Ansar al-Tawhid’s claim of responsibility (Telegram, August 26, 2023)
ISIS operative firing at a Mozambican army patrol in the Macomia area, northeastern Mozambique.
Mozambican army weapons seized by ISIS (Amaq, Telegram, August 23, 2023)
The execution of a Nigerien army soldier (Telegram, August 29, 2023)
Main events of the past week
- This week, the scope of ISIS’s activity around the world increased. The organization’s activity focused on Africa.
- Israel: An indictment was filed against a resident of Rahat for membership in ISIS and an attempt to enlist support for the organization.
- Syria: The Salafist-jihadi organization Ansar al-Tawhid claimed responsibility for detonating a booby-trapped tunnel under Syrian army positions on the outskirts of Idlib, killing at least 11 Syrian soldiers and wounding 20 others. Two Syrian soldiers were killed and six wounded while attempting to infiltrate the rebel enclave in Idlib. ISIS prisoners reportedly escaped from Ghuwayran Prison in Al-Hasakah.
- Iraq: According to initial reports of fighting between ISIS operatives and forces of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit and the US-led Global Coalition, a Spanish soldier and a French soldier were killed. Five Coalition fighters were wounded.
- Nigeria: ISIS carried out several attacks against Nigerian security forces in the northeast of the country. Clashes between Boko Haram and ISIS continued. A total of 49 women kidnapped by Boko Haram were released for ransom paid by their families.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: ISIS operatives continued their attacks against Christian civilians in the Beni area, on the Congo-Uganda border.
- Mali: ISIS is expanding its propaganda activity and the imposition of Sharia as part of expanding its influence in the country.
- Somalia: Operatives of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab attacked three bases of Somali army special units and militias supporting the army. According to the organization, following the attack, it managed to retake several cities and towns in the region.
- India: ISIS magazine Voice of Khorasan calls on ISIS operatives and supporters to carry out attacks against the Hindu population in the country.
- The Philippines: ISIS claimed responsibility for two attacks against policemen and soldiers in the south of the country. This appears to be an escalation, after a period in which the organization’s activity in the country was reduced.
Indictment against a resident of Rahat for membership in ISIS
- As part of an Israeli security forces’ operation, Hamza Abu Za’ila, a 19-year-old resident of Rahat, was detained for interrogation in July 2023. It emerged that he supported ISIS and its ideology, pledged allegiance to ISIS, distributed videos of the organization on TikTok, and tried to persuade his associates and family members to support the organization. About a year ago, he contacted the organization’s operatives through social networks and was offered to carry out an attack on Israeli territory. He was indicted on August 25, 2023. The offenses attributed to him are contacting a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism (Israeli media, August 25, 2023).
The Syrian Arena
Provinces of Syria (Free World Maps)
ISIS operatives escape from Al-Hasakah prison
- On August 2, 2023, it was reported that there was a prisoner rebellion in Ghuwayran Prison, in the Al-Sina’a neighborhood of Al-Hasakah, and that the Kurdish forces guarding the facility had begun to search for ISIS cells within the prison. On the same day, it was also reported that ISIS operatives had escaped from the prison and that a curfew had been imposed on the city of Al-Hasakah (Al-Arabiya, August 27, 2023; Shafaq News, August 28, 2023; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 27, 2023). No details were provided about the number of prisoners who escaped or their identities.
- This is not the first time ISIS prisoners have escaped from this prison. On January 20, 2022, around 200 ISIS operatives broke into the prison, where the Kurdish forces (SDF) held more than 4,000 ISIS operatives, and released hundreds of them. In this context, it should be noted that ISIS attaches great importance to the release of its prisoners, and it has already carried out operations to release its prisoners from prisons in Syria, Iraq, and throughout Africa.
CENTCOM commander visits northern Syria
- CENTCOM Commander General Michael Kurilla arrived in Syria and visited several refugee camps in the north of the country, including the Al-Hol and Roj camps, where family members of ISIS operatives are detained. During his visit, Kurilla reviewed the humanitarian conditions in the camps as well as efforts to return the refugees to their countries of origin. He also met with senior Kurdish SDF officials. At the meeting, he noted that the United States, the SDF, and the international community are committed to defeating ISIS while dealing with the humanitarian and security crisis in the refugee camps (CENTCOM Twitter account, August 23, 2023).
- On August 29, 2023, a Syrian army force under the command of Hezbollah operatives tried to infiltrate the northern part of the rebel enclave in Idlib. A force of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated HTS identified and attacked the force. Two Syrian soldiers were killed and at least six were wounded (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 29, 2023).
- According to a report from August 26, 2023, an explosive tunnel exploded under Syrian army positions in the village of Al-Milaja, about 40 km southwest of Idlib. At least 11 Syrian soldiers were killed and 20 others were wounded. According to reports, two organizations belonging to the coalition of Syrian opposition organizations in Idlib are responsible for this attack: Ansar al-Tawhid and Al-Hizb al-Islami al-Turkestani (Turkestan Islamic Party) (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 26, 2023; Arab News, August 27, 2023).
- Ansar al-Tawhid issued a claim of responsibility, noting that it had booby-trapped Syrian and Russian army positions in the village of Al-Milaja and killed everyone in them. The organization noted that the operation was carried out in response to Syrian and Russian army attacks against the residents of the rebel enclave in Idlib (Telegram, August 26, 2023).
Ansar al-Tawhid’s claim of responsibility (Telegram, August 26, 2023)
- On August 25, 2023, Russian fighter jets attacked HTS targets in the rebel enclave of Idlib. Seven ISIS operatives were killed and at least 13 were wounded (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 25, 2023).
- On August 27, 2023, an attack was carried out against an SDF vehicle in the village of Al-Saada, south of the city of Al-Hasakah. An SDF fighter was killed and several others were wounded (Telegram, August 28, 2023).
Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
- According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, during August 2023 there has been an escalation in ISIS’s activity against the Kurdish SDF forces and civilians in the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region, the SDF’s control area. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, during the month, ISIS carried out 12 attacks, killing four civilians and eight SDF fighters (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 29, 2023).
The desert region
- On August 24, 2023, Russian fighter jets attacked ISIS hiding places in the Syrian Desert, in Jabal Bishri, about 80 km west of Deir ez-Zor (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 24, 2023). No casualties were reported.
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Salah al-Din Province
- On August 27, 2023, an attack was carried out against an Iraqi police post north of Samarra, about 100 km north of Baghdad. One policeman was wounded. An aid force arriving at the scene was also attacked. One vehicle of the aid force was destroyed, and two other vehicles were damaged (Telegram, August 28, 2023).
- On August 17, 2023, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle south of Daquq, about 30 km south of Kirkuk. The vehicle was destroyed and the four passengers on board were wounded (Telegram, August 23, 2023).
Salah al-Din Province
- On August 28, 2023, a plane of the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS attacked an ISIS target in the Al-Aith area, east of Tikrit. Immediately after the airstrike, forces of the Iraqi government’s counterterrorism unit and a French and Spanish force belonging to the Global Coalition landed there. Those forces were ambushed by ISIS, and according to an unverified initial report, a Spanish soldier was killed, and a French soldier was abducted. According to another unverified report, five fighters were wounded, three of them French and two from the Iraqi government’s counterterrorism unit (Al-Sumaria, August 28, 2023; Hadha al-Youm, August 29, 2023). The French Defense Ministry later announced that a French commando had been killed in the incident (French Defense Ministry, August 29, 2023).
- On August 26, 2023, Iraqi security forces detained two senior ISIS operatives in the Kirkuk Province (the exact location was not specified), one of them a foreign national carrying a fake Iraqi ID card and the other belonging to the organization’s Lion Cubs (Ashbal al-Khilafah) Foundation, which is nurturing the organization’s future generation (Iraqi News Agency, August 26, 2023).
