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In sharp contrast with Gaza, casualties decline in West Bank

Anonymous Coward
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01/01/2010 04:23 AM
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In sharp contrast with Gaza, casualties decline in West Bank
By Howard Schneider and Samuel Sockol
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 1, 2010

JERUSALEM -- The first year in a decade without a suicide bombing, as well as an expanded Palestinian security force, resulted in a decline in the number of Israeli and Palestinian casualties in the occupied West Bank in 2009 -- a contrast to the hundreds of Palestinian lives claimed by last winter's war in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Data from Israel's Shin Bet security agency and the United Nations showed a sharp drop in casualties in the West Bank, policed by a mix of Israeli security and intelligence agencies, as well as a Palestinian force that, under the control of the Palestinian Authority, has worked more closely with Israel.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 27 Palestinians in the West Bank or East Jerusalem died in "conflict-related" clashes with Israelis during the year -- less than half the number in 2008. The agency, which monitors conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, has collected data only since 2005. But OCHA officials said the number of Palestinian fatalities in 2009 is probably the lowest in at least a decade, which included a violent uprising beginning in 2000.

Overall, 15 Israelis died in conflict-related violence in 2009, compared with 36 in 2008, according to the Shin Bet's annual security report.

Five of the deaths involved attacks in or emanating from the West Bank, said the agency, which documented a sharp drop overall in attacks on Israelis. The Shin Bet said there were 636 attacks in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the year -- a reduction of about 30 percent.

About 90 percent of those attacks involved makeshift firebombs or Molotov cocktails, which typically do not cause injuries. There was a far sharper drop, of about 75 percent, to 35, in the number of West Bank shooting and bomb attacks against Israelis over the year. Of particular note, "no suicide attacks were registered," the Shin Bet reported.

Of the other 10 Israelis killed in conflict-related violence during 2009, nine were felled by militant attacks or friendly fire during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces had left the strip by Jan. 21.

The death toll on the Palestinian side from the operation was far higher. OCHA data attributed 1,355 Palestinian deaths to the three-week operation, launched in response to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. Israel estimates the figure at 1,166.

More than 566 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel in 2009, a sharp decline from the year before. Most of them were fired during Cast Lead.

About 90 Gazans have since been killed, according to OCHA data.

Gaza remains under an economic embargo and a strict blockade, a point emphasized in recent days when hundreds of international protesters arrived in Egypt hoping to cross into the Mediterranean enclave through the town of Rafah for a planned Gaza Freedom March on Thursday.

Egypt, which typically keeps the Rafah crossing closed, allowed only about 100 members of the group to enter. A gathering of protesters in downtown Cairo was broken up by Egyptian security forces, according to a group member.

Those allowed to enter Gaza joined a rally that was complemented by a gathering of several hundred at the Erez crossing on the Israeli side of the border. There, a crowd of Israeli Arabs and peace activists waved Palestinian flags and criticized the restrictions that prevent the movement of people and goods into and out of the strip.

Sockol, a special correspondent, reported from Erez.

[link to www.washingtonpost.com]
Anonymous Coward
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01/07/2010 03:53 PM
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