Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell (Israeli Government Press Office, April 23, 2010).
Relative quiet continued in the western Negev this past week. Three Grad 122mm rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula. Two fell into the sea near Eilat and one in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. In our assessment a network affiliated with the global jihad was responsible for the rocket fire.
George Mitchell, the American envoy to the Middle East, visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority on April 23-34 to prepare the ground for proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. His meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were not followed by an announcement that the talks would resume. The contacts are expected to continue.
Rocket and mortar shell fire
The western Negev was relatively quiet this past week. No rocket or mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory.
On April 25 light-arms fire targeted civilians engaged in non-military activities near the security fence. There were no casualties. On the same day, in a different area near the security fence an IDF force found three mines.
Rocket and mortar shell fired into Israeli territory 1
(December 2009 - April 2010)
Rocket Fire 2010, Monthly Distribution2
**As of April 27, 2010.
122mm Grad Rockets Fired at Eilat and Aqaba
On April 22 three Grad 122mm rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula at Eilat and Aqaba. One fell into the sea south of Eilat and the second in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. On April 24 divers found the third in the sea at a depth of 30 meters, 70 meters south of Eilat (IDF Spokesman, April 24, 2010).
Findings indicated that the rockets were apparently fired from the Sinai Peninsula, in our assessment, by a network affiliated with the global jihad. The last time 122mm Grad rockets were fired at Eilat from the direction of Jordan was in December 2005.
Judea and Samaria
Senior Hamas Operative Killed by IDF
Ali Ismail Ahmed Sweiti, a senior Hamas operative, was killed in a joint IDF-security forces operation in the village of Beit Awwa, west of Hebron, on April 26. He had been wanted by the Israeli security forces for a long time. An IDF force surrounded the building in which he was hiding, and when he did not respond to calls to surrender, the force opened fire and killed him (IDF Spokesman's website, April 26, 2010).
Ali Ismail Sweiti, 42, was a resident of Beit Awwa. He was recruited to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas� military-terrorist wing, in 2002. He was involved in planning and executing terrorist attacks, especially drive-by shootings and placing IEDs. Between 1999 and 2004 he carried out five attacks. In one, carried out on April 26, 2004, a Border Police officer Yaniv Mashiah was killed and two others were wounded. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website issued a formal announcement of his death (Al-Qassam website, April 26, 2010).
Senior Hamas figures related to Sweiti's killing as follows:
Ismail Radwan issued a press release accusing the Palestinian Authority of making it possible to �find and kill the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades commander in Hebron, Ali Sweiti.�
Musheir al-Masri said that Sweiti�s death would not go unavenged and accused the Palestinian Authority for involvement in his death (Hamas� Palestine-Info website, April 26, 2010).
�The shaheed, commander Ali al-Sweiti,� a poster on the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website (April 26, 2010).
Palestinian Youth from Judea and Samaria Detained with Knife in Afula
In the early hours of the morning on April 27 a Palestinian youth from Judea and Samaria came to the police station in the city of Afula (south of Haifa). A security check at the station�s entrance revealed a large knife. During interrogation he said that he had been sent to the city �to kill Jews� (Ynet, April 27, 2010).
The Israeli security forces continued their preventive counterterrorism activities, this past week, detaining several dozen Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons. Confrontations continued during riots in various locations of Judea and Samaria.
Stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing at Israeli vehicles continued this past week. Among the more prominent incidents were the following:
April 26 � A group of demonstrators near the security fence threw stones at a convoy which included the car of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, as it was driving in the eastern Lachish region. There were no casualties and no damage was done (Ynet, April 26, 2010).
April 26 � Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle southeast of Bethlehem. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, April 26, 2010).
April 25 � Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle east of Hebron. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, April 25, 2010).
April 24 � An IDF force found two pipe bombs near the security fence west of Jenin. The bombs were detonated by IDF explosives experts (IDF Spokesman, April 24, 2010).
April 24 � A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle northeast of Ramallah. There were no casualties and no damage was done (IDF Spokesman, April 24, 2010).
April 23 � Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle southwest of Bethlehem. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, April 23, 2010).
April 22 � Stones were thrown at an Israeli bus southeast of Nablus. There were no casualties but the bus was damaged (IDF Spokesman, April 22, 2010).
Counterterrorism Activities of the Palestinian Security Services
Following the detention of a senior Hamas operative near Nablus, the PA security services uncovered a number of Hamas weapons storehouses in the area. They contained hundreds of tons of explosives, ammunition and weapons. Sources in the PA said that the amounts of weapons were �unprecedented� and that their exposure prevented future attacks planned by Hamas in Judea and Samaria to be carried out in Israeli territory (Ali Waked for Ynet, April 26, 2010).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
Ships on Their Way to the Gaza Strip
Bulent Yildirim, president of the Turkish Islamic organization IHH, said his organization intended to send additional aid to the Gaza Strip also by air. He said ten ships and 500 (pro-Palestinian) activists would leave in the middle of May.3 Their objective was to �break the [so-called] siege of the Gaza Strip� (Filastin al-�Aan, April 26, 2010). Yildirim said that the activities of his organization had forced Israel to retreat somewhat from its position and to allow concrete and iron into the Gaza Strip (Egyptian News Agency, April 26, 2010).
