February 2009


14 palestinians killed by israeli action this month
0 israelis killed by palestinian action this month


The International Criminal Court (ICC) is exploring ways to charge IDF officers over war crimes committed in Gaza, The Times reported. The alleged crimes included the use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, the daily said. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Times that he was examining the case for ICC jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.

UN launches $613 million Flash Appeal for emergency relief efforts in Gaza.

Denmark hosts international meeting on Gaza arms smuggling. Countries participating in such a blockade will technically be at war with Palestine, as blockades not sanctioned by the UN are considered an aggression of war.

A freighter carrying humanitarian aid from Lebanon to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy and impounded in the port of Ashdod.

UNRWA resumes import of humanitarian supplies into Gaza after Hamas returns aid supplies seized earlier.

Fatah and Hamas hold preliminary talks in Cairo.

UN Board of inquiry into attacks on UN facilities during Gaza conflict is announced. The Board of Inquiry will review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations.

The Israeli Cabinet decides to condition Gaza truce on the release of Gilad Shalit.

Israeli authorities decide to demolish 88 homes in East Jerusalem, affecting around 1,500 Palestinians.

Former peace negotiators call on the international community to engage directly with Hamas. Mediators from conflicts in Northern Ireland, Cambodia and Bosnia said that the policy of isolating Hamas had failed. “As former peace negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process,” they wrote in a letter published in The Times.


Israeli actions Negotiations Palestinian actions
Every is one palestinian killed by israeli action   Every is one israeli killed by palestinian action
 1. February

"If there is shooting at residents of the south, there will be an Israeli response that will be harsh and disproportionate by its nature," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet. However, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Ynetnews that a wider offensive was not being planned. (AP, Ynetnews)

Israeli fighter jets launched air strikes across Gaza, hitting a police station and tunnels used for smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Ayman Abu Jazar of the Popular Resistance Committees was killed and four others wounded when a vehicle carrying militants was hit in Rafah, medical sources and witnesses said. (AFP, Reuters, Ynetnews)

Israel had invested close to NIS 200 million during the past two years in preparing infrastructure for the construction of housing units to create a contiguous settlement block between “Ma'aleh Adumim” and East Jerusalem. (Haaretz)


Gaza militants fired at least 10 rockets and mortar shells across the border. In Nahal Oz, next to the Gaza border fence, two soldiers and a civilian were wounded, the military and rescue services said. Earlier, a rocket had landed near a kindergarten, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. (AP)

Palestinian militants fired shots at Israeli soldiers in the Hebron Hills, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. The troops subsequently returned fire, killing one of the gunmen. PA security sources rejected the IDF claim that the man was armed. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashaal ruled out any permanent ceasefire until Israel ended the blockade of Gaza. An Israeli official however said that the Government was not ready to adhere to any agreement that had a time limit. “We want a deal that will be valid for as long as the sides respect it," he said. (AFP)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of putting Palestinian lives and their hopes for statehood at risk. He also accused the group of trying to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and said he rejected talks with any group which did not recognize the organization. In Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators, Mr. Abbas told reporters he would not hold reconciliation talks with Hamas unless it accepted his authority. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said, “We want to add opposition factions to the PLO, factions that are still not included within the body.” (AFP, AP, WAFA)

 2. February

A missile from an Israeli aircraft struck a car travelling in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, killing a Palestinian militant. The Israeli military said it had targeted a group of militants who had fired mortar shells at Israel. Palestinian medical officials said a second occupant in the car was also killed and two bystanders had been wounded. (AP)

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak proposed the construction of a 48-km long tunnel that would connect the northern Gaza Strip with the southern West Bank, enabling freedom of movement between the two territories. (Haaretz)

Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin told reporters in Damascus that several key regional players had made representations to the European Union since the end of the conflict in Gaza. “What was clear … was the request to Europe to be flexible in terms of how one approaches what emerges from this process … not to be absolutist,” Mr. Martin said. He spoke of the possibility of a “flexibility of mindset” with the aim of “getting practical work done on the ground, in terms of rebuilding Gaza.” (The Irish Times)

PA President Abbas was in Paris where he was expected to hold talks with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy in an effort to build European support for a Palestinian unity Government that would include Hamas. He also wanted international backing for his demands that he be given a role in the reconstruction of Gaza and that PA troops be deployed at the Gaza border crossings with Israel and Egypt, his aides said. (AFP, AP, Haaretz)

Senior Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in an interview on Al-Jazeera television that the group would base its final decision on a ceasefire during the talks in Cairo, which would take place on 2 or 3 February. He said that the group would not negotiate the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a ceasefire deal. He added that ending Hamas efforts to arm itself was also out of the question. (AP)

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told reporters at the United Nations Office at Geneva, as he unveiled the Gaza Flash Appeal for $613 million to fund emergency relief efforts: "Although the fighting has stopped in Gaza, the difficult task of rebuilding people's lives and recovering from the devastation is only just beginning," describing intended projects to provide food and water, restore health and education services, and support emergency repair work. "There must be a regular, predictable and sufficient flow of life-sustaining goods and an uninterrupted and facilitated movement of humanitarian staff in order for this relief effort to succeed," he said. He promised tighter controls to prevent the diversion of humanitarian assistance. (AP, Reuters)

PA Health Minister Fathi Abu Mahdi, in Geneva to attend the launch of the Gaza Flash Appeal, told journalists that damaged sewage lines needed to be repaired quickly to avoid water contamination and an outbreak of diarrhoeal infections in Gaza. He said he was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontičres to coordinate health aid and draw in specialist surgeons who may be able to help Gaza's doctors, citing demand for war surgeons, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons and reconstruction experts. (Reuters)

The Greek Foreign Ministry announced that it had sent six containers of humanitarian aid from the Piraeus port to the Gaza Strip. (www.mfa.gr)

Oxfam estimated that Israel had been denying Gaza more than 50 per cent of its normal minimum daily requirements, when the current needs were even greater after three weeks of heavy bombardments and armed conflict. “It’s not enough for donor countries to reach out for their check books. They must also press Israel to open up the border crossings and make sure their aid money is being used effectively. The people of Gaza cannot indefinitely continue to be dependent on external aid," Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs concluded. (www.oxfam.org)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is exploring ways to charge IDF officers over war crimes committed in Gaza, The Times reported. The alleged crimes included the use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, the daily said. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Times that he was examining the case for ICC jurisdiction over the alleged crimes. (www.timesonline.co.uk)

 3. February

Israeli forces detained three Palestinian children in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, two youths in the village of Orta, south of Nablus, two near Jenin, and five others from Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency, WAFA)

Taysir Manasra, 27, from the village of Bani Naim in the West Bank, was shot and killed by IDF troops near the settlement of “Yair,” south of Hebron, after he allegedly tried to shoot at soldiers manning a roadblock. (Haaretz)

Three Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip targeted “five smuggling tunnels, a rocket launching site and a Hamas outpost,” a military statement said. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israel had reportedly asked the United Nations to give it permission to board and search ships in international waters even if they were flying other sovereign States’ flags, in an attempt to halt alleged arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip. Ma’ariv reported that Israel was sending a security officer to discuss the issue at the UN, following a US-Israeli agreement to combat smuggling signed in January. (Ma’an News Agency)

Ahead of a new round of talks with Egyptian mediators in Cairo, Hamas officials said the group is ready in principle to commit to a year-long ceasefire with Israel in exchange for a full opening of Gaza’s border crossings. (AP)

Hamas and Egyptian officials continued talks in Cairo aimed at achieving a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas delegation met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Salah Al-Bardawil, a member of the Hamas delegation, said Israel had offered to allow in 75 per cent of the goods it currently banned from entering the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The remaining 25 per cent were goods Israel said could be used to make weapons. (AFP, Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell would return to the region this month. “This is the first of what will be an ongoing high level of engagement by Senator Mitchell on behalf of myself and the President,” Ms. Clinton said at a news briefing with Mr. Mitchell, who returned the previous day from talks with Israelis and Palestinians in a bid to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza. Ms. Clinton said the United States was looking to work with “all of the parties” in the region to help make progress towards a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But she repeated a demand by the United States and its allies that Hamas must meet certain conditions. “They [Hamas] must renounce violence; they must recognize Israel; they must agree to abide by prior agreements. … We are not able to look into the future to see whether there will be changes on the part of Hamas that (would) meet our conditions but, you know, certainly that would be a clear path for them to follow,” Ms. Clinton said. She also said the United States wanted to help create an independent and viable Palestinian State in both the West Bank and Gaza. (Reuters, www.state.gov)

PA President Abbas met with French President Sarkozy at a donors’ conference in Paris, where he said the Palestinian Authority would welcome Hamas into a unity government but had no intention of dismantling the PLO to accommodate the group. (Ma’an News Agency)

In Paris after a lunch meeting with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, PA President Abbas told reporters: “France has approved a project to rebuild the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza and this is an extremely important humanitarian project.” Mr. Kouchner concurred on “urgent” plans to rebuild the hospital and other health centres in Gaza. (AFP)

