Encouragement of abductions
A poster published by Hamas on �Prisoner’s Day�. The text in the top of the poster reads: �Our heroic prisoners. Every year, a new Gilad [Shalit]�. The bottom part of the poster features statistical data on Palestinian prisoners held in Israel . The red column of the graph reads: �More than 11,000 prisoners held in Israel � (the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad websites, April 17, 2007)
Initial summary of the incident
1. In the morning of April 24, Israel ‘s Independence Day, Hamas operatives launched a large-scale mortar attack in the southern part of the security road surrounding the Gaza Strip. The IDF identified a total of some 25-30 mortar shells fired on IDF forces in the southern Gaza Strip. 1
2. As the mortar shelling was taking place, several Qassam rockets were fired on Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. Five rockets dropped in open areas in the western Negev desert and three in the Gaza Strip. It appears that the rocket fire was targeted at open areas rather than population centers. IDF helicopters returned fire.
3. During the incident, IDF forces identified a number of figures approaching the security fence. In the assessment of the IDF, the massive mortar and rocket fire was probably a distraction made by Hamas in an attempt to perpetrate a terrorist attack against an IDF force, possibly to abduct an IDF soldier. 2
The Hamas announcement on the shelling attack (Saraj al-Aqsa TV, April 24)
The response of Hamas spokesmen
4. Hamas spokesmen publicly claimed responsibility for the massive rocket and mortar shelling and laid the blame for the escalation at Israel ‘s door (the Hamas/Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, April 24).
5. Abu Ubaida, the Hamas/Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, addressed the incident on their website. The highlights of his statement follow:
a. �We fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells on the Zionist settlements near the Gaza Strip, from north to south�� He added that a total of 60 rockets and 61 mortar shells were fired on the �Zionist settlements�.
b. The shelling was in retaliation for Israeli killings in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. 3
c. �We shelled Kerem Shalom, which is the outpost where we captured the Zionist soldier Gilad Shalit, to remind the Zionist enemy that we still have Gilad Shalit and that we are still prepared to abduct more soldiers.�
6. At a press conference held by Hamas/Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades militants, Abu Ubaida was asked whether the lull in the fighting was over. He responded that Hamas’s shelling should be seen as a response to the �crimes of the Zionist occupation� rather than in the context of the end of the lull. He said that the lull was long over because Israel violated it from day one (Ramattan TV, April 24).
Abu Ubaida at a press conference: the lull is long over
(Al-Jazeera TV, April 24)
7. Mushir al-Masri, the Hamas deputy in the Legislative Council, said that �the lull is practically over�. He added that �the Zionist enemy buried the Arab initiative� and that �there is no political horizon between the Palestinians and the Zionist entity� (the Hamas website, April 25).
Mushir al-Masri, the Hamas deputy in the Legislative Council:
the lull is practically over (the Hamas website, April 25)
8. However, government spokesmen made less belligerent statements then those made by Abu Ubaida and Mushir al-Masri. They avoided making declarations on the �death of the lull� and accusing Israel of derailing it. Thus, for example, Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyah noted that the government and the Palestinian leadership had put in a great deal of effort to establish the lull, but that stance was met by Israel ‘s �expanding the aggression�. Ismail Haniyah called upon the international community to restrain Israel (Ramattan TV, April 24). Information Minister Mustafa al-Barghouti urged the international community to exert pressure on Israel to stop the attacks and establish a complete, mutual, and lasting lull (Ramattan, April 24).
Abu Mazen’s response
9. During a visit to Rome , Abu Mazen called upon Israel to exercise restraint and demonstrate �self-control� to prevent such incidents from happening again. He claimed the violation of the ceasefire was an exceptional incident that will not recur.
The significance of the incident
10. It is the first such attack perpetrated by Hamas since Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen achieved a ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip on November 26, 2006. Up until now, Hamas avoided firing rockets on Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was responsible for most such incidents.
11. Worth mentioning is the linkage made by the Hamas spokesman between the massive shelling on Independence Day and the �reminder� that Hamas is ready to abduct more soldiers. Hamas spokesmen have been recently making more and more statements on their organization’s intent to abduct more soldiers as bargaining chips to release Palestinian prisoners (see Appendix). Such statements are designed to put more pressure on Israel to give in to the demands of Gilad Shalit’s abductors. At the same time, they create legitimacy in the Palestinian politics and society to abduct other Israelis. In our assessment, such statements may reflect Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ intention to abduct more Israelis in order to increase the bargaining power of the terrorist organizations, even at the cost of an escalation vis-a-vis Israel .
