Tag Archives: Egypt

Hamas constructs a buffer zone to secure its border with Egypt in response to a demand from the Egyptian regime.

Carrying out construction on the Palestinian side of the Rafah-Egypt border (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 29, 2017).

Carrying out construction on the Palestinian side of the Rafah-Egypt border (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 29, 2017).

Yahya al-Sinwar (pink shirt, center) head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, pays a visit to the Rafah-Egypt border to inspect the construction of the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, July 5, 2017).

Yahya al-Sinwar (pink shirt, center) head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, pays a visit to the Rafah-Egypt border to inspect the construction of the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, July 5, 2017).

One of the observation towers erected in the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

One of the observation towers erected in the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

Yahya al-Sinwar (holding binoculars) pays a visit to the Rafah-Egypt border for a first-hand look at the construction of the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, July 5, 2017).

Yahya al-Sinwar (holding binoculars) pays a visit to the Rafah-Egypt border for a first-hand look at the construction of the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, July 5, 2017).

Overview

1.      At the end of June 2017 the Hamas ministry of the interior and national security in the Gaza Strip began work on the foundations of a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The objective of the zone is to increase Hamas' control over the border area in order to prevent smuggling and keep terrorist operatives from entering and leaving the Gaza Strip. The zone will be 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) long and reach from Kerem Shalom to the sea. In most places it will be between 50 and 150 meters (55 and 165 yards) wide. It will have a paved asphalt road and the existing embankment will be renovated and covered with barbed wire. Observation towers will be constructed and the zone will be a system of floodlights and a network of security cameras will be installed.

2.      The construction of the buffer zone is apparently part of Hamas' commitment to Egypt to support the separation of the Gaza Strip from ISIS's Sinai Province, against which the Egyptian security forces have been waging an ongoing struggle. Egypt apparently conditioned the routine opening of the Rafah crossing for the passage of goods (including fuel for the Gaza Strip power plant) and people on Hamas' fulfilling a series of security-related demands. In ITIC assessment, one of those demands was that Hamas' security forces' achieve effective control along the Egyptian border in order to end smuggling and the provision of support for ISIS operatives in the Sinai Peninsula.

3.      In the past there was extensive military collaboration between ISIS's Sinai Province and the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing: ISIS operatives helped smuggled weapons into the Gaza Strip, and Hamas helped manufacture weapons and uniforms for ISIS, hospitalized its wounded operatives and provided it with communications equipment. Apparently over the past year the relations between the two organizations cooled off. One reason was pressure from Egypt, which considers ISIS a threat to its national security.[1]

4.      The buffer zone will increase Hamas' ability to enforce its authority but will not hermetically seal the Gaza-Egypt border to the passage of terrorist operatives and weapons. In ITIC assessment, that is because:

A.      Hamas has a strong interest in smuggling weapons and military equipment into the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula. Therefore it does not have an interest in hermetically sealing their main route into the Gaza Strip. Thus it is reasonable to assume that even if Hamas does increase the enforcement of its authority along the border, it will continue its efforts to bring weapons and equipment into the Gaza Strip through the smuggling tunnels, which in all probability will remain after the construction of the buffer zone has been completed.

B.      It is probably that the jihadist operatives in the Gaza Strip will not cut their ties with ISIS's Sinai Province, and will circumvent Hamas' security measures. The participation of three operatives from the Gaza Strip (at least two of whom had been operatives in Hamas' military wing) in the attack on the Egyptian security forces in el-Barth(southwest of Rafah), in which 23 soldiers were killed and 33 injured, clearly illustrates that.[2]

C.      In exceptional circumstances (for example, a deterioration in relations with Israel) Hamas' interest in smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip and its relations with ISIS's Sinai Province may become warmer. That may occur even if warming relations with the Sinai Province involves risking Hamas' relations with Egypt.

The Buffer Zone

5.      The objective of the buffer zone is to increase Hamas ability to enforce its authority along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt and prevent smuggling and the infiltration of operatives into and out of the Gaza Strip. According to Na'im al-Ghoul, commander of the Hamas-controlled national security forces, the objective of the zone is to increase the security forces' control along the border and remove obstacles that could limit their view of the landscape (YouTube, June 28, 2017). He added there would be channels for communication and full cooperation between Palestinian and Egypt security personnel (alresalah.net, July 5, 2017).

6.      The construction of the buffer zone is being financed by the Hamas ministry of the interior. The zone is expected to run from Kerem Shalom in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, a distance of 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles), and have an average width of between 50 and 150 meters (55 and 165 yards) (depending on the needs of local residents and the local physical conditions). At its western end it will reach a depth of 250 to 300 meters (about 275 to 330 yards). The entire area will be declared a closed military zone and Hamas will increase the deployment of security force operatives (alresalah.net, July 5, 2017).

7.      The buffer zone is planned to include the following (alresalah.net, June 28, 2017):

A.   An asphalt road25 meters (27 yards) wide from one end of the buffer zone to the other. It will be patrolled by Hamas security force operatives 24/7.

B.   The existing three-meter (about ten feet) embankment will be repaired and upgraded, and coveredwith barbed wire, which will have a number of open spaces.

C.  Observation towers will be constructedalong the route of the zone.

Left: A Hamas security force operative watches the [so-called] "Philadelphi Route" from the second observation tower erected in the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017). Right: Yahya al-Sinwar (third from the right), head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, mounts an observation tower overlooking the Egyptian border (YouTube, July 6, 2017).
Left: A Hamas security force operative watches the [so-called] "Philadelphi Route" from the second observation tower erected in the buffer zone (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017). Right: Yahya al-Sinwar (third from the right), head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, mounts an observation tower overlooking the Egyptian border (YouTube, July 6, 2017).

D.  The buffer zone will have a system of floodlights.

E.   A network of security cameraswill be installed and controlled from the national security forces' operations room. It will be under the direct control of the headquarters of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip.

8.      According to senior Palestinian security sources, construction work on the foundations of the buffer zone includes leveling the terrain, which is full of pits because of tunnel collapses; uprooting fruit trees; and repairing the existing embankment. The sources also reported that the houses of Palestinians living near the buffer zone will be evacuated and their owners will be compensated (france24 in Arabic, June 28, 2017). There will also beincreased deployment of security forces along the border and guard and observation posts will be built. According to Iyad al-Bazam, spokesman for the Hamas ministry of the interior, the construction work is expected to take about a month (al-Jazeera, June 28, 2017).

9.      According to Na'im al-Ghoul, commander of Hamas' national security forces, the tunnels endangering the border will be destroyed. All tunnels which are not currently in use will also be destroyed (alresalah.net, July 5, 2017). (Note: Thus it was not specifically stated that Hamas intended to destroy all the tunnels, without exception.)

10.   Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, and other senior Hamas figures, visited the southern Gaza Strip for a first-hand look at the construction of the buffer zone from east to west. They visited the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Rafah crossing and the Hamas security forces' posts situated along the Egyptian border. Their guide was Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior, who briefed them on the situation in the area (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, July 5, 2017).

Construction of the Buffer Zone

The route of the buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the Rafah-Egypt border (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 29, 2017).
The route of the buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the Rafah-Egypt border (Facebook page of the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 29, 2017).

Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, holds a press conference near the construction site. To his right is Brigadier General Na'im al-Ghoul, commander of Hamas' national security forces in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the national security forces, June 28, 2017).
Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, holds a press conference near the construction site. To his right is Brigadier General Na'im al-Ghoul, commander of Hamas' national security forces in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the national security forces, June 28, 2017).

Egypt's Reactions

11.   Egyptian correspondent, commentator and al-Ahram editor Ashraf Abu el-Houl told an interviewer from the Egyptian al-Ghad satellite channel that as far as Egypt was concerned, Hamas' construction of a buffer zone was a "dream" that no one had imagined Hamas would carry out. He said it reflected an improvement in Egypt-Hamas relations following the recent meetings. He said it also meant that Yahya al-Sinwar was making decisions for Hamas from the Gaza Strip, and not senior Hamas figures in Doha (Qatar) (al-Ghad TV, June 28, 2017). Gazan political commentator Husam al-Dajani said the construction of the buffer zone was in the joint interests of Egypt and Hamas, and reflected Egypt's full confidence in Yahya al-Sinwar in the wake of the recent meetings held in Egypt (Ma'an, June 29, 2017).

12.   Egyptian and Palestinian sources reported that Egypt asked Hamas to intensify its security measures along the border because ISIS operatives in the Sinai Peninsula had recently received advanced weapons, among them shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Such weapons are liable to make the clashes between ISIS operatives and Egyptian security forces more complex and deadly. According to the sources, that was one of the reasons leading Egypt to hasten an improvement in relations with Hamas and hold meetings with Hamas security delegations (al-Araby al-Jadeed, July 7, 2017)

[1]See the March 20, 2016 bulletin, "Hamas as a Supporter of Anti-Egyptian Terrorism: Hamas-Egyptian relations deteriorated following the Egyptian accusation of Hamas involvement in the 2015 assassination of the Egyptian attorney general."
[2]The Egyptian press accused Hamas because the terrorists who carried out the attack in the Sinai Peninsula entered through tunnels from the Gaza Strip. For example, according to the July 11, 2017 edition of the Egyptian regime-affiliated newspaper al-Youm al-Sabaa, the attack on the army post south of Rafah exposed Hamas' inability to defend the Gaza Strip. According to the article, there were two possibilities: either Hamas operatives plotted against Egypt's national security, or Hamas cannot control the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt. The article says Hamas therefore bears direct responsibility for the crimes Palestinians from the Gaza Strip carried out on Egyptian territory

News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 5 – 11, 2017)

The scene of the vehicular attack near the Arab village of Teqo'a, southeast of Bethlehem (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

The scene of the vehicular attack near the Arab village of Teqo'a, southeast of Bethlehem (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

Muhammad Ibrahim Jibrin, 23, from Teqo'a (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

Muhammad Ibrahim Jibrin, 23, from Teqo'a (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

Windshield of Israeli vehicle damaged by a stone near the village of Nebi Elias, east of Qalqilya (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

Windshield of Israeli vehicle damaged by a stone near the village of Nebi Elias, east of Qalqilya (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).

Demonstration near the IDF's Nahal Oz post (Facebook page of the Gaza Now website, July 6, date, 2017).

Demonstration near the IDF's Nahal Oz post (Facebook page of the Gaza Now website, July 6, date, 2017).

Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City  (Facebook page of the Shehab news agency, July 5, 2017).

Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City (Facebook page of the Shehab news agency, July 5, 2017).

 Ismail Haniyeh visits the mourning tent erected in Gaza City for the Egyptian soldiers killed in the terrorist attack (Palinfo Twitter account, July 8, 2017).

Ismail Haniyeh visits the mourning tent erected in Gaza City for the Egyptian soldiers killed in the terrorist attack (Palinfo Twitter account, July 8, 2017).

Hamas delegation pays a visit. Left to right: Suheib(?), Khalil al-Haya, Yasser Musa, Mahmoud Mardawi, Fawzi Barhoum (Hamas movement website, July 9, 2017).

Hamas delegation pays a visit. Left to right: Suheib(?), Khalil al-Haya, Yasser Musa, Mahmoud Mardawi, Fawzi Barhoum (Hamas movement website, July 9, 2017).

The opening of the summer camp in the western part of Gaza City (Siraj Lili'am, July 9, 2017).

The opening of the summer camp in the western part of Gaza City (Siraj Lili'am, July 9, 2017).

