News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict April 7-14, 2009

Al-Watan , Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2009

Al-Watan , Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2009

Rocket and mortar shell fire

Rocket and mortar shell fire

Omar Awad for Reuters, April 7, 2009

Omar Awad for Reuters, April 7, 2009

Tunnel smuggler in the Gaza Strip

Tunnel smuggler in the Gaza Strip

Pictures of some of the Hezbollah operatives detained by Egypt.

Pictures of some of the Hezbollah operatives detained by Egypt.

Al-Watan , Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2009
Egypt and Saudi Arabia threatened by Iranian subversion but intent on preventing it
(Al-Watan , Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2009).


 Terrorist events this past week focused on the prevention of an attempted terrorist naval attack opposite the Gaza shore. In the Sur Baher neighborhood of Jerusalem there was another hit and run terrorist attack. The western Negev was completely quiet, with no rocket or mortar shell fire.

 A Hezbollah network was exposed in Egypt . It smuggled weapons and operatives into the Gaza Strip for Hamas and planned to carry out attacks in Cairo and against tourist sites in the Sinai peninsula where Israelis congregate. Egypt is currently waging a political and media battle against Iran and Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah admitted that operatives belonging to his organization were involved in smuggling weapons and terrorist operatives into the Gaza Strip but denied the rest of the Egyptian accusations.

Important Events

The Gaza Strip

Naval attack opposite Gaza shore prevented

 On the morning of April 13 Israeli navy vessels patrolling the waters off the Gaza Strip identified an unmanned fishing boat. When the Israeli vessel approached, the boat exploded. No damage was done to the vessel. So far, responsibility has not officially been claimed for the attack.

 Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi estimated that the boat was carrying hundreds of tons of explosives and that the target was one of the navy’s vessels (IDF Spokesman’s website, April 13, 2009).

Rocket and mortar shell fire

 This week, for the first time since Operation Cast Lead, there was complete quiet in the western Negev , and no rockets or mortar shells were fired. Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi said �I think Hamas had been deterred and it is not by chance that there was no fire,� but noted that �we know that hostile terrorist activities or attacks along the border security fence, by sea or through the Gaza Strip and Sinai are still on the [terrorist organizations’] agenda, and therefore we are prepared and have taken [the necessary] steps� (IDF Spokesman’s website, April 13, 2009).

Rocket and mortar shell fire


Attack in Jerusalem

 On April 7 three policemen at a roadblock in the Sur Baher neighborhood sustained minor injuries when a resident of Jabel Mukaber , in East Jerusalem, tried to run them over. They shot and killed the terrorist, Iyad Awisat ( Haaretz, April 8, 2009). The attack took place near where the police destroyed one story of the house in which the terrorist Hussam Dwiat lived. Dawiyat used a front loader to carry out an attack in Jerusalem on July 2, 2008. 1

 Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, endorsed the attacks carried out by �residents of the territories of �48� [i.e., Israeli Arabs] and said that �sacrifice [i.e., terrorist] actions carried out by Palestinians against Israeli targets will continue and [their numbers] will increase [as long as Israel carries out] �unprecedented’ actions…� (Al-Qassam website, April 8, 2009).

Omar Awad for Reuters, April 7, 2009
Police examine the terrorist’s car (Omar Awad for Reuters, April 7, 2009).

The Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead

 On two occasions the Egyptian security forces confiscated large sums of money Hamas tried to smuggle into the Gaza Strip. On April 9, Hamas’s organ Felesteen reported that the previous day the Egyptian security forces had confiscated six million euros from members of the Hamas delegation returning to the Gaza Strip after a round of internal Palestinian dialogue talks. In another instance, it was reported that the Egyptian security forces caught five Egyptians with four million Egyptian pounds which were supposed to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip for Hamas ( Al-Yawm Al-Sabaa , April 11, 2009).

