Implementing the lull arrangement (Updated to June 29, 4 p.m.)

Issued on: 29/06/2008 Type: Article

Amir Cohen for Reuters

Goods again delivered to the Gaza Strip: a convoy of trucks on their way to the Sufa crossing (Amir Cohen for Reuters, June 29).

Overview

1. Despite the lull arrangement, sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire has continued, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations using the excuse of Israeli violations. Most conspicuous among those networks are the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and groups within Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the Gaza Strip. The objective of the rocket and mortar shell fire is not only to protest so-called Israeli violations of the arrangement but to make Hamas aware of their reservations regarding the lull, especially the fact that it does not include Judea and Samaria . As in the past, internal Palestinian rivalries and power struggles make it difficult to fully implement the lull arrangement, even though Hamas has a vested interest in its implementation and the other terrorist organizations pay lip service to honoring it.

2. Hamas, for its part , has frequently reiterated its commitment to the lull and its dissatisfaction with the violations carried out by the PIJ, and even more so by the Fatah networks in the Gaza Strip. However, so far Hamas has avoided directly confronting the rogue organizations, preferring to enforce the lull's conditions through persuasion, forming joint committees, setting up a situation room to exert pressure on the terrorist organizations which violate the lull, and enlisting the help of Egypt to exert pressure on those organizations.

Al-Alam TV, June 28
Ihab al-Ghussin, spokesman for the Hamas administration's interior ministry,
announcing the establishment of a situation room to manage the lull (Al-Alam TV, June 28).

3 . So far Israel has refrained from a military response to the terrorist organization violations of the lull arrangement, despite its foreign minister's call to do so. So far Israel has made do with closing the Gaza Strip crossings for five days, reopening some of them on June 29.

The situation on the ground 2

4. On June 26 a rocket was fired at Sderot. A Fatah network calling itself the Imad Moughnieh Squad of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility. Abu Qusai , the organization's spokesmen, told the media that by firing the rocket the Squad was sending a double message : the first was a warning to Israel not to violate the lull arrangement, and the second was the demand, directed at those parties behind the arrangement (i.e., Hamas and Egypt), that it had to include the West Bank. He noted that his organization was committed to the lull but denied that the arrangement enjoyed national consensus. He appealed to Abu Mazen to announce that the lull committed Israel to implementing it in all the Palestinian Authority-administered territories (Ma'an News Agency, Ramattan News Agency, BBC, Radio Sawt al-Quds, Al-Jazeera TV, June 26).

Al-Alam TV, June 28   Al-Jazeera TV, June 26

Left: the rocket fired by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Al-Alam TV, June 26).
Right: claiming responsibility by telephone (Al-Jazeera TV, June 26).

5. On June 27 two mortar shells were fired mortar shell was fired at the Karni crossing, and another one on June 28. There were no casualties and no damage was reported. No organization claimed responsibility for the attacks.

6. Summary of violations of the lull arrangement to date:

Date

Type of violation

Organization

Comments

June 24

Mortar shell fire

Unknown

 

June 24

Three rocket hits identified in Sderot

PIJ

The organization claimed the rocket fire was in retaliation for the killing of one of its senior operatives in Nablus . Note: Judea and Samaria are not included in the lull arrangement.

June 26

Rocket hit identified in an open field near Kibbutz Gevim.

Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

A spokesman for the organization said its objective was to warn Israel and demand that Hamas and Egypt extend the lull to the West Bank .

June 27

Two mortar shells fired at the Karni crossing.

Unknown

 

June 28

A mortar shell fired at the Karni crossing.

Unknown

 

7. Rocket and mortar shell fire since the beginning of the lull arrangement

Rocket and mortar shell fire since the beginning of the lull arrangement

Total: Three mortar shells and four rockets were fired at Israel in five separate violations of the lull arrangement

Hamas responds angrily to Fatah's rocket fire

8. Senior Hamas figures were furious with the rocket fire carried out by the Fatah networks in the Gaza Strip, and threatened to detain any party trying to sabotage the lull:

i) Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Fatah had violated the lull for narrow political gains at the expense of the national interest, which Hamas would take any step necessary to preserve (Palestine-info website, June 26).

ii) Hamas administration spokesman Taher al-Nunu said that whoever violated the lull would bear the responsibility "before the people and the law” (PalMedia website, June 26).

iii) Ziyyad al-Zaza , Ismail Haniya's deputy and finance minister in the Hamas administration, said that every such event widened the internal Palestinian schism (BBC, June 26).

9. On the other hand, Zakharia Zubeidi, senior Fatah operative in Jenin, said that the "central leadership of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip” was responsible for the rocket fire. He said that Hamas did not represent the Gazan at all but only itself. He also said that Hamas has agreed to the lull arrangement the sake of its own interests, and therefore Fatah was fully entitled to attack Israel wherever and whenever it chose (BBC, June 26). On the other hand, Saeb Erekat , the PLO's chief negotiator, called upon all the organizations to honor the lull because it was a "supreme Palestinian interest” and above any other consideration (Voice of Palestine Radio, June 28).

