Interim Findings of the Profile of Palestinians Who Were Killed in Confrontations with Israeli Security Forces in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (October 3 – November 22, 2015)

Issued on: 16/12/2015 Type: Article

Left: The military funeral held for Mahmoud Sayyid Alian. Operatives of the Palestinian national security forces carry his body. Right: Mahmoud Sayyid Alian, 20 from the village of Anata, who was wounded during a riot near Beit El and later died (Picture from the Jordanian TV network Roya and reposted to the Facebook page of Anata News, November 20, 2015). He was a Fatah operative and had been on the front lines of many previous riots.
Left: The military funeral held for Mahmoud Sayyid Alian. Operatives of the Palestinian national security forces carry his body. Right: Mahmoud Sayyid Alian, 20 from the village of Anata, who was wounded during a riot near Beit El and later died (Picture from the Jordanian TV network Roya and reposted to the Facebook page of Anata News, November 20, 2015). He was a Fatah operative and had been on the front lines of many previous riots.

Overview

1.   This study follows the first two ITIC analyses of the profiles of Palestinians killed while carrying out terrorist attacks in Judea, Samaria and Israel during the current terrorist campaign.[1] This study profiles Palestinians killed during riots in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

2.   This study does not present conclusive findings as to whether the profile of the rioters killed represents the rioters in general or primarily those in the front lines. In ITIC assessment it presents the traits of those who were bold enough to confront the IDF security forces head on, knowing they were likely to be harmed (some of them took the risk many times). On the other hand, most of the Palestinians who participate in the riots (students, school children, women) stay to the rear and do not come into direct contact with the Israeli security forces. Therefore, their profile may be somewhat different from that of those who were killed.

3.   The Palestinians killed during riots were for the most part young, between the ages of 18 and 27, and unmarried (there is a wide distribution of ages). Some of them (although not many) were university students or school children. Most of them came from Hebron, Jerusalem and the Ramallah region. They tended to participate riots near where they lived. The main focal point for the riots is Hebron and its surroundings, and after it Jerusalem, Ramallah and BethlehemThe profile of those killed in riots is not basically different from the profile of Palestinians killed while carrying out stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks during the current terrorist campaign.

 

Left: Palestinians throw Molotov cocktails at IDF forces in Bab al-Zawiya in Hebron (Facebook page of QudsN, October 10, 2015). Right: A Palestinian throws a Molotov cocktail during a riot in Al-Bireh (Wafa News Agency, November 16, 2015).
Left: Palestinians throw Molotov cocktails at IDF forces in Bab al-Zawiya in Hebron (Facebook page of QudsN, October 10, 2015). Right: A Palestinian throws a Molotov cocktail during a riot in Al-Bireh (Wafa News Agency, November 16, 2015).

4.   The traits common to most of the rioters are that they are young and affiliated to varying degrees with the Palestinian organizations, especially Fatah (in Judea and Samaria) and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) (in the Gaza Strip). That was evidenced by their online biographies, the large number of death notices issued by the various organizations, the "governmental" funerals held for them in Judea and Samaria, and the condolence calls paid by senior figures (from the PA, Fatah and Hamas) to the families of Palestinian terrorists who were killed. That may indicate that the riots are more organized and institutionalized than the personal, spontaneous attacks carried out during the current terrorist campaign.

 

5.   Another finding was the relatively large number of "professional demonstrators" who had previously participated in many riots. Some of them were even detained or imprisoned in Israel. That finding supports the argument that the riots lack spontaneity and are more organized.

The Nature of the Violent Confrontations

6.   For the past three months the Palestinians have been waging a popular terrorist campaign against Israel characterized by stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks. The campaign has been accompanied by almost daily confrontations with the Israeli security forces in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem which turn into riots. There are also riots, although smaller in scope, in the Gaza Strip. Gazans congregate near the border security fence and violently confront IDF forces.

