Stabbing attack at the Lion Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The knife used in the attack (Twitter account of Palinfo, March 13, 2017).
Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, who carried out the stabbing attack (Facebook page of QudsN, March 13, 2017).
Israeli vehicle damaged by a stone thrown near Yitzhar, southeast of Nablus (Facebook page of Shehab, March 9, 2017).
Yusuf Yasser Suaylam from Qalqilya, recruited to Hezbollah (alqabas.com, March 9, 2017).
The Palestinian security forces attack media correspondents covering a riot in Ramallah (Facebook page of mukaber.net, March 12, 2017).
Terrorist Attacks and Attempted Terrorists Attacks
- On March 13, 2017, a Palestinian carried out a stabbing attack at the Lion Gate in east Jerusalem:
- Before dawn a Palestinian terrorist entered a Border Police booth at the Lion Gate in east Jerusalem, took out a knife and stabbed two policemen manning the location, wounding them. One of the wounded policemen drew his gun and shot and killed the terrorist. The wounded men were evacuated to a hospital (Israel Police Force spokesman's unit, March 13, 2017).
- The Palestinian terrorist who carried out the attack was Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, 25, from Jabal Mukaber in east Jerusalem, a neighborhood from which many terrorist attackers have come. Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar worked in his father's metal workshop and customarily prayed at al-Aqsa mosque (Facebook page of mukaber.net, March 13, 2017).
- Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua praised the attack, calling it a "natural response" to Israel's crimes. He claimed the attack proved the so-called "Jerusalem intifada" continued and that no one could stop it (quds.net, March 13, 2017).
- On March 7, 2017, a Palestinian carried out a stabbing attack at a roadblock south of Bethlehem. An Israeli from Beitar Illit took his car to be serviced at a garage near the village of Walaja, southwest of Jerusalem. He then agreed to give a ride to a Palestinian who asked him for one. When the car approached the roadblock the Palestinian stabbed him and fled the scene. So far the motive and circumstances are unclear.
Riots, Clashes and Popular Terrorism
- In the meantime, demonstrations, clashes and riots continue throughout Judea and Samaria, mostly involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. The Israeli security forces carried out a series of detentions of suspects in Judea and Samaria. The more prominent incidents were the following:
- March 12, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at Israeli vehicles on the roads in the Gush Etzion region. There were no casualties; the vehicles were damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, March 12, 2017).
- March 11, 2017 – IDF forces detained a Palestinian armed with a knife. He was taken for interrogation after he admitted his intention to carry out a stabbing attack in the Jewish community in Hebron (Facebook page of Red Alert, March 11, 2017).
- March 11, 2017 – The Israeli security forces shot and wounded a Palestinian throwing stones in the village of Silwad near Ramallah (Facebook page of Red Alert, March 11, 2017).
- March 9, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at a vehicle on the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem road near the Efrat Junction. There were no casualties; the vehicle was damaged (Facebook page of Red Alert, March 9, 2017).
Israel Security Agency Terrorist Attack Statistics, February 2017
- According to statistics issued by the Israel Security Agency, in February 2017 the scope of terrorist attacks was similar to that of January 2017. Ninety-seven attacks were carried out: 82 in Judea and Samaria (the same number as January 2017), 14 in Jerusalem (16 in January), and one inside Israel (Petah Tikva). Most of the attacks (86 of 97) involved Molotov cocktails, 12 of them in Jerusalem. There were eight attacks involving IEDs, two shooting attacks (one inside Israeli territory) and one vehicular attack. Fourteen Israelis were injured, nine of them civilians (seven in the attack in Petah Tikva) and five members of the Israeli security forces (Note: the number of attacks does not include the dozens of instances of stone-throwing).
Weapons Network Exposed in Nablus Region
- The Israeli security forces exposed a network in the Nablus region that dealt with manufacturing and selling weapons. The exposure was the result of information received from the customs authority about a large number of packages containing weapons parts ordered on the Internet around the globe and sent to Nablus. The information led to a network which used the parts to manufacture weapons. Detentions were carried out and four weapons and hundreds of parts for manufacturing weapons were confiscated. A bridal boutique managed by one of the suspects was also used as an address where packages had been sent (Website of the Israeli customs authority, March 9, 2017).
Hamas Terrorist Activity Exposed in Judea and Samaria
- During the past month the Israeli security forces detained a number of Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria involved in terrorist attacks and planning to carry out more attacks (Israel Security Agency, March 12, 2017):
- A squad of Hamas terrorist operatives was exposed in the village of Bidu (northwest of Jerusalem). The terrorists had placed IEDs and thrown Molotov cocktails at IDF forces. They had also been involved in shooting at the community of Har Adar (northwest of Jerusalem) in 2015. They were planning to carry out more shooting attacks.
