TUBAS, West Bank (AP) — At least 85 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year as Israeli forces have carried out nightly raids in cities, towns and villages, making it the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2016.
The military says the vast majority were militants or stone-throwers who endangered the soldiers. The tally, from the Palestinian Health Ministry, includes Palestinians who carried out deadly attacks inside Israel.
But it also includes several civilians, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer who apparently drove unwittingly into a battle zone, as well as local youths who took to the streets in response to the invasion of their neighborhoods.
The length and frequency of the raids has pulled into focus Israel's tactics in the West Bank, where nearly 3 million Palestinians live under a decades-long occupation and Palestinians view the military’s presence as a humiliation and a threat.
Israeli troops have regularly operated across the West Bank since Israel captured the territory in 1967.
Israel says it is dismantling militant networks that threaten its citizens, and that it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule over territories they want for a future state — a dream that appears as remote as ever, with no serious peace negotiations held in over a decade..
Israel stepped up the operations this past spring after a string of deadly attacks by Palestinians against Israelis killed 17 people, some carried out by militants from the West Bank. There have been no deadly attacks since May, but the relentless military operations have continued.
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army said Monday there was a “high possibility” that a soldier killed a well-known Al Jazeera journalist in the occupied West Bank last May, as it announced the results of its investigation into the killing.
In a briefing to reporters, a senior military official said a soldier opened fire after mistakenly identifying Shireen Abu Akleh as a militant. But he provided no evidence to back up the Israeli claim that Palestinian gunmen were present in the area and said no one would be punished. He also did not address video evidence showing the area to be quiet before Abu Akleh was shot.
The conclusions were the closest Israel has come to taking responsibility for her death and followed a series of investigations by media organizations and the United States that concluded Israel either fired, or most likely had fired, the deadly shot. But they were unlikely to put the matter to rest.
“He misidentified her,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines. “His reports in real time...absolutely point to a misidentification.”
Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a vest identifying her as press when she was killed in May while covering Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank.
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The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem accused the army of carrying out a whitewash.
“It was no mistake. It’s policy,” the group said.
Al Jazeera’s local bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari, accused the army of trying to escape responsibility. “This is clearly an attempt to circumvent the opening of a criminal investigation,” he told The Associated Press.
The 51-year-old Palestinian-American had covered the West Bank for two decades and was a well-known face across the Arab world. The Palestinians, and Abu Akleh's family, have accused Israel of intentionally killing her, and her death remains a major point of contention between the sides.
The official said the military could not conclusively determine where the fire emanated from, saying there may have been Palestinian gunmen in the same area as the Israeli soldier. But he said the soldier shot the journalist “with very high likelihood” and did so by mistake.
The official did not explain why witness accounts and videos showed no militant activity in the area, as well as no gunfire in the vicinity until the barrage that struck Abu Akleh and wounded another reporter.
He also did not say why the investigation had taken some four months, though he said the Israeli military chief asked for more information after an initial probe. The official said the investigation had been shared with the military's independent prosecutor, who had decided not to launch a criminal probe. That means no one will be charged in the shooting.
Abu Akleh's family criticized the investigation, saying the army “tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility” for the killing.
“Our family is not surprised by this outcome since it’s obvious to anyone that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. However, we remain deeply hurt, frustrated and disappointed,” they said in a statement. The family also reiterated its call for an independent U.S. investigation and a probe by the International Criminal Court.
Rights groups say Israeli investigations of the shooting deaths of Palestinians often languish for months or years before being quietly closed and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Israel has said she was killed during a complex battle with Palestinian militants and that only a forensic analysis of the bullet could confirm whether it was fired by an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian militant. However, a U.S.-led analysis of the bullet last July was inconclusive as investigators said the bullet had been badly damaged.
An Associated Press reconstruction of her killing lent support to witness accounts that she was killed by Israeli forces. Subsequent investigations by CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post reached similar conclusions, as did monitoring by the office of the U.N. human rights chief.
Abu Akleh rose to fame two decades ago during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule. She documented the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule — now well into its sixth decade with no end in sight — for viewers across the Arab world.
Israeli police drew widespread criticism from around the world when they beat mourners and pallbearers at her funeral in Jerusalem on May 14. An Israeli newspaper reported that a police investigation found wrongdoing by some of its officers, but said those who supervised the event will not be seriously punished.
Jenin has long been a bastion of Palestinian militants, and several recent deadly attacks inside Israel have been carried out by young men from in and around the town. Israel frequently carries out military raids in Jenin, which it says are aimed at arresting militants and preventing more attacks.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built settlements where nearly 500,000 Israelis live alongside nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of a future state.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.
A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residenceand private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.
Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.
Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The long reign of Queen Elizabeth II saw large swaths of the world cast off London's rule, but after her death a handful of British-installed monarchies still endure in the Middle East.
They have survived decades of war and turmoil and are now seen as bastions of a certain kind of authoritarian stability. When popular uprisings erupted across the region a decade ago in what was known as the Arab Spring, sweeping away regimes with anti-colonial roots, hereditary rulers were largely unscathed.
The days of imperial pomp and gunships may be over, but the region’s emotional and financial ties to England run deep. Emirs, sultans and kings attend the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Gulf Arab sovereign wealth has helped reshaped London’s skyline.
As the son of a British mother, Jordan’s King Abdullah II also has familial and cultural ties to Britain.
Jordan’s ruling Hashemites, who come from the Arabian Peninsula and claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad, launched the revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. They had hoped their wartime alliance with Britain would help secure an independent Arab state across much of the Middle East.
It didn’t work out that way.
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Britain and France carved up the Ottoman Empire after the war, breaking promises and drawing often arbitrary borders that virtually guaranteed decades of conflict in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“There is no question that the two royal families have enjoyed very strong relations,” former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher said of the the British royals and the Hashemites. “But the relationship has been marred by major issues and turbulent times.”
Abdullah I, the current king's great grandfather, was given Jordan, a swath of desert mainly populated by nomadic Bedouin.
His brother, Faisal, was placed on the throne of Iraq, another new country, assembled from three distinctive Ottoman provinces and loosely based on ancient Mesopotamia.
The British helped establish both kingdoms in an English mold. Jordan got a British-style bureaucracy. In Iraq, a band played “God save the King” at Faisal’s coronation.
Both were buffeted by the wave of Arab nationalism that erupted after World War II. Abdullah was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist in Jerusalem in 1951, and Iraq’s King Faisal II was deposed and killed in a bloody 1958 coup.
Egyptian military officers deposed that country’s British-backed monarchy in 1952, and hereditary rulers were later overthrown in Libya and Yemen. All were eventually replaced by homegrown autocrats — many aligned with the West.
But not Jordan.
King Abdullah II, a native English speaker who would fit in at a British army club, and his glamorous wife of Palestinian descent, Queen Rania, today rule an Arab country that has come to be seen as an island of stability in a volatile region.
His father, King Hussein, quashed internal threats and survived dozens of plots to kill and overthrow him. His image as a friendly, Western-style monarch in a restive region compelled foreign patrons — first Britain, then the United States — to bankroll the kingdom.
Its modern-day image of stability masks an economy dependent on foreign aid, a conservative culture and popular discontent that occasionally bubbles to the surface.
King Abdullah II often flies to London to "seek advice from the British on this or that issue,” said Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst. When the king’s half-sister, Princess Haya, sought legal protection from her ex-husband, the ruler of Dubai, she looked no further than the British capital.
Jordan’s royal court declared a week of mourning after Queen Elizabeth’s death, hailing her as an “iconic leader” and a “beacon of wisdom.”
The response from ordinary people in Jordan — and across the region — was more muted.
Many trace the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Britain’s 1917 Balfour declaration, in which it supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist based in Jordan, said he would have expected Elizabeth's passing to create more debate among Jordanians. “But she became queen in 1952. It’s hard to blame her for the Balfour declaration,” he said.
Iraqis still bitterly recall the British invasion during World War II and many view the 1958 coup that deposed Faisal II with pride. But it ushered in decades of instability, culminating in Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule and wars with his neighbors. The U.S.-led invasion in 2003, in which Britain was a key participant, removed Saddam but plunged Iraq into chaos from which it has yet to fully emerge.
“Installing a monarchy that wasn’t very popular and that was overthrown in 1958 was the ignition for the many problems that the modern Iraqi state has faced,” said Lahib Higel, senior Iraq analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Still, Iraqis of a certain age credit Britain with helping to establish education and health systems that were the envy of the region before Saddam’s catastrophic rule. Some Egyptians also look back fondly on their monarchy, whose demise was followed by decades of authoritarian rule and stagnation.
“Especially older Egyptians have this residual admiration for British culture and institutions,” said Egyptian writer Khaled Diab.
Further east, across the glittering cities of the Persian Gulf, British influence remains strong decades after independence. Starting in the 18th century, Gulf emirs came under the protection of the British Empire, which brokered truces between loosely organized tribes.
The discovery of vast oil riches ensured the survival of hereditary rule even after the British withdrew in 1971. Heirs to the tribal leaders today boast second homes in London’s toniest districts and degrees from British universities.
Bahrain was convulsed by a 2011 revolt supported by its Shiite majority against its Sunni monarchy, but there was hardly any sign of unrest in any other Gulf country.
“These Arab monarchies are modern-era creations and they’ve had to create the monarchical myth in a relatively short space of time,” said Christopher Davidson, a fellow at the European Center for International Affairs. "The British royal protocols continue to produce these states with a ready-made blueprint on how to behave and operate.”
After Elizabeth’s death, a video clip from 2015 went viral showing Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, describing the British queen as a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad. Her blood line, he alleged, ran through medieval Muslim Spain.
The claim, which has been made by others but never proven, drew mockery on social media. But some welcomed it as proof of enduring ties.
“There’s this desire to build bridges,” said Diab, the Egyptian writer. “Britain has this residual pull on the Arab imagination.”
Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss in Ottawa, Ontario, contributed to this report.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — In a story published October 18, 2022, about Australia dropping its former recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the government would again recognize Tel Aviv as the capital. Wong said the embassy would stay in Tel Aviv but did not mention recognizing the city as the capital.
AL-AROUB REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) — In two volatile spots in the occupied West Bank, Israel has installed robotic weapons that can fire tear gas, stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets at Palestinian protesters.
The weapons, perched over a crowded Palestinian refugee camp and in a flashpoint West Bank city, use artificial intelligence to track targets. Israel says the technology saves lives — both Israeli and Palestinian. But critics see another step toward a dystopian reality in which Israel fine-tunes its open-ended occupation of the Palestinians while keeping its soldiers out of harm’s way.
The new weapon comes at a time of heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank, where unrest has risen sharply during what has been the deadliest year since 2006. The victory by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line alliance, which includes an extreme right-wing party with close ties to the settler movement, has raised concerns of more violence.
Twin turrets, each equipped with a watchful lens and a gun barrel, were recently installed atop a guard tower bristling with surveillance cameras overlooking the Al-Aroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank. When young Palestinian protesters pour into the streets hurling stones and firebombs at Israeli soldiers, the robotic weapons unleash tear gas or sponge-tipped bullets on them, witnesses say.
About a month ago, the military also placed the robots in the nearby city of Hebron, where soldiers often clash with stone-throwing Palestinian residents. The army declined to comment on its plans to deploy the system elsewhere in the West Bank.