A selection of statements made by spokesmen of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations on their intent to abduct Israelis as bargaining chips to release Palestinian prisoners
1 . Spokesmen of the Palestinian terrorist organizations have been recently making more and more statements on the need to abduct Israeli soldiers (and even civilians) to be used as additional bargaining chips in negotiations for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
2. Such statements have been made within the context of the reservations expressed by Israel with regard to the list of prisoners submitted by the abductors of Gilad Shalit and the events of the �Palestinian Prisoner’s Day�, which brought the issue of prisoners held by Israel to the forefront. All that raised the Palestinian society’s expectations about a massive release of (terrorist) prisoners held by Israel , including those with blood on their hands.
The Hamas movement
3. Worth mentioning are the following statements recently made by Hamas spokesmen:
a. Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip: in a Friday sermon given at the Palestine Mosque in Gaza City , he said that it was the right of prisoners serving many years that all efforts be made to release them, using all means possible, including the abduction of Israeli soldiers. He stated that all means are justified when it comes to releasing prisoners (Al-Aqsa TV, April 14). In another statement, Ismail Radwan blamed Israel for not completing the prisoners’ release deal and called for a concerted effort by all Palestinian organizations to abduct Israeli soldiers.
b. A pamphlet published by Hamas on the occasion of �Prisoner’s Day� (April 16) stated: �Once again, we stress our resolve to release all our prisoners, both male and female� by all means possible and through all channels available, particularly in light of the failure to [meet] all the guaranties [promised for] their release� We call upon [all of the Palestinian] resistance brigades� to take initiative into their own hands, rise up together and plan the release of the prisoners through action, and first and foremost by capturing Zionist soldiers, which has proven itself to be the ideal method of releasing our prisoners from the reins of the occupation�� (the Hamas website, April 25).
4. Following is a selection of other statements made by Hamas spokesmen on the abduction of Israelis:
a. Mushir al-Masri, a member of the Legislative Council on behalf of Hamas, said at a procession held in Gaza City on the anniversary of the deaths of Ahmed Yassin and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, that prisoners will not be released by security meetings or negotiations but rather by what he referred to as �military tactics in quality operations�. He said that abducting soldiers is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people to release their prisoners (Al-Jazeera TV, April 20). He further noted that the abduction of Gilad Shalit gave hope to the families of prisoners whose sons would be released and called upon the various organizations to keep abducting soldiers (the Hamas website, April 17).
b. In an interview granted to an Iranian TV network, Ayman Taha, one of the Hamas spokesmen in the Gaza Strip, threatened that there would be other abductions for bargaining if Israel would not release prisoners. He said that �Israeli soldiers are a target for abduction and exchanging them for prisoners� (Al-Alam TV, April 10).
c. In a Legislative Council meeting aired on national Palestinian TV, Khalil al-Hayya, the chairman of the Hamas faction in the Legislative Council, issued a call to supplement the meeting’s concluding statement with a paragraph calling upon the various organizations to take action to abduct soldiers (Palestinian TV, April 18).
5. The participants of a procession for Palestinian prisoners held in Gaza City (April 20) demanded that Israel agree to exchange prisoners on the conditions set forth by Hamas in exchange for Gilad Shalit’s release. Some of them carried signs saying more Israeli soldiers should be abducted in order to exert pressure on Israel to release prisoners.
Other terrorist organizations
6. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad issued a call to abduct soldiers for bargaining. A pamphlet published on the occasion of �Prisoner’s Day� stressed the need to spare no effort for the release of prisoners and make a concerted effort to finding new means of capturing and abducting soldiers and �Zionist settlers� (i.e., including civilians), for that is the best and safest way to release the Palestinian prisoners (the Palestinian Islamic Jihad website, April 17).
7. Abu Mujahed, the spokesman of the operative wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the organizations which hold Gilad Shalit captive, said in a Prisoner’s Day ceremony held in Khan Yunis that Gilad Shalit may remain in prison for decades. He issued a call to all Palestinian factions to step up their efforts to abduct soldiers in order to secure other exchange deals (Palmedia website, April 19).