Gaza bombardment displaces 58,000 Palestinians

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced May 18 that the Israeli bombardment has resulted in over 58,000 Palestinians being displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 47,000 are currently seeking shelter in facilities run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The bombardment has also led to the destruction of health infrastructure such as COVID-19 testing labs and clinics. The destruction exacerbates privation imposed by the ongoing blockade of the Strip.

The UNOCHA stated:

The UN acknowledges the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing today, which has allowed dozens of fuel trucks from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to enter Gaza. Regrettably, other essential humanitarian cargo was unable to cross. It is critical that the Erez crossing is also opened for the entry and exit of critical humanitarian staff.

Amnesty International has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the continuing air-strikes by Israel, which have led to the death of over 200 people, including some 60 children, as they could potentially amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The organization further observed:

The Israeli army claims that it only attacks military targets and has justified airstrikes on residential buildings on that basis. However, residents told Amnesty International that there were no fighters or military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks documented.

Amnesty International added that the rocket attacks by armed groups in Gaza, which have killed several civilians in Israel, should also be investigated by the ICC as violations of international humanitarian law.

From Jurist, May 18. Used with permission.

Note: ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has already stated that the war crimes investigation opened earlier this year into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be extended to include the current bombardment.

Biden approves $735M weapons sale to Israel

The Biden administration has approved $735 million worth of precision-guided weapons to be sold to Israel, sparking opposition from some Democrats. The sale, which Congress was officially notified of on May 5, mostly consists of Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions, equipment that can make unguided bombs dropped from aircraft into guided missiles. The 15-day window for Congress to block this sale is effectively closed. But the deal was approved before the current bombardment began. "The United States should not stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed with our backing," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said in a statement. (The Hill)

Celebrations in Gaza as ceasefire takes hold

A ceasefire came into force in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of May 21 after Egypt brokered an agreement between Israel and Hamas to halt 11 days of conflict. Thousands of people in Gaza and the Palestinian territories poured onto the streets to celebrate the ceasefire, waving flags and flashing V signs for victory. The agreement came a day after the Biden administration at last publicly called for a ceasefire. (Al Jazeera)

Gaza death toll still rising

Gazans continue to extract bodies from the rubble, and officials estimate that it will take several weeks to ascertain the final death toll. The Gaza Health Ministry reports that the death toll has risen to 243, and that it is expected to continue rising. Of those killed, 66 are children, 39 are women and 17 were seniors. The Health Ministry added that the number of people injured in Israeli strikes had risen to 1,910. (Haaretz)

Thousands of Jews and Arabs march in Tel Aviv for peace

Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv on May 22 in a show of support for peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Protesters also voiced support for the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that came into effect the day before, calling on the government to take immediate action to end Israeli occupation in the West Bank and to reach peace with the Palestinians. The mass march was organized by the Standing Together and Breaking the Silence movements. (JP)

Bye-bye for Bibi?

Israeli opposition parties on June 2 reached an agreement to form a coalition government and oust Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history who has been for years mired in scandal. The alliance would be led until 2023 by Naftali Bennett, a former settler leader who is actually to the right of Netanyahu—he openly opposes a Palestinian state and wants Israel to annex the majority of the occupied West Bank. 

If the government lasts a whole term, it would then be led between 2023 and 2025 by Yair Lapid, a "centrist" who has bitterly opposed Netanyahu but has displayed bellicose tendencies of his own.

The new coalition is an awkward alliance between eight political parties from a diverse array of ideologies, from the center-left to the far right. It includes the membership of a small Arab party called Raam, which would become the first Arab group to join a right-leaning coalition in Israeli history. (NYT)

Yes, bye-bye for Bibi

Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after its parliament voted in a new coalition government. Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as prime minister, leading a "government of change." He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority of 60-59. 

One of the coalition partners is Ra'am-United Arab List, whose chair Mansour Abbas is a cultural conservative but has already won long-sought concessions for Israel's Arab minority. Israel will immediately recognize three unauthorized Bedouin villages in the southern Negev desert, extend by three years the freeze already placed by the outgoing government on the demolition of illegal housing in the Arab community, and present within nine months a proposal to legalize all unlawful Bedouin villages.

Representatives of the Palestinians have reacted dismissively to Israel's new government.

"This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital," a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.

"It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back," said a spokesman for Hamas. (BBC News, YNet)

Israeli air-strikes on Gaza resume

Israeli warplanes carried out new air-strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on June 15, in retaliation for "incendiary balloons" launched from the territory into Israel. The escalation follows clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on the Strip's border, with one Palestinian shot in the leg. The protests were undertaken in response to the right-wing Flag March through Jerusalem’s Old City—an event held annually on Jerusalem Day, marking the city’s capture by Israeli in 1967. It was initially to have been held on May 10, the actual Jerusalem Day, but was postponed due to Hamas rocket fire. (BBC News, Al Jazeera, ToI)

Palestinians protest against Abbas after activist's death

Hundreds of Palestinians protested against President Mahmoud Abbas after Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem a day after an outspoken critic died in the custody of Palestinian security forces.

Nizar Banat had harshly criticized the Palestinian Authority over its corruption and misrule in a series of Facebook videos. His family says security forces raided the home where he was staying and beat him with batons before dragging him away.

Palestinians also chanted against the PA at his funeral in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and masked gunmen fired shots into the air. Demonstrators also burned tires, blocked roads and clashed with riot police in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the PA is headquartered. (The New Arab)