Palestinian activist Issa Amro said Hebron residents fear the new weapon might be misused or hacked with no accountability in potentially lethal situations. People also resent what they say is a weapons test on civilians, he added.
“We are not a training and simulation for Israeli companies," he said. "This is something new that must be stopped.”
There are no soldiers next to the machines. Instead, the weapons are operated by remote control. At a touch of a button, soldiers nestled inside a guard tower can fire at selected targets.
The army says the system is being tested at this stage and fires only “non-lethal” weapons used for crowd control, such as sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas. Residents of Al-Aroub say the turrets have repeatedly drenched the hillside camp in gas.
“We don’t open the window, we don’t open the door. We know not to open anything,” said shopkeeper Hussein al-Muzyeen.
Robotic weapons are increasingly in operation around the world, with militaries expanding their use of drones to carry out lethal strikes from Ukraine to Ethiopia. Remote-controlled guns like the Israeli system in the West Bank have been used by the United States in Iraq, by South Korea along the border with North Korea, and by various Syrian rebel groups.
Israel, known for its advanced military technologies, is among the world's top producers of drones capable of launching precision-guided missiles. It has built a fence along its boundary with the Gaza Strip equipped with radar and underground and underwater sensors. Above ground, it uses a robotic vehicle, equipped with cameras and machine guns, to patrol volatile borders. The military also tests and utilizes state-of-the-art surveillance technology such as face recognition and biometric data collection on Palestinians navigating the routines of the occupation, such as applying for Israeli travel permits.
“Israel is using technology as a means to control the civil population," said Dror Sadot, spokeswoman for Israeli rights group B'Tselem. She said that even supposedly non-lethal weapons like sponge bullets can cause extreme pain and even be deadly.
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The turrets in Al-Aroub were built by Smart Shooter, a company that makes “fire control systems” that it says “significantly increase the accuracy, lethality, and situational awareness of small arms.” The company boasts contracts with dozens of militaries around the world, including the U.S. Army.
Speaking at the company’s headquarters in Kibbutz Yagur in northern Israel, Chief Executive Michal Mor said the gun requires human selection of targets and munitions.
“They always have a man in the loop making the decision regarding the legitimate target,” she said.
She said the system minimizes casualties by distancing soldiers from violence and limits collateral damage by making shots more accurate.
In a densely populated area like Al-Aroub, she said soldiers can monitor specific people in a crowd and lock the turret onto specific body parts. The system fires only after algorithms assess complex factors like wind speed, distance, and velocity.
The military said such safeguards minimize the risk to soldiers and improve supervision over their activities. It also said the technology allows soldiers to target “less sensitive” areas of the body to minimize harm and avoid shooting bystanders.
“In this way, the system reduces the likelihood of inaccurate fire,” it said.
But Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said Israel is on a “slide toward the digital dehumanization of weapons systems.” By using such technologies, Shakir said Israel is creating “a powder keg for human rights abuse.”
Violence in the West Bank has surged over the past several months as Israel has ramped up arrest raids after a spate of Palestinian attacks within Israel killed 19 people last spring. The violence has killed more than 130 Palestinians this year and at least another 10 Israelis have been killed in recent attacks.
Israel says the raids aim to dismantle militant infrastructure and and that it has been forced to act because of the inaction of Palestinian security forces. For Palestinians, the nightly incursions into their towns have weakened their own security forces and tightened Israel’s grip over lands they want for their hoped-for state. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.
In Al-Aroub, residents say the machines fire without warning.
“It is very fast, even faster than the soldiers,” said Kamel Abu Hishesh, a 19-year-old student. He described almost nightly clashes where soldiers storm the camp as the automated gun fires tear gas up and down the hill.
Paul Scharre, vice president of the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security and a former U.S. Army sniper, said that without emotion and with better aim, automated systems can potentially reduce violence.
But he said the absence of international norms for “killer robots” is problematic.
Otherwise, he said, it's just a matter of time before these automated systems are equipped to use deadly force.
Associated Press writers Mahmoud Illean in Al-Aroub and Ami Bentov in Kibbutz Yagur, Israel, contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's departing Prime Minister Yair Lapid doubled down Tuesday on his government's harsh condemnation of a reported investigation by the United States Department of Justice into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, in the occupied West Bank.
A Justice Department spokesman had no comment. There were no details about when an investigation might begin and what it would involve, nor what the ramifications might be. But an FBI probe into the actions of an ally would mark a rare — if not unprecedented — step, threatening to strain close ties between the countries as Israel heads toward the most right-wing government in its history.
After a swearing-in ceremony for Israel's newly elected parliament on Tuesday, Lapid vowed Israel would not participate in an American investigation into the fatal shooting of the prominent 51-year-old Al Jazeera correspondent last May in Jenin, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. Echoing remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz the day before, Lapid said that Israeli soldiers “will not be investigated by the FBI or by any foreign country or body, however friendly.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the news and promised to cooperate fully with a U.S. investigation, reflecting how Abu Akleh's case has become a point of contention in competing narratives by Israelis and Palestinians.
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“This decision, even if it came late, reflects the birth of an American conviction in the absence of any serious investigation by the Israelis,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said. “(Their investigations) are no more than attempts to cover up the criminals.”
Palestinian officials, Abu Akleh’s family and Al Jazeera have accused Israel of intentionally killing Abu Akleh. Several independent investigations, including by The Associated Press, have concluded that Abu Akleh was most probably killed by Israeli fire.
The death of the veteran journalist, who covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a quarter-century, reverberated across the region and drew global outrage, throwing a spotlight on Israeli actions in the West Bank. Abu Akleh's families and supporters, along with 57 Democratic lawmakers, called on the Biden administration to launch a full probe following an inconclusive State Department assessment of the fatal bullet and the equivocal results of an Israeli military investigation.
Abu Akleh's family said it was “encouraged by the news” of an investigation on Tuesday, expressing hope that the U.S. “will use all of the investigative tools at its disposal to get answers about Shireen’s killing and hold those who are responsible for this atrocity accountable.”
A probe “gets our family closer to justice for Shireen,” their statement said.
Israel's critics contend that history has showed that the Israeli military cannot credibly investigate or prosecute itself. Israel says its investigations are independent and professional.
“We will not abandon our soldiers to foreign investigations,” Lapid told the new lawmakers. "Our strong protest has been conveyed to the Americans at the appropriate levels.”
Although Lapid was ousted from office after Israel's Nov. 1 elections, his likely replacement, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will likely maintain the same stance.
Israel initially raised the possibility that Abu Akleh had been killed by a Palestinian gunman during clashes between Israeli soldiers and militants before acknowledging in September there was a “high probability" she was killed mistakenly by an Israeli soldier. Nonetheless, Israel has vigorously denied its troops had intentionally targeted her and ruled out a criminal investigation.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s ties to the Jewish American community, one of its closest and most important allies, are about to be put to the test, with Israel’s emerging far-right government on a collision course with Jews in the United States.
Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the far-right character of the presumptive government led by conservative Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Given American Jews’ predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further widen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel.
“This is a very significant crossroads,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal, pro-Israel group in Washington. “The potential for specific actions that could be taken by this government, these are the moments when the relationship between the bulk of American Jews and the state of Israel begins to really fray. So I’m very afraid.”
Jewish-American leaders appear especially worried about the prominent role expected to be played by a trio of hard-line, religious lawmakers. The three have made racist anti-Arab statements, denigrated the LGBTQ community, attacked Israel’s legal system and demonized the liberal, non-Orthodox streams of Judaism popular in the U.S. All vehemently oppose Palestinian independence.
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“These are among the most extreme voices in Israeli politics,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in the U.S. “What will be the trajectory of a new Israeli government with such voices in such key leadership roles is of deep, deep concern.”
More centrist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, which fights antisemitism and other forms of hatred, and the Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group that supports hundreds of Jewish communities, have also spoken out.
Though these groups, like J Street and the Reform movement, support a two-state solution with the Palestinians, their recent statements have focused on Israel's democratic ideals. The Anti-Defamation League said that including the three far-right lawmakers in a government “runs counter to Israel's founding principles.” The Federations called for “inclusive and pluralistic” policies.
For decades, American Jews have played a key role in promoting close ties between the U.S. and Israel. They have raised millions of dollars for Israeli causes, spoken out in Israel’s defense and strengthened strong bipartisan support for Israel in Washington.
But this longstanding relationship has come under strain in recent years — especially during Netanyahu's 2009-2021 rule.
Netanyahu’s hard-line policies toward the Palestinians, his public spats with Barack Obama over peacemaking and the Iranian nuclear issue and his close ties with Donald Trump put him at odds with many in the American Jewish community.
Opinion polls show that roughly three-quarters of American Jews lean toward the Democratic Party. They tend to be more critical of the Israeli government and more sympathetic to the Palestinians than their Republican counterparts, with these divisions even wider among younger Jews in their 20s.
These trends appear set to go into hyper-drive as Netanyahu prepares to return to power after a year and a half as opposition leader, this time flanked by some of the country’s most extremist politicians.
After winning elections last month, Netanyahu and his allies are still forming their coalition. But he already has reached a number of deals that are setting off alarm bells overseas.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a lawmaker known for his anti-Arab vitriol and provocative stunts, has been offered the job of national security minister, a powerful position that will put him in charge of Israel’s national police force. This includes the paramilitary border police, a unit on the front lines of much of the fighting with Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Ben-Gvir has labeled Arab lawmakers “terrorists” and called for deporting them. He wants to impose the death penalty on Palestinian attackers and grant soldiers immunity from prosecution.
Netanyahu also has agreed to appoint the lawmaker Avi Maoz as a deputy minister overseeing a new authority in charge of “Jewish identity” and giving him responsibilities over Israel’s educational system.
Maoz is known for his outspoken anti-LGBTQ positions and disparaging remarks about the Reform movement and other non-Orthodox Jews.
He wants a ban on Pride parades, has compared gays to pedophiles and wants to allow some forms of conversion therapy, a discredited practice that tries to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ children.
Maoz hopes to change Israel’s “Law of Return,” which allows anyone with a single Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel, and replace it with a much stricter definition of who is a Jew. He also opposes non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism. This is an affront to liberal Jewish groups, which have less rigid views on Jewish identity.
Bezalel Smotrich, a settler leader with a history of anti-gay and anti-Palestinian comments, has been granted widespread authority over settlement construction and Palestinian civilian life in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu has been generous toward his allies because they support major legal reforms that could freeze or dismiss his corruption trial. Critics say such moves will imperil Israel’s democratic foundations.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Netanyahu tried to play down such concerns as he vowed to safeguard democracy and LGBTQ rights. “I ultimately decide policy,” he said.
Hailie Soifer, chief executive of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said it is premature to judge a government that hasn’t yet taken office. But she acknowledged the concerns about issues like LGBTQ rights, Palestinian rights and respect for democracy – particularly with memories of the Trump administration still fresh.
“Many of those concerns are based on our own experience with an administration that didn’t share our values,” said Soifer.
Whether U.S. policy will be affected is unclear. The Biden administration has said it will wait to see policies, not personalities, of the new government.
But Eric Alterman, author of “We Are Not One,” a new book about relations between Israel and American Jews, says the sides are moving in opposite directions.
Progressive Democrats already have pushed for a tougher approach to Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.
“It may come suddenly. It may come in pieces. But there’s simply a break coming between American Jews and Israeli Jews,” Alterman said.
Associated Press writers Eleanor H. Reich in Jerusalem, Luis Henao in New York and Peter Smith in Pittsburgh contributed reporting.
