Israeli response to rocket fire from Syria carried out by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad squad directed by Iran.
Israeli response to rocket fire from Syria carried out by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad squad directed by Iran.
The five PIJ terrorist operatives killed in the IAF strike near Quneitra (Facebook page of PALTODAY, August 23, 2015).
The scene of the attack at the Tunnel Road south of Jerusalem (Photo by Hillel Meir, Tazpit News Agency, August 19, 2015).
Pictures from Hamas' Facebook page showing Gazans waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing to enter the Gaza Strip.
Pictures from Hamas' Facebook page showing Gazans waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing to enter the Gaza Strip.
Sayeed Muhammad Yahya, from Jenin, who died in Syria fighting in the ranks of ISIS (Facebook page of Jenin al-Hadath, August 19, 2015).
- This past week terrorist events focused on the four rockets launched into Israeli territory from the Syrian-controlled central Golan Heights. Two rocket hits were identified in the Upper Galilee and two in the Golan Heights. It was the first barrage of rockets launched from Syria at the Galilee Panhandle since the Yom Kippur War (October 1973). In response the IDF attacked Syrian army targets. The day after the rocket attack Israel Air Force aircraft struck the terrorist squad that launched the rockets, killing four or five operatives.
- The IDF Spokesman reported that a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) squad fired the rockets. According to Israeli security sources, the squad was handled by Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian department of the Iranian Qods Force. The PIJ denied any connection to the rocket attack.
- This past week popular terrorism continued in Judea and Samaria, manifested mainly by Molotov cocktails and stones thrown at Israeli security forces and civilians. The Israel Security Agency reported the detention of two Palestinian terrorist squads involved in throwing Molotov cocktails and stones. In ITIC assessment, that indicates that in some instances population terrorism is not spontaneous or carried out by lone wolf terrorists, but rather premeditated and initiated by local networks.
Rocket Fire from Syria
- At 1730 hours on August 20, 2015, four rockets were fired into Israel from the Syrian-controlled central Golan Heights. Two rocket hits were identified in the Upper Galilee and two in the Golan Heights. There were no casualties but the rockets caused fires (IDF Spokesman, August 21, 2015). It was the first barrage of rockets launched from Syria at the Galilee Panhandle since the Yom Kippur War (October 1973). According to Israeli security sources quoted by the Israeli media, the rockets were fired by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) squad directed by Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian department of the Iranian Qods Force, among whose activities is smuggling arms from Syria into Lebanon.
- In response to the rocket fire the Israel Air Force (IAF), armored and artillery units attacked 14 targets in the Syrian-controlled central Golan Heights (IDF Spokesman, August 21, 2015). According to a high-ranking IDF officer, the attack was larger that previous IDF responses to rocket fire from the Syrian Golan Heights. They included Syrian army targets several kilometers from the Israeli border. According to reports, the IDF attacked artillery batteries and other Syrian targets deployed in the Quneitra region (Haaretz, August 21, 2015).
- According to reports in the Syrian media, the transportation authority and a Quneitra district structure were attacked near the village of Koum in the Quneitra region (Syrian satellite TV, August 21, 2015). Syrian army soldiers from the 90th artillery brigade were reportedly injured (Al-Nashra, August 21, 2015). The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that seven people were killed in the attack, including a Syrian officer (www.syriahr.com, August 21, 2015).
- On August 21, the day after the rocket attack and following surveillance of the squad behind it, IAF aircraft struck the PIJ squad responsible for the rocket fire. The strike was carried out 15 kilometers (a little more than nine miles) inside Syrian territory at a location under Syrian army control. Four or five of the terrorist squad operatives were apparently killed (IDF Spokesman, August 21, 2015).
Responses to the Rocket Fire
- A (fictitious) network calling itself "the Al-Baath Battalions" issued a death notice for five of its operatives, killed in the IAF attack in a vehicle on a road near Quneitra. The notice named five operatives from the Al-Wafadeen refugee camp (located in the rural area east of Damascus): Muhammad Tayseer Shehadeh Mutlaq, Yusuf Fathi al-Khatib, Abdu Hishan, Muhammad Hishan and Ghias Abu Issa (Facebook page of PALTODAY, August 32, 2015).
- The PIJ issueda (false) statement claiming it had no connection to the vehicle attacked near Quneitra. It claimed its military operatives did not act in those areas but only on Palestinian soil (Al-Manar, August 22, 2015).