 Ayman Taha, senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip , claimed that smuggling the money was legal and would be used to �soften� the siege of the Gaza Strip. He said that the funds were earmarked for the families of prisoners and the wounded, and to pay salaries. He added that in the absence of any other mechanism for importing funds into the Gaza Strip, it was strange that Egypt was confiscating money and detaining those carrying it (BBC in Arabic, April 9, 2009).

 Yussuf al-Mansi , public works minister in the Hamas de-facto administration , said that the equipment needed for Hamas’s program for rebuilding infrastructures the Gaza Strip would be funded by �the money obtained by the members of the Hamas’s legislative council and had not succeeded in bringing into the Gaza Strip.� He said that the funds had been deposited in Egyptian banks ( Al-Ayyam , April 9, 2009).

Hamas satisfied by performance of rockets smuggled into the Gaza Strip

 Sources in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades expressed satisfaction with the performance of the BM-21 rockets, a Chinese version of the Grad 122mm. They said the rockets flew further and produced larger explosions than those they manufactured themselves, and even than the original Russian-made Grads. One of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades commanders said that now Operation Cast Lead Hamas had ended it was preferable to use standard rockets rather than those they manufactured themselves ( World Tribune , April 7, 2009).

Intensive Egyptian activity taken against the tunnel industry

 The Egyptians recently extended their activities to thwart the tunnel industry along the Egypt-Gaza Strip border, possibly as a result of the exposure of a Hezbollah network operating in Egypt (See below). On April 9 �well-informed sources� told Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda that smuggling activities had seriously decreased and that the Egyptian security forces had blocked many tunnels used to smuggle fuel and merchandise. Tunnel owners and workers claimed that the continuing operation against smuggling had recently reached new heights. One tunnel owner said that most of the tunnels had completely stopped operating even if they had not been destroyed, and that �right now there is a slump [which will last] until things quiet down� ( Al-Ayyam , April 9, 2009).

Tunnel smuggler in the Gaza Strip
Tunnel smuggler in the Gaza Strip admits Egyptian actions make smuggling difficult

(Courtesy of Israel Channel 10 TV, April 12, 2009).

 On April 10 the Egyptian security forces detained 15 men suspected of manufacturing rocket parts and smuggling them into the Gaza Strip . According to reports, they were lathe owners and drivers . During the raids on lathe shops the security forces confiscated pipes apparently meant for manufacturing rockets (Reuters, April 10, 2009). A Bedouin was killed in an exchange of fire after the driver of the truck he was in refused to stop at an Egyptian security force roadblock. Three other men with him managed to escape. The truck was found to be carrying a large quantity of weapons (Reuters, April 10, 2009).

Hamas continues establishing its control over the Gaza Strip

 Hamas continues establishing its control over the Gaza Strip in every facet of life. For example, more than thirty workers affiliated with Fatah in the Strip’s ministry of education were recently replaced by Hamas supporters, among them school principals. The dismissed Palestinian Authority workers criticized the PA’s minister of education for continuing her coordination with the Hamas-controlled ministry of education in the Gaza Strip, despite the changes made (Al-Ahed website, April 8, 2009). In another instance, there were reports that Hamas operatives had taken oven the building of the union of sewing shops and textile factories in Gaza City (Fatah Internet forum, April 10, 2009).

 An anonymous Hamas source said that the movement would make extensive changes in the security and police forces in the Gaza Strip. He said that the Ismail Haniya administration had completed its list of dozens of names, a step that would �fight the deviations [in behavior] of the security forces during the past months which had led to the deaths of many Palestinians at the hands of security force members� (Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliya, April 7, 2009).

Hamas mediates conflict within the Popular Resistance Committees

 A conflict was recently reported in the Zakaria Dugmush network of the Salah al-Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees, between Dugmush and his deputy, leading to a split in the organization. A PRC source said that Hamas, which supported the Salah al-Din Brigades with money and weapons, was mediating between the two to make peace between them and to reunite the Brigades. Three years ago Dugmush split off from the Brigades and took hundreds of armed men with him (Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliya, April 8, 2009).