The Gaza Strip crossings
(as of noon, June 29)

10. On Friday the Nahal Oz fuel terminal reopened in a limited fashion for a short time after two days of closure. "Israeli security sources” said that so far Israel 's response to the lull violations focused on closing the crossings, but that if necessary other actions would be taken. The sources said that if the lull was maintained Israel would fulfill its part of the arrangement (Ynet, June 28).

11. A meeting called by the Israeli deputy defense minister on June 28 decided that some of the crossings would be reopened for the delivery of goods on Sunday, June 29:

i) The Sufa crossing : opened for the passage of merchandise on June 29; 90 trucks are expected to pass through.

ii) The Nahal Oz crossing : open

iii) The Erez crossing : open for Palestinians with humanitarian problems (was not closed)

iv) The Karni crossing : closed

v) The Rafah crossing : closed

12. As far as the Rafah crossing is concerned, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said that Egypt would decide whether to open or close it and that the issue did not depend on finding a solution for the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit (Al-Akhbar, June 26). Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas was waiting for an Egyptian invitation to discuss a prisoner exchange deal and the operation of the Rafah crossing (Al-Risala, June 26).

Felesteen, June 24 
The key to lifting the blockade is the Rafah crossing (Felesteen, June 24).

Responses to the closing of the crossings

13. Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad , currently in Prague , one stop on a visit to European countries, held a press conference at which he called upon Israel to open the crossings, claiming that there were 1.5 million Palestinians who felt "they have nothing to lose” (Agence France Presse, June 26). Hamas spokesmen called the closing of the crossings "a violation of the lull:”

i) Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Israel had exploited the PIJ rocket fire to impose "collective punishment” on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He said that Hamas was in contact with Egypt regarding the closing of the crossings (Al-Risala, June 26).

ii) Sami Abu Zuhri said that if the crossings remained closed the lull would become meaningless. He said that the continued commitment of all the organizations in the Gaza Strip to the lull arrangement depended on the opening of the crossings (Reuters, June 26).

The issue of the abducted soldier, Gilad Shalit

14. On June 27 Ofer Dekel, the prime minister's representative for the issue of captive and missing soldiers, returned from Cairo after his first series of talks with Egyptian intelligence officials since the lull went into effect. At the same time, Egypt also held talks with Hamas representatives. Ofer Dekel, in his talks in Egypt , tried to establish new procedures by instituting a mechanism which would commit the parties, uninfluenced by the situation of the Israel-Gaza Strip border, committing the sides to continuing negotiations for Gilad Shalit's release. Israeli security sources have noted "a certain sense of progress” at least in the atmosphere between the sides. A new round of contacts is expected shortly. (Haaretz, June 29).

Hamas's reaction to the violations of the lull

15. The heads of the Hamas movement continued noting the importance of the lull, while criticizing (sometimes severely) those Palestinians organizations w hich violated it:

i) Dr. Osama al-Muzeini said that beginning the lull in the Gaza Strip did not mean than Palestinian blood could be shed in the West Bank . He said that the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and other organizations were free to respond in the West Bank to "Israeli aggression.” He also said that the consideration for beginning the lull in the Gaza Strip had been the blockade, adding that Abu Mazen was responsible for extending the lull arrangement to the West Bank (Al-Risala, June 26).

ii) Mahmoud al-Zahar related to the accusations against Israel for having shot and wounded a farmer in the Gaza Strip on June 25. He said that the veracity of the information had to be ascertained after the medical reports showed that the wound had been caused by a stray bullet. He said that there were parties who opposed the lull and therefore were spreading rumors about violations (Al-Risala, June 26).

iii) Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri attacked the Fatah networks in the Gaza Strip for having fired rockets to "serve partisan goals” and settle political accounts with Hamas. He claimed that they wanted the rockets to serve as an excuse for Israel to close the crossings and continue the blockade. He called upon Fatah to take action in the West Bank and not to persecute members of the "resistance” (i.e., terrorist organizations) who were "the authentic Palestinian force” (Al-Aqsa TV, June 26).

iv) Columnists for Hamas's daily Felesteen criticized the PIJ for having violated the lull. They claimed that the PIJ had been hasty, and that there was no logical reason for violating the lull in the Gaza Strip because of something that happened in the West Bank, and not only that, but the PIJ had committed itself to honoring the arrangement. They were of the opinion that by rushing, the PIJ had not taken into consideration the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt

16. So far there had been no official Egyptian reaction to the rocket attacks against Israel . According to the Egyptian daily Al-Badil, on June 25 Egypt sent a stern reprimand to the PIJ for its violation of the lull. A "well-informed source” told the paper that Egypt had asked the PIJ to commit itself to the lull and to respond to Israeli attacks in the same place they occurred, that is, the West Bank and not the Gaza Strip (Al-Badil, June 26).


1 Follow-up of our June 27 Bulletin, "Implementing the arrangement for a lull in the fighting" (Updated to June 26, 4 p.m.) .

2 Updating above-mentioned bulletin.

Additional Bulletins