  • This past week terrorist events focused on the combined vehicular-stabbing attack at the entrance to the village of Teqo'a(southeast of Bethlehem). The terrorist was shot and killed. An IDF soldier was wounded. Demonstrations and riots continued throughout Judea and Samaria. The Gaza Strip border was relatively quiet.
  • On July 7, 2017, operatives of ISIS's Sinai Province carried out a large-scale attack on an Egyptian security forces' checkpoint in the village of el-Barth, southeast of Rafah. A car bomb was detonated, killing 23 Egyptian soldiers and wounding 33. Three of the ISIS operatives were from the Gaza Strip (reportedly, at least two of them were formerly operatives in Hamas' military-terrorist wing).
  • According to accounts in the Egyptian press, the operatives who participated in the attack in Rafah entered the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which is attempting to effect a rapprochement with Egypt, rushed to condemn the attack and insisted the movement had no part in it.
Terrorist Attack
  • Combined vehicular-stabbing attack: On July 9, 2017, a Palestinian drove out of the village of Teqo'a (southeast of Bethlehem). Near the exit he increased his speed and raced towards a group of IDF soldiers changing shifts at the guard house at the entrance to the village. He hit and wounded one of the soldiers. He then drove into a railing, exited the vehicle holding a knife and tried to stab the soldiers. He was shot and killed.
  • The Palestinian media reported he was Muhammad Ibrahim Jibrin, 23, from Teqo'a. The Fatah movement in Teqo'a issued a death notice for him (Facebook page of QudsN, July 10, 2017).
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
  • This past week demonstrations, clashes and riots continued throughout Judea and Samaria, primarily involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. The more prominent occurrences were the following:
  • July 8, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at a bus passing Adam Square in the Benyamin region (north of Jerusalem). There were no casualties. The windshield of the bus was damaged. (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 8, 2017).
  • July 7, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces in Hebron. There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 7, 2017).
  • July 7, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces in the village of Qadoum, injuring one Border Policeman (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 7, 2017).
  • July 7, 2017 – A number of pipe bombs were thrown at Israeli security forces in the village of Jilazoun, near Ramallah. There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 7, 2017).
  • July 6, 2017 – During a riot near the Nablus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem a Palestinian threw a chair at a Border Policeman, injuring him. The Palestinian was detained (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 6, 2017).
  • July 5, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli civilian in Silwan, east Jerusalem. Israeli policemen and Border Policemen arriving at the scene were also attacked with stones. A Border Policeman and civilian were injured (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 5, 2017). 

Significant Terrorist Attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem since September 2015

Rocket Fire Attacking Israel

  • This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.

Rocket Fire Attacking Israel

Hamas-Instigated Demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza Strip Border
  • This past week Hamas-instigated protests continued along the Gaza Strip border. Several hundred Palestinians participated in demonstrations held simultaneously at a number of locations. The Palestinian media reported that two demonstrators, one of them a photographer, were wounded by IDF fire (Filastin al-Yawm, July 7, 2017).
The Humanitarian Crisis
  • The Gazan energy authority announced that deliveries of fuel from Egypt for the Gaza Strip power plant had stopped. According to the announcement, the currency authority, which is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA), exerted pressure on Palestinian banks not to transfer funds to Egypt to pay for the fuel.
  • Two of the plant's generators were shut down (Dunia al-Watan, July 8, 2017). As a result, during the past few days electricity was supplied for between an hour and a half and two hours a day. Hamas looked for ways to transfer the funds so that the power plant could function again. After two days the Egyptians reopened the Rafah crossing and renewed the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip (Safa, July 9, 2017).
  • Public figures in the Gaza Strip accused the PA of responsibility for the situation:
  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the PA's efforts to keep Egyptian fuel from reaching the power plant were a continuation of Mahmoud Abbas' policy of the "collective punishment" of the Gaza Strip. He said the fact that Mahmoud Abbas seeks to undermine Hamas' understandings with Egypt proves he is prepared to harm the Palestinian people in order to achieve his personal goals (alresalah.net, July 8, 2017).
  • Senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) figure Khaled al-Batash said Mahmoud Abbas and Rami Hamdallah (prime minister of the Palestinian national consensus government) were responsible for the medical conditions in the Gaza Strip. He said the responsibility was national and humanitarian, and more important that any political dispute (al-Ra'i, July 10, 2017).
  • During its weekly meeting, the Palestinian national consensus government strongly accused Israel of responsibility for the hardships of the Palestinian people, which were the result of the eleven-year Israeli "siege" of the Gaza Strip. However, the Palestinian people had to know that Hamas had deposited tax revenues into its private account, and sold medicine as well as cement meant for construction in the Gaza Strip (Wafa, July 4, 2017).

Hamas cartoon of Mahmoud Abbas' anger at Egypt's supplying the Gaza Strip with fuel (alresalah.net, July 10, 2017).
Hamas cartoon of Mahmoud Abbas' anger at Egypt's supplying the Gaza Strip with fuel (alresalah.net, July 10, 2017).

Ismail Haniyeh's First Speech as Head of Hamas' Political Bureau
  • Ismail Haniyeh gave his first speech as head of the new Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip. He discussed, among other topics, Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque and the struggle against Israel. Some of his statements were the following:
  • The Palestinians' fundamental principles – Ismail Haniyeh claimed that as head of Hamas' political bureau he would remain faithful to the Palestinians' fundamental principles, the most important of which was the liberation of the territories, Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque and the prisoners. In addition, the Palestinians strove to realize the [so-called] "right of return' and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. He claimed the Western Wall was an integral part of al-Aqsa mosque and the right to it could not be waived under any circumstances. Israel, he claimed, continued its attempts to change the status of al-Aqsa mosque through Judaization, demographic changes, invasions of the mosque and recently, allowing members of the Knesset [the Israeli parliament] and government ministers to enter. Such attempts would not succeed, he said, and al-Aqsa mosque would remain Muslim and Israel would not have access to it.
  • The "siege" of the Gaza Strip and PA policy – Ismail Haniyeh claimed Israel was directly and centrally responsible for the "siege" and called on Israel to lift it. He said the PA's recent decision had damaged the national Palestinian fabric. He called on the PA and Mahmoud Abbas to change their policies towards the Gaza Strip and retract the measures they had instituted against it. He claimed the only reason the committee to administer the Gaza Strip functioned was because of the vacuum in the Gaza Strip created by the national consensus government.
  • A political solution – Haniyeh stressed that Hamas opposed a political solution. He said any deal would fail and not be binding on the Palestinian people. He said that since Donald Trump had entered the White House he had encouraged Israel to blackmail the Arab world to obliterate the Palestinian cause.
  • Hamas' new political document – In reference to Hamas' new political document, he claimed it incorporated the movement's concepts, principles and objectives. He said its objective was to show that Hamas was prepared to work with all factors on the basis of a clear strategy regarding the "resistance" [i.e., anti-Israeli terrorism] and internal and external policies.
Gaza Strip Operatives Accused of Participating in Sinai Peninsula Terrorist Attack
  • On July 7, 2017, the Egyptian security forces reported they had overcome a large-scale attack carried out by operatives of ISIS's Sinai Province against an Egyptian army checkpoint in the village of el-Barth, southeast of Rafah. According to Egyptian sources, about 40 ISIS operatives were killed and six of their vehicles were destroyed. It was also reported that during the attack a car bomb was detonated, killing 23 Egyptian soldiers and wounding 33. One of the victims was the commander of Battalion 103 (Facebook page of the spokesman of the Egyptian armed forces, July 7, 2017)
  • Immediately after the attack the Facebook pages of Palestinian jihadists reported the deaths of Muhammad Sa'adi Abu 'Azra, Mu'az al-Qadi and Khalil al-Hamayda, three ISIS operatives from the Gaza Strip killed in the attack. At least two of them were allegedly former operatives in Hamas' military-terrorist wing. The Egyptian newspapers carried reports of the question of Hamas involvement in the attack. Egyptian editorials noted that terrorists who carried out the attack had entered the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels from the Gaza Strip, and mourning tents had been erected in the Gaza Strip after the deaths of the operatives (al-Ahram, July 10, 2017).

 Three ISIS operatives from the Gaza Strip reportedly among the terrorists who carried out the attack in the southern part of Egyptian Rafah (Facebook page of Sahem, July 8, 2017).
 Three ISIS operatives from the Gaza Strip reportedly among the terrorists who carried out the attack in the southern part of Egyptian Rafah (Facebook page of Sahem, July 8, 2017).

  • Hamas rushed to condemn the attack and strongly deny any involvement in it. Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, paid a visit to the mourning tent the Egyptian exile community in the Gaza Strip had erected in memory of the Egyptian soldiers killed in the attack. Haniyeh claimed Hamas would institute intensive security measures along the Gaza Strip border with Egypt to ensure that no one infiltrated from either side (al-Quds, July 8, 2017; Hamas website, July 9, 2017).
  • The following were responses from Hamas figures:
  • Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the attack "cowardly." He said the attack had harmed not only Egyptian security and stability, but the security of the entire Arab nation (Hamas website, July 7, 2017).
  • Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the attack, saying it benefitted only those trying to choke the Gaza Strip and opposed any attempt to lift the "siege" (Twitter account of Sami Abu Zuhri, July 7, 2017)
  • Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior, held a press conference at one of security forces' posts in the southern Gaza Strip. He expressed condolences on the death of the Egyptian soldiers and announced new security measures, including increased deployment of the security forces in the southern Gaza Strip and raising the level of alert to prevent the infiltration of operatives from Egypt to the Gaza Strip (YouTube, July 8, 2017).

Left: Hamas police deployed in Rafah search vehicles as part of increased vigilance after terrorist attack in Egyptian Rafah (Palinfo Twitter account, July 9, 2017). Right: Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, holds a press conference (YouTube, July 8, 2017).
Left: Hamas police deployed in Rafah search vehicles as part of increased vigilance after terrorist attack in Egyptian Rafah (Palinfo Twitter account, July 9, 2017). Right: Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, holds a press conference (YouTube, July 8, 2017).

Chairman of Qatar Reconstruction Committee Visits Gaza Strip
  • Muhammad al-Emadi, chairman of Qatar's committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, arrived in the Gaza Strip for a number of days to conduct a first-hand examination of the projects being carried out with funding from the ruler of Qatar. It was his first visit to the Gaza Strip since Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States imposed a boycott on Qatar. Upon arriving he said Qatar would continue its efforts for an uninterrupted reconstruction of the Gaza Strip (Gaza al-A'an, July 8, 2017). During his visit he participated in a ceremony to distribute $1 million to 130 families as part of a project to rebuild houses. The project is being funded by Qatar. Its total cost is $3 million and 370 families will profit from it. At the ceremony al-Emadi said his committee would continue providing support for reconstructing houses in the Gaza Strip (Paltoday, July 10, 2017).

Left: Muhammad al-Emadi, chairman of Qatar's committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, at the ceremony for the distribution of financial aid (Palinfo Twitter account, July 10, 2017). Right: Muhammad al-Emadi (Facebook page of al-Jazeera, July 10, 2017).
Left: Muhammad al-Emadi, chairman of Qatar's committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, at the ceremony for the distribution of financial aid (Palinfo Twitter account, July 10, 2017). Right: Muhammad al-Emadi (Facebook page of al-Jazeera, July 10, 2017).

Marking the Third Anniversary of Operation Protective Edge
  • For the third anniversary of Operation Protective Edge Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanu' said in a statement that the Palestinians would continue "resisting the occupation" until they had achieved their "legitimate rights." He added that the "Palestinian resistance" [i.e., anti-Israel terrorism], headed by the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, was stronger than ever. He said that in any war Israel dragged the Palestinians into, Israel would stumble and fall under the blows dealt by the "resistance" and because of the Palestinians' firm stance (Palinfo, July 7, 2017).
  • A delegation of members of the Hamas leadership paid a visit to the border area of the northern Gaza Strip near the Israeli community of Netiv Ha'asara. Members of the delegation included Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas' political bureau; Yasser Musa, head of Hamas' information department; Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, Abu Suheib, commander of Hamas military wing in the northern Gaza Strip region; and Mahmoud Mardawi, a Palestinian terrorist prisoner released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal.
  • The delegation visited locations where the "resistance" (i.e., Hamas military operatives) had carried out "heroic acts" during the Operation. The delegation also visited military posts. Abu Suheib examined the situation along the border and the surveillance carried out by military operatives on IDF movements along the border (Hamas movement website, July 9, 2017; Facebook page of Mahmoud Mardawi, July 8, 2017).
  • Dozens of PIJ operatives held a military display in the northern Gaza Strip. One of the commanders of the PIJ military-terrorist wing's northern brigade, aka Abu Khaled, said the strategic choice of the PIJ and its military wing was the option of jihad and resistance for the liberation of Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 10, 2017).

