This Human Rights Watch report documents the deterioration in the security of the estimated 34,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. Since then, militant groups have targeted Iraqi Palestinians and have evicted them from their homes, largely because of the benefits these refugees received from Saddam Hussein’s government.
While the war raged in Lebanon, the other theater in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Gaza, was often overlooked. Though a cease-fire has stopped the fighting in the north, violence continues in Gaza. But Palestinian officials may form a "national unity" government as a result.
This report from the International Crisis Group pieces together the current crisis in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and elsewhere, based on talks with officials and others, including Hamas and Hezbollah representatives. There are many dimensions to the explanation of why the capture of three soldiers has, so suddenly and so intensely, escalated at an extraordinary pace into a deep and widespread conflict: local ones like Hamas's struggle to govern and Hezbollah's desire to maintain its special status in Lebanon; regional ones, notably the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria's interests in Lebanon, and the growing Sunni-Shiite divide; and wider international ones, especially the confrontation between Washington and Tehran.
Israeli forces enter Lebanon as back-and-forth missile attacks between Hezbollah and Israel escalate. EU and UN officials have called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to defuse the crisis.
Violence worsens as Israeli forces move deeper into Palestinian territories in search of an Israeli soldier held by militants. Regional efforts to secure the soldier's release have had little effect as Palestinians continue launching rockets at Israel and the Israeli government escalates its military campaign.
Steven Simon, a leading Middle East expert, says the crisis over the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants may drag on for some time because of the "two new and essentially weak governments." He says Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not negotiate a prisoner exchange and the Hamas leadership is fractured and unlikely to turn over the prisoner unconditionally.
Israeli forces have broadened their ground and air assault from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, where they arrested some dozen Hamas cabinet ministers and lawmakers. The operation came as Palestinian factions neared agreement on an approach to peace talks that could commit Hamas to an implicit recognition of Israel's right to exist.
The Hamas leadership of the Palestinian Authority has come close to an agreement that calls for a Palestinian state, but denies it is recognizing Israel. Reports of the agreement between Hamas and Fatah come after weeks of bitter negotiations and escalating violence have prompted Israeli forces to mass on the Gaza border in preparation for an invasion.
The EU answers frequently asked questions on European policy towards Israel and Palestinians, including violence and terrroism, financial assistance to the Palestinians, alleged misuse of EU funds, Palestinian education, sanctions against Israel, settlements, separation barrier, refugees, etc.
A series of events—the latest an Israeli shelling Tuesday which killed at least nine—has shattered the relative calm between Israel and the Palestinians since the election of Hamas in January. Responding to an earlier shelling which Israel denies, Hamas called off a self-imposed truce and raised fears of a new round of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
Judith Kipper says the economic boycott of the Hamas government has created a major crisis in the Palestinian territories: "The situation is extremely dangerous because the humanitarian despair is really, really drastic, particularly in Gaza: people are hungry and dying." She says both Israel and the United States miscalculated when they sought to cut off the newly-elected Hamas government from international aid.
Mahmoud Abbas extends the deadline for Hamas to agree to negotiate with Israel, or else face a public referendum on the issue. Polls show Palestinians are overwhelmingly in favor of the deal, but Hamas—which leads the Palestinian Authority government—still refuses to recognize Israel. The group's intransigence is causing widespread hardship.
Ziad J. Asali, president and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, a group dedicated to setting up a state of Palestine alongside that of Israel, says that the call two weeks ago by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a referendum by Palestinians on whether to proceed with negotiations for a two-state solution with Israel has energized many Palestinians who had earlier believed he was too weak.
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