News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict March 31-April 7, 2009

Issued on: 08/04/2009 Type: Article

Photo courtesy of ZAKA, April 2, 2009
The scene of the terrorist attack at the community of Bat Ayn in the
Etzion Bloc north of Jerusalem (Photo courtesy of ZAKA, April 2, 2009).

Overview

 This past week terrorist activity focused on the axe murder of a 16 year-old boy by a Palestinian terrorist at the community of Bat Ayn in the Etzion Bloc, and the wounding of a seven year-old child. In an attack at the Shoket Junction northeast of Beersheba , a female terrorist from a nearby Bedouin village opened fire at a guard station at a Border Police Base; there were no casualties. In the western Negev , the trend toward a decrease in the extent of rocket and mortar shell fire continued, while terrorist squads continued to place IEDs near the border security fence.

 In the political arena, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the Israeli government would honor the agreements and commitments of previous governments based on the road map , but not the Annapolis process. Spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas responded angrily, attacking Lieberman and the new Israeli government. American President Barack Obama , speaking before the Turkish parliament, said that the �United States strongly supports the goal of two-states, Israel and Palestine , living side by side in peace and security.�

Important Events

The Gaza Strip

Rocket and mortar shell fire

 The trend toward a decrease in the extent of rocket and mortar shell fire continued this week. During the week two rocket hits and four mortar shell hits were identified. There were also two attempts to place IEDs, during which four terrorist operatives were killed. Most of the fire resulted from the IDF's activities to prevent the squads from placing IEDs:

•  March 31 : An IDF force identified four armed Palestinians placing an IED three kilometers northwest of the Kissufim post. The force opened fire at the IED with light arms and at the same time the Israeli Air Force struck the squad. Since no hit was identified, the IDF force attacked with mortar shells, killing two terrorist operatives ; two others fled the scene. A search revealed an anti-tank missile and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. During the incident two mortar shell were fired at the IDF force; one soldier sustained minor wounds.

•  April 4 : Three kilometers northeast of the Karni crossing an IDF force identified two terrorists placing an IED near the border security fence. The force opened fire with light arms and launched two mortar shell at the terrorists, killing two of them . Following the incident two mortar shell were fired three kilometers northeast of the Karni crossing. Hamas's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack (Hamas's PALDF forum). According to a different website, the squad belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees (Sawt Al-Hak website, April 4, 2009 ).

Weekly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire Since Operation Cast Lead

Israel

Shooting attack at the Shoket Junction northeast of Beersheba

 On April 4 a female terrorist from the Bedouin village of Hura in the Negev carried out a shooting attack near an Israel Border Police (Boarder Guards) base at the Shoket Junction. She approached a guard post and began shooting. There were no casualties. A Border Police officer who arrived from the direction of the junction shot and killed her (Ynet, April 4, 2009 ).

 A search of the house of the terrorist, Basma Awad al-Nabari, 16, revealed that she had written in her diary that she wanted to be a martyr �because of what they did to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead� (Ynet, April 4, 2009). Her parents were detained after the event and the police are examining their possible involvement. A police representative present at the deliberations to extend their detention said that documents had been found indicating that the suspects had ties to Hamas. He added that it was unlikely that a 16 year-old girl would take in upon herself to become a martyr ( Haaretz , April 6, 2009 ).

Judea and Samaria

Terrorist attack at a community in the Etzion Bloc, south of Jerusalem

Shlomo Nativ On April 2 a terrorist armed with an axe entered the community of Bat Ayn and murdered 16 year-old Shlomo Nativ, and wounded a seven year-old boy. One of the residents struggled with the terrorist and took the axe away from him, but the Palestinian fled the scene. The IDF began searching for him in the villages of Khirbet Safa, Surif, Beit Ummar and the surrounding area. As of this writing the murderer has not been captured.