The International Criminal Court said the Palestinian Authority had recognized the jurisdiction of the Court aimed at allowing an investigation of possible war crimes during the recent Gaza conflict. Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Khashan had sent a brief letter to the Court on 21 January in which he recognized the authority of the Court. “My work now is to analyze if this is in accordance with the law,” Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said, adding that he would not decide his position quickly. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told a small group of foreign correspondents in a meeting at the Court that he had received 150 separate communications alleging war crimes during the Gaza conflict. He also said he had to deal with three issues when looking at the Gaza conflict: if the Palestinian Authority had the power under international law to recognize the court; whether crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction were committed; and whether any possible crimes were being investigated by the combatants. (AP)

A medium-range rocket from Gaza landed in an open area in the middle of the Israeli city of Ashkelon, damaging several cars. Police said no one had been injured. (AP, Ynetnews)

The spokesperson of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Christopher Gunness, said Hamas policemen seized over 3,500 blankets and 406 food parcels that were to be distributed to 500 families in a Palestine refugee camp in Gaza. He said policemen raided the UN warehouse after officials refused to hand over the aid to a Hamas-controlled ministry. (BBC, Reuters, UNRWA press release)

 4. February

Israeli soldiers arrested five Palestinians from Ramallah. Witnesses said the soldiers entered the Bil’in village at dawn, ransacking a number of homes. (Ma’an News Agency)

At the request of the United States, Denmark hosted an expert meeting on 4 to 5 February for a small number of countries with maritime expertise to discuss the challenges related to illicit arms trafficking into Gaza, including the possibilities for an international contribution to prevent the flow of weapons. The participants in the meeting included the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway. Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Stig Mřller stated, “Opening the borders to Gaza is crucial. There is a need for immediate full access for humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza needs to be started.” (AFP, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), www.um.dk)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak criticized Hamas in a speech marking Egypt’s national day to honour its police force, saying, “How long will Arab blood continue to be spilled, only to hear those who admit to miscalculating the scope and scale of Israel’s response?” Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashaal had said earlier that he had not anticipated the scope of Israel’s operation. President Mubarak said resistance movements must take responsibility for the welfare of their people. (Haaretz)

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had agreed to approve the establishment of a new settlement in the Binyamin region in return for settlers’ agreement to evacuate the outpost of “Migron.” The settlers would move into the new 250-house settlement. Some 45 families lived in “Migron.” (Haaretz)

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, PA President Abbas called on the international community to press Israel to take a new approach, saying the potential rewards were great for all sides. He added that the recent Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip “claimed the fruit of the blood and sweat of the Palestinian people, the fruit of their work and what the Palestinian Authority had built up over 15 years.” President Abbas also said, “I would like to stress again our request to send international forces in order to protect our people. I hope you will help us organize elections and oversee them.” www.europarl.europa.eu)

US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell would meet with PA President Abbas on 22 February during a second visit to the region since being appointed. President Abbas said he remained committed to a national reconciliation with Hamas and insisted he would not allow the Palestinian people to remain divided. “Our doors are still open” to a unity government with Hamas, he said. (AFP, AP)

Four firebombs were hurled overnight at an Israeli Border Police patrol in Bethlehem. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip launched at least 10 mortars at Israel. There were no casualties reported but three people were treated for shock. (Haaretz)

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a $600 million reconstruction and aid programme for the Gaza Strip. He said most of the funds would come from foreign donors, adding that the details of the programme would be announced in the coming days. Mr. Fayyad said the PA itself would provide $50 million for temporary housing and other immediate needs, and another $17 million to repair electricity, water and sanitation networks. (Ma’an News Agency, Reuters)

The PA had delayed the payment of public employees’ salaries this month in order to finance aid to the Gaza Strip, said PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. (Ma’an News Agency)

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Palestinian officials, between 35 and 60 per cent of the agricultural industry had been wrecked by the three-week Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, following two years of economic siege. WFP Country Director Christine van Nieuwenhuyse said, “We are hearing that 60 per cent of the land in the north – where the farming was most intensive, may not be exploitable again. It looks to me like a disaster. It is not just farmland, but poultry as well. It is going to be impossible for Gaza to produce the food it needs for the next six to eight months, assuming that the agriculture can be rehabilitated.” FAO estimated that 13,000 families, who depended directly on herding, farming and fishing, had suffered significant damage. (The Observer, The Financial Times)

South African dock workers announced their refusal to offload cargo from a ship carrying goods from Israel scheduled to arrive in Durban on 8 February. A union statement said, “We call on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.” (Ma’an News Agency)

 5. February

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian who tried to attack them with a hand grenade close to the Gaza border fence with Israel, an Israeli army spokesman said. (Reuters)

Israeli forces detained four Palestinians in the northern West Bank town of Jayous, near Qalqilya, a 14-year-old boy in the village of Husan, near Bethlehem, an 18-year-old student in the village of Kur, near Tulkarm, and two young brothers north of Ramallah. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Defense Ministry’s Chief of Diplomatic Security Bureau Amos Gilad is to meet Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman later today "and respond to questions of Palestinian factions concerning the truce and crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip," an unnamed Egyptian official told MENA. (AFP)

Israeli forces seized five young Palestinians during raids in villages around Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency)

Egyptian officials detained Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha who was carrying US $9 million and €2 million in cash at the Rafah crossing with Gaza, a security official told AFP. The six-member Hamas delegation had been on its way back from truce talks in Cairo. (AFP)

International experts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States concluded their meeting in Copenhagen on smuggling into Gaza. A naval operation was "one of the tools that might be interesting in this context, but no decision was taken today,” Danish Foreign Ministry State Secretary Michael Zilmer-Johns said. The focus of the talks was "the legal basis for action to be taken," he added. Israel attended as an observer, while Egyptian and Palestinian experts declined invitations to participate. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert agreed to allow the transfer of $43 million to the Gaza Strip to enable PA President Abbas’ Government to pay salaries, officials said. (Reuters)

A freighter carrying humanitarian aid from Lebanon to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy and impounded in the port of Ashdod. Al-Jazeera TV quoted a correspondent aboard the vessel as saying the Israeli navy had fired shots then boarded the ship and beaten passengers and crew. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said: "Those who commit massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza will not stop themselves from assaulting, in front of the world, a ship carrying humanitarian supplies... I express my utmost condemnation for this blatant attack." The IDF confirmed no weapons were found on the aid ship (Haaretz, Reuters)

Egypt closed the Rafah crossing to all but exceptional cases. "No humanitarian, media or medical delegations will be allowed through, nor will medical aid deliveries be permitted," a border official told AFP, while foreign delegations who had entered Gaza from Egypt would be allowed to return. (AFP)

A report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that by 26 December, Israeli security forces last year had killed 455 Palestinians, including 87 minors. It said at least 175 of those killed had not taken part in the hostilities. Eighteen Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli troops had been killed by Palestinians in the same period, the report said. The figures did not include casualties from the recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. (www.btselem.org)

A total of 548 Palestinians had been detained without trial in Israel, including 42 who had been held for over two years, B'Tselem said. It said a total of 7,904 Palestinians were in Israeli custody at the end of December 2008. (www.btselem.org)

Hamas officials left Cairo without reaching an agreement with Egyptian mediators on a ceasefire with Israel. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoom told Ma’an News Agency: ”What we received from the Egyptian mediator is linking the Shalit file with opening the borders and a partial lifting of the blockade and this is totally rejected; there are many points that are unclear and that should be discussed regarding the borders and who is in control the borders.” “We didn’t get any guarantees… and we need many clarifications from the Israeli side,” he added. He said the Hamas delegation would return to Cairo on 7 February. (DPA, Ma’an News Agency)

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters via video link, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging said, “The situation in Gaza is one of growing misery,” adding it was “shameful” that Israeli politics had stranded tons of relief supplies at blocked crossing points. He said that the situation was becoming increasingly untenable ─ basic humanitarian needs were going unmet, people stuck for hours at aid distribution points were becoming frustrated and, as a result, extremism was on the rise. At the same time, Hamas militants were waging a damaging public misinformation campaign about the Agency’s work, he said. (UN News Centre)

UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, after a four-day visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said that despite the Gaza ceasefires, children continued to suffer and remained in a precarious state of insecurity. “In Gaza, where 56 per cent of the population is below 18 years old, grave violations against children were committed such as killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access. During the recent hostilities, there were no safe spaces for children and the crossings out of Gaza were, and remain, virtually sealed,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said in a statement. “Many children have witnessed unspeakable violence against their family members and are severely distressed,” she said, adding that the extensive destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and infrastructure also had a devastating impact on children. More than 160 schools across Gaza were damaged during the conflict. All UNRWA schools were reopened on 24 January after being closed for a month. (AFP, www.unicef.org)

Islamic Jihad’s armed wing in Gaza vowed revenge after the IDF shot dead one of its militants in the village of Qabatiya, south of Jenin. (Ma’an News Agency, Xinhua)

At a press conference with visiting PA President Abbas in London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “We must do everything we can, as I have told President Abbas today, to help rebuild Gaza and to provide humanitarian relief to families whose lives have been shattered. Britain will play its part. We have trebled our relief effort. In addition to the already significant support of the UN agencies responding to the challenge, I have written to Prime Minister Olmert this week to urge him to allow full humanitarian access to those seeking to get food and medicines to those who need it.” (www.number10.gov.uk)

Cyprus announced that it would grant €500,000 to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. At a Cabinet meeting, Government spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said the ministers also decided to host a number of Palestinians for medical treatment, giving priority to children and mothers. (Xinhua)