Israel Helps Daughter of Fathi Hamad, Hamas Interior Minister, Receive Medical Treatment
Sources in the Gaza Strip reported that the three-year old daughter of Fathi Hamad, interior minister of the de facto Hamas administration, was sent to Jordan for medical treatment through the Erez crossing. She was hospitalized in the Barzilai Hospital in the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashqelon for initial medical treatment. Then she was transferred by helicopter to Jordan at the request of Abdallah, king of Jordan (Ma�an News Agency, April 24, 2010). Abdallah�s request was authorized by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi (Ynet, April 24, 2010).
Fathi Hamad, interior minister of the de facto Hamas administration
(Hamas� PALDF forum).
George Mitchell, American Envoy to the Middle East,
Visits Israel and the Palestinian Authority
George Mitchell, American envoy to the Middle East, visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority on April 23-24 to prepare the ground for proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. His meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were not followed by an announcement that the talks would begin. The contacts are expected to continue.
The main statements by Israel and the United States were the following:
Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the visit and emphasized his desire to work with President Obama to put the peace process in motion.
George Mitchell emphasized the American commitment to Israel�s security and said that he was �confident that our special relationship will only be strengthened in the months and years to come. I look forward to continuing our efforts with Israel to achieve comprehensive peace and security in the region, including a two-state solution�4 (Israeli Prime Minister�s website, April 23, 2010).
Senior figures in the Palestinian Authority said the following:
Mahmoud Abbas, PA chairman, repeated the Palestinian preconditions for restarting proximity talks with Israel, including the freeze on construction in the settlements and East Jerusalem, in accordance with the demand of the Arab League (Al-Ayyam, April 24, 2010).
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said that proximity talks would not begin in the coming days, but that contacts with the Americans would continue. He also said that as opposed to Israeli claims, the Palestinians did not consider a building freeze in the settlements as a precondition for negotiations (Wafa News Agency, April 23, 2010).
Yasser Abd Rabbo, secretary of the PLO�s executive committee, called Mitchell�s visit �positive.� He said that senior figures in the Palestinian Authority had been informed that the American administration would work with Israel until clear commitments had been received regarding the core issues, mainly freezing construction in Jerusalem. He said the Palestinians aspired to renewed negotiations, �but would demand clear Israeli commitment and American guarantees that the present situation would change� (Palestinian TV, April 24, 2010).
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with George Mitchell
(Safa News Agency, April 23, 2010).
Mahmoud Abbas� Speech at the Opening Session of Fatah�s Revolutionary Council
�Palestinian sources� reported that a number of senior Israeli and American figures, among them Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, transmitted a proposal from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Mahmoud Abbas to the effect that a Palestinian state with temporary borders be established. That should be in return for postponing deliberations on Jerusalem until the negotiations on the final status arrangement and the continuation of building in Jerusalem (Al-Hayat, April 24, 2010).
On April 24 Mahmoud Abbas referred to the issue in a speech delivered at the opening session of Fatah�s Revolutionary Council. He said the Palestinian Authority rejected the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders. He added that the Palestinians were determined to establish a state with the 1967 borders, according to the Road Map. He said that Jerusalem was the key to solving the conflict and that ending the [so-called] �occupation� of the city would be the basis for any future agreement (Ma�an News Agency, April 24, Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, April 25, 2010).
The speech was broadcast by Palestinian TV on April 24, and its main points were the following:
Israel: �The Israeli stubbornness and refusal have become more extreme by their adherence to continuing [building in] the settlements and causing a historic opportunity for peace to fail.�
Borders: �There are international borders between Israel and Palestine, as [between Israel and] Egypt, and not a �cease-fire line� as Israel claims. The Palestinians will agree only to slight mutual modifications in our borders, provided that our borders and territories will remain as they are now.�
A state with temporary borders: �The Palestinians will absolutely not agree to a state with temporary borders.�
Jerusalem: �The end of the occupation of Jerusalem is the most important issue and will be the basis for a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.�
The United States: Mahmoud Abbas expressed his estimation for the �brave American position� regarding �the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and a solution for the core issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and borders, [a solution which is] a strategic American interest, not only Palestinian or Israeli.�
The �resistance�: �The Palestinian people must bravely maintain the �popular resistance� to defend its homes, holy places and land.� He again repeated his objection to an "armed resistance�.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the opening session of the
Fatah Revolutionary Council conference (Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, April 25, 2010).
1 The statistics do not include the mortar shells fired at IDF soldiers patrolling the border fence which fell inside the Gaza Strip.
2 The statistics refer to rocket hits identified in Israeli territory. A similar number misfired and landed inside the Gaza Strip.
3 �For further information see the April 7, 2010 bulletin, "The Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip and pro-Palestinian organizations in Europe are planning a flotilla of aid to the Gaza Strip . The coordinators of the �ship intifada� want to avoid confrontation with the Egyptians but are taking into account confrontation with the Israeli navy backed by media and diplomatic campaigns" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e100.pdf.