JERUSALEM (AP) — When Israel struck an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to open diplomatic ties in 2020, it brought an electrifying sense of achievement to a country long ostracized in the Middle East.
Officials insisted that Israel’s new ties with the UAE, and soon after with Bahrain, would go beyond governments and become society-wide pacts, stoking mass tourism and friendly exchanges between people long at odds.
But over two years since the breakthrough accords, the expected flood of Gulf Arab tourists to Israel has been little more than a trickle. Although more than half a million Israelis have flocked to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, just 1,600 Emirati citizens have visited Israel since it lifted coronavirus travel restrictions last year, the Israeli Tourism Ministry told The Associated Press.
The ministry does not know how many Bahrainis have visited Israel because, it said, “the numbers are too small.”
“It’s still a very weird and sensitive situation,” said Morsi Hija, head of the forum for Arabic-speaking tour guides in Israel. “The Emiratis feel like they’ve done something wrong in coming here.”
The lack of Emirati and Bahraini tourists reflects Israel’s long-standing image problem in the Arab world and reveals the limits of the Abraham Accords, experts say.
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Even as bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE has exploded from $11.2 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion last year, the popularity of the agreements in the UAE and Bahrain has plummeted since the deals were signed, according to a survey by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American think tank.
In the UAE, support fell to 25% from 47% in the last two years. In Bahrain, just 20% of the population supports the deal, down from 45% in 2020. In that time, Israel and Gaza militants fought a devastating war and violence in the occupied West Bank surged to its highest levels in years.
Israeli officials say Gulf Arab tourism to Israel is a missing piece that would move the agreements beyond security and diplomatic ties. Tourist visits from Egypt and Jordan, the first two countries to reach peace with Israel, also are virtually nonexistent.
“We need to encourage (Emiratis) to come for the first time. It's an important mission,” Amir Hayek, Israeli ambassador to the UAE, told the AP. “We need to promote tourism so people will know each other and understand each other.”
Israeli tourism officials flew to the UAE last month in a marketing push to spread the word that Israel is a safe and attractive destination. The ministry said it's now pitching Tel Aviv — Israel’s commercial and entertainment hub — as a big draw for Emiratis.
Tour agents say that so far, betting on Jerusalem has backfired. The turmoil of the contested city has turned off Emiratis and Bahrainis, some of whom have faced backlash from Palestinians who see normalization as a betrayal of their cause. The Palestinian struggle for independence from Israel enjoys broad support across the Arab world.
“There’s still a lot of hesitation coming from the Arab world,” said Dan Feferman, director of Sharaka, a group that promotes people-to-people exchanges between Israel and the Arab world. “They expect (Israel) to be a conflict zone, they expect to be discriminated against.”
Feferman also cited Israel’s tight coronavirus restrictions that were in place for 2021 and for part of 2022, as well as the lack of waivers for visas for Bahrainis, as factors limiting tourism from the Gulf region.
He said he felt the trips left his visitors with a positive impression of Israel. Yet after leading two groups of Bahrainis and Emiratis to Israel, Sharaka shifted its focus away from the Gulf visits.
When a group of Emirati and Bahraini social media influencers in 2020 visited the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, they were spat on and pelted with shoes in Jerusalem's Old City, said Hija, their tour guide.
When another group of Emirati officials visited the flashpoint site accompanied by Israeli police, they drew the ire of the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who issued a religious edict against Emiratis visiting the mosque under Israeli supervision.
Most Emiratis and Bahrainis who have visited Israel say they forgo their national dress and headscarves in order not to attract attention.
The Islamic Waqf, which administers the mosque, declined to answer questions about the number of Emirati and Bahraini visitors and their treatment at the compound.
Palestinian rage against Emiratis is not confined to the sacred esplanade. Emirati citizens visiting and studying in Israel say they face frequent death threats and online attacks.
“Not everyone can handle the pressure,” said Sumaiiah Almehiri, a 31-year-old Emirati from Dubai studying to be a nurse at the University of Haifa. “I didn't give into the threats, but fear is preventing a lot of Emiratis from going.”
The fear of anti-Arab racism in Israel can also drive Gulf Arabs away. Israeli police mistakenly arrested two Emirati tourists in Tel Aviv last summer while hunting for a criminal who carried out a drive-by shooting. Some Emiratis have complained on social media about drawing unwanted scrutiny from security officials at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport.
“If you bring them here and don’t treat them in a sensitive way, they’ll never come back and tell all their friends to stay away,” Hija said.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned for a sixth term as prime minister last week, has pledged to strengthen agreements with Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and Sudan. Formal ties with Sudan remain elusive in the wake of a military coup and in the absence of a parliament to ratify its U.S.-brokered normalization deal with Israel.
As a chief architect of the accords, Netanyahu also hopes to expand the circle of countries and reach a similar deal with Saudi Arabia.
Yet experts fear his new government — the most ultranationalist and religiously conservative in Israel’s history — could further deter Gulf Arab tourists and even jeopardize the agreements. His government has vowed to expand West Bank settlements and pledged to annex the entire territory, a step that was put on hold as a condition of the initial agreement with the UAE.
“We have a reason to be worried about any deterioration in relations,” said Moran Zaga, an expert in Gulf Arab states at the University of Haifa in Israel.
So far, Gulf Arab governments have offered no reason for concern.
The Emirati ambassador was photographed warmly embracing Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the coalition's most radical members, at a national day celebration last month. And over the weekend, the UAE's leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, called Netanyahu to congratulate him and invite him to visit.
It's a different story among those who are not in the officialdom.
“I hope that Netanyahu and those with him will not set foot on the land of the Emirates,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent Emirati political scientist, wrote on Twitter. “I think it is appropriate to freeze the Abraham Accords temporarily."
This story was first published on January 3, 2023. It was updated on January 15, 2023 to make clear that Israel’s tight coronavirus restrictions that were in effect in 2021 and part of 2022, as well as the lack of waivers for visas for Bahrainis, were also factors limiting tourism from the Gulf region.
JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli group raising funds for Jewish extremists convicted in some of the country’s most notorious hate crimes is collecting tax-exempt donations from Americans, according to findings by The Associated Press and the Israeli investigative platform Shomrim.
The records in the case suggest that Israel’s far right is gaining a new foothold in the United States.
The amount of money raised through a U.S. nonprofit is not known. But the AP and Shomrim have documented the money trail from New Jersey to imprisoned Israeli radicals who include Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin and people convicted in deadly attacks on Palestinians.
This overseas fundraising arrangement has made it easier for the Israeli group, Shlom Asiraich, to collect money from Americans, who can make their contributions through the U.S. nonprofit with a credit card and claim a tax deduction.
Many Israeli causes, from hospitals to universities to charities, raise money through U.S.-based arms. But having the strategy adopted by a group assisting Jewish radicals raises legal and moral questions.
It also comes against the backdrop of a new, far-right government in Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where ultranationalists and extremist lawmakers have gained unprecedented power.
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According to Shlom Asiraich’s promotional pamphlets, its beneficiaries include Yigal Amir, who assassinated Rabin in 2005; Amiram Ben-Uliel, convicted in the 2015 murder of a Palestinian baby and his parents in an arson attack; and Yosef Chaim Ben David, convicted of abducting and killing a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in Jerusalem in 2014. The group also assists an extremist ultra-Orthodox man who fatally stabbed a 16-year-old Israeli girl at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade in 2015.
Shlom Asiraich, or “The Well-Being of Your Prisoners,” has been raising money in Israel since at least 2018, and officially registered as a nonprofit in 2020 by a group mostly consisting of Israelis from hard-line settlements in the West Bank. At least five of the group’s seven founders have themselves been questioned by Israeli authorities for crimes related to their activities against Palestinians. Some have been arrested and charged.
Recipients of its largesse have hailed the group for coming through in difficult times.
“You have no idea how much you help us,” the family of Ben-Uliel, who is serving three life sentences, wrote in a hand-written letter posted to the group’s Facebook page.
Being a relatively new organization, Shlom Asiraich’s official filing to Israel’s nonprofit registry provides little data and does not indicate how much money it has raised. But in its promotional flyers, recently broadcast by Israeli Channel 13 news, the organization indicated it has raised 150,000 shekels (about $43,000).
Israeli nonprofits have long sought funding abroad, with the U.S. a major source. According to figures published by Noga Zivan, a consultant for nonprofits in Israel, between 2018 to 2020 Jewish-American organizations alone donated $2 billion to Israel each year.
Israeli right-wing groups have long raised funds in the U.S. But Dvir Kariv, a former official in the department of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet that deals with Jewish violence, said it is unusual for extremist Jews such as the ones who run Shlom Asiraich to do so.
He said the group appears to have taken a cue from other far-right Israeli groups, particularly Kach, an anti-Arab racist group that was once banned as a terror organization in the U.S. but which Kariv said was adept at raising money there decades ago.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a senior Cabinet minister in Israel’s new far-right government, is a disciple of Kach's founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was once barred from Israeli politics.
It is not clear when Shlom Asiraich began working with the New Jersey-based World of Tzedaka, a nonprofit that says it works “to enable any individual or organization to raise money for their specific cause.”
Donors in the U.S. can enter the Shlom Asiraich site and click on a link that takes them to a donation page hosted by World of Tzedaka. They can also donate directly from World of Tzedaka’s site.
According to an instructional video on the World of Tzedaka site, fundraisers must list a rabbi as a reference and receive approval from a Lakewood religious committee. World of Tzedaka charges $28 a month and a 3% processing fee for transferring funds to an Israeli bank account, the site says.
World of Tzedaka supports other charitable ventures, most of them focused on assisting Jewish families in distress, according to its website.
Ellen Aprill, an expert on tax and charities at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said convicted criminals and their families could be considered in need and qualify as a permissible charitable purpose.
While supporting someone convicted of acts of terrorism could be seen as encouraging criminal activity, that would need to be proven, she said.
Marcus Owens, a lawyer who ran the IRS’s nonprofit unit in the 1990s, took a tougher stance.
“The U.S. Department of Justice views assistance to the families of terrorists as a form of material support for terrorism,” he said.
In order to become a tax-exempt group recognized by the IRS, an organization must operate exclusively for charitable, religious or educational purposes.
Repeated attempts to reach representatives of Shlom Asiraich were unsuccessful. A person who answered the group’s phone number hung up on an AP reporter. Moshe Orbach, whose address in the hard-line West Bank settlement of Yitzhar is listed as the group’s headquarters, declined through a lawyer to be interviewed.
A World of Tzedaka representative hung up when asked for comment.
The IRS refused to answer questions about the group, saying “federal law prohibits the IRS from commenting.”
According to documents obtained by the AP, Shlom Asiraich was registered as a nonprofit with Israeli authorities by Chanamel Dorfman, an attorney and a top aide to Ben-Gvir, Israel’s new national security minister.
Dorfman is also listed as the group’s “lawyer/legal adviser” on Guidestar, the official nonprofit registry’s site.
In a text message, Dorfman denied ever having been the group’s legal adviser and did not respond to additional questions. Dorfman recently told the conservative daily Israel Hayom he was simply acting as a lawyer and that “if I knew that this is what this organization does, I wouldn’t have registered it.”
In October, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Shlom Asiraich tweeted a photo of snacks it provided to Jewish suspects under house arrest, and to families of Israelis convicted or charged with crimes against Palestinians. A note accompanying the wine and other goods the nonprofit provided called the men “beloved heroes.”
