News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (March 16-23, 2010)

Issued on: 24/03/2010 Type: Article


Anti-Israeli incitement
Anti-Israeli incitement continues in the Palestinian Authority: Palestinian demonstrators near the Qalandia roadblock (Photo: Mohamad Torokman for Reuters, March 19, 2010).
 
Incitement to violence
Incitement to violence: �There is no voice but the voice of the intifada,� a paraphrase of the Fatah slogan, �There is no voice but the voice of battle� (From the Fatah Internet forum, March 15, 2010).

Overview

 This past week there was a significant increase in the amount of rocket fire which targeted the western Negev (nine identified hits in Israeli territory and five in the Gaza Strip). One of the rockets killed a Thai worker in the greenhouse of the village of Netiv Ha�asara, the first civilian killed by rocket fire since Operation Cast Lead. However, there was a decrease in the rioting in Jerusalem, Hebron and other points of friction in Judea and Samaria.

 This past week anti-Israeli incitement continued in the Palestinian Authority, even as the PA tried to contain the riots and prevent them from spinning out of control. Spokesmen affiliated with the PA reported in the media that the Palestinians did not seek a third intifada but continued the popular struggle.

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Important Events

Gaza Strip

IDF Soldier Killed by Friendly Fire in the Central Gaza Strip

 A tank crew carrying out routine activities in the central Gaza Strip saw three suspicious figures crossing the security fence into Israeli territory and set out in pursuit. A Golani patrol sent as backup mistakenly identified the tank crew as suspicious Palestinians and opened fire, killing First Sergeant Gabriel Cepic. The three infiltrators were detained for questioning (IDF Spokesman, March 22, 2010).

First sergeant Gabriel Cepic
First sergeant Gabriel Cepic (IDF Spokesman's website, March 23, 2010).

Worker Killed by Rocket Fire

 This past week there was a significant increase in the number of rockets fired into the western Negev, with nine identified rocket hits. Five other rockets fell inside the Gaza Strip.

 On March 18 a rocket hit a greenhouse in the village of Netiv Ha�asara, killing a Thai worker. He was the first rocket fire victim since Operation Cast Lead.

 A number of terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. Most of them reported firing rockets at Ashqelon. Hamas did not participate in the rocket fire. Among the organizations claiming responsibility were:

  • Various networks belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, which claimed the rockets targeted Ashqelon (Hamas� Palestine-Info website, March 18, 2010).

  • Fatah�s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which claimed responsibility for a rocket attack targeting Sderot (Fatah forum, March 18, 2010), and for firing rockets as what they called a response to �the excavations under Al-Aqsa mosque� (Al-Ahed, March 22, 2010).

  • Fatah�s Ayman Jouda Squads, which claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Sderot and villages in the western Negev in retaliation for what they called �the Judaization of the holy places� (Ayman Jouda Squads website, March 19; Al-Quds, March 20, 2010).

  • Supporters of the Sunnah, an network� affiliated with the global jihad, which has recently often claimed responsibility for rocket fire (Al-Arabiya TV�s website, March 18; Hamas� PALDF forum, March 23, 2010).

  • The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed it fired rockets as a response to what it called the Judaization of Jerusalem and the continued building in the settlements (Qudsnet website, March 22, 2010).

 One of the rockets which fell near Sderot was a 115mm rocket, similar in technology to rockets in the hands of Hamas but not the other terrorist organizations. It may have been fired by rogue operatives within Hamas, or a Hamas rocket may have been transferred to a different terrorist organization.

Rocket and mortar shell fired into Israeli territory 1

Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israeli territory

Israeli Air Force Attacks in Response to the Rocket Fire

 In response to the rocket fire the Israeli Air Force carried out a number of attacks:

  • On March 19 the IAF attacked six targets in the Gaza Strip, among them a weapons storehouse and several tunnels used to smuggle weapons. It also attacked a building at the Dahaniya airport (in the central Gaza Strip). According to Palestinian reports, a lathe in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City was completely destroyed. According to the Hamas television station, the attacks on the tunnels wounded 15 Palestinians, three of them critically (Sawt Al-Aqsa, March 19, 2010).

  • On March 22 the IAF attacked a tunnel in the Dahaniya airport.

  • On March 23 the IAF attacked a weapons storehouse in Gaza City.

Hamas Continues its Policy of Restraint

 According to Fatah sources, Hamas� security forces continue to prevent rocket fire. To that end they have deployed security forces and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, primarily in the northern Gaza Strip (from where most rockets are fired). Their preventive activities include detaining squads which intended to fire rockets, confiscating rockets and an wave of detentions and raids on houses in the eastern and northern Gaza Strip. According to a senior source in the Ayman Jouda Squads, Hamas sent SMS messages to warn operatives not to fire rockets and demanding that they stop (Fatah forum, March 19, 2010).

 It was also reported that the Hamas security forces confronted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives, and that on March 16 they detained three of them who were about to fire a rocket into Israeli territory. They also detained two of Fatah�s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives (Fatah forum, March 18, 2010).

 Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Hamas had information about the organizations behind the rocket fire and that Hamas� security forces were following them (Al-Alam TV, March 20, 2010). The next day Hamas broadcast an announcement to clarify al-Zahar�s statement, which it claimed had been misinterpreted. According to the broadcast, Hamas continued its support of the �resistance� [i.e., terrorist attacks] and that al-Zahar had been referring to organizations and operatives affiliated with the global jihad (Safa News Agency, March 21, 2010).