- Muhammad Ghazi, 20, was detained in Samaria. He was a Hamas operative and lived in the village of Jama'in. During interrogation he confessed to planning, with another terrorist from Hebron who was also detained, to shoot at an Israeli vehicle. In preparation for the attack they carried out surveillance along the road. They manufactured sharp devices made of metal to strew on the road to slow the passage of cars and make it easier to shoot at the drivers. They were also suspected of having purchased a gun for the attack. They confessed they were planning to attack Israeli vehicles and IDF forces (Israel Security Agency, March 12, 2017).
- A number of students from Bir Zeit University were detained, operatives in a Hamas student organization. They were involved in activities to establish Hamas at the university. To that end they organized rallies and recruited activists. Their activities were funded by Hamas.
Detention of Hezbollah Recruit from Qalqilya
- The Israeli security forces recently detained Yusuf Yasser Suaylam, 23, from Qalqilya, a metalworker. Interrogation revealed that he had been recruited to the ranks of Hezbollah on the organization's Facebook page used to enlist recruits. Hezbollah instructed him to carry out various missions, including taking photographs and collecting information about IDF bases, roadblocks and various locations in east Jerusalem. He was also instructed to set up a terrorist squad to abduct an Israeli and transfer him to Lebanon (Israel Security Agency website, March 9, 2017).
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
- On March 9, 2017, a rocket was fired at Israel from the area of Khan Yunis. It fell inside the Gaza Strip. A network calling itself "the Fatah intifada" (founded by defectors from Fatah) used its Facebook page to claim its military wing had fired two rockets at the western Negev and that Israel denied the rockets had landed in its territory. According to the statement, in the coming days the organization would escalate its attacks on Israel (Gaza al-A'an, March 9, 2017). It was the first time since Operation Protective Edge that any group affiliating itself with Fatah had fired a rocket at Israel.
- On March 13, 2017, a "red alert" was sounded in the western Negev. Shortly thereafter it was reported that no rocket hit had been identified in Israeli territory. A network calling itself the Descendants of the Prophet Tweeted its claim of responsibility for the rocket fire.
- On March 9, 2017, the Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing after opening it for three days. According to the crossings and border authority in the Gaza Strip, during the days it was open 2,058 people left the Gaza Strip and 1,961 entered. In addition, merchandise was imported, including concrete, iron, tar, paint, food, medicine, generators, concrete mixers and water pumps (Palinfo, March 9, 2017). Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar claimed that relations with Egypt continued to improve. That was manifested, he claimed, by the opening of the Rafah crossing and an attempt to improve the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas Warns of Consequences If UNRWA Funding Is Hurt
- According to the Hamas media, during his visit to Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman requested Secretary of State Rex Tillerson examine stopping funding for UNRWA and America's cooperation with the agency. He made the request in view of the fact that Hamas activists held senior positions in UNRWA.
- In response, Issam Adwan, chairman of Hamas' department for refugee affairs, warned of the consequences of negative actions taken against the support for UNRWA. He claimed the United States and the international community had to understand that any harm done to support for UNRWA would cause millions of refugees to demand their rights, creating new regional crises. He said UNRWA operated under a mandate from the UN and not the United States or Israel. He called on UNRWA not to surrender to pressure and to continue its humanitarian work. He also claimed it was the right of every Palestinian who worked for UNRWA to engage in "political activity."
- The Palestinian cause, claimed Issam Adwan, demanded that Palestinians from every strata of society invest effort, and "it is unthinkable that a Palestinian would give up his struggle for a place of employment." He claimed Hamas had no plan to infiltrate the international institutions operating in the Palestinian territories. He added that UNRWA could only fire employees affiliated with Hamas by classifying them "on the basis of discrimination" [sic], which could not be implemented (alresala.net, March 9, 2017).
Demonstration Protesting the "Siege" of the Gaza Strip
- A group calling itself the National Organization for Breaking the Siege on the Gaza Strip held a protest rally. Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said there were signs on the horizon that there would be "an explosion in the face of the occupation" if the ten-year siege of the Gaza Strip were not lifted. He also claimed Israel was responsible for the deaths of sick Palestinians by preventing them from passing through the crossings. He demanded that Israel establish an airfield in the Gaza Strip, renovate the sea port and open the crossings (al-Aqsa, March 13, 2017).
The New Hamas Fundamental Political Document
- Hamas-affiliated Ibrahim al-Mahoun wrote an article stating that the new document of Hamas' fundamental principles would be published in the near future. It defined, he claimed, Hamas' principles but at the same time had been adapted to political developments. However, he made it clear that Hamas would not "cross red lines," such as recognizing Israel, abandoning the armed "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] or waiving the rights to any of the land of Palestine (majal.press, March 7, 2017).
