A supposed ISIS flyer circulating on social networks has warned 18 writers and poets in Gaza against what it calls criticizing Islam, stating that ''apostates will be punished." In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority responded by condemning the intimidation of Palestinian intellectuals, calling the threats a serious precedent. Hamas played down the incident. Gaza's interior minister, Yiad Bazam, denied that ISIS operates in any form in the Gaza Strip and that the threats are nothing more than ''pranks." He nonetheless assured that the Hamas secret services are monitoring the situation. The threats came after a similar text, signed by men claiming to be ISIS adherents, warned women in Gaza that they will not be allowed to walk in the streets without the hijab. Poet and women's rights activist Donia al-Amal Ismael received the first flyer via Facebook. It accused her and other writers of speaking ill of God and Islam, and threatened to slit their throats. Ismael expressed skepticism that ISIS is really behind the flyer: "I think that I must deal with this as a joke, to be strong." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Hamas and ISIS "brother organizations" and "branches of the same poisonous tree." (ANSAmed, NPR, Dec. 17)
The European Parliament on Dec. 17 passed a resolution supporting recognition of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The resolution also launches a "Parliamentarians for Peace" initiative to bring together MEPs and MPs from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments. The resolution passed by 498 votes to 88, with 111 abstentions. The statement said the parliament reiterated "its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law." (Ma'an, Dec. 17)
Air-strikes on landmark buildings at the tail end of the Israeli military's "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza in August were a deliberate and direct attack on civilian buildings and amount to war crimes, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled "Nothing is Immune: Israel's Destruction of Landmark Buildings in Gaza," the report (PDF) provides evidence that attacks on four multi-storey buildings during the last four days of the conflict were in contravention of international humanitarian law, and calls for them to be independently and impartially investigated. "All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. "Both the facts on the ground and statements made by Israeli military spokespeople at the time indicate that the attacks were a collective punishment against the people of Gaza and were designed to destroy their already precarious livelihoods."
At Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, local Bedouin families are emptying their homes, loading belongings into vans as soldiers look on from armored cars. At eight border villages, 680 houses—homes to 1,165 families—are being demolished to create a "security zone." Residents were ordered to evacuate on 48 hours notice. Some monetary compensation is being offered, but no provisions for new housing have been made, and landlords are jacking up rents in the Sinai in response to the sudden demand. Dynamite as well as bulldozers is being used to demolish the villages. The operation will result in a buffer 13.5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide. But some Bedouin pledge to resist relocation. A woman at Ibshar village said: "I'm not leaving my house even if they kill me. I was born and raised in this house. If they want the terrorists, they know where they are. There’s no need to force us from our homes." (Middle East Eye, Nov. 6; Reuters, Nov. 5)
The director of the Euro-Mid Observer For Human Rights said Sept. 16 that eight Palestinian migrants from Gaza survived a devastating shipwreck near Malta, with dozens feared dead. "We have search teams in Malta, Italy, and Greece trying to get information on those Palestinians," Rami Abdo told Ma'an News Agency. According to survivors of the Sept. 14 shipwreck, the Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Sudanese migrants set out from Damietta in Egypt on Sept. 6, and were forced to change boats several times during the crossing towards Europe. The traffickers, who were on a separate boat, then ordered them onto a smaller vessel, which many of the migrants feared was too small to hold them. When they refused to cross over to the new boat, the furious traffickers rammed their boat until it capsized, the survivors told the maritime organization.
Immediately after the Gaza ceasefire went into effect the evening of Aug. 26, Hamas urged Gazans to take to the streets and "celebrate victory and the fulfillment of the Palestinian people's demands." In a news conference at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that "Israeli settlers who live around Gaza can go back to their homes after the ceasefire agreement went into effect." He announced victory and congratulated the Palestinian people and the Arab nation for the victory which he said the Palestinian resistance achieved. "The Hamas movement won't abandon the Palestinian people after the battle came to an end." Militants fired gunshots into the air celebrating victory, and Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank. (Ma'an)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to US legislators to help Israel stave off a feared global push to bring Israeli military and political leaders to trial on war crimes charges in the wake of the Gaza offensive, the New York Post reported Aug. 6. Congress members visiting Israel as guests of AIPAC, were urged by Bibi to go to bat for Israeli officials seekng to avoid ending up in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delegation included Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who said: "The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed." Netanyahu "wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard." (JP)
Deputy secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhaala said on Aug. 11 that a long-term ceasefire that would include the lifting of the siege on Gaza would be announced soon, stressing that "great progress" had been made in negotiations. The announcement, which comes on the first day of a five-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, raises hopes that a long-term truce will materialize after more than two weeks of negotiations that have so far yielded few results. The breakthrough comes after Israel reportedly dropped its demand that Palestinian militant groups inside Gaza disarm, while apparently acceding to demands by the Palestinian delegation that the eight-year long economic blockade of the Strip be lifted.