The Palestine-Israel Journal is a quarterly of MIDDLE EAST PUBLICATIONS, a registered non-profit organization (No. 58-023862-4).
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Editorial Board

Adnan Abdelrazek

Danny Rubinstein

Sam'an Khoury

Daniel Bar-Tal

Walid Salem

Galia Golan

Gershon Baskin

Hind Khoury

Edy Kaufman

Ata Qaymari

Benjamin Pogrund

Nafez Nazzal

Dan Jacobson

Jumana Jaouni

Moshe Maoz

Munther Dajani

Khuloud Khayyat Dajani

Izhak Schnell

Lucy Nusseibah

Meir Margalit

Menachem Klein

Ali Abu Shahla

Ilan Baruch

Hanna Siniora

Yehudit Oppenheimer

Mossi Raz

Susie Becher

Frances Raday




Vol 15 No. 4 & Vol 16 No. 1, 08/09 / The Refugee Question

Chronology of Events

October 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009

Compiled by Najat Hirbawi


5.10.08 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Jerusalem. Olmert expressed his frustration that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) had not accepted his proposal for an agreement on a declaration of principles. Olmert’s plan proposes a comprehensive solution on borders and refugees and postpones a decision on Jerusalem.

5.10.08 Five Palestinian farmers sue the state of Israel for not evacuating the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron, which is built on land they own. The plaintiffs sought compensation for damage caused to their livelihoods by the outpost, which the Israeli government committed to evacuating over a year ago. The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din filed the lawsuit at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on behalf of the plaintiffs.

7.10.08 Settler leaders urge Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to transfer the security control over the West Bank city of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The leaders, from Hebron and the nearby settlements of Kiryat Arba and Gush Etzion, made the plea in a letter in the wake of recent reports about the potential transfer of security control.

8.10.08 Members of the organization Physicians for Human Rights are prevented from entering the Gaza Strip, although their entry had been approved by the Israeli authorities days before. The members were supposed to offer, medical services that are unavailable in the besieged territory. $50,000 worth of medical equipment was also turned away.

9.10.08 Violence breaks out in Acre after an Arab man is attacked by Jewish residents when he drove his car into a Jewish neighborhood a few hours into Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, when Jews in Israel generally refrain from driving. The incident escalated into clashes that continued for days between Jewish and Arab residents, who threw stones and torched houses.

16.10.08 The Saudi newspaper Okaz quotes a Palestinian source as saying that Israel has relayed to Hamas its readiness to release all the Palestinian prisoners the militant group demands in return for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. According to the source, top Israeli negotiator and senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad has informed Egypt of Israel’s intention to hand over the prisoners. Israel Radio reported that Gilad denied the report, calling it completely untrue.

17.10.08 The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reports that U.S. President George W. Bush made an offer to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the effect that Israel would pull out of the Golan Heights if Syria severs its ties with Iran. The offer was made in a secret letter delivered by President Abbas during his recent visit to Damascus. Israeli sources denied any knowledge of a U.S. proposal to Syria.

19.10.08 Israeli DM Barak says that Israeli leaders have been discussing pursuing the Arab Peace Initiative, a comprehensive initiative promoted by Arab countries across the Middle East. The Arab Peace Initiative was first proposed in 2002 and was reaffirmed in 2007. It offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967.

19.10.08 Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence director and a member of the royal family, presents a proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace at a conference organized by the Oxford Research Group. The conference, attended by Arab, Palestinian and Israeli political figures, sought to promote the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Al-Faisal expressed his kingdom’s support for a comprehensive peace and the rights of the Palestinian people. He also called on Israel to stop targeted assassinations and arrests, the construction of the separation wall and the expansion of Jewish settlements and separate settlers-only roads. The Palestinians, he said, must stop all suicide bombings and rocket fire aimed at Israel.

26.10.08 Settlers riot near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, desecrating a Muslim graveyard, after Israeli security forces evacuated a nearby illegal outpost. The settlers desecrated some of the graves and poured paint over others.

28.10.08 A Jewish senior adviser to Moroccan King Mohammed VI, André Azoulay, calls on Israel to adopt the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. He was speaking at the 10th anniversary conference of the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv.

30.10.08 Israel closes its border crossings with Gaza after Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket into the western Negev.

