Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, National Council of Jewish Women, and T’ruah release a joint statement. “As organizations within the Jewish community, we stand together to reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s baseless and ugly attack on the New Israel Fund (NIF). The prime minister blamed NIF for somehow scuttling the agreement he claimed to have struck with the Rwandan Government for it to take in asylum seekers forcibly deported from Israel. But the attack was a transparent attempt to deflect Israeli public pressure over his own moral and policy failures….We stand united in rejecting the prime minister’s attacks on NIF and on other members of Israel’s civil society.”
Israel Wages a Growing War in Syria, New Yorker
Robin Wright reports, “The Trump Administration’s decision, last week, to withdraw two thousand U.S. troops deployed in northern Syria could trigger even broader Israeli military intervention, former senior Israeli military officers told me. Defying advice from his military advisers—and repeated appeals from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—Trump has told his generals to withdraw American forces from the area within four to six months. (The forces have been advising rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces who liberated a chunk of northern Syria from isis, which still holds parts of eastern Syria.) Once again, Israel feels a decision made by the U.S. makes it more vulnerable to attacks by Iranian-backed militias. Besides Hezbollah, Tehran has also mobilized Afghans and Pakistanis—most Shiites—as paramilitary forces in Syria.”
Amos Harel reports, “Iran directly threatened Israel on Tuesday following an airstrike on a Syrian air force Monday that killed at least seven Iranian advisers. Israel is taking the Iranian threats very seriously: The northern border is on high alert amid concerns of a possible revenge attack by Iran or Hezbollah, as well as a possible U.S. strike against the Assad regime in retaliation to the chemical attack at Douma.”
“The Israeli military cleared on Tuesday a sniper seen in a video shooting a Palestinian approaching the border fence with the Gaza Strip….The army said that the video was made on December 22, 2017, during Friday riots along the border with the Gaza Strip. ‘Many steps were taken during the riots to disperse them, including loudspeaker [announcements] and calls to stop, the use of means for dispersing demonstrations and firing in the air,’ stated the inquiry’s findings. ‘When all these did not help, a single bullet was fired at one of the suspects in organizing and leading the incident when he was only a few meters from the fence. As a result of the fire he was hit in his leg and injured.’….’As for the unapproved filming of an operational incident, distribution of he filmed material and the expressions heard in it, it should be noted that this is not the spirit and the level of restraint expected from IDF soldiers and it will be handled appropriately on a disciplinary level,’ stated the findings.”
“A media firm co-founded by a Palestinian journalist killed by Israeli gunfire on the Gaza border over the weekend, who Israel says was a Hamas militant, recently received a grant from the U.S. government. Yasser Murtaja was shot Friday while covering a mass demonstration near the Israeli border. He was carrying a video camera and wearing a flak jacket marked with the word “press” when he was shot. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Tuesday that Murtaja had been on the Hamas payroll since 2011 and held a rank similar to captain. He said Murtaja had used a drone to collect intelligence on Israeli forces along the border. Lieberman provided no evidence to support his claims.”
The president of the largest Jewish movement in the United States called on Israel to “take all necessary and effective precautions” to prevent harm to civilians during the Gaza border protests. Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism said in a statement issued Monday that the “ongoing escalation on the Gazan border is tragic and dangerous for both Israelis and Palestinians. There appears to be no doubt that Hamas has made cynical and violent use of those Gazans who seek a more hopeful future. “But, at the same time, we call on Israel to take all necessary and effective precautions so that innocent civilians will not be harmed. Additionally, the press — especially when marked clearly as such — must be protected as non-combatant civilians.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he is barring the entry to Israel of 110 Palestinians who were due to attend an Israeli-Palestinian memorial service in Tel Aviv next Tuesday night, saying the event was a “desecration” of the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. The Palestinians were invited as participants to the ceremony organized by the Combatants for Peace and the Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace groups as an alternative to the standard Israeli Memorial Day events. The organizers accused Liberman of desecrating the day.
The Russian Embassy in Israel on Tuesday said the Israeli condemnation of what Moscow called a “fake chemical attack” in Syria was “a hasty conclusion.”
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that the attorney general must approve within five days the state’s controversial plan to forcibly deport tens of thousands of African asylum seekers to an unnamed third country — or allow the release of all asylum seekers currently jailed for refusing deportation. Judges stated that “in the absence of an up-to-date deal…there is no longer justification to detain them.”
Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian primary school late Monday night in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, leaving 42 children without a place to learn. Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the small Bedouin community of Zanouta, and destroyed the school, which was built from cement blocks and tin sheets. The school was inaugurated on March 26, along with six other schools in the area that were built to provide education for children in vulnerable communities in the area.
Israel to expand Gaza sailing zone for spring fishing season, Times of Israel
Israel on Tuesday announced that it would be expanding the permitted Gaza sailing zone for the three-month spring fishing season. Ordinarily, Israel allows Gazan fishermen to operate up to six nautical miles (seven miles) from the coast. Beginning on Tuesday, Palestinian sailors in the southern Gaza Strip will be allowed to travel up to nine nautical miles (10.4 miles) from the shore, the army said.
Monday’s airstrike on Syria, attributed to — but not claimed by — Israel, targeted an air base that Iran was constructing, and constituted the “most significant” such strike to date against Iran, Israeli television reported on Tuesday night. Seven members of the Iranian military were among at least 14 people reported killed in the strike, and Iran has threatened Israel with retaliation.
Israel and Annexation by Lawfare, New York Review of Books
Michael Sfard writes, “I always thought that if Israel were to unilaterally annex the occupied Palestinian territories, it would come under an international spotlight, with denunciations and protests around the world. I was wrong. Annexation is underway, but out of the spotlight, away from international attention. In the dismal offices of the fortified Justice Ministry in East Jerusalem, in the cramped meeting rooms of the Knesset, and in the august chambers of the Supreme Court, Israel’s finest lawyers are working around the clock to shape the biggest paradigm shift since the West Bank was conquered in 1967. The government’s lawyers are busy giving their counsel, drafting laws, and defending Israel’s efforts to expand the jurisdiction of its law and administration beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines to serve the interests of Jewish settlers at the expense of the occupied Palestinians, whose civil rights are suspended.”
Zvi Bar’el writes, “Russia, however, will not allow Israel to upset the delicate balance in its relations with either Iran or with the Syrian regime through continuous attacks, whether directed at Syrian or Iranian targets. Although Russia dictates most of the strategic, military and political moves in the region, it does not completely control Iran’s possible responses and cannot guarantee that a Syrian unit will not decide to respond independently to an Israeli attack. Such attacks would be a dangerous recipe for military escalation and the opening of another front against Israel, which could also suck the United States back into Syria precisely when it is on the brink of disengaging and withdrawing from this front.”