“Stay strong and remain loyal to the people of Israel and to the holy Torah and don’t stop being happy!” the note read.
This article was published in partnership with Shomrim, The Center for Media and Democracy in Israel.
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — An ivory spoon dating back 2,700 years that was recently repatriated to the Palestinian Authority from the United States has sparked a dispute with Israel's new far-right government over the cultural heritage in the occupied West Bank.
The clash brings into focus the political sensitivities surrounding archaeology in the Middle East, where Israelis and Palestinians each use ancient artifacts to support their claims over the land.
Israel's ultranationalist heritage minister has ordered officials to examine the legality of the U.S. government's historic repatriation of the artifact to the Palestinians earlier this month, and is calling for annexing archaeology in the occupied West Bank.
The artifact — a cosmetic spoon made of ivory and believed to have been plundered from a site in the West Bank — was seized in late 2021 by the Manhattan District Attorney's office as part of a deal with the New York billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt.
It was one of 180 artifacts illegally looted and purchased by Steinhardt that he surrendered as part of an agreement to avoid prosecution.
American officials handed an artifact over to the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on Jan. 5 in what the U.S. State Department’s Office of Palestinian Affairs said was “the first event of such repatriation” by the U.S. to the Palestinians.
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Dozens of Steinhardt’s surrendered artifacts have already been repatriated to Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Israel. This spoon was the first and only item ever to be repatriated to the Palestinians.
The repatriation coincided with the first weeks of Israel's new government, which is composed of ultranationalists who see the West Bank as the biblical heartland of the Jewish people and inextricably linked to the state of Israel.
Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu’s office said last week that the legality of the repatriation “is being examined by the archaeology staff officer with the legal counsel, which will examine all aspects of the matter, including the Oslo Accords that the U.S. has signed.”
The case underscores how archaeology and cultural heritage are intertwined with the competing claims of the Israelis and Palestinians in the decades-long conflict.
“Any artifact that we know that it comes out illegally from Palestine, we have the right to have it back,” said Jihad Yassin, director general of excavations and museums in the Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry. “Each artifact says a story from the history of this land.”
The ministry is part of the Palestinian Authority, the government established as part of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s that exercises limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Those agreements between Israel and the Palestinians were supposed to include coordination on a raft of issues, including archaeology and cultural heritage.
But the agreements have largely unraveled. Yassin said that the archaeology committee has not met in around two decades, and that there is virtually zero coordination between Israel and the Palestinians concerning antiquities theft prevention in the West Bank.
“We try to do our best to protect these archaeological sites, but we face difficulties,” he said.
Yassin said that around 60% of the West Bank's archaeological sites are in territory under complete Israeli military control, and that his ministry's theft prevention workers “manage to control in a high percentage the looting” in areas under Palestinian Authority control.
Nonetheless, many of the illicit artifacts that have made their way to Israel's legal antiquities market were looted from the West Bank, he said.
According to court documents, Steinhardt bought the ivory cosmetic spoon in 2003 from Israeli antiquities dealer Gil Chaya for $6,000. The artifact had no provenance — paperwork detailing where it came from and how it had entered the dealer's inventory — but Chaya said the object was from the West Bank town of El-Koum, which is under Palestinian Authority control.
Another artifact believed to have been looted from the same town, a “Red Carnelian Sun Fish amulet (that) dates to circa 600 B.C.E.,” remains missing, according to the DA's office. Steinhardt has yet to locate the item, but if it is found, it will be repatriated to the Palestinians, the office said.
American authorities returned 28 objects to Israel last year, not including three that were seized in place at the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. Seven others meant to be returned to Israel have yet to be found. Several of the items returned to Israel are believed to have been looted from the West Bank.
The Israel Antiquities Authority declined comment on the artifact’s repatriation to the Palestinians.
Heritage Minister Eliyahu, a religious ultranationalist in Netanyahu's government now in charge of the country’s Antiquities Authority, denies the existence of a Palestinian people.
Since taking office, he has accused the Palestinian Authority of committing “national terrorism” and “erasing heritage” at an archaeological site in a Palestinian-controlled area near the West Bank city of Nablus.
It remains unclear what impact, if any, a review by the ministry's legal counsel could have. It appears unlikely Israel could confiscate the artifact from the Palestinians, but a legal opinion against the move could potentially complicate future repatriations.
Earlier this week, Eliyahu said he would be giving the Israel Antiquities Authority full control over archaeological sites, cultural heritage and theft prevention throughout the West Bank — a move that critics say would in effect apply Israeli law over occupied territory in breach of international law.
Currently, archaeological excavations and antiquities in the West Bank are managed by the Civil Administration's archaeology staff officer, which is part of the Defense Ministry. Israel has not formally annexed the West Bank, and the territory is treated as occupied and is governed under military law.
“All heritage on both sides of the green line will earn full protection, at an international and scientific standard,” Eliyahu wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. He said the state of Israel would “act in a uniform and professional manner from the (Mediterranean) sea to the Jordan.”
Alon Arad, director of Israeli cultural heritage non-governmental organization Emek Shaveh, said that putting the Israel Antiquities Authority in charge of archaeology in the occupied territory was “activating Israeli law in the West Bank, which means annexation.”
Eliyahu’s office declined repeated interview requests.
Yassin said that for the time being, the artifact will remain at the ministry, where it will be studied by one of its archaeologists. Then, he said, it will be displayed at one of the West Bank's museums.
“It's not the only one," Yassin said. "It is the beginning."
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday for a weekly demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government’s proposed judicial overhauls, which opponents say threaten Israel’s democratic values.
The protesters marched at two locations in the central coastal city of Tel Aviv, waving flags and chanting slogans against the justice minister. “Doctors fighting for the life of democracy,” read a banner raised by a doctor at the Tel Aviv protest.
The protest is the fifth against the new government, a coalition of ultra-Orthodox and far-right nationalist parties that took office in December.
The government launched proposals to weaken the Supreme Court by giving parliament the power to overturn court decisions with a simple majority vote. It also wants to give parliament control over the appointment of judges and reduce the independence of legal advisers.
Smaller protests were reported in several Israeli cities.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Ratib Matar’s family was growing. They needed more space.
Before his granddaughters, now 4 and 5, were born, he built three apartments on an eastern slope overlooking Jerusalem’s ancient landscape. The 50-year-old construction contractor moved in with his brother, son, divorced daughter and their young kids — 11 people in all, plus a few geese.
But Matar was never at ease. At any moment, the Israeli code-enforcement officers could knock on his door and take everything away.
That moment came on Jan. 29, days after a Palestinian gunman killed seven people in east Jerusalem, the deadliest attack in the contested capital since 2008. Israel’s new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called not only for the sealing of the assailant's family home, but also the immediate demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes built without permits in east Jerusalem, among other punitive steps.
Mere hours after Ben-Gvir's comments, the first bulldozers rumbled into Matar's neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber.
For many Palestinians, the gathering pace of home demolitions is part of the new ultranationalist government's broader battle for control of east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future independent state.
The battle is waged with building permits and demolition orders — and it is one the Palestinians feel they cannot win. Israel says it is simply enforcing building regulations.
“Our construction is under siege from Israel,” Matar said. His brothers and sons lingered beside the ruins of their home, drinking bitter coffee and receiving visitors as though in mourning. “We try really hard to build, but in vain," he said.
Last month, Israel demolished 39 Palestinian homes, structures and businesses in east Jerusalem, displacing over 50 people, according to the United Nations. That was more than a quarter of the total number of demolitions in 2022. Ben-Gvir posted a photo on Twitter of the bulldozers clawing at Matar's home.
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“We will fight terrorism with all the means at our disposal,” he wrote, though Matar's home had nothing to do with the Palestinian shooting attacks.
Most Palestinian apartments in east Jerusalem were built without hard-to-get permits. A 2017 study by the U.N. described it as “virtually impossible" to secure them.
The Israeli municipality allocates scant land for Palestinian development, the report said, while facilitating the expansion of Israeli settlements. Little Palestinian property was registered before Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967, a move not internationally recognized.
Matar said the city rejected his building permit application twice because his area is not zoned for residential development. He's now trying a third time.
The penalty for unauthorized building is often demolition. If families don't tear their houses down themselves, the government charges them for the job. Matar is dreading his bill — he knows neighbors who paid over $20,000 to have their houses razed.
Now homeless, Matar and his family are staying with relatives. He vows to build again on land he inherited from his grandparents, though he has no faith in the Israeli legal system.
“They don't want a single Palestinian in all of Jerusalem,” Matar said. Uphill, in the heart of his neighborhood, Israeli flags fluttered from dozens of apartments recently built for religious Jews.
Since 1967, the government has built 58,000 homes for Israelis in the eastern part of the city, and fewer than 600 for Palestinians, said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specializing in the geopolitics of Jerusalem, citing the government’s statistics bureau and his own analysis. In that time, the city’s Palestinian population has soared by 400%.
“The planning regime is dictated by the calculus of national struggle,” Seidemann said.
Israel's city plans show state parks encircling the Old City, with some 60% of Jabal Mukaber zoned as green space, off-limits to Palestinian development. At least 20,000 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem are now slated for demolition, watchdogs say.
Matar and his neighbors face an agonizing choice: Build illegally and live under constant threat of demolition, or leave their birthplace for the occupied West Bank, sacrificing Jerusalem residency rights that allow them to work and travel relatively freely throughout Israel.
While there are no reliable figures for permit approvals, the Israeli municipality set aside just over 7% of its 21,000 housing plans for Palestinian homes in 2019, reported Ir Amim, an anti-settlement advocacy group. Palestinians are nearly 40% of the city's roughly 1 million people.
“This is the purpose of this policy,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim. “Palestinians are forced to leave Jerusalem."
Arieh King, a Jerusalem deputy mayor and settler leader, acknowledged that demolitions help Israel entrench control over east Jerusalem, home to the city's most important religious sites.
“It’s part of enforcing sovereignty," King said. “I'm happy that at last we have a minister that understands," he added, referring to Ben-Gvir.
Ben-Gvir is now pushing for the destruction of an apartment tower housing 100 people. Trying to lower tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the eviction that was planned for Tuesday, Israeli media reported.
King contended it was possible for Palestinians to secure permits and accused them of building without authorization to avoid an expensive bureaucracy.
When the al-Abasi family in east Jerusalem found a demolition order plastered on their new breeze-block home last month, they contemplated their options. The government had knocked down their last apartment, built on the same lot, eight years ago. This time, Jaafar al-Abasi decided, he would tear it down himself.
Al-Abasi hired a tractor and invited his relatives and neighbors to join. The destruction took three days, with breaks for hummus and soda. His three sons borrowed pickaxes and jackhammers, angrily hacking away at the walls they had decorated with colored plates just last month.
“This place is like a ticking time bomb,” said his brother in law, 48-year-old Mustafa Samhouri, who helped them out.
Protests over the demolitions have roiled east Jerusalem in recent days. Two weekends ago, Samhouri said, the family's 13-year-old cousin opened fire at Jewish settlers in the neighborhood of Silwan just across the valley, wounding two people before being shot and arrested.
“The pressure just grows more and more,” Samhouri said. “And at last, boom."
