Three new rounds of illegal settlement construction were announced by Israel in January. On Jan. 22, the government announced plans for 566 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. On Jan. 24, plans for 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank were announced. On Jan. 31, approval was given for 3,000 additional housing units in the West Bank. The Trump administration declined to condemn the announcements and David Friedman, President Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, formerly served as president of a group that raises funds for settlements.
So far 137 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were demolished by Israeli forces in January. According to figures from the United Nations, the demolitions have displaced 237 people, including 134 children. These demolitions build upon the 1,093 Palestinian structures that Israel destroyed last year—the highest number since the U.N. began keeping records in 2009.
Two people—an Israeli Bedouin and an Israeli police officer—were killed in clashes on Jan. 18 after Israeli officials entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran with demolition orders. Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Ayman Odeh was injured and hospitalized after being hit by a foam-tipped bullet during the clashes. Israel regularly demolishes Bedouin villages it does not recognize to build new towns for Jewish Israelis only.
20-year-old Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by an Israeli court in early January. In March 2016, Azaria was filmed fatally shooting a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria’s conviction was a rare moment of justice for Palestinians, as IDF soldiers rarely face severe consequences for crimes committed against Palestinians.
In six months, the amount of time Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas has been suspended from the Knesset after he was caught allegedly smuggling cell phones, SIM cards and documents to prisoners convicted of terrorism. Ghattas will still be permitted to vote during his suspension.
56 percent of Americans oppose moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a January poll conducted by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. President Donald Trump seemed poised to announce the move within his first week in office, but has since put any such announcement on hold.
31 percent of Democrats polled by the Pew Research Center in January said they sympathize more with Palestine than with Israel. 33 percent of respondents said they sympathize more with Israel. These findings mark the first time in Pew Research history that Democrats are as likely to sympathize with Palestinians as they are with Israelis. The poll found that Republican support for Israel remains strong.
342 members of the House of Representatives—233 Republicans and 109 Democrats—voted in favor of a resolution objecting to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement enterprise. President Barack Obama refused to veto the resolution in December, thereby allowing the resolution to pass and leading to criticism from pro-Israel groups in the U.S.
41 men remain at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, after former President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison. Obama transferred 18 men from the facility in January—10 to Oman, 5 to Saudi Arabia and 3 to the UAE. During his eight years in office he transferred 197 detainees from the facility.
26,172 bombs were dropped in seven countries by the United States in 2016, according to an estimate conducted by Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. The vast majority of bombs were dropped in Syria (12,192) and Iraq (12,095). The remainder was dropped in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. “This estimate is undoubtedly low,” Zenko points out, “considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.”
Three U.S. drone strikes were carried out in Yemen in January, reportedly killing between 6 and 13 militants, according to data complied by New America. Two of the strikes were authorized by President Donald Trump. According to the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. conducted 526 counter-terror strikes (most of them drone strikes) during President Obama’s tenure in office. The U.S. government estimates 64 to 117 civilians were killed in the strikes, though independent estimates put this number much higher. This official data does not include strikes in areas of “active hostilities,” including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is believed U.S. drone strikes have been particularly devastating to civilians.
30 Yemenis, most of them civilians, were killed on Jan. 29 when U.S. commandos carried out a raid targeting al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen. Among those killed in the first military raid authorized by President Trump was 8-year-old American citizen Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was extrajudicially killed by a drone strike in October 2011 and whose 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was killed in a drone strike two weeks later. An American service member was also killed in the January raid, which the president described as “successful.”
1,000 Yemeni children die every week from preventable diseases, according to UNICEF. An estimated 2.2 million children in the poor, war-torn nation suffer from malnutrition, according to the agency.
Seven years after being jailed for leaking American military and diplomatic documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted by President Obama on Jan. 17. Manning’s leaks led to a greater public critique of U.S. military action in the Middle East. Manning is set to be released on May 17, after originally being scheduled for release in 2045.
1,363 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq in January, according to Iraq Body Count.
64 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, according to a poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation in late December.
82-year-old Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Jan. 8 in Tajrish, Iran. The two-time president and former chairman of the Assembly of Experts was one of the most influential politicians in Iran. A leader of the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani was a mentor to current President Hassan Rouhani and used his power to give greater legitimacy to more “moderate” forces within Iran.
About the Washington Report
The Washington Report is published by the American Educational Trust, a non-profit foundation incorporated in Washington, DC to provide the American public with balanced and accurate information on U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states. Material from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs may be printed without charge with attribution to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.