- PIJ spokesman Daud Shihab claimed Israel was using the announcement to distract attention from the affair of administrative detainee Muhammad Allan. Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash denied the Israeli claim that the PIJ was responsible for the rocket fire from Syrian territory. He claimed it was a baseless accusation, and an Israeli attempt to export Israel's administrative detainee crisis and entangle the PIJ in struggles taking place beyond the borders of Palestine (Ma'an News Agency, August 21, 2015).
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The IDF hit both the cell that carried out the firing and the Syrian forces that made it possible. We have no intention to escalate events…[but] The countries that are rushing to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander who directed and supported the cell that fired at Israel [ITIC emphasis]" (Website of the office of the Israeli prime minister, August 21, 2015). Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that eliminating the squad was more proof that Israel would not stand for any attempt to disrupt daily life or sabotage the security of its citizens. He said that anyone who wanted to do either would be hunted down and found by the IDF and the Israeli security forces (Ynet, August 21, 2015).
Terrorist Attack on the Tunnel Road South of Jerusalem
- On the evening of August 19, 2015, a Palestinian went to the IDF post located over the roadblock of the tunnel at the entrance to Beit Jala (south of Jerusalem). He threw an improvised bomb at the soldiers manning the post. An IDF soldier was seriously wounded and evacuated for medical treatment (IDF Spokesman, August 19, 2015).
- The social media posted a notice from Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Bethlehem claiming responsibility for the attack. According to the notice, it was in response to the "crimes" committed against the Palestinian people by Israeli settlers and security forces. The notice also claimed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade intended to intensify its attacks on the [Israeli] "occupation" and IDF forces until the "liberation of Palestine."
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
- This past week violence and popular terrorism continued at the usual locations in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, part of what the Palestinians call the "popular resistance" (i.e., popular terrorism). The violence mainly centered on throwing stones, rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and civilians. Prominent this past week was the increase in attacks in Jerusalem and its surroundings.
Left: A Palestinian on the background of a Fatah flag throws a rock at Israeli security forces in Kafr Qaddum (Facebook page of the village of Qaddum, August 21, 2015). Right: Palestinians throw stones at Israeli security forces in Kafr Qaddum (Wafa News Agency, August 21, 2015).
- The most prominent attacks were the following:
- On August 23, 2015, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli vehicles near a gas station on Route 443 (which links Modi'in and Jerusalem). There were no casualties; cars were damaged (Tazpit News Agency, August 23, 2015).
- On August 23, 2015, Palestinians threw dozens of Molotov cocktails at Israeli police and Border Police forces in the village of Issawiya (east Jerusalem). There were no casualties (Red Alert, August 23, 2015).
- On August 22, 2015, Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails at a roadblock in Hebron (Red Alert, August 23, 2015).
- On August 21, 2015, Palestinians shot at an IDF force operating in the Nablus region. There were no casualties (Red Alert, August 21, 2015).
- On August 21, 2015, Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles on near a gas station Route 443. There were no casualties. The Israeli security forces searched the area to locate the attackers (Red Alert, August 21, 2015).
- On August 20, 2015, Palestinians threw stones at the light railway in the Shuafat region of east Jerusalem. There were no casualties; the railway was damaged (Red Alert, August 20, 2015).
- On August 19, 2015, Palestinians threw stones at two vehicles on Route 45 near Jerusalem, between the Atarot Junction and the Benzion Netanyahu Exchange. A baby girl one year and ten months old and her father were injured; their vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of the Israel Police Force, August 19, 2015).
The Israeli vehicle attacked on Route 45 near Jerusalem (Facebook page of PALDF, August 19, 2015).
- On August 19, 2015, masked Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli police and Border Police forces in Issawiya (east Jerusalem). A policeman was injured by a Molotov cocktail (Facebook page of the Israel Police Force, August 19, 2015).
- On August 19, 2015, Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli bus and two other vehicles at the A-Tor Junction in east Jerusalem. Five passengers were injured and the windows of the bus were damaged.
Palestinian Violence in Beit Jala to Protest Israeli Intention to Confiscate Land
- The Palestinian media reported that a number of Palestinians were injured by tear gas inhalation during a riot held by Palestinians in the region of Bir Onah (near Beit Jala) on August 32, 2015. The Palestinians were protesting Israel's intention to complete the border security fence in the area, following a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court. Participants in the violence included Muslim and Christian clerics, as well as Mustafa Barghouti (secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the PLO's Executive Committee). In addition Abdallah Abu Rahma and Munzir Amira, both "popular resistance" activists, also participated. During the riot the Palestinians uprooted a barbed wire fence (Ma'an and Wafa news agencies, August 23, 2015).