4.11.08 Israeli soldiers kill a Hamas gunman and wound two others in the first armed clash in the Gaza Strip since a ceasefire was declared in the territory in June. Hamas considered the attack a severe violation of the ceasefire.

5.11.08 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fire 35 Qassam rockets at the western Negev a day after an Israel Air Force strike in southern Gaza killed at least six Palestinians and wounded others. None of the rockets caused any damage or injuries.

5.11.08 The Palestinian economy has “incredible potential” that could be unleashed if Israel eases restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, says David Craig, head of the World Bank in the West Bank and Gaza a day after a high-level World Bank delegation inaugurated a sewage storage facility. Craig said the Palestinian economy had contracted 30% since 2000.

8.11.08 Ismail Haniyyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza, says his government is willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders but that Israel rejected his initiative. Haniyyeh spoke at a meeting with 11 European parliamentarians who sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The protest boat Dignity anchored at Gaza port, carrying nine MPs from Britain and Ireland, one from Switzerland and one from Italy.

9.11.08 Israel and the PA present the Quartet on the Middle East, at Sharm el-Sheikh, with several agreements on the way negotiations on the conflict’s core issues will proceed next year. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she was convinced that she had not repeated the mistakes of Camp David in 2000. Livni and Palestinian President Abbas stressed “the need for continuous, uninterrupted, direct bilateral negotiations.”

11.11.08 Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah accuses Israel of operating multiple spy networks in Lebanon, vowing that “the Israeli hand that attacks Lebanon will be cut off.”

11.11.08 Israel renews fuel deliveries to the Gaza Strip, ending a week-long suspension of supplies that led to blackouts in the Strip. Israel had blocked shipments of European Union-funded fuel for a week. About half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents lost power when their sole power plant shut down due to lack of fuel.

11.11.08 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosts a dinner for leaders attending a two-day UN conference to promote a global dialogue about religions, cultures and common values. Arab leaders, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, attended the same dinner, along with Israel’s president.

12.11.08 Israeli soldiers shoot and kill four members of Hamas on the Israel-Gaza border near Khan Younis. In retaliation, five shells and one rocket were fired at the Negev.

15.11.08 Palestinian President Abbas says Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is a “war crime,” as the UN closed its food aid distribution centers in Gaza after the blockade depleted its food reserves.

16.11.08 According to Haaretz, Israeli DM Barak had authorized the construction of at least 400 new housing units and lots in the West Bank, including 32 lots and a commercial center in the settlements of Beitar Illit, 48 housing units and 19 lots in Ariel, and 40 housing units and a commercial center in Efrat. Palestinian President Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, “Ehud Barak’s decision effectively destroys the peace process.”

16.11.08 An Israel Air Force strike kills four Palestinians in northern Gaza, and two Qassam rockets slam into the western Negev as a five-month-old ceasefire continued to unravel.

16.11.08 Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip are strengthening the stance of extremists there, the director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) John Ging tells Haaretz. By not easing restrictions at crossings into the Strip during the ceasefire, Israel bolstered extremists’ claims that the closures represent a political, rather than security-related, move.

16.11.08 Israeli FM Livni tells her visiting British counterpart, David Miliband, that the United Kingdom was taking an “exaggerated” stance in its initiative to distinctly label produce imported from the West Bank. Miliband arrived for a two-day visit aimed at advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

17.11.08 In an interview with Haaretz, Palestinian PM and Finance Minister Salam Fayyad warns that Israel’s refusal to cease construction in the settlements immediately would spell the end of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s negotiations with Israeli PM Olmert and FM Livni. He said he was amazed that instead of working toward halting the construction, Livni protested to British FM Miliband about London’s decision to tighten restrictions on importing goods produced in the settlements.

18.11.08 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Navi Pillay, calls for an immediate end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, which breaches international and humanitarian law. Pillay urged Israel to allow the flow of aid, including food, medicines and fuel, to resume, and to restore electricity and water services in Gaza. She also called on Israel to end its air strikes and incursions into Gaza, and on the Palestinians to stop firing rockets into Israel.

19.11.08 Israeli FM Livni announces that Israel has made a final decision to boycott the UN “Durban II” conference on human rights in spring 2009, fearing it would be used once again as a forum for anti-Israeli sentiment. The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva in April, is a follow-up to a 2001 summit in Durban, South Africa, on the same issues.