 6. February

The Israeli army arrested six Palestinians in the northern West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

Turkish prosecutors said that they were investigating whether Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara said the probe had been opened after Mazlum-Der, an Islamic-oriented human rights organization in Turkey, filed an official complaint against Israeli leaders. The group alleged that genocide, torture and crimes against humanity had been committed by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the country’s army and military intelligence chiefs. Mazlum-Der also asked that the Israeli officials be detained if they enter Turkey, prosecutors said. (AP)

UNRWA said it had suspended all imports of aid into the Gaza Strip following the confiscation of hundreds of tons of food aid. “UNRWA’s suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid is returned and the Agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts,” the Agency said. (AFP, www.un.org/unrwa/)

Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel’s western Negev region, causing no casualties or damage, the IDF said. Later, a rocket hit near the city of Ashkelon, but no injuries were reported in the attack. (Haaretz)

 7. February

Israeli soldiers attacked at midnight the village of Bil’in near the city of Ramallah in the West Bank and searched a number of homes. (IMEMC)

Five Palestinians were arrested from the villages of Beit Furik and Azmout near Nablus in the northern West Bank. (WAFA)

The Israeli Navy shelled several areas along the northern and western areas of Gaza beach, causing extensive damage to a number of fishing boats. The Israeli Air Force bombed the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt at midnight. (IMEMC, WAFA)


Two rockets were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. One was a Grad rocket and landed near the city of Ashkelon, causing neither casualties nor damage. A Qassam rocket fired the same day struck the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, setting one car ablaze and damaging others with shrapnel. There was no claim of responsibility for the rocket attacks. Another Islamic Jihad militant was killed in a clash with IDF troops near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza. Troops claimed that they had spotted the man trying to cross the border into Israel and had opened fire at him, which detonated a bomb belt he was wearing. (AP, Haaretz, IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Ynetnews)

 8. February

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that its workers and medics had been attacked by settlers and Israeli soldiers 521 times in 2008. Attacks had included shooting, physical assault, pelting with stones, blocking traffic and delaying evacuation of injured persons. Delays at military checkpoints were higher by almost 100 cases than in 2007. (Ma’an News Agency)


Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that Hamas would be flexible on who would take charge of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Hamas had initially insisted on supervising the spending but international donors had been reluctant. On a separate issue, he stated that Hamas “wanted to acquire the international and Arab legitimacy and everything that the PLO had gained, through elections, and to join the PLO.” (The Financial Times, Haaretz)

 9. February

Israel launched air strikes on two Hamas targets in Gaza. Islamic Jihad confirmed that one of its militants was killed in one of the air strikes. A Palestinian died of wounds sustained during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip. (AP, Haaretz, IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters)

Israeli settlers attacked farmlands belonging to Palestinian farmers from the village of Al-Khadr, located near Bethlehem. According to the farmers, armed settlers arrived and installed two portable homes on the land, which was not the first attempt by settlers to annex village land located near the “Efrat” settlement. (IMEMC)

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said that a longer term truce between Israel and the Palestinians could come into effect as early as next week. He expressed hope for “a return to calm” after discussing with French President Nicolas Sarkozy efforts for a one-year or two-year truce. A Hamas spokesman said that it accepted a one-and-a-half-year truce agreement with Israel. It was reported that significant progress had been made in negotiations between Israel and Hamas regarding a new ceasefire formula which would include the reopening of border crossings between

Israel and the Gaza Strip, and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It was reported that some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners could be released in exchange but that his release was hinging possibly on the freeing of a small number of prisoners whom Israel did not wish to release. The main points of the deal would reportedly include:

- A ceasefire for 18 months in the Gaza Strip (unrelated to the West Bank), with possible extension for another 18 months. Hamas has promised to prevent attacks from the Gaza Strip and the IDF will avoid attacks of its own.

- A full reopening of the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip for more than mere humanitarian assistance. Israel had conditioned a full reopening of the crossings on the release of Gilad Shalit.

- Gilad Shalit will be returned to Israel in the near future, in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

- Reopening of the Rafah border crossing, to be run by PA officials, with Hamas being allowed to maintain a presence at the crossings. (AP, AFP, Haaretz, IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Xinhua, Ynetnews)

Palestinian factions received invitations to attend a reconciliation meeting in Cairo on 22 February. (AP)

PA President Abbas told journalists in Warsaw: “I don’t know who will win the [Israeli] election, but we will cooperate with any new Israeli government emerging from the elections on the basis of the bilateral accords and the international resolutions which have been adopted up to this point. We also expect that the new Israeli Government will stop installing new settlements. If the new Government does not do this, I don’t know what will become of the peace process.” He added, “I call on Israel to meet its obligations, otherwise the entire world will be frustrated that peace is not coming, and that violence and terrorism are knocking at our door – it is the only alternative to peace.” (AFP, Ma’an News Agency)

UNRWA announced that the Hamas authorities had returned to the UNRWA warehouses in Gaza City and Rafah all of the aid supplies which had been seized on 3 and 5 February and that UNRWA was therefore lifting its suspension on the import of its humanitarian supplies into Gaza. An UNRWA spokesman said that deliveries were not expected until after Israeli elections on 10 February. (AP, BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Ma’an News Agency, www.unrwa.org, Ynetnews)

The United Nations Development Programme said, “Three weeks of fighting in Gaza has had a strong economic, social and psychological toll on the lives of Palestinians living there, according to the findings of a survey commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The phone survey, conducted during the last week of January, shows that unemployment in Gaza increased by 7 points since the outbreak of violence last December, rising from 36 per cent to 43 per cent. Full-time employment, already at a record low (50 per cent), has declined further to 45 per cent.” (www.undp.org)

UNRWA indicated that its food aid to 900,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip continued to be jeopardized by the decision of the Israeli Government to refuse entry of three truckloads of nylon pellets used for making plastic bags used for food distribution. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said that Israel had prohibited raw materials from entering the Gaza Strip lest they fall into the hands of Hamas but noted that UNRWA could import plastic bags into Gaza. In addition, UNRWA had been denied approval to bring into Gaza 12 truckloads of bulk paper to print books, including its human rights textbooks, and had also been prevented from importing 5 trucks of exercise books for some 200,000 children. (The Jerusalem Post, www.unrwa.org)

The Department for International Development of the British Government said it had “provided Ł200,000 to the Mines Advisory Group to assess and clear the danger of unexploded bombs and other explosives in Gaza.” Also, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander announced that the UK was providing “a further Ł1.8 million for life-saving support to vulnerable groups including children and old people living in Gaza.” (www.dfid.gov.uk)

At a special meeting of Nordic Foreign Ministers in Oslo, the five Ministers issued a joint statement in support of Gaza and UNRWA. “UNRWA’s situation is serious, and it is essential that the international donor community joins together to support the agency’s work for Palestinian refugees in the region,” the Ministers said. (www.regjeringen.no)

Briefing correspondents at a press conference at UN Headquarters on her recent visit to the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, reiterated the call for Israel to open its border crossings with Gaza and to expand the list of items to be allowed in, especially school supplies, saying that around 400 trucks per day would be needed to meet humanitarian needs arising from the recent conflict, and over 1,000 trucks would eventually be needed once reconstruction began. According to Ms. Coomaraswamy, fewer than 200 trucks were permitted to enter Gaza on a typical day, and that some items useful to children , such as paper needed to produce school books, had not been allowed in. She also noted a great need for psychosocial support among children, especially those that had witnessed violence at close range, sometimes against their own parents and siblings. Ms. Coomaraswamy said she intended to submit a detailed report of her visit, and would brief the Security Council on the findings. On the list of the Security Council’s “six grave violations against children in conflict” was the denial of humanitarian access, she stressed, saying that the current blockade on Gaza fell into that category of violations. (UN News Centre)

 10. February

Israeli troops detained five Palestinian teenagers in villages near Hebron. In Tarma village, south of Hebron, Israeli forces uprooted tens of trees on land belonging to a Palestinian. (Ma’an News Agency, WAFA)

"We now have clear conditions for whoever heads the Israeli Government," PA President Abbas’ aide Rafiq Husseini said. "The conditions begin with the halt of settlement activities immediately ... for negotiations to start again." "It's obvious the Israelis have voted to paralyze the peace process," Saeb Erakat, Head of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, told AFP. "The outcome of the Israeli elections indicates there won't be in Israel a Government capable of doing what is needed to achieve peace," he said. (AFP, AP)

A Qassam rocket fired by Gaza militants exploded late in the evening in an open field near Sderot. No injuries were reported in the incident. (Haaretz)

Representatives of Fatah and Hamas held preliminary talks in Cairo in what Egypt hoped would be the first of many meetings on forming a national unity Government, the Al-Arabiya TV news channel reported. (DPA)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and visiting PA President Abbas said in a joint statement: “The two leaders expressed their appreciation for the important role of mediator played by President Mubarak and greeted with satisfaction the diplomatic action of US President Barack Obama.” The statement said that their talks had “mainly concerned the situation in Gaza, prospects for strengthening the ceasefire, efforts to achieve national reconciliation among Palestinians, and the resumption of the peace process with Israel.” Mr. Berlusconi, who was to meet President Mubarak later in the day, reiterated that Italy was prepared to “offer all the support needed to strengthen the ceasefire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population,” according to the statement. (AFP)

