Chronology 16 February 2003-15 May 2003

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VOL. 32


No. 4
P. 186
Chronology 16 February 2003-15 May 2003

    A day after Hamas detonated a roadside bomb under a tank, killing 4 Israeli soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announces plans to crack down on Hamas in Gaza. In Gaza City, 6 senior Hamas mbrs. are killed, 3 bystanders are wounded when a car laden with explosives blows up; Hamas accuses Israel of remote detonating the device, assassinating the men. The IDF clashes with Palestinians in Nablus during a raid on an office building, leaving 3 Palestinians dead, 23 wounded; senior Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) mbr. and PLO Exec. Comm. mbr. Taysir Khalid, three other Palestinians are arrested in the raid. The IDF also fires on Palestinians in Jabaliya, killing 2 Palestinians, wounding 9; conducts arrest raids in Beitunia (targeting Hamas), Tulkarm (targeting Islamic Jihad, the tanzim); bulldozes 42 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) of Palestinian land, 3 structures nr. Aley Sinai settlement. The Palestinian Authority (PA) says that Palestinians in n. Bethlehem have received notices fr. the IDF that 14 dunams of their land, including the Rachel's Tomb area and 40 Palestinian homes, will be annexed to Jerusalem as part of the security fence construction. (AP, HA, REU 2/16; VOI 2/16, AYM 2/17 in WNC 2/19; HA, MM, NYT, PM, WP 2/17; LAW, WT 2/18; HA, LAW, PR, WT 2/19; LAW, PCHR 2/20; MEI 2/21; MM 2/24, 2/25; HA 2/28)
    IDF undercover units ambush, assassinate Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades 2d in command Riyad Abu Zayd as he drives nr. Netzarim. The IDF also makes a predawn raid on Gaza City to demolish the home of a senior Hamas mbr., fatally shooting 2 Palestinians, injuring 9 during the operation; opens fire on a group of Palestinians nr. Qalqilya, wounding 1 man riding a horse cart, killing the horse; shuts the Center for Social Research in East Jerusalem, claiming it is operating illegally as an arm of the PA; shells residential areas of Rafah, destroying 1 Palestinian home; bulldozes another 48 dunams of land nr. Aley Sinai settlement. In Gaza City, around 100,000 Palestinians take part in funeral marches for 6 senior Hamas mbrs. killed on 2/16. (AP, HA, MM, NYT, REU 2/17; LAW, WP, WT 2/18; PR 2/19; LAW, PCHR 2/20; MEI 2/21; MM 2/24)
    Overnight, IDF undercover units raid Yatta, assassinate wanted Hamas mbr. Muhammad Muhr. The IDF also fires tear gas into a girls primary school in Hebron, injuring 10s of children; demolishes a Palestinian home in Nablus, 2 buildings in Rafah refugee camp (r.c.); conducts arrest raids in Bethlehem, Jenin, Rafah (targeting Islamic Jihad). Late in the evening, the IDF sends 40 tanks, helicopters, troops into Gaza City on a mission to demolish 4 Palestinian buildings, 1 of them a home, allegedly containing Hamas metal workshops, leaving at least 11 Palestinians dead, 25 wounded: 3 are bystanders killed when the IDF blows up one building causing the wall of an adjacent structure to collapse on top of them; 3 are PA general intelligence officers killed when the IDF fires rockets at their post; 1 is a Hamas mbr. who detonates a suicide bomb nr. a tank, causing no injuries; 4 are gunmen attempting to hold back the incursion. The IDF also announces plans to build a walled corridor surrounding Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, linking it to Jerusalem and encircling 10s of Palestinian homes, businesses. The PA begins deploying 10s of unarmed security personnel in Nablus, called the Palestinian Authority-Joint Forces to handle traffic, civilian complaints; the PA says it has not coordinated with Israel regarding the force. (AP, HA, LAW 2/18; HA, MM, NYT, PR, WP, WT 2/19; AFP, al-Quds 2/19 in WNC 2/20; LAW, MM, NYT, PCHR, WT 2/20; MM 2/24; MEI 3/7)