Associated Press writer Sam McNeil contributed to this report.
https://apnews.com/article/politics-israel-government-palestinian-territories-jerusalem-bab35518d9b80ce4c7d1513edb163e2d Israel government Palestinian territories government Israel Jerusalem Violence National securityIsrael steps up Jerusalem home demolitions as violence risesBy ISABEL DEBRETodayJERUSALEM (AP) — Ratib Matar’s family was growing. They needed more space.Before his granddaughters, now 4 and 5, were born, he built three apartments on an eastern slope overlooking Jerusalem’s ancient landscape. The 50-year-old construction contractor moved in with his brother, son, divorced daughter and their young kids — 11 people in all, plus a few geese.But Matar was never at ease. At any moment, the Israeli code-enforcement officers could knock on his door and take everything away.That moment came on Jan. 29, days after a Palestinian gunman killed seven people in east Jerusalem, the deadliest attack in the contested capital since 2008. Israel’s new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called not only for the sealing of the assailant's family home, but also the immediate demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes built without permits in east Jerusalem, among other punitive steps.Mere hours after Ben-Gvir's comments, the first bulldozers rumbled into Matar's neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber.For many Palestinians, the gathering pace of home demolitions is part of the new ultranationalist government's broader battle for control of east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future independent state.The battle is waged with building permits and demolition orders — and it is one the Palestinians feel they cannot win. Israel says it is simply enforcing building regulations.“Our construction is under siege from Israel,” Matar said. His brothers and sons lingered beside the ruins of their home, drinking bitter coffee and receiving visitors as though in mourning. “We try really hard to build, but in vain," he said.Last month, Israel demolished 39 Palestinian homes, structures and businesses in east Jerusalem, displacing over 50 people, according to the United Nations. That was more than a quarter of the total number of demolitions in 2022. Ben-Gvir posted a photo on Twitter of the bulldozers clawing at Matar's home.ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICTIsrael announces completion of security barrier around GazaIsrael tests massive inflatable missile detection systemIsrael hits Hamas targets as Gaza militants fire rocketsIsrael says it intercepts rocket launched from Gaza“We will fight terrorism with all the means at our disposal,” he wrote, though Matar's home had nothing to do with the Palestinian shooting attacks.Most Palestinian apartments in east Jerusalem were built without hard-to-get permits. A 2017 study by the U.N. described it as “virtually impossible" to secure them.The Israeli municipality allocates scant land for Palestinian development, the report said, while facilitating the expansion of Israeli settlements. Little Palestinian property was registered before Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967, a move not internationally recognized.Matar said the city rejected his building permit application twice because his area is not zoned for residential development. He's now trying a third time.The penalty for unauthorized building is often demolition. If families don't tear their houses down themselves, the government charges them for the job. Matar is dreading his bill — he knows neighbors who paid over $20,000 to have their houses razed.Now homeless, Matar and his family are staying with relatives. He vows to build again on land he inherited from his grandparents, though he has no faith in the Israeli legal system.“They don't want a single Palestinian in all of Jerusalem,” Matar said. Uphill, in the heart of his neighborhood, Israeli flags fluttered from dozens of apartments recently built for religious Jews.Since 1967, the government has built 58,000 homes for Israelis in the eastern part of the city, and fewer than 600 for Palestinians, said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specializing in the geopolitics of Jerusalem, citing the government’s statistics bureau and his own analysis. In that time, the city’s Palestinian population has soared by 400%.“The planning regime is dictated by the calculus of national struggle,” Seidemann said.Israel's city plans show state parks encircling the Old City, with some 60% of Jabal Mukaber zoned as green space, off-limits to Palestinian development. At least 20,000 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem are now slated for demolition, watchdogs say.Matar and his neighbors face an agonizing choice: Build illegally and live under constant threat of demolition, or leave their birthplace for the occupied West Bank, sacrificing Jerusalem residency rights that allow them to work and travel relatively freely throughout Israel.While there are no reliable figures for permit approvals, the Israeli municipality set aside just over 7% of its 21,000 housing plans for Palestinian homes in 2019, reported Ir Amim, an anti-settlement advocacy group. Palestinians are nearly 40% of the city's roughly 1 million people.“This is the purpose of this policy,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim. “Palestinians are forced to leave Jerusalem."Arieh King, a Jerusalem deputy mayor and settler leader, acknowledged that demolitions help Israel entrench control over east Jerusalem, home to the city's most important religious sites.“It’s part of enforcing sovereignty," King said. “I'm happy that at last we have a minister that understands," he added, referring to Ben-Gvir.Ben-Gvir is now pushing for the destruction of an apartment tower housing 100 people. Trying to lower tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the eviction that was planned for Tuesday, Israeli media reported.King contended it was possible for Palestinians to secure permits and accused them of building without authorization to avoid an expensive bureaucracy.When the al-Abasi family in east Jerusalem found a demolition order plastered on their new breeze-block home last month, they contemplated their options. The government had knocked down their last apartment, built on the same lot, eight years ago. This time, Jaafar al-Abasi decided, he would tear it down himself.Al-Abasi hired a tractor and invited his relatives and neighbors to join. The destruction took three days, with breaks for hummus and soda. His three sons borrowed pickaxes and jackhammers, angrily hacking away at the walls they had decorated with colored plates just last month.“This place is like a ticking time bomb,” said his brother in law, 48-year-old Mustafa Samhouri, who helped them out.Protests over the demolitions have roiled east Jerusalem in recent days. Two weekends ago, Samhouri said, the family's 13-year-old cousin opened fire at Jewish settlers in the neighborhood of Silwan just across the valley, wounding two people before being shot and arrested.“The pressure just grows more and more,” Samhouri said. “And at last, boom."___Associated Press writer Sam McNeil contributed to this report.
NABLUS, West Bank (AP) — Israeli troops on Wednesday entered a major Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank in a rare, daytime arrest operation, triggering fighting that killed at least 10 Palestinians and wounded scores of others.
The raid, which reduced a building to rubble and left a series of shops riddled with bullets, was one of the bloodiest battles in nearly a year of fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. A 72-year-old man was among the 10 killed and 102 people were wounded, Palestinian officials said.
The brazen raid, coupled with the high death toll, raised the prospect of further bloodshed. A similar raid last month was followed by a deadly Palestinian attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue, and the Hamas militant group warned that “its patience is running out.”
The Israeli military said it entered the city to arrest three wanted militants suspected in previous shooting attacks in the West Bank. It said it tracked down the men in a hideout.
The army said it surrounded the building and asked the men to surrender, but instead they opened fire. It said all three were killed in a shootout.
It said that during the raid, armed suspects “shot heavily toward the forces,” which responded with live fire. It said others hurled rocks and explosives at the troops. There were no Israeli casualties. It released photos of what it said were two automatic rifles confiscated in the raid.
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In the Old City of Nablus, people stared at the rubble that had been a large home in the centuries-old casbah. From one end to the other, shops were riddled with bullets. Parked cars were crushed. Blood stained the cement ruins. Furniture from the destroyed home was scattered among mounds of debris.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said of the 102 people wounded, six were in critical condition. Palestinian militant groups claimed three of the dead as members. But a 72-year-old man was also killed. There was no immediate word on whether the others belonged to armed groups.
An amateur video posted online appeared to show security camera footage of two young men running down a street. Gunshots are heard, and both falls to the ground, with one's hat flying off his head. Both bodies remained still.
Amateur video footage appeared to show Israeli troops operating in downtown Nablus, and army vehicles firing tear gas canisters.
Last month, Israeli troops killed 10 militants in a similar raid in the northern West Bank. The following day, a lone Palestinian gunman opened fire near a synagogue in an east Jerusalem settlement, killing seven people.
Days later, five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli arrest raid elsewhere in the West Bank. That was followed by a Palestinian car ramming that killed three Israelis, including two young brothers, in Jerusalem.
The fighting comes at a sensitive time, less than two months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new hard-line government took office. The government is dominated by ultranationalists who have pushed for tougher action against Palestinian militants. Israeli media have quoted top security officials as expressing concern that this could lead to even more violence.
In the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group issued a veiled threat.
“The resistance in Gaza is observing the enemy’s escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank, and its patience is running out,” said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the group.
The group has battled Israel to four wars since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, and Israeli officials have expressed concerns about rising tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in March.
At least 55 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, a pace that could exceed last year's death toll. Last year, nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Israel says that most of those killed have been militants but others — including youths protesting the incursions and other people not involved in confrontations — have also been killed. An AP tally has found that just under half of those killed belonged to militant groups.
Israel says the military raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks while the Palestinians view them as further entrenchment of Israel’s open-ended, 55-year occupation.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their hoped-for independent state.
Federman reported from Jerusalem.
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Weeks of anti-government protests in Israel turned violent on Wednesday for the first time as police fired stun grenades and a water cannon at demonstrators who blocked a Tel Aviv highway. The crackdown came shortly after Israel's hard-line national security minister urged a tough response to what he said were “anarchists.”
The violence came as thousands across the country launched a “national disruption day” against the government's plan to overhaul Israel's judicial system. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's allies say the program is meant reduce the influence of unelected judges.
But critics, including influential business leaders and former military figures, say Netanyahu is pushing the country toward authoritarian rule and has a clear conflict of interest in targeting judges as he stands trial on corruption charges.
The government is barreling ahead with the legal changes and a parliamentary committee is moving forward on a bill that would weaken the Supreme Court.
The crisis has sent shock waves through Israel and presented Netanyahu with a serious challenge, just two months after returning to power. A wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the occupied West Bank has compounded his troubles.
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The rival sides are digging in, deepening one of Israel's worst domestic crises. Netanyahu and his government, made up of ultranationalists, have branded the protesters anarchists, while stopping short of condemning a West Bank settler mob that torched a Palestinian town earlier this week.
The legal overhaul has sparked an unprecedented uproar, with weeks of mass protests, criticism from legal experts and rare demonstrations by army reservists who have pledged to disobey orders under what they say will be a dictatorship after the overhaul passes. Business leaders, the country's booming tech sector and leading economists have warned of economic turmoil under the judicial changes. Israel's international allies have expressed concern.
In the first scenes of unrest since the protests began two months ago, police arrived on horseback in the center of the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, hurled stun grenades and used a water cannon against thousands of protesters who chanted “democracy” and “police state.” A video posted on social media showed a police officer pinning down a protester with his knee on the man's neck and another showed a man who reportedly had his ear ripped off by a stun grenade.
Facing the police, protesters also chanted “where were you,” a reference to the absence of security forces during the settler attack on the Palestinian town of Hawara, which took hours to quell and which the military said it was not prepared for.
Police said protesters threw rocks and water bottles at the officers. Police said they arrested 39 protesters in Tel Aviv for disturbing the peace while 11 people were hospitalized with various injuries, according to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Earlier Wednesday, protesters blocked Tel Aviv’s main freeway and the highway connecting the city to Jerusalem, halting rush hour traffic for about an hour. At busy train stations in Tel Aviv, protesters prevented trains from departing by blocking their doors.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist accused of politicizing the police, has vowed to take a tough line. He called on police to prevent the road blockages, labeling the demonstrators “anarchists.”
Netanyahu said Ben-Gvir had his full support. “We will not tolerate violence against police, blocking roads and blatant breaches of the country’s laws. The right to protest is not the right to anarchy," he said.
Netanyahu also blamed opposition leader Yair Lapid for fomenting anarchy. Lapid called on police to show restraint and said Netanyahu's government had lost control.
“The protesters are patriots,” Lapid tweeted. “They are fighting for the values of freedom, justice and democracy. The role of the police is to allow them to express their opinions and fight for the country they love.”