- On August 26, 2023, the Internal Security (Asayish) forces of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government detained two suspected ISIS operatives in two separate operations in the city of Sulaymaniyah (Rudaw, August 26, 2023).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
- According to an infographic published by Al-Naba, ISIS’s weekly, summarizing ISIS’s activity in the period between August 17 and 23, 2023, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 18 attacks in the various provinces (compared with 16 in the previous week). The highest number of attacks were carried out by operatives of the Sahel and Iraq provinces (four each). Attacks carried out in other provinces: West Africa (3); Central Africa (2); Mozambique (2); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (2); and Syria (1). A total of 93 people were killed and wounded in the attacks, compared with 103 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in Central Africa (23). In the other provinces: the Sahel (20); West Africa (19); Mozambique (14); Iraq (8); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (6); and Syria (3) (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023).
Summary of ISIS attacks (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023)
Attacks by week (according to ISIS’s figures)
- On August 26, 2023, an attack was carried out against local militia fighters supporting the Nigerian army in the Sambisa Forest area, about 60 km southeast of Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria. One fighter was killed, and the rest fled (Telegram, August 27, 2023).
- On August 24, 2023, an IED was detonated, followed by an attack against a Nigerian army patrol in the Wajiroko area, about 100 km southwest of Maiduguri. Several soldiers were killed or wounded (Telegram, August 25, 2023).
- On August 23, 2023, an attack was carried out against a Nigerian police checkpoint near the town of Geidam, about 30 km south of the Nigeria-Niger border, in northeastern Nigeria. Two policemen were killed, and the rest fled. ISIS operatives seized an off-road vehicle (Telegram, August 25, 2023).
Clashes between Boko Haram and ISIS
- On August 22, 2023, at least 41 people were killed in clashes between Boko Haram and ISIS in the Lake Chad area in northeastern Nigeria (guardian.ng, August 24, 2023).
Release of abductees
- On August 25, 2023, it was reported that 49 rural women abducted by Boko Haram on August 22, 2023, in the periphery of Maiduguri, had been released after their families paid ransom to Boko Haram (VOA, August 25, 2023).
- The Nigerian army announced that on August 26, 2023, it liberated 14 local residents (six women and eight children) who had been abducted by Boko Haram in the Gwoza region, northeastern Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon. On August 27, 2023, 11 civilians were liberated in the area (www.chronicle.ng, August 28, 2023). It should be noted that Boko Haram frequently carries out kidnapping operations to obtain ransom money that finances its terrorist activity.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
- ISIS operatives continued their attacks against Christian civilians in the Beni area, on the border between Congo and Uganda:
- On August 24, 2023, three Christian citizens were abducted and murdered in the Ituri region, northeastern Congo, about 50 km west of the border with Uganda (Telegram, August 26, 2023).
- On August 23, 2023, an attack was carried out against Christian civilians in the village of Luna, in the Komanda region, about 100 km north of Beni. Five Christian civilians were abducted and murdered (Telegram, August 26, 2023).
- On August 21, 2023, an attack was carried out against a group of Christian civilians in the village of Kisanga and its environs, in the Beni area. Twenty Christian civilians were murdered (Telegram, August 23, 2023).
- On August 22, 2023, a Mozambican army patrol was targeted by gunfire and rockets on the road between the villages of Kobar and Kitrago in the Macomia region, Cabo Delgado Province, in the northeast of the country. Two officers and seven soldiers were killed. One armored vehicle was put out of commission and set on fire. Light and medium weapons were seized (Amaq, Telegram, August 23, 2023).
Right: ISIS operative firing at a Mozambican army patrol in the Macomia area, northeastern Mozambique. Left: Mozambican army weapons seized by ISIS (Amaq, Telegram, August 23, 2023)
- On August 16, 2023, an IED was activated against a vehicle belonging to the Mozambican army and the forces supporting it on the road between the villages of Mbau and Limare, in the Mocímboa da Praia area of Cabo Delgado Province. The passengers on board were wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission (Telegram, August 23, 2023).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in Mozambique
- ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba published an infographic summarizing the activity of ISIS’s Mozambique Province from June 30 to August 23, 2023 (55 days). The activity was carried out in the areas of Macomia and Mocímboa de Praia, in Cabo Delgado Province, in the northeast of the country. According to the infographic, the province’s operatives carried out nine attacks during this period, killing and wounding 61 people, including three officers. In ISIS’s activity, two vehicles were destroyed or put out of commission, and five compounds and positions were set on fire (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023).
Summary of ISIS’s attacks in Mozambique (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023)
- On August 23, 2023, the Mozambican Ministry of Defense announced that three ISIS commanders had been killed in the activity of the counterterrorism unit in Cabo Delgado Province (website of the Mozambican Ministry of Defense, August 24, 2023).
- On August 26, 2023, operatives of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab attacked three bases of Somali army special units and militias supporting the Somali army in the Masagaway region, in Galgaduud province, in central Somalia. According to Al-Shabaab, 178 Somali soldiers were killed in the operation. Additional soldiers (no exact number was given) were taken prisoner and hundreds of soldiers escaped (Shahada News Agency, August 26, 2023). Soldiers and medical sources reported that the number of fatalities was unknown and that there were dozens of wounded (Reuters, August 28, 2023). Al-Shahada News Agency, Al-Shabaab’s media arm, announced that following the attack on the three bases, the organization’s operatives managed to retake several cities and towns in the area (Shahada News Agency, August 29, 2023).
Documentation of the attacks against the bases of the Somali army and the militias supporting it In central Somalia (Shahada News Agency, August 26, 2023)
- On August 25, 2023, a Somali government intelligence operative was shot dead in the Al-Bakara market in Mogadishu (Telegram, August 25, 2023).
- On August 24, 2023, an Al-Shabaab car bomb was detonated, followed by an attack by the organization operatives against a base of militias supporting the Somali army in the Kahda area in southwestern Mogadishu. According to Al-Shabaab, 19 militia fighters were killed and 17 wounded, including ten members of a special police unit, two of them officers. There are also 20 missing people (Telegram, August 24, 2023).
- On August 27, 2023, US planes attacked Al-Shabaab positions south of Mogadishu. Thirteen Al-Shabaab operatives were killed (VOA, August 27, 2023).
- On August 25, 2023, the Somali army announced that it had managed to take over a main Al-Shabaab base in the center of the country, in the Elbur area, about 400 km north of Mogadishu. This is a significant achievement for the Somali army in the fight against the organization (VOA, August 25, 2023).
- On August 25, 2023, the Somali army announced that it had managed to kill 27 Al-Shabaab operatives in an operation in the south of the country and destroy Al-Shabaab targets in the area (Somali News Agency, August 25, 2023).
- On August 22, 2023, unknown persons, apparently Al-Shabaab operatives, set fire to a church and several homes in the village of Salama, in the Lamu region, southeastern Kenya, about 100 km southwest of the Kenya-Somalia border (theparadise.ng, August 25, 2023).
- Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, the prime minister of Libya under the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli, announced that Libya’s security forces had detained on August 22, 2023, a senior ISIS commander who was responsible for planning and commanded several suicide bombings carried out in the capital Tripoli in 2018 (africanews.com, August 25, 2023).
UN report: ISIS doubled the area under its control in the past year
- According to UN experts, ISIS has doubled the area it controls in Mali in less than a year. In addition, Al-Qaeda’s branch in the country, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM), is also taking advantage of the chaos in the country to expand its influence. According to the experts, since 2015, the Islamic organizations have managed to penetrate the center of the country and gradually expand their control. In the experts’ assessment, Mali’s military rulers are watching from a distance the confrontation between ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s branch over control of territories and describe a deteriorating situation in the country (AP, August 27, 2023).
Signs of ISIS’s governance in Mali
- In an article published in the latest edition of ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly, it was noted that the organization had expanded its governance in Mali, and it seems that its influence in the country is increasing. The organization has expanded the activities of the Hisba Office (Diwan al-Hisba, i.e., the bureau in the organization responsible for applying Islamic law, Sharia, and operating as an Islamic police) in Mali. Attached to the article were photographs documenting the stoning of a person who committed an offense according to Islamic religious law, based on the strict interpretation advocated by the organization. In addition, ISIS operates on the propaganda level among the residents (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023).
Right: Documentation of stoning. Left: Propaganda activity among the residents (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023)
Al-Qaeda calls on Muslims to fight the Wagner Group and the Mali government
- On August 23, 2023, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM), Al-Qaeda’s branch in the Sahel region, issued an announcement calling on Muslims to fight a jihad war against the Malian government and the Wagner Group operating in the country (Telegram, August 23, 2023).
