Israeli forces imposed heightened movement restrictions at the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem after a sit-in was organized at the site following Friday prayers to demand the release of the bodies of slain Palestinians withheld by the Israeli state. Head of media and public relations for the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), Firas Dibs, said that Israeli forces had raided al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while soldiers deployed at the gates of the holy site banned Palestinians from entering the area after the Dhuhur (afternoon) prayer. Dibs added that Israeli forces also searched all Palestinian youth "in a provocative manner" as they exited the compound following prayers and the subsequent sit-in.
Israeli forces detained Palestinian writer Khalida Ghusheh on March 11 after raiding her home in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in occupied East Jerusalem. Ghusheh's manager, Amani Abd al-Karim, said that Israeli police had raided Ghusheh's home, before detaining her and transporting her to a police station in the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaqoub in the Beit Hanina neighborhood. Al-Karim added that Ghusheh called her after arriving to the interrogation center, informing her that she was in need of a lawyer and said that the reason for her detention was related to her novel scheduled to be published in October. The novel, titled The Jackal's Trap, explores Palestinian collaborators with the Israeli occupation.
Home demolitions in East Jerusalem have risen dramatically since the election of US President Donald Trump, according to a report in Haaretz. A source in the Jerusalem municipal government confirmed to the newspaper that since the change of administration in the US, restrictions have been lifted and the city government has been allowed to demolish many more structures than during the term of former President Barack Obama. Since the start of 2017, the municipality has demolished over 40 housing units in East Jerusalem, according to data collated by the Ir Amim organization, which studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the city. In 2016, a total of 203 structures, including 123 housing units, were demolished in the predominantly Arab part of the city. A total of 22 structures were demolished by their owners in order to avoid the fine imposed by the municipality for the demolition.
Amnesty International on Feb. 18 urged the Israeli Supreme Court to repeal a law that bans many Palestinians from entering the country, including those who are seeking reunification with their families. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was first enacted in 2003 as a temporary one-year order but has been renewed annually. In addition to urging the Supreme Court to invalidate the law, the statement encourages Israeli authorities to resume "family unification applications," allowing Israeli citizens or residents fo apply for residency for their non-Jewish spouses or family members. The Supreme Court is hearing a case that joins 11 petitions challenging the law. This is rhe first such challenge to go before the country's highest court since related cases in 2012 and 2006. AI claims the law violates numerous international treatises, including Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (PDF) and Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (PDF).
This says all you need to know. In his first press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu during the Israeli prime minister's visit to the White House Feb. 15, President Trump explicitly said he is not committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said, eliciting open chuckles from Netanyahu. "I can live with either one." Referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, he added: "I thought for a while that the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Bibi, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best." As Ma'an News notes, this is a radical departure from the long-held US position, and it comes a day after similar comments from a White House official. The official was unnamed, but the comment that the White house is "not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be" was widely reported—e.g. by JTA and The Hill.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jan. 22 he will be lifting restrictions on Israelis building settlements in East Jerusalem. The statement said, "My vision is to enact sovereignty over all the settlements." Immediately after the announcement, hundreds of building permits were approved by the municipal government. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu delayed lifting restrictions for two weeks to wait for then-US president Barack Obama to leave office. (The restrictions on Jerusalem's urban planning committee had been imposed in response to pressure from the Obama White House.) Netanyahu will be meeting with Obama's successor Donald Trump at some point in the near future. In a statement to Reuters, Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction." Netanyahu and his ministers also decided Jan. 22 to postpone discussion of annexing a West Bank settlement.
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.