 Initially, responsibility was falsely claimed by a group calling itself �the Squads of Imad Moughnieh and the Jerusalem Battalions/the Palestinian Islamic Jihad� (Ma'an News Agency, April 2, 2009 ). However, the PIJ later issued a denial, while praising the attack itself (PalToday website, April 2, 2009 ). As of this writing, it was apparently the work of a lone terrorist.

 The attack at Bat Ayn was one of a series of attacks and attempted attacks carried out during March:

•  March 21 : An explosion was heard in the parking lot at the entrance to the Lev Hamfratz mall near Haifa . Police forces arriving on the scene found a car containing tens of kilograms of explosives which had not detonated. The explosives were neutralized by police demolitions experts.

•  March 15 : Two policemen were killed in a shooting attack on the road running through the Jordan Valley near the community of Masua , in the center of the Valley. The two had stopped to help a vehicle parked on the side of the road and apparently in trouble. The terrorists, who pretended to have a flat tire, shot the police at close range and fled.

•  March 5 : A Palestinian terrorist driving a tractor rammed into a police patrol car in Jerusalem . He then lowered the blade on the car, which had been summoned to deal with an accident and was parked on the side of the street. The tractor crossed the intersection, rammed into the police car a number of times and pushed it into a lamp post and a bus in the oncoming lane. The two police in the patrol car sustained minor injuries. The driver of the tractor was shot and killed. [ Note : On April 7 there was another terrorist attack in East Jerusalem .]

Molotov cocktails and stones thrown in Judea and Samaria

 During the past week Palestinians continued throwing Molotov cocktails and stones:

•  April 1 : A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israel vehicle southeast of Qalqiliya. There were no casualties and no damage was done.

•  April 2 : A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle southeast of Nablus . There were no casualties and no damage was done. An IDF force found three Molotov cocktails ready for throwing.

•  April 7 : An Israeli civilian was serio

The Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead

The crossings between is and the Gaza Strip 

 This past week deliveries of humanitarian assistance continued through the Gaza Strip crossings at an average rate of 100 trucks a day.

Hamas fortifies its control of the Gaza Strip by improving the administration's capabilities

 During the past weeks since Operation Cast Lead Hamas has carried out a series of activities to rehabilitate and fortify its control over the Gaza Strip while stepping up the process of Islamization . Its objective is to send the message, especially to the Gazan population, that the damage done to it during the fighting was minor. To that end Hamas recently established an Islamic bank, improved its media capabilities, and accredited a new university, Al-Uma, which was recently established in the Gaza Strip (PalMedia website, April 1, 2009 ). It has also increased Islamic supervision of Gaza's ministry of agriculture, extended its control over patients leaving the Gaza Strip for treatment abroad, and has begin operating an Islamic insurance company called Al-Multazim ( Felesteen , March 18, 2009).

 On March 22 Hamas took over the Gazan department in the Palestinian Authority's ministry of health responsible for sending patients abroad for medical treatment. It was a result of the serious disagreements between Hamas and Fatah and Hamas and Egypt over authorizing the lists of patients who leave the Gaza Strip. Following Hamas's increased control over the issue, the number of patients leaving for Israel dropped dramatically. Since Operation Cast Lead an average of 25 patients has left the Gaza Strip to receive treatment in Israel , compared with an average of 80 who left before the operation.

Smuggling into the Gaza Strip

The tunnel industry

 Egypt continues its activities to prevent smuggling through tunnels into the Gaza Strip. On March 31 ten tunnels were uncovered, and stores of fuel earmarked for smuggling into Gaza were confiscated (Egyptian News Agency, March 31).

 On April 2, Al-Istiqlal , a newspaper affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, reported that large quantities of cement had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and that the quantities were growing �according to what can be arranged on the Egyptian side of the border.� Cement reaches the Gaza Strip through pipes or wrapped in packages. Its appearance on the market led to an increase in building, and when larger quantities are smuggled in its price is expected to fall.

Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incitement by a senior Hamas figure

 On April 3 Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a play put on at the Islamic University in Gaza City to mark the anniversary of the death of Hamas founder sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who died in a targeted killing. The play was rife with anti-Semitic libels, among them that Jews drink and wash their hands in Arab and Muslim blood as part of their rituals. 1

Al-Aqsa TV, April 3, 2009
Scenes from the play. Left: A Jewish father to his son, �We must wash our hands in Muslim blood.�
Right: The father says, �Jews hate Muslims. Jews like to kill Muslims.� (Al-Aqsa TV, April 3, 2009).

 On March 25, Mahmoud al-Zahar , senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, lectured before activists in the Al-Yakmuk refugee camp in Syria . He asked why, throughout history, the Jews had been massacred . His reply was that what had happened in the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead) provided an answer to the question [i.e., provided justification for massacring more Jews]. Referring to the internal Palestinian dialogue, he said that attempts were being made to force Hamas to recognize Israel , and said that �anyone among us who recognizes Israel will have his tongue cut out. Recognition of Israel means robbing you of your right and the right of your children to return to Palestine . Recognizing Israel means that you give up Jerusalem forever.� He also called on the PLO to �get up out of the grave and again wear the clothing of the resistance� [i.e., to adopt a policy of violence and terrorism] to liberate Palestine (Al-Aqsa TV, March 31, 2009 ).

 Anti-Semitic remarks with both European and Islamic roots are prevalent in Hamas. The Hamas charter (adopted in 1988) is full of anti-Semitic myths inspired by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion regarding the Jewish control of the media, movies and education, and makes the claim that Jews were behind revolutions and wars all over the world (Articles 17 and 22 of the Hamas charter). 2

The Peace Process

Israeli foreign minister�s speech and Palestinian responses

 On April 1, Israel 's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that the government of Israel would honor all the agreements and commitments of previous governments . He said that the only document which was binding and had been ratified by both the Israeli government and the UN Security Council was the road map . Therefore, he said, it was to the road map and not the Annapolis process , which had never been ratified by the Israeli government, that the new government was committed. He added that in the negotiations conducted by the new Israeli government regarding the implementation of the road map, every detail would be fully examined before the last stage was reached, regarding negotiations for the final status agreement (Israeli Foreign Ministry website in Hebrew).

 The Palestinian Authority and Hamas reacted angrily to Lieberman's remarks and their spokesmen attacked him and the new government:

•  The Palestinian Authority:

1) According to a statement summing up the weekly meeting of Salam Fayyad's government , �the Israeli government denies the principle of land in return for peace, the Annapolis process, the two-state solution and implementing arrangements and taking steps on the ground; [the government of Israel] is trying to create economic peace and a security scheme without a political plan...� The statement called on the international community to intervene immediately because Israel 's policy endangered the world (Wafa News Agency, April 6, 2009 ).

2) Nimr Hamad , advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, said that Lieberman's statement was negative and hurt any hope of an agreement (Qudsnet website, April 1, 2009 ). � Palestinian sources � close to Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority would refuse to renew any negotiations with Israel until its government openly recognized the two-state solution and stopped expanding the settlements. The sources said the Palestinians were apprehensive about the new Israeli government's policies as stated by Avigdor Lieberman, and added that Netanyahu had not even bothered to respond (Italian news agency AKI, April 6, 2009 ).

3) Saeb Erekat , head of the PLO negotiating team, called on the international quartet to oblige the government of Israel to abide by the two-state principle and to honor agreements already signed and to stop building in the settlements. He claimed that statements made by the prime minister and the foreign minister made it clear that Israel rejected the decisions of the Annapolis meeting, meaning that the new government had decided to slam the door in the face of the international community (Ma'an News Agency, April 2, 2009).