Ten thousand families in Gaza would receive cash assistance for damaged homes, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, Special Representative for UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People announced. The money, in the amount of $50 million, contributed by donors to the PA and earmarked for Gaza relief, is being channelled to beneficiaries through UNDP. (www.undp.org)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a press conference at UN Headquarters: “I have initiated steps to establish a UN Board of Inquiry into incidents involving death and damage at UN premises in Gaza. The Board will be headed by Ian Martin of the United Kingdom and will include legal advisers and a military expert. It should start working immediately and report to me within a month.” Mr. Ban also said he would take part in the international conference on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, to be held in Cairo on 2 March 2009, co-sponsored by the Governments of Egypt and Norway with the United Nations and the European Union. (UN News Centre)

 11. February

Seventeen-year-old Ali Mahfouth Hamamrah, a resident of the village of Husan near Bethlehem, was hospitalized after Israeli settlers had shot him on 9 February. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces seized at least 20 Palestinians across the West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

After closing the Gaza Strip’s borders on election day, Israel reopened the borders to allow shipments of humanitarian aid and commercial goods into the territory. (Ma’an News Agency)

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said, “President Obama looks forward to working with whoever makes up the next Israeli Government in a search for lasting and durable peace in the region.” A press release also stated that President Obama spoke to President Shimon Peres of Israel to extend his congratulations on the Israeli general elections. President Obama complimented President Peres on his recent op-ed in which he reaffirmed his strong commitment to achieving a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Haaretz, www.whitehouse.gov)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said that the next Israeli Government must restart serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians. "I think if we continue in a crisis management mode, if we don't enter into a conflict resolution mode, it will be going back and back again," Mr. Solana told Reuters in an interview. (Reuters)

The Office of the Spokesman of the US State Department issued the following statement:

    The United States strongly supports Egypt’s call for an international donors’ conference in Cairo on 2 March to facilitate Gaza recovery and strengthen the Palestinian economy. The US plans to be represented at a high level and urges members of the international community to show similar support for the Egyptian initiative.

    The United States sees the 2 March conference as an opportunity to address, along with other donors and international organizations, the immediate humanitarian suffering in Gaza and support the Palestinian Authority’s plan for the reconstruction of Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian State. We welcome Egypt’s leadership in consolidating a ceasefire in Gaza, and hope that conditions on the ground will allow the United States and other members of the international community to provide substantial levels of assistance to the people of Gaza.


Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired four mortar shells at the western Negev. Late in the evening, Israeli warplanes struck a Hamas post in Khan Yunis. An IDF spokesperson said the strike was in response to mortar fire. He also said, “As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for all terror activities originating from its area of control.” There were no reports of casualties in the attack. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said that a Hamas delegation was scheduled to meet Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo, on 17 February, to discuss a ceasefire in Gaza. Palestinian sources said the chances of reaching an agreement were high. (Ma’an News Agency, Xinhua)

Teachers in the West Bank would go on strike on 12 February in protest of a delay in disbursement of salaries by the PA, Secretary-General of Palestinian Teachers’ Union Jamil Shihadah said. The teachers’ strike coincides with a strike declared by the public employees union, also protesting the delay in payment, which is scheduled to begin on 19 February. (Ma’an News Agency)

The United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held its opening session for 2009. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting and delivered a statement in which he expressed his shock at the extent of the destruction in the Gaza Strip and said he was more determined than ever to not only address Gaza’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs, but also to achieve the end of the occupation that began in 1967. The Committee also elected Paul Badji (Senegal) as its Chairman; Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) and Abelardo Moreno Fernández (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen; and Saviour F. Borg (Malta) as its Rapporteur. The Committee also adopted its programme of work for 2009. (UN press release GA/PAL/1111)

 12. February

Israeli troops raided homes in the villages of Al-Asakreh and Bet Ta’mar, east of Bethlehem, and detained four Palestinians. One of the detainees had his computer and mobile phone confiscated. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces arrested two Palestinian boys, 12 and 13, in Qalqilya following clashes between youths and Israeli soldiers in the city. (Ma’an News Agency)

Egyptian police arrested 40 suspected smugglers and seized goods in a crackdown on smuggling into the Gaza Strip, according to an Egyptian security official. Around $1.0 million in goods had been seized, including food, television sets and kitchen appliances, but no weapons, the official said. (AP)

Noam Shalit, father of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, met with Quartet Representative Tony Blair. Mr. Shalit said he asked Mr. Blair to exert his influence in helping to clinch a deal “in addition to the pressure that the Quartet puts on Israel to take steps towards the Palestinians in Gaza.” (Haaretz)

Israel partially reopened the three Gaza Strip crossing points to allow more humanitarian aid, a Palestinian official said. The Kerem Shalom and the Al-Muntar (Karni) crossings would be open for trucks with aid goods, while the Nahal Oz depot would be opened for fuel supplies. (Xinhua)

Israel allowed Palestinian flower growers to export 25,000 carnation blooms from the Gaza Strip to Europe ahead of Valentine’s Day. The amount allowed, however, was only a fraction of what Palestinian farmers produced. Israeli Defense official Peter Lerner said Israel allowed the export at the request of the Netherlands. (Haaretz)

The spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the following statement:

    The Secretary-General wishes to announce that the United Nations Board of Inquiry into incidents in Gaza has commenced its work in New York today, and is expected to travel soon to the region. The Board is led by Ian Martin (United Kingdom) and includes, as its other members, Larry Johnson (United States), Sinha Basnayake (Sri Lanka) and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Eichenberger (Switzerland). The Board of Inquiry will review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations. The Secretary-General expects that the Board will enjoy the full cooperation of all parties concerned. The Board of Inquiry will report to the Secretary-General upon completion of its investigation. The Secretary-General will review the report, and decide, at that point, what further steps to take.
(UN News Centre, UN press release SG/SM/12099)

Hamas appointed Jamal al-Jarah as the new police chief in the Gaza Strip to replace Tawfiq Jaber, who was killed in an Israeli bombing on the main police compound on 27 December 2008. (Xinhua)

PA President Abbas had conducted an international campaign in recent weeks aimed at the diplomatic isolation of a government headed by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. In the past week, he had met with French President Nicolar Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and discussed with them his deep concerns about the establishment in Israel of a right-wing government. Mr. Abbas said at his meetings, “You refused to fully cooperate with such a government because Hamas did not meet the Quartet’s conditions on ending terrorism and recognizing Israel. You will have to adopt a similar stance toward an Israeli Government that will oppose the creation of a Palestinian State and genuine negotiations over the core issues of a permanent settlement.” (Haaretz)

Hamas PLC faction head Mahmoud Al-Zahhar and Political Bureau Deputy Chief Moussa Abu Marzouq were in discussions with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, who was brokering a ceasefire with Israel. Egypt had presented the Palestinian factions with a modified draft, dealing with more controversial issues. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine senior member Jameel Al-Majdalawi said that the new draft “specifies the committees that would be allocated for resolving differences [among the factions] … and Egypt will also form a higher committee to act as a supervisor for the smaller committees.” (AP, MENA News Agency, Xinhua)

 13. February

A 14-year-old Palestinian boy, Ezzedine Al-Jamal, died after being shot in the chest by soldiers who opened fire on young Palestinians hurling rocks towards them in an Israeli-controlled area of Hebron, medics and witnesses said. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that during a riot near the Jewish community in Hebron, a dozen Palestinians hurled rocks at an IDF patrol, and after identifying the leader of the rioters, opened fire and hit him. (AFP)

The IDF spokesperson’s office stated that the IAF had bombed two centres for weapons manufacturing in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said a number of people had been injured in the strike, and that the targeted sites had been severely damaged. Earlier in the day, the Air Force strikes had targeted an area east of Khan Yunis. Palestinian sources reported one dead and three injured in the strike. According to Hamas and medical officials in Gaza, two gunmen belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees had been critically wounded while riding a motorcycle near the town. The IDF confirmed the reports and stated that in a joint operation by the army and the Shin Bet, the Air Force had bombed two terrorists belonging to the Islamic Jihad wing in Gaza who were planning to carry out an attack in Israel. A short while later, six tunnels used for weapons smuggling on the Philadelphi route, in the southern Gaza Strip, were bombed. (Ynetnews)

Israeli patrol boats opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats, and Israeli troops opened fire on a group of Palestinian farmers working close to the border area. (www.ochaopt.org)

The Security Council again voiced deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stressed “the importance and urgency” that more needed to be done. In remarks to the media after consultations within the Council, the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, Yukio Takasu, Council President for February, said there was “a convergence of views” on the importance of full implementation of its January resolution which, among other issues, called for unimpeded provision throughout Gaza of food, fuel and medical treatment. (UN News Centre)

Three Qassam rockets hit Israel’s western Negev region. No injuries or damage were reported. (Reuters, Ynetnews)

 14. February

A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was killed when Israeli troops opened fire from the border east of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. (www.ochaopt.org)

Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians, including a woman from Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency)

 15. February

Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered Gaza and levelled land south-east of Maghazi Camp. (www.ochaopt.org)

The Israeli military seized a 13-year-old Palestinian boy near Qalqilya. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told the annual gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem that Israel would not open the border crossings or permit the transfer of goods to Gaza until Gilad Shalit was released. (Ynetnews)