Left: Military display of the PIJ's terrorist wing in the northern Gaza Strip. Right: PIJ military wing spokesman gives a speech to mark the third anniversary of Operation Protective Edge (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 10, 2016).
Left: Military display of the PIJ's terrorist wing in the northern Gaza Strip. Right: PIJ military wing spokesman gives a speech to mark the third anniversary of Operation Protective Edge (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 10, 2016).

PIJ Terrorist Tunnel Exposed near Beit Hanoun
  • On the first anniversary of the death of Ibrahim Hassan al-Masri, a PIJ terrorist operative from Beit Hanoun who died in a tunnel collapse, his family paid a visit to operatives of the PIJ's Jerusalem Battalions tunnel unit and the operatives manning the posts along Beit Hanoun's north and eastern borders. The family also visited the tunnel where Ibrahim al-Masri was killed (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 9, 2017).

A visit to the Jerusalem Battalions terrorist tunnel near Beit Hanoun (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 9, 2017).
A visit to the Jerusalem Battalions terrorist tunnel near Beit Hanoun (Website of the Jerusalem Battalions, July 9, 2017).

Hamas Summer Camps
  • On July 8, 2017, senior Hamas figure Usama al-Mazini announced the opening of Hamas' summer camps. He said the camps would be one month long and there would be 120,000 campers, 50,000 boys and 70,000 girls, of all ages and from all districts of the Gaza Strip. The camps' activities would be "entertaining and educational." In addition, there would be designated camps for scouting, science, arts, Qur'an memorization and technology. The camps' slogan would be "Going to Jerusalem."
  • According to al-Mazini, the camp's slogan emphasized that the compass pointed to Jerusalem, the core of the struggle against Israel. He said the goal of the camps was to prepare the generation of "victory and liberation" that will have the honor of liberating Jerusalem and expelling the occupation (website of Voice of Palestine Radio, July 8, 2017; website of the al-Quds newspaper, July 8, 2017; and (Filastin Online, July 8, 2017).
Quarterly Public Opinion Poll
  • The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which is headed by Khalil Shikaki, published the results of its quarterly public opinion poll at the end of June 2017. The poll focused mainly on how the Palestinian public related to recent measures taken by Mahmoud Abbas regarding the Gaza Strip. According to the results, an overwhelming majority of 84% of Palestinians are opposed to the measure taken by the PA to stop covering the Israeli-supplied electricity to the Gaza Strip; 87% in the West Bank and 80% in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, an overwhelming majority of 88% are opposed to the step taken by the PA reducing the amount of salary payments to its employees in the Gaza Strip. Ninety-one percent are opposed to the suspension of PA payments to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails. Sixty-two percent of the public want president Abbas to resign while 31% want him to remain in office. Three months ago, 64% said they wanted Abbas to resign. Demand for his resignation stands at 55% in the West Bank and 75% in the Gaza Strip. Three months ago demand for Abbas resignation stood at 61% in the West Bank and 70% in the Gaza Strip. Politically, most of the public remained pessimistic about the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations (website of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, July 5, 2017).
UNESCO Resolution about Jerusalem and Hebron

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre declared the Old City of Hebron (including the Cave of the Patriarchs) an " 'endangered' World Heritage Site in Palestine." Of Centre's 21 members, 12 voted in favor of the resolution, six abstained and three opposed. Palestinian spokesmen welcomed the vote and many of them claimed it reconfirmed the historic Palestinian link to Hebron and dispelled Israeli claims about the Jewish identity of the city.

 

Cartoon appearing in al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the official PA organ  (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, July 9, 2017).
Cartoon appearing in al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the official PA organ (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, July 9, 2017).

  • At the beginning of the weekly government meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said the connection between Israel and Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs was one of purchase and history and it was doubtful if there was anything similar in the history of any people. That, however, did not prevent the UNESCO World Heritage Centre from passing another "delusional" decision and claim the Cave of the Patriarchs was a Palestinian heritage site (website of the Israeli prime minister, July 7, 2017).
  • The Palestinians regarded the resolution as a significant diplomatic achievement. Mahmoud Abbas praised Palestinian diplomatic achievements in general and the UNESCO decision in particular. He said it had been passed despite the pressure exerted by Israel and the United States on a number of countries (Wafa, July 7, 2017). Other responses were the following:
  • Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, welcomed the decision and said it was a diplomatic victory for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people, and a step towards the full independence of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital (Dunia al-Watan, July 7, 2017).
  • Riyad al-Maliki, minister of foreign affairs and migrants, welcomed the decision. He claimed the decision was a victory for Palestine's diplomatic campaign against the pressure exerted by Israel and the United States and a resounding failure for Israel and its allies confronting the history of the Palestinian city of Hebron. He said the Israeli occupation did not give Israel sovereignty over any part of the land of Palestine (Wafa, July 7, 2017).
  • Fatah spokesman Usama al-Qawasmeh praised the decision, claiming it stressed the Arab-Palestinian identity of Hebron and put an end to attempts to fake history and lead international public opinion astray (Wafa, July 7, 2017).
  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem also praised the decision, saying it reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to Hebron and the land of Palestine in general. He claimed it exposed the fake claims presented by Israel. He also claimed all of Israel's attempts to distort the truth would not succeed, thanks to the adherence of the Palestinian people to its land. He said global support for the right of the Palestinian people to its land and holy places had increased (Hamas website, July 7, 2017).
Street and Square Named for Terrorist Khaled Nizal
  • The Palestinian media reported that the residents of the village of Burqin (southwest of Jenin) had named a street and town square after Khaled Nizal, a former senior Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) operative (Palinfo Twitter account and the Facebook page of QudsN, July 5, 2017). It was the residents' response to the removal of a monument erected to Khaled Nizal's memory in Jenin, which had been demanded by Israel and the PA.

Khaled Nizal Square and Khaled Nizal Street in the village of Burqin. The DFLP logo appears on both signs (Facebook page of QudsN, July 5, 2017).
Khaled Nizal Square and Khaled Nizal Street in the village of Burqin. The DFLP logo appears on both signs (Facebook page of QudsN, July 5, 2017).

[1]A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicle, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
[2]The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.

News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (June 28 – July 4, 2017)

Palestinians demonstrate on the Gazan side of the Erez crossing for permission to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad.

Palestinians demonstrate on the Gazan side of the Erez crossing for permission to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad.

The bag found in the car containing shock grenades, Molotov cocktails and knives  (Israel Police Force spokesman, July 4, 2017).

The bag found in the car containing shock grenades, Molotov cocktails and knives (Israel Police Force spokesman, July 4, 2017).

Khalda Jarrar, senior PFLP activist (Wafa, December 15, 2012).

Khalda Jarrar, senior PFLP activist (Wafa, December 15, 2012).

Riots along the Israel-Gaza Strip border (Shehab website, July 2, 2017).

Riots along the Israel-Gaza Strip border (Shehab website, July 2, 2017).

Construction along the Gaza Strip-Egypt border (Facebook page of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

Construction along the Gaza Strip-Egypt border (Facebook page of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, oversees the construction work on the ground (Facebook page of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, oversees the construction work on the ground (Facebook page of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2017).

Izz al-Din Abu Hamam (Facebook page of Rafah, July 2, 2017).

Izz al-Din Abu Hamam (Facebook page of Rafah, July 2, 2017).

  • On July 4, 2017, a terrorist attack in Jerusalem was probability prevented. A vehicle with six Palestinian passengers (who were not carrying identification) was halted at the entrance to Jerusalem. A search of the vehicle found shock grenades, Molotov cocktails and knives. According to the Israel Police Force, an initial interrogation revealed the Palestinians were planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
  • The Palestinian media reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced it would stop guaranteeing payments for patients leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad. A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip accused the PA of refusing to fund medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip, while Israel prevented patients from leaving it. The PA ministry of health rejected the claims, emphasizing there had been no change in payment for medical treatment.
  • This past week construction began on a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. It is being built to increase security enforcement along the border and prevent smuggling and infiltration. According to a Hamas organ, the buffer zone will be 100 to 150 meters wide (110 to 160 yards) and the embankment will be overlaid with barbed wire. Apparently its construction is the result of an understanding reached during the recent visit of a Hamas delegation to Egypt
Attempted Terrorists Attacks
  • Israeli security forces stationed at a roadblock south of Jerusalem (on the Tekoa-Har Homa road) stopped a Palestinian vehicle planning to enter Israeli territory. The vehicle's front and rear license plates were different. The vehicle was ordered to park at the side of the road and the passengers were told to get out for inspection. Six Palestinians got out of the vehicle; none of them had identification. A search of the vehicle revealed a bag containing shock grenades, Molotov cocktails and knives. Initial interrogation revealed the Palestinians were planning a terrorist attack in Jerusalem (Israel Police Force spokesman's unit, July 4, 2017).
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
  • This past week demonstrations, clashes and riots continued throughout Judea and Samaria, primarily involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. The Israeli security forces detained a number of Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity. The more prominent occurrences were the following:
  • July 2, 2017 – Palestinians threw a pipe bomb at the compound of the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem. There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 2, 2017).
  • July 2, 2017 – Palestinians clashed with Israeli police forces in east Jerusalem during the funeral of a young Palestinian who drowned in the Sea of Galilee. A number of Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets, one of the mortally (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 2, 2017).
  • July 2, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle on the Gush Etzion-Hebron road near Bayt Ummar. A woman incurred minor injuries; the vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, July 2, 2017).
  • June 30, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police forces called to deal with a case of domestic abuse in Silwan (east Jerusalem). Two Palestinians were detained. A patrol car was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 30, 2017).
  • June 30, 2017 – A Palestinian terrorist shot at Israeli security forces during an action in Jenin. The shooter escaped and discarded his weapon. There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 30, 2017).
  • June 29, 2017 – The Israeli security forces detained a 20 year-old Palestinian at one of the checkpoints near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. A knife was found in his possession (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 30, 2017).
  • June 28, 2017 – A Palestinian was killed by Israeli security force fire during the detention of an arms dealer in the Jabel Juhar neighborhood of Hebron. The Palestinian shot at the forces with an improvised submachine gun. The Palestinian media reported he was Iyad Munir Arafat Ghais, 23, from Hebron (Dunia al-Watan, June 29; Ma'an and QudsN, June 28, 2017).

Left: Improvised gun used to shoot at Israeli security forces. Right: Iyad Munir Arafat Ghais, 23, from Hebron, killed during an Israeli security force activity in Hebron (Ma'an, June 28, 2017).
Left: Improvised gun used to shoot at Israeli security forces. Right: Iyad Munir Arafat Ghais, 23, from Hebron, killed during an Israeli security force activity in Hebron (Ma'an, June 28, 2017).

  • June 28, 2017 – An IDF force detained a Palestinian woman carrying a knife at the Rachel crossing south of Jerusalem. She was 36, came from the village of Yatta and was planning to carry out a stabbing attack (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 28, 2017).
  • June 28, 2017 – A fire broke out in an olive grove near Burin in Samaria. Palestinians claimed the fire had been set deliberately by two Israelis from the community of Yizhar. About 400 olive trees were damaged.