19.11.08 Violent clashes erupt between settler activists and Israeli forces at a disputed house in Hebron slated for evacuation. The Israeli High Court had ordered the settlers to vacate the house after they were found to have forged ownership documents. The deadline the settlers had been given had passed unheeded.

19.11.08 Israeli President Shimon Peres tells members of the British Parliament that Israel would have difficulty dismantling West Bank settlements without causing a civil war in Israel. On the second day of his visit to Britain, Peres became the first Israeli leader to address members of both houses of Parliament in the House of Lords’ Robing room.

24.11.08 U.S. President Bush and Israeli PM Olmert bid each other farewell at the White House, expressing confidence in an eventual Middle East peace deal that would not materialize on either of their watches.

24.11.08 UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, of Nicaragua, likens Israeli policies toward the Palestinians to “the apartheid of an earlier era.” “We must not be afraid to call something what it is,” said Brockmann, speaking at the annual debate marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

26.11.08 According to Israel Radio, some 40 teenage settlers go on a rampage in a Palestinian neighborhood in Hebron. The teens punctured the tires of Palestinian cars and Israeli police patrol jeeps near the so-called “House of Contention,” a building the High Court had ordered settlers to vacate. They also hurled rocks at Palestinian houses and sprayed stars of David on the walls.

3.12.08 At a meeting of the UN Security Council, Libya accuses Israel of piracy for preventing a Libyan ship from delivering humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. The Libyan boat was turned back by an Israeli naval blockade on December 1. The boat was carrying 3,000 tons of food, medicine and other aid to the Gaza Strip.

4.12.08 The daily Al-Hayat reports that Syria refuses to renew indirect negotiations with Israel until the latter responds to queries regarding plans for the disputed Golan Heights. According to the report, Syria has given Turkish mediators its responses to Israel’s security questions but has asked that the document not be transferred until Jerusalem delivers its responses to Damascus’ own queries.

14.12.08 Khaled Mash’al, the Damascus-based head of Hamas’ political bureau, says that Hamas does not plan to extend its ceasefire with Israel beyond December 19, which is when it is due to expire.

14.12.08 Israel warns Hamas that any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip will be met with a military response, as both sides ratchet up the rhetoric ahead of the expiration of a ceasefire along the Gaza frontier.

15.12.08 The population growth among West Bank settlers during the past 12 years is three times higher than that of the rest of Israel, according to a report by the Ariel University Center of Samaria, located in the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank. The report shows that the Jewish population in the West Bank more than doubled during that time and that the settler population surged from 130,000 in 2005 to 270,000 by the end of 2007.

18.12.08 The British government is steps up measures against settlements in the West Bank in an effort to stop their further expansion. Prime Minister Gordon Brown instructed the Foreign Office to issue warnings to British citizens against the purchase of houses and real estate in the settlements. Other measures recently imposed by London include tying the upgrade of relations between the European Union and Israel to the cessation of construction in the West Bank settlements and labeling goods produced in West Bank settlements.

20.12.08 Hamas officially announces that it would not be extending the ceasefire, which had expired on December 19, and resumes its shelling of the western Negev. Hamas cited Israel’s continued blockade of the Gaza Strip as the primary reason, saying that Israel had not respected the terms of the ceasefire.

20.12.08 In an interview with the Associated Press, Palestinian PM Fayyad says, “The world needs to do more to hold Israel accountable, particularly on settlement construction, if peace efforts are to have a chance.”

22.12.08 The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem says that it found records showing that 58% of a major Israeli settlement sits on private Palestinian land. B’Tselem said that the Ofra settlement, located northeast of Jerusalem, must be treated by the government as an unauthorized settlement outpost and dismantled. Ofra was established in 1975 and has about 3,000 residents.

24.12.08 Senior U.S. State Department officials send concerned messages to their Israeli counterparts asking Israel to remain committed to Lebanese sovereignty at all costs, stating, “Israel must not sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of peace with Syria.” A senior Foreign Ministry official said the United States even asked Israel for “guarantees” on the matter.

24.12.08 The Israeli security cabinet approves military action in response to the continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, which would be “significant and painful,” according to a government source in Jerusalem. The cabinet ministers authorized PM Olmert, DM Barak and FM Livni to approve the timing of the attack.

25.12.08 Israeli FM Livni meets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Livni told Mubarak that Israel had decided to end its restraint, to strike at Hamas and not to agree to a ceasefire except on its own terms.