An Israeli political source said Israel could release Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi to bolster Fatah before any prisoner swap with Hamas. The political source said that while it was under consideration, no decisions had been taken. (Reuters)

During his meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia intended to call for an international peace summit on the Middle East in the first half of 2009, with the participation of all of the region’s major players, including Lebanon. He said Russia was also involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks between the rival

Palestinian factions and was being briefed on the efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. (Ynetnews)

A Qassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in an open area in Israel’s Negev region. There were no reports of injuries or damage. (Ynetnews)

 16. February

One Palestinian was killed and four wounded by an unexploded ordnance in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. (www.ochaopt.org)

Israeli forces arrested at least 50 Palestinians in the West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations that Israel must give up considerable territory in exchange for peace with the Palestinians. She said that Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international programmes. (AP)

Israel said that it had declared 170 hectares (420 acres) in the West Bank as state land to pave the way for the expansion of the “Efrata” settlement near Bethlehem. The project to build 2,500 homes had been launched in 2004 but held up by the legal appeals filed by Palestinians. Construction could still be a long way off as various formal approvals and permits were still required. (AFP)

The spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that the International Conference on Gaza Reconstruction, to be hosted by Egypt on 2 March in Sharm El Sheikh, would be attended by, among others, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The spokesman said that the Conference had been one of the main issues discussed during Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit’s recent meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials in Washington, and Ms. Clinton pledged to participate, leading a high-level American delegation. The spokesman affirmed that a document prepared by the Palestinian Authority would be the only comprehensive document to be presented before the Conference, and said that the participating countries, organizations and institutions would be requested to respond to it and announce donations and pledges to cover the needs and the projects. (www.mfa.gov.eg)

Save the Children UK said that, a month after the Gaza ceasefire, at least 100,000 Palestinians, including up to 56,000 children, remained displaced, with many continuing to take shelter in tents or crowding into remaining homes with other families. Around 500,000 people, including 280,000 children, had been forced from their homes at some point during the conflict. (www.savethechildren.org.uk)

The German Press Agency and the Al-Jazeera network reported that Jordanian officials were working towards prosecuting Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court. According to the report, the chairman of the Jordanian Parliament’s Legal Committee, Mubarak Abu Yameen al-Abadi, was scheduled to meet with the ICC attorney general on 19 February and file a petition to prosecute Israeli officials for committing war crimes. The Jordanian MP would demand Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi stand trial. (Ynetnews)

Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in Israel, injuring no one, the Israeli military said. Several hours later, Israeli jets bombed an area of smuggling tunnels in Rafah. (AP)

A Hamas delegation met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo, MENA news agency reported. It said the delegation was preparing to return to the Gaza Strip and Syria to await Israel’s final say on a long-term truce. A Hamas official told the news agency that the delegation had been informed Israel would respond to an Egyptian truce proposal on 18 February. (AFP)

 17. February

Israeli forces detained 26 Palestinians across the West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

The European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip announced that the EU would contribute €25.5 million through PEGASE, the European mechanism for support to the Palestinians, to pay salaries and pensions to over 78,000 Palestinian beneficiaries. (www.delwbg.ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission announced an additional contribution of €41 million to support the work of UNRWA. (www.reliefweb.int)

UN officials said that a cache including unexploded aircraft bombs and white phosphorus shells was unaccounted for in Gaza. Israel accused Hamas of taking the stockpile, which had been under Hamas guard. UN spokesperson Richard Miron said, “We are anxious to get the return of this ordnance. It’s clearly extremely dangerous and needs to be disposed of in a safe manner.” A UN de-mining team had been in Gaza since the end of January to dispose of unexploded Israeli munitions. (United Press International)

 18. February

A 70-year-old Palestinian woman suffered a heart attack and another person was injured after Israeli warplanes launched several strikes on the border area between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Warplanes launched missiles at underground smuggling tunnels, in addition to a security compound. A mosque was also destroyed in Khan Yunis. (Ma’an News Agency, Reuters)

Palestinian medical sources said a Palestinian farmer was wounded by Israeli fire in the Al-Farahin area, east of Khan Yunis, about 500 metres from the Israeli-Gaza border. Activists accompanying the farmers said that Israel soldiers shot the man in the leg after he and a group of other farmers and activists had already been working in the area for two hours “in full view of Israeli forces.” The group noted that they had been wearing bright vests and carried a megaphone to identify themselves as farmers. (Ma’an News Agency)

IDF troops arrested 15 Palestinians in overnight raids in the West Bank. Two reportedly armed Palestinians were also arrested near the settlement of “Itamar.” (Haaretz)

IDF forces entered the northern West Bank town of Jayyas near Qalqilya and arrested 65 Palestinian youths. The soldiers declared the town a “closed military area” and barred journalists from entering. A curfew was imposed. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Security Cabinet decided that Israel would not open its border crossings with the Gaza Strip until Hamas agreed to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The Cabinet agreed that “it would be inconceivable” for Israel to accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire calling for reopening of border crossings to more than limited humanitarian aid without Mr. Shalit’s release. The Cabinet met to discuss a possible prisoner exchange with Hamas which could trade hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Mr. Shalit. (BBC, Haaretz)

Israel had opened the Kerem Shalom, Al-Muntar (Karni) and Nahal Oz crossings, allowing cooking gas to enter the Gaza Strip for the first time in two weeks. Crossings official Nasser As-Sarraj said Israel would allow 130 truckloads into Gaza, 52 for UNRWA and other international organizations, 63 for the commercial private sector, and another 15 for the agricultural private sector. Some 70 trucks of wheat and feed and 70 tons of cooking gas had also been allowed in. The deputy of the union of gas station owners said however that Gaza consumed 350 tons of cooking gas per day. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli bulldozers began digging up Palestinian-owned agricultural lands in the southern West Bank town of Yatta near Hebron. Sources said that the bulldozed area would be turned into an Israeli settlement adjacent to “Karmel,” a settlement built on land originally owned by the town of Umm Lasafa. (Ma’an News Agency)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met with EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte to discuss the recent developments on the Palestinian issue. Mr. Aboul Gheit talked about Egyptian efforts aimed at achieving calm between Israel and Palestinian factions, particularly a Palestinian reconciliation meeting scheduled for 22 February.

Mr. Otte underlined the full support of the EU for the efforts, including the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in connection with the International Conference on Gaza Reconstruction to be hosted by Egypt on 2 March in Sharm el-Sheikh. (www.mfa.gov.eg)

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said donor countries should send Gaza reconstruction funds directly to property owners and contractors. Mr. Fayyad was preparing a detailed spending proposal for international donors, to be presented at the 2 March conference in Egypt. The centrepiece of Mr. Fayyad’s plan was to send hundreds of millions of dollars in aid directly to owners of thousands of homes that were damaged or destroyed. Under the proposal, the donors would either send money through the PA or deal directly with Gaza’s banks. Under the plan, even roads would be fixed by private contractors. (AP)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General Robert H. Serry briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. He described the challenges that must be “squarely addressed if peace is to be advanced.” He cited the severe repercussions of the Gaza crisis; continued division among the Palestinians; the new political situation in Israel; the inconclusive results of last year’s Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; and unmet Road Map obligations, especially those concerning settlements. (UN press release SC/9597, www.un.org)

Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket at the western Negev. The rocket exploded in a field causing no casualties or damages. (Haaretz)

 19. February

Israeli warplanes attacked six suspected weapons-smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza, the army said. There were no injuries reported. (AP, Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces shot a Palestinian who had been reportedly planting an explosive device on the Israel-Gaza border near the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Witnesses reported that Israeli tanks near Kerem Shalom opened fire on houses in the area; no injuries were reported. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces arrested 11 Palestinians during overnight raids in the West Bank, in the cities of Ramallah, Jenin and Hebron. A former prisoner from Yatta near Hebron was arrested and beaten at a checkpoint between Ramallah and Bethlehem. . (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli police and soldiers uprooted and took away more than 100 newly planted olive trees on privately owned Palestinian land in the village of Al-Jab’a south-west of Bethlehem. The trees had been planted by American and European volunteers as part of a joint initiative by the Joint Advocacy Initiative and YMCA Palestine. The Israeli authorities declared the area a “closed military zone” and issued an order to evacuate the land. (Ma’an News Agency)

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced an agreement with Gaza banks to disburse reconstruction money directly to residents of the Gaza Strip whose property had been damaged during Israel's recent offensive there. He said that the commercial banks in Gaza would also handle funding for repairs to roads and other destroyed infrastructure. PA seeks to “accomplish a comprehensive mechanism to present to international donors,” at the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza, he said. (AP, Ma’an News Agency)

In a joint resolution adopted by 488 votes in favour 5 against and 19 abstentions, the European Parliament called for a damage assessment in Gaza and an in-depth evaluation of the needs of the Gaza population as a basis for reconstruction plans. MEPs called for increased humanitarian aid and the immediate and sustainable reopening of the crossing points in accordance with the 2005 Access and Movement Agreement, and for the prevention of smuggling of arms. MEPs believe that any sustainable reconstruction and development policy in the Gaza Strip needs a durable cease-fire. The resumption of serious peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians together with a Palestinian national reconciliation process were also needed, said the resolution. (www.europarl.europa.eu)

US Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, travelled to the Gaza Strip and toured bombed-out neighbourhoods. He did not meet with anyone from Hamas, and he used the visit to urge the group to end its violent campaign against Israel. "Let me make this clear, there is no change in policy," said Kerry, “I am here to listen with the UN personnel on the ground to hear their assessment and to make a personal judgment." Two Democratic Congressmen, Keith Ellison and Brian Baird, also visited Gaza. They expressed shock at the plight of the Gaza Strip. "People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in," Mr. Elliot said. (AFP, AP)

"The Israeli decision [to link the truce to the release of Shalit] is a stab in the back to the Egyptian efforts," said Ismail Radwan, a spokesman for Hamas. "Israel cannot extort us by these decisions and we stick to our right of defending ourselves. We are not in a hurry for a lull with Israeli standards," Mr. Radwan added. (Xinhua)

A source in the Israeli Prime Minister's Bureau said that Israel was willing to enter intensive talks with Hamas in Cairo, through Egyptian mediation, on the prisoner exchange. Defense and Justice Ministry officials had prepared a new list which includes approximately 200 prisoners whom

Hamas had requested. It also includes the names of hundreds of prisoners Israel is willing to release, among whom Hamas may select. In the end, women, minors and Hamas parliamentarians will also be released. (Haaretz)

Two rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, after two mortars had been fired the previous night. (BBC)

Three rockets landed in the evening in the Israel after IDF jets bombed targets in the Gaza Strip. One Qassam rocket landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev region while two Grad-type rockets landed in Netivot. Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli troops who tried to enter southern Gaza, east of the town of Al-Qararra, and launched rocket-propelled grenades at them. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Ma’an News Agency)

 20. February

Israeli border guards used tear gas and other means to disperse a group of some 500 Palestinian and international protesters gathered in the village of Bil’in to mark the fourth anniversary of the popular struggle against the separation wall. In addition, some 100 Palestinians demonstrated against the separation wall near Ramallah and threw stones at the Israeli forces there. No injuries were reported. (Ma’an News Agency, Ynetnews)

An Israeli police dog attacked an elderly paralyzed man during an arrest raid in the northern West Bank village of Tammun. Two men had been arrested during the raid. (Ma’an News Agency)

A young Palestinian man was injured and another was arrested during clashes with Israeli soldiers in a village north of Hebron in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers said that they had shot a young man near the town of Beit Omer after he threw stones near the Israeli settlement of “Karni Tzur”. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli undercover special forces arrested Hosni Muhammad Zakarneh, a leader of Islamic Jihad in the town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Jerusalem Municipality indicated that it may offer to voluntarily relocate some 1,500 Palestinian residents of the Silwan neighbourhood who were currently living on top of an archaeological site to alternative lots in East Jerusalem. The 88 houses at issue had been constructed without permits in Silwan’s Al Bustan area and had been slated for demolition. They were located in an area known as the King’s Garden which the Israel Antiquities Authority had defined as being of great archaeological importance. The proposition was unanimously rejected by the residents who described it as a forced eviction. (Haaretz)

The European Union condemned Israel’s planned settlement construction in the vicinity of the “Adam” settlement in the West Bank. If built, this would constitute a new settlement block. The EU called on Israel to reconsider the plan, which would be in violation of international law, run counter to the Road Map and was against commitments made by Israel to the Palestinians and the international community in Annapolis in 2008. (www.eu2009.cz)

Israel prepared a new list of Palestinian prisoners it was willing to release in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit and indicated that it was ready to relay it to Hamas as quickly as possible in order to further a swap arrangement by entering into intensive talks with Hamas in Cairo through Egyptian mediation. Earlier in the week, Israel had decided to make Cpl. Shalit’s release a precondition for any new ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip. Most of the prisoners on the list were not jailed for their role in the killing of Israelis. The list includes approximately 200 prisoners whose release had been requested by Hamas and who had been approved in the past by a committee headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon. The list also includes names of hundreds of prisoners that Israel was willing to release and among whom Hamas could make a selection. Past agreements had called for an initial release of 450 prisoners in return for Gilad Shalit, to be followed by the release of another 550 prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Egypt and PA President Abbas. Women, minors and Hamas parliamentarians would also be released in the end. (Haaretz)

PA President Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, stated that they “will not deal with the Israeli Government unless it accepts a two-State solution and accepts to halt settlements and to respect past accords,” after Israel’s President Peres designated Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud to form the next Government. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom stated that Israel had picked the “most extremist and most dangerous” person to lead the country whose choice “did not herald a period of peace or stability in the region”. The United States pledged to cooperate with the incoming Israeli Government and hoped that there would be a breakthrough with regard to the peace process. US Middle East special envoy George Mitchell stated earlier in the week that striking economic peace between Israel and the Palestinians, without diplomatic efforts, would not succeed. He also expressed support for Egypt’s efforts to forge a Palestinian national unity Government, adding that Hamas would still need to adhere to the Quartet’s demands that it halt violence, recognize Israel and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. (AFP, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Ynetnews)

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that France supported an Egyptian proposal for a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and did not believe it was necessary to condition the cease-fire on the release of Gilad Shalit. Egypt had suspended commercial cooperation talks with Israel in protest against Israel’s decision the previous day not to open the Gaza border crossings until Gilad Shalit had been released. Qatar Prime Minister Hamad bin

Jassim bin Habir al-Thani told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he would engage Hamas intensively to help release the Israeli soldier. Mr. Sarkozy had told Mr. al-Thani that this was a humanitarian issue and that Mr. Shalit was also a French citizen. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

Palestinian fighters fired 10 mortar shells at IDF troops operating near the Kissufim border crossing into the Gaza Strip which landed in open areas causing no casualties or damage. The shells were reportedly fired after IDF troops opened fire at a Palestinian gunman who approached the Gaza fence. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Ynetnews)

A Qassam rocket was fired into southern Israel early in the morning and landed in an open area near Netivot. There were no casualties or damage. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The head of the Union of Gas Station Owners in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Khazendar, said that for five months no more than 700 tons of cooking gas had been allowed each month into the Gaza Strip while the needs amounted to 350 tons per day. (Ma’an News Agency)

 21. February

A rocket struck Ashkelon. The IDF said troops operating in the Kissufim area identified the source of the rocket fire and struck back in the direction of the launchers across the Gaza Strip border. (Haaretz)

Hundreds of travellers left the Gaza Strip as Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing for students, third-country residents and medical patients stranded in Gaza. About 1,000 university students and holders of foreign residency permits were eligible to cross, and by mid-afternoon, about 600 people had made the trip, border officials said. Spokesperson Adel Sourab said 800 medical cases would be allowed to cross the following day. (AP, Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

 22. February

Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem monitors said that Israel had been preventing them from entering the Gaza Strip. In February, the IDF said it had rejected their applications. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israel’s Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I expect to cooperate with the Obama administration and try to advance the common goals of peace, security and prosperity for us and our neighbours.” Mr. Netanyahu was chosen on 20 February by President Shimon Peres to try to form a governing coalition and become prime minister for the second time. (Reuters)

European monitors said that they were ready to resume their assignment on the Gaza-Egypt border at a moment’s notice, following an involuntary 20-month break, according to the head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM). In the past two weeks, 20 monitors had returned to the region. (Haaretz)

Palestinian militants fired two mortar rounds at IDF soldiers near the border, Israel Radio reported. A Qassam rocket hit the western Negev earlier in the day. There were no casualties or damage reported in either incident. (Haaretz)

Gaza medics said that five Palestinians had been found dead from suffocation in a tunnel under the border with Egypt. Local residents said that they had been smuggling food into the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

An Arab League delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip to assess the destruction and the people’s pressing needs resulting from the Israeli offensive. The delegation, representing the Arab League’s agricultural, industrial, educational and information departments, would present its findings to Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa. Mahmoud al-Hannan, head of the delegation, said that the Arab experts’ reports would also be put forward before international donors who will meet in March in Egypt. (AP, Xinhua)

 23. February

An Israeli Air Force helicopter attacked a group of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip as they attempted to flee the border area where they had been reportedly planting explosives. The Israeli soldiers stationed near the Kissufim border opened fire on the militants. Shortly after the incident, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. In the afternoon, another rocket was fired from Gaza into the same area. There were no casualties or damages reported in the incidents. (AFP, BBC, Haaretz)

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert was reportedly suspending Amos Gilad, Israel’s special negotiator with Egypt, over recent comments made to an Israeli newspaper. A week earlier, Mr. Gilad had criticized Mr. Olmert for what he called an inconsistent approach to the talks over the ceasefire with Hamas, which he described as insulting to the Egyptians. (BBC, Ma’an News Agency)

Israel opened commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip to allow dozens of truckloads of humanitarian aid to enter, in addition to industrial fuel. Crossing official Nasser As-Sarraj said 100 truckloads would enter, including 60 for UNRWA and other international organizations, as well as 30 with supplies for the commercial sector, and 10 for the agricultural sector. Meanwhile, 85 tons of cooking gas and 400 litres of industrial diesel would be transported through the Nahal Oz crossing. (Ma’an News Agency)

