Extremist Jewish settlers set fire to a mosque in the southern West Bank town of al-Jaba west of Bethlehem in the small hours of Feb. 25, locals told Ma'an News Agency. As worshipers arrived around 4:30 AM to prepare for the dawn prayer at al-Huda mosque, they saw smoke and flames rising from inside the building. Worshipers alerted neighbors and together they joined forces until they managed to put out the fire. Racist slogans calling for killing Arabs and Muslims were sprayed on the walls in Hebrew. The Palestinian foreign ministry said the attack was tantamount to "an official declaration of religious war," the official WAFA news agency reported. "This new attack is a sign of the mounting violent extremism within Israeli society." The attack coincides with the 21st anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron when an extremist US-born Jew, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire at Muslim worshipers at dawn prayer. The attack killed 29 people and injured more than 120. (Ma'an)
Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Feb. 22 amid flooding in the Gaza Valley, or Wadi Gaza, with water rising up to three meters. Evacuated families were sent to shelters set up by UNRWA. The flooding comes in the wake of a severe winter storm, which displaced dozens and caused hardship for many more—including the some 110,000 left homeless by Israel's assault over summer. But the Hamas administration in Gaza charged that Israeli authorities unleashed the flooding by releasing storm water backed up behind dams into the coastal enclave. The Wadi Gaza is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it if fed by two streams—one that flows from near Beersheba, the other from near Hebron.
Hundreds of Golan Heights residents and environmentalists from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel protested on Feb. 17 outside the Afek Oil & Gas facility north of Nahal El Al, where exploratory oil drilling began the previous night. Afek, a subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy, won Israeli government approval for a three-year lease to drill 10 wells on 400 square kilometers of the Golan Heights in September. Drilling was planned for mid-January but was delayed due to a court order won by environmental opponents. The Golan Heights is home to Lake Tiberias, Israel's main water source. Genie Energy is run by Effi Eitam, a former right-wing Israeli cabinet minister who currently resides in Golan Heights.
A photographer for the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem was injured on Feb. 1 after being hit by an Israeli settler vehicle in Hebron, the man told Ma'an News Agency. Raed Jihad Abu Rmeila, 28, told Ma'an he "suffered from bruises" after being hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler while walking to work near the Ibrahimi mosque. He was taken to Hebron governmental hospital in moderate condition. Abu Rmeila said he could not determine whether he was hit on purpose or by mistake. He said he was walking on the pedestrian side of the yellow line when he was struck.
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)