Fatah under attack over statehood proposal

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 controversy comes amid growing violence. On Dec. 24, an IDF soldier was seriously wounded by sniper fire along the southern border of the Gaza Strip, prompting the army to return fire—the most serious escalation along the Gaza border since the 50-day summer conflict ended. According to the IDF, a Palestinian sniper opened fire on an IDF patrol near the Kisufim area in the southern Strip. The IDF then returned artillery and aerial fire, targeting the sources of the initial fire near Khirbet Hazaa as well as Hamas positions. A Palestinian report said the IDF fired tank shells into in the southern Strip. Hamas sources reported that the head of the local reconnaissance unit in the southern Strip was killed, and three others wounded. (YNet, Dec. 24)

On Dec. 25 that two Israeli settlers were injured after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at their car as it drove in the Jewish settlement of Maale Shomeron, in the Qalqiliya area of the West Bank. The Israeli military said in a statement that an 11-year-old girl was severely burned and her father lightly injured.

Maale Shomeron is a Jewish-only settlement immediately beside the Palestinian village of Azun, and is built on land confiscated from a number of local Palestinian villages. Maale Shomeron is part of a larger settlement bloc home to more than 11,000 Jews that curves deep into the West Bank, surrounding a number of Palestinian villages on at least three sides and preventing Palestinians from freely moving in the area. (Ma'an, Dec. 26)

That same day, Israeli forces destroyed a dairy factory in the Hebron village of al-Burj, the owner told Ma'an News Agency. Yasser Muhammad Salim Masharqa said that Israeli troops and civil administration officers escorted two bulldozers to the village and demolised the steel structure. The factory was located near the separation wall in the southwest of the Hebron district. The owner was not allowed to remove machinery from the plant before the demolition. Israel has demolished at least 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank so far in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. (Ma'an, Dec. 25)

Also that day, Israeli forces demolished EU-funded irrigation pools in the northern Jordan Valley, locals told Ma'an. Israeli military vehicles arrived in the area of al-Jiftlik accompanied by bulldozers and demolished six irrigation pools used by Palestinian farmers. The construction of the pools was funded by grants from European donor countries. The pretext for the demolition was based on a "military order," locals said. The Jordan Valley covers around 30% of the occupied West Bank. Over 90% of the area is designated as Area C and off-limits to Palestinian construction. (Ma'an, Dec. 27)

Palestinian popular resistance activists in the southern West Bank on Dec. 27 attempted to build a tent village near the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in protest of Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands. Dozens of Palestinians and foreign activists took part in a march near the town of Beit Fajjar to mark the beginning of the protest village, which was erected on lands Israel has declared its intention to confiscate. During the protest, however, Israeli forces arrived in the area and prevented the marchers from reaching the confiscated lands.

Coordinator of the Popular Resistance Committees in the southern West Bank, Muhammad Mheisen, said that the village would be named after slain Palestinian official Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died after being assaulted by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the village of Turmusayya near Ramallah in early December. Israeli land confiscatio has accelerated markedly in the second half of 2014.

Since the start of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has confiscated hundreds of thousands of dunums, by declaring them state lands. Israeli authorities in 1968 banned Palestinians from registering their lands, and subsequently took advantage of previously low rates of land registration to confiscate areas in use by locals but not registered. The confiscated lands were often used to construct Jewish settlements on the lands, with further confiscations carried out on the pretext of the settlements' security. (Ma'an, Dec. 27)

  1. New confrontation at Gaza border

    Three Palestinians were injured on Dec. 28 afternoon after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters close to the Erez crossing on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip. Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli troops fired gunshots at dozens of young protestors who approached the border fence after they partook in a rally in the area protesting the ongoing siege and demanding reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.  (Ma'an)

  2. UN Security Council rejects Palestine statehood resolution

    The UN Security Council on Dec. 30 failed to adopt a resolution on Palestinian statehood that was strongly opposed by the United States. China, France and Russia were among the eight countries that voted in favor of the text, but the resolution fell short of winning the nine "yes" votes necessary for adoption in the 15-member council. Australia joined the US in voting against, and five other countries abstained, including the UK.

    The resolution drafted by the Palestinians and backed by Arab countries would have paved the way to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. It set a 12-month deadline for Israel to reach a final peace deal with the Palestinians and called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.