Significant Terrorist Attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem since September 2015

Detention of Two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Activists
  • The Israeli security forces detained Khalda Jarrar and Khitam Khatib, two female senior PFLP activists. Khalda Jarrar is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PFLP's political bureau. The IDF spokesman reported that "Jarrar was detained because of her involvement in promoting PFLP terrorist activity."
  • In June 2016 Khalda Jarrar was released from an Israeli jail after having served a term of a year and a half. A short time later she returned to PFLP activity. According to the IDF spokesman, she directed the organization's activities and was one of its senior figures in Judea and Samaria, primarily in the Ramallah area. According to security sources, her detention was not connected to her membership in the Legislative Council. Khitam Khatib, among other roles, chairs the Palestinian women's union (Haaretz, July 2, 2017).
  • There was wide Palestinian condemnation for the detention of Khalda Jarrar, who chairs the prisoners' committee in the Legislative Council and is on the board of directors of the al-Dameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. The PFLP strongly stated that detaining its senior figures and activists, especially the leader Khalda Jarrar, would not dissuade the organization from continuing its "resistance to the occupation." The PFLP called on the Palestinians to escalate their popular and national activities in support of the Palestinian prisoners, especially Khalda Jarrar, and hunger-striking Muhammad 'Alan (PFLP website, July 2, 2017).
  • Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, said Israel had sole responsibility for the lives and safety of the two women prisoners. He said they had been detained as part of a "deliberate, ongoing, systematic Israeli offensive." He added that the detention of the two women was a direct assault on the Palestinian people and its leadership (Wafa, July 2, 2017).
  • Hamas also condemned the detention. Senior Hamas figure Sami Abu Zuhri said the detentions were a result of the "policy of security cooperation [between Israel and the PA]" and their objective was to prevent opposition to Mahmoud Abbas (Filastin al-Yawm, July 2, 2017). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in an announcement that Israel's campaign of detaining "symbols of the resistance in the West Bank" was a desperate attempt to silence the voices opposed to Israel and its plans. He claimed the detentions would not dissuade the Palestinians from continuing the Jerusalem intifada and the "resistance" [i.e., terrorist activities] (Hamas website, July 2, 2017).
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
  • This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.

Rocket Fire Attacking Israel

Hamas-Instigated Violence along the Israeli Border
  • This past week there was a declinein the demonstrations and riots instigated by Hamas along the border with Israel to protest the conditions in the Gaza Strip. Because of the decline Hamas held a press conference near the Erez crossing to call for their renewal. At the so-called "Warning of Rage" demonstrations held at five locations on July 2, 2017 about 300 Palestinians participated. The IDF responded by employing riot control measures. According to the Palestinian media, a number of demonstrators sustained minor injuries (Ajel from Palestine, July 2, 2017).
The Humanitarian Crisis
  • The Palestinian media reported that besides the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (Gazans have electricity about four hours a day), there is a serious shortage of drugs. In addition, the PA announced it would stop paying for patients from the Gaza Strip going abroad for medical treatment. The Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported that three babies had died as a result (Majal Press, June 27, 2017).
  • Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled ministry of health, said that 1,700 patients were waiting for a guarantee of payment from the PA, and only 10% of the requests had been granted. He accused the PA and Israel of joint responsibility: the PA refused to send drugs to the hospitals in the Gaza Strip and delayed granting requests for payment for medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip, while Israel allegedly prevented patients from leaving. He also called for pressure to be exerted on the PA to immediately renew supplying the Gaza Strip with drugs and provide guarantees of payment for treatment. He also called on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing as soon as possible to allow hundreds of patients to leave the Gaza Strip. He called on international institutions to exert pressure on Israel to honor the Fourth Geneva Convention[3] (aljazeera.net, June 29; al-Hayat, July 1, 2017).
  • The PA ministry of health rejected the claims, saying there had been no change in providing payment guarantees for Gazan patients and that in urgent cases they were provided quickly. According to the ministry, Israel was one of the main causes of harm to patients in the Gaza Strip because it had not issued the authorization necessary for patients to leave the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year (Wafa, June 28, 2017). Faiz Abu 'Ita, Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said responsibility for patients in the Gaza Strip was collective and neither side could avoid it. He said all those involved, including Israel, had to act to save lives and allow patients to be treated (Dunia al-Watan, June 30, 2017).

Left: "[Mahmoud] Abbas' anti-Gaza Strip policy." Right: Hamas cartoons condemn the measures taken by Mahmoud Abbas' against the Gaza Strip, blaming him for the deaths of three infants (Palinfo Twitter account, June 29, 2017).
Left: "[Mahmoud] Abbas' anti-Gaza Strip policy." Right: Hamas cartoons condemn the measures taken by Mahmoud Abbas' against the Gaza Strip, blaming him for the deaths of three infants (Palinfo Twitter account, June 29, 2017).

  • The shortage of drugs and limiting patient departures led to a wave of rage and accusations against Mahmoud Abbas and Israel:
  • Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri Tweeted that Mahmoud Abbas' conduct regarding the shortage of drugs in the Gaza Strip and his decision to stop sending drugs to the Gazan hospitals had led to the deaths of babies and many other patients. He called Mahmoud Abbas' actions "crimes against humanity" (June 27, 2017).
  • Ahmed al-Mudallal, senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) figure, said Israel was responsible for the patients in the Gaza Strip because it did not permit them to leave for medical treatment. The government in Ramallah, he said, was responsible for the shortage of drugs that had led to the deaths of 12 people, four of them babies. He said the "Palestinian resistance" [i.e., terrorist organizations] would continue its war on Israel, and called on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing so patients could receive medical treatment and humanitarian organizations could help them (Filastin al-Yawm, June 29, 2017).
  • The PFLP claimed the Palestinian national consensus government was responsible for the shortage of drugs. It said the PA's decision endangered the residents of the Gaza Strip and had led to the deaths of babies suffering from various diseases. The PFLP called on the PA to end its collective punishment of the Gaza Strip (alresalah.net, June 29, 2017).
Constructing a Buffer Zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
  • As part of its activities to secure the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, on June 28, 2017 the ministry of the interior and national security in the Gaza Strip began the construction of a buffer zone. It will be a closed military area about 100 meters wide inside the Gaza Strip, and will help strengthen security enforcement along the border to prevent smuggling and infiltration. Tawfiq Abu Na'im, deputy minister of the interior in the Gaza Strip, said the zone being constructed following understandings reached with the Egyptian authorities during a recent Hamas delegation visit to Egypt (Dunia al-Watan, June 28, 2017).

 

  • A correspondent for al-Risalah (a Hamas organ) in Rafah reported that the buffer zone would run along the border west of Kerem Shalom in the east to the sea in the west, and would lie in Palestinian territory at a width of between 100 and 150 meters (110 and 160 yards). Senior Palestinian security figures reported that the construction included levelling the ground, which was full of pits because of the collapse of tunnels, cutting down fruit trees planted in the region, and repairing the embankment. Its entire length will be overlaid with barbed wire. An asphalt road 25 meters wide will paved to allow the national security forces to patrol day and night. In addition, there will be a network of lights and cameras controlled from a national security force operations room under the direct supervision of the headquarters of the ministry of the interior in Gaza City, and tall observation towers will also be constructed.
  • On July 2, 2017, a delegation headed by Rawhi Mushtaha and the secretary general of Hamas' ministry of the interior left the Gaza Strip for Egypt via the Rafah crossing. The members of the delegation came from various sectors: security, health, the economy and the treasury. According to Wael Abu Mohsen, head of the information department at the Rafah crossing, the delegation will discuss ways of implementing the understandings recently reached with Egypt (Dunia al-Watan, July 2, 2017). One of the main issues to be dealt with is the construction of the buffer zone (al-Ghad, July 1, 2017). Iyad al-Bazam, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, said the delegation would give the Egyptians a list of the equipment necessary for protecting the border (Filastin al-Yawm, July 1, 2017).
Opening the Rafah Crossing
  • This past week dozens of fuel tankers continued bringing diesel fuel for the Gaza Strip power plant from Egypt, entering through the Rafah crossing. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said in an interview that Hamas had recently been meeting with Egyptian representatives and that a number of agreements had been signed to lessen the siege of the Gaza Strip. According to the agreementsEgypt will transfer equipment, drugs into the Gaza Strip, and merchandise into the Gaza Strip. The sum involved is $7,000,000,000, spread out over a number of years. Mahmoud al-Zahar claimed Egypt needs the agreement to improve its economy (al-Jazeera, June 27, 2017).
  • According to Palestinian sources, General Khaled Fawzi, minister of Egyptian intelligence, ordered the renovations of the Rafah crossing to be speeded up. The sources also reported that the end of August 2017 had been set as the final date for the renovations on the Egyptian side of the crossing. The Egyptians, according to the Palestinian sources, were impressed by Hamas' construction work along the border and wanted the Rafah crossing to be opened quickly to show their esteem for Hamas' efforts. (Samaa News, June 29, 2017).[4]
Interview with Mahmoud al-Zahar
  • In an interview with al-Jazeera, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas' political bureau, related to accusations made against Hamas in the Arab world about its collaboration with terrorist organizations. He denied the accusations and said Hamas was "a resistance organization operating under a regime of occupation." He added that Israel would pay a high price for any attempt at "aggression" against the Gaza Strip, claiming Hamas had the means to defend itself. He claimed Hamas kept [other] terrorist organizations from attempting to grow in the Gaza Strip by means of religious messages delivered in the mosques, in the media and especially in prisons, to terrorists planning attacks. He warned Mahmoud Abbas and the PA not to negotiate with Israel. He said any attempt to normalize relations with Israel was attempted political-societal-cultural-religious suicide (al-Jazeera, June 27, 2017).
Another Palestinian Dies Fighting in the Ranks of ISIS in Syria
  • The Palestinian media reported the death of Izz al-Din Abu Hamam from the al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, while fighting in the ranks of ISIS in al-Raqqa, Syria. He died in an American-led coalition airstrike. According to the reports, he was a senior Hamas military-terrorist operative. He was wounded in an Israeli targeted attack during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 (Facebook pages of Siham and the city of Rafah, July 2, 2017).
Speech Given by Mahmoud Abbas
  • In a speech at the 29th African Union summit conference in Addis Ababa, Mahmoud Abbas called on African leaders to condition any progress in political relations with Israel on Israel's commitment to end the occupation. He claimed every Israeli participation in a regional conference (a reference to the conference of West African states in which Israeli recently participated) encouraged it to continue the occupation. He said that in view of the "ongoing occupation" he hoped the African Union would support the Palestinians, diplomatically and through international institutions (Wafa, July 3, 2017).
  • Mahmoud Abbas also claimed the Palestinians were working to build bridges with Israel in accordance with resolutions made by international institutions instead of building "a racist wall of separation" (a reference to Israel's border security fence). He praised the appearance of "a glimmer of new hope for making peace," thanks to the move of the American president and the involvement of the United States in promoting a peace process. He said the Palestinians had made it clear to the American president that they were prepared to work with the Americans to achieve a historic peace agreement based on the two-state solution. They also said that the Palestinians were a full partner in the struggle against global terrorism[5] (Wafa, July 3, 2017).

Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the 28th African Union summit conference in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia (Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas, July 3, 2017).
Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the 28th African Union summit conference in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia (Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas, July 3, 2017).

During diplomatic contacts with the Americans, the Palestinian Authority rejected demands to stop financial support for terrorist prisoners and the families of shaheeds

Mahmoud Abbas meets with Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the American president. Clockwise from the left: Donald Blome, American consul general in Jerusalem; Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for international negotiations; Kushner and Abbas; Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee; and Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian general intelligence  (Wafa, June 21, 2017).
Mahmoud Abbas meets with Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the American president. Clockwise from the left: Donald Blome, American consul general in Jerusalem; Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for international negotiations; Kushner and Abbas; Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee; and Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian general intelligence (Wafa, June 21, 2017).