Kidnapping and murder activity
- ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba reported that on August 17, 2023, the organization’s operatives had executed a local who worked for “one of the offices of the German Crusader forces” whom they abducted (no exact date was specified) in the tri-border area of Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso. In addition, it was noted that on the same day, a fighter of the Tuareg militia, a tribal group fighting ISIS, was abducted and executed in the same area (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023).
- On August 29, 2023, ISIS’s Sahel Province published photos documenting the execution of a Nigerien army soldier who, according to them, was abducted in the city of Tira, in the west of the country (Telegram, August 29, 2023).
The execution of a Nigerien army soldier (Telegram, August 29, 2023)
- On August 21, 2023, an explosive three-wheeled motorcycle (rickshaw) was detonated against several Taliban operatives near their headquarters in the Dar-ul-Aman area in southwestern Kabul. Five Taliban members were killed or wounded (Telegram, August 23, 2023).
- On August 26, 2023, a Pakistani government “spy” was shot dead in the Mamund region, northern Pakistan, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (Telegram, August 26, 2023).
- On August 25, 2023, a counterterrorism unit officer was shot and wounded in the city of Mastung, about 45 km east of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (Telegram, August 25, 2023).
- The Pakistan Police reported that members of its counterterrorism unit had arrested eight suspected terrorist operatives in various locations in the Punjab region in eastern Pakistan. According to the Pakistani police, the suspects belong to various organizations: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Salafist-jihadi organizations: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. According to the report, their arrest prevented widespread terrorist activity since they planned to plant IEDs throughout the Punjab region and attack important facilities and places of worship. Various kinds of weapons were found in their possession. It was later reported that the detainees included two senior Al-Qaeda operatives (hindustantimes.com, August 26, 2023; nation.com.pk, August 27, 2023).
- The main article published in the Voice of Khorasan, ISIS’s magazine, calls on ISIS operatives and supporters to carry out attacks against the Hindu population in India. Among the proposed plans are arson attacks (“Burn Hindus alive”) and IEDs, assassinations, vehicular attacks, and poisoning. It is also proposed to harm them economically by setting fire to their property. According to the organization, the attack on them is in order to take revenge on the Hindus for the crimes they are committing against Muslims in the country (Telegram, August 29, 2023). The magazine Voice of Khorasan is published by Al-Azaim, the organization’s media arm, which apparently operates from Afghanistan.
The first page of the article calling for attacks on members of the Hindu faith in India (Telegram, August 29, 2023)
- On August 28, 2023, an attack was carried out against a Philippine police post in Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines. Four policemen were wounded (Telegram, August 29, 2023). On August 21, 2023, shots were fired at a Philippine army patrol there. Five soldiers were killed or wounded (Telegram, August 26, 2023).
Terrorist attack thwarted in Britain
- Mohamad al-Bared, 26, a British doctoral student engaged in mechanical engineering at the University of Birmingham, was accused on August 24, 2023, at a British court of building an explosive drone for ISIS. Al-Bared was arrested at his home in the city of Coventry in January 2023. At the time of the arrest, the drone and other devices, including a 3D printer used to create it, were seized (BBC, August 24, 2023).
- On August 24, 2023, an extraordinary hearing began in a court in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the framework of a petition filed by Ahmed Samsam, 34, an ISIS operative and Danish citizen of Syrian origin, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of fighting in the ranks of the organization. According to Samsam, he acted as an informant for Denmark’s intelligence service and military intelligence between 2013 and 2014, spying on foreign fighters. Samsam’s lawyer said his client wanted the court to recognize that he was an agent. He noted that the issue revolves around the question of whether it is possible to force the intelligence organizations to admit such cooperation (Al-Jazeera, August 24, 2023).
Ahmed Samsam, Danish ISIS operative of Syrian origin
(YouTube channel 24.ae, February 6, 2023)
- On August 25, 2023, Muhammad Masood, a 31-year-old medical doctor, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and five years of supervision for attempting to join the ranks of ISIS. Masood, a physician by training, who worked in research at a clinic in Minnesota, was detained in 2020 after using an encrypted messaging app between January 2020 and March 2020 to join ISIS in Iraq. He pledged allegiance to the organization and its leader and expressed his desire to carry out terrorist attacks against senior figures in the United States. He tried several times to reach areas controlled by ISIS, and on March 19, 2020, he was arrested by the FBI after landing in Los Angeles and confessed to his actions (The New York Times, United States Department of Justice, August 25, 2023).
The battle for hearts and minds
- The editorial of ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba published this week under the title “Allah is within the jihad fighters” claims that Allah assists the organization’s operatives since they are loyal to Allah’s path and the path of jihad. The writer calls on the organization’s operatives to continue to adhere to this path and exercise patience so that their path will succeed sooner or later, and they will receive Allah’s help (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023). The article is intended to encourage the organization’s operatives to continue operating and strengthen the trend of recovery of the organization, which has been evident recently, after a period of decline in the scope of its activity.
The article “Allah is within the jihad fighters”
(Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, August 24, 2023)
 For further details, see the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from February 8, 2022, “ISIS’s takeover of the prison in Al-Hasakah, which it presents as an achievement, may bring about additional such actions” ↑
Propaganda material seized in Hebron (IDF spokesman's Twitter account, August 24, 2023)
Mapping a terrorist's house for demolition (IDF spokesman's Twitter account, August 23, 2023)
A sign at the al-Saraya intersection in the center of Gaza City with a quote from one of Saleh al-'Arouri's interviews: "In the face of the Zionist occupation and its fascist government, we are all in one organization called the Palestinian people" (Telegram channel of journalist Anas al-Sharif, August 26, 2023)
Saleh al-'Arouri in his office (Shehab, August 27, 2023)
Al-Sheikh, Majed Faraj and al-Khaldi meet with the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Jordan (Hussein al-Sheikh's Twitter account, August 27, 2023)
- This past week there was one shooting attack, it was carried out at the settlement of Havat Dorot, east of Qalqilya; no casualties were reported. On August 25, 2023, before the Friday prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians rioted and clashed with Israeli police forces; several policemen and Palestinians were injured. Israeli security forces continued counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons and propaganda material. The pursuit of the terrorist who shot and killed a father and son in Hawwara continues. Hamas’ military-terrorist wing issued a notice implying it was behind the attack. Senior Hamas figures called it a “challenge” to Israel.
- Palestinians made three attempts to cross the border security fence from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Two rockets were launched towards the sea, what the Palestinian organizations called experiments to “improve rocket capabilities.” On Friday August 25, 2023, “popular activities” were organized in the Gaza Strip in support of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem and the “resistance” [Palestinian terrorism]. A demonstration was held in the east of Gaza City where demonstrators approached the security fence and clashed with IDF forces.
- The decision made by Israel’s Political-Security Cabinet to target terrorists and their dispatchers raised concern among the Palestinians, who feared Israel would reinstate the policy of targeted killings. That led senior terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to take security and precautionary measures. Saleh al-‘Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau and responsible for Hamas activity in Judea and Samaria, was interviewed twice by the media. On both occasions he claimed Israel’s threats did not deter them, and that any targeted killing would prompt a “severe response.” The Israeli prime minister responded and was threatened by Hamas. The organization’s military-terrorist wing held a conference of university lecturers in the Gaza Strip for “resistance education” to promote the culture of “resistance” [anti-Israel terrorism] among university students.
- Political and religious figures in the Palestinian Authority (PA) forbade the residents of East Jerusalem to vote in Jerusalem’s mayoral elections. Condemnations were issued in response to the statement made by Israel’s minister of national security and the five-year plan proposed for developing Jerusalem, including east Jerusalem.
- On August 23, 2023, a masked man shot at an Israeli citizen in the settlement of Havat Dorot Illit (east of Qalqilya); no casualties were reported. The IDF instituted a search for the shooter (Israeli media, August 23, 2023).
