Conflagration and destruction: Damage inflicted on the settlements bordering the Gaza Strip (Photo courtesy of the Israeli Police Dept)
1. Rocket attacks on the western Negev settlements continue into their seventh consecutive day . During the past 24 hours 17 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory, a slight decrease from previous days. One of them hit a restaurant at Kibbutz Nir Am. There were no casualties but property was damaged. On the morning of May 21 three rocket hits were identified at settlements bordering on the Gaza Strip and south of Ashqelon . Since the beginning of the attacks 139 rocket hits have been identified. Most of rockets were launched by Hamas and some by other terrorist organizations, primarily the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Rocket damage to a residential dwelling
(Photo courtesy of the Israeli Police Dept)
The rocket attack: daily distribution of identified hits
A meeting of the Israeli Security Cabinet
2. A meeting of the Israeli Security Cabinet held on May 20, �i t was decided to allow the security establishment to step up operational measures designed to reduce missile fire and strike at the terrorist infrastructure behind the firing. At this stage, operational activity will focus on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets since these organizations are responsible for the current escalation . To the extent that these sharper measures do not lead to increased calm, the Security Cabinet will reconvene to consider additional, more drastic measures.� At the same time, it was decided to �accelerate dealing with the Home Front� (Prime Minister’s Internet site, May 21).
3. As part of the IDF’s counterterrorist activities, the Israeli Air Force continued striking terrorist squads and lathes used to manufacture weapons. Tanks and infantry have remained in the northern Gaza Strip. A tank fired at a squad of terrorists launching anti-tank rockets in the Beit Hanoun region in the northern Gaza Strip in an attempt to prevent rocket fire. Since the IDF began its counterterrorist activities on May 16, in our assessment approximately 45 Palestinians have been killed, most of them Hamas operatives. Among those killed were a number of civilians who were close to the terrorist target area at the time.
4. Notable among the air strikes:
A. May 21 : during the afternoon the Air Force struck a vehicle in the Jabaliya refugee camp carrying terrorist-operatives. The strike filled four senior operatives who belonged to a PIJ rocket-launching squad.
The remains of the PIJ operatives’ vehicle
(Qudsway Website, May 21)
B. May 20 : in the evening an armed terrorist squad was attacked in the Sajaiya quarter of Gaza City . Samih Farawne was killed, a Hamas terrorist-operative who had been involved in launching rockets and mortars (including on Israeli Independence Day last month). The attack damaged the house of Khalil al-Haya, chairman of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council. According to �Israeli military sources,� five terrorist operatives were wounded, as were three civilians (Haaretz, May 21). According to Palestinian reports, seven members of Khalil al-Haya family were killed.
Khalil al-Haya visiting the wounded in hospital
(Al-Aqsa TV, May 20)
C. May 20 : during the night two lathes which had been used to manufacture weapons were attacked.
The ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah is maintained
5. Since a ceasefire was announced on May 19, the relative lull in the fighting between Hamas and Fatah has been preserved. Life in the Gaza Strip has begun to return to normal, including reopening of schools and most of the universities.
6. According to one of the provisions of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, abductees, about 30 in number, were released by both sides. In addition, the committee for monitoring the ceasefire is supposed to complete the dismantling of roadblocks and the evacuation of buildings. Majid Abu Shamala, Fatah secretary, expressed his hope that the agreement would end the fighting (Ramattan News Agency, May 20).
7. Despite the ceasefire, a number of local violations occurred on May 20 without casualty:
A. Operatives belonging to the Executive Force and Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades fired rockets and mortars at a Special Force post in Khan Yunis.
B. Members of Palestinian General Security set up a roadblock, searched civilian vehicles and abducted Hamas operatives.
C. Members of the Presidential Guards fired a rocket at the Islamic University in Gaza City .
D. Members of the Presidential Guards abducted three Hamas operatives.
Left: An roadblock improvised by Fatah’s security forces.
The propaganda war continues despite the ceasefire: A flyer calling the security forces loyal to Abu Mazen �Lahad’s Army.� The Arabic reads: �Lahad’s Army destroys, arrests, murders in cold blood� (Filisteen Al-�An, May 20) .
Anti-rocket fire declarations
8. Yasser Abd Rabbo , secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, called for an end to �the stupid rocket launchings� which, he said, Israel used to its own benefit by presenting itself as the victim. He claimed that the rocket fire served only the interests of the �militias� in the Gaza Strip and not the Palestinian cause, and therefore there was no choice but to take action against them, using �one [source of] security� and �one [source of] weapons� (Voice of Palestine Radio, May 20). In response, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that �the Palestinian resistance� (i.e., terrorism) headed by Hamas would continue the rocket attacks (May 20).
9. The Beit Hanoun residents’ committee issued an announcement harshly condemning the rocket attacks, blaming those who fired them (i.e., Hamas) for the destruction of Beit Hanoun and the Gaza Strip. According to the announcement, �weren’t the killings and cold-blooded executions in the middle of the road enough for them?…Do they really want to expose all of us to Israeli bombs, which don’t distinguish between good and bad?� (Palestinian News Agency, May 18).