Four rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Eilat from the Sinai Peninsula this past week. Three were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
The fourth rocket, which fell in an open area near Eilat (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 8, 2017).
Knife found in the possession of the Palestinian woman who tried to stab a Border Policeman (Israel Police Force spokesman's unit, February 10, 2017).
Yahya Sinwar (June 18, 2016)
Khalil al-Haya (Hadath News, June 29, 2016).
Ahmed Asa'd Shehadeh Brem, killed when a tunnel collapsed in eastern Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 13, 2017).
- Popular terrorism attacks continue in Judea and Samaria and trickle into Israel. Prominent this past week was a combined shooting and stabbing attack at the entrance to a market in Petah Tikva, in the center of the country. Seven people were wounded. The Palestinian terrorist who carried out the attack came from a village south of Nablus. He apparently acted independently. Hamas welcomed the attack; the PA did not condemn it.
- Four rockets were fired at Eilat, Israel's southernmost city, from the Sinai Peninsula. They were launched by operatives of ISIS's Sinai Province. Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system; the fourth fell in an open area near Eilat. ISIS's Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened "the future will be even worse and more bitter" for the Jews.
- In the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, a senior operative in Hamas' Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, its military-terrorist wing, was elected as the organization's leader in the Gaza Strip (replacing Ismail Haniyeh, a candidate for the position currently held by Khaled Mashaal). Yahya Sinwar, who was imprisoned in Israel and released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, is considered an extremist who openly represents the positions of Hamas' military wing. His election will probably influence Hamas' policies towards Israel and other key issues.
Terrorist Attacks and Attempted Terrorists Attacks
- Combined shooting and stabbing attack in Petah Tikva (February 9, 2017)
- A Palestinian armed with an improvised machine gun opened fire at passersby at the entrance to a market in Petah Tikva and a nearby bus stop. He then shot at a bus and tried to stab a man with a screwdriver. He wounded seven people. He escaped but was captured a short time later.
- The Palestinian media reported the terrorist was Sadeq Nasser Abu Mazen, 18, from the village of Foqa al-Beita, south of Nablus (Felesteen, February 12, 2017). According to the initial investigation, he operated independently and without handling. The investigation also showed that a gun jammed, preventing him from carrying out the mass-killing attack he had planned.
Left: Improvised Carlo submachine gun used to carry out the attack in Petah Tikva (Facebook page of Beita For All, February 9, 2017) Right: Sadeq Nasser Abu Mazen (Facebook page of I Love You, Oh Beita, February 9, 2017).
- Hamas welcomed the attack. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum praised the terrorist for his "heroic deed," saying that the attack was "the natural response" to Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people and the holy places. He called on all Palestinians to escalate their struggle against Israel (Hamas website, February 9, 2017). Hamas spokesman Husam Badran called such attacks part of the so-called "Jerusalem intifada", and called on "resistance" operatives to carry out many such "heroic deeds" (Hamas website, February 9, 2017).
- February 10, 2017 – A Palestinian woman approached a roadblock near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. She took out a knife and ran towards one of the Border Policemen manning the roadblock. A Border Policeman aimed his gun at her, and she ran towards a nearby playground, where she was apprehended. There were no casualties. The Palestinian media reported she was Israa' Samih Jaber, 17, from Hebron (Twitter account of Radio al-Aqsa, February 11, 2017).
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
- This past week demonstrations and riots continued. Prominent were attacks involving stones and Molotov cocktails. In addition, weapons were seized and a stabbing attack was prevented. The more prominent events were the following:
- February 12, 2017 – The Israeli security forces detained a Palestinian at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. Two knives were found in his possession. He was taken for interrogation (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 12, 2017).
- February 12, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israel vehicle on the Tekoa-Har Homa road, south of Jerusalem. There were no casualties; the vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 12, 2017).
- February 11, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at the light railway in Jerusalem. A railway car was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 11, 2017).
- February 11, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle on the Husan detour road near Beitar. Two people were injured (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 11, 2017).
- February 11, 2017 – Israeli security forces carrying out an activity in the village of Samu'a in southern Mt. Hebron seized a large quantity of weapons, ammunition, military uniforms and other equipment. Seven village residents were detained (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 11, 2017).
Left: Israeli bus damaged by stones thrown near Hizma, northeast of Jerusalem (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 8, 2017). Right: Weapons found in the village of Samu'a (Israel Police Force spokesman's unit, February 11, 2017).
- February 9, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at Israeli vehicles near Sinjil, northeast of Ramallah. A woman was wounded and the front windshield of the car was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 9, 2017).
- February 8, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli bus near Hizma, northeast of Jerusalem. One man went into shock. The bus was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 8, 2017).
- February 8, 2017 – Palestinians inside a school threw stones at Israeli vehicles in western Tekoa in Gush Etzion. There were no casualties; a vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 8, 2017).
- February 8, 2017 – During a security activity, Israeli security forces seized parts of weapons manufactured independently and ammunition (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 8, 2017).