Israeli, PA teams meet with Quartet reps. in London to discuss PA reforms, cease-fire talks, Palestinians' humanitarian situation, next steps to adoption of the road map plan for resumption of negotiations. The Quartet's International Task Force for Reform, the donors' Ad Hoc Liaison Comm. meet on the sidelines. (WP 2/19; NYT 2/20; MEI 2/21; AYM 2/21 in WNC 2/27) (see Quarterly Update; Doc. A2)
    The IDF makes a predawn raid on Nablus, killing 2 Palestinians (ages 16 and 60), occupying 2 schools and several buildings. In response to the IDF's overnight attack on Gaza, Hamas fires 4 Qassam rockets at the Israeli border town of Sederot, seriously injuring 1 Israeli, damaging a factory. In Jenin, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB) mbr. Shahar Zakarna is killed, 3 passengers are injured when an explosive device in his car detonates in what is believed to be an assassination. A Palestinian held in Israel's Nafha prison in the Negev dies of "medical complications." The IDF fires on residential areas of Abasan; demolishes 1 Palestinian home in Dayr al-Balah, 1 in Khan Yunis. Israeli police report the arrest of 2 Druze soldiers, 1 Druze civilian for stealing 3 machine guns fr. an army depot, selling them to Palestinian militants. (HA, LAW 2/19; LAW, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT 2/20; LAW 2/23; MM 2/24; PR 2/26; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    The IDF tightens restrictions on Palestinian movement in Gaza, shuts main roads, dividing the Strip into 3 sections; fatally shoots a wanted tanzim mbr. in Tulkarm in what may be an assassination; demolishes 1 Palestinian home in Hebron, 1 in Jamayn, 1 in Rafah; conducts arrest raids in Ramallah, Tamun; fires on residential areas of Rafah. As IDF operations in Nablus continue, a Palestinian sniper shoots, wounds an IDF soldier. Palestinians fire 1 Qassam rocket at Netzarim settlement, 2 across the Gaza border into Sederot, causing no damage or injuries. Israel issues tenders for construction of 126 new housing units in Efrat settlement. (HA, REU 2/20; HA 2/21; al-Quds 2/21 in WNC 2/24; LAW 2/23; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
 After 10 yrs. of federal investigations trying to link him to terrorism, U.S. authorities arrest Palestinian-born U.S. permanent resident Sami al-Arian, a fmr. University of South Florida professor, on charges of fundraising for Islamic Jihad, and "conspiracy to commit murder via suicide attacks." Another 7 individuals are also charged, several of whom are abroad, including Damascus-based Islamic Jihad head Ramadan Shallah. Arian has been an active fundraiser for 2 Muslim organization that do social work in the territories; the U.S. alleges that he in fact has laundered and funneled money to Islamic Jihad military activities as the organization's chief financial officer since 1984. (The State Dept. listed Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization in 1995.) U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft says that provisions of new antiterrorism legislation made the arrest possible. (HA, NYT, WP 2/21; WT 2/22; MM 2/26; MEI 3/7)
    The IDF fatally shoots 2 Palestinians attempting to sneak into Israel fr. Gaza; fatally shoots 1 Palestinian in Tulkarm when he fails to heed orders to halt; opens fire on Palestinian stone throwers in Nablus, injuring 12; demolishes a Palestinian home in Nablus; conducts arrest raids, house searches in Abud, Tamun, Tura. A 4th Palestinian dies of injuries received on 2/11. (AP, HA, WT 2/21; HA, NYT, WT 2/22; LAW 2/23; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    PLO Exec. Comm. gen. secy. and senior PA negotiator Mahmud Abbas says that the PA is calling for a 1-yr. demilitarization of the intifada. The AMB, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) reject the call. (HA 2/21; Interfax 2/21, SA 2/23 in WNC 2/24; NYT 2/23; al-Quds, JT 2/24 in WNC 2/25; AYM 2/24 in WNC 2/26)