•  Hamas spokesmen attacked the new government and called on the Palestinians to return to the path of �resistance� [i.e., violence and terrorism] . Yussuf Zarka , advisor to Hamas de-facto administration head Ismail Haniya, called on the Palestinian Authority leadership to join the path of �resistance to the occupation.� He added that the statements made by Lieberman proved that the negotiations conducted by the previous government regarding the final status arrangement were �futile� ( Al-Bayan Center website, April 1, 2009 ). Usama Hamdan , Hamas representative in Lebanon , said that Lieberman's call to destroy Hamas would lead the entire region into another war (BBC Radio in Arabic, April 1, 2009 ).

The President of the United States supports the goal of two states

 American President Barack Obama, speaking before the Turkish parliament on April 6, said the following about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

�In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine , living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis and people of goodwill around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis . That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president of the United States .

�We know the road ahead will be difficult. Both Israelis and Palestinians must take steps that are necessary to build confidence and trust. Both Israelis and Palestinians, both must live up to the commitments they have made. Both must overcome long-standing passions and the politics of the moment to make progress towards a secure and lasting peace� (AP, April 6, 2009 ).

President Obama speaking before the Turkish parliament
President Obama speaking before the Turkish parliament
(Jim Young for Reuters, April 6, 2009).

 The quartet's special envoy to the Middle East, former British prime minister Tony Blair , who met with incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that � the only lasting peace is based on a two-state solution � (Reuters, Jerusalem , April 6, 2009 ). Fatah spokesman Fahmi al-Zaarir congratulated President Obama for saying that the Palestinian people had the right to an independent state which would live in peace and security with Israel , and asked that pressure be exerted on Israel to force it to adhere to decisions made by international institutions (Wafa News Agency, April 7, 2009 ).

President Obama may visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in early June

 According to a report by Akiva Eldar in the April 7 issue of Haaretz , a �diplomatic source� said that American president Obama might make a short visit to the Middle East at the beginning of June, during which he would speak with high-ranking Israeli politicians and visit Ramallah. As of this writing the report has not been officially confirmed.

The Internal Palestinian Arena

The internal Palestinian dialogue

 Fatah and Hamas delegations arrived in Egypt at the end of March and the beginning of April for another round of talks. One of the central topics about which no agreement has yet been reached is the fundamental political guidelines of the future Palestinian government (whether it will recognize Israel and be bound by previous PLO decisions or will adopt Hamas's ideology). In view of the disagreement, Omar Suleiman , head of Egyptian general intelligence, presented the delegations with a suggestion he called an �interim solution.� According to his proposal, Mahmoud Abbas will form a new government acceptable to the international community. It will operate until elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council and for the presidency can be held at the beginning of 2010. Omar Suleiman noted that the international community would work with the new Palestinian government only if it stated its acceptance of the principles of the international quartet, that is, the abandoning of terrorism, recognition of Israel and the commitment to fulfill agreements signed by the PLO with the government of Israel ( Al-Watan , April 3, 2009 ).

 Fatah seems to be willing to accept the proposal, while Hamas rejects it. Because of their basic disagreements, it was decided to postpone the deliberations until the end of April. In the meantime, Hamas and Fatah blame one another for the failure of the Cairo talks:

•  Nabil Shaath , a member of the Fatah delegation, said that Hamas's insistence on forming the national unity government had returned the dialogue to its starting point. He said that the future unity government would have to have clear guidelines which would include commitments to international agreements ( Al-Ukaz , April 4, 2009 ).

•  Azzam al-Ahmed , head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council, accused the Hamas delegation of coming to the talks without having changed its positions. He expressed hope that progress would be made at another round of talks and said that the �gates of dialogue are still open� (Wafa News Agency, April 2, 2009 ).

•  Khaled Mashaal , head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus , said that the United States and the quartet were responsible for postponing the dialogue by demanding that Hamas recognize Israel . He expressed his sorrow that the internal Palestinian dialogue was susceptible to pressures exerted on its participants and said that the Palestinians would not give up their principles but would continue �the path of struggle and resistance� (i.e., terrorism and violence). He also said that Israel was �transitory� and in they end the Palestinians would be victorious (Al-Jazeera TV, April 2, 2009 ).

