The funeral of the four Jews killed in the terrorist attack in Toulouse, held in Jerusalem (Photo by Shouki Lehrer, courtesy of ZAKA, March 22, 2012)
This past week Israel's south was relatively quiet.
The UN Human Rights Council, an anti-Israel agency based in Geneva, voted to appoint a fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. The Israeli prime minister strongly criticized the HRC. It was also reported (Haaretz) that Israeli was considering taking steps to punish the Palestinian Authority, which regards the vote as another victory in the international arena.
Palestinian media reporting about the administrative detentions has accelerated, focusing on Hana Shalabi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad administrative detainee. A military court, using reliable intelligence information, determined she was involved in preparations for a terrorist attack.
Preparations continue, made by organizations and activists, many of them Islamist, for a series of propaganda events planned for this coming Friday, March 30, 2012. The events include rallies and marches to Israel's borders from the neighboring countries, Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and within the borders of Israel itself ("Land Day"), as well as in many cities in the Middle East and around the world.
Israel's South Important Terrorism Events
This past week Israel's south was relatively quiet, and no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. The last rocket hit identified was in the western Negev on March 20. There were no casualties and no damage was done.
Rockets Fired into Israeli Territory 1
Note: The March tally includes 50 rockets from the Gaza Strip which were intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome aerial defense system during the latest round of escalation.
Roadside Bomb Neutralized near the Security Fence
IAn IDF force engaged in operational activities near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip uncovered an IED placed near the fence, intended for use in an attack against IDF soldiers. It was apparently placed there during the preceding week under cover of the fog which blanketed the region (IDF Spokesman, March 26, 2012).
The roadside bomb uncovered and neutralized near the security
fence in the southern Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, March 26, 2012)
Hamas Terrorist Operative Detained: Planned Suicide Bombing
and Soldier Abduction through the Sinai Peninsula
At the end of February 2012 Muhammed Hussein Awad Abu Ghadra, a resident of Rafah, was detained when he attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip. During interrogation he admitted that a year ago, in February 2011, having been involved in criminal acts, he fled from the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula through one of the tunnels. After spending a number of months in the Sinai Peninsula, he was approached by Yunis Shalouf, a resident of Rafah and an operative in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing, who asked him to collect intelligence for the organization.
Having agreed, he was smuggled back into the Gaza Strip, where he received a comprehensive military briefing and was told to collect intelligence about possible targets for terrorist attacks. A relative joined him and the two returned to the Sinai Peninsula. Throughout August 2011 they used sophisticated cameras and GPS to conduct observations and mark targets. They were also aided by local residents. Among the targets for which they collected intelligence were the Taba crossing from Israel into the Sinai Peninsula, IDF posts along the Israeli-Egyptian border and sites in the southern Israeli city of Eilat. They also infiltrated into Israeli territory a number of times.
The information was transmitted to the Gaza Strip where it was examined by senior Hamas operatives. Towards the end of 2011 Muhammad Abu Ghadra was asked to return to the Gaza Strip where he met with Raed Attar, a senior figure in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Rafah, who had been involved in the abduction of Gilad Shalit. Abu Ghadra agreed to fire anti-tank missiles at military and civilian targets along the Israeli-Egyptian border and to fire rockets from the Sinai Peninsula into Israeli territory. He said Raed Attar told him that the plan was to abduct an Israeli soldier. The infiltration of a squad of suicide bombers into Eilat was also planned. Muhammad Abu Ghadra said he had agreed to infiltrate the squad (Israel Security Agency, March 21, 2012).
Judea and Samaria
The Palestinian Campaign for the Prisoners
The Palestinians continue their campaign for the prisoners held in administrative detention. The issue has been widely covered by the Palestinian media, and demonstrations are held daily in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are involved in the Palestinian Authority campaign in Judea and Samaria in support of the prisoners and the protests. In the Gaza Strip Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists are involved, led by Fathi Hamad, minister of the interior in the de-facto Hamas administration.
The campaign focuses on Hana Shalabi, a female terrorist operative who has been on a hunger strike for more than 40 days. Hana Yehya Shalabi was born in 1982 and lives in Burqin, a village in the Jenin district of Samaria. She was detained in September 2009 because of her activity in the PIJ. According to our information, during interrogation she expressed herself in particularly violent terms and attempted to physically attack her interrogators. The interrogation did not provide legal proof sufficient to charge her according to criminal law, however, there was a great deal of reliable, varied and unequivocal intelligence information about her involvement in terrorist activity.
Hana Shalabi was brought before a military court for administrative affairs. On March 4, 2012, the court determined that the intelligence regarding her activities was factual and reliable, and that it unequivocally indicated her determination to carry out a terrorist attack whose preparations she had already begun. In addition, said the presiding judge, the intelligence information indicated that Shalabi had not engaged in idle boasting as the defense claimed, but that as noted, she had already begun preparations for an attack.
Gazans demonstrate in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike, especially Hana Shalabi
(Qassam.ps website, March 26, 2012).
The Situation in the Gaza Strip
The Energy Crisis
The energy crisis in the Gaza Strip has worsened and so far no permanent solution has been found. In light of the shortage of fuel and electricity, reports have increased of serious disruptions in daily life in the Gaza Strip. The crisis caused the de-facto Hamas administration to order fuel cuts (Safa News Agency, March 20, 2012).