7.   During riots Palestinians throw stones, rocks and Molotov cocktails, burn tires and occasionally shoot at the Israeli security forces. In several instances, rioters have been killed and wounded, and riot-linked deaths account for more than a third of the total number of Palestinians killed in the current terrorist campaign.

8.   As opposed to the stabbing and vehicular attacks, most of which are carried out by spontaneously and without previous planning, the riots are more organized and orchestrated. Several times a week calls are made to the Palestinian public to participate in riots, sometimes after a "day of rage" has been declared. The calls appear in the Palestinian media (including those affiliated Fatah) and are posted to the social networks. The organized riots are usually held on Tuesdays and Fridays at prominent locations, such as the main junction at the northern entrance of Ramallah.

9.   Fatah is prominent among the organizers of riots in Judea and Samaria. Fatah, along with the PA, regards the riots as an important aspect of "popular resistance" strategy. In addition, many riots are also organized by the various terrorist organizations (Hamas, the PIJ, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Sometimes demonstrations and riots are organized by the student organizations affiliated with the various organizations (which bus students to riot sites), NGOs, trade unions and even school children.

10.       Riots held along the border security fence in the Gaza Strip accompany the current terrorist campaign. In most cases Hamas does not organize them but does allow them to be held. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, allows the Gazans to let off steam and express their support for the terrorist campaign in Judea and Samaria. In some instances operatives from Hamas and other terrorist organizations have been identified among those killed in the riots, but they probably are a minority of the rioters. Hamas also does not back up the popular events with rocket fire and forbids the other terrorist organizations from firing rockets (the level of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip during the current terrorist campaign has been low.[2])

11.       As opposed to the two previous intifadas, the current terrorist campaign is not (yet) a mass phenomenon (dozens and hundreds of participants rather than many thousands). That is because the PA and Fatah are careful to contain the riots and keep them from spinning out of control, and because most of the Palestinian public refrains from answering the call, since they are involved in dealing with their daily lives. The calls for "days of rage" have also not brought the Palestinian masses into the streets. Special events, such as the funerals of shaheeds, the razing of terrorists' houses and detentions carried out by the Israeli security forces lead to temporary, localized rises in the number of rioters and the level of friction, but generally speaking they do not lead to mass rioting.

Left: Palestinian rioters burn tires near the security fence in Abu Dis (Facebook page of PALDF, December 5, 2015). Right: Palestinian rioters confront IDF forces in Bethlehem (Wafa News Agency, December 4, 2015).
Left: Palestinian rioters burn tires near the security fence in Abu Dis (Facebook page of PALDF, December 5, 2015). Right: Palestinian rioters confront IDF forces in Bethlehem (Wafa News Agency, December 4, 2015).

12.       The following are characteristics of the rioting at the various locations:

1)     Judea and Samaria

A)     During the six years of the so-called "popular resistance" strategy riots have usually been held in Judea and Samaria on Fridays at the traditional friction points, especially in the villages near the security fence (among them Bil'in, and Ni'lin, which became symbols). Sometimes riots have been held because for specific reasons, which then spread to other locations in Judea and Samaria. For a long time the release of Palestinian prisoners and local issues in the villages near the security fence were the focus of the weekly riots.

B)     During the current terrorist campaign other locations were headlined, such as the junction at the northern entrance to Ramallah (called by the IDF "the Judea and Samaria Square") which has become a main arena for riots.[3] Violence is directed mainly at the Israeli security forces and includes the throwing of stones, rocks, sabotaging and Molotov cocktails, the security fence and rioting against the Israeli security forces along with stabbing and vehicular attacks, are defined by Mahmoud Abbas and the PA as "non-violent popular resistance."

C)    According to IDF Colonel Israel Shumer, the local IDF brigade commander, a new feature of the current terrorist campaign is the increased presence of women and young people at the riots (IDF Radio, December 8, 2015). Also notable are increase in the boldness of the rioters and the fact that that since the beginning of the campaign there has been a significant decrease in confrontations between Jewish residents and the Palestinians, as the main focus has shifted to Palestinian rioters confronting Israeli security forces.