•  Salah Bardawil , senior Hamas figure, said that the Fatah representatives had come to the talks without new proposals and were entrenched behind what they called �lines in the sand� (Filastin al-�An website, April 2, 2009 ).

 It was also reported that Mahmoud Abbas intended to extend the dialogue in Cairo by a few days. Should the negotiations fail, he will order the formation of a temporary government, headed by Salam Fayyad ( Al-Hayat , April 1, 2009 ).


�The Palestinian Dialogue� ( Al-Watan ).

Hamas calls on the Palestinian Authority to make terrorist attacks possible in Judea and Samaria

 Salah Bardawil , speaker of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council, called on the Palestinian Authority to stop its security coordination with Israel and its persecution of �resistance� [i.e., terrorist organization] operatives in the West Bank . He added that �Fatah and the Palestinian Authority should give the resistance a free hand to defend the Palestinian people� (Hamas's Palestine-Info website, April 5, 2009 ).

 Rafat Mara, editor of the monthly Filastin al-Muslimah and in charge of Hamas propaganda in Lebanon , wrote in the March 2009 issue about the disagreements which had been revealed by Operation Cast Lead. He said that there had been calls for processions in the West Bank to express solidarity with the Gazans and that doubt had been cast on the capabilities of the Palestinians in the West Bank . On the other hand, there were also those who called on the Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out �popular� and �military� actions (i.e., terrorist attacks) to support the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He added that he was one of those who �were eager for a more respectable role in the West Bank ...and with those who expected to hear the echo of a suicide bombing attack ...� He said that the main reasons such an operation was not carried out were the close collaboration of the Palestinian Authority with Israel and the persecution of the Hamas activists in the West Bank by the Palestinian security forces.

The Northern Arena

Hezbollah representative in Lebanese Parliament visits Britain

 On March 30 Hussein al-Hajj Hassan , Hezbollah representative in the Lebanese parliament, arrived in Britain at the invitation of British Parliament member Jeremy Corbin to launch the British branch of an international parliamentary association for supporting Palestine. During his visit Hassan met with political figures, journalists and members of the Houses of Lords and Commons ( Al-Hayat , April 2, 2009 ). In an interview with Radio Al-Nur on April 5, he denied that he was in contact with the British government and claimed that he had met only with members of Parliament. The British Foreign Office distanced itself from Hassan's visit, saying that it was the result of an invitation issued by a lone member of Parliament ( Al-Sharq Al-Awsat , April 1, 2009 ). Al-Hajj Hassan is the first Hezbollah representative to visit Britain since 2005, when the British government severed relations with the organization ( Al-Quds Al-Arabi , April 1, 2009 ).3

 In a lecture Al-Hajj Hassan gave on March 30, he said that � like France, Britain and every other nation which objected in the past, we reject terrorism and therefore we encourage the resistance � [meaningless doubletalk, since terrorism is called �resistance� by Hezbollah, its state sponsors and Palestinian terrorist organizations]. He stressed the importance of solidarity with the Palestinian people and Hamas ( Al-Sharq Al-Awsat , April 1, 2009 ).


1 A bulletin about the play and its anti-Semitism will be issued separately.

2 For further information see our January 2006 bulletin �The Hamas Charter� http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_charter.htm .

3 For Hezbollah's position on talks with Britain, see our bulletins entitled �Hezbollah senior activist Omar al-Moussawi stressed that while Britain's policy toward the organization had changed...� at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/Hebrew/heb_n/html/hezbollah_009.htm , and �Hezbollah welcomed the British policy of opening a direct dialogue channel, but made it clear to Britain and the United States that they would receive no political flexibility in return� at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hezbollah_e008.htm .

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