Musa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad after the initialing of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, in Cairo
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israeli territory
Rocket Fire -- Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire -- Monthly Distribution
Posters of Osama bin Laden hung in the streets of Gaza City
Musa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau (right) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad after the initialing of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement (Picture from Al-Arabiya TV, April 27, 2011)
Israel’s south was quiet this past week.
On April 27 a reconciliation agreement was initialed by Fatah and Hamas representatives in Cairo. The agreement is expected to be signed in Cairo on May 4. The agreement calls for the establishment of a unity government of technocrats, which will preside until elections are held about a year from now for Palestinian Authority institutions. After the initialing, high-ranking Hamas officials made it clear that as far as they were concerned, the State of Israel was not legitimate, calling on the PLO to revoke its recognition of Israel.
The international war on terrorism took a dramatic turn this week with the targeted killing of Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden by American commandos in Pakistan. He was killed in his hideout near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Hamas rushed to condemn the killing and America’s policies in the war on terrorism, while Palestinian Authority speakers expressed support.
Fatah and Hamas Initial a Reconciliation Agreement
On April 27, 2011, an "understanding regarding a reconciliation" was signed by Fatah and Hamas representatives in Cairo. The signing ending a long period of negotiations between the two sides, rife with crises, differences of opinion and mutual media smear campaigns. On May 2 a high-level Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, arrived in Cairo to participate in the final signing, expected on May 4 (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, May 2, 2011). In addition, according to reports, Ramadan Shallah, leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is also expected to arrive in Cairo� (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, May 2, 2011).
The document calls for the establishment of a national unity government of technocrats. It will preside until elections for the presidency, which will be held under international supervision in about a year, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian National Council. It also includes the renewal of the activities of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the release of Hamas and Fatah prisoners and the establishment of a committee to reorganize the PLO.
After Musa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of the Hamas, and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad initialed the document, they held a press conference. They said that the document contained only "headings" and the details would be worked out by the government which would be established (Al-Jazeera TV, April 27, 2011). The Fatah and Hamas representatives dealt with two sensitive issues:
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, in Cairo
(Picture from the Safa News Agency website, May 2, 2011).
Integrating Hamas into the internal Palestinian security apparatus: So far, no agreement has been reached on the issue. Azzam al-Ahmad said that the decision would be based on the law of service in the Palestinian security apparatuses, but noted that the law could be changed if necessary (Al-Jazeera TV, April 27, 2011). Mahmoud Abbas said that a Fatah-Hamas "high security committee" would be established to oversee security policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Al-Hayat, May 1, 2011).
The negotiations with Israel: Azzam al-Ahmad claimed that an agreement had been reached based on the Arab peace initiative and the establishment of the future Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Musa Abu Marzuq, on the other hand, stressed that the Palestinians did not forget that "all Palestine is occupied." He said that "We, the Palestinian people, will try, insofar as possible, to remove the occupation and resist it."
The agreement, if honored, is a marriage of convenience for both sides, whose political, ideological and governmental foundations are opposed, in that:
1) Both Hamas and Fatah/the Palestinian Authority need now (more than in the past) to consider the sentiments of the Palestinian people, most of whom want to the rift to heal.
2) The uprisings in the Arab world improved Hamas’ relations with Egypt, suggesting that Egypt might give Hamas an open Rafah crossing in return for the reconciliation. At the same time Hamas’ relations with Syria are more problematic than in the past.
3) Mahmoud Abbas may be interested in presenting a united front in view of the Palestinian move planned for September 2011 to call for the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Initial Hamas Reactions
Senior Hamas figures stated that as far as they were concerned the State of Israel was not legitimate and they refused to comply with the conditions set down by the International Quartet. They also called on the PLO to revoke its recognition of Israel:
Musa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, said that the International Quartet’s conditions were not part of the agreement because "the [International] Quartet disappeared, along with its decisions, which the Palestinians no longer take into consideration" (Al-Jazeera TV, April 27, 2011). On another occasion, he said that "Hamas does not recognize Israel" and therefore what had to be considered was how future Palestinian policy would deal with continuing the struggle against Israel while coexisting with it. He appealed to the international community to reexamine Israel’s right to exist (Al-Hayat, May 1, 2011).
Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, praised the agreement, claiming that it reflected the "political desires" of the Palestinian leadership, especially of the Hamas movement and its administration. He appealed to the PLO to "completely revoke its recognition of Israel," because "its existence is fundamentally illegitimate," adding that "the disgusting Israeli positions" caused the Palestinian people great suffering (Hamas� Al-Aqsa TV, April 29, 2011).
Senior Israeli government officials were severely critical of the reconciliation agreement:
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said that "The Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Peace with both is impossible because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel and says so openly. It fires missiles at our cities; it fires anti-tank rockets at our children� [This] reconciliation�causes one to wonder if Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria like it seized control of the Gaza Strip." 1
Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Israel wanted to see the Palestinian united for the sake of peace, but Hamas, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, attacked Israeli civilians and wanted to destroy the country. It did not support peace and unity, he said, and justified "destruction and hatred." He added that Israel was committed to peace and appealed to the international community not to recognize a Palestinian state if Hamas were represented in its leadership (Israeli Foreign Ministry Hebrew website, April 29, 2011).
Treasury Minister Yuval Steinitz said that as a result of the agreement, Israel would delay transferring tax money collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority. He said the Ministry of the Treasury had also decided to postpone the meeting scheduled to discuss the issue, which was supposed to be held by representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian treasury ministries (Haaretz, May 2, 2011). Steinitz called on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the funds not fall into the hands of Hamas or other terrorist elements.