Overview

1.   In recent diplomatic contacts between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United States, the Americans demanded the PA stop its financial support for terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners and the families of shaheeds. In 2016 the PA allotted them 1,152 million shekels (more than $327 million), 6.9% from the PA budget and 29.6% from foreign aid. The payments, which are anchored in PA law, were also given to Hamas terrorist operatives and terrorists who carried out attacks after the Oslo Accords, and are an example of overt support for terrorism.[1]

2.   On June 13, 2017, Rex Tillerson, the American secretary of state, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the Palestinian leadership had "changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others." He added that the United States had been "very clear" that paying terrorists was unacceptable. According to a state department report, the PA had made the decision following meetings between Donald Trump and Mahmoud Abbas in the United States (May 3-6, 2017) and in Bethlehem (May 23, 2017) (website of the American state department, June 16, 2017). The issue of the payments made by the PA was raised again by Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for international negotiations, and Jared Kushner, senior advisor to Donald Trump, when they met with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017. At the meeting in Ramallah Mahmoud Abbas rejected the demand to stop the payments, claiming it was an internal Palestinian matter which had a societal aspect (see below).

3.   Apparently the Americans initially thought the PA had changed its policy, evident in the optimistic statement made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during the Senate hearing (see Appendix A). However, it quickly became clear that no change had been made in Palestinian policy and that the PA strongly opposed stopping the payments. The main reason for the Palestinian objection was raised by Issa Qaraqe, chairman of the PA Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, who said that making payments to the prisoners and the families of shaheeds and wounded were an obligation anchored in Palestinian law. On the other hand, the Palestinians did not relate to the fact that the payments were made to terrorist operatives, some of them Hamas operatives, who had committed murder, and that the funds were in fact an encouragement for terrorism.

4.   Glorifying terrorist operatives and shaheeds and supporting them and their families is a function of the Palestinian ethos, whose core is the concept of the so-called "armed struggle" against Israel. The ethos has accompanied the Palestinian national movement since its inception and to this day continues to fuel terrorism and violence against Israel. The Israeli and American demand that the PA stop paying prisoners and the families of shaheeds directly contradicts the ethos. Therefore, any such demand can be expected to be broadly opposed by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, as well as by the Palestinian street. Thus in all probability the PA will refuse to stop the payments. However, in view of American pressure, the PA may try to avoid a head-on confrontationwith the United States and look for creative ways to circumvent the demand, enabling it to lessen the external pressure, as it has done in the past (when it transferred the payment mechanism from the PA to the PLO).

 

Statements by Issa Qaraqe, Chairman of the PA Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs

Issa Qaraqe, chairman of the PA Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs  (Facebook page of Issa Qaraqe, June 21, 2017).
Issa Qaraqe, chairman of the PA Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs (Facebook page of Issa Qaraqe, June 21, 2017).

5.   Given the American expectations (referred to by Tillerson at the Senate hearing) of a change in PA policy, the PA made it clear that the policy had not been changed and the PA would not yield to pressure to change it. Apparently, in an effort to avoid difficulties in relations with the Americans, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership decided to avoid direct statements, feeling it was preferable for Issa Qaraqe to be the issue's main spokesman. Issa Qaraqe is chairman of the PA Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, which has been under the jurisdiction of the PLO since May 29, 2014.[2] It was a fiction whose objective was to fool the donor states complaining that the money they sent for humanitarian aid was being used to fund terrorism. As a result, the money continued to enter the PA budget directly, but then was transferred to the PLO.[3]

Facebook page of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, a department under the jurisdiction of the PLO.
Facebook page of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, a department under the jurisdiction of the PLO.

6.   The two main statements made by Issa Qaraqe about the demand to stop the payments were the following:

a.   During visits with released prisoners Ramallah and Hebron, Issa Qaraqe claimed that the Israeli "incitement" against the support the PA gave the families of prisoners and shaheeds was "a despicable form of aggression" against the PA and its national, humanitarian and social values.[4] Its objective, he claimed, was to send shock waves through the PA. He claimed it would be preferable to see the world and the United States interfere for the sake of ending the [Israeli] "occupation," which caused suffering to thousands of prisoners and which had caused the deaths of thousands of shaheeds. He said that taking care of the families of prisoners and shaheeds, supporting them, and strengthening their firm stance would continue, not end.The Palestinian leadership, he said, its president Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian people would not yield to pressure (website of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, June 15, 2017).

b.   According to Issa Qaraqe, support for the families of shaheeds, prisoners, the wounded and disabled was anchored in Paragraph 22 of the Palestinian basic law, considered the PA constitution since its founding. It ensures social security and medical services as well as old-age and disability payments to the families. Thus, he claimed,the payments were a legal obligation. He added that the support of families harmed by the "occupation" was one of the legal and procedural foundations of the Palestinian political governance. For that reason the ministry for detainees and ex-detainees affairs had been established, which later became the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. The support was anchored in Law No. 19 in 2014 and Law No. 1 in 2013. According to Qaraqe, Israel's freezing of the Palestinian tax revenues, basedon the claim that they are given to the families of prisoners, shaheeds and the wounded, violates the Oslo Accords and the agreement of principles signed by the PA and Israel[5](website of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, June 21, 2017).

Greenblatt, Kushner and Mahmoud Abbas Meet in Ramallah (June 21, 2017)

7.   Palestinian sources leaked to the Arab press that the meeting in Ramallah between Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for international negotiations; Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the American president; and Mahmoud Abbas was "tense and charged." That, according to the Palestinian sources, was because the Americans focused on the Israeli demand that the PA stop paying salaries to prisoners and [the families of] shaheeds and stop incitement, instead of discussing ending construction in the settlements and the two-state solution.[6] The main points of the discussion about the payments, as leaked to the Arab media by Palestinian sources, were the following:

a.   The Americans represented the issue of salaries to prisoners as encouragement for violence and demanded Mahmoud Abbas stop them. The previous American position (i.e., the one voiced at Mahmoud Abbas's meeting in the United States) was to stop the paying the salaries of the more than 6,000 prisoners and released prisoners. At the meeting in Ramallah the Americans demanded that salaries no longer be paid to the 600 prisoners sentenced to life terms for murdering Israelis(al-Hayat, June 23, 2017).

b.   Mahmoud Abbas was displeased by the American demand and refused to accede to it. He demanded that instead of focusing on the salaries, which he claimed were "an internal Palestinian matter with a societal aspect," the discussion should focus on stopping the settlements. The meeting did not end with an agreement or breakthrough on any one of the issues, but left the Palestinians feeling that the Americans had adopted the Israeli position, and that the United States would not succeed in bringing the two sides together in an agreement (al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 23, 2017).

Appendix
The American State Department Announces the PA Agreed to Stop Supporting Prisoners and the Families of Shaheeds (ITIC emphasis throughout)

1.   Rex Tillerson, the American secretary of state, told a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Palestinian leadership had made a U-turn on payments to the families of convicted Palestinian attackers. He said, "They have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others." He continued, “We have been very clear with them that this [practice of paying terrorists] is simply not acceptable to us." The decision was made, he said, after Donald Trump’s hosting of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the US. and a visit with him in the West Bank city of Bethlehem(website of the American State Department, June 16, 2017).

2.   At a press briefing held on June 15, 2017, State Department spokesman Heather Nauertwas asked, "Secretary Tillerson told Congress the other day that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or the authority have agreed not to make payments to the families of prisoners and martyrs, as they call them. And then yesterday [Mahmoud Abbas] basically backtracked. Could you clarify this for us?" She answered, "The Secretary addressed this yesterday, and he said this type of thing is not acceptable to the American people; it is certainly not appropriate. I think those are very clear comments. We have a certain set of expectations, and the expectation is that that should, in fact, stop. Last month the Palestinian Authority announced that it was stopping payments to some Hamas-affiliated prisoners, but this step we consider to be inadequate to talk about – to address our concerns" (Newsweek and other American media outlets, June 14, 2017)

[1]Data taken from a study done by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, "A prize for terrorism, PA payments to the Palestinian terrorists and their families," published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2017 (Hebrew).
[2]Until May 2014 payments to prisoners and the families of shaheeds were made through the PA's Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs. To deflect external pressure, on May 29, 2014, Mahmoud Abbas issued an edict calling for its name to be changed from ministry to commission, and turning it over to the PLO. Former minister Issa Qaraqe was put in charge (website of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. June 26, 2017).
[3]Kuperwasser, op cit.
[4]Support for prisoners and the families of shaheeds is represented as a "national value" because of its great importance.
[5]The proposed Israeli law cuts funds to the PA (i.e., tax revenues transferred from Israel to the PA) for the payments to terrorists. The law was proposed in the Knesset Legislative Committee on June 14, 2017, and its preliminary reading was passed. Support for Palestinian terrorist prisoners is considered a "national value," and the PA refuses to stop payment.
[6]In the wake of the meeting in Ramallah the PA and the White House issued short statements. They made no mention of the salaries paid to prisoners and the families of shaheeds. The tension between the Palestinians and Americans, reports of which were leaked by the Palestinian sources, did not appear in official announcements.

News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (June 2 – 6, 2017)

Gazans clash with IDF forces at the border security fence following a Hamas call to hold a week of demonstrations on the Israeli-Gazan border to protest the

Gazans clash with IDF forces at the border security fence following a Hamas call to hold a week of demonstrations on the Israeli-Gazan border to protest the "siege" of the Gaza Strip (Twitter account of QudsN, June 2, 2017).

Gazans clash with IDF forces at the border security fence following a Hamas call to hold a week of demonstrations on the Israeli-Gazan border to protest the

Gazans clash with IDF forces at the border security fence following a Hamas call to hold a week of demonstrations on the Israeli-Gazan border to protest the "siege" of the Gaza Strip (Twitter account of QudsN, June 2, 2017).

Pictures from the end-of-year display put on by the children in the Dar al-Huda kindergarten in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City (Facebook page of the al-Huda ha-Islami kindergarten, June 2, 2017).

Pictures from the end-of-year display put on by the children in the Dar al-Huda kindergarten in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City (Facebook page of the al-Huda ha-Islami kindergarten, June 2, 2017).

Jibril Rajoub interviewed by Israeli Channel 2 TV (YouTube, June 4, 2017).

Jibril Rajoub interviewed by Israeli Channel 2 TV (YouTube, June 4, 2017).

  • This past week no significant terrorist attack was carried out in Judea and Samaria or the Gaza Strip. After Hamas called on the residents of the Gaza Strip to hold demonstrations near the border with Israel, several hundred Palestinians rioted at each of various locations for a number of days.
  • The Arab media reported that Qatar gave Hamas the names of 12 operatives who were required to leave Doha immediately. Most of the names were of Hamas operatives handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria; one of the operatives was Saleh al-Arouri. Hamas strongly denied the report.
  • This past week a delegation of senior Hamas figures left the Gaza Strip for Egypt, led by Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of the new Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip. According to Hamas' media, the delegation will discuss Hamas-Egypt relations and the worsening humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The delegation will also ask Egypt to open the Rafah crossing and ease the "siege."
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
  • This past week demonstrations, clashes and riots continued throughout Judea and Samaria, primarily involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. Israeli security forces detained a number of Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity and seized weapons. The more prominent occurrences were the following:
  • June 5, 2017 – Israeli security forces operating in the village of Asira al-Shamaliya (Nablus region) seized weapons, including a hand gun, rifle sights and ammunition (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 5, 2017).
  • June 5, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle near Nebi Elias (Samaria). There were no casualties; the vehicle was damaged(Facebook page of Red Alert, June 5, 2017).
  • June 3, 2017 – IDF forces attempted to detain a Palestinian at the checkpoint near Nebi Saleh (northwest of Ramallah) and a clash with other Palestinians ensued. One was seriously injured. The IDF is investigating the circumstances (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 3, 2017).
  • June 2, 2017 – Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli vehicle near the community of Kokhav Hashahar (northeast of Ramallah). There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 2, 2017).
  • June 2, 2017 –Israeli security forces operating in the village of Khirbet Aqaba (west of Nablus) seized a large quantity of weapons (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 2, 2017).