Thousands of protesters came out in locations across the country waving Israeli flags. Parents marched with their children, tech workers walked out of work to demonstrate and doctors in scrubs protested outside hospitals. The main rallies were expected later Wednesday outside the Knesset, or parliament, and near Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.
“Every person here is trying to keep Israel a democracy and if the current government will get its way, then we are afraid we will no longer be a democracy or a free country," said Arianna Shapira, a protester in Tel Aviv. "As a woman, as a mother, I’m very scared for my family and for my friends.”
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the overhaul's main architect, said Tuesday that the coalition aims to ram through some of the judicial overhaul bills into law in the coming month, before the parliament goes on recess for the Passover holiday on April 2.
The Knesset also is set to cast a preliminary vote Wednesday on a separate proposal to protect Netanyahu from being removed from his post, a move that comes following calls to the country’s attorney general to declare him “unfit for office.”
Netanyahu has been the center of a years-long political crisis in Israel, with former allies turning on him and refusing to sit with him in government because of his corruption charges. That political turmoil, with five elections in four years, culminated in Netanyahu returning to power late last year, with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties as partners in the current far-right government.
Wielding immense political power, those allies secured top portfolios in Netanyahu’s government, among them Ben-Gvir, who before entering politics was arrested dozens of times and was once convicted of incitement to violence and support for a terror group. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a firebrand West Bank settler leader, has been given authority over parts of the territory.
They have promised to take a tough stance against Palestinians, which has ratcheted up tensions in recent weeks. Smotrich publicly called for a harsh response to the killing of two Israelis in the West Bank by a Palestinian gunman, saying Israel should “go crazy,” shortly before Sunday’s mob violence. While he later urged restraint, he also said Wednesday that Hawara, the Palestinian town that was attacked, should be “erased.”
In addition to the protests, Netanyahu's government, Israel's most right-wing ever, is beginning to show early cracks, just two months into its tenure.
The government says the legal changes are meant to correct an imbalance that has given the courts too much power and allowed them to meddle in the legislative process. They say the overhaul will streamline governance and say elections last year, which returned Netanyahu to power with a slim majority in parliament, gave them a mandate to make the changes.
Critics say the overhaul will upend Israel's system of checks and balances, granting the prime minister and the government unrestrained power and push the country toward authoritarianism.
Associated Press reporter Ami Bentov in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies on Thursday denounced protesters as “anarchists” after they massed outside a Tel Aviv salon where his wife was getting her hair done — a chaotic end to a day of demonstrations against the government's plan to overhaul the judiciary.
Sara Netanyahu has long been a polarizing figure in Israel, and the incident late Wednesday in a posh neighborhood in Tel Aviv reflected Israel's emotionally charged divide over the overhaul, seen by opponents as an existential threat to the country. Demonstrators outside the salon chanted, “shame, shame” — but did not try to force their way inside. Hundreds of police were sent to the scene and eventually escorted her into a limousine.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his political partners showed no signs of easing up on a push to pass a series of bills to overhaul Israel's judiciary. These moves have further inflamed an already deeply riven country and drawn the largest protests in over a decade.
Protest organizers planned more demonstrations Thursday, a day after their self-proclaimed “day of disruption” turned violent when police used a heavy hand against participants at a Tel Aviv rally.
Thursday's demonstrations in Jerusalem are expected to include speeches by former government ministers and senior security officials. Former top economists, including two former Bank of Israel heads and a Nobel Prize laureate, were set to speak at a conference in Tel Aviv about the economic fallout from the overhaul.
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Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the architects of the judicial overhaul, said Wednesday night that despite the mounting public outcry, Netanyahu’s government “will not stop the legislation.”
The proposed bills would give politicians and parliament control over judicial appointments, the power to overrule the Supreme Court and the ability to pass laws impervious to judicial review.
Critics of the plan include a growing number of former military brass, academics, economists and business leaders. They say the changes will erode the country’s delicate system of checks and balances and erode democratic institutions. Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies say the changes are necessary to rein in the power of unelected judges.
The battle over the judiciary overhaul comes as Netanyahu's trial for charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust drags on. The longtime leader has dismissed the charges against him as part of a “witch hunt" by a biased law-enforcement, judiciary and press.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Israelis took part in demonstrations across the country against what they saw as an attempt by Netanyahu's new government to weaken the Supreme Court and concentrate power in the hands of the ruling coalition.
Protesters blocked highways and major intersections in Tel Aviv and massed outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. For the first time since protests began two months ago, the scene on the streets turned violent after Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a hardline nationalist settler, ordered police to take tougher action against demonstrators he claimed were “anarchists.” At least 11 people were hospitalized and police arrested dozens.
Wednesday's events reached a crescendo outside a ritzy north Tel Aviv salon where the prime minister's wife was getting her hair done.
Moshe Butbul, a hair stylist from the salon, told the Israeli news site Ynet that another client posted a selfie with Sara Netanyahu. He claimed that “within minutes thousands arrived," though the actual number of protesters may have been smaller, judging by videos posted online.
Reporters at the scene said the crowd kept its distance and did not attempt to break into the salon. Ben-Gvir then dispatched large numbers of security forces to the salon, saying on Twitter that he had ordered police to “save her life” from the demonstrators “besieging” the salon.
Hundreds of police officers, including mounted police, broke a path through the demonstration to let an SUV approach. Protected by a phalanx of police, Sara Netanyahu was escorted out of the salon and into the vehicle, which drove off under heavy police escort.
“The anarchy has to stop,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook post accompanied by a picture of him embracing his wife. “This can lead to the loss of life.”
Netanyahu's allies came to Sara Netanyahu's defense Thursday morning.
Galit Distel Atbaryan, Israel's public diplomacy minister, called the incident “three hours of terror in which one woman was besieged by an incited mob.” Another Likud lawmaker wrote on Twitter that the prime minister’s wife “was rescued from a lynch” by a mob of “anarchists.”
Yair Golan, a former general and one-time Meretz party lawmaker, told Kan radio that “with all due respect, Sara Netanyahu is a political figure."
Referring to what critics consider her outsized political influence in the prime minister's office, Golan alleged that "she is involved in decision making on a national level and approves senior appointments left and right.”
The Netanyahus have been criticized for being out of touch with regular Israelis and living a lavish lifestyle at taxpayer expense. Last week, an Israeli parliamentary committee approved new funding for Netanyahu and his family.
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Shraga Tichover is hanging up his fatigues. After more than three decades as a reservist in the Israeli military, the paratrooper says he will no longer put his life on the line for a country slipping toward autocracy.
Tichover is part of a wave of unprecedented opposition from within the ranks of the Israeli military to a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary. Like Tichover, some reservists are refusing to show up for duty and former commanders are defending their actions as a natural response to the impending change.
“The values of this country are going to change. I am not able to serve the military of a state that is not a democracy,” said Tichover, a 53-year-old volunteer reservist who has served in southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The typically taboo talk of defying military orders underlines how deeply the overhaul has divided Israel and is now tearing at what Israeli Jews see as their most respected institution, the military. Concerns are growing that the protest could trickle down to young conscripts as well.
In a declaration that has sent shock waves through the country, three dozen reservist fighter pilots said they wouldn't show up for training on Wednesday in protest. The airmen are seen as the cream of the military's personnel and irreplaceable elements of many of Israel’s battle plans.
After appeals from top officials, the pilots announced they would show up to their base — but only for a dialogue with their commanders, Israeli media reported. “We have full confidence in our commanders,” the reports quoted the pilots as saying in a letter.
The military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi, reportedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week that the reservists’ protest risks harming the military’s capabilities. Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met late Tuesday with a group of senior reservists to discuss the crisis.
“The army cannot operate without the reservists,” Halevi told them. But, he said, “insubordination is a red line.”
For Israel's Jewish majority, most of whom must serve in the military, the army is a source of unity and a rite of passage. Military service is an important launching pad into civilian life and the workforce.
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After completing three years of mandatory service, many men continue in the reserves until their 40s, when service becomes voluntary. Most of those threatening to halt their service are volunteers, protecting them from potential punishment.
Recognizing the threat to its stability, the military has pleaded to be kept out of the heated public discourse. But it’s become central to the debate over what kind of Israel will emerge after the overhaul.
Netanyahu, a former soldier in an elite unit, and his government are pushing forward on a plan to weaken the Supreme Court and limit the independence of the judiciary. His allies say the changes are meant to streamline governance, while critics say the plan will upend Israel's system of checks and balances and slide the country toward authoritarianism. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, is motivated by a personal grudge and has a conflict of interest.
The overhaul, which is moving ahead in parliament, has sparked an outcry from business leaders and legal officials. Tens of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets each week.
Not everyone identifies with the soldiers. Critics say the military, as the enforcer of Israel's rule over millions of Palestinians in an open-ended occupation, has subjugated another people and eroded the country's democratic ideals. The reserve units now protesting, including pilots and intelligence units, have been behind deadly strikes or surveillance against Palestinians.
Israel's own Palestinian minority has largely stayed on the sidelines of the anti-government protests, in part because of Israel's treatment of their Palestinian brethren in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
But Jewish Israelis see the military as a pillar of security in the face of myriad threats. Israel is mired in a bloody round of violence with Palestinians and archenemy Iran is blazing ahead with its nuclear program. Israel says Iran is developing a nuclear bomb — a charge that Tehran denies.
Those developments have not stopped the creeping challenge within the military. Israel's pool of reservists are the backbone of the force when security crises erupt.
Ehud Barak, a former military chief of staff, defense minister and prime minister, has said it would be acceptable to defy orders from what he calls a dictatorial regime. Dan Halutz, another former military chief, said soldiers won't agree to become “mercenaries for a dictator.”
In addition to the protesting pilots, hundreds of reservists have signed letters promising not to serve if the overhaul passes.
“Hit the emergency brake now," reservists from the 8200 intelligence unit warned the government in a letter last week. Many 8200 graduates join the country's booming tech sector, also a fierce opponent of the overhaul.
A mass protest movement demonstrating against the overhaul has its own reservist contingent. A new group, “Do it Yourself,” is calling on secular families to refuse to allow their children to serve in the occupied West Bank. A group of soldiers has asked permission to join the mass protests.
Activists warn that the overhaul is threatening to hurt future morale.
“The generations after us will not follow us,” said Eyal Naveh, 47, a reservist from an elite unit and protest leader. “What will a person who halted his reserve duty tell his son? To go to the army or not?”
Naveh said reservists are also concerned the changes will leave soldiers exposed to war crimes charges at international courts. One of Israel's defenses against war crimes accusations is that it has an independent legal system capable of investigating any potential wrongdoing.
Debate has emerged in the past over whether soldiers ideologically opposed to an order should refuse to carry it out, particularly over the evacuation of Jews from settlements. But the mere suggestion of insubordination is rare.
Tichover, the volunteer reservist, said he struggled during his service with what he called “irrational” orders that harmed Palestinians, like being told to damage Palestinian cars. He said he found ways to skirt around such orders but never overtly defied them.
Late on Monday, Netanyahu met with members of the paramilitary border police force at a base in the occupied West Bank, telling them there was no room for politics in the military.
“There is no place for refusal now, and there won't be a place in the future,” he said.
Reflecting the military's public standing, opposition leaders have also spoken out against the calls to defy orders.
“Do not lend a hand to insubordination,” said Benny Gantz, an opposition leader and former military chief.
The looming threat to the military isn't the reservists' protest, said Idit Shafran Gittleman, an expert on the military at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank. She says the overhaul could lead to a constitutional crisis over who is in charge.