- February 8, 2017 – Israeli security forces detained a squad of Palestinian terrorists who, on several occasions, threw Molotov cocktails on route 443 (the Jerusalem-Modi'in road) and route 436 (north Jerusalem). The Palestinians, who cae from the village of Bayt Anan, were detained and indicted (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 11, 2017).
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
- On the evening of February 8, 2017, four rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula at Eilat, Israel's southernmost city. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. The fourth fell in an open area a number of kilometers west of the city. It was the first rocket attack targeting Eilat since July 2014.
- The following day ISIS's Sinai Province claimed responsibility for firing Grad rockets at Eilat. The Jews, stated the announcement, should know that their future would be worse and more bitter (al-Haq, February 9, 2017). On February 9, 2017, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, operated by Salafist-jihadists in the Gaza Strip, issued a statement. It did not mention any group or organization as being behind the rocket attack, but accused Hamas of the continued detention of Salafi jihadist operatives in the Gaza Strip and of torturing prisoners. The statement ended with the Salafist-jihadists determination to maintain their firm stance against the way Hamas treated them.
New Hamas Leadership Elected in the Gaza Strip
- The Arab media reported that the internal elections held in the Gaza Strip for representatives of Hamas institutions and leadership had ended. Fifteen members of the Gazan leadership were elected (al-Quds, February 13, 2017). Yahya Sinwar was chosen as Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip. He will replace Ismail Haniyeh, who is a candidate for the position currently held by Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau. Khalil al-Haya was chosen as Sinwar's second in command.
- Yahya Sinwar is a high-ranking operative in Hamas' military wing. He was born in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in 1962. He was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal after 25 years in an Israeli jail. Until his election he liaised between Hamas' military wing and its political leadership. He is considered one of Hamas' most prominent and influential leaders. He is an extremist who represents the positions of the military wing. In September 2016 the United States added his name to the list of designated international terrorist operatives, along with Rawhi Mushtaha and Muhammad Deif.
- Khalil al-Haya, elected as Sinwar's second in command, was born in Gaza in 1960. He is a member of Hamas' political bureau and considered an extremist. He has a PhD in Islamic law from the University of Khartoum in Sudan. He was a member of team that negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit. His son Hamza, who was an operative in Hamas military wing, was killed in an Israeli attack during Operation Protective Edge.
- On February 11, 2017, the Egyptians authorized the opening of the Rafah crossing for three days. Hamas' crossings authority reported that between February 11 and 13, 2017, 1,527 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip and 924 entered. One hundred and thirteen Palestinians were turned back to the Gaza Strip because the Egyptian authorities refused to allow them to enter Egyptian territory (Palinfo, February 14, 2017). It was also reported that trucks carrying cement and other building materials entered the Gaza Strip (Ma'an, February 13, 2017).
Tunnels Collapse in the Gaza Strip
- Ahmed Asa'd Shehadeh Brem, aka Hijazi, 22 from the village of Bani Suheila in eastern Khan Yunis, was killed when a tunnel collapsed in the Khan Yunis region. He was an operative in Hamas' military wing (Twitter account of Gaza al-A'an, February 13, 2017).
- Mu'min Abu Hamed from the village of Bani Suheila was killed in the collapse of a smuggling tunnel on the Egypt-Gaza Strip border (Safa, February 13, 2017). Hamas issued a statement condemning Egypt for flooding a tunnel on the Gaza Strip border, which led to the death of Mu'min Abu Hamed. According to the statement, there was no justification for taking such steps (Hamas website, February 13, 2017).
- In an interview with al-Monitor, Khaled al-Qadoumi, Hamas representative in Iran, claimed the relations between Hamas and Iran were good and improving. He claimed Iran continued supplying Hamas with economic and military support. He refused to provide details, claiming the person funding the support should decide whether or not to reveal information (al-Monitor, February 9, 2017).
- A Palestinian source told the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that recently, in an attempt to improve relations with Iran, Hamas decided to accept Iran's invitation to participate in the sixth international conference to support the Palestinian people (expected to be held in Tehran between February 20 and 23, 2017). According to the source, Iran wants Ismail Haniyeh, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, to head the Hamas delegation, because it regards him as a candidate for the position of movement leader. However, it is not clear how Haniyeh will participate in the conference because of the internal Hamas elections and because it is difficult for him to leave the Gaza Strip (al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 11, 2017).
International Palestinian Activity
- A "senior Palestinian figure" was quoted as saying that Mahmoud Abbas had decided to temporarily freeze his appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. According to the Palestinian, the decision was taken after Majed Faraj, head of the PA's general intelligence, met with representatives of the Trump administration. The Palestinian said the PA received "calming messages" from senior American figures regarding relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem, and promises that the United States would work to renew Israel-Palestinian negotiations (alresala.net, February 11, 2017).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, said he hoped the new American administration would take upon itself the agreements and international decisions regarding the two-state solution with the 1967 borders and recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. However, he said that so far attempts made by Palestinians to contact the American president through diplomatic channels had not been successful (al-Quds al-Arabi, February 11, 2017).