Two additional aid convoys expected to reach the Gaza Strip from Europe

 Adel Zoghob , spokesman for the so-called �European committee against the siege,� said that two convoys were expected to reach the Gaza Strip in the coming weeks. One, headed by Pauline McNeill, a member of the Scottish Parliament, was expected to reach the Rafah crossing on April 14. The other, dubbed �Hope� and comprised of 100 trucks, would leave Milan for the port of Alexandria , planning to reach the Gaza Strip on May 3. Dozens of European parliamentarians and pro-Palestinian activists are expected to accompany the convoy (European committee website, April 12, 2009).

Egypt exposes a Hezbollah network operating on its soil (Update2)

 The Egyptian security forces exposed a Hezbollah network which had been operative in Egypt for a number of years. The London-based Al-Hayat recently revealed details gained from the interrogation of Sami Shihab, the network’s head figures (whom Hassan Nasrallah publicly admitted belonged to Hezbollah and had smuggled weapons and terrorist operatives into the Gaza Strip).

 The main issues of Al-Hayat’s correspondent in Cairo were the following (April 13, 2009):

•  The network was made up of 49 men including Sami Shihab, a Lebanese national. The second in command was a Palestinian named Nasser al-Amra. Thirty-five members were Egyptian, seven were Palestinian (including two Israeli Arabs), two Sudanese arms dealers, two Syrians and two Lebanese. The Lebanese used forged passports to enter Egypt . Other operatives were smuggled into Egypt through Ethiopia and Sudan .

•  The Hezbollah network’s activities began in Cairo in 2005. Mohammed Qablan, a senior Hezbollah activist in Lebanon , supervised setting up the network, and to that end he visited Cairo a number of times bringing money for Palestinians and Egyptians. For three years, with the help of Egyptian smugglers, the network smuggled weapons and terrorist operatives from Sinai into the Gaza Strip .

•  One of the network’s objectives was to attack Egyptian and Israeli targets , especially in the Sinai peninsula . Network operatives conducted observations of tourist sites frequented by Israelis, including Taba, Sharm el-Sheikh, Nueiba and Dahab, with the intention of carrying out terrorist attacks . They also collected information about Israeli ships passing though the Suez Canal , with the same objective. After Imad Moughnieh was killed, the Hezbollah leadership instructed the members of the network not to carry out attacks in Egypt but to focus their attention on Israel , through the Gaza Strip (during interrogation Sami Shihab claimed that �attacks were carried out and the Israelis got the message�).

Pictures of some of the Hezbollah operatives detained by Egypt.
Pictures of some of the Hezbollah operatives detained by Egypt. Among them
are Palestinians, Egyptians, Sudanese, Syrians and Lebanese
(Al-Arabia TV, April 12, 2009; picture courtesy of Israeli Channel 10 TV).

 Involvement of Hezbollah and Iranian media figures : The Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar reported that the network operatives were aided by an employee of Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV . They exploited his knowledge of Arabic and had him use the Internet to contact operatives inside Israel to collect information about Israeli tourism in Egypt . In addition, employees of the Iranian satellite channel in Cairo recruited a group of Egyptians for a network ( Al-Akhbar , April 13, 2009). 3

 Searches in Sinai : The Egyptian security forces are currently conducting searches in the Wadi Feiran region in central Sinai for one of the terrorist squads connected to the Hezbollah network. Between 500 and 600 soldiers are taking part in the searches (Al-Jazeera TV, April 13, 2009). �A high-level security source� said that they were looking for 10 Lebanese and three Palestinians (Agence France Presse from El-Arish, April 13, 2009). �Security sources� reported that during the searches on April 13 there were exchanges of fire between Egyptian police forces and Bedouins in central Sinai whose houses were being searched (Reuters, April 13, 2009)