Significant Terrorist Attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem since September 2015

Condemnation of the Death of a Palestinian Terrorist Who Carried Out a Stabbing Attack
  • On June 1, 2017, a Palestinian girl carried out a stabbing attack near the community of Mevo Dotan, wounding an IDF soldier. She was shot and later died in a hospital. The Palestinian ministry of health issued an announcement condemning the IDF's "field court martial" which had sentenced her to death. According to the announcement, such trials held by IDF soldiers indicate the moral deterioration of the IDF under Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. The ministry also appealed to the UN Security Council and international organizations to investigate the event, and ensure Israel bore responsibility for its acts and obeyed international law (Wafa, June 2, 2017).
  • The above is another example of how the PA and Fatah systematically accuse Israel of responsibility for the deaths of Palestinian terrorists who die while carrying out attacks. They consistently ignore the relationship between cause (an attempted terrorist attack) and effect (the death of the terrorist).[2]
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
  • This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.

Rocket Fire Attacking Israel

Clashes near the Border Security Fence
  • The Hamas-affiliated "national authority to break the siege" called on the residents of the Gaza Strip to hold "demonstrations" near the border with Israel for a week. Their slogan was "the warning of rage." The demonstrations were meant to protest the intensifying of the "siege" on the Gaza Strip (al-Aqsa, June 1, 2017).
  • Inanswer to the call Gazans rioted on the Israeli-Gazan border for a week. Clashes were held simultaneously in a number of locations (determined in advance by Hamas). There were several hundred rioters at each location. They set fire to tires and threw stones at IDF forces (Twitter account of al-Aqsa TV, June 2, 2017). The Palestinian media reported that a number of Gazans were injured during the clashes (Filastin al-Yawm, al-Aqsa and Wafa, June 2-5, 2017).
Hamas Delegation Goes to Egypt
  • A Hamas delegation led by Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip, left the Gaza Strip for Egypt through the Rafah crossing. Members of the delegation included senior Hamas figures Khalil al-Haya and Rawhi Mushtaha, as well as Tawfiq Abu Na'im, assistant deputy minister of the interior and in charge of the security forces. The delegates planned to meet with senior figures in the Egyptian administration, including the head of Egyptian General Intelligence. They will discuss a series of issues relating to the Gaza Strip and Hamas-Egyptian relations (Filastin al-Yawm, June 4, 2017).
  • According to Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas' political bureau, the objective of the visit was to develop relations with Egypt and discuss the future of the Palestinian cause. The delegates will also raise the issue of the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, the role of Egypt in easing the siege and the necessity of opening the Rafah crossing (alresalah.net, June 4, 2017). It is the first visit of Yahya al-Sinwar to Egypt since he was elected to head Hamas' political bureau in the Gaza Strip on February 13, 2017.
Hamas' External Relations
  • Osama Hamdan, in charge of Hamas' external relations, spoke about Hamas' relations with Iran. He claimed there was nothing new in the report published by the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat about a rapprochement between Hamas and Iran because they had never cut off relations. For the past two years, he claimed, relations had been steadily improving. He said the last time he visited Iran was three months ago. Regarding meeting with Israelis, he said no one in Hamas was permitted to meet with Israelis or negotiate with them in the name of the movement. Anyone who met with Israelis would pay the price (al-Mayadeen, May 31, 2017).
Hamas' Relations with Qatar
  • Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV, quoting diplomat sources, reported that Qatar had given Hamas the names of 12 Hamas operatives who were required to leave Doha [the capital of Qatar] immediately. According to the report, most of the names listed were of Hamas operatives who coordinated activities with the movement's leadership in Judea and Samaria. Qatar expressed regret at having to take such a step, but it did "in the wake of external pressures" (al-Mayadeen, June 3, 2017). According to the Jordanian paper al-Ghad, Saleh al-Arouri, a member of Hamas' political bureau, had already left Qatar (al-Ghad, June 3, 2017).
  • Hamas publicly denied its senior figures had been expelled from Qatar:

 

  • Hamas spokesman Husam Badran said the report was false, distorted the true situation, and was an attempt to influence Hamas' external relations. He thanked Qatar for its positive role in supporting the Palestinian people (alresalah.net, June 4, 2017).
  • Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas' political bureau, Tweeted that the discourse regarding the expulsion of the Hamas leadership from Qatar was part of a well-planned, well-orchestrated media campaign initiated by people who wanted to harm Hamas. Such people were concerned Hamas would soon overcome its present crisis and be stronger than before (Twitter account of Salah al-Bardawil, June 4, 2017)
Stopping Payment of Salaries to Released Terrorist Prisoners
  • Released prisoners in the Gaza Strip said the Palestinian Authority (PA) had stopped paying the salaries of 277 Palestinian terrorist prisoners who had been released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal and exiled to the Gaza Strip. They said when they had gone to their banks to receive their salaries they were told the money had not yet been deposited. They appealed to everyone involved and asked for pressure to be exerted on the PA so that they could receive the funds (al-Ra'i, June 4, 2017). Abu Jerad, chairman of the of the union of PA workers in the Gaza Strip, condemned the PA's measure and said the union would undertake a series of protest measures against the PA (Samaa News, June 4, 2017).
  • Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned the PA's decision to stop the payments. He said it served Israel and Israel's positions. He called on Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the decision (Hamas website, June 5, 2017).
End-of-Year Ceremony at a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Kindergarten in Gaza City
  • The PIJ-affiliated Islamic Dar al-Huda NGO held an end-of-the-year ceremony at its kindergarten in Gaza City. The ceremony demonstrated the hatred and violence towards Israel with which the children are indoctrinated.
  • The ceremony was held at the end of May 2017 at the kindergarten run by the NGO in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City. The children, wearing "camouflage uniforms" of the PIJ's military-terrorist wing, simulated attacking and killing two ultra-Orthodox Jews, who, according to the script, had killed a Palestinian woman. The children held up pictures of Ramadan Shallah, PIJ secretary general, and Fathi Shqaqi, the organization's founder (Facebook page of the Islamic Dar al-Huda kindergarten, June 2, 2017). A similar ceremony was held last year.[4]
Responses to the United States' Announcement to Delay the Relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem
  • Donald Trump signed an waiver delaying the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem by six months (until December 1, 2017). In a statement issued by the White House, officials said Mr. Trump’s move should not be considered “a retreat from the president’s strong support for Israel” and its alliance with the United States.[5] The United States, according to the statement, was still planning to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, and the only question was when (New York Times, June 1, 2017).
  • The PA welcomed the move, which they claimed was consistent with international consensus and gave peace a chance. In the meantime, the PA said it was considering sending a delegation of senior Palestinian figures to Washington in preparation for beginning negotiations with Israel (al-Quds, June 20, 2017). Some responses were the following:
  • Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said Trump's decision was positive and would increase the chances for peace. He said it also proved the American administration was serious about the peace process and its intentions to construct a bridge of trust (Wafa, June 1, 2017).
  • Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, praised the United States for not surrendering to Israeli pressure. He called Trump's decision a step in the right direction which proved the new American administration could be trusted to work for peace (Dunia al-Watan, June 2, 2017).
  • Husam Zomlot, the de facto PA ambassador to Washington, said the decision was important for three reasons: president Trump would continue the policy of not recognizing Israel's military rule in Jerusalem, both east and west; the president was serious about reaching a comprehensive resolution for the Palestinian cause; and Prime Minister Netanyahu was not serious about achieving peace. Husam Zomlot claimed Mahmoud Abbas' instructions to prevent the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem were clear and the American administration understood from the Palestinian position that relocating the embassy would destroy any chance of reaching a political settlement, at the same time increasing regional extremism and instability (Samaa, June 1, 2017).
Statements Made by Jibril Rajoub about the Western Wall
  • In an interview given by Jibril Rajoub, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, to Israeli Channel 2's program "Meet the Press," he said, regarding Trump's visit to the Western Wall, that it had to remain under Israeli sovereignty but that the Temple Mount had to remain in the hands of the Palestinians. He also said the regarding the issue of the Western Wall there was no argument and that it was a holy place for the Jews.
  • Jibril Rajoub's remarks about the Western Wall caused a storm of criticism in the Palestinian social networks. He posted a denial of his alleged remarks about the Western Wall on his Facebook page. He said a number of websites and "tabloids" had published false reports claiming that in an interview in Hebrew he had ceded the Western Wall and Jerusalem. However, he claimed, he meant that Trump's solo visit to the Western Wall, without Israelis accompanying him, sent the message that he did not recognize the legitimacy of Israel's sovereignty over the site (Facebook page of Jibril Rajoub, June 4, 2017).

Jibril Rajoub's response to criticism (Facebook page of Jibril Rajoub, June 3, 2017).
Jibril Rajoub's response to criticism (Facebook page of Jibril Rajoub, June 3, 2017).

  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said in an announcement that he condemned the statements made by Jibril Rajoub. He said Jibril Rajoub's statements were a "national crime" and sent a clear message to Israel that the Palestinians had officially waived their rights to one of their holy places, which was also a Palestinian national historic site. He claimed the statements made by Jibril Rajoub showed the depths to which some of the Fatah leadership had sunk and that such statements showed disregard for the struggle of the Palestinian people (Hamas website, June 4, 2017).
  • Daoud Shehab, director of the PIJ's media bureau, wrote that the statements made by Jibril Rajoub were serious and prepared the ground for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. He added that the concepts of "the Oslo negotiations pack" ignored what was sacred and that as far as they were concerned everything was open to negotiation, which was the cause of catastrophes (Paltoday, June 4, 2017).

Hamas cartoons. Left: "Rajoub: the Western Wall has to remain under Jewish sovereignty..." (Palinfo Twitter account, June 4, 2017). Right: Rajoub presents the Islamic Western Wall to the Jews (Palinfo Twitter account, June 5, 2017).
Hamas cartoons. Left: "Rajoub: the Western Wall has to remain under Jewish sovereignty..." (Palinfo Twitter account, June 4, 2017). Right: Rajoub presents the Islamic Western Wall to the Jews (Palinfo Twitter account, June 5, 2017).

Public Opinion Poll about the Israel-Palestinian Political Process
  • The Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency (considered one of the most prominent Palestinian media) conducted a public opinion poll about renewing negotiations under the aegis of Donald Trump. According to the poll, 88% of those who participated were of the opinion that Trump, like his predecessors, would be biased in favor of Israel and that his administration would present nothing new. Only 8.4% were of the opinion that a return to negotiations could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state (Ma'an, June 4, 2017).

Cartoon by Khalil Abu Arafeh exaggerating the extent of construction in the Israeli settlements before (right) and after (left) Trump (Facebook page of Khalil Abu Arafeh, June 4, 2017).
Cartoon by Khalil Abu Arafeh exaggerating the extent of construction in the Israeli settlements before (right) and after (left) Trump (Facebook page of Khalil Abu Arafeh, June 4, 2017).

The Palestinian Terrorists Prisoners' Hunger Strike
  • Ashraf al-Ajami, who was formerly PA minister for prisoners affairs, wrote an article about the prisoners' strike. In it he claimed that ending the strike after negotiations with Israel, which had initially refused to negotiate with the prisoners, was a victory. However, he wrote, it revealed the difficult and disturbing truth that only 10% of all the prisoners in Israeli jails had joined the strike, demonstrating a low level of solidarity among the prisoners. That showed that the prisoners' movement was divided, similar to Palestinian society (al-Ayam, June 5, 2017).
The 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War
  • This past week the PA marked the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War (the naksa, "defeat" in Arabic). Mahmoud Abbas' office issued an announcement stressing that the end of the occupation and establishment of an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and east Jerusalem as its capital were the real way to achieve security and stability. The Palestinians adhered to their national rights and basic principles, for which they had sacrificed thousands of shaheeds and wounded. The announcement called on the free world to put an end to the world's "last occupation" and allow the Palestinians their full and legitimate rights (Wafa, June 4, 2017).
  • Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, said in an announcement that the Palestinians would not allow Israel or its supporters to uproot them from their land again. They would not waive their national rights, which were anchored in international law, and would continue their struggle against the occupation with every means at their disposal. He said the two-state solution was the only way to end the occupation, and that the Palestinian leadership would not agree to temporary or partial solutions, or to a regional solution. He called on the international community, especially the UN, to take responsibility for ending the Israeli occupation and bring its criminals to trial for their war crimes and the crimes against humanity they had committed against the Palestinian for 50 years. He added that in the absence of the two-state solution and of support, the Palestinians would not sit idly by but would struggle to defeat the "apartheid regime" Israeli was trying to enforce (Wafa, June 4, 2017).