Critical Terrorist Attacks in Judea and Samaria since November 2020
Terrorist attacks prevented
- August 28, 2023: In the areas surrounding Jerusalem, Border Guard fighters caught three Palestinians trying to enter Jerusalem; they did not have permits to enter Israeli territory. One of them, a 32 year-old resident of Bethlehem, was armed with a knife (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, August 28, 2023)
Right: The suspect detained. Left: The knife found in the suspect’s possession (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, August 28, 2023)
- IDF forces who operating near Ya’bad (west of Jenin) shot at Palestinians who threw explosives from a moving vehicle at a nearby IDF post. Several wounded Palestinians were detained and their vehicle was confiscated (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 28, 2023).
- August 25, 2023: Israeli security forces detained a young man at the entrance to David Street in East Jerusalem who did not obey their calls to halt, arousing their suspicions. He was a 28 year-old Israeli Arab from the northern part of the country and during a security examination was found to be carrying a knife (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, August 25, 2023).
The knife carried by the young man (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 25, 2023)
- This past week the Israeli security forces continued intensive counterterrorism activities in Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorism and confiscating large quantities of weapons and propaganda material:
- On August 29, 2023, Israeli security forces operated to detain wanted Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, seizing a large quantity of weapons. Palestinians rioted in several locations (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, August 29, 2023).
Right: Weapons seized during the operation. Left: Weapons seized in Hebron (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 29, 2023)
- On the night of August 26, 2023, Israeli security forces operating in the village of Dan (northwest of Jenin) detained two wanted Palestinians and seized Molotov cocktails ready for throwing. During the activity armed Palestinians shot at the forces and threw an IED at them; they responded with live fire (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 26, 2023).
- On August 24, 2023, Israeli security forces operating al-Fawwar (southwest of Hebron) seized weapons. During the activity explosives were thrown at the forces. In Hebron the forces detained a wanted Palestinian, and located and confiscated propaganda material (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 24, 2023).
Right: Some of the weapons seized in al-Fawwar. Left: Propaganda material seized in Hebron (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 24, 2023)
- On the night of August 23, 2023, Israeli security forces operated in Hebron to map the houses of the two terrorists who shot and killed an Israeli woman on August 21, 2023. During the activity Palestinians threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and shot fireworks at the forces (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 23, 2023).
Mapping a terrorist’s house for demolition (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 23, 2023)
Clashes at the entrance to the Temple Mount
- Before the Friday prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque on August 25, 2023, Palestinians rioted and clashed with police forces. The rioting began after several Palestinians threw rocks and heavy objects at the police who were conducting inspections near the Lions’ Gate, through which the worshipers entered for prayer. The police responded with riot control measures. One policeman was wounded, and fearing for his life, fired into the air. Three police officers were injured and a resident of east Jerusalem was detained (Israeli media, August 25, 2023).
- Palestinian sources reported that riots broke out after Israeli security forces [allegedly] attacked worshipers at the Gate of the Tribes before the Friday prayers. Eight Palestinians were injured by stun grenades and rubber bullets. According to reports three police officers were injured during the clashes (Shehab, Wafa, August 25, 2023).
The clashes near the Lions’ Gate (al-Qastel Twitter account website, August 25, 2023)
- Rawhi Fatouh, chairman of the Palestinian National Council, strongly condemned the activity of the Israeli security forces, calling it an “aggressive fascist terrorist act” which violated freedom of worship. He claimed the “fascist right-wing occupation government” was responsible for igniting the region, adding that acts of aggression against the worshipers were a provocation for millions of Muslims and “added fuel to the fire” (Wafa, August 25, 2023). Muhammad Hamada, Hamas spokesman for Jerusalem, said that the act of aggression against the worshipers at the Gate of the Tribes was serious and showed Israel’s “cruelty, Nazism and aggression” against Muslim places of worship and worshippers. He threatened the Palestinians would make Israel pay the price and teach it a lesson (Shehab, August 25, 2023).
Pursuit of the terrorist who carried out the shooting attack in Hawwara
- After several days of intense activity in the town of Aqraba (near Nablus) to apprehend the terrorist who shot and killed a father and son at a car wash in Hawwara, the Palestinian media reported the Israeli security forces had identified the shooter as Usama al-Haj Issa Bani Fadhal, 20 years old, and had mapped his father’s house in preparation for its demolition. According to his father, Issa Bani Fadhal, he was told his son had carried out the shooting and had three days to surrender, otherwise he would be killed. His brother Muhammad said Usama was studying mechanical engineering at al-Najah University and had not been detained previously by Israel or the PA (Shehab, August 24, 2023; Ultra Palestine website, August 24, 2023). The Palestinian social media represented Usama Bani Fadhal as an operative of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing (@Qadoomeagain Twitter account, August 26, 2023; Adnan Hamarsheh’s Twitter account, August 26, 2023).
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing claims responsibility for the attack in Hawwara
- On August 26, 2023, a week after the attack, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing in Judea and Samaria issued a notice implying it was behind the shooting in Hawwara. The notice had two pictures, one of the bodies of brothers Hillel and Gal Yaniv, who were shot to death in their vehicle in Hawwara in February 2023, and the other of the bodies of father and son Shay Nigreker and Aviad Nir, who were shot to death on August 19, 2023. Under the photos and the dates of the murders, the Arabic caption reads, “Our jihad continues and our attacks will not stop” (Telegram channel of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades in Judea and Samaria, August 26, 2023).
The Hamas notice for the two terrorist attacks in Hawwara (Telegram channel of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades in Judea and Samaria, August 26, 2023)
- Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said Hamas had ramped up its challenge to “the Zionist enemy” and claimed no threats from Israel would stop the “resistance,” which had increased its presence and whose achievements and ability to inflict casualties on IDF forces were stronger. He claimed the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades were operating at the heart of the campaign in Judea and Samaria, “as they have always been,” and were in a state of continuous “struggle” (Filastin al-A’an, August 26, 2023).
- Isma’il Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, boasted that after Israel’s threats, claiming responsibility for the attack in Hawwara was a Hamas challenge. He promised that Israel’s future would be darker (Radio Sawt al-Aqsa Twitter account, August 26, 2023). Relating to the attacks and recent developments in Judea and Samaria, Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, claimed Hamas would expand the area of its activity against “the leadership of the Zionist entity,” helping to enlarge and escalate the conflict (Shehab, August 22, 2023)
A Palestinian wounded in the IDF activity in Jenin in early July died of his wounds
- The death of Izz al-Din Mahmoud Kanaan, 20 years old, from the town of Jabba (south of Jenin) was reported; he died from injuries incurred during the IDF activity in Jenin in early July, 2023 (Wafa, August 25, 2023). The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (AAMB) claimed him as an operative (AAMB Telegram channel, August 25, 2023). According to reports he also belonged to a network in Jabba calling itself al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Shaheed Amjad al-Fakhouri Squads (Shaheed Amjad al-Fakhouri Squads Telegram channel, August 25, 2023). The Fatah movement also claimed him as an operative (Fatah’s media information and cultural commission Telegram channel, August 25, 2023). His body was wrapped for burial in an AAMB flag and his weapon was placed next to it (@jaba_almqwme Telegram channel, August 26, 2023)
Right: Mourning notice issued by the AAMB (AAMB Telegram channel, August 25, 2023). Left: Mourning notice issued by the Shaheed Amjad al-Fakhouri Squads (Shaheed Amjad al-Fakhouri Squads Telegram channel, August 25, 2023)
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
- This past week no rocket or mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since September 2021
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits since 2006
Hamas fires rockets towards the sea
- On the morning of August 27, 2023, two rockets were fired towards the sea from the central Gaza Strip, part of what the terrorist organizations call “improving the “resistance’s’ military and rocket capabilities” (Shehab, August 27, 2023). According to other websites, one rocket was fired (Palestine Online, August 27, 2023; al-Mayadeen TV website, August 27, 2023).
Firing a rocket (New Press Twitter account, August 27, 2023).
Attempts to cross the border security fence
- This past week IDF surveillance detected several attempts by Palestinians to cross the security fence from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account):
- On the morning of August 28, 2023, a man was identified trying to cross the border security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. IDF forces detained him and he was taken for questioning.