The Trump-Mahmoud Abbas Phone Call
- On March 10, 2017, Donald Trump spoke to Mahmoud Abbas on the phone. It was their first phone conversation since Donald Trump entered the White House. Palestinian sources reported that the conversation had been friendly and important, and that Trump had been "very impressed" by Mahmoud Abbas, whom he regarded as a reliable partner (al-Quds, March 11, 2017). According to Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina, Trump invited Mahmoud Abbas to the White House to discuss ways to renew the political process. Trump noted his commitment to a genuine peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas claimed he adhered to peace as the strategic way to establish a Palestinian state, side-by-side with Israel (Ma'an, March 10, 2017).
- According to Mahmoud Abbas, he and Trump discussed their commitment to the peace process and the two-state solution. Mahmoud Abbas claimed he opposed extremism and terrorism, which contradicted the religious and national principles of the Palestinians. He added that the PA would continue to cooperate with the United States to reach a peace that would ensure security, and that without a just resolution of the Palestinian issue there would never be peace, security or stability (Ma'an, March 12, 2017).
- However, Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas' political bureau, criticized the conversation between Mahmoud Abbas and Donald Trump. He said he found it difficult to believe the conversation was good for Palestine. He called on Mahmoud Abbas not to pursue the fantasies of Trump and the Israeli prime minister and to return to the line of Palestinian unity. He also warned of Mahmoud Abbas' going to the United States, because if he did he would be doing it on his own initiative against the Palestinian consensus (quds.press, March 12, 2017).
Left: Cartoon appearing in official Hamas organ mocking Mahmoud Abbas' phone conversation with Donald Trump, who takes orders from Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (alresala.net, March 13, 2017). Right: Cartoon by Khalil Abu Urfeh, from east Jerusalem, about what the new American president still has to learn about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arabic reads, "First year in office" (Facebook page of Khalil Abu Urfeh, March 11, 2017).
- Mahmoud Abbas appointed Dr. Husam Zomlot to head the PLO legation in the United States. Since May 2016 he has been Mahmoud Abbas' strategic advisor. He has a PhD in economics from London University and broad experience in politics and diplomacy. Between 2003 and 2009 he worked at the PA legation in London. He was elected to Fatah's Revolutionary Council at the 7th Fatah conference in Ramallah and recently visited the United States with a PA delegation and met with members of the Congress (Ma'an, March 7, 2017). He will replace Ma'an Erekat, who held the post in recent years. Dr. Zomlot seems to have impressive personal qualifications. Mahmoud Abbas may have appointed him with an eye to improving relations with the new American administration.
Left: Swearing-in of Dr. Husam Zomlot as PLO representative in the United States (Facebook page of Dr. Husam Zomlot, March 7, 2017). Right: Dr. Husam Zomlot (Facebook page of Dr. Husam Zomlot, September 29, 2016).
Reactions to Passing of the Preliminary Reading of the "Muezzin Law" by the Israeli Knesset
- The proposed "Muezzin law" to restrict the hours of the use of public address systems on mosques and impose fines on those who break the law passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on March 8, 2017. That led to a wave of angry reactions from Palestinians who represented it as violating freedom of worship. The PA's information ministry called for an Arab-Muslim campaign against the passage of the law. The ministry urged Islamic states to set aside March 30 for a joint effort to expose the "racist Israeli occupation and its efforts to ignite a religious war" (Wafa, March 9, 2017). The Endowments Council in the PA issued a notice condemning the "occupation's racist muezzin law." It called on the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding area to install amplifiers on their roofs to broadcast the calls of the muezzin (al-Hadath, March 9, 2017).
- Reactions from senior Palestinian figures and various organizations included the following:
- The Palestinian foreign ministry issued a condemnation, saying that the law was part of a series of "racist measures" taken by the Israeli regime in an attempt to strengthen its policy of racist separation in support of the idea of one state. It called on the international community and UN agencies to intervene urgently to stop the law from being passed and to ensure freedom of worship (majal.press, March 9, 2017).
- Yusuf Id'is, the PA minister of endowments, condemned the proposed law, calling it "racist and passing from the political dimension to the religious dimension, threatening to ignite a religious war because it violates freedom of worship." He claimed the law was extremist and racist, biased against followers of the religion of Islam in Jerusalem, and turned Jerusalem, the city of all religions, into a city that was "racist, Zionist and extremist" (Ma'an, March 8, 2017).