27.12.08 Israel starts its military attacks in the Gaza Strip with an aerial bombardment. It destroyed most of the Gaza security offices, including police stations which are located in civilian population centers, resulting in the deaths of hundred of children and civilians. Over 200 Palestinians died and more than 350 were injured. The ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip has left facilities incapable of meeting the needs of the hundreds who have been injured.

28.12.08 Israel’s cabinet approves the call-up of thousands of reservists as the military deployed tanks close to the border with Gaza while pressing on with air strikes, suggesting a major ground invasion was being considered.

29.12.08 Israel continues its attacks on Gaza and bombs the Islamic University and a government compound in Gaza City. Other targets included a guest palace used by the Hamas government and the house next to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyyeh’s home in a refugee camp adjacent to Gaza City. Israeli forces also bombed the Interior Ministry.

29.12.08 Two Israelis are killed as rockets and mortar shells are fired from Gaza into Ashdod, as Israel concluded its third day of attacks on Gaza.

30.12.08 Israeli missiles flatten five ministerial buildings, killing 10 Palestinians. Another attack targeted a house in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing seven people.

30.12.08 An Israel Navy ship shoots at a small boat carrying 16 international activists and medical aid. Members of the “Free Gaza Movement,” who sailed from Cyprus, told Reuters that their boat was rammed and shot at by an Israeli naval vessel in international waters 70-80 miles off Gaza. Israel has declared the coastal territory a closed military zone.

30.12.08 Medical facilities in Gaza has been forced to deal with an unprecedented number of wounded, many of them in serious condition, and a growing lack of medical equipment and medicine, insufficient doctors and the inability to carry out certain procedures. According to Physicians for Human Rights, operations are being performed without anesthesia, and surgical gloves, gauze, sterile equipment and oxygen have run out. Needles, stretchers and hospital beds are in short supply; therefore, patients who have been hospitalized long-term, including cancer and heart disease patients, are being sent home. Nearly half of the ambulances in Gaza are inoperable, either due to the aerial bombardment or due to mechanical problems that cannot be repaired given the lack of spare parts.

31.12.08 The UN Security Council, meeting for emergency consultations, rejects an Arab request for a legally binding resolution that would condemn Israel and force it to halt its attacks. Arab countries pushed for a resolution to demand an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

31.12.08 Israel rejects a French proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in order to allow the flow of humanitarian aid. The decision was reached by the members of the “kitchen cabinet,” which includes PM Olmert, DM Barak and FM Livni. Israel described the French proposal as unrealistic.

1.1.09 At least 30 Palestinians, including two sisters aged five and 12, are killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza. Palestinians fire 40 rockets into southern Israel.

6.1.09 The Israeli forces bomb Fakhura, a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) elementary school for girls near the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. At least 45 people were killed and 55 wounded. Fakhura, like other UNRWA schools, was serving as a refuge for 700 people who had been forced to flee their homes.

6.1.09 Speaking to the UN Security Council, Palestinian President Abbas expresses his “appreciation, indeed support” for the ceasefire plan between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, set out by Egyptian President Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Egypt proposed an immediate truce to be followed by talks on long-term border arrangements and an end to the blockade of Gaza.

6.1.09 Three Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade are killed and 20 others wounded when an errant IDF tank shell hit a building in which they were operating in Gaza.

6.1.09 Venezuela expels Israel’s ambassador in Caracas to protest the operation in Gaza. The move came after President Hugo Chavez called the attacks a “holocaust.”

7.1.09 Red Cross relief workers find four small children sitting next to their dead mother and other corpses in a house in Gaza City that had been bombed by Israeli forces. “They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses,” a Red Cross statement read. The Red Cross team that found the survivors and bodies had been denied access to evacuate them. But even after ambulances made it past the Israeli post, they could not enter the neighborhood because of “large earth walls erected by the Israeli army.” The children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart. The Red Cross accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the Gaza Strip and demanded it grant safe access for their ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded without being fired on by Israeli soldiers.

8.1.09 UNRWA announces it will cease activities in the Gaza Strip due to the death of an UNRWA staffer in an Israeli shelling during a humanitarian hiatus to allow Gaza residents to acquire supplies. A Palestinian working for UNRWA was killed by an Israeli tank shell while driving a well-marked aid truck at the Erez border crossing.

