1. On August 18, 2011, beginning at noon, a terrorist organization operating from the Gaza Strip called the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) carried out a series of combined terrorist attacks against a number of targets, among them a number of civilian vehicles. The attacks occurred north of the Netafim crossing, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) north of Eilat, (Israel’s southernmost city). In our assessment the terrorists came from the Gaza Strip. Eight Israelis were killed in the attacks and 30 were wounded. No organization publicly claimed responsibility, and the Popular Resistance Committees denied all connection to the terrorist attack (as they have done in similar cases in the past). However, the Israeli prime minister and other Israeli sources have indicated that the PRC was the organization which carried out the attack.
2. In response, the Israeli Air Force attacked a house in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah which served as a PRC command site where prominent members of the organization were gathered. Kamal al-Nairab (Abu Awad), commander of the PRC’s main Gaza Strip faction, and two other prominent PRC terrorists were killed in the attack. Also killed were two terrorist operatives from the organization’s military wing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living."1
3. Following the Israeli response, the terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip attacked Israeli population centers. They fired almost 160 rockets, of which about 120 fell in Israeli territory (as of August 22). The IDF retaliated by attacking terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. The PRC participated in the rocket attacks, claiming responsibility for the dozens of attacks on Beersheba and other southern Israeli cities2. On August 22, Hamas and the PRC announced their acceptance of a lull in the fighting; however, even after the announcement several rockets were fired into Israeli territory.
4. The Popular Resistance Committees is a small terrorist organization with extensive operational capabilities. Several years ago it split into three factions, two of which collaborate with Hamas and in effect operate under its aegis. The third faction, called the Army of Islam, is affiliated with the global jihad, and carries out terrorist attacks independently, occasionally challenging Hamas and its restrained attack policy. Kamal al-Nairab and the other prominent terrorists killed in the Israeli Air Force attack on August 18 belonged to one of the PRC factions collaborating with Hamas.
5. An analysis of the PRC’s modus operandi indicates a preference attacking Israel through the route of the Sinai Peninsula. Such attacks were carried out by both the PRC and Hamas even before Operation Cast Lead, and to a greater extent after it. The organizations exploited the Egyptian government’s difficulty in enforcing law and order in the Sinai Peninsula (a situation which worsened after the fall of Mubarak) and were supported by a vast network of Bedouin collaborators living in Sinai.
6. Since Operation Cast Lead the importance of the indirect route through the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip to Israel has increased in the eyes of both Hamas and the PRC factions, the result of Hamas’ policy of restraint within the Gaza Strip, which has usually been enforced on the terrorist organizations operating there. In the two years since Operation Cast Lead the Sinai Peninsula has served as a highway for terrorist squads of both Hamas and the PRC planning to infiltrate Israel to carry out various types of attacks (mass-murders, abduction, penetration deep into Israeli territory and firing rockets at Eilat). However, the PRC, like Hamas, has never claimed responsibility for such attacks, fearing repercussions from the Egyptian authorities.3
7. This document examines the nature and modus operandi of the PRC factions and their relations with Hamas, as follows:
1) The establishment of the PRC and its split into factions.
2) The involvement of Hamas and the PRC in terrorist activities carried out from the Sinai Peninsula, 2009-2011.
3) Various types of terrorist attacks carried out by the PRC, 2009-2011.
4) Development of the PRC’s military capabilities since Operation Cast Lead.
5) PRC activity from the Gaza Strip before Operation Cast Lead.
6) PRC attempts to launch terrorist attacks against Israel from the Sinai Peninsula before Operation Cast Lead.
7) PRC cooperation with Hamas.
8) Participation of the Zakaria Dughmush faction in the Egyptian conference in support of the "option of resistance" [i.e., terrorism].
2 For further information about the attack north of Eilat and the escalation, see this week’s update, which will shortly appear in English.
3 This time as well, the PRC denied responsibility for the attacks. However, according to a description given by a surfer on a Hamas forum (August 21, 01:24 in the morning), there were indications that Kamal al-Nairab felt he had become a target after the attacks near Eilat. According to the site, two hours before he met with other operatives in Rafah for consultations about "the Israeli threats," he washed, prayed, packed a bag with clothing, documents and personal items and told his wife that "a lot of blood is going to be shed, I am going to into hiding."