The route of the separation wall, south of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank, had been adjusted to isolate the five Palestinian villages of Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha, Ad-Dab’a, Ar-Ramadin and Abu Farda Bedouin. According to Hadil Haneiti, an activist from the Popular Campaign Against the Wall, the adjustment which comes after a previous Israeli High Court of Justice decision in May 2006, “leaves Palestinian residents with two bitter choices; either to be isolated between four walls and be subjected to humiliation on a daily basis as they have to go through the wall’s gate everyday, or to be freed of this isolation, but the price will be losing all their agricultural land and pasture”. (Ma’an News Agency)

In Brussels, EU Foreign Ministers called on the incoming Israeli Government to re-launch the Middle East peace process with the Palestinians, though some voiced fears over having Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said: “He is discussing putting conditions [for potential coalition partners] that are clearly incompatible with existing commitments of the peace process. It is important to send a strong signal that this is not going to be acceptable,” Mr. Bildt said. (AFP)

Amnesty International called for a freeze on arms sales to Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict. The group said it had evidence that both Israel and Hamas had used weapons sourced from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians. It called for the UN Security Council to impose the embargo on all parties. In a report, Israel was accused of illegal use of white phosphorus and other armaments supplied by the US, while Hamas was condemned for launching unguided rockets into Israel. Israeli Government spokesperson Mark Regev said Israel had used white phosphorus but not as an anti-personnel weapon. (AP, BBC, www.amnesty.org)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

    The Secretary-General is honoured to accept the generous sum of $40 million as a contribution from the Emir of Qatar to United Nations humanitarian agencies for programmes to meet the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza. The Secretary-General is particularly grateful to Qatar for allocating $10 million from the pledge to go to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). CERF provides fast, reliable, equitable and targeted humanitarian assistance to emergencies around the world. The contribution is especially welcome, as it comes at a time when global humanitarian needs are expected to grow in light of the interconnected challenges of the food crisis, the global financial crisis, climate change and intensifying armed conflicts.
(UN press release SG/SM/12110-PAL/2112)

In Prague, PA President Abbas said that Hamas should be part of a new Palestinian Government and honour international commitments in the peace process. He said a new cabinet including Hamas should continue the peace process on the basis of previous agreements such as the existence of two States and no more building of settlements. He spoke after a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Earlier, Mr. Abbas told reporters that the Gaza Strip would not be reconstructed without the emergence of a united Palestinian Government. Mr. Klaus, holding the EU presidency, said Palestinian unity was key to any meaningful talks in the future. (AP, Czech News Agency, Haaretz)

The border between Morocco and Algeria, closed for almost 15 years, was temporarily reopened for an aid convoy heading towards the Gaza Strip. The convoy of 99 vehicles loaded with medicine, food, clothes and toys, was due to cross from Egypt to Gaza in early March. (BBC)

The PLO International Relations Department released a statement accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and a displacement policy against Palestinian residents in Jerusalem. It described the Israeli plans to demolish 88 homes in the Al-Bustan neighbourhood as an attempt to render Jerusalem “a pure Jewish city and demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque, prior to any negotiations related to Jerusalem.” (Ma’an News Agency)

PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said, “We call on President Barack Obama to intervene personally to have this project [demolition of homes in East Jerusalem] stopped.” The Palestinian owners of 88 homes in the Silwan (Al-Bustan) neighbourhood received eviction notices saying that the structures would be destroyed because they had been built without the necessary permits. The move would affect about 1,500 people. (AFP)

 24. February

Israeli forces raided a Nablus school and a local television station, and seized two Palestinians. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli troops seized a young Palestinian in Jenin, according to Palestinian security sources. (Ma’an News Agency)

A Palestinian girl was shot and wounded in the leg when Israeli soldiers opened fire at a number of homes and orchards in the town of Khuza near Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli troops arrested 12 Palestinians aged 17 to 20 from Karbatha Al-Misbah village west of Ramallah. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli troops erected a checkpoint at an intersection in the village of Beita, south of Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli President Shimon Peres told European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, who was also president of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, and had been in the region with a fact-finding mission to Gaza, that European sympathy for Hamas was diminishing the chances of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. Israel was relentlessly fighting against terror, but at the same time does not and will not refrain from allowing the flow of food and medicine into Gaza, he added. (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Olmert named two senior officials as the country's envoys for talks over a Gaza truce being held in Cairo. Yuval Diskin, the Shin Bet Director, and Shalom Turjeman, a senior Olmert aide, took the place of Amos Gilad, who had been removed over his public criticism over Mr. Olmert’s handling of the negotiations. (www.aljazeera.net)

PA President Abbas stated that any future national unity Government formed after an agreement between Fatah and Hamas must respect all past agreements signed by the PLO. He said that a new national unity government that included Hamas must be in place and internationally recognized to manage humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (Haaretz, IMEMC)

US President Barack Obama, in his first address to Congress, said that the United States was committed to achieving peace in the Middle East and fighting terror. Referring to US special envoy George Mitchell, he said that “to seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbours, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort”. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli President Peres urged the new Knesset to conclude a peace accord with the Palestinians by the end of its term. (Haaretz)

The PA released 42 Hamas prisoners as a goodwill gesture before the Cairo Fatah-Hamas talks. It was announced that additional prisoners would be released the following day. (AP, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: "It's our right to bring in everything - money and arms. We will not give anyone any commitment on this subject." (Reuters)

Hamas leaders left Damascus for talks in Cairo with Fatah. Hamas spokesperson Ismail Radwan told Ma’an News Agency that the delegation was led by Moussa Abu Marzouq, Deputy Political Bureau Chief. Only one official from Gaza would attend the talks, whose name would be announced later after security precautions had been taken. (AP, Ma’an News Agency)

Hundreds of Palestinians had been able to cross in and out of the Gaza Strip in the three days Egypt opened Rafah crossing point for humanitarian cases, Palestinian officials said. (Xinhua)

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in Ramallah that the PA had completed plans for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and would unveil them on 25 or 26 February. Visiting European Parliament President Pöttering praised Egypt for its efforts to convince the Palestinians to form a unity Government, pointing out that the European Union needed guarantees for the money to be paid for reconstruction, and that donor countries should ensure Gaza is not destroyed again. (Ma’an News Agency)

US aid for the Gaza Strip's reconstruction would likely exceed $900 million, a US official said on conditions of anonymity. (AP)

Toni Frisch, Deputy Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said, after a visit to Gaza, that access to relief and medical goods was still the worst problem, describing the territory as a prison. Mr. Frisch said that people on the ground had difficulty making sense of the extent of the collateral damage that had resulted from the heavy bombardment by Israel. (www.SwissInfo.ch)

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq filed a lawsuit in London against senior UK officials, including Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Defence Secretary John Hutton and Secretary of State for Business Enterprise Peter Mandelson, over British arms exports to Israel. The lawsuit argues that the UK Government is obligated under international law not to render assistance to a State that is violating the law, citing Israel’s operation in Gaza. (Ma’an News Agency)

 25. February

Seventeen year-old Nabil Esleem from Gaza died in a hospital in Egypt as a result of severe wounds sustained in January during IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead”. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces assaulted and detained a Palestinian officer at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, according to witnesses. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli troops arrested two Palestinians on whom they found knives at a checkpoint in Hebron. (The Jerusalem Post)

IDF troops arrested a Palestinian carrying a pipe bomb near the West Bank city of Jenin. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli troops detained three Palestinians from the West Bank village of Yabud near Jenin on charges of throwing stones at Israeli troops. Israeli troops said that an explosive device was discovered in their possession and safely detonated. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israel declared a state of alert after a Palestinian man tried to steal the gun of an IDF soldier near the settlement of “Givat Ze’ev” north-west of Jerusalem. The man fled in his car. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli military bulldozers began uprooting olive and almond trees on both sides of the “Enav” checkpoint east of the West Bank city of Tulkarm. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli authorities reopened the Kerem Shalom, Al-Muntar (Karni) and Nahal Oz border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip after having opened it for three days during which some 2,128 persons, including 1,500 Palestinian patients, students and holders of foreign residence permits were allowed to transit. (Ma’an News Agency, Xinhua)

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert reinstated Amos Gilad as his envoy for Gaza ceasefire talks and negotiations regarding the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. He said that Hamas should agree to a deal to free Cpl. Shalit while he is still Prime Minister, adding that it could prove more difficult under his successor because of the composition of the new coalition Government. (AFP, Haaretz, IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post, Ynetnews)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for the establishment of a “viable and strong” Palestinian State which was crucial to the security of Israel and the Middle East after meeting in Cairo with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. He urged Palestinian factions to form a national unity government and called for the creation of a Palestinian State along Israel’s 1967 borders. Mr. Miliband added that “We say very clearly that the settlements are illegal, that a Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 borders, and that Jerusalem should be the capital of both States.” He also called on Arab countries to stand by the commitments they made under the Arab Peace Initiative. (DPA)

Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met with PA President Abbas in Stockholm and expressed support for national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Mr. Reinfeldt said Sweden, which takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union on 1 July, wanted to help politically in the process of possibly holding new elections in the Palestinian territories. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is also a part of the process,” Mr. Reinfeldt said, urging the two Palestinian factions to put aside their rivalry. (AFP)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in an interview with Reuters in Cairo: “Egypt has been nominated … to speak to Hamas on behalf of the Arab League but actually on behalf of the whole world. Others speak to Hamas. That’s the right thing to do and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward. … We think the Egyptians are the right people to do it and they are doing a good job, and for obvious reasons, not least for geographical proximity, they have a very clear and strong interest in the stability … of Gaza.” (Reuters)