2)     Jerusalem and its surroundings

A)     The Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount compound were always focal points for rioting Palestinians. However, since September 2015, friction and rioting have increased (in the wake of Palestinian incitement and false propaganda claiming "Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger" because Israel "violates the status quo"). Since the beginning of the current terrorist campaign Israel has made in unequivocally clear that it has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.

B)     Israel's clarification and the security measures taken by Israel on the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem, and its outlawing the Islamic Movement in Israel[4] significantly reduced the scope of the violence in the Temple Mount compound, and the main focus has shifted to Hebron and other locations in Judea and Samaria.

3)     The Gaza Strip

A)     During the current terrorist campaign riots are carried out near the border security fence with the Gaza Strip, but they are far smaller than those in Judea and Samaria.

B)     The focal points for riots in the Gaza Strip are near the border security fence in the areas of the Erez crossing (northern Gaza Strip), Shejaiya and Al-Bureij (central Gaza Strip), and Khan Yunis (southern Gaza Strip). Most of the riots are held on Fridays after the prayers at the mosques: several hundred Gazans congregate and throw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF forces and burn tires.[5] On occasion rioters attempt to climb the fence and invade Israeli territory.

C)    The Gazans' activities are potentially a security threat to Israeli, lead to violence between rioters and the Israeli security forces, and as a result Gazans have been killed and wounded. As in Judea and Samaria, in the Gaza Strip criticism is sometimes voiced of the riots and their consequences.[6]

13.       The PA permits violent demonstrations which have a high potential for friction with the IDF, and the PA and Fatah's media encourage them. The PA and Fatah regard the riots as an important component in the strategy of the "popular resistance." However, the PA also has a vested interest in containing the riots and keeping them from spinning out of control. The containment is carried out by the PA security forces in coordination with Israel. In several instances the PA has used the Palestinian educational system to restrain students. The final result is that only a limited number of Palestinians participate in the riots, which so far have not turned into mass events.

 

Left: Gazans riot at the Erez crossing (Facebook page of Quds Net, October 23, 2015). Right: Gazans riot against the IDF near the border security fence of the community of Nahal Oz (Facebook page of Shihab, October 23, 2015).
Left: Gazans riot at the Erez crossing (Facebook page of Quds Net, October 23, 2015). Right: Gazans riot against the IDF near the border security fence of the community of Nahal Oz (Facebook page of Shihab, October 23, 2015).

Methodology

14.       This report is based on a list issued by the PA ministry of health of 93 Palestinians killed in the current terrorist campaign. The list gives names, ages and dates of death. It begins with October 3, 2015, when, according to the PA, the current terrorist campaign began.[7] The Palestinian ministry of heath uses the term al-habba al-jamahiriya, i.e., "popular awakening," to describe the campaign (while Hamas calls it the Jerusalem intifada).

15.       This ITIC analysis is updated to November 22, 2015, and therefore further monitoring and updating are necessary. The list of the PA ministry of health, which is continually updated, includes the names of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks in the current terrorist campaign in Judea, Samaria and Israel. There are also names of Palestinians killed during riots with Israeli security forces (as well as the names of those whose deaths had no relevance to the current terrorist campaign).

 

Pages from the list of Palestinians killed during the current terrorist campaign (called "popular awakening" by the Palestinian ministry of health), issued in Ramallah (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health in Ramallah, November 22, 2015).
Pages from the list of Palestinians killed during the current terrorist campaign (called "popular awakening" by the Palestinian ministry of health), issued in Ramallah (Facebook page of the PA ministry of health in Ramallah, November 22, 2015).

16.       An examination of the 93 Palestinians killed, about whom information was incomplete, gave the following results:

1)     Location of death: Most of the Palestinians (74) were killed in Israeli territory, as well as in Judea and Samaria. Some (17) were killed in the Gaza Strip. One was an Israeli citizen (Muhannad al-Uqabi, a Bedouin who carried out a shooting attack in the Beersheba central bus station). One was a Palestinian prisoner who died of an illness in an Israeli jail.