Arab reactions

 On April 12, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid , manager of Al-Arabia TV, wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that Hassan Nasrallah was not the only one to be accused of being a tool of Iran and his organization of involvement in scores of terrorist attacks not connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to al-Rashid, �the real criminal is Hamas …,� which collaborates with Iran and Hezbollah. He asked �what role does Hamas play, either naively or as a conspirator, in the Iranian axis?� The answer, he said, was that �unfortunately� Hamas was politically involved in an attack on Egypt and was also being used as a tool against the main Arab countries by elements with �a hostile political agenda.� He ended the article by saying that �using the [military] arm of Hezbollah, and on the pretext of relations with Hamas , Iran has put Egypt in the crosshairs. It want to destabilize the regime and to that end encouraged a revolt from within.�

 Tareq Hamed , editor in chief of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat , wrote an editorial on April 12 entitled �Bin Nasrallah� (a play on the name bin Laden) comparing Hassan Nasrallah and Osama bin Laden. Both, he said, did not believe in countries, borders or international laws. The Hezbollah leader was proud of having violated Egypt ‘s sovereignty �using the excuse that he was supporting the Palestinians.� Nasrallah’s speech on April 11, showed he was drunk on power and had been blinded by it. Hamed noted that Nasrallah’s statement that he did not interfere in the affairs of other countries was untrue, and the proof was the Hezbollah operative detained in Iraq and currently included in negotiations conducted with Britain for the release of hostages held in Iraq . 4

The Diplomatic Front

The peace process

 Following the formation of the new Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, speakers affiliated with the Palestinian Authority expressed pessimism about negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. �Official Palestinian sources� said that the Palestinian Authority had begun an extensive international diplomatic campaign to exert pressure on the new government to motivate it to accept the articles of the road map and to honor the decisions reached at the Annapolis meeting. The PA intends to stress the position that to return to the negotiating table, Israel must commit itself to the two-state solution (Al-Khaleej , April 8, 2009).

 Senior members of the PA said the following:

•  Mahmoud Abbas said that he had not yet heard anything from Israel that could advance the negotiations. He said that before negotiations could continue Israel had to accept the two state solution and international decisions (Wafa News Agency, April 9, 2009).

•  Abu Alaa ‘, chief of the Palestinian negotiating team, said that the guidelines of the Netanyahu government were unacceptable. He said that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had come to a dead end and that the Palestinians now had to appeal to the international community to define the sources of authority for the negotiations. He said that the Palestinians would not renege on their principles and that as far as Fatah was concerned, the path of �resistance� [i.e., terrorism and violence] in all its various forms was still an option (Ma’an News Agency, April 9, 2009).

•  Saeb Erekat , head of negotiations for the PLO, called on the international community to pressure Israel to fulfill its commitments to the peace process. He said that if Israel continued refusing to accept agreements which had already been signed there would be no negotiations (Wafa News Agency, April 10, 2009).

 On April 12 Mahmoud Abbas called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wish him a happy Passover. Netanyahu reminded him of past conversations and cooperation, saying that he intended to renew them (Israeli Foreign Ministry website, April 12, 2009). Hamas attacked Mahmoud Abbas for making the call. Musheir al-Masri , senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, called it �disgusting� and said that Mahmoud Abbas’s insistence on speaking to Israel �as a sycophant� negated his previous statements about stopping the negotiations. Musheir al-Masri called for a united Palestinian strategy to be developed for dealing with the Israeli government (Hamas’s Palestine-Info website, April 12, 2009).

The Internal Palestinian Arena

The internal Palestinian dialogue

 The next round of talks between Hamas and Fatah representatives is set for April 26 (Ramattan News Agency, April 9, 2009). In preparation, both sides are getting alternative propositions ready. Mahmoud Abbas visited Cairo on April 8 and spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. According to reports, Mubarak convinced him not to announce the establishment of a new government yet and to wait until the next round of talks was over. During the talks the two sides will present their positions on the Egyptian suggestion previously proposed regarding the composition of the government ( Al-Hayat , April 10, 2009).