 Sources within Hamas accused Israel of responsibility for the recent escalation. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Israeli government, which had declared war on the Palestinians and the holy places, was responsible for the escalation (Reuters, March 18, 2010). He also said that the Palestinians had the right to defend themselves from Israel�s actions and asked the rest of the world to restrain Israel (Hamas� Palestine-Info website, March 18, 2010).

Judea and Samaria

Counterterrorism Activities

 This past week rioting continued in many locations in Judea and Samaria. The rioters confronted Israeli security forces and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at them. There were two attempted attacks on IDF forces. In addition, there was an increase in the number of stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli vehicles.

 The Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining dozens of Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist activity and confiscating weapons. A number of Palestinian rioters were also detained.

 Among the events were the following:

  • March 22 � Palestinians opened fire on an IDF patrol southeast of Hebron. There were no casualties and no damage was done.

  • March 21 � Stones were thrown at Israeli vehicles east of Qalqiliya, west of Bethlehem and south of Bethlehem. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle� southeast of Qalqiliya. There were no casualties but the vehicles were damaged (IDF Spokesman, March 21, 2010).

  • March 20 � Two Palestinians used pitchforks in an attempt to attack an IDF force on patrol southeast of Nablus. In response the force shot and killed them. The IDF did not suffer casualties (IDF Spokesman, March 21, 2010).�

Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad pays a condolence to the homes of the two Palestinians killed
attempting to attack IDF soldiers (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, March 23, 2010).

  • March 19 � A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle� southeast of Qalqiliya. There were no casualties and no damage was done (IDF Spokesman, March 19, 2010).

  • March 17 � A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle� east of Qalqiliya. There were no casualties and no damage was done (IDF Spokesman, March 19, 2010).

  • March 16 � A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle� northeast of Ramallah. There were no casualties and no damage was done (IDF Spokesman, March 16, 2010).

The Political Situation

The Quartet Calls on Israel to Freeze Building in the Settlements
and Not to Destroy Buildings in Jerusalem

 The International Quartet (the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union) issued a statement summarizing its meeting in Moscow on March 19. The main points were the following:2

  • Proximity talks � The Quartet believes the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a resolution of the final status issues. The talks should lead to negotiations which will end the occupation of 1967 and the establishment of an independent, democratic state living side by side with Israel.

  • The settlements � The Quartet urges the Israelis and Palestinians to adhere to the Roadmap and calls on Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth [sic], dismantle outposts erected since 2001 and to refrain from demolitions in East Jerusalem. Both sides are asked to refrain from provocative statements and inflammatory rhetoric, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity.

  • Jerusalem � The international community does not recognize the annexation of East Jerusalem and its status must be solved through negotiations between the parties. The Quartet condemns the decision of the government of Israel to build new housing units in East Jerusalem and plans to monitor the developments in Jerusalem.

  • The establishment of a Palestinian state � The Quartet supports the Palestinian Authority�s plan to establish an independent Palestinian state. The Quartet takes positive note of Israel�s steps to ease restrictions of movement in the West Bank and endorses fully Prime Minister Fayyad�s state-building and economic development program.

  • The situation in the Gaza Strip � The Quartet is deeply concerned by the growing deterioration in the Gaza Strip, including the humanitarian situation. It calls for an end to the smuggling of weapons and for Palestinian unity and the reunification of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. It also calls for the opening of the Gaza Strip crossings, and for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.

 Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad praised the Quartet�s statement and said that a mechanism had to be devised and steps taken to translate its positions into action, especially everything concerning construction in the settlements (Wafa News Agency, March 20, 2010).

Al-Ayam, March 19, 2010
George Mitchell on the treadmill of indirect negotiations (Al-Ayam, March 19, 2010).
 
Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, March 23, 2010
The crisis in American-Israeli relations (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, March 23, 2010).

The Palestinian Authority Works to Prevent a Third Intifada

 During the past week there was a marked decrease in the extent of the riots in Jerusalem, Hebron and other friction sites. Side by side with the calls made by senior Fatah and Palestinian Authority figures for Palestinians to demonstrate and protest, the PA has invested efforts on the ground and in the media to prevent the riots from escalating into a third intifada

  • Muwafaq Matar, who writes for the Palestinian Authority�s official newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, published a column which strongly attacked Hamas� attempt to escalate the situation into a third intifada in Judea and Samaria by exploiting the tension in Jerusalem. According to the column, Hamas knows that shots here and there fired by Palestinians will only help extricate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his recent political isolation. Hamas, it said, wants to call the masses out into the streets �so that [Hamas] will be able to watch Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroy the foundations of an independent Palestinian state.� It also claimed that Hamas was �collaborating with the Devil� in its efforts to weaken the Palestinian Authority and institute �a Muslim Brotherhood state like that in the Gaza Strip� in Judea and Samaria (Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, March 18, 2010).

  • On March 17 the Palestinian Authority security forces initiated a wave of detentions of the rioters in Judea and Samaria who ignored the ban on demonstrations. The media reported that according to eye witnesses, dozens of young people who participated in a demonstration against Israel�s actions in Jerusalem and the dedication of the Hurva synagogue were ordered to go to interrogation centers in various cities in Judea and Samaria. Similar orders were sent to mosque preachers who had incited the public to demonstrate in support of the holy places of Islam in Jerusalem (Al-Bayan Center website, March 18, 2010).
Palestinian rioters near the Qalandia roadblock
Palestinian rioters near the Qalandia roadblock (Wafa News Agency, March 19, 2010)
 
Palestinian Authority riot control police deny Palestinians in Bethlehem access to locations of friction
Palestinian Authority riot control police deny Palestinians in Bethlehem access to locations of friction (Al-Quds, March 19, 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 http://sofiaecho.com/2010/03/19/875958_middle-east-quartets-march-19-statement-in-moscow

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