An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip apparently took effect with no formal announcement May 6, after two days of hostilities that saw hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and the most extensive Israeli air-strikes on the Strip since 2014. A total of 27 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, are reported dead in the air-strikes, which also included the first "targeted killings" of Hamas militants since 2014. Four Israeli civilians were also killed, all in the south. In the hours before the ceasefire, Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border, and a new invasion of the Strip appeared imminent. (Ma'an, Al Jazeera, Ha'aretz, YNet)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex areas of the occupied West Bank ahead of the coming week's Israeli Knesset elections. In an April 5 interview on Israeli Channel 12 TV, he was asked about plans to annex Israeli settlement blocs in the occupied territory, and responded: "Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty... I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians." (Times of Israel, NPR)
The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference that opens today in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: "Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project." (Ma'an) The meeting was first announced last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his anti-Iran speech in Cairo, and is widely perceived as an effort to rally world powers behind Washington's drive against Tehran. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is to be among the speakers. Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting, underscoring its commitment to the nuclear deal that the US has now disavowed. But as Warsaw's former ambassador to Afghanistan Piotr Lukasiewicz told Al Jazeera: "[Poland] has lost control over the general message of the conference to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia." The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian ski resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's Hassan Rouhani, officiallty to discuss the situation in Syria and the pending withdrawal of US troops there. (EuroNews)
Israel demolished 538 Palestinian homes and facilities across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in 2018, leaving 1,300 Palestinians, including 225 children, homeless, according to a year-end report by the Abdullah Al-Hurani Centre, an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The report stressed that these demolitions were carried out in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international norms. It charged that Israel "continues its policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem," pointing out that, in addition to the demolitions, Israel issued 460 "stop-building orders" during the same period.
Local activists in Gaza announced April 29 that they have moved tents that were set up along the border with Israel as part of the "Great March of Return," relocating them 50 meters closer to the border fence. The committee in charge of the Great March said they had moved the "tents of return" closer to the border "as a message of persistence from our people to the world that we are moving forward towards our rightful goals." The tents were initially set up between 500-700 meters from the border line. The announcement came on the 20th day of protests since the Great March began in the besieged Gaza Strip, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees demanded their collective right of return to their homelands in present-day Israel. Since the massive popular demonstrations began, at least 36 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Among the dead were two minors and a journalist. (Ma'an)
Two UN rights experts expressed serious concern on Feb. 13 regarding the arrest and detention of Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who became famous for slapping an Israeli soldier during a physical confrontation. The statements came as Tamimi appeared before an Israeli military court for the first time. UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Michael Lynk and Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez demanded Tamimi's immediate release during the proceedings and called for future hearings to be held in strict accordance with international legal standards. Tamimi has been in detention in Israel since her arrest at her home in December, where she was filmed physically confronting Israel soldiers at her family's property in Nabi Salah in the Israel-occupied West Bank. The following month, Tamimi was charged with a number of offenses under Israel military law for both the December incident and for others dating back to April 2016.
Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition on Jan. 6 to a visit by Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Theophilos III, along with several other religious and political figures, were visiting Bethlehem as part of celebrations for Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve. Despite an intense presence of Palestinian security forces who attempted to open roads near Bethlehem's Manger Square for the patriarch's car, angry citizens swarmed around his procession, holding signs, Palestinian flags, and chanting slogans against Theophilus III. People threw stones and smashed windows of the car the patriarch was riding in as they demanded he be stripped of his titles and be removed from the church.
Pope Tawadros II, leader Egypt's Coptic Church, has cancelled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Cairo later this month, in protest of the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people," the church said in a statement. "The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence," it said, adding it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, also declined to meet Pence.