- On August 25, 2023, two Palestinians were identified trying to cross the fence in the southern Gaza Strip. IDF forces detained the two, who were not armed, and they were taken for further investigation. A search of the area revealed two grenades which had apparently been brought by the Palestinians.
- On August 23, 2023, IDF forces identified a Palestinian trying to cross the fence in the northern Gaza Strip. He was detained and found to be unarmed. He was taken for further investigation.
Clashes in the eastern part of Gaza City
- On Friday, August 25, 2023, the Palestinian organizations organized demonstrations and riots (“popular activities”) in the various districts in the Gaza Strip and near the border security fence, allegedly in support of Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the “resistance” against Israel and the settlers. A demonstration was organized in the Malka return camp in the eastern part of Gaza City. Demonstrators who approached the security fence clashed with IDF forces. Three Palestinians were reportedly injured by tear gas. According to reports, for the second time this past week, the Palestinians detonated a powerful IED near the security fence in the eastern part of Gaza City (Shehab, August 25, 2023; @tawra8001 Twitter account, August 25, 2023; Filastin al-A’an, August 25, 2023).
Right: Rioting near the security fence (Shehab Telegram channel, August 25, 2023).
Left: Pictures from a video documenting the explosion of the IED (@tawra8001 Twitter account, August 25, 2023)
Israel freezes the work permit quota
- The Israeli Kan 11 TV channel announced that given Hamas’ involvement in terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria and the recent events near the security fence, Israel decided to freeze the quota of permits for workers from the Gaza Strip and not raise it from 18,000 to 20,000. Sami al-Amsi, chairman of the workers’ unions in the Gaza Strip, claimed Israel was trading in the Gazans’ suffering. He claimed Israel had not announced its intention to increase the quota, which was revealed only when it announced freezing it. He also claimed that Israel’s statements about alleviating the workers’ suffering were intended for media purposes only, and since the rise of Netanyahu’s “extreme right-wing government” the residents of the Gaza Strip had experienced increased distress and suffering (website of the General Workers’ Union in the Gaza Strip, August 28, 2023).
An explosion at a Hamas military-terrorist post
- On August 24, 2023, an explosion occurred at the Hamas military-terrorist wing al-Tal post in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. According to several reports, two operatives of the military wing were killed in the explosion. They were Ashraf Hussein, from Deir al-Balah and Ali al-Dara from the al-Bureij refugee camp (Amad, August 24, 2023; Roya TV news site, August 24, 2023). Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in Gaza, reported one person had been killed and another seriously injured in an explosion inside a “resistance” post in the central Gaza Strip (ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip website, August 24, 2023). The Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades announced the death of its operative Ashraf Abd al-Karim Hussein, 35 years old, from Deir al-Balah (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, August 24, 2023).
Right: Smoke rises from the al-Tal post (Telegram channel of Safinaz al-Loh’s, reporter for the Amad website, August 24, 2023). Left: Ashraf Hussein (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, August 24, 2023)
Conversations with an advisor to the Iranian leader
- Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Iranian leader for international affairs, spoke on the phone with Ziyad al-Nakhalah, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Al-Nakhalah assured him that Israel’s threats did not deter the Palestinians and that “the resistance will exercise its natural, legal [sic] right to fight and respond to any aggression.” Velayati emphasized Iran’s support for the Palestinian people and their “resistance” [terrorist attacks] (PIJ Telegram channel, August 25, 2023).
- Earlier, Velayati spoke on the phone with Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, praising the “resistance of the Palestinian people, especially in the West Bank.” Velayati emphasized that Iran would continue supporting the Palestinian “resistance.” Haniyeh thanked him for calling and noted they would continue to face Israel and its “aggression” (Shehab, August 25, 2023).
Reactions to the Israeli Cabinet’s anti-terrorist decision
- On August 22, 2023, Israel’s Security-Political Cabinet announced its decision to take a series of measures to attack terrorists and their dispatchers, and had authorized the prime minister and the defense minister to act accordingly. The statement caused concern among the Palestinians, who feared Israel would in fact initiate the measures, including targeted killings, especially against Hamas (Shehab, August 23, 2023). According to reports, the “resistance” leadership [the heads of the terrorist organizations] took Israel’s threats seriously and senior “resistance” leaders in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon had taken “unprecedented” security measures, and the organizations in the Gaza Strip had abandoned their posts. It was also reported that the “resistance” monitored various types of Israeli UAVs in the skies above the Gaza Strip, most of whose activity is gathering information and “updating the target bank” (al-Araby al-Jadeed, August 23, 2023).
- Senior Hamas and PIJ figures also noted that they took the threat seriously:
- Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, threatened that in the event of a military strike on the Gaza Strip, Hamas would respond by attacking Tel Aviv. Regarding Israeli threats to attack leaders of the movement abroad, al-Zahar claimed Israel would not do so at the present time because it knew reactions would come from the Gaza Strip (Arab World Press news agency, August 23, 2023).
- Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem threatened that if Israel carried out the “stupid act” of assassinating Palestinian leaders, inside or outside Gaza, there would be an “unprecedented, unexpected” response. He claimed that in light of Hamas’s serious approach to threats, the “authorized authorities” were taking precautionary measures, which, according to him, did not affect daily life (Shehab, August 23, 2023).
- Ahmed al-Mudallal, a member of the PIJ’s Executive Committee, claimed Israel’s threats of aggression against Gaza and the assassination of “resistance” leaders reflected the helplessness and confusion of Netanyahu and his “extremist” government due to their inability to stop “the escalation [of terrorism] in Judea and Samaria” (Paltoday website , August 25, 2023).
- Walid al-Qutati, a member of PIJ’s political bureau, said they took Israel’s threats very seriously, and that all scenarios had been taken into account. He added it was necessary to be wary of repeating scenarios of targeted assassinations inside and outside “Palestine” (Paltoday, August 24, 2023).
- Ahsan Ataya, a member of the PIJ’s political bureau, said a targeted assassination would be met with a harsh response, claiming the PIJ was prepared for every military response, including attacking the heart of Israel (Arab World Press news agency, August 25, 2023).
- Said Zidani, a lecturer in political science at al-Quds University, said that because Israel considered Hamas directly responsible for planning and financing the attacks against it, Israel was moving towards renewing targeted killings (Samad, August 23, 2023). ‘Adel Yassin, a Palestinian political commentator, claimed Israel might want a military action or a return to targeted killings, but was aware of the consequences and costs involved. In his assessment, the Netanyahu government had a limited number of options, and it was not impossible that there would be an attempt to carry out security and military operations as part of the campaign between wars (Shehab, August 23, 2023).
- “Sources” in the Palestinian organizations reported that messages had been sent to the mediators stating that any aggression or assassinations by Israel would have a harsh response (al-Araby al-Jadeed, August 24, 2023). The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Akhbar reported Egypt was in contact with both the Palestinian organizations and Israel to prevent a military confrontation (al-Akhbar, August 26, 2023).
Statements by Saleh al-‘Arouri
- This past week Saleh al-‘Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau and responsible for activity in Judea and Samaria, was interviewed by both Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV and the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV.
- Interviewed by al-Aqsa TV, he claimed that “the resistance has been going on since the beginning of Zionist colonization of our country,” and they believed the final result would be a victory for the Palestinian people, how had never discussed the possibility of surrender and would not surrender. He also claimed they were not deterred by Israel’s threats of targeted killings, and reiterated that the Palestinian people were united “in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, inside [sic] and in the dispersal.” He also emphasized that the Palestinian people were always able to surprise Israel, and one of the surprises was the escalation of the “resistance” in Judea and Samaria (al-Aqsa, August 24, 2023).
- Interviewed by al-Mayadeen, he stated they were preparing for a comprehensive war and were discussing the issue behind closed doors with all the relevant, involved parties [the other terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and Iran]. He also claimed that if it came to a comprehensive confrontation, Israel would have a defeat unprecedented in its history. Anyone, he said, who thought about targeted killings knew it could lead to a regional war. He also claimed the “equation” in Judea and Samaria had changed and boasted the “resistance” could close Israel’s air and maritime space and shut down its electricity and economy (al-Mayadeen TV, August 25, 2023).