Initial Palestinian Authority Reactions
The Palestinian Authority praised the agreement and criticized Israel’s reactions to it:
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that freezing Palestinian Authority funds would not prevent the Palestinians from ending their internal schism. He said that the agreement was "a strong connection" to the Palestinian’s ability to establish a "fully sovereign" independent state in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital (Wafa News Agency, May 1, 2011).
Saeb Erekat, member of the PLO’s executive committee, also praised the reconciliation agreement. He said that everyone who supported the democratization of the Middle East "has to support the Palestinian reconciliation," because it would lead to elections within a year (Agence France-Presse, April 28, 2011).
Saeb Erekat also severely criticized the decision made by Israeli Treasury Minister Steinitz to postpone payments to the Palestinian Authority, calling it "economic piracy." He claimed that Israel’s "furious reactions" to the reconciliation agreement were "excuses not to achieve peace" (Kuwaiti News Agency, May 1, 2011).
�Ziyad Abu Ziyad, a member of Fatah’s revolutionary committee, told Israeli Foreign Minister Leiberman and "the Israelis" to "go to hell," emphasizing that the agreement was an internal Palestinian issue (Radio Al-Alam, April 28, 2011).
Important Terrorism Events
The south of Israel was quiet this past week, with no rocket or mortar shell hits.
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 2
Rocket Fire — Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire — Monthly Distribution
** Rocket and mortar shell hits identified in Israeli territory, not the Gaza Strip.
Judea and Samaria
This past week the Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and seizing weapons.
This past week demonstrations and riots were held at the usual friction points in Judea and Samaria, with stones thrown at Israeli security forces.
Developments in the Gaza Strip
This past week between 208 and 265 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip every day. In addition, 400 tons of equipment from the May 2010 flotilla were delivered to UNRWA (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, May 3, 2011).
The Egyptian foreign minister announced that the Egyptian authorities intended to fully open the Rafah crossing. He said that within ten days, at the latest, Egypt would announce that it was "relieving the suffering of the Palestinian people" (Al-Jazeera TV, April 28, 2011). Musheir Hussein Tantawi, head of the armed forces’ high council, also said that within a few days the Rafah crossing would be fully opened (Facebook, April 29, 2011).
Flotillas and Convoys to the Gaza Strip � Update
Miles of Smiles 3 Convoy to Leave for the Gaza Strip
The Miles of Smiles 3 convoy, one of whose participants is Salim al-Hoss, former Lebanese prime minister and currently a senior member of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG), was supposed to set out between the 20 and 26 of April. At this point it is not known if it already has. In addition to the ECESG, according to the convoy’s organizers, other human rights organizations are participating, including representatives from UNRWA and the Red Cross. The convoy is bringing mainly "medical aid for Gaza’s children," and it coordinated its arrival with the Egyptian foreign ministry to ensure its entrance into the Gaza Strip (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, April 21, 2011).
The Upgraded Freedom Fleet 2 Flotilla � Update
An organization calling itself Britain2Gaza is planning to send a British delegation to the updated flotilla. It announced that 20 Norwegians, including parliament members, confirmed their participation in the flotilla. The parliamentarians expressed the hope that their presence would cause the Israeli soldiers to be "less crazy" and would provide the flotilla with a measure of legitimacy. They said they would strongly resist IDF soldiers’ boarding the ships, including to examine the cargo. They claimed that was because they thought the soldiers "plant things during the inspection," as, they claimed, they had during the Mavi Marmara incident. According to the announcement, the flotilla will set sail in May or June 2011 and refuse offers to transfer the cargo via Egypt, because "would not be a breaking, but a confirmation, of the blockade" (Britain2Gaza website, May 2, 2011).
Developments in the Global Jihad
Al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden Killed by American Commandos
On the morning of May 1 a force of American commandos carried out the targeted killing of Al-Quds head Osama bin Laden. The American force invaded the compound where he lived in Abottabad, near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. During the ensuing firefight no American soldiers or local Pakistani civilians were injured. American President Barack Obama praised the action in an official announcement to the American people. In our assessment, while the targeted killing is an important symbolic and moral achievement for the United States in its war on Al-Qaeda and global terrorism, it will not influence the operational capabilities of the global jihad networks around the globe, and may even increase their motivation to exact revenge.
Spokesmen affiliated with the Palestinian Authority praised the action. However, Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, denounced the killing and the American policy based, he said, on "spilling the blood of Arabs and Muslims." Meeting with correspondents in the Gaza Strip he said that "We denounce the attack on a Muslim Arab and ask Allah to take him to his bosom and have mercy on him" (Hamas� daily Felesteen, May 2, 2011).
Posters of Osama bin Laden hung in the streets of Gaza City side by side with Palestinian
symbols like the flag of "Palestine" and pictures of Yasser Arafat and sheikh Ahmed Yassin
(Pictures from the Safa News Agency website, May 2, 2011).
On April 28 a bomb exploded at a coffee house in Morocco, killing 15 civilians, including an Israel woman married to a Moroccan. Twenty-three civilians were injured (Daily Telegraph, April 29, 2011). So far the perpetrators are unknown. It has been suggested that a local network affiliated with the global jihad was responsible.
2 The statistics do not include the rockets and mortar shells which fell inside the Gaza Strip.