Left: Palestinian rioters lift the gate they destroyed (Ma'an News Agency, August 23, 2015). Right: Palestinian rioters with Mustafa Barghouti in the center (yellow circle), push a barbed wire gate to rip it out of its moorings (Wafa News Agency, August 23, 2015).
Detention of Two Palestinian Molotov Cocktail-Throwing Squads
- The Israeli security forces detained two squads of Palestinians who threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli security forces and vehicles (Israel Security Agency, August 23 and 24, 2015):
- The operatives of the squad from Beit Hanina (northeast of Jerusalem) were suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles and wounding three Israeli civilians. Two of the squad operatives held Israeli ID cards, minors aged 16 and 17. During interrogation they admitted the attacks were premeditated and were in retaliation for the murder of the Palestinian baby in the village of Duma.
- The operatives of the squad from the village of Beita (near Nablus) were suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails from their vehicle at Israeli vehicles and throwing stones at Israeli security forces. One of the Palestinians, 21 years old, was a Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist operative.
Throwing Molotov cocktails and stones is the main modus operandi of the popular terrorism called the "popular resistance" by the Palestinians. In ITIC assessment the detention of the two squads indicates that in some cases the attacks are not spontaneous or carried out by lone wolf terrorists, but rather planned and organized by local networks.
Terrorist Attacks – July 2015
- nAccording to the Israel Security Agency, during July there was a slight decrease in the number of terrorist attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Palestinians carried out a total of 105 terrorist attacks, compared with 123 in June 2015:
- Distribution – In Judea and Samaria there were 63 terrorist attacks (69 in June 2015), 42 in Jerusalem (51 in June 2015).
- Modus operandi – Most of the attacks (90 of 105) involved Molotov cocktails. There was one stabbing attack near Beitilu (Ramallah area), two attacks which involved small arms fire, 12 instances of IEDs and an improvised hand grenade.
- Casualties – Three members of the Israeli security forces were wounded: one soldier was stabbed in the attack near Beitilu (near Ramallah) (July 15, 2015). Two policemen were wounded when Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails and stones in Issawiya (east Jerusalem) (July 26, 2015).
Administrative Detainee Ends Hunger Strike
- This past week there was an improvement in the condition of administrative detainee Muhammad Allan, a PIJ terrorist operative. However, a short time later his condition deteriorated and he was sedated and put on life support. As a result of his condition the Supreme Court temporarily cancelled his administrative detention; it will be reinstated when his condition improves. Concerned he might die, the IAF deployed the Iron Dome aerial defense system in Ashdod and Beersheba, concerned the PIJ in the Gaza Strip might fire rockets into Israel. Following the Supreme Court ruling Muhammad Allan ended his hunger strike (media interviews indicated he was recuperating).
- The Palestinians viewed the Supreme Court ruling as victory over Israel and Muhammad Allan's tactics as successful. The PIJ praised his "victory," claiming it was a victory for all Palestine and the "resistance" (i.e., the path of terrorism). Muhammad Allan claimed that if Israel detained him again he would go on another hunger strike (Alresala.net, August 22, 2015).
- Palestinian figures had the following to say:
- Issa Qaraqa, chairman of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs, claimed it was a victory for Muhammad Allan, who had overcome the [so-called Israeli] occupation with a hunger strike that lasted 65 days. He claimed the Israeli government's objective had been for Allan to die, but his determination had conquered and forced Israel to abandon its attempt to kill him (Wafa News Agency, August 20, 2015). He claimed the Palestinians were trying to leverage the entire issue of the prisoners into convening a large legal conference in Jordan with the participation of local and international experts, to expose Israel's policy to the international community (Voice of Palestine Radio, August 19, 2015).
- Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash claimed the release of Muhammad Allan was a victory for the spirit of the Palestinians and all the prisoners. He claimed Israel was responsible for Allan's condition (Almayadeen, August 21, 2015).
The Crossings – Recent Developments The Rafah Crossing
- This past week the Rafah crossing was open for four days, August 17-20, 2015. On August 21, 2015, the Egyptians announced they were reclosing the crossing (Veto, August 21, 2015).
- Iyad al-Bazam, spokesman for the Hamas ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, issued an announcement claiming that in the four days during which the Rafah crossing had been open, 2,579 Gazans with humanitarian issues had left the Gaza Strip for Egypt. He claimed 3,178 people had entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Egypt, he claimed, had prevented 146 Gazans from returning to the Gaza Strip. He added that he had no information about when the Rafah crossing would reopen (Facebook page of Iyad al-Bazam, August 21, 2015).
