Car damaged by gunfire near the community of Ofarim (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 19, 2016).
Hamad Dakhil Khader al-Sheikh (Facebook page of QudsN, December 14, 2016).
The screwdriver used in the stabbing attack (Facebook page of the Israel Police Force, December 14, 2016).
Some of the weapons confiscated at the facility in Hebron (PNN, December 19, 2016).
Firing the rockets. Right: Preparing a rocket for launching (Haq, December 15, 2016).
Diving equipment for Hamas prevented from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing (Arabic Facebook page of the Israeli coordinator for government activities in the territories, December 14, 2016)
Musa Abu Saalik at a Hamas training exercise (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 16, 2016).
Tareq Badwan (Facebook page of the Sahem news agency, December 16, 2016)
Hamas displays its Ababil drone, developed in the Gaza Strip (QudsN, June 1, 2016). According to Hamas, Mohammed al-Zoari participated significantly in its development.
Rally held by Hamas' Islamic Bloc in Bir Zeit University (Facebook page of the Islamic Bloc at Bir Zeit University, December 14, 2016).
- This past week Palestinians carried out three shooting attacks targeting Israeli vehicles on the roads in the region north of Ramallah. In addition, a Palestinian carried out a stabbing attack near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. A few minutes before the attack the Palestinian wrote on his Facebook page, "I leave you this will: if I don't return I will meet you in eternal paradise..."
- Tunisia reported the death of Muhammad al-Zoari, an aerial engineer; Hamas' military-terrorist wing issued a death notice for him, stating he was a senior operative in its ranks and commanded its drone unit. He entered the Gaza Strip through the tunnels under the Egyptian border in Rafah and taught Hamas operatives to fly drones. Hamas accused Israel of killing him, calling it a "war crime."
Terrorist Attacks and Attempted Terrorists Attacks
- This past week Palestinians carried out three shooting attacks targeting Israeli vehicles in the area north of Ramallah:
- December 19, 2016 – Palestinians shot at an Israeli bus at a junction near the community of Talmon (not far from Ramallah). Except for the driver, the bus was empty at the time. There were no casualties. There were bullet holes in the side of the bus. The shooters fled; IDF forces carried out a search to locate them.
- December 19, 2016 – Palestinians shot at an Israeli vehicle near the community of Ofarim (north of Ramallah). The driver's face was scratched by flying glass. The attack may have been a drive-by shooting.
- December 14, 2016 – Palestinians shot at an Israel vehicle near Deir Abu Mashaal (near Beit El). There were no casualties; the vehicle was damaged. Shell casings were found nearby.
- December 14, 2016:
- A Palestinian armed with a screwdriver tried to stab Israeli policemen near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was shot and killed. One policeman was stabbed and a young resident of east Jerusalem was wounded by shrapnel when the terrorist was shot.
- The Palestinian media reported the terrorist was Hamad Dakhil Khader al-Sheikh, 21, from the village of Bayt Surik, northwest of Jerusalem (Facebook page of al-Risalah, December 14, 2016). He studied law at al-Quds University in Abu Dis (Facebook page of QudsN, December 14, 2016).
- He used the Facebook name of Abu Rakan al-Sheikh. A few minutes before the attack he posted the following: "I leave you this will: if I don't return I will meet you in eternal paradise. You are all my witnesses, you are all my witnesses!" (Facebook page of Abu Rakan al-Sheikh, December 14, 2016)
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
- In the meantime, routine popular terrorism continued unabated (the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails), without exceptional event.
- The more prominent events were the following:
- December 19, 2016 – A young Palestinian woman armed with a knife went to the Border Police base near the southern entrance of Qalqilya. She was detained and taken for interrogation. The Palestinian media reported she was Iman Jilal Mahmoud Ali, 16, a high school student from Qalqilya (Quds Press, December 19, 2016).
- December 19, 2016 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle near the Halhul Junction. The vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, December 19, 2016).
- December 15, 2016 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle near the Yitzhar Junction, in the Hawwara region. The windshield was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, December 15, 2016).
- December 15, 2016 – Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli vehicle near the community of Ofra (north of Ramallah). The vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, December 15, 2016).
- December 14, 2016 – Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli vehicle on route 446 (northwest of Ramallah). There were no casualties (Facebook page of Red Alert, December 14, 2016).