A Russian Foreign Ministry source said that the Quartet was considering holding a ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on the sidelines of the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza. (RIA Novosti)

The US State Department stated that while it has generally tried to avoid criticizing Israel over its treatment of the humanitarian aid issue in Gaza, it believed that the current crisis in the territory required the immediate delivery of as many basic supplies as possible. When asked whether the US believed that Israel was holding up humanitarian aid as a tool to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, State Department spokesman Robert Wood replied that: “Aid should never be used as a political weapon.” Aides to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made it clear that the matter will be central to her planned visit to Israel; over the past week she had relayed messages to Israel expressing anger at obstacles Israel was placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

Two Qassam rockets and continued rocket fire hit the Sha’ar Hanegev region in the western Negev in Israel. There were no reports of casualties. The Israeli Air Force bombed smuggling tunnels east of Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border. (AP, Haaretz, IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post, Ma’an News Agency, Ynetnews)

Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, mediated by Egypt Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, started, with what was described as a series of “icebreaking” meetings by the participants. An aide to PA President Abbas said that agreement had been reached on the issue of exchange of prisoners and on stopping media attacks against each other. A Hamas representative described the talks as “positive and promising”. (AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

It was announced that students from more than 40 universities in Canada will be participating in a call for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions in protest against Israel’s policies against Palestinians. (IMEMC)

The head of the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza, Khaled Abdel Shafi, stated that despite generous donations expected to be promised at the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, money alone would not be enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the wake of the IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead”. Mr. Abdel Shafi stated that three basic conditions had to be met for reconstruction to take place: the border crossings must be opened to allow in raw and construction materials; there must be a long-term ceasefire with Israel; and the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip and West Bank must reconcile. (Haaretz)

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated that the international community would be asked to donate $2.8 billion for the rebuilding of Gaza in the wake of the Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”. High-level representatives from some 80 donor countries were expected to attend the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh on 2 March. (AP AFP, Ma’an News Agency)

 26. February

Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians from Jenin, Ramallah and Hebron. Israeli forces also detained dozens of residents in the village of Ramin, east of Tulkarm. (Ma’an News Agency)

Violent clashes took place in the village of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, when Israeli soldiers raided the village in the evening hours. (Ma’an News Agency)

Ofer Dekel, a former deputy head of Israel’s Shin Beth intelligence agency, had returned to Cairo to discuss efforts to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli official said. He was due to meet with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, the official said. (AFP)

US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell said Turkey would play a “key role” in President Barack Obama’s efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. (AFP, Reuters)

A group of former peace negotiators called in a public letter for the international community to start engaging directly with Hamas, the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East. Mediators from conflicts in Northern Ireland, Cambodia and Bosnia said that the policy of isolating Hamas had failed. “As former peace negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process,” they wrote in a letter published in The Times

. Signatories include former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, former UN Middle East envoy Alvaro de Soto, former EU envoy for Bosnia Paddy Ashdown, and former Australian Foreign Minister and Cambodia peace negotiator Gareth Evans. (AFP, www.timesonline.co.uk)

Militants in the Gaza Strip fired two Qassam rockets into Israel, one of which struck the yard of a home in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Israel Air Force jets bombed smuggling tunnels in Gaza near the border with Egypt. No one was hurt in the strike. (Haaretz)

Palestinian groups have agreed to work towards setting up a unity government after reconciliation talks in Cairo. “It is indeed a historic day,” former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said at a press conference announcing the creation of five main joint committees, including one tasked with forming a national unity government. Mr. Qureia said that the committees, which would also cover issues such as security, national reconciliation, elections and the reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization, would complete their work by the end of March. Jamil al-Majdalawi, an official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said, “The committees will end their work and a Palestinian unity government will be formed by the end of March.” His comments were confirmed by Mohammed al-Hindi, deputy leader of Islamic Jihad. (AFP)

The International Monetary Fund had issued a report entitled “Macroeconomic and Fiscal Framework for the West Bank and Gaza: Third Review of Progress.” “The economic and political situation in 2008 and early 2009 has been far bleaker than hoped for in the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP). … There is a pressing need to secure adequate external assistance to finance the budget deficit for 2009,” according to the executive summary of the report. (www.imf.org)

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, stressed that humanitarian action was vital but insufficient to resolve the Gaza crisis. “Reconstruction is extremely important to help the people of Gaza on to their feet again. … But it is unlikely to succeed unless there is a prospect of a lasting peace. Humanitarian action can be no substitute for an honest and courageous peace process involving all States, political authorities and organized armed groups that can influence the situation,” Mr Kellenberger said. (www.icrc.org)

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report: “On 17 February 2009, the Jerusalem Regional Committee for Planning and Construction rejected an alternative planning scheme submitted by the residents of the Al-Bustan area of Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. The Committee’s decision paves the way for the execution of pending demolition orders issued in 2005 against all of the 88 houses located in this area, due to the lack of building permits. The demolition of these houses will result in the displacement of an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 Palestinians.” (www.ochaopt.org)

 27. February

Four protesters against the separation wall in Ni’lin were injured by Israeli rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens choked on tear gas during the protest. (Ma’an News Agency)

Human rights organization B'Tselem had obtained details of plans, yet to be approved by the Israeli Government, which envisage the initial construction of 550 apartments in the settlement of “Gva’ot”, located in the “Gush Etzion” settlement block, followed by construction of another 4,450 units at a later stage. At present, “Gva'ot” is inhabited by 12 families. The neighbouring settlement of “Bat Ayin”, which has about 120 families, is slated to receive another 2,000 apartments, according to the plans. “Rimonim” will get another 254 apartments if the plans are approved, and expansion plans are also in the works for “Enav” and “Mevo Dotan”. (Haaretz)

Spanish judge Fernando Andreu would pursue his probe into a 2002 Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, which killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade and 14 others, including several children, because Israel itself did not investigate the attack, judicial sources said. (DPA)


Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, expressed support for the Palestinian unity talks: "Let's see what's at the end and we will talk when it comes to an end, but in principle we are supporting them," he said. (Reuters)

Mr. Solana toured the Gaza Strip, his first such trip since June 2007. "I came to Gaza to see by myself the situation and the destruction and to show the solidarity to the good people of Gaza who have suffered so much," he said at a news conference. "I wanted to see with my eyes the level of destruction," he said. "I hope the [International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza], that will take place on Monday, will be a good meeting with good consequences for people here," said Mr. Solana. (AFP, AP)

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Střre toured areas in Gaza hard hit by the Israeli offensive. "This is senseless destruction, destroying the lives of ordinary people, creating misery and not creating peace and not creating security," he said. (AFP, Reuters)

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, will pledge on 2 March in Sharm el-Sheikh €436 million ($554 million) to the Palestinian people for 2009 at the Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza. The Commission’s pledge will be dedicated to humanitarian aid and early recovery of the Gaza Strip. (www.europa.eu)

Fatah leaders urged Palestinians to participate in a PLO-led strike in protest of reported Israeli plans to demolish Palestinian houses in the Al-Bustan area of the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The protest actions were slated for 28 February. Israeli police imposed tight restrictions on entry to Jerusalem and on worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Ma’an News Agency)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd indicated she "deeply regrets any awkwardness" the transmission of a letter from Hamas may have caused for the US Government. UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said the incident did not detract from UNRWA’s neutrality. (The Independent)

 28. February

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired seven rockets at Israel, according to the Israeli military. No one was injured in the attacks. (AFP)



IDF Israeli Defense Forces

PA Palestinian Authority


Chronology Source Abbreviations

ADM (Addameer--Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Ramallah)

AFP (Agence France-Presse, Paris)

AIC (Alternative Information Center, Jerusalem)

AP (Associated Press, Internet)

ATL (Anatolia, Ankara)

AYM (al-Ayyam, Ramallah)

BDL (BADIL Resource Center, Bethlehem)

DUS (al-Dustur, Amman)

FAV (Free Arab Voice, Internet)

HA (Ha'Aretz, Tel Aviv)

HJ (al-Hayat al-Jadida, Ramallah)

HP (Hear Palestine, Washington)

HUR (Hurriyet, Istanbul)

IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency, Tehran)

IsRN (Israel Radio News, Internet)

JP (Jerusalem Post International Edition, Jerusalem)

JT (Jordan Times, Amman)

LAW (Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Jerusalem)

MA (Ma'ariv, Tel Aviv)

MEI (Middle East International, London)

MENA (Middle East News Agency, Cairo)

MENL (Middle East Newsline, Internet)

MEZ (al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Jabaliyya)

MM (Mideast Mirror, London)

NYT (New York Times, New York)

PCHR (Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza)

PR (Palestine Report, Jerusalem)

QA (al-Quds al-Arabi, London)

REU (Reuters, Internet)

RL (Radio Lebanon, Beirut)

RMC (Radio Monte Carlo, Paris)

SA (al-Sharq al-Awsat, London)

UPI (United Press International, Internet)

WJW (Washington Jewish Week, Rockville, MD)

WNC (World News Connection [Internet], Washington)

WP (Washington Post, Washington)

WT (Washington Times, Washington)

XIN (Xinhua+nNew China News Agency, Beijing)

YA (Yedi'ot Aharonot, Tel Aviv)