Hundreds of Golan Heights residents and environmentalists from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel protested on Feb. 17 outside the Afek Oil & Gas facility north of Nahal El Al, where exploratory oil drilling began the previous night. Afek, a subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy, won Israeli government approval for a three-year lease to drill 10 wells on 400 square kilometers of the Golan Heights in September. Drilling was planned for mid-January but was delayed due to a court order won by environmental opponents. The Golan Heights is home to Lake Tiberias, Israel's main water source. Genie Energy is run by Effi Eitam, a former right-wing Israeli cabinet minister who currently resides in Golan Heights.
A photographer for the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem was injured on Feb. 1 after being hit by an Israeli settler vehicle in Hebron, the man told Ma'an News Agency. Raed Jihad Abu Rmeila, 28, told Ma'an he "suffered from bruises" after being hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler while walking to work near the Ibrahimi mosque. He was taken to Hebron governmental hospital in moderate condition. Abu Rmeila said he could not determine whether he was hit on purpose or by mistake. He said he was walking on the pedestrian side of the yellow line when he was struck.
The Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters on Jan. 31 banned and declared the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to be a terrorist group. Qassam Brigades is the armed branch of Hamas, which is itself an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling is based on allegations by Egyptian officials that Qassam Brigades played a role in the bombing attacks on the Sinai Peninsula last October, and that members have been smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip into Egypt. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri described the verdict as a "dangerous" promotion of Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Hezbollah fighters attacked an Israeli military convoy in the Shaba'a Farms border area Jan. 28, killing four soldiers. After Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon. A Spanish UN peacekeeper was accidentally killed by the Israeli return fire. Hezbollah issued a communiqué saying the attack was retaliation for an Israeli air-strike that killed six of its fighters and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general on the Syrian-held side of the Golan Heights 10 days ago. Hezbollah said the attack had been carried out by a cell calling itself the "Heroic Martyrs of Quneitra," a reference to the area where the Israeli strike took place on Jan. 18. (BBC News, YNet, Israel, Daily Star, Lebanon, Jan. 28)
Israel's Supreme Court ruled Dec. 26 to demolish a Jewish settlement at Amona in the West Bank. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought decades ago by Palestinians who claimed to own the landa of the settlement, which has been deemed "one of the oldest and most contentious Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank." The court agreed early on that the land belonged to the group of Palestinians and ordered the settlement demolished in 2012, but granted a number of extensions on the date of demolition. As a result of the ruling, approximately 300 residents of the settlement will need to move within the next two years.
A Hamas leader on Dec. 27 said that the draft resolution for Palestinian statehood presented to the UN Security Council is "disastrous," and that it has "no future in the land of Palestine." The statement comes amid growing criticism at home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' push for the UN to recognize Palestine as a state, with some calling the move a symbolic gesture that distracts from the larger struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar, however, took a harder line, saying in a statement that Hamas would not accept the resolution because of its focus on the 1967 borders, and not on the entirety of historic Palestine. He said that the movement will only accept the complete 1948 borders, and will refuse to consider allowing Jerusalem to be a capital for both Palestinian and Israeli states. (Ma'an, Dec. 26)
The UN General Assembly on Dec. 20 approved a resolution calling upon Israel to pay Lebanon over $850 million in damages for an oil spill caused by air-strikes on storage tanks at the Jiyyeh power station during the 2006 war. The assembly voted 170-6 in favor of the nonbinding resolution, with three abstentions. Only Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted "no." The resolution called the oil slick that covered the entire Lebanese coast and extended into Syria an "environmental disaster." Some 15,000 tons of oil were released into the Mediterranean in the July 2006 air raids. (Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, BBC News, AP via Times of Israel, Dec. 20)
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)