    The IDF continues operations in Nablus, conducting arrest raids, firing on demonstrators, killing 2 Palestinians, wounding 2; demolishes 6 Palestinian homes in Rafah; conducts arrest raids in Ramallah. (AP, HA 2/22; LAW, NYT 2/23; PR 2/26; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    Overnight, the IDF launches a raid on Bayt Hanun that it expects to last for several days, demolishing 5 Palestinian homes, bulldozing 6 dunams of land, clashing with local Palestinians, killing 7 Palestinians (1 crushed in his home when it is demolished), wounding 28, detaining a Palestinian Reuters cameraman for involvement in "terrorist activity"; during the day, troops commandeer houses as outposts, fortify their positions, patrol streets, destroy bridges and roads, dig trenches, erect barricades. The IDF also fatally shoots 3 Palestinians elsewhere-an armed Palestinian attempting to infiltrate Netzarim settlement, a 15-yr.-old Palestinian on a playground in Khan Yunis, a Palestinian who fails to heed orders to halt; arrests DFLP Ramallah head Ibrahim Abu Hijla; bulldozes 24 dunams of land, 2 Palestinian homes in Rafah; shells residential areas of Khan Yunis; conducts arrest raids in Jenin, Khan Yunis. An 11th Palestinian dies of injuries received in Nablus on 2/22. A PFLP sniper fatally shoots 1 IDF soldier in Khan Yunis. Palestinians fire 3 Qassam rockets at Sederot, causing no damage. (AP, HA, LAW 2/23; HA, NYT, WP, WT 2/24; NYT, PMC 2/25; PR 2/26; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    The IDF pulls out of Beit Hanun without explanation; continues operations in Khan Yunis, demolishing 1 Palestinian home, conducting searches and arrests, firing on residential areas; conducts arrest raids in Balata r.c., Hebron, Tubas, Tulkarm; demolishes 1 Palestinian home in Nablus, causing the Palestinian owner to have a fatal heart attack. The Israeli Interior Min. demolishes 13 bedouin homes in the Negev, nr. Beersheba. (HA, MM 2/24; HA, NYT, PMC, WT 2/25; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    Violence drops as the worst winter storm in yrs. hits region. The IDF fatally shoots a 13-yr.-old Palestinian, wounds 7 others, demolishes 8 Palestinian homes in Rafah; bulldozes 7 dunams of land and demolishes 1 Palestinian home in Khan Yunis, also shelling residential areas; conducts arrest raids in Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm. A 2d Palestinian dies of injuries received on 2/16. A Haifa district court convicts 2 Israeli Arabs fr. the Galilee on charges of aiding a Palestinian who detonated a suicide bomb on 8/4/02. Israeli DM Shaul Mofaz says Israel plans to step up "active defense" in the Strip targeting Hamas. (HA, MM 2/25; HA, WP, WT 2/26; LAW, PCHR 2/27)
    U.S. Pres. George W. Bush warns that he will accept nothing short of "full disarmament" by Iraq, he is willing to go to war even without passage of a 2d UNSC res., slated for vote on 3/3. U.S. diplomats tell UNSC mbrs. that a military attack is inevitable, any attempt to delay would destroy the UN's credibility. (NYT, WP, WT 2/26)
    A Palestinian wounded by the IDF 2 wks. ago deteriorates rapidly, dies after an Israeli hospital insisted on transferring him to a Palestinian hospital on 2/25 despite the extreme weather. The IDF arrests an Islamic Jihad mbr. in the West Bank, blows up a car it says he was rigging as a bomb; blows up 9 Palestinian homes in Rafah, 1 in Balata r.c. (also destroying 2 nearby homes). An IDF military court accuses a Nablus-based PFLP cell of plotting to assassinate Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Israeli amb. to Jordan. A Tel Aviv court sentences an Israeli Arab to 4 yrs. for transferring arms to the tanzim. (HA 2/26; HA, LAW, PCHR, PM 2/27; LAW 3/13)
    Bush outlines his vision for the Middle East in a post-Saddam Hussein environment, arguing that the overthrow of the Iraqi pres. and his regime will serve as a catalyst for peace in the region, explicitly linking resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and creation of a "truly democratic Palestinian state" to removing Hussein (HA, NYT, WP, WT 2/27; MENA 2/27 in WNC 2/28; JP, WP 2/28; al-Quds 3/2 in WNC 3/5; MM 3/5; WJW 3/6; MEI 3/7) (see Quarterly Update)