Palestinian cartoons for the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War (left to right: Felesteen, June 6, 2017; Twitter account of Filastin al-A'an, June 5, 2017; alresala.net, June 5, 2017).
Palestinian cartoons for the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War (left to right: Felesteen, June 6, 2017; Twitter account of Filastin al-A'an, June 5, 2017; alresala.net, June 5, 2017).

[1]A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicle, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
[2]See the June 5, 2017 bulletin, "Anti-Israel Incitement in the Palestinian Authority: Causes and Aspects." (Hebrew; the document will soon be available in English translation.)
[3]The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
[4]See the June 5, 2016 bulletin, "Kindergarten party held by a PIJ-affiliated NGO once again demonstrates the indoctrination of Gazan children with violence and hatred for Israel."
[5]https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/world/middleeast/israel-embassy-jerusalem-trump.html?_r=0

Spotlight on Global Jihad (May 25-June 1, 2017)

Spotlight on Global Jihad

Spotlight on Global Jihad

Transmission tower that collapsed at one of the communications centers of Al-Raqqah, which were attacked by the coalition planes.

Transmission tower that collapsed at one of the communications centers of Al-Raqqah, which were attacked by the coalition planes.

Rayan Mashaal, one of the founders of ISIS’s Aamaq information agency, killed in an airstrike in Al-Mayadeen (Haqq, May 31, 2017)

Rayan Mashaal, one of the founders of ISIS’s Aamaq information agency, killed in an airstrike in Al-Mayadeen (Haqq, May 31, 2017)

A Russian Defense Ministry video showing the attack on ISIS’s convoy claimed to be en route to the Palmyra area (May 27, 2017)

A Russian Defense Ministry video showing the attack on ISIS’s convoy claimed to be en route to the Palmyra area (May 27, 2017)

Photo from a video showing the launch of the cruise missiles (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, May 30, 2017)

Photo from a video showing the launch of the cruise missiles (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, May 30, 2017)

Missile which, as claimed by ISIS, hits the Iraqi police forces in west Mosul (Haqq, May 28, 2017).

Missile which, as claimed by ISIS, hits the Iraqi police forces in west Mosul (Haqq, May 28, 2017).

ISIS operatives fighting against the Iraqi security forces (Haqq, May 25, 2017)

ISIS operatives fighting against the Iraqi security forces (Haqq, May 25, 2017)

Scene of the suicide attack in the city of Hit (Al-Aan Channel, May 31, 2017)

Scene of the suicide attack in the city of Hit (Al-Aan Channel, May 31, 2017)

Scene of the attack in central Baghdad (Al-Aan Channel, May 31, 2017)

Scene of the attack in central Baghdad (Al-Aan Channel, May 31, 2017)

Column of mechanized Popular Mobilization forces near the Iraqi-Syrian border (Twitter account of the Popular Mobilization Spokesperson's Office, May 30, 2017)

Column of mechanized Popular Mobilization forces near the Iraqi-Syrian border (Twitter account of the Popular Mobilization Spokesperson's Office, May 30, 2017)

Column of mechanized Popular Mobilization forces near the Iraqi-Syrian border (Twitter account of the Popular Mobilization Spokesperson's Office, May 30, 2017)

Column of mechanized Popular Mobilization forces near the Iraqi-Syrian border (Twitter account of the Popular Mobilization Spokesperson's Office, May 30, 2017)

The attacked bus and the scene of the attack (Al-Masry Al-Youm, May 27, 2017)

The attacked bus and the scene of the attack (Al-Masry Al-Youm, May 27, 2017)

Main events of the week

  • ISIS continues to face mounting pressure in Iraq and Syria:
  • Iraq:The battle for the takeover of Mosul is nearing its final stages; The Popular Mobilization forces (the Shiite militias supported by Iran) reached the Iraqi-Syrian border (west of Sinjar). They began to move south towards the city of Al-Qaim, on the Euphrates River, in order to mop up the border area from ISIS forces (a process that creates tension with the Kurds, who control the Syrian side of the border).
  • Syria:The siege on the “capital city” Al-Raqqah is growing tighter, leaving ISIS operatives with only one remaining escape route to the south, apparently with permission from the SDF. The Russians fear that ISIS operatives who flee from Al-Raqqah will find their way to the Palmyra area, where the Syrian army is conducting intensive activities against ISIS. As a result, this week the Russians attacked ISIS convoys and targets in the Al-Raqqah area, using their Air Force and cruise missiles launched from a frigate and a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. ISIS sustained heavy losses.
  • The heavy losses that ISIS continues to sustain affect its operational and media systems, among other things.This week, coalition aircraft killed three senior operational operatives and a senior media operative in an airstrike against ISIS targets in the city of Al-Mayadeen, on the Euphrates River.
  • ISIS’s response is reflected in the increase in terror and guerrilla attacks, despite the month of Ramadan (dubbed by ISIS “the month of invasions and conquests that have changed the course of history.”) Deadly mass-casualty terrorist attacks were carried out in Baghdad (and in other cities throughout Iraq) and abroad (the most noteworthy attacks were the mass-casualty shooting attack against a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the detonation of a tanker bomb in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul in Afghanistan, apparently carried out by ISIS).It should be taken into account that during the month of Ramadan, ISIS operatives or supporters will try to carry out terrorist attacks in Western countries as well.

 

The coalition countries

  • The US Department of Defense published the findings of an investigation into an attack carried out on March 17, 2017 in the Al-Jadida neighborhood of Mosul, resulting in the deaths of 107 civilians. According to the findings of the investigation, the civilians were killed as a result of a secondary explosion of IEDs planted by ISIS operatives in the area, which they activated following the airstrike. The Department of Defense emphasized that the weapons used by the United States could not cause this type of damage (US Department of Defense website, May 25, 2017).
  • ISIS continues to suffer casualties among its senior operatives who are involved in planning operational activities in Syria, Iraq and abroad. These losses compromise ISIS’s operational capabilities. This week, the US Central Command reported the killing of three senior foreign fighters in coalition airstrikes (Centcom website, May 26, 2017):
  • Mustafa Gunes:an operative in ISIS’s external terrorist operations arm, who operated based in Syria. He was killed in an airstrike on Al-Mayadeen on April 27, 2017. Guneswas identified as having recruited operatives to the ranks of ISIS in Konya, central Turkey. He was also involved in transferring money for planning attacks against the West outside Syria and Iraq.
  • Abu Asimal-Jazaeri:he was killed in a coalition airstrike near Al-Mayadeen on May 11, 2017. He was also an operative in ISIS’s external terrorist operations arm and operated based in Syria. He was involved in training a new generation of ISIS youth (“the Lions of the Caliphate”).
  • Abu Khattab al-Rawi:a senior military operative killed in an operation in Al-Qaim, Iraq. He operated in the Al-Anbar Province in western Iraq and was responsible for coordinating airstrikes by ISIS’s drones in the Al-Anbar Province.

Main developments in Syria

The campaign to take over Al-Raqqah
  • The SDF forces continue tightening the siege on Al-Raqqah from the north, the east and the south.  According to the Lebanese Al-Nour broadcasting station, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, they are now at a distance of 1 km east of the Al-Mashlab neighborhood, in east Al-Raqqah (Al-Nour Station, May 31, 2017). However, there are still escape routes through which ISIS operatives and their families can leave the city southward. Syrian media reported that the SDF forces called on ISIS operatives to lay down their arms until late May 2017, before the beginning of the planned attack (Sham Network, May 25, 2017). In the meantime, coalition warplanes attack ISIS targets in Al-Raqqah while SDF forces fire artillery at the city (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 31, 2017).
  • ISIS operatives attempt to stop the advance of the SDF forces (supported by US Special Forces and air support) towards Al-Ba’ath Dam (about 23 km west of Al-Raqqah). ISIS sends reinforcements to the southern bank of the Euphrates River. If the SDF forces take over this dam, it will be the third that they have taken, after Tishreen Dam and Tabqa Dam (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 27, 2017).

 

Communications facilities in Al-Raqqah hit and senior media figure killed
  • ISIS released a video showing the results of the airstrike carried out by coalition planes against two communications centers in Al-Raqqah. According to ISIS, the attack was intended to cut off Al-Raqqah from the outside world. ISIS admitted that the communications centers had been put out of commission (Haqq, May 31, 2017).
  • In the ITIC's assessment, destroying ISIS’s communications center may hinder ISIS’s communications from its capital Al-Raqqah with its operatives in Syria and Iraq, and maybe even with the rest of the world. This was in addition to the killing of senior ISIS media figures which played key roles in ISIS’s propaganda machine. The most recent of them is Rayan Mashaal, a high-ranking media operative killed in the coalition airstrike against Al-Mayadeen. He joined ISIS in 2013 and was one of the founders of Aamaq, ISIS’s news agency (Haqq, May 31, 2017).

 

Opening escape routes for ISIS operatives from Al-Raqqah, and the Russian response
  • According to Russian media, the SDF forces allowed ISIS operatives to flee Al-Raqqah in order toreduce the expected resistance during the takeover of the city. Talal Selo, SDF spokesman, denied that and said that there was no agreement between them and ISIS (Al-Jazeera, May 27, 2017). The Russian media claimed that ISIS was offered two escape routes: one southward (towards Palmyra) and the other westward (towards Idlib). The Russian media added that the SDF forces instigated ISIS operatives to leave Al-Raqqah mainly southward because this route is considered safer (Interfax; Sputnik; 1tv.ru, May 27, 2017). The Russians announced that they would not allow such an agreement and that the Russian Air Force and Special Forces would prevent the exit of the operatives from Al-Raqqah southward.
  • It seems that the Russians are concerned that ISIS operatives fleeing Al-Raqqah would find their way to the Syrian Army’s activity areas, mainly in the Palmyra region, where intense activity against ISIS is taking place. According to TASS News Agency, after receiving the information on this matter, the headquarters of the Russian forces in Syria took a series of steps to prevent the withdrawal of ISIS operatives from Al-Raqqah (TASS, May 27, 2017).

