Demolition teams from the Jerusalem municipality on Feb. 5 destroyed three Palestinian homes and forced a man to demolish his own home in East Jerusalem, leaving 28 homeless. Clashes erupted in one neighborhood following the demolitions, injuring 15 and leading to seven detentions, according to eyewitnesses. The first demolition was in the Beit Hanina neighborhood north of the Old City. Demolition teams, residents said, arrived at 4:30 AM at Wadi al-Dam in Beit Hanina and stormed the home of Muhammad Sanduqa. They then forced the family out and evacuated furniture before bulldozers pulled the house down. Alaa Sanduqa told Ma'an News Agency that his family house was built 17 years ago. The house, he said, measured 65 square meters and housed seven people. He highlighted that his family had paid a fine of 1,000 shekels ($280) for building without a license.
President Abbas has proposed that US-led NATO forces be stationed indefinitely in a future Palestinian state, according to an interview with the New York Times on Feb. 2. Speaking about security arrangements from Ramallah, Abbas said a NATO force could be positioned at all borders, checkpoints and within Jerusalem for a "long time" after Israeli military forces eventually withdraw from the occupied territories. "The third party can stay. They can stay to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us," Abbas told the Times. The president said that Israeli military forces could remain in the West Bank for up to five years and the removal of illegal settlers should be phased according to a similar timetable. Abbas insisted that the future Palestinian state would be demilitarized with only a police force.
Leftist Palestinian parties on Jan. 25 held demonstrations across the West Bank in opposition to negotiations with Israel and US Secretary of State John Kerry's framework proposal that will serve as the basis for proposed talks. Rallies in Hebron and in Nablus brought hundreds to the street to reject the negotiations proposals from the US leader, which they claimed were intended to "liquidate the question of Palestine and prolong the Israeli occupation."
Israel's ultra-reactionary foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, a vocal advocate of "transfer" of the Palestinians, stars in a very gloomy analysis in The Economist on Jan. 18, "Might they want to join Palestine?" The title refers to Israel's Arab citizens, and the subtitle tells us: "Avigdor Lieberman's radical ideas for population transfers are gaining ground." Actually, in Lieberman's politically correct formulaitons of the "transfer" concept, he insists he is talking about transfering land by tweaking the border between Israel and the Palestinian state, not transfering populations. This is transparent hypocrisy. One favorable comparison he has drawn for his proposal, Cyprus 1974, actually did involve massive forced population transfers—and leaves a bitterly divided island nearly two generations later. Others have been bolder. The now happily retired MK Benny Elon pushed a maximalist transfer program—all the Palestinians from the West Bank across the river into Jordan—and won support from influential US politicians for this blatantly illegal scheme. John Derbyshire in National Review in 2002 called for this future for the Palestinians: "Expulsion from the West Bank and Gaza, those territories then incorporated into Israel.... Would expulsion be hard on the Palestinians? I suppose it would... Do I really give a flying falafel one way or the other? No, not really."
The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus came under bombardment Jan. 16 by the Bashar Assad regime's improvised TNT-filled "barrel-bombs," dropped by helicopter, resulting in the death of at least five residents. The attack destroyed one apartment block and severely damaged others, and it is feared that more casualties may still be beneath the rubble. The strike apparently targeted a section of the camp controlled by the Omari Battalion, aligned with the Free Syrian Army. The battalion's commander Ismail Abu Hani al-Omari said that militants in the village of Yalda west of Yarmouk brought down the helicopter with a missile after it struck the camp. (Oximity, Jan. 18; Ma'an New Agency, Jan. 17)
After lying in state at the Knesset, where Israelis lined up to pay tribute, Ariel Sharon was buried Jan. 13 on his family's ranch in the Negev desert. The Israeli military deployed the Iron Dome missile shield, lest Gaza-based militants tried to target the burial with rockets. In fact, "two projectiles" did hit the nearby Shaar HaNegev region, the military said, reporting no casualties. Earlier in the day, Israeli air-strikes hit a Gaza refugee camp, ostensibly in response to prior ineffectual projectile attacks. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement to Israel: "Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon's memory." News of Sharon's death set off spontaneous joyful celebrations at Lebanon's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. (Algemeiner, AFP, AFP, JP Updates)
Israel's pressure on Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state is an attempt to legalize "racism," a PLO official said Jan. 11. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said defining Israel as a Jewish state would signify that any Jewish person would have the right to return to Palestine, while Palestinians would lose that right. Ashrawi told Ma'an News Agency that Israel wants to "create a narrative that denies the Palestinian presence, rights, and continuity on the historic Palestinian lands." A "Jewish state" recognition would exempt Israel from its responsibility toward the Palestinian refugees who were forcibly displaced from their homes in 1948, she said.
Israel's Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the construction of an "archaeological park" on the ancient site of Tel Rumeida, near the Jewish settlement in the divided West Bank city Hebron, Israeli media revealed this week. Critics on left are assailing the project as cover for expansion of the city's Jewish settlement. Settlers who petitioned for state support of the project say they believe the site to be the location of biblical Hebron. Archaeologists from Ariel University and the Israel Antiquities Authority began excavations at the site Jan. 5. The new archaeological park and anticipated tourist attraction are slated to open by year's end. While the Tel Rumeida site is officially Jewish-owned, a Palestinian family lived on the site and worked the land as protected tenants until the Second Intifada of 2000, when they were evicted.