UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."
The Israeli army shelled a site allegedly used by Palestinian militant groups in the central Gaza Strip on Oct. 6, after a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in southern Israel. Israeli military vehicles stationed along the border between Gaza and Israel reportedly shelled an area east of the Maghazi refugee camp, without causing any injuries. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an News Agency that they were looking into the reports. Earlier in the day, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in the Eshkol regional council, causing no injuries.
The Palestinian high court in Ramallah on Oct. 3 amended a previous ruling, holding that municipal elections can take place, but only in West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip. The court had previously held that the election, once scheduled for Oct. 8, would not proceed after Hamas disputed party lists drawn by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. In adjusting its previously holding, the court said that it would "implement the cabinet's decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip," adding that Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" to hold the polls. The new election date must be decided within four weeks. Hamas has been quick to criticize the decision as politically motivated. Had the court allowed elections to take place in the Gaza Strip it would have been the first election between Hamas and Fatah since 2006. Hamas won a majority of the seats in the legislative polls in 2006, sparking a tumultuous rift in Palestinian politics, culminating in Hamas seizing the Strip from Abbas-loyal forces in 2007. No Palestinian presidential election has taken place since 2005 and Abbas has retained office since, despite expiration of his term.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at New York's Trump Tower on Sept. 25, and pledged that if he is elected, the United States will "recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel." The quote is from a statement issued by the Trump campaign, as reporters were barred from the closed-door meeting. Bibi also met separately with Hillary Clinton that day, but it is the meeting with Trump—the one closed to the media—that is getting the media attention, due to his exploitation of the Jerusalem question. (Reuters, AP, Sept. 25)
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 11 that a law that permits force feeding hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners is constitutional, rejecting petitions filed last year by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and by several human rights groups who argued the law contravened medical law and ethics regarding patients’ rights. The ruling comes after three Palestinian prisoners detained without charge by Israel have continued their hunger strikes for more than 60 days, despite each of their medical conditions having seriously deteriorated.
Israel is preparing to deploy fully autonomous unmanned vehicles along the border with the Gaza Strip, according to a report published by Fox News. While currently unarmed, the Israeli military plans to add machine guns to the so-called Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) by "the beginning of next year." An unnamed Israeli military official told the Fox: "This is the future—the border is a very dangerous place… Sending unmanned vehicles to do these patrols means that troops’ lives are not at risk." According to the report, the Israeli army has worked with defense giant Elbit Systems to convert Ford pick-up trucks into UGVs by adding "specialised remote driving technology," along with "four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera."
Palestinians on Aug. 21 commemorated the 47th anniversary of an arson attack on al-Aqsa Mosque, with Palestinian officials emphasizing that the Muslim holy site is still under threat today. On Aug. 21, 1969, an Australian Christian fundamentalist set fire to a pulpit in al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, aiming to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. In a press conference, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that Israeli violations, which include detaining and killing Palestinians in al-Aqsa compound, allowing Israeli extremists to storm al-Aqsa, and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, were "another type of fire which keeps burning the al-Aqsa mosque and the city of Jerusalem, and has been burning for 47 years."
A mass hunger strike across Israeli prisons continued on July 23 in protest of Israel's detention of Palestinians without charge or trial. At least 48 Palestinian prisoners now participating in the open hunger strike in support of hunger-striking prisoners Bilal Kayid and brothers Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul, according to a statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs. The committee said in a statement that solidarity hunger strikes are continuing to put pressure on the Israeli prison administration and government to comply with the demands of the striking prisoners and to end Israel’s controversial policy of administrative detention—internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence almost exclusively used against Palestinian detainees.