“There will be chaos," she said. “The military won’t know who it must take orders from.”
Israeli security forces in an armored vehicle fired repeatedly into a group of civilians sheltering between a mosque and a clinic after a Feb. 22 raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, killing two people, including a teenager, and wounding three others, according to witnesses and a visual reconstruction of the event by The Washington Post.
The Post spoke with two witnesses to the shooting, obtained previously unpublished videos of the incident from a bystander and the Israel Defense Forces, and had audio experts analyze the gunfire. A Post reporter collected visual evidence at the scene to reconstruct the incident using 3D modeling software, and reporters also reviewed more than 30 videos filmed in Nablus that day.
The Post reconstruction shows that, while responding to what they claimed was a gunman, Israeli forces fired at least 14 times from inside their armored vehicle as it moved down a street and then came to a halt next to a short wall behind which the civilians huddled. The Israelis continued firing even after those people would have been visible from the vehicle’s windows, the analysis shows.
It was a black Wednesday,” said Farid Shaaban, the father of 16-year-old Mohammad Shaaban, who was killed as he waited for a ride home after school. “For Nablus and for my personal history, my family.”
The Israeli military declined to answer detailed questions about the incident but said that soldiers at the scene said a man had fired at their vehicles before running toward the clinic. An Israeli military official said the matter is “under examination.”
Israeli forces killed at least 11 people during and after the raid, including several Palestinian fighters, and wounded 102, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and social media posts by Palestinian armed groups. The raid came amid a rise in deadly Israeli military incursions unseen in the occupied West Bank since the end of the most recent Palestinian uprising in 2005.
Recent shootings of civilians by Israeli forces have alarmed human rights and advocacy groups, several of which called the events a result of soldiers being given impunity for unlawful violence against Palestinian civilians.
Israeli forces killed 71 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 13 children, between Jan. 1 and March 7, according to the last available figures provided by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Israeli forces killed 146 Palestinians in the West Bank in 2022, and 75 in 2021. At least 14 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians so far this year.
An official for the Israeli military said their forces do not deliberately target civilians, fire only as a last resort and abide by international law.
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A firebrand Israeli minister claimed there’s “no such thing” as a Palestinian people as Israel's new coalition government, its most hard-line ever, plowed ahead on Monday with a part of its plan to overhaul the judiciary.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition said it was pushing a key part of the overhaul — which would give the coalition control over who becomes a justice or a judge — before the parliament takes a monthlong holiday break next week.
The development came a day after an Israeli and Palestinian delegation at a meeting in Egypt, mediated by Egyptian, Jordanian and U.S. officials, pledged to take steps to lower tensions roiling the region ahead of a sensitive holiday season.
It reflected the limited influence the Biden administration appears to have over Israel’s new far-right government and raised questions about attempts to lower tensions, both inside Israel and with the Palestinians, ahead of a sensitive holiday season.
As the negotiators were issuing a joint communique, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich delivered a speech in Paris saying the notion of a Palestinian people was artificial.
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language,” he said in France late Sunday. He spoke at a lectern draped with what appeared to be an image showing the map of Israel that included the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.
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Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said that Smotrich’s appearance with the icon was a “reckless inflammatory act and a violation of international norms and the peace treaty" between the two countries.
Israel's Foreign Ministry on Monday evening released a statement affirming that it is committed to the countries' 1994 peace agreement.
“There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom,” the statement said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Smotrich's remarks were “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology that governs the parties of the current Israeli government.”
A far-right settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, Smotrich has a history of offensive statements against the Palestinians. Last month, he called for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the West Bank to be “erased” after radical Jewish settlers rampaged through the town in response to a shooting attack that killed two Israelis. Smotrich later apologized after an international uproar.
His remarks on Palestinians were reminiscent of those made by late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that caused an uproar in 1969. She later told The New York Times that she meant there had never been a Palestinian nation. But critics say the comments continue to tarnish her legacy.
During Sunday’s talks in Egypt, a Palestinian gunman carried out another shooting attack in Hawara, seriously wounding an Israeli man.
The new violence, along with Smotrich’s comments, illustrated the tough challenges that lie ahead in soothing tensions after a year of deadly violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners have been killed in Palestinian attacks during that time.
Sunday’s summit was held ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this week. The Jewish festival of Passover is set to take place in April, coinciding with Ramadan.
The upcoming period is sensitive because large numbers of Jewish and Muslim faithful pour into Jerusalem’s Old City, the emotional heart of the conflict and a flashpoint for violence, increasing friction points.
Large numbers of Jews are also expected to visit a key Jerusalem holy site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — an act the Palestinians view as a provocation.
Clashes at the site in 2021 helped trigger an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
On Monday, Israeli police closed the offices of a Palestinian radio station in east Jerusalem, saying it worked for official Palestinian Authority media in violation of the 1994 interim agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The PA condemned the closure.
The heightened tensions with the Palestinians coincide with mass demonstrations inside Israel against Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judicial system. Opponents of the measure have carried out disruptive protests, and the debate has embroiled the country’s military, where some reservists are refusing to show up for service. Netanyahu has rejected a compromise by Israel's figurehead president.
During his call with Netanyahu, Biden appealed for caution, the White House said, “as a friend of Israel in the hopes that there can be a compromise formula found.”
The president “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship," the White House said, and added that "fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.”
Netanyahu's government says the plan is meant to correct an imbalance that has given the courts too much power over the legislative process. Critics say the overhaul would upend the country's delicate system of checks and balances and push Israel toward authoritarianism. They also say Netanyahu could find an escape route from his corruption trial through the overhaul.
The protests, along with the rising violence with the Palestinians, have posed a major challenge for the new government. So far this year, 85 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
The number of Israelis killed during the same period rose to 15 on Monday after Or Eshkar, 33, died. He was shot in the head at point-blank range by a Palestinian in Tel Aviv on March 9.
Israel says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.
Associated Press writer Isaac Scharf in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Watch: Police water cannon strike down protesters in Israel
of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Israel after
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defence minister.
Yoav Gallant had spoken out against controversial plans to overhaul the justice system.
In Jerusalem, police and soldiers used water cannon against demonstrators near Mr Netanyahu's house.
Early on Monday morning, Israel's President Isaac Herzog called on the government to halt the reforms.
the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of
responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process
immediately," he said on Twitter, adding that "the eyes of all the people of Israel are on you".
The US also said it was deeply concerned about the developments and called for a compromise.
A week of disruption had already been planned over the new law.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel launched rare strikes in southern Lebanon early Friday and pressed on with bombing targets in the Gaza Strip, marking a widening escalation in the region following violence this week at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.
The cross-border fighting erupted during a time of heightened religious fervor — when Jews are celebrating the Passover holiday and Muslims are marking the Ramadan holy month. In 2021, an escalation also triggered by clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, spilled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Friday's strikes in southern Lebanon came a day after militants fired nearly three dozen rockets from there at Israel, wounding two people and causing some property damage. The Israeli military said it targeted installations of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, in southern Lebanon.
An Associated Press photographer said several missiles fired by Israeli warplanes struck an open area near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, close to the coastal southern city of Tyre.
Israeli strikes in Lebanon risk drawing Lebanon's Hezbollah militia into the fighting. The Iran-backed group, armed with thousands of rockets and missiles, holds sway over much of southern Lebanon and is viewed by Israel as a bitter foe.
Violence resumes at Jerusalem holy site
Violence erupts at Jerusalem holy site for a 2nd night
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Violence between Israel, Palestinians at Holy Site
In recent years, Hezbollah has stayed out of other flareups related to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which stands on a hilltop revered by Muslims and Jews. The Israeli military was careful to note in its announcement about Friday's attack that it was targeting only sites linked to Palestinian militants.
The head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lázaro, said he was in contact with Israeli and Lebanese authorities early Friday. The force, known as UNIFIL, said that both sides have said they do not want war.
Meanwhile, Israeli air strikes on Gaza resumed early Friday, after militants fired more rockets from the blockaded territory, setting off air raid sirens in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. The military said targets included the entry shaft to an underground network used for weapons manufacturing.
The current round of violence began Wednesday after Israeli police twice raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. That led Thursday to rocket fire from Gaza and, in a significant escalation, the rocket barrage from Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Security Cabinet for a three-hour meeting late Thursday. “Israel’s response, tonight and beyond, will extract a heavy price from our enemies,” he said in a statement after the meeting.
Almost immediately, Palestinian militants in Gaza began firing rockets into southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens across the region. Loud explosions could be heard in Gaza from the Israeli strikes, as outgoing rockets whooshed into the skies toward Israel. For now, Palestinian militants have fired only short-range rockets from Gaza, rather than the long-range projectiles that can reach as far as Tel Aviv and typically invite harsher Israeli retaliation.
The Israeli military said the rocket fire on its northern and southern fronts was carried out by Palestinian militants in connection to this week’s violence at Al-Aqsa where Israeli police stormed into the building with tear gas and stun grenades to confront Palestinians barricaded inside on two straight days. The violent scenes from the mosque ratcheted up tensions across the region.
In a briefing with reporters, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army drew a clear connection between the Lebanese rocket fire and the recent unrest in Jerusalem.
“It’s a Palestinian-oriented event,” he said, adding that either the Hamas or Islamic Jihad militant groups, which are based in Gaza but also operate in Lebanon, could be involved. But he said the army believed that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government were aware of what happened and also held responsibility.
The mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam — stands on a hilltop revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The competing claims to the site have repeatedly spilled over into violence over the years.
No faction in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the salvo of rockets. A Lebanese security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the country’s security forces believed the rockets were launched by a Lebanon-based Palestinian militant group, not by Hezbollah.
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, condemned the firing of rockets from Lebanon, adding that Lebanese troops and U.N. peacekeepers were investigating and trying to find the perpetrators. Mikati said his government “categorically rejects any military escalation” and the use of Lebanese territories to stage acts that threaten stability.
Hezbollah has condemned the Israeli police raids in Jerusalem. Both Israel and Hezbollah have avoided an all-out conflict since a 34-day war in 2006 ended in a draw.
The current escalation comes against the backdrop of Netanyahu's domestic problems. For the past three months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been demonstrating against his plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system, claiming it will lead the country toward authoritarianism.
Key military units, including fighter pilots, have threatened to stop reporting for duty if the overhaul is passed, drawing a warning from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that Israel’s national security could be harmed by the divisive plan. Netanyahu said he was firing Gallant, but then backtracked as he put the overhaul on hold for several weeks. Critics could also accuse him of trying to use the crisis to divert attention from his domestic woes.
Netanyahu said that the domestic divisions had no impact on national security and that the country would remain united in the face of external threats.
Tensions have simmered along the Lebanese border as Israel appears to have ratcheted up its shadow war against Iranian-linked targets in Syria, another close ally of Iran, Israel’s archenemy in the region.
Suspected Israeli airstrikes in Syria in recent weeks have killed two Iranian military advisers and temporarily put the country’s two largest airports out of service. Hecht, the military spokesman, said Thursday’s rocket fire was not believed to be connected to events in Syria.
In Washington, the principal deputy State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said, “Israel has legitimate security concerns and has every right to defend themselves.”
But he also urged calm in Jerusalem, saying that “any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo to us is unacceptable,” he said.
In Jerusalem, the situation remained tense at Al-Aqsa. For the previous two nights, Palestinians barricaded themselves in the mosque with stones and firecrackers.