    Security Council member Jordan requested the vote over opposition from the US, which argued the resolution did not address Israel's security concerns and set arbitrary deadlines. "This resolution sets the stage for more division, not for compromise," said US Ambassador Samantha Power. "This text addresses the concerns of just one side." (AFP)

  3. Palestinians aim for ICC after failed UN vote

    Palestinian leaders will meet on Dec. 31 to plan actions after the UN Security Council rejected a resolution to end Israel's occupation within three years. Palestinian officials said they could set a date to apply to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestinians have vowed to join the ICC and press charges against Israel for war crimes many times throughout more than two decades of peace talks; however, their membership could expose them to similar accusations. (Jurist)

  4. Palestine presents documents of accession to UN

    Palestinian government officials on Jan. 2 presented documents for accession to 16 international conventions and treaties to the UN. The documents include an adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas days earlier. Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, stated, "This is a very significant step … to seek justice through a legal option." The documents are currently being reviewed by the UN in an effort to determine the next steps in the process. Once the process is finished, the Palestinian government plans to take legal action against Israel with the ICC for the killing of 2,200 civilians in Gaza last summer.

    From Jurist, Jan. 2. Used with permission.

  5. Israel to withhold Palestinian tax payments

    Israeli officials announced on Jan. 3 that Israel will withhold the transfer of tax revenues to the government of the Palestinian Authority. The withholding of $127 million collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a strategic response to Palestine's application to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision to withhold the payments was made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a special meeting to discuss the Israeli response to the Palestinian Authority's unilateral move. Joining the ICC is considered to be one of the strongest forms of political pressure the PA can impose on Israel. Both Israel and the US opposed the application, which is likely a precursor to the filing of war-crime charges by the PA against Israel before the ICC.

    Over the past decade, Israel has withheld similar tax payments as a means to pressure the PA. The funds are derived from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians and are crucial to the activities of the PA's government, including payment of civil servants. These payments are required under the interim peace accords between Israel and the PA. The threat of future prosecution by the PA against Israel before the ICC is filled with complex legal obstacles, whereas the withheld tax payments pose an immediate threat to the PA.

    From Jurist, Jan. 4. Used with permission.

  6. PLO trial set to start over attacks in Israel

    A case involving the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is set to begin in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding attacks on Israel more than a decade ago and whether these organizations owe the victims as much as $1 billion in damages. Jury selection is set to begin this week in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, and the trial itself is projected to last about 12 weeks. The attacks, which involved seven shootings and bombings between 2001 and 2004, killed 33 people and wounded over 450. The victims claim that the PLO and PA aided in carrying out the attacks by funding groups such as Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

    From Jurist, Jan. 11. Used with permission.

    1. US jury orders PLO to pay $218 million to attack victims

      A US jury on Feb. 23 ordered Palestinian authorities to pay $218 million in damages to American victims of six separate attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004. The jury found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable on 25 separate charges after a day of deliberations in the New York court. Eleven plaintiff families filed suit in federal court against both the PA and the PLO following the attacks that killed 33 people and injured more than 390 others.

      The plaintiffs had pressed for the PA and the PLO to be held accountable for supporting the attacks carried out by members of Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Lawyers for the PA said last week it should not be held responsible for "crazy and terrible" attacks committed in Israel.

      The defense team said that neither the PLO nor the PA had anything to do with the attacks. PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi testified for the defense, telling the jury, "We tried to prevent violence from all sides." (AFP)

  7. ICC opens probe into war crimes in Palestinian territories

    Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Jan. 16 opened a probe into potential war crimes in Palestinian territories. The probe is the first step toward opening an investigation of both Palestine and Israel relating to the Gaza war last summer, and will analyze information about jurisdiction and potential crimes. The probe comes in the wake of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (PDF) in order to join the ICC. The decision join the ICC came after a failed attempt on Dec. 30, 2014 to persuade the UN Security Council to accept a resolution to end Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by 2017. In joining the ICC, the Palestinian Authority accepted the ICC's authority retroactively through June 13, 2014.

    From Jurist, Jan. 16. Used with permission.

  8. US threatenes Palestinian Authority with aid cut-off

    A Palestinian diplomat is lobbying Congress not to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its moves to join the International Criminal Court. In a letter provided to The Hill Jan. 20, Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat warned lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees that cutting off aid would damage US interests: "Recent statements by some members of Congress threatening to cut-off US aid to the Palestinian people, in addition to other punitive measures, will not serve the interests of the US or any party to the conflict. On the contrary, it will only harm U.S. national security interests."

  9. Palestine formally joins ICC

    Palestine became the 123rd state party to the Rome Statute on April 1, officially joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute of the ICC was signed and submitted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Dec. 31. A ceremony upon formally joining included many ICC officials, judges, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, Dr. Riad al-Malki. Al-Malki stated in regards to Palestine joining the ICC, "[a]s Palestine formally becomes a State Party to the Rome Statute today, the world is also a step closer to ending a long era of impunity and injustice. Indeed, today brings us closer to our shared goals of justice and peace." Palestine could now pursue an ICC complaint against Israel for war crimes, but only ICC prosecutors and judges can decide what cases will be pursued.

    From Jurist, April 1. Used with permission.