- Mahmoud al-Habash, Mahmoud Abbas' advisor for religious affairs and supreme cadi, called the law "a new crime of Israel." He called on the Islamic nation and the Palestinian people to oppose the "plot," saying that "it is our right to resist, to popular resistance, to peaceful resistance." He emphasized that while Islam was the religion of tolerance, they would not permit Israel to make the conflict religious or harm the mosques (YouTube, March 11, 2017).
Left: Mahmoud Abbas listens to Mahmoud al-Habash' sermon. Right: Mahmoud al-Habash delivers the Friday sermon at the Muqata'a in Ramallah (YouTube, March 11, 2017).
- Ismail Haniyeh gave a speech in which he said that the decision of the Israeli occupation to prevent prayers in mosques in Israel and in Jerusalem would fail and that the residents would not implement it. He said a continuation of attacks on the holy sites of Islam would lead to an eruption and that "confirmation of the first readings of the law would be the first stage in the annihilation of the occupation" (Hamas website and Gaza al-A'an, March 10, 2017)
- The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organized a protest rally in Gaza City, attended by senior figures in the organization. Senior PIJ figure Ahmed al-Mudallal gave a speech in which he said that Israel would not be able to implement the law because it was an attack on the free will of the Palestinian people. He appealed to the PA and demanded it end its security coordination with Israel (Safa, March 9, 2017).
Left: Cartoon by Hamas-affiliated Omaya Joha about the danger inherent in Israel's muezzin law. The Arabic reads, "They will not silence the minarets of the muezzin...Allahu akbar" (alresala.net, March 13, 2017). Upper right: Ahmed al-Mudallal at a PIJ demonstration in Gaza (PIJ in Gaza website, March 9, 2017). Lower right: Hamas protest rally (al-Aqsa Radio website, March 10, 2017).
PA Security Forces Suppress Anti-PA Demonstrations
- Palestinians in the Ramallah and Bethlehem regions held violent anti-PA protests demanding the return of the body of Basel al-A'raj, a terrorist who was killed by the Israeli security forces on March 6, 2017. The demonstrators also protested against the trial currently being held in a PA court for the other operatives of the terrorist squad headed by al-A'araj. During the riots Palestinians clashed with the PA security forces, and 23 people were wounded. PA security force operatives detained Khader Adnan, a senior PIJ figure, who they claimed attacked them during a demonstration in al-Bireh (Palinfo and Safa, March 12, 2017).
- The violent suppression of the demonstration and the detention of activists by the PA security forces led to serious public criticism against the PA. Hundreds of demonstrators held a rally in the center of Ramallah to protest the conduct of the PA and its security forces. The demonstrators called for the overthrow of the PA and the regime of its security forces, and for Mahmoud Abbas to be tried in a court of law (al-Aqsa, March 13, 2017).
The Glorification of Female Terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi
- On March 12, 2017, the PA held a formal ceremony to mark the 39th anniversary of the death of Dalal al-Mughrabi, a female terrorist who participated in the Coastal Road Massacre in 1978 in which a squad of Fatah terrorists killed 35 Israelis, 12 of them children, and wounded 71. Dalal al-Mughrabi has since been turned into a national heroine commemorated by the PA in various ways. The ceremony was attended by senior PA and Fatah figures. Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, gave a speech praising the attack, claiming it was a step up in the quality of military attacks against Israel. He also mentioned Abu Jihad as having planned the attack (karamapress.com, March 12, 2017). On March 12, 2017, Mahmoud al-Alul, deputy chairman of Fatah, participated in a ceremony at the al-Taa'ush ("coexistence") youth camp in Nablus to commemorate Palestinian terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi (official Facebook page of Fatah, March 12, 2017).
Left: Mahmoud al-Alul (fourth from right) attends a memorial ceremony held at the al-Taa'ush ("coexistence") youth camp in Nablus for Palestinian terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi (official Facebook page of Fatah, March 12, 2017). Right: Abbas Zaki delivers a memorial speech for Dalal Mughrabi (Facebook page of Abbas Zaki, March 12, 2017)
A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicle, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
For information about senior Hamas figures employed by UNRWA see the February 23, 2017 bulletin, "Dr. Suhail al-Hindi, Chairman of the UNRWA Staff Union in the Gaza Strip and Boys' Elementary School Principal, Is Elected to Hamas' New Gaza Political Bureau," and the March 5, 2017 bulletin, "Muhammad al-Jamassi, senior engineer in UNRWA's engineering department in the Gaza Strip, was also identified as a newly elected member of Hamas' political bureau."
The al-Taa'ush camps are paramilitary camps operated for Palestinian youth under the aegis of the Palestinian national security forces.