Gaza invasion averted; West Bank land-grabs escalate

An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip apparently took effect with no formal announcement May 6, after two days of hostilities that saw hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and the most extensive Israeli air-strikes on the Strip since 2014. A total of 27 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, are reported dead in the air-strikes, which also included the first “targeted killings” of Hamas militants since 2014. Four Israeli civilians were also killed, all in the south. In the hours before the ceasefire, Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border, and a new invasion of the Strip appeared imminent. (Ma’an, Al Jazeera, Ha’aretz, YNet)

Hidden from the headlines, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank meanwhile continues. The day after the Gaza ceasefire took effect, Israeli troops forced several Palestinian families to evacuate their homes in the northern Jordan Valley, in order to make way for military exercises. Mutaz Bisharat, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley’s Tubas district, said that Israel ordered 15 families, consisting of 98 individuals, mostly women and children, to evacuate their homes in the area of Hamsa al-Fawqa village. (Ma’an)

Two days before that, Israeli bulldozers uprooted some 120 fruitful olive trees in al-Lubban al-Gharbi village, west of Ramallah. Fawwaz Salem, former head of the village council, said the uprooting of the trees came a month after Israeli forces delivered a military order to a local resident, informing him of confiscation of his private plot near the village, in order to pave a settler-only road connecting the area to the nearby Israeli settlement of Beit Aryeh. The olive trees were planted across a plot of three dunams (0.74 acres). (Ma’an)

Amid the daily West Bank encroachment, Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom this week leaked details of a document said to outline Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for an end to the Palestinian conflict, which was supposedly circulated among officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry. According to the report, the plan calls for a reduced Palestinian state, to be dubbed “New Palestine,” in Gaza and on West Bank lands not already appropriated by settlement blocs. The areas of the blocs are to expand, incorporating outlying settlements, and will remain under Israeli control—apparently amounting to a de facto annexation. Jerusalem would remain undivided, with responsibilities for administration to be shared between Israel and “New Palestine,” but with Israel maintaining general control. (Ma’an, MEE)

Photo: Ma’an