 

  • A source in the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that on May 25, 2017, the Russian Air Force attacked a convoy of ISIS operatives which included 39 vans, en route from Al-Raqqah to the Palmyra area. As a result,over 120 ISIS operatives were killed, and 32 vans with heavy machine guns were destroyed. The same source further added that any attempt by ISIS to move toward Palmyra and reinforce its operatives there would be thwarted. According to the Russians, the attack surprised ISIS, because they expected the Russian Air Force to attack stationary targets such as warehouses and training camps, and because the route was presented to them as a safe retreat route (Interfax; Sputnik; 1tv.ru, May 27, 2017).
  • On May 31, 2017, a source in the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that during the night, ISIS operatives had made another attempt to advance from Al-Raqqah towards the city of Palmyra. They left Al-Raqqah under cover of darkness and advanced in alternative roads. Their movement was traced by the Russian intelligence. The Russian Air Force carried out several airstrikes, killing over 80 ISIS operatives and destroying vehicles and weapons. The Russian Defense Ministry warned that any attempt by ISIS to leave Al-Raqqah towards Palmyra would be foiled (TASS, June 1, 2017).
  • On May 30, 2017, four cruise missiles were launchedfrom a frigate and a submarine stationed in the eastern Mediterranean. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the attack was directed at ISIS targets in east Palmyra and ISIS forces which were transferred from Al-Raqqah. Furthermore, it was reported that Russia had informed the commands of the US, Turkey and Israel on the attack through the joint communications channels (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, May 31, 2017).
The border between Syria, Iraq, and Jordan
  • This week, the “Commando of the Revolution” rebel force, with US support, continued to advance toward the city of Abu Kamal, which is an important rear base for ISIS (Syrian NORS Institute for Strategic Studies, May 28, 2017). This was carried out after a short break due to the US airstrike on a Syrian mechanized force heading towards Al-Tanf. According to reports, the coalition planes scattered leaflets warning the Syrian force (which in the meantime stopped its advance) not to get closer to the Al-Tanf area in the tri-border region of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan (Enab Baladi, May 29, 2017).
The Palmyra area
  • The Syrian forces continued to intensify their control over the Palmyra area. They took over the Damascus-Palmyra route and started to advance towards the Al-Qaryatayn area (about 70 km southwest of Palmyra). ISIS reportedly retreated from several positions south of Palmyra and in south Al-Qaryatayn (Al-Durar Al-Shamiya, May 25, 2017).
The Syrian Army’s advance towards the Euphrates Valley
  • The Syrian forces continued to advance towards the town of Al-Maskana, west of Lake Assad. They are now near the town. The Syrian Army fired artillery at the town. In addition, routes leading to it were attacked from the air (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 31, 2017).

Main developments in Iraq

The campaign for the takeover of Mosul
  • The campaign for the takeover of Mosul is approaching its final stages. In the passing week, the Iraqi forces took over additional neighborhoods in west Mosul. The last stronghold of resistance remains in the Old City. According to Iraqi estimates, less than 10% of the city area is still held by ISIS (Nineveh Information Center, May 28, 2017).

 

  • On May 27, 2017, the Iraqi forces launched an attack to take over ISIS’s last stronghold in the Old City of Mosul and three adjacent areas near the western bank of the Tigris River (Reuters, May 27, 2017). Before that, the Iraqi forces scattered leaflets asking the residents of the Old City to evacuate before the beginning of a new military attack (Al-Arabiya, May 26, 2017). ISIS deployed snipers, suicide bombers, and car bombs in the Old City (AP, May 28, 2017).
  • Shaaban Nasiri, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, was reportedly killed in battle in Mosul. According to an Iraqi Army source, Nasiri had been the advisor of Qassem Soleimani, Qods Force commander, on the affairs of the Popular Mobilization Units (Shiite militias) in Iraq (Mashreq; AP, May 27, 2017).
ISIS’s terror and guerrilla activities throughout Iraq
  • While ISIS is losingcontrol in Mosul, terror and guerrilla attacks are intensifiedthroughout Iraq. Maybe the background for this tendency is ISIS’s efforts to increase the volume of its attacks during the month of Ramadan, which ISIS has dubbed “the month of invasions and conquests that have changed the course of history” (Haqq, May 30, 2017). These attacks indicate that ISIS still possess highly operational capabilities outside of Mosul, which it is going to employ even after the fall of the city.

 

  • Noteworthy events during the week:
  • Baghdad: On May 30, 2017, a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad, close to the Shuhada Bridge. Nine people were killed, and 36 others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, May 30, 2017). ISIS was apparently behind the attack.
  • Hit: On May 30, 2017, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up near a checkpoint in the city. Fourteen people were killed, and 23 others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, May 30, 2017; Al-Aan Channel, May 31, 2017).
  • Baghdad: On May 29, 2017, a car bomb exploded in the Al-Karadahneighborhood, at the bustling center of Baghdad, near a food store. A total of 27 people were killed, and about 30 others were wounded (Al-Aan Channel, May 30, 2017). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was carried out by a car bomb which exploded among a gathering of Shiites (Haqq, May 30, 2017).
  • Al-Ramadi: ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating a car bomb at the center of Al-Ramadi. According to ISIS, at least seven Iraqi policemen were killed (Haqq, May 26, 2017).
  • Baqubah: ISIS claimed responsibility for carrying out a suicide bombing attack among a gathering ofpolicemen in the city of Baqubah, about 50 km northeast of Baghdad. According to ISIS, at least 13 policemen were killed, and 18 others were wounded (Haqq, May 28, 2017).
  • South of Kirkuk: ISIS announced that it had killed at least 10 Peshmerga operatives in the area of the Tuz Khormato airport (Haqq, May 28, 2017).
Shiite militia activity near the Iraqi-Syrian border
  • In late May 2017, forces of the Popular Mobilization Units (Shiite militias supported by Iran) arrived near the Iraqi-Syrian border west of Sinjar. The militias started mopping up the border area and moving to the south towards the city of Al-Qaim, which is held by ISIS (Al-Jazeera, June 1, 2017; Dimashq Al-Aan, May 29, 2017). On June 1, 2017, the Popular Mobilization forces were reportedly advancing towards the town of Al-Ba’aj, about 32 km southwest of Sinjar (Twitter account of the Popular Mobilization Spokesperson’s Office, June 1, 2017).

 

  • Karim al-Haqqani, commander of the Popular Mobilization’s 2nd. Brigade, said that this move was carried out on instructions by Iraqi President Haidar al-Abadi (Iraqi News Agency Sada, May 30, 2017). Iraq’s president announced on a plan carried out in coordination with the Popular Mobilization Units, whose objective is to monitor the Iraqi-Syrian border (Al-Mayadeen, May 30, 2017).
  • SDF forces, which are in control of the Syrian side of the border, warned the Popular Mobilization militias not to enter Syria (Al-Jazeera, June 1, 2017). On the other hand, Popular Mobilization Spokesman Karim al-Nuri declared that they were going to fight against ISIS on Syrian soil as well, in coordination with the Syrian regime (Dimashq Al-Aan, May 29, 2017). The ITIC believes that in case the Iranian-affiliated Shiite militias cross the border into the Syrian side, it will create a new tension between the US-supported Kurds and the Iranian-supported Shiite militias.

Sinai Peninsula and Egypt

Sinai Peninsula
  • ISIS operatives in Sinai are reportedly operating against smugglers in the tunnels that still remain between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In this context, ISIS operatives detonated, for the first time, a tunnel serving to smuggle food products. Most of those engaged in smuggling to the Gaza Strip from Sinai are the Tarabin tribesmen. The activity against the tunnel takes place as part of the confrontation between ISIS operatives and the Tarabin tribesmen (Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed, May 27, 2017).
Egypt
  • On May 29, 2017, a shooting attack was carried out against a bus carrying Copts who were on their way to the Monastery of Saint Samuel, north of Al-Minya (south of Cairo). According to Egyptian reports, the shooting was carried out from three vehicles by ten masked operatives, some wearing military uniform. They shot at the bus indiscriminately. At least 29 Coptic Christians were killed (Al-Masry Al-Youm, May 26, 2017). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that those ISIS operatives who carried out the attack had trained in Libyan training camps (Al-Masry Al-Youm, May 27, 2017). In retaliation, the Egyptian Air Force attacked several times targets in the area of Derna, northeast Libya (Al-Arabiya; Facebook page of the Egyptian Armed Forces Spokesman, May 27, 2017). According to the Libyan News Agency, Abdel Mun’im Salam (Abu Talha), one of the leaders of Derna’sShura Council affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and four of his operatives were killed in the airstrike (Al-Youm Al-Sabea, May 27, 2017). Libyan warplanes from Haftar’s army also took part in the airstrike.

The conduct of the Islamic State

ISIS manufactures shoulder launchers for standard rockets
  • Issue No. 82 or ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba features an article about ISIS’s capability of self-manufacturing various kinds of disposable shoulder launchers. The launchers manufactured by ISIS are intended for standard short-range and medium-range rockets. According to the article, the launchers are manufactured by the Islamic State’s Manufacture and Development Administration since October 2016 (Haqq, May 26, 2017; Al-Naba, May 25, 2017).
Campaign for recruiting ISIS soldiers
  • According to an article in ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba, hundreds of people arrived in ISIS’s recruitment centers to join the fighters. This was part of a campaign by ISIS in the provinces of Al-Khayr (Deir ez-Zor), Al-Raqqah, and the Euphrates. According to the head of the recruitment center in Al-Khayr Province, most of the recruits are youngsters, but there are a considerable number of adults among them. According to the official, there are many women among the recruits, most of them residents of Deir ez-Zor who asked to join the fighting. At the same time with the recruitment campaign, there is also a campaign to instigate Muslims, men, women and youngsters, to carry out suicide attacks. The campaign is conducted using posters, books, recordings and videos, and also through meetings with the residents (Al-Naba, May 25, 2017).
Libya
  • Security sources in Libya reported that after they were driven out of Sirte, Benghazi and Derna thereby losing their sources of income, ISIS operatives joined Libyan criminal elements and started engaging in illegal trade and smugglinggoods, mainly fuel. According to the reports, the smuggling activity is carried out through the Libyan border with Tunisia, Niger, Chad and Sudan (Akhbar Libya 24, May 25, 2017). In early May 2017, a local force seized at a checkpoint in the border area with Tunisia 14 tankers which were on their way to Tunisia full of fuel, diesel oiland other fuel products. According to the above sources, smuggling fuel has become one of the main sources of income of ISIS operatives in the area south of Sirte (Akhbar Libya 24, May 25, 2017).

Global jihad activity in other countries

Afghanistan
  • On May 31, 2017, a car bomb exploded in the secure diplomatic quarter of the capital, Kabul.More than 90 people were killed and 463 others were wounded, including 11 Americans. The explosives used in the explosion were hidden inside a tanker for pumping sewage (Reuters, May 31, 2017). A Kabul police spokesman said the explosion occurred in a square near the German Embassy. An Afghan security guard guarding the embassy was killed. Some employees of the German Embassy were injured.  The embassies of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were also damaged. The Taliban movement denied any connection to the attack (Saudi News Channel; Afghanistan Times, May 31, 2017). According to a number of Arab media reports, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. These reports are as yet unverified.
The Philippines
  • The President of the Philippines declared martial law in the southern part of the island of Mindanao after ISIS-affiliated militants took control of most of the capital city of Marawi.The gunmen released Muslim prisoners, arrested Christians and burned many buildings. ISIS operatives entered the capital after the Philippine forces carried out an operation to capture Isnilon Hapilon, who is apparently ISIS’s leader in Southeast Asia. For the time being, the capital is in the hands of ISIS operatives. The residents have been asked to remain in their homes (Newsweek, May 27, 2017). The island of Mindanao has a population of 22 million. A number of armed networks affiliated with ISIS and the global jihad operate there.
  • On May 30, 2017, ISIS announced that seven Filipino soldiers had been shot to death by ISIS sniper fire in the city of Marawi (Haqq, May 30, 2017). Earlier, on May 27, 2017, a video was released showing ISIS operatives patrolling the streets of the city of Marawi. The video photographer greeted the operatives in Arabic (Twitter account of the Kuwaiti news website, May 27, 2017).

Counterterrorism and preventive activity

ISIS network in Moscow exposed
  • On May 25, 2017, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested four ISIS operatives in Moscow on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack on Russian transport system.The press office of the Russian Federal Security Service said the suspects were Russian citizens and citizens of Central Asia, who planned to detonate IEDs at Moscow transportation facilities, after having been ordered to do so by ISIS in Syria. After the terrorist attack, the suspects planned to leave Russia and join the ranks of ISIS in Syria. According to reports, a search of the suspects’ apartment revealed an explosives laboratory, and IED ready to be used, materials for manufacturing additional IEDs, automatic weapons, and incitement materials (TASS News Agency, May 25, 2017).