- On December 17, 2016, a young Palestinian man participating in a riot in Bayt Rima (northwest of Ramallah) was killed by IDF fire. The Palestinian media reported he was Ahmed Rimawi, 19, from Bayt Rima. He was the son of Hazem al-Rimawi, who served a 14-year term in an Israeli jail and was released three months ago (Twitter accounts of Paldf and Palinfo, December 17, 2016)
Left: Funeral held for Ahmed Rimawi in the village of Bayt Rima. His body is draped in the Palestinian flag. Right: Ahmed Rimawi (Twitter account of Paldf, December 17 and 18, 2016).
Hamas-Affiliated Institution in Jerusalem Outlawed
- Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman signed an order outlawing the International Kanadil Institution for Humanitarian Aid and Development and forbidding its activities in Israel. The Institution, headed by Dr. Azmi Arkan, is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It has strong ties to Hamas. In recent years it was a major financial supporter of Hamas projects in Jerusalem (Israel Security Agency website, December 15, 2016).
Large Weapons-Manufacturing Facility Exposed in Hebron
- On December 19, 2016, IDF forces operating in the al-Fateh industrial zone south of Hebron exposed a facility for the manufacture of weapons. It was situated in the basement of a residential building. It was one of the largest facilities for the manufacture of weapons exposed in Judea and Samaria to date. The owner was detained. Among the equipment found were 16 lathes for making weapons, 70 [rifle] barrels, hundreds of trigger guards, dozens of various types of springs, hundreds of types of ammunition, dozens of coils, and improvised M-16 assault rifles (Facebook page of the IDF, December 19, 2016).
Bodies of Terrorists Returned
- This past week Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) the bodies of seven Palestinian terrorist operatives who carried out terrorist attacks in Israel. Their funerals in the PA were attended by thousands and widely covered by the Palestinian media. At some of the funerals Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces.
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
- This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Shooting near the Border Security Fence
- On December 19, 2016, armed Palestinians shot at an IDF force securing engineering works near the border security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. There were no casualties and no damage was reported. IDF forces returned artillery fire at a Hamas post. According to the IDF report, the post was destroyed (IDF spokesman, December 19, 2016). The Palestinian media reported the post belonged to Hamas' Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, and was situated east of the al-Bureij refugee camp (Finiq News, December 19, 2016)
ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula Shoots Rockets at the Nitzana Border Crossing
- On December 15, 2016, ISIS's Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the firing of two Grad missiles at the Nitzana crossing on the Israeli-Egyptian border. The IDF reported that the rockets were fired on December 13, 2016, by ISIS Sinai Province operatives, and fell inside the Sinai Peninsula (Walla, December 15, 2016).
The Crossings – Recent Developments
- On December 15, 2016, the crossings authority of the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip announced the Rafah crossing would open in both directions for three days. It was the second time the crossing was opened in December. It may indicate a change in Egyptian policy towards Hamas and the Gaza Strip. Hamas' ministry of the interior reported during the days the crossing was open, 2,078 people passed through, 467 of them entering the Gaza Strip (Ma'an and the Facebook page of QudsN, December 20, 2016). "An Egyptian security source" reported that there was a plan to prepare the Rafah crossing for permanent opening. The source also reported that Egypt planned to construct a free-trade zone on its border with the Gaza Strip (Karameh Press, December 17, 2016).
Kerem Shalom Crossing
- On December 14, 2016, the Israeli security forces at the Kerem Shalom crossing stopped an Israeli truck that was being used in an attempt to smuggle equipment into the Gaza Strip for Hamas, including diving equipment. The equipment was confiscated and the truck driver was taken for interrogation (Arabic Facebook page of the Israeli coordinator for government activities in the territories, December 14, 2016)
Hamas Rally in Gaza City
- Hamas continues to stage events marking the 29th anniversary of its founding. It held the main rally in Gaza City. During the rally Hamas' military-terrorist wing held a military display which included various weapons, among them anti-tank missiles and long-range J80 rockets (manufactured by Hamas with a range of 80 kilometers, or about 50 miles. A number of J80 rockets were launched at the center of Israel during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014). Senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Haya gave a speech at the rally in which he called on the PA to strengthen the "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] in the West Bank to defend the Palestinian people and free the "political" prisoners, and to stop its security coordination with Israel. He promised prisoners in Israeli jails that Hamas would not abandon them. He also said Israel's leadership would pay and that time was not on its side (al-Aqsa TV, December 14, 2016).
Left: Hamas' J80 rocket on display at the main rally held in Gaza City marking the 29th anniversary of the organization's founding. Right: Senior Hamas figures at the rally (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 14, 2016).