The de-facto Hamas administration has come under serious criticism from the local Gazan population, manifested by demonstrations and stones thrown at public structures (Safa News Agency, March 23, 2012). Hamas, however, has tried to channel the local anger toward Egypt, Israel, Fatah and the PA (which was accused of stealing money meant to resolve the crisis). On March 23 Hamas organized mass marches in three locations whose theme was "lighting Gaza and exposing the plot." At rallies, speakers accused Israel and the PA of responsibility for the situation and called on Egypt to take action to end the crisis (Al-Aqsa TV, March 23, 2012). Previously, the issue caused Hamas and Egypt to engage in a mutual mud-slinging campaign.
Gazans demonstrate to protest the electricity crisis (Qassam.ps website, March 26, 2012).
"Senior Egyptian sources" strongly rejected the claims and criticism leveled at them by the de-facto Hamas administration, stating that Egypt was not responsible for the energy crisis in Gaza. According to the sources, the claims were "inexact," the Hamas administration had "invented" the crisis and was disseminating false information to avoid its [governmental] responsibilities for the Gaza Strip (Al-Hayat, March 21, 2012).
In any event, to ease the situation, the Egyptian authorities sent a lone delivery of 450 thousand liters (about 120,000 gallons) of diesel fuel from Israel to the Gaza Strip, paid for by the Palestinian Authority. However, that is the amount of fuel the Gaza Strip power plant uses in one day of activity. Thus on March 25, after the plant had provided electricity on March 23, it again suspended operations (Alresalah.net website, March 25, 2012).
Israel and the Palestinians
The UN Human Rights Council Appoints a Committee to Investigate the Settlements
On March 22 the UN's HRC in Geneva voted to condemn the State of Israel for the settlements in Judea and Samaria. It instructed a fact-finding mission to be appointed to investigate the implications of construction in the settlements for the Palestinians' civil, political, economic and cultural rights, including in East Jerusalem. Thirty-six HRC members voted in favor, ten abstained, and only the United States voted against.
Israel strongly criticized and objected to the HRC decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel ...[which] ought to be ashamed of itself. Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran. One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is. Another proof of its detachment from reality came last week when it invited before it a representative of Hamas, an organization whose ideology is based on the murder of innocents"2 (ITIC emphasis). It was also reported that in response Israel was weighing a series of steps to punish the PA and delay payment of Palestinian tax money (Haaretz, March 25, 2012).
The Palestinian Authority regards the decision to appoint a "fact-finding mission" as another victory in the international arena. Its spokesmen attacked Israel and condemned the United States' position:
Saeb Erekat, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and the head of its negotiating team, criticized the United States' position, saying that the vote against the decision was a grave mistake for American foreign policy. He also strongly denounced Israel's intention of punishing the PA following its appeal to the UN and to freeze the flow of PA tax money. He stated that the PA would take steps in response (Al-Quds, March 25, 2012). He was also reported as saying that the PA would continue its diplomatic efforts in the UN and other international agencies to reinforce "Palestine's" position in the international arena (Chinese News Agency, March 25, 2012).
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas' office, said that the HRC decision had sent Israel the message to stop violating international law and Palestinian rights (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, March 23, 2012).
Mustafa Barghouti, head of the so-called Palestinian National Enterprise (which deals with the BDS campaign to isolate Israel), said that Israel's intention to stop the flow of tax money to the Palestinian was "political piracy and extortion." He said that the response should be to close ranks, broaden the popular struggle and boycott Israeli products (Ma'an News Agency, March 25, 2012).
Terrorist Attack at the Jewish School in Toulouse
The four Jews murdered in Toulouse, Jonathan Sandler and his sons Aryeh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego, were laid to rest in Israel on March 22 in Jerusalem. Thousands of people participated in the funerals, among them Israeli government ministers and French Foreign Minister Alain Jupp�.
The funerals of the Jews murdered in the terrorist attack in Toulouse
(Photo by Shouki Lehrer, courtesy of ZAKA, March 22, 2012)
Within 48 hours of the attack, the French police managed to track down the terrorist who had murdered the four at the Jewish school in Toulouse as well as three French soldiers in a previous attack. He was Muhammad Merah, 24, a French citizen of Algerian descent who had lived in Toulouse for the past few years and worked in a garage. In recent years he had been in contact with radical Islamic elements and had gone to Afghanistan and Pakistan a number of times, where he may have also been trained by the Taliban.
After 32 hours during which Merah barricaded himself in the bathroom of his apartment, heavily armed, the police broke in. During the break-in he jumped out the window and began shooting, wounding two policemen, one of them critically. The police then shot and killed him.
After his death it was learned that in the past he had visited Israel, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. According to an Israel security investigation, he had passed through Israel in September 2010 on his way to Afghanistan. He entered the country from Jordan via the Allenby bridge. His name aroused suspicions and he was questioned, and when he was cleared of involvement in subversive activity he was permitted to enter. He entered on a French EU passport and was given a tourist visa , leaving three days later (Ynet, March 26, 2012)
1 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of March 27, 2012.