An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian in the West Bank city of Hebron last March was found guilty of manslaughter Jan. 4. The three-judge military panel in Tel Aviv ruled against Sgt Elor Azaria. Chief judge Col Maya Heller gave a lengthy verdict reading in which the court ruled that accounts of the incident that he had given were "unreliable and problematic." The panel rejected the defense's arguments. "We found there was no room to accept his arguments," the Chief judge said. "His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die." Israeli politicians have called for Azaria to be pardoned and this case has caused division among the Israeli population.
The United Nations Security Council on Dec. 23 voted in favor of adopting Resolution 2334, that calls on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The vote, with 14 member states voting in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first such vote to be held on the Middle East Peace process in eight years. The resolution's text, drafted by Egypt alongside Palestine, demands that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," and emphasizes that the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." The abstention by Obama came as a major reversal in US policy, as a similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011.
Three justices on the Israeli Supreme Court have been sued for voting in favor of authorizing the construction of Israel's wall around the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice found illegal (PDF) in 2004. The lawsuit alleges war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the Nuremberg trials precedent that allows judges to be convicted for their role in cooperating with such crimes. Six Palestinian landowners from Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem, filed the suit in Santiago, Chile, because Chile ascribes to the concept of universal jurisdiction. Five of the plaintiffs live in Chile, and the sixth lives in Beit Jala.
The Israeli Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the Israeli government to postpone evacuating the illegal Amona outpost, built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, ruling that the evacuation be carried out by Dec. 25 as previously ordered by the court. Justices Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, and Hanan Meltzer reprimanded the state for its eleventh hour attempt to extend the deadline of evacuation, after implementation of the court's decision has already been repeatedly delayed since Palestinian landowners successfully petitioned to remove the outpost in 2008.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."
The Palestinian high court in Ramallah on Oct. 3 amended a previous ruling, holding that municipal elections can take place, but only in West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip. The court had previously held that the election, once scheduled for Oct. 8, would not proceed after Hamas disputed party lists drawn by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. In adjusting its previously holding, the court said that it would "implement the cabinet's decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip," adding that Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" to hold the polls. The new election date must be decided within four weeks. Hamas has been quick to criticize the decision as politically motivated. Had the court allowed elections to take place in the Gaza Strip it would have been the first election between Hamas and Fatah since 2006. Hamas won a majority of the seats in the legislative polls in 2006, sparking a tumultuous rift in Palestinian politics, culminating in Hamas seizing the Strip from Abbas-loyal forces in 2007. No Palestinian presidential election has taken place since 2005 and Abbas has retained office since, despite expiration of his term.
Palestinians on Aug. 21 commemorated the 47th anniversary of an arson attack on al-Aqsa Mosque, with Palestinian officials emphasizing that the Muslim holy site is still under threat today. On Aug. 21, 1969, an Australian Christian fundamentalist set fire to a pulpit in al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, aiming to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. In a press conference, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that Israeli violations, which include detaining and killing Palestinians in al-Aqsa compound, allowing Israeli extremists to storm al-Aqsa, and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, were "another type of fire which keeps burning the al-Aqsa mosque and the city of Jerusalem, and has been burning for 47 years."
A mass hunger strike across Israeli prisons continued on July 23 in protest of Israel's detention of Palestinians without charge or trial. At least 48 Palestinian prisoners now participating in the open hunger strike in support of hunger-striking prisoners Bilal Kayid and brothers Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul, according to a statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs. The committee said in a statement that solidarity hunger strikes are continuing to put pressure on the Israeli prison administration and government to comply with the demands of the striking prisoners and to end Israel’s controversial policy of administrative detention—internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence almost exclusively used against Palestinian detainees.