and that members have been smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip into Egypt. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri described the verdict as a "dangerous" promotion of Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Hezbollah fighters attacked an Israeli military convoy in the Shaba'a Farms border area Jan. 28, killing four soldiers. After Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon. A Spanish UN peacekeeper was accidentally killed by the Israeli return fire. Hezbollah issued a communiqué saying the attack was retaliation for an Israeli air-strike that killed six of its fighters and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general on the Syrian-held side of the Golan Heights 10 days ago. Hezbollah said the attack had been carried out by a cell calling itself the "Heroic Martyrs of Quneitra," a reference to the area where the Israeli strike took place on Jan. 18. (BBC News, YNet, Israel, Daily Star, Lebanon, Jan. 28)
Israel's Supreme Court ruled Dec. 26 to demolish a Jewish settlement at Amona in the West Bank. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought decades ago by Palestinians who claimed to own the landa of the settlement, which has been deemed "one of the oldest and most contentious Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank." The court agreed early on that the land belonged to the group of Palestinians and ordered the settlement demolished in 2012, but granted a number of extensions on the date of demolition. As a result of the ruling, approximately 300 residents of the settlement will need to move within the next two years.
A Hamas leader on Dec. 27 said that the draft resolution for Palestinian statehood presented to the UN Security Council is "disastrous," and that it has "no future in the land of Palestine." The statement comes amid growing criticism at home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' push for the UN to recognize Palestine as a state, with some calling the move a symbolic gesture that distracts from the larger struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar, however, took a harder line, saying in a statement that Hamas would not accept the resolution because of its focus on the 1967 borders, and not on the entirety of historic Palestine. He said that the movement will only accept the complete 1948 borders, and will refuse to consider allowing Jerusalem to be a capital for both Palestinian and Israeli states. (Ma'an, Dec. 26)
The UN General Assembly on Dec. 20 approved a resolution calling upon Israel to pay Lebanon over $850 million in damages for an oil spill caused by air-strikes on storage tanks at the Jiyyeh power station during the 2006 war. The assembly voted 170-6 in favor of the nonbinding resolution, with three abstentions. Only Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted "no." The resolution called the oil slick that covered the entire Lebanese coast and extended into Syria an "environmental disaster." Some 15,000 tons of oil were released into the Mediterranean in the July 2006 air raids. (Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, BBC News, AP via Times of Israel, Dec. 20)
A supposed ISIS flyer circulating on social networks has warned 18 writers and poets in Gaza against what it calls criticizing Islam, stating that ''apostates will be punished." In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority responded by condemning the intimidation of Palestinian intellectuals, calling the threats a serious precedent. Hamas played down the incident. Gaza's interior minister, Yiad Bazam, denied that ISIS operates in any form in the Gaza Strip and that the threats are nothing more than ''pranks." He nonetheless assured that the Hamas secret services are monitoring the situation. The threats came after a similar text, signed by men claiming to be ISIS adherents, warned women in Gaza that they will not be allowed to walk in the streets without the hijab. Poet and women's rights activist Donia al-Amal Ismael received the first flyer via Facebook. It accused her and other writers of speaking ill of God and Islam, and threatened to slit their throats. Ismael expressed skepticism that ISIS is really behind the flyer: "I think that I must deal with this as a joke, to be strong." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Hamas and ISIS "brother organizations" and "branches of the same poisonous tree." (ANSAmed, NPR, Dec. 17)
The European Parliament on Dec. 17 passed a resolution supporting recognition of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The resolution also launches a "Parliamentarians for Peace" initiative to bring together MEPs and MPs from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments. The resolution passed by 498 votes to 88, with 111 abstentions. The statement said the parliament reiterated "its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law." (Ma'an, Dec. 17)
The head of the Palestinian Authority committee against the separation wall and settlements died Dec. 10 after Israeli soldiers assaulted him in a village near Ramallah, committee sources said. Ziad Abu Ein, 55, died after a soldier beat him on the chest with his helmet in the village of Turmsayya, Ramallah district, the director of the committee's information center, Jamil al-Barghouthi, told Ma'an News Agency. Abu Ein also suffered severe tear gas inhalation as soldiers fired canisters in the area. A Palestinian security source told AFP that Israeli forces beat Abu Ein with the butts of their rifles and their helmets during a protest march. He lost consciousness and was taken to Ramallah's hospital where he was later pronounced dead.