Worshippers have been demanding the right to pray overnight inside the mosque — which authorities typically only permit during the last 10 days of the monthlong Ramadan holiday. They also have stayed in the mosque in protest over threats by religious Jews to carry out a ritual animal slaughter at the sacred site for Passover.
Israel did not try to prevent people from spending the night in the mosque early Friday — apparently because it was the weekend, when Jews do not visit the compound. But tensions could re-ignite Sunday when Jewish visits resume.
Israel bars ritual slaughter on the site, but calls by Jewish extremists to revive the practice, including offers of cash rewards to anyone who even attempts to bring an animal into the compound, have amplified fears among Muslims that Israel is plotting to take over the site
In this week’s violence, Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to evict worshippers who had locked the doors of the building. Palestinians hurled stones and fireworks at officers. After a few hours of scuffles that left a trail of damage, police managed to drag everyone out of the compound.
Police fiercely beat Palestinians and arrested over 400 people. Israeli authorities control access to the area but the compound is administered by Islamic and Jordanian officials.
The violence at the site has resonated across the region, with condemnations pouring in from Muslim leaders.
Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
JERUSALEM (AP) — A high-profile Palestinian prisoner died in Israeli custody on Tuesday after a hunger strike of nearly three months, Israel’s prison service announced. His death set off a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and raised fears of a further escalation.
Late Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had started airstrikes on Gaza targets, in response to earlier rocket salvos from the coastal strip, run by the militant Hamas group. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.
The case of the Palestinian prisoner has also drawn attention to the tactic of hunger strikes — used by prisoners around the world yet considered a particularly crucial tool for Palestinians held by Israel with few other means at their disposal.
Khader Adnan, 45, a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group, helped introduce the practice of protracted hunger strikes by individual prisoners as a form of protest. Palestinian detainees have mostly used hunger strikes to challenge administrative detention, a controversial tactic in which more than 1,000 Palestinians and a handful of Israelis are currently being held without charge or trial.
Adnan first grabbed international headlines and inspired solidarity protests over a decade ago, when he staged a 66-day hunger strike against his administrative detention. That galvanized hundreds of other prisoners to join the strike, which ended with a deal for his release. He was later arrested again.
Through all levels of Palestinian society — from squalid refugee camps in Gaza to wealthy businesses in the West Bank — Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention are celebrated as national heroes. Israel considers Palestinian prisoners to be terrorists.
Adnan, who was arrested a dozen times and spent nearly a fifth of his life in Israeli prison, became a potent symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year. His use of hunger strikes as a bargaining chip against Israeli authorities — during two other strikes in 2015 and 2018 that lasted 56 and 58 days, respectively — motivated many other desperate Palestinians in administrative detention to refuse food.
Israel’s prison service said Adnan had been charged with “involvement in terrorist activities” following his February arrest. Last week, an Israeli military court denied him bail. A hearing on his appeal was repeatedly postponed.
After the news of his death broke, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired 26 rockets at populated areas in southern Israel, sending shrapnel flying. Three foreign workers were wounded at a construction site in the city of Sderot, Israel’s rescue service said, without identifying their nationalities. One of the foreigners, a 25-year-old man, was reported to be in serious condition. A few hours later, the military said six mortars shells were fired at Israel, most of them falling short and not reaching Israeli territory.
“This is an initial response to this heinous crime,” said a coalition of Gaza-based Palestinian militant groups, led by the enclave’s militant Hamas rulers. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called it an “assassination," accusing Israel of medical neglect.
Palestinian residents reported several explosions by Israeli air raids in northwestern Gaza City. The targets were not immediately known. Hamas had earlier evacuated military and security targets in anticipation of Israeli strikes.
Air raid sirens sounded and Israeli municipal councils opened public bomb shelters. Field fires broke out. Shrapnel punched holes into pavement, shattered windows and charred cars. Four rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, authorities said.
The Israeli military responded with tank fire into Gaza and said it was planning further retaliation. A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, said that the army assessed that Islamic Jihad fired the rockets with Hamas' knowledge.
“The security establishment will act with determination and force against anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
A general strike was announced across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians flocked to military checkpoints in the occupied territory, slinging stones. Israeli forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. A suspected Palestinian shooting attack in the West Bank lightly wounded an Israeli man. Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired another three rockets that landed in empty fields in Israel.
A march commemorating Adnan in the northern city of Jenin, a hotbed of Palestinian militancy, spiraled into violence Tuesday when Palestinian security forces prevented protesters from reaching the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters. As Palestinians fired into the air and chanted against the PA, long derided for its security cooperation with Israel, Palestinian security forces fired tear gas into the crowd.
With violence surging over the past year and the Israeli military launching near-nightly arrest raids in the West Bank, the number of Palestinians in administrative detention has swelled to the highest number in two decades. Israel says the tactic helps authorities thwart attacks and hold dangerous militants without divulging incriminating material for security reasons.
Palestinians and rights groups say the system is widely abused and denies due process, with the secret nature of the evidence making it impossible for administrative detainees or their lawyers to mount a defense.
As a result, Palestinian prisoners have turned to hunger strikes — whether in large groups with hundreds refusing food, or individually, for decades. Since the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel has jailed thousands of Palestinians. The strikes are often aimed at protesting prison conditions — including the very fact of open-ended detentions — or winning concessions such as family visits.
Over the years, with starving prisoners' shriveled bodies drawing international condemnation, Israeli governments have at times accepted their demands to avoid deaths in custody. The most famous of these deals involved Adnan's lengthy hunger strikes and releases from prison in 2012 and 2015.
But the current Israeli government, the most right-wing in the country's history, has vowed to take a hard-line against the Palestinians. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician, has cracked down on security prisoners, shortening shower times to four minutes, closing prison bakeries and restricting exercise time and family visits.
Ben-Gvir demanded Tuesday that prison officials exhibit “zero-tolerance" and ordered prisoners be confined to their cells.
Rights groups blamed Israel for Adnan’s death, alleging that authorities ignored warnings about his life-threatening condition. Adnan's lawyer said the Israeli prison service retaliated by placing him isolation after he began his hunger strike. He said Adnan had appealed to Israeli authorities to transfer him to a hospital.
“We lay the responsibility for his death at the feet of the Israeli authorities," said Dana Moss from Physicians for Human Rights Israel. “Hunger strikes are one of the few non-violent tools left to Palestinians as they battle against Israel’s unfair legal system."
The Israeli prison service said Adnan was in a prison medical facility, but had refused medical treatment “until the last moment” when his legal proceedings moved ahead. The prison authorities said he was found unconscious in his cell early Tuesday and transferred to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Hundreds gathered at Adnan's home in the West Bank town of Arraba, near Jenin, holding posters bearing his image and calling for revenge. In a rare call for de-escalation, Adnan's widow, Randa Musa, asked Palestinians not to respond with violence.
"We do not want a single drop of blood shed," she told the crowd. “We do not want rockets to be fired."
JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) — Israel withdrew troops from a West Bank militant stronghold Wednesday, but warned that its most intense military operation in the occupied territory in nearly two decades could be repeated. Twelve Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in the two-day raid.
Residents of the Jenin refugee camp emerged from their homes to find alleys lined by piles of rubble and flattened or scorched cars. Shopkeepers and bulldozers started clearing the debris. Thousands who had fled the fighting began returning.
Kefah Dabayyah, a 33-year-old Jenin refugee camp resident, said that he and his family had returned Wednesday to find widespread destruction.
“Roads were destroyed and many houses were affected, glass from windows was everywhere,” he said. His home was not hit, but there was no water, electricity or internet service.
The army claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on militant groups in the operation, which included a series of airstrikes and hundreds of ground troops. But it remained unclear whether there would be any lasting effect after more than a year of heavy fighting in the West Bank.
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Ahead of the withdrawal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry out similar operations if needed.
“At these moments we are completing the mission, and I can say that our extensive operation in Jenin is not a one-off,” he said during a visit to a military post on the outskirts of Jenin. “We will eradicate terrorism wherever we see it and we will strike at it.”
The Jenin raid was one of the most intense Israeli military operations in the West Bank since an armed Palestinian uprising against Israel's open-ended occupation ended two decades ago.
Some of the scenes from Jenin, including massive army bulldozers tearing through camp alleys, were eerily similar to those from a major Israeli incursion in 2002, which lasted for eight days and became known as the battle of Jenin.
Both operations, two decades apart, were meant to crush militant groups in the camp and deter and prevent attacks on Israelis emanating from the camp. In each case, the army claimed success.
However, the continued cycle of army raids and Palestinian attacks raised new questions about Israel’s tactics. This week’s raid had wide support across Israel’s political spectrum, but some critics in the country argued the impact is short-lived, with slain gunmen quickly replaced by others.
“As usual, these things are best taken in proportion. To the security establishment, this is a successful operation thus far, but it holds no real chance of effecting a fundamental change in the state of affairs in the West Bank,” wrote Amos Harel, military affairs commentator for the Haaretz daily.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose autonomy government administers parts of the West Bank, has rejected violence against Israelis, but has effectively lost control over several strongholds of gunmen. Amateur videos posted on social media appeared to show angry residents of Jenin hurling stones at the Palestinian Authority police headquarters after the Israeli military’s withdrawal.
Mass funerals for the Palestinians killed in the raid drew thousands of mourners. At one stage, participants booed representatives of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, chanted their support for a local militant group and ran them out of the cemetery.
Many Palestinians see the actions of the gunmen as an inevitable result of 56 years of occupation and the absence of any political process with Israel. They also point to increased West Bank settlement construction and violence by extremist settlers.
Palestinian health officials said 12 Palestinians were killed in Jenin and more than 140 were wounded, including 83 who needed treatment in hospitals. Another Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces in an unrelated incident near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Dr. Wissam Bakr, the head of Jenin Hospital, said most of the wounded were shot in the head and chest, and that 20 suffered severe injuries.
The Israeli military has claimed it killed only militants, but it has not provided details.
Summing up the raid, the military said it had confiscated thousands of weapons, bomb-making materials and caches of money. Weapons were found in militant hideouts and civilian areas alike, in one case beneath a mosque, the military said.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the army had inflicted a heavy blow on militants, saying those who try to harm Israelis "will meet an iron wall and the strength of the military and security forces, and will be held responsible for their actions.”
The withdrawal came hours after a Hamas militant rammed his car into a crowded Tel Aviv bus stop and began stabbing people, wounding eight, including a pregnant woman who reportedly lost her baby. The attacker was killed by an armed bystander. Hamas said the attack was revenge for the Israeli offensive.
Early Wednesday, militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza also fired five rockets toward Israel, which Israel said were intercepted. Israeli jets struck several sites in Gaza.
The large-scale raid comes amid a more than yearlong spike in violence that has created a challenge for Netanyahu’s far-right government, which is dominated by ultranationalists who have called for tougher action against Palestinian militants only to see the fighting worsen.
Over 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 25 people, including a shooting last month that killed four settlers.
The sustained operation has raised warnings from humanitarian groups of a deteriorating situation.
Doctors Without Borders accused the army of firing tear gas into a hospital, filling the emergency room with smoke and forcing emergency patients to be treated in a main hall.
The U.N.’s human rights chief said the scale of the operation “raises a host of serious issues with respect to international human rights norms and standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life.”
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
“At the end of day the refugee camp emerged victorious,” refugee camp resident Dabbayah said, calling it “a great victory for the people of Jenin.”