Hamas Operative Killed in Training Accident
- Hamas' military-terrorist wing announced the death of Musa Abu Saalik, 19, from Khan Yunis, in a training accident at a Hamas facility. Hamas held a military-style funeral for him, attended by Khalil al-Haya and Mahmoud al-Zahar, two senior Hamas figures, as well as operatives of Hamas' military-terrorist wing (Twitter accounts of Safa and Palinfo, December 16, 2016)
Former Hamas Operative from Gaza Killed Fighting in the Ranks of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula
- The Palestinian media reported the death of Tareq Khalil Mahmoud Badwan, 31, during a clash with Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Tareq Badwan was born in the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. He was an operative in Hamas' military-terrorist wing and defected to join ISIS's Sinai Province. He left the Gaza Strip about four months ago after being imprisoned with other Salafist-jihadist operatives detained for participating in clashes with Hamas. His brother, Ahmed Badwan (aka Abu Tareq "the Gazan") was killed in June 2015 in an airstrike in Anbar Province in Iraq while fighting in the ranks of ISIS (al-Ayam, September 29, 2015; al-Masdar, March 20, 2016; Shams, December 15, 2016).
Hamas Drone Engineer Killed in Tunisia
- On December 15, 2016, the death of Mohammed al-Zoari, 49, was reported. He was an engineer from Sfax, a coastal city in eastern Tunisia. He was killed while sitting in his car in front of his house. He was born into a religious family in Tunisia. After his studies and military service he took a civilian pilot's course and went to work for Tunisair. He was fired because of his activity in the Islamist Ennahda movement and fled to Sudan. In 1991 he moved to Syria and joined Hamas' military-terrorist wing. He developed drones and hang gliders for the organization. He often went to Lebanon and Sudan, and also shared his knowledge with Hezbollah.
- When the regime fell in 2012, al-Zoari returned to Tunisia and opened an import-export business. He often went to Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and the Gulf States. He also went to the Gaza Strip, entering via the tunnels under the border at Rafah. While in the Gaza Strip he trained Hamas operatives in piloting drones. At the same time, he taught in the engineering department at Sfax University and started a hang-glider club.
- The following were Hamas reactions to his death:
- Hamas spokesman Hizam Qassem said Mohammed al-Zoari had provided Hamas' military wing with technological services which it had used during Operation Protective Edge. He said the drones al-Zoari developed were one of the sources of the wing's strength against Israel (Facebook page of Hizam Qassem, December 18, 2016)
- Senior Hamas figure Musheir al-Masri said Hamas' military wing would respond to every Israeli military action (TNN, December 16, 2016).
- Senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip Ismail al-Ashkar called the killing a "war crime" that showed Israel thought it was above the law (Majal Press, December 17, 2016).
- Senior Hamas figure Fathi Hamad claimed the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades' development and production would not stop (al-Watania, December 19, 2016)
Left: The car Mohammed al-Zoari was in when he was killed (YouTube channel RT in Arabic, December 17, 2016) Right: Al-Zoari gives instructions for piloting drones (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, December 18, 2016).
Left: Sign hung by Hamas in the center of Gaza City commemorating Mohammed al-Zoari (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 19, 2016). Right: Death notice issued by the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades for al-Zoari (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, December 18, 2016).
Hamas Anniversary Events in Judea and Samaria
- Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria marked the 29th anniversary of the movement's founding with a number of events, among them the following:
- In al-Bireh there was a rally during which Khaled Mashaal, chairman of Hamas' political bureau, delivered a video speech from Qatar. Present at the rally was Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah's Central Committee (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 17, 2016).
Left: Abbas Zaki, senior Fatah figure and member of its Central Committee, delivers a speech at the Hamas rally in al-Bireh marking the 29th anniversary of the movement's founding. Right: Hamas rally in al-Bireh (Twitter account of Palinfo, December 17, 2016).
- The Islamic bloc of Hamas at Bir Zeit University held an event attended by many students who waved Hamas flags and wore Hamas scarfs (Facebook page of the Islamic Bloc at Bir Zeit University, December 14, 2016).
Palestinian Public Opinion Poll
- On December 13, 2016, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), headed by Khalil Shikaki, issued the results of a new public opinion poll (PCPSR website, December 13, 2016):
- 65% of the respondents think the two-state solution is no longer viable.
- 62% of the respondents support non-violent popular resistance.
- 54% of the respondents do not have confidence in the new Fatah leadership. Only 33% of the public is satisfied with the choice made by the Seventh Convention in selecting President Abbas as head of Fatah for five more years; 64% of the public want president Abbas to resign. If presidential elections were between three candidates, Mahmoud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas would receive 24%, Barghouti 39% and Haniyeh 33%.
The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.