9.1.09 Eight Israeli human rights groups present a petition to the High Court of Justice to order the Israeli forces to vouch for the safety of medical teams in Gaza and allow injured people to be evacuated to medical facilities. According to Physicians for Human Rights, one of the eight petitioners, since the military operation was launched in Gaza on December 27, Israeli forces have killed six members of medical teams operating there. The organization said that medical teams called to evacuate wounded Palestinians from collapsed buildings are prevented from tending to the injured because Israeli soldiers fire directly at them, even in cases in which Israeli forces are notified in advance of the medical teams’ arrival.

9.1.09 The UN Security Council votes on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but the U.S. unexpectedly abstained, saying talks on a truce were still underway through Egyptian mediation.

11.1.09 Israeli soldiers advance into Gaza City, killing at least 10 Palestinians. On the 16th day of the military operation in Gaza, Israeli air strikes targeted a car, killing two Palestinians. The aircraft attacked over 60 targets throughout the Gaza Strip, including a mosque in Rafah. More than 15 houses were set on fire.

11.1.09 Israeli forces begin deploying reservist troops to the Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel began its military operation in Gaza. Palestinian medical officials said 60 Palestinians died, including 17 who had succumbed to their wounds from previous days.

11.1.09 U.S. President-elect Barack Obama says in remarks broadcast on an ABC news show that he would begin the search for Middle East peace immediately after being sworn in as president, adding that the Gaza conflict only reinforced his determination to become involved early in his administration.

12.1.09 Seven hundred protesters against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, mostly Israeli Arabs or Palestinians of East Jerusalem, have been arrested since the operation began, and dozens have been indicted.

12.1.09 Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal for a long-term truce between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reports. A senior Hamas source said, “There are still many details that need to be discussed before we can say that we have reached an agreement of principles.”

13.1.09 Israeli forces bomb more than 50 targets across the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said at least 21 Palestinians were killed.

13.1.09 Human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) charges Israel with illegal use of white phosphorous bombs in urban areas, after HRW military analyst Mark Garlasco determined, based on his observations, that Israel is using the material. International law allows such weapons to be used in battlefields as a smokescreen, but the material is considered dangerous in residential areas due to the severe burns it inflicts as well as its incendiary quality.

14.1.09 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrives in Cairo at the start of a Middle East trip that aims to bring an end to the fighting in Gaza. His trip also took him to Jordan, Israel and Syria.

14.1.09 Since the beginning of the operation in Gaza, 900 Palestinians have been killed. Ten Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have also been killed.

14.1.09 The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip says that more than 670 civilians were among the dead. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that 1,010 Palestinians had been killed and 4,700 wounded by Israeli forces in 18 days of fighting. The head of the UN children’s agency UNICEF said that more than 300 children had been killed.

15.1.09 Thousands of Gaza City residents flee their homes in pajamas, some wheeling elderly parents in wheelchairs, as Israeli ground troops made their deepest foray into a crowded residential area. Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns, thrust farther into the city than ever before.

18.1.09 The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports that 95 bodies have been found amid the rubble of the battle-torn northern Gaza Strip, including 20 believed to be those of gunmen killed in combat. Palestinian medical crews reported that most of the bodies were found in pieces and had been dead for several days, many of them women and children who had stayed in their homes during the clashes.

18.1.09 Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip, the first fatality on either side since Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire.

18.1.09 European and Arab leaders hold a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, jointly chaired by French President Sarkozy and Egyptian President Mubarak, to consolidate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel for an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza and for the opening of the territory to desperately needed humanitarian aid.

19.1.09 The Palestinian death toll reaches 1,300, with more than 5,450 wounded. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, three civilians and ten soldiers.

20.1.09 In statements provided to the B’Tselem human rights organization and Haaretz by telephone, Gaza residents claim that some Palestinians killed were waving white flags at the time they were shot. Four of them were members of the Al-Najjar family of Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis.

21.1.09 Anonymous Israeli human rights activists set up an internet site detailing alleged war crimes committed by senior government officials and Israeli officers. The site, www.wanted.org.il, includes “arrest orders,” complete with pictures and personal details for DM Barak, PM Olmert, FM Livni, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and others.

21.1.09 Israel says it has withdrawn all of its soldiers from Gaza, three and a half weeks after launching its operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The timing of the pullout reflected Israeli hopes to defuse the crises in Gaza before U.S. President Obama entered the White House.

