Editor’s Note: This is the first installation of a new feature that will appear on Markaz, highlighting news stories from the Middle East and North Africa that are related to national security law. The feature originates with our fellow Brookings blog Lawfare and will appear regularly on both sites.
Israeli Supreme Court orders demolition of settlement structures: In what appears to be the final step in a long-running legal battle, on Sunday a three-judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the demolition of nine buildings in the Israeli West Bank town of Ofra. The petitioners, Palestinian individuals aided by Israeli human rights groups, successfully claimed that the structures were built on land that they legally should have inherited. As the contested buildings are already in use as family homes, the state has two years to move the families out and implement the demolition. The panel also mandated that the state, which has carried on litigating the case despite earlier judgments, pay the plaintiffs 25,000 shekels (around US$6,500).
Egypt releases journalist: Peter Greste, an Australian journalist with Al-Jazeera who was convicted along with two colleagues of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, was released on February 1 and returned home to Australia on February 6, after having spent 13 months in an Egyptian prison. His two colleagues remain in prison awaiting a retrial, and the Egyptian government is officially categorizing Greste’s release as an “extradition.”
Plaintiffs rest in lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority: This is “lawfare” in its most controversial sense. An Israeli legal advocacy group, Shurat Hadin, has made a name for itself by pursuing legal actions against terror groups and institutions the group deems supportive of terrorism. In a case that has mostly escaped notice in the United States (but not in Israel), Shurat Hadin is now pursuing billions of dollars in damages from the Palestinian Authority on behalf of 32 American terror victims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit alleges Palestinian Authority complicity in a series of terror attacks that took place from 2001 through 2004 in Israel. The case is being tried by a jury before Judge George B. Daniels, and the Palestinian Authority began presenting its case this week.
Yemen’s Houthis Take Power: Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi rebels, speaking from the Presidential Palace, issued a constitutional decree on February 6, dissolving parliament and announcing the establishment of an interim 551-member transitional national assembly. The move by the Houthis, who enjoy some support from Iran, was met with condemnation from Yemen’s Sunni Arab neighbors—especially Saudi Arabia—which see the Houthis as a proxy of their regional rival, Iran, and from the United States, which views Yemen as a critical battlefield in the fight against Al Qaeda and is concerned over the potential effect the move might have on U.S. counterterrorism operations in the country. On February 10, the U.S. State Department announced that it is closing its embassy in Yemen and leaving the country.
Chair of UN Gaza probe resigns: It was really only a matter of time. William Schabas, a Canadian professor of human rights law, resigned last week as head of a UN panel investigating law of war violations during this past summer’s Gaza conflict. Schabas has a long history of criticism of Israel, and his appointment by the United Nations Human Rights Council drew loud protests from the Israeli government. Reportedly, Schabas stepped down because the recent revelation that he had once been paid by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for legal advice (and never disclosed this) had become a “distraction.” Coming just weeks before the panel completes its investigation, the resignation doesn’t seem likely to allay Israeli concerns of bias.
Israel preparing to indict soldiers for looting: After investigating a number of accusations of looting by Israeli soldiers during this past summer’s incursion into Gaza, military police are preparing indictments against a handful of soldiers. International inquiries into human rights violations generally derive their legitimacy from a country’s unwillingness to investigate its own. An identifiable Israeli willingness to prosecute its soldiers therefore carries special significance, especially given ongoing inquiries by the UN and ICC. At the same time, many critics of Israel will likely find these investigations insignificant and irrelevant to the question of civilian casualties that animate their concerns.
Lebanese army receives U.S. weapons and equipment to help bolster its efforts against Islamist militants, who have become increasingly active inside Lebanon as a result of spillover from the Syrian civil war. According to an unnamed U.S. embassy official in Beirut, the Lebanese military received $25 million worth of military aid, including 72 M198 power supply howitzers and more than 25 million rounds of artillery, mortar, and rifle ammunition.
This article originally appeared on Lawfare.