2)     Cause of death: Thirty-four Palestinians were killed during riots, 19 of them in Judea and Samaria and 15 in the Gaza Strip. In addition, 34 Palestinians were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, and 18 were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel (seven died in other circumstances, see below).

3)     Palestinians who died in other circumstances: The list issued by the PA ministry of health includes the names of seven Palestinians who died during the current terrorist campaign but not during attacks or riots. They were a Palestinian prisoner who died in jail, a woman who died of shortness of breath, an innocent Palestinian who was present at the scene of an attack and was mistakenly killed by a Palestinian terrorist, etc. Four of the Palestinians who died in such circumstances were from Judea and Samaria and three from the Gaza Strip. Exaggerating the number Palestinian fatalities by adding irrelevant names to lists is familiar to the ITIC from Operation Protective Edge.

17.       This study deals with 34 Palestinians killed during riots in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip whose names appear on the list issued by the PA ministry of health (37% of the names on the list). The names were examined in depth and the information presented here is more detailed than the PA's list. For this study a wide range of Palestinian and Israeli sources as used, including the Palestinian media (newspapers, radio, TV stations), statements from relatives and the Internet (personal Facebook pages, websites set up to commemorate terrorists who were killed, village websites, etc.).

 

18.       There are three appendices: the first presents the main findings of the examination of the profile of Palestinians killed during riots. The second presents personal details and the circumstances of their deaths (place of residence, place of death, age, possible organizational affiliation, family status, education, occupation, involvement of women and other parameters). The third summarizes the main findings in a table. The findings were compared with the profile of the Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks in Israel, Judea and Samaria (examined in the two previous ITIC studies).

[1]For the previous two studies, see the November 25, 2015 bulletin, "Interim Findings of the Profile of Palestinians Who Carried Out Attacks in Judea and Samaria in the Current Terrorist Campaign (September 14 – November 15, 2015), and the November 2, 2015, bulletin "Initial Findings of the Profile of Palestinian Terrorists Who Carried Out Attacks in Israel in the Current Wave of Terrorism (Updated to October 25, 2015).
[2]In 2015 25 rocket hits were identified in the western Negev, the smallest number identified since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.
[3]Near the "Judea and Samaria Square: there are Israeli security facilities (belonging to the IDF and the civilian authority), and at the same time it is close to Ramallah. That turned it into a preferred location to hold riots. In 2004 the PA security forces decided the "Judea and Samaria Square" was off limits for demonstrations and riots, and channeled protests to Al-Manara Square in the center of Ramallah. However, either the ban on protesting at the "Judea and Samaria Square" has been lifted or at any rate is not effectively enforced.
[4]The Islamic Movement in Israel played a central role in inciting Palestinians to riot on the Temple Mount with the false slogan "Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger."
[5]Rioting along the border security fence began in the Gaza Strip a short time after the ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012). The first riot was held on November 23, 2012, when 300 Gazans gathered at the border security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. They rioted and damaged he fence in an attempt to invade Israeli territory. IDF forces attempted to drive them back and when the Gazans persisted, the soldiers opened fire. The Palestinian media reported that one Gazan had been killed and 19 wounded. Since that event rioting diminished, but it has returned and accelerated in the current terrorist campaign.
[6]For example, a Gazan journalist posted on his Facebook page that methods had to be changed, and that young Gazans had to stop going to the fence to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at "Zionist" soldiers who sniped at them, wounding and killing them.
[7]In ITIC assessment the terrorist campaign began on September 14, 2015, when Palestinians threw stones at the car of an Israeli civilian in the southern part of Jerusalem, leading to his death. After that attack, the result of riots on the Temple Mount and in east Jerusalem during the Jewish High Holidays, the terrorist campaign spread to other locations Israel, Judea and Samaria. The campaign continues unabated to this day.

Additional Bulletins