21.1.09 UN organizations will investigate complaints that Israel used depleted uranium projectiles in the fighting in Gaza, causing health and environmental damage.

25.1.09 Turkish PM RecepTayyip Erdogan says that Ankara will only resume mediating Israel-Syria negotiations when Israel shows a real desire for peace, Al-Hayat reports.

26.1.09 In his first interview with Arab television since becoming president, U.S. President Obama tells al-Arabiya that Israel and the Palestinians should resume peace negotiations and praises Saudi King Abdullah for putting forward an Arab plan for peace in the Middle East.

26.1.09 Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says that Israel will face a “catastrophe” unless it revives the Middle East peace process and establishes an independent Palestinian state. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said Arabs will outnumber Jews in the Holy Land in the foreseeable future.

27.1.09 Israel’s Foreign Ministry orders the Venezuelan ambassador to leave the country, responding to Venezuela’s January 6 declaration that it was expelling Israeli diplomats in protest of Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

28.1.09 A Peace Now report states that settlements and outposts in the West Bank expanded more quickly in 2008 than in the previous year. According to the group, 1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared with 800 in 2007, an increase of 57%.

29.1.09 Belgium agrees to ban the export to Israel of weapons that “strengthen it militarily,” a Belgian minister said. The Belgian daily De Morgen quoted Minister Patricia Ceysens from the Flemish regional government as saying: “There’s a consensus [among ministers] not to approve exports that would strengthen Israel’s military capacity.”

29.1.09 Turkish PM Erdogan stalks off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after sparring with Israeli President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza. The incident occurred hours after a Spanish investigative judge decided to open a criminal investigation into seven Israeli officers and government officials who were involved in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in July 2002. In addition to Shehadeh, the operation killed 14 civilians. In Davos, Peres and Erdogan engaged in a debate about the Gaza operation, during which both men raised their voices. “You are killing people,” Erdogan told Peres.

1.2.09 Following lengthy legal discussions, Israel pays approximately £1.5 million in damages to the family of British cameraman James Miller, who was killed in Rafah in May 2003.

1.2.09 At least 17 Palestinian UNRWA schoolgirls are wounded when their classroom collapsed because of Israeli excavations beneath Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. One of the classrooms inside UNRWA’s Silwan Elementary School for Girls had collapsed because of a tunnel dig under the school.

4.2.09 Israeli DM Barak agrees to approve the establishment of a new settlement in the Binyamin region in return for settlers’ agreement to evacuate the illegal outpost of Migron. The Migron settlers will move into the new 250-house settlement after leaving the illegal one they built on private Palestinian land. There are 45 families living in Migron, with only two living in permanent housing and the rest in trailers.

3.2.09 Israel must lift its ban on materials to rebuild Gaza after its offensive in a territory resembling “hell” where children have to sleep outside shattered homes, the European Union’s Middle East envoy says in Jerusalem. “What encouragement to terrorism would it be to rebuild the sewage system, have clean water, have kids going to school, have clinics that work, have mothers delivering their babies in safe conditions?” Marc Otte asked following Operation Cast Lead — Israel’s devastating 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip.

4.2.09 According to Army Radio, Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim says that Israel must assassinate Hamas PM Ismail Haniyyeh in order to stop the continuation of rocket fire.

4.2.09 An Israeli gunboat intercepts a Lebanese ship carrying medical aid and other supplies bound for Gaza, the organizer of the Lebanese delivery, Maan Bashour, says. “The Brotherhood Ship was fired on by an Israeli military boat 32 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and they were asked to divert course,” said Bashour, and added that the ship remains in the water near the coast of Gaza. The aid ship was loaded with 50 tons of medical supplies, food, clothing and toys.

5.2.09 According to figures appearing in B’Tselem’s annual report, of the 548 Palestinians Israel is detaining without charge or trial, 42 have been held for over two years. Twenty-three have been administratively detained for over two and a half years, including three who have been detained between three and four and a half years, and two over four and a half consecutive years. Of these administrative detainees, 372 have been held for at least two consecutive six-month periods.