A sign at the al-Saraya intersection in the center of Gaza City with a quote from one of Saleh al-‘Arouri’s interviews: “In the face of the Zionist occupation and its fascist government, we are all in one organization called the Palestinian people (Telegram channel of journalist Anas al-Sharif, August 26, 2023)
- In response to al-Arouri’s interviews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said al-Arouri knew perfectly well why he and his friends were in hiding, and that anyone who financed, organized, or used terrorism against Israel would pay the price (Benyamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page, Israeli media , August 27, 2023).
- In response what Hamas considered were threats from the Israeli prime minister to eliminate Saleh al-‘Arouri and other “resistance” leaders, Hamas said the threats were empty and would not succeed in weakening the “resistance.” Hamas added that Saleh al-‘Arouri and all his “brothers” and Palestinians stood firm and would resolutely continue to resist the “occupation” until all the legitimate rights of the Palestinians had been restored, first of all the “liberation” of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque. Hamas emphasized that the “Zionist enemy,” confused by the blows inflicted by the “resistance,” had to be aware that any harm to the “resistance” leadership would be answered firmly and with force (Hamas website, August 27, 2023). At the same time, a photo of Saleh al-Arouri was published in the Hamas media, sitting in his office (possibly in Beirut), smiling, wearing a uniform and talking on the phone with a loaded M-16 on his desk. It was clearly intended to convey the message that despite the threats against him, he continued his daily routine, which included directing Hamas’ terrorist activities in Judea and Samaria.
Saleh al-‘Arouri in his office (Shehab, August 27, 2023)
- After the publication of the photo, Mustafa all-Sawaf, a Hamas operative and political commentator, wrote that al-‘Arouri was challenging Netanyahu. Israel, he wrote, had to understand it was playing with fire and its threats would not deter the “resistance” led by al-‘Arouri and [Muhammad] Deif, nor scare any operatives, regardless of their organizational level (Shehab, August 27, 2023).
- Khader Habib, a senior PIJ figure, said he knew Saleh al-‘Arouri well enough to know such threats would only increase his determination to escalate the “resistance” attacks against Israel (alresala.net, August 27, 2023).
- The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Akhbar reported that according to “sources in the Palestinian organizations,” all the “resistance” factions [terrorist organizations] took Israel’s threats to the “resistance” leadership very seriously, in particular Saleh al-‘Arouri, who was in Lebanon, and had several scenarios for dealing with the Israeli government’s intentions. According to the “sources,” the initial response might be similar to that of Ramadan, firing rockets from many fronts, but on a larger scale. The sources stated that the “Palestinian resistance” was in contact with the “axis of the resistance” [i.e., Hezbollah and Iran]. They had, according to the sources clear scenarios for dealing with any Israeli measure, especially if Israel attempted to kill al-‘Arouri on Lebanese soil, since the commitment of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, regarding the killing of any important Lebanese or Palestinian on Lebanese soil was still alive and well (al-Akhbar, Lebanon, August 28, 2023).
- Hassan Nasrallah also related to the issue in a speech he delivered on August 28, 2023. He said Hezbollah would not remain silent about assassinations carried out by Israel on Lebanese soil against Lebanese, Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians or any other person and there would be severe repercussions. They would not, he said, allow Lebanon to become an arena for assassinations and Israel had to know the “equations” established in 2006 [the Second Lebanon War] could not be changed. He also claimed that contrary to the Israeli government’s description of the escalation of the “resistance” in Judea and Samaria and Israel’s resulting helplessness as an Iranian plot, in practice it was purely “a Palestinian desire” (al-Mayadeen, August 28, 2023)
The Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades act to strengthen the “culture of resistance”
- On August 24, 2023, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, held a conference in one of its posts about “resistance education.” According to the organizers, it was held to promote the culture of “resistance” among university students and to establish a new generation which would assume the mantle of “liberating the lands.” More than 300 lecturers from universities in the Gaza Strip participated. There was a review of “scientific” articles which offered proposals and recommendations for ways to increase the spirit of “resistance” and introduce the culture of “resistance” to students through study programs and extracurricular activities which would help make the university environment supportive of the “resistance” (Safa, August 26, 2023).
- Before the conference, participants became acquainted with the operations of the “resistance” by meeting with military-terrorist wing operatives, who reviewed their activities and weapons. They also visited observation posts and looked towards the territory of Israel (Safa, August 26, 2023).
- The conference opened with a speech delivered by a representative of the military wing’s home front. He described their hope that the Palestinian universities would support the path of “resistance” with “academic” curriculums. He said university students had the educational foundation to bring awareness and knowledge to their social environment, and they could show the masses the importance of the “resistance” as the option for the restoration of the “occupied land.” Ayman Nofal, a member of Hamas’ Military Council and commander of the Central Gaza Brigade, spoke on behalf of the military wing and presented the vision of the “resistance” in the fight against the “occupation” and the rules of confrontation after Operation Guardian of the Walls. He emphasized that throughout modern history the universities had been a hothouse for revolutionaries in every national liberation movement. Jamilla al-Shanti, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, presented the vision of the movement’s university department as it related to strengthening the “resistance” culture by means of the university faculties (Safa, August 26, 2023).
The conference to promote the culture of “resistance” (Safa, August 26, 2023)
Fatah’s Revolutionary Council
- On August 24, 2023, after a delay of eight months, the 11th session of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council was held in the Muqata’a in Ramallah. It was opened by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who gave a speech in which he related to the latest political developments in the Palestinian issue and the efforts invested in the regional and international arenas. He said they would not allow Israel to carry out its annexation and expansion plans, enforce an apartheid regime and drag the area into escalation. He praised the “peaceful popular resistance” [popular terrorism] and claimed it was achieving its objectives, but efforts still had to be made to reveal the “true face of the occupation” to the world (Wafa, August 24, 2023). He proposed holding the 8th General Fatah Convention in Ramallah between December 17 and 23, 2023; the proposal was accepted (Wafa, August 24, 2023).
Ban on participation in the municipal elections in Jerusalem
- In its summary statement, the PLO’s Revolutionary Council stated Jerusalem was the heart of the Palestinian national project. It emphasized the continuation of the overall “popular resistance” [popular terrorism] in Jerusalem, and claimed the elections to the Jerusalem municipality should be denounced and boycotted, in terms of both voting and presenting candidates (Wafa, 26 August 2023).
- Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, a preacher at al-Aqsa Mosque, claimed in his Friday sermon that since 1967 the Supreme Islamic Committee in Jerusalem had published fatwas signed by many religious scholars which spoke of not recognizing the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and all Palestinian territories, and therefore from a religious point of view it was forbidden to participate in the Jerusalem municipality elections (al-Ayam, August 19, 2023). A similar position was presented at a meeting of the religious sources of authority of Jerusalem, held at the PLO headquarters in Ramallah on August 7, 2023, chaired by Adnan al-Husseini, member of PLO Executive Committee and head of its Jerusalem department (Wafa, August 7, 2023).
Hussein al-Sheikh holds meetings in Jordan
- Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, met in Amman with Naif bin Bandar al-Sudairi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan and non-resident ambassador-designate to the PA. The meeting was also attended by Majed Faraj, the head of general intelligence, and Majdi al-Khaldi, diplomatic advisor to Mahmoud Abbas. They discussed Saudi Arabia-“Palestine” relations and bilateral cooperation (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account Twitter account, August 27, 2023).
Al-Sheikh, Majed Faraj and al-Khaldi meet with the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Jordan (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account, August 27, 2023)
- The delegation, led by al-Sheikh, also met with Barbara Leaf, United States assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. They discussed the latest political developments, bilateral relations and regional developments. Yael Lampert, the American ambassador to Jordan, also participated (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account, August 27, 2023).
The PA successfully averts a lawsuit against it in the United States
- Shukri Bishara, PA finance minister, announced a new achievement in the lawsuits filed against the PA and the PLO in the United States, the rejection of the Levine suit. He said the lawsuit was filed in the United States courts in 2021, when the plaintiffs, victims of terrorism, demanded compensation of a billion dollars, claiming the PA and the PLO were for the attack in Jerusalem in 2014. He said the achievement had been made despite the US government’s support for the prosecutors’ position. Bishara thanked the team of lawyers defending the PA’s position who, he claimed, had succeeded over the past few years in overturning thirty court rulings, and canceling lawsuits against them in the amount of approximately $4.5 billion (Wafa, August 24, 2023).