 Palestinian sources in Damascus leaked details of the Egyptian proposal , whose objective is to circumvent the difficulties in forming the government. According to the proposal, a temporary joint Fatah-Hamas committee will be formed which will advance the internal Palestinian dialogue and at the same time oversee the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip ( Al-Hayat , April 14, 2009). Mahmoud Abbas expressed reservations over the wording of the Egyptian proposal and requested changes. Hamas’s Ismail Radwan said that Hamas was examining the proposal and would present its official position during the next round of talks in Cairo ( Al-Hayat , April 14, 2009). Ali Barake , Hamas representative in Syria , said that the proposal was still vague and demanded further clarifications. He said that in any event, any new Palestinian government should be founded on the constitution and enjoy the trust of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He said Hamas objected to forming a government in the West Bank headed by Salam Fayyad or Mahmoud Abbas, because such a government would only perpetuate the schism (Hamas’s Palestine-Info website, April 12, 2009).

 Before Mahmoud Abbas left for Cairo , his representatives, Abdallah al-Faranji and Marwan Abd al-Hamid arrived in the Gaza Strip to meet with Hamas. They were empowered by Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the topics about which there was disagreement, such as the future government’s basic political guidelines and the issues of recognition of Israel and of previously-signed agreements (Radio BBC, April 8, 2009). After the meeting Abdallah al-Faranji said it had been positive and that an atmosphere had been created to defuse the tension between the sides (Ma’an News Agency, April 9, 2009). Ismail Haniya said that the arrival of the delegation showed that the talks in Cairo had not yet failed (Al-Quds website, April 7, 2009).

Palestinian national security’s third brigade receives training in Jordan

 The third brigade of the Palestinian Authority’s national security service is currently being trained in Jordan by Jordanians under American supervision. In addition, the Palestinian Authority is holding a course for senior officers in Ramallah, also under American supervision. Among the lecturers are Jordanian officers, the International Quartet’s envoy, Toni Blair, and American General Keith Dayton (Haaretz, April 8, 2009).

Weapons workshop found under mosque in Qalqiliya

•  On April 9 the Palestinian security forces raided a workshop for the manufacture of weapons situated under a mosque in the city of Qalqiliya . 5 IEDs and explosives ready for use were found at the site (Nablus TV website, April 9, 2009). Speaking anonymously, a Palestinian officer said that it was apparently a Hamas explosives laboratory and that it was �very large.� He added that four individuals had been detained, some of them Hamas operatives ( Ma’ariv ‘s nrg website, April 9, 2009).

1 For further information see our July 3, 2008 bulletin �Mass-casualty terrorist attack on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem � at .

2 Update to our April 13 bulletin, Egypt exposes a Hezbollah network on its soil, at .

3 This was not the first instance of the involvement of Al-Manar TV employees in terrorist activities. For example, on April 8, 2004, an indictment was brought against Dib Abu Zied, an Al-Manar TV correspondent, who transferred funds from Lebanon to Fatah in Judea and Samaria, assisted them in acquiring weapons and provided shelter in his house for operatives who were wanted by the Israeli security forces, among them Zakharia Zubeidi, senior Fatah operative in Jenin (Ynet, April 8, 2004).

4 Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid , writing in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on April 12, also gave examples Hezbollah’s terrorist activities carried out beyond Lebanon ‘s borders, unconnected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He noted the hijacking of a Kuwaiti aircraft and the attack in Al-Khubar , Saudi Arabia in 1996, and said that Hezbollah had carried out dozens of other attacks on orders from Iran .

5 For further information about the use of mosques for military purposes, see our March 1, 2009 bulletin � The use of mosques for military and political purposes by Hamas and other terrorist organizations and Islamic groups .