Israel has once again become a lightning rod for international attention
Article: Alec Salloum – News Editor
Israel, perennially a source of controversy and political vitriol, has once again been garnering substantial international attention for its actions. From Dec. 31 onward, Israel has released 26 convicted Palestinian prisoners, been visited by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, retaliated against a rocket shot from Gaza and as of Jan. 5 is witnessing protests exceeding 30,000 supporters calling for refugee status. It has been a very busy week for Israel.
The release of the 26 Palestinian prisoners occurred days before John Kerry was in the Middle East. Kerry is in the region to continue and hopefully further peace talks, and as such Israel released a select few prisoners as a sign of good faith towards Palestine. 104 Palestinian prisoners remain in Israel.
This release was initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was met with protest by Israelis. Protesters amassed peacefully outside Netanyahu’s home in Tel Aviv on Dec. 28.
In response, Netanyahu issued this statement, “Leadership is judged by the ability to implement decisions, difficult as they may be. We were not elected to make easy decisions.” However this decision to release the prisoners was also seemingly posturing for Israel to continue its expansion in the West Bank. The release met terms the Palestinians had in place preventing further development of Israeli settlements in the region. The talks for expansion will officially take place in April of 2014, though whether the historically Palestinian region will bend to Israeli expansion remains to be seen.
Days later, on Jan. 1, a rocket launched from Gaza landed in the Ramat Negev Region Council, with no reported damage or injuries. This rocket attack came hours after an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier shot a Palestinian teen, reported to be 16, in the leg. The teenager has allegedly been identified as having ties to Hamas, a Sunni organization labeled a terrorist organization by most Western nations, though these claims seem fairly unsubstantiated.
The teen was shot while attempting to damage an IDF controlled checkpoint. Most sources have reported that the boy was kicking a fence, and when he failed to comply with the numerous attempts made by the IDF soldiers, he was shot.
Following this incident and the rocket, the IDF issued this statement, “Terrorist organizations have targeted Israeli civilians. The IDF will continue to act decisively as required against anyone who carries out terror against the State of Israel”.
On Jan. 2, Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes began bombing what they deemed “terror targets.” These targets were, as stated by the IAF, “a terror infrastructure site in the central Gaza Strip and three concealed rocket launchers.”
All targets were reported to have been destroyed and thusly the IAF has ended its bombing runs in Gaza for the time being.
The last occurrence in Israel since the start of the New Year was the protests that have occupied the streets of Tel-Aviv. The protests largely consist of African immigrants who have faced deportation since entering Israel seeking asylum from war torn and impoverished areas of Africa, mainly Sudan.
The protesters are seeking refugee status and have not been granted it. In fact, Dec.10, 2013 saw legislation pass giving authorities the ability and right to indefinitely detain immigrants. The legislation also states that the detained can legally go a full year without trial.
Neil Patel, a University of Saskatchewan student currently living in Haifa, commented on Israel’s recent actions.
“Israel is in a sticky situation. Not everyone supports [the government] and many do not support settlements. The young all want peace, [but] Israel is an incredibly diverse place.”