    The IDF raids a branch of the Arab Bank in Azariyya, East Jerusalem, confiscates documents related to bank accounts belonging to Jerusalem residents allegedly linked to Hamas. A roadside bomb explodes nr. a Jewish settler bus in the West Bank, causing no injuries. A Palestinian dies of injuries received on 2/23. (HA, JTA 2/27; PCHR 3/6; LAW 3/13)
    The Knesset approves (68-48) Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's (reelected on 1/28/03) new coalition government. The 68-seat coalition includes the right-wing, pro-settler National Religious Party (6 seats), opposed to creation of a Palestinian state; the right-wing, secular nationalist Shinui (15 seats), which supports unilateral separation; and the ultraright-wing National Union Party (7 seats), which represents Jewish settlers, opposes talks with the Palestinians, and advocates expelling PA head Yasir Arafat and Palestinians from the occupied territories and annexing the land. Acting FM Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) becomes finance minister, acting Finance M Silvan Shalom (Likud) becomes FM; Likud's Tshai Hanegbi (previously under criminal investigation by Israeli police) becomes internal security minister; Mofaz remains DM. Sharon says that the economy will be his 1st priority, the peace process his 2d; that the Palestinians would have to give up the right of return, agree to Jerusalem remaining the unified capital of Israel, and halt all violence if they want a comprehensive peace. (HA, MM, NYT, WP 2/27; NYT, WP, WT 2/28; MA 2/28 in WNC 3/3; WT 3/1; MEI 3/7) (see Doc. C1)
    The IDF demolishes 8 Palestinian homes in Rafah; shells residential areas of Khan Yunis. A Palestinian dies of injuries received on 2/22. (AP 3/1; PCHR 3/6; LAW 3/13)
    The UN confirms that Iraq has begun destroying missiles, which inspectors determined could fly beyond limits set by UN sanctions. The White House declares, however, that disarmament alone is not enough (see 2/25), that the only way for Iraq to avoid war is for Hussein to step down as well. (NYT, WP 3/1; HA, NYT, WP, WT 3/2)
    The IDF conducts arrest raids in Hebron, targeting the tanzim; finds, disables a large roadside bomb nr. Khan Yunis. In retaliation, the IDF launches a raid on Khan Yunis late in the evening, killing 2 Palestinians, wounding 39, demolishing 6 Palestinian homes; 2 IDF soldiers are also wounded. The IDF also fires on an UNRWA primary school in Khan Yunis, leaving an 11-yr.-old Palestinian clinically dead. Nr. Erez crossing, a Jewish settler deliberately hits a Palestinian man with his car, leaving him in a coma, with serious head injuries. (HA, WP, WT 3/2; NYT 3/3; PCHR 3/6; MEI 3/7; PR 3/12; LAW 3/13)
ADL (Adalah, Shafa `Amr)
AFP (Agence France-Presse, Paris)
AIDA (Association of International Aid Development Agencies, Gaza)
AP (Associated Press [Internet])
AYM (al-Ayyam, Ramallah)
BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation World Service [Internet])
BDL (BADIL Resource Center, Bethlehem)
CNN (Cable News Network [Internet])
GS (Gush Shalom, Tel Aviv)
HA (Ha'Aretz [Internet], Tel Aviv)
ICHAD(Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bayt Sahur)
ITV (Israel Television Network, Jerusalem)
JP (Jerusalem Post [Internet], Jerusalem)
JPI (Jerusalem Post International Edition, Jerusalem)
JT (Jordan Times, Amman)
JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency [Internet])
LAW (Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Jerusalem)
MA (Ma'ariv, Tel Aviv)
MEI (Middle East International, London)
MENA (Middle East News Agency, Cairo)
MM (Mideast Mirror, London)
NYT (New York Times, New York)
PCHR (Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza)
PM (Palestine Monitor [Internet])
PMC (Palestine Media Center [Internet])
PR (Palestine Report, Jerusalem)
PRCS (Palestine Red Crescent Society, al-Bireh)
QA (al-Quds al-Arabi, London)
REU (Reuters [Internet])
SA (al-Sharq al-Awsat, London)
VOI (Voice of Israel, Jerusalem)
WJW (Washington Jewish Week, Rockville, MD)
WNC (World News Connection [Internet], Washington)
WP (Washington Post, Washington)
WT (Washington Times, Washington)
XIN (Xinhua-New China News Agency, Beijing)
YA (Yedi'ot Aharonot, Tel Aviv)