Condemnations of remarks made by Itamar Ben-Gvir
- During an interview Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security, claimed his, his wife’s and his children’s right to drive on the roads of Judea and Samaria was more important than the Arabs’ right of movement (Israeli TV Channel 12, August 23, 2023). His statement was roundly condemned. The PA foreign ministry strongly criticized what it called the “expansion of aggression against the Palestinian people” by the Israeli government and the “open incitement of the Israeli right wing.” The ministry demanded the immediate intervention of the UN Security Council in light of the official Israeli attempt “to perpetuate the occupation and legitimize apartheid before the eyes of the world” (Wafa, August 24, 2023).
- Hamas said the statements of “the extreme Zionist minister” joined a series of other racist statements by the Israeli government, including the statement of Minister Smotrich, who called for the town of Hawwara to be erased from the map. According to Hamas, they were all a continuation of “the campaign of ethnic cleansing that the Palestinians have been subjected to since 1948 at the hands of the Zionist gangs and settlers supported by the fascist Zionist occupation authorities.” Hamas called on the international community, which also condemned the statements, to translate them into practical steps by prosecuting Israel’s leaders and “the settlers” (Hamas website, August 25, 2023).
Cartoons by Muhammad Sabaana in reaction to the statements of Itamar Ben-Gvir (Muhammad Sabaana’s Twitter account, August 25, 2023)
Reactions to the five-year plan for Jerusalem
- On August 20, 2023, the Israeli government approved the new five-year plan for east Jerusalem in the amount of about $605 million for the years 2024 to 2028. About $210 million will be allocated to education, with an emphasis on the integration of the Israeli curriculum in east Jerusalem. The plan also includes investments in infrastructure, encouraging employment, welfare and the quality of the environment. For the first time, it also included a commitment to approve the construction of 2,000 dwelling units for Palestinian residents each year. Funding was also allocated to increase the number of police officers and municipal inspectors, add security cameras and establish additional police stations in the eastern part of the city (Calcalist, August 20, 2023; Haaretz, August 20, 2023).
- The plan provoked harsh reactions and condemnations from the Palestinians, despite the allocation of resources to Palestinian residents:
- The PA foreign ministry strongly condemned the plan, claiming its objective was to increase the Judaization of Jerusalem and change its character, reduce the natural population growth of the Palestinians, impose the Israeli curriculum on the schools, and strengthen settlements in and around Jerusalem. According to the ministry, the plan has “clear colonial and racist goals” (PA foreign ministry website, August 20, 2023).
- The Fatah movement claimed it was “a faint attempt behind which projects for Judaizing the city are hidden.” According to Fatah, they intend to cancel the projects that were decided upon because they were intended to eliminate the Palestinian national identity (Fatah Telegram channel, August 21, 2023).
- Hamas emphasized that approval of the plan was a step towards Judaization by means of which the Israeli government sought to tighten its control over Jerusalem, isolate it from its Palestinian environment, and rebuild its demography in a way that served Israel’s interests (Hamas website, August 21, 2023). Muhammad Hamada, Hamas spokesman for Jerusalem affairs, claimed the plan was intended to make Jerusalem residents emigrate and noted that it would fail, like the rest of Israel’s plans (Shehab, August 21, 2023).
- Sheikh Ikrima Zabri, a preacher at al-Aqsa Mosque, said the approval of the plan was aimed at Judaizing Jerusalem and taking it over completely. He rejected Israel’s claims regarding the development of the eastern part of the city (Shehab, August 24, 2023).
- Ramdan Tahe, spokesman for the association of parents’ committees in Jerusalem, referring to the program’s focus on education said the allocation of a large budget for the education sector was intended to eliminate the Palestinian curriculums in Jerusalem schools and integrate the students into Israeli education, until the entire sector had been Israelized, which was the program’s main objective. He claimed the program would prevent students in Jerusalem from studying the Palestinian curriculum, which expressed their identity and their suffering over the years as a result of the “occupation” (Safa, August 24, 2023).
Rocks, Molotov cocktails and other attacks
- In Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem Palestinians continued throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles driving on the roads. The more prominent events were the following:
- August 28, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle in Hawwara (south of Nablus). On August 23, 2023, rocks were thrown at the same site. No casualties were reported; vehicles were damaged.
- August 28, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near Azzun (east of Qalqilya). One Israel was injured. No damage was reported.
- August 27, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus and other vehicles near Nebi Elias (east of Qalqilya). No casualties were reported; vehicles were damaged.
- August 23, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle in Luban al-Sharqiya (northeast of Ramallah). No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged.
- August 23, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus near Jericho (northeast of Jerusalem). No casualties or damage were reported.
- August 23, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near the settlement of Homesh (northwest of Nablus) No casualties or damage were reported.
- August 22, 2023: Molotov cocktails were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near Ofra (northeast of Ramallah). No casualties or damage were reported.
- August 22, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus near Nebi Elias (east of Qalqilya). No casualties were reported; the bus was damaged.
- August 22, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus near the village of al-Maniya (south of Bethlehem). No casualties were reported; the bus was damaged.
- August 22, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near the Yakir Junction (northwest of Salfit). No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged.
- August 22, 2023: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near the Jinsafut Junction (west of Nablus). One passenger was hit in the head by a rock. The vehicle was damaged.
 A critical attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included. ↑
 The Gate of the Tribes is located at the northeastern end of the Temple Mount, near the Lions' Gate. ↑
 Commander of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing. ↑
 Referring to the dozens of rockets launched at Israel during the Passover Seder and in the following days from the Gaza Strip (April 5 and the night of April 6, 2023), from south Lebanon (April 6, 2023) and from southern Syria (April 8, 2023). ↑
 It was a civil suit against the PLO and the PA filed by relatives of the Americans murdered in the combined shooting and stabbing attack in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem on November 18, 2014. https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Palenstine-Lawsuit.pdf ↑
 Information and pictures from Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria unless otherwise noted. ↑
a meeting with the woman in charge of international relations in Die Linke party (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 9, 10, 2023)
Ramzi Rabah meets with senior members of the EU Parliament's Left Bloc (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 16, 2023)
The members of the delegation meet with representatives of the Sinn Fein Party (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 18, 2023)
A meeting with legal figures in the Netherlands (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 25, 2023).
A meeting with senior foreign ministry officials (right to left): Ashraf Suleiman (apparently), Ramzi Rabah, Zane Dangor, Tahsin Aliyan, head of the Boycott Movement (BDS) in South Africa, Roshan Dadoo, and Saleh Hejazi (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, July 25, 2023)
- In recent months the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, headed by Ramzi Rabah, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and a senior Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) figure (see appendix), has been organizing an international conference against “Israeli apartheid,” expected to take place in South Africa at the end of 2023. According to the organizers, its objective is to “build a global front against ‘Israeli apartheid’ with extensive Arab and international participation, which will adopt an operational strategy and common vision for action to condemn and boycott the Israeli government and demand it be held accountable for its ‘crimes’ against the Palestinians, their land and their rights.”
- During June 2023, in preparation for the conference, senior figures of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department visited several European countries to form sympathetic fronts while promoting a European forum before the international conference had been held. After the visits the decision was made to hold the European forum in Belgium on October 15, 2023. In July 2023 senior Department members met with government and political figures and senior members of the BDS movement in South Africa to prepare and coordinate the conference.
- It will be the second annual conference organized by the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department; it held the first in al-Bireh on December 11, 2022 in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) ministry of justice, NGOs, human rights organizations and the BDS movement. The conference in South Africa and the visits to European countries is the implementation of the first conference’s recommendations to form Palestinian, Arab and international alliances on which to found a united world front against “Israeli apartheid.”
- The activity of the PLO department is consistent with the policy of PA senior figures and is part of the program for the “political and diplomatic struggle” against Israel announced by Mahmoud Abbas in 2023. He has often claimed the deadlocked political process and the establishment of a right-wing government in Israel left the Palestinians no option but to extend the international struggle against Israel.