Left: Cartoon in Hamas Twitter account shows Mahmoud Abbas hung up outside Trump's door (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 11, 2017). Right: Cartoon in Hamas' al-Risalah shows the future of Mahmoud Abbas and the PA under the new American administration (al-Risalah, February 13, 2017).
United States Blocks Appointment of Salam Fayyad to UN Post
- The United States prevented Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the PA government, from becoming the UN secretary general's envoy to Libya. Nikki Haley, American ambassador to the UN, said the decision to appoint Fayyad to the position was a "disappointment" and that “for too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel” (foreignpolicy.com, February 11, 2017). In response Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, said that blocking the appointment of Salam Fayyad constituted "a blanket licence for the exclusion of Palestinians everywhere." She also said Fayyad was “a person of the highest standards of professionalism and integrity” (Financial Times website, February 11, 2017).
Palestinian Reactions to New Israeli "Regulation Law"
- On February 6, 2017, a law was passed by the Israeli Knesset regulating the legal status of houses in settlements in Judea and Samaria built on land owned privately by Palestinians. According to the law, the land on which the houses were built will remain the property of its Palestinian owners, but the state will expropriate from them the right to use the land. In return, the state will compensate them with a sum of money higher than the value of the land, or will give them other land in exchange, according to their preference.
- The passage of the law led Mahmoud Abbas to call Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and thank her for her statement of the EU's condemnation of the law. In addition, Mahmoud Abbas met with the Belgian foreign minister to discuss the law and the dangers inherent in relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem (Wafa, February 9, 2017). Riyad al-Mansour, the PA delegate to the UN, sent a letter to the UN secretary general, the president of the Security Council and the president of the General Assembly, stating that since the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Israel has continued to carry out "thousands of violations," one of which was the Regulation Law (Wafa, February 8, 2017).
- The enactment of the law led to a series of condemnations from Palestinians who claimed the law violated international law and UN resolutions:
- Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said the law was unacceptable and violated UN Security Council Resolution 2334. He called on the international community to act responsibly before the situation reached the point of no return (Wafa, September 7, 2017).
- Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Palestinian national consensus government, said the law that legalized the settlements was a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2334. He said Israel continued its policy of occupation and did not allow the Palestinians to establish a state of their own. He called on the international community to act responsibly and implement international decisions (Filastin al-A'an, February 6, 2017).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, called the law the theft of Palestinian land and a serious escalation. He said that the issue had to be turned over to the ICC now, and that an investigation had to be opened into Israel's crimes (Al Bawaba News, February 6, 2017).
- Usama al-Qawasmeh, Fatah spokesman, said all Israel's actions, including passing "false laws" to justify the construction in the settlements and authorization for thousands of apartments, would not give Israel the right or legitimization to remain on Palestinian lands. He added that Israel would not be able to enforce a false or imaginary peace on the Palestinians (Wafa, February 7, 2017).
Upper left: Cartoon mocking Mahmoud Abbas for continuing support of security cooperation and negotiations with Israel despite the new law (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 10, 2017). Lower left: Hamas cartoon showing Israel pouring black ink on Palestinian territories. The Arabic reads, "The Knesset passed a law for laundering the settlements in the West Bank" (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 8, 2017). Right: Demonstration in Ramallah organized by the National Initiative Movement to protest the law (Twitter account of Palinfo, February 11, 2017).
Palestinian Reactions to Proposed Muezzin Law
- The Israeli Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation authorized a compromise for the wording of the muezzin law, which limits the hours the muezzin can use loudspeakers in the minarets of mosques in order to keep the calls from disturbing the sleep of people living nearby. According to the compromise, mosques located in residential areas will not be able to use loudspeakers between 23:00 at night and 7:00 in the morning. Palestinians criticized the law, claiming it violated their freedom of worship:
- Yusuf al-Mahmoudi, spokesman for the Palestinian national consensus government, said the law violated freedom of worship in Jerusalem. He called on the Arab-Muslim states to intervene immediately to stop Israel's "dangerous escalation" (Wafa, February 12, 2017).
- Usama al-Qawasmeh, a member of the Revolutionary Council and a Fatah spokesman, said the proposed law was dangerous, would cause great tension and was offensive to Muslim sensibilities. The Muslims, he said, had the unconditional right to practice their religion. He claimed it was an Israeli attempt to blur the Islamic symbols of Jerusalem and a violation of international law and the UNESCO decision that the Jews had no religious or historical connection to Jerusalem (Wafa, February 12, 2017).
A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicle, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
On July 15, 2014, at the height of Operation Protective Edge, a number of rockets were fired at Eilat. Two of them landed in the city, one of the near a hotel. Another landed in a residential neighborhood. The military-terrorist wing of the Jerusalem Battalions, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), claimed responsibility for the firing the two rockets. At the time it was unclear whether PIJ operatives did, in fact, fire the rockets.
The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.