- During the days the Rafah crossing was open, the Egyptian authorities allowed 65 Gazans to fly out of Cairo's airport (Akhbar Al-Youm, August 21, 2015). On the other hand, there were reports of difficulties raised by the Egyptian authorities for the exit of senior Hamas figures. The Egyptian security forces at the Cairo airport detained Hassan al-Sifi, chairman of the Hamas-affiliated ministry of religious endowments (waqf) in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian authorities also reportedly refused to allow medical treatment in Egypt for Ihab al-Ghussin, a senior member of Hamas' information office, who suffered a stroke (Samaa, August 19, 2015). It was also reported that Egypt refused to grant Hamas' request to allow a delegation of its senior figures to leave the Gaza Strip (Alquds.com, August 20, 2015).
The School Year Begins in the Gaza Strip
- UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl announced the UNRWA school year would begin in the Gaza Strip on August 24, 2015, following the agency's successful mobilizing of funds to cover most of its deficit. The $78.9 million deficit was covered by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and the United States. Suhail al-Hindi, chairman of the UNRWA workers' union in the Gaza Strip, praised the decision (Al-Ra'i, August 19, 2015).
Four Palestinians Abducted in the Sinai Peninsula
- On the evening of August 19, 2015, armed men attacked a bus in the Sinai Peninsula carrying Gazans from Rafah to the Cairo airport and abducted four passengers. Hamas issued a formal announcement claiming that a group of armed men shot at the bus, stopping it. They then got on the bus, called the names of four passengers and took them off. Conflicting reports of the identities of the abductors have been issued:
- Egyptian security sources reported that according to an investigation conducted by Egyptian general intelligence, operatives of ISIS's Sinai Province abducted the Gazans, apparently to exert pressure on Hamas to release fifty Salafi-jihadists detained by Hamas. The Egyptian sources also reported that the Sinai Province had threatened to kill the abductees if Hamas did not agree to its terms (Ma'an News Agency, August 20, 2015).
- A Hamas source denied the report that the abductors were operatives of ISIS's Sinai Province. The source claimed that according to information he possessed, Egyptian security operatives had been involved in the abduction (Al-Risala, August 20, 2015). However, Hamas also announced that its relations with Egypt would not be influenced by the event and that Hamas would be in contact with official Egyptian agencies to investigate the event and secure the release of the abductees (Official Hamas website, August 20 2015).
- Egypt, however, denied the claims made by Hamas that its security forces were behind the abduction. An Egyptian source reported that the four abducted Gazans were operatives of Hamas' military wing and were on their way to Turkey to meet with other senior Hamas figures (Alarabiya.net, August 22, 2015).
- Senior Hamas figures said the following:
- The Hamas-affiliated ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip demanded that the Egyptian authorities protect the lives of the four abductees (Aljazeera.net, August 20, 2015). Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bazam claimed they were holding urgent contacts with the Egyptian authorities to understand the circumstances of the event. He called on Egypt to protect the lives of the abductees (Facebook page of Iyad al-Bazam, August 19, 2015).
- Ghazi Hamad, Hamas' deputy foreign minister, claimed the event was very grave and had been carefully planned. He also claimed there were many signs pointing to the identity of those behind the abduction.
- Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of Hamas' political bureau, claimed Egypt was responsible for the abduction and that he had many doubts and questions about the circumstances (PalInfo, August 22, 2015).
- Senior Hamas figure Musheir al-Masri claimed contacts with Egypt continued. He claimed the abductors had intelligence about the bus and its passengers from the moment it left the Rafah crossing (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, August 22, 2015).
Left: The four abducted Palestinians (clockwise from the upper left picture): Abu al-Jbein, Abd al-Dayim Abu Libda, Hussein al-Zibda and Abdallah Yassir Zanun (Facebook page of PALDF, August 24, 2015). Right: Ismail Haniya, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, meets in his office with family members of the four Gazans abducted in the Sinai Peninsula (Facebook page of Filastin al-'Aan, August 21, 2015).
Square in Rafah Named for Senior Hamas Military Wing Commanders
- On August 22, 2015, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing, held a march in Rafah to mark the anniversary of the deaths of Ra'ed al-Attar, Muhammad Abu Shamala and Muhammad Barhoum, all senior Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives, who were killed in Operation Protective Edge. After the march a new square was inaugurated and named for the three. A model of a Qassam rocket was set up in the square along with pictures of the three operatives (Facebook page of Quds.net, August 22, 2015).
