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.
Air-strikes on landmark buildings at the tail end of the Israeli military's "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza in August were a deliberate and direct attack on civilian buildings and amount to war crimes, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled "Nothing is Immune: Israel's Destruction of Landmark Buildings in Gaza," the report (PDF) provides evidence that attacks on four multi-storey buildings during the last four days of the conflict were in contravention of international humanitarian law, and calls for them to be independently and impartially investigated. "All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. "Both the facts on the ground and statements made by Israeli military spokespeople at the time indicate that the attacks were a collective punishment against the people of Gaza and were designed to destroy their already precarious livelihoods."
Over 80 people were treated for respiratory problems on both sides of the Israel-Jordan border Dec. 4 following a massive oil spill that flooded the highway leading into Eilat. The vast majority of those affected were in Jordan. The leak, near the village of Be'er Ora, was caused by a leak from the Trans-Israel Pipeline, that runs between the Red Sea port of Eilat and the Mediterranean hub of Ashkelon. Be'er Ora sits in the sparsely populated Arava region, home to multiple nature reserves that protect indigenous flora and fauna, including rare acacia trees and over 280 deer. The Environmental Protection Ministry said that it has so far removed 6,000 tons of contaminated soil from the Avrona nature reserve, in an attempt to contain the impact of the disaster. The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company now says the flow of oil has been halted, and that the breach was likely due to a "maintenance failure." The Environment Ministry has dispatched its "Green Police" to investigate the cause of the incident. Ministry official Guy Same said the spill could take years, to fully clean up. (Times of Israel, Times of Israel, Dec. 6; Times of Israel, ThinkProgress, Dec. 4)
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman last week to disucss the conflict over the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem, and the war on ISIS. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also attended the meeting, where he reportedly urged Jordan to take greater responsibility in preventing violence at the holy site. Jordan, which signed a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, recalled its ambassador Nov. 5, citing the "unprecedented escalation in Jerusalem." In March 2013, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed a deal with King Abdullah, entrusting him with the protection of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. The deal confirmed an informal agreement dating back to 1924 that gave the kingdom's Hashemite rulers custodial rights over the holy sites. Under the terms of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Temple Mount remains under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities. On Friday Nov. 16, Israel eased restrictions and allowed men of all ages to pray at al-Aqsa mosque for the first time in months. (Times of Israel, Nov. 17; AFP, Nov. 16; BBC News, Nov. 13; Al Arabiya, Nov. 12; JP, Nov. 5)
Two Palestinians armed with a pistol and axes attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof district during morning prayers on Nov. 18, killing four Israelis. A police officer later died of his wounds. The two assailants were shot dead. (JP, Nov. 19; Ma'an, Nov. 18) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but in the same statements reiterated its "demands an end to the ongoing incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers." Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the Popular Resistance Committees all praised the attack. (Ma'an, Nov. 18)