“A number of Jewish American organizations sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, urging him to recommit to the UN deal concerning African asylum seekers in Israel, which he canceled this week under pressure from his right-wing political supporters. The groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism and others, stated that they wrote the letter out of ‘great concern for the safety and future of African asylum seekers in Israel’…..Other organizations that signed the letter include the left-wing Jewish group J Street and HIAS, which focuses on immigration issues.”
“Israeli forces shot and wounded at least 40 Palestinian protesters on Friday, Palestinian medics said, as thousands converged on Gaza’s border with Israel and set fire to mounds of tires to launch a second week of demonstrations….Five of Friday’s 40 wounded were in critical condition, according to the Gaza health ministry. Palestinian tent encampments have sprung up a few hundred meters (yards) back from the 65-km (40-mile) frontier but groups of youths have ventured much closer, rolling tires and throwing stones towards Israeli troops. The demonstrators are pressing for a right of return to what is now Israel for refugees – and their descendants – from the 1948 war surrounding the country’s creation. Refugees comprise most of the 2 million population of Israeli-blockaded Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist militant movement Hamas.”
“The Israeli military expects some 50,000 Palestinians to participate in Friday’s planned protests near the border fence with the Gaza Strip in five separate locations, an increase over the 35,000 who came out to protest last Friday. At a meeting on Thursday senior army officials also discussed the possibility that Hamas would exploit the chaos surrounding the protests in order to commit an attack inside Israeli territory. On Thursday, Israel reinforced the military presence near the border fence. The rules of engagement during the protests are to remain unchanged, meaning that snipers will be permitted to shoot at anyone on the Gaza side of the fence who approaches close to it with the intention of crossing into Israel. Human rights organizations in the country and international groups have criticized this protocol, which they say led to the unjustified killing of unarmed Palestinians.”
“The Israeli government told the country’s Supreme Court it is “highly probable” that a third country will accept African asylum seekers deported by Israel. The third country is widely reported to be Uganda, although that country denies it. The state is asking the court to be allowed to extend the detention of 212 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants currently being held in a detention facility in southern Israel until a final deportation deal is reached. Human rights organizations are demanding their release. The government reportedly sent a special envoy to Uganda, one of the countries with which a deportation agreement is said to have been signed prior to a deal — which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced and then rejected on Tuesday — with the United Nations.”
Daniel Estrin reports from Gaza.
Israeli airstrike on Gaza border kills Palestinian, Washington Post
“An Israeli airstrike killed a Gaza man Thursday, while a second Palestinian died of wounds sustained in last week’s mass protest along the Gaza-Israel border, officials said. The man killed in the airstrike before dawn Thursday had approached the border fence with an assault rifle, the Israeli military said. It released a grainy video showing the armed man walking in the dark.
Several vehicles in a Palestinian-majority East Jerusalem neighborhood were vandalized on Wednesday night, Israeli police said. The incident is similar to one a day earlier that Palestinian villagers in the West Bank blamed on Israeli settlers. In the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the perpetrators damaged tires and sprayed “stop the administrative orders” on cars. The same slogan was found at the scene of the earlier case in the West Bank village of Far’ata.
UN expresses concern as Israel, Gaza gird for fresh Friday violence, Times of Israel
The UN envoy for the Middle East expressed concern Thursday over the “preparations and rhetoric” for the second Palestinian March of Return to be held along the Gaza border Friday, a week after protests morphed into deadly violence. “Israeli forces should exercise maximum restraint and Palestinians should avoid friction at the Gaza fence,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement, as both sides girded for what is expected to be a repeat of last weekend’s protests.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had a ‘tense’ phone call with President Trump, according to two White House officials. The conversation revolved around Netanyahu’s concerns that the US will withdraw from Syria and allow Israel’s enemies to gain a further foothold in a neighboring country, said the officials.
Nahum Barnea writes, “I find it hard to believe that Americans who encourage Israel to launch wars, Americans who are trigger-happy when it comes to someone else’s trigger, really do love us. And even if they do, their love suffocates.”
Good Riddance to CIA Director Pompeo, Foreign Policy
Ned Price writes, “Intelligence analysts familiar with the matter recounted to me that, in preparation for such meetings, Pompeo would adopt the Dick Cheney-esque strategy of asking the same question repeatedly — namely whether Tehran remained in compliance with the terms of the deal — apparently hoping for a different answer. Even without the facts on his side, Pompeo was said to have argued in favor of trashing the accord and ramping up the pressure on Iran, an approach Trump by many accounts is preparing to take at the next opportunity in May.”
Ron Kampeas writes, “How did a humanitarian and political crisis about Eritreans and Sudanese migrants in Israel morph into a controversy over a left-leaning funder of Israel’s nonprofit sector?….Netanyahu provided no evidence for his claim that NIF was behind the pressure on Rwanda to back out of an earlier deal that would have sent the African migrants to that East African country. Rwanda, for its part, has consistently denied any such deal was in the offing. The Israeli Embassy here did not reply to a request to provide the evidence, or say if the Rwanda deal was being considered while Israel simultaneously negotiated the deal with the United Nations. The New Israel Fund adamantly denies that it played any role in pressuring Rwanda or any country into not accepting the migrants.”
Amos Harel reports, “Apparently cold calculation is behind the decision to employ extensive sniper fire directed at demonstrators. Israeli politicians, whose involvement in preparations for the Gazan “March of Return” was not very intense, instructed the army to prevent a breach of the fence. It’s doubtful that they held detailed discussions about the means to achieve this. The understanding was that international interest in events on the Gaza border was limited. Israel would be subject to the usual condemnations no matter how it handled the demonstrations. However, it was believed that the public support the government now gets from the U.S. administration and the balance of power between the U.S. and Russia in the UN Security Council (which prevented any condemnation of massacres committed by the Assad regime and Russia in Syria) would foil any significant actions against Israel.”
Daoud Kuttab observes, “While the two major Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, are publicly on the record as supporting peaceful protests, it appears from what has been happening in Gaza that the chances for the success of large numbers of Palestinians protesting in Gaza is much higher than in the West Bank for a variety of reasons — not the least because of the absence of national unity. Palestinians in Gaza have shown that nonviolent protests can do more to shake up Israel and the world community than more violent means of protests. Leaders in the West Bank are too engrossed in the post-Mahmoud Abbas succession process to pay serious attention to this useful form of protest.”