Left: The new square in Rafah named for the three terrorist operatives. Right: The march held by Hamas' military-terrorist wing in Rafah (Facebook page of Quds.net, August 22, 2015).
Interview with Khaled Mashaal
- On August 22, 2015, Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, was interviewed by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. He discussed a number of issues currently on the Hamas leadership's agenda:
- Initiatives for a lull agreement with Israel: According to Khaled Mashaal, the move for a lull agreement was initiated by a desire to solve the problems of the Gaza Strip. If the problems were solved, he claimed, conditions would be ripe for an agreement. He claimed the talks held so far with Tony Blair were positive, but they had not yet reached fruition and the ball was currently in Israel's court. A long- or short-term lull in the fighting, he claimed, was not what Hamas wanted, it wanted was to establish a ceasefire that Hamas would preserve as long as Israel preserved it.
- Judea and Samaria are not included in any lull agreement: An agreement, Khaled Mashaal claimed, was only for the Gaza Strip. There was no agreement for the West Bank, which was "occupied." Therefore, he claimed, there was every reason to operate in the West Bank. Even if there were a ceasefire with the Gaza Strip, the "resistance" [i.e., terrorist attacks] would not stop until the occupation and the settlement project ended.
- Exchange of prisoners: Mashaal said Hamas absolutely refused to make any connection between solving the problems of the Gaza Strip and the issue of the exchange of prisoners.
- Hamas' foreign relations: The Turks told Hamas they were conditioning the resolution of the Mavi Marmara crisis on Israel's lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip, but so far everything was still under discussion. Qatar was the first country to deliver building materials to the Gaza Strip and begin its reconstruction. Ties with Saudi Arabia were strong but there were ups and downs. After his visit to Saudi Arabia it was decided to turn over a new leaf in their relations. The Palestinians had a special relation with Egypt but during the past two years Egypt had unjustly accused Hamas of interfering in Egypt's internal affairs. Recently there had been a certain improvement in their relations. Hamas had a "historical connection" with Iran, which was still strong, but their differences of opinion regarding the crisis in Syria had had an effect on relations.
Ten Members of the PLO's Executive Committee Resign
- On August 22,2015, the PLO's Executive Committee held a meeting in Ramallah, electing Saeb Erekat as Committee secretary. At the meeting Mahmoud Abbas and ten other members of Committee tendered their resignations. According to the announcement, it was a procedural move to force the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to meet within 30 days, as demanded by the PLO constitution, in order to appoint a new leadership. It was also announced that all those who had resigned would remain at their posts until the PNC met in September 2015 (Wafa News Agency, August 22, 2015). Apparently the move was intended to reinforce Mahmoud Abbas' political position and distance his opponents from the PLO and Fatah leadership.
Left: Picture appearing on the Hamas-affiliated PALDF Facebook page. It pokes fun at the resignations, claiming they were only for show. The Arabic reads, "Exclusive, now on the theatre stage. Produced by an organization without teeth, scenario by Saeb Erekat, starring actor, Mahmoud Abbas (Facebook page of Quds.net, August 22, 2015). [Right: Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the PLO's Executive Committee (Wafa News Agency, August 22, 2015).
Man from Jenin Killed Fighting in Syria in the Ranks of ISIS
- The Palestinian media reported the death of Sayeed Muhammad Yahya, from Jenin, who went to Syria to fight in the ranks of ISIS. He was killed on August 17, 2015, in Jareb (near Aleppo), during an aerial attack on ISIS strongholds. Sayeed Muhammad Yahya left seven months ago when he finished studying for a BA, claiming he was going to work in Sweden. He went to Turkey intending to enter Syria and join the ranks of ISIS. Palestinian sources reported that he contacted his family through his Facebook page to tell them he had joined ISIS (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda and Kuwait Press, August 19 and 20, 2015).
- nFacebook followers left mixed responses to Yahya's death in Syria on the local Jenin Facebook page. Some of them praised his action, while others asked why he had gone to fight in the ranks of ISIS when Jerusalem was much closer than Syria (Facebook page of Jenin al-Hadath, August 19, 2015).
The Qods Force is an elite unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards and spearheads Iranian subversion and terrorism in the Middle East and around the globe.
As of August 25, 2015. The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
According to a report from CityPass, which holds the franchise for the light railway, during the first half of 2015 Palestinians threw tocks at the trains more than 80 times, especially as it passed through Shuafat and the Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem. In 46 cases windows had to be replaced (Ynet, August 20, 2015).
The statistics do not include scores of stone-throwing attacks.