9.2.09 A deal for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit hinges on a dispute between Israel and Hamas over four Palestinian prisoners whom Israel refuses to free Al-Quds al-Arabi and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report. The papers named the four as Abdullah Barghouthi, Ibrahim Hamas and Abbas el-Said, all Hamas men; and Ahmad Sa’adat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

9.2.09 Children in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer and feel insecure despite a ceasefire that has mostly ended three weeks of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict Radihika Coomaraswamy said. She said grave violations of child rights had been committed during the fighting that began on December 27; violations included killing and maiming and denial of humanitarian access. Fifty-six percent of Gazans are children under 18.

11.2.09 An inconclusive election sends Israel into political limbo. With 99% of the votes counted, Livni’s centrist Kadima was in first place with 28 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud following closely behind with 27 seats. It was not certain that Livni would be able to muster the 61-seat coalition needed to form a government. The elections were called when she failed to achieve this goal following the resignation of PM Olmert late last year.

11.2.09 Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad signs an agreement with the European Commission’s representative in Jerusalem, Christian Berger, in which the latter would provide €168 million in direct support to the PA budget. The signing ceremony was held in Ramallah.

15.2.09 South Korea’s military decides to buy Israel’s Oren Yarok (Green Pine) radar warning system, in a deal worth $215 million, according to a report in the Korea Times. Oren Yarok is used as Israel’s main warning system.

16.2.09 Palestinian President Abbas strongly criticizes an Israeli decision to seize more Palestinian land in the West Bank for settlement expansion. He said that “unless settlements are brought to a halt, then talks [with Israel] will be meaningless and useless.” As reported in Haaretz, Israel plans to seize 1.7 km2 of Palestinian land near Bethlehem to expand the settlement of Efrat.

16.2.09 In a statement, the European Commission in Jerusalem says that a total of 78,046 Palestinian public service providers and pensioners will receive an overall contribution of over €25.5 million towards the payment of their monthly salaries and pensions, through PEGASE, the European mechanism to provide support to the Palestinians.

17.2.09 Daniel C. Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, says that a government led by Netanyahu that also included the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, would be a “bad combination for American interests.”

17.2.09 British MP Richard Burden says that Israel committed war crimes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 22-day war. “If Israel wants stop tunnels smuggling, it has to open all Gaza crossings and to adopt all peace accords concerning Gaza crossings,” he said. Burden, who came with a British parliamentarian delegation to Gaza, appealed to Israel to halt its ongoing settlement activities across the West Bank in order to push the peace process forward.

18.2.09 Israel warplanes bomb a Hamas post in Khan Yunis in Gaza and hit seven smuggling tunnels on the border with Egypt.

19.2.09 U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Congressmen Brian Baird of Washington and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, all Democrats, travel to the Gaza Strip, the first congressional delegation to enter the area since Hamas took power two years ago. They came to view first-hand the destruction from recent Israeli air and ground attacks and to meet with international and local relief agencies.

23.2.09 In the report “Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza,” Amnesty International urges a freeze on arms sales to Israel. According to the report, more than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during the military operation in the Gaza Strip could constitute war crimes and might serious infractions of international law. The group’s representative in Gaza also found extensive evidence of the use of U.S.-made phosphorus bombs against civilian targets and densely populated areas. Since 2001, the U.S. has been Israel’s main supplier of conventional weapons, the report states.

23.2.09 Israeli PM Olmert suspends senior defense official Amos Gilad from his role as negotiations emissary to Egypt, following an interview Gilad gave to the Israeli daily Maariv in which he criticized the prime minister. Gilad was quoted as saying that Olmert’s behavior and decision to make Gilad Shalit’s release a precondition to a ceasefire is an insult to Egypt, and therefore undermines national security.

24.2.09 In his first address to Congress, U.S. President Obama says, “To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort,” referring to Special Envoy George Mitchell.

25.2.09 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton relays messages to Israel expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

26.2.09 A group of former international peace negotiators urge the world and Israel to abandon the policy of isolating Hamas and engage with the Islamic group. “The policy of isolating Hamas cannot bring about stability. As former negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process,” the group said in a letter published in the British newspaper The Times. Among the letter’s signatories were Gareth Evans, former Australian foreign minister; Alvaro de Soto, former UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; John Hume, former leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party of Northern Ireland; and Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli foreign minister.

28.2.09 A committee of jurists hired by the Arab League complete a six-day tour of the Gaza Strip. The fact-finding mission was meant to investigate war crimes as well as crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel against Hamas in the 22-day war.








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