- The Palestinian leadership and public often claim Israel pursues a “policy of apartheid” towards the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, in effect equating Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the policies of the South African authorities towards the non-white population. Academic researchers and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and the Human Rights Watch have published reports claiming that the measures taken by Israel towards the population in the Palestinian territories are apartheid (Wafa, March 14, 2022). According to the 2002 Rome Convention, apartheid is a crime against humanity.
- Slandering Israel in the international arena is a facet of the PA’s strategy of “peaceful popular resistance” [popular terrorism], and serves as a tool in the political, propaganda and legal campaign it wages against Israel and as a way to exert pressure on Israel, the countries of the world and UN agencies. The PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, which operates internationally, was established as another tool to slander Israel.
- South Africa was not a random choice as a venue for the conference and plays a prominent role in boycotting Israel. The BDS campaign and the measures to boycott Israel were born in the first Durban Conference (2001), which was sponsored by the UN, and over the years the ruling party in South Africa has been anti-Israeli and pro Palestinian.
- In recent months, PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, headed by Ramzi Rabah, has been making preparations for an international conference against Israeli “apartheid” which will he held in South Africa at the end of 2023. During June 2023, a delegation which included Ramzi Rabah and Maher ‘Amer, the department director general, paid visits Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. The members of the delegation met with government, political, diplomatic, legal officials and senior BDS activists. Their objectives were to form a global “struggle front” against “Israeli apartheid” and to promote the convening of a European anti-apartheid forum in preparation for the international conference.
- As a result of the PLO Department’s efforts the “European-Palestinian initiative against apartheid” decided to hold a European forum conference in Belgium on October 25, 2023 (Dunia al-Watan, July 12, 2023). In July 2023, senior officials of the PLO Department paid a visit to South Africa to coordinate the international conference planned for the end of 2023.
Visits to Europe
- Germany: In Germany the delegation met with Ulrich Ernst, head of the Middle East Department at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They gave him a document related to the settlements and the annexation of Palestinian lands, along with a list of the government ministers and Knesset members who live in the settlements. They also gave him the open letter published by the “first national conference against racial segregation and settler colonialism” held on December 11, 2022 in al-Bireh (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 10, 2023). The members of the delegation also met with the nameless woman in charge of international relations in the German left-wing party Die Linke (“The Left”), and with Heinz Bierbaum, chairman of Die Linke’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 9 and 10, 2023).
Right: Ramzi Rabah (far right) meets with the head of the Middle East Department at the German Foreign Ministry (next to him). Left: a meeting with the woman in charge of international relations in Die Linke party (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 9, 10, 2023)
- France: The delegation visited European Union headquarters in Strasbourg where they met with Özlem Demirel, head of the Left Bloc in the European Parliament, and her assistant Alexandra Mehdi. Rabah called on the Left Bloc to attend the European forum. Demirel praised the measures taken by the Department and expressed her willingness to participate in the activity and invite the Left Bloc parties to it (PLO website, June 18, 2023)
Ramzi Rabah meets with senior members of the EU Parliament’s Left Bloc (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 16, 2023)
- Belgium: The delegation met with the head of the Middle East department at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the person holding the Palestine portfolio (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 17, 2023). While in Belgium they also met with representatives of Romania, Lithuania, Malta, the Czech Republic, Ireland and Denmark, and called on them to support Palestinian measures on the international level in general and the steps taken by the Department moves in particular (PLO website, June 18, 2023). They also met with representatives of the Irish Sinn Fein Party in the European Parliament, who expressed the party’s willingness to support the Department’s anti-apartheid activities, including participating actively and effectively in the European Forum (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 18, 2023) .
The members of the delegation meet with representatives of the Sinn Fein Party (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 18, 2023)
- Maher Amer, Department director general, met with Muhammad al-Shami, chairman of the International Alliance for the Defense of Rights and Liberty in Brussels. Al-Shami welcomed the idea of holding an international legal conference against “Israeli apartheid” and creating a front against “Israel’s racial segregation,” emphasizing the Alliance’s willingness to put its means at the Department’s disposal and to be part of international activity and the preparatory committee. Amer also met with Michel Legrand from ECCP (European Coordination of Associations and Committees for Palestine) to discuss the importance of cooperation for holding an international legal conference and participation in the upcoming conference in South Africa (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Apartheid Department, June 15, 2023).
- In addition, Ramzi Rabah and Maher Amer met in Brussels with Fiona Ben-Chekroun, the coordinator of the BDS movement in Europe (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 13, 2023).
Rabah and Amer meet with Ben-Chekroun (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 13, 2023)
- Holland: The delegation’s final visit was to Holland, where they met with the European Legal Support Center (ELSC) team, who welcomed the department’s activities (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 24, 2023).
A meeting with legal figures in the Netherlands (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, June 25, 2023).
Visit to South Africa
- About a month after the visits to Europe a delegation from the department led by Ramzi Rabah left for a preparatory visit to South Africa. The delegation included members of the Palestinian Coordination Committee against Apartheid, BDS representative Saleh Hejazi, and Hassin Aliyan, the Council of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations representative from the al-Haq organization in Ramallah. The delegation met with members of the South African Coordination Committee, led by Reverend Frank Chikane, the former president of the World Council of Churches and a prominent leader in the African National Congress (ANC). The meeting was also attended by representatives of civil society organizations, Roshan Dadoo, head of the Boycott Movement (BDS) in South Africa, academics and human rights activists active in the Palestinian solidarity committees.
- The delegation also met with Zane Dangor, director general of the foreign ministry, and Ashraf Suleiman, head of the Middle East and North Africa department. The two expressed the foreign ministry’s willingness to fully support and assist in holding the conference (Facebook page of the Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, 25 in July 2023).
A meeting with senior foreign ministry officials (right to left): Ashraf Suleiman (apparently), Ramzi Rabah, Zane Dangor, Tahsin Aliyan, head of the Boycott Movement (BDS) in South Africa, Roshan Dadoo, and Saleh Hejazi (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, July 25, 2023)
The delegation presents plaques to the head of the BDS in South Africa, Roshan Dadoo (right), and Reverend Frank Chikane (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, July 25, 2023)
- The meetings mainly dealt with preparations for the conference and accompanying documents. A decision was made to appoint joint committees to monitor the preparation of the documents and the details of the conference, with the cooperation and coordination of all the parties involved (Facebook page of the PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department, July 24, 2023).
The PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department
- The PLO Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid Department was apparently established in July 2022. It is headed by Ramzi Rabah, a senior DFLP member. According to Ramzi Rabah, the committee was established as a task assigned to the PLO’s Executive Committee, and is responsible for publicizing “Israel’s crimes” locally and internationally and especially the [alleged] anti-Palestinian “apartheid regime” Israel is consolidating in Judea and Samaria and “historical Palestine” [i.e., Israel] (Dunia al-Watan, July 5, 2022).
The logo of the PLO Department of Anti-Discrimination and Apartheid (Department Facebook page, November 27, 2022).
- Since its founding, the department has been working to establish contact and coordinate with all relevant local and international groups, including various grassroots and civil organizations, solidarity movements, human rights organizations and boycott committees. Their objective is to build a broad international coalition that will exert pressure on international organizations and the international community to punish Israel for its [alleged] “crimes” and develop an integrated legal-propaganda action plan. The Department began its activities on July 4, 2022, when Ramzi Rabah met at PLO headquarters in Ramallah with a delegation from the secretariat of the National BDS Committee to discuss closer cooperation and coordination (Dunia al-Watan, July 5, 2022).
- The Department is chaired by Ramzi Rabah Farid (whose original name was Farid Boutros Maroun Sarwa) (al-Hadath, March 22, 2021; website of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, 2006). He is Christian, 72 or 73 years old, a member of the DFLP’s Central Committee, and in February 2022 was elected by the PLO’s Central Council to the Executive Committee to replace Taysir Khaled, who resigned (Wafa, February 7, 2022).
- During an interview he said his family’s roots were in the village of Biram in the Upper Galilee. Rabah said he began his activities in Lebanon in 1966, and in 1969 joined the ranks of the DFLP and was one of the founders of the organization in Lebanon. In the 1970s he belonged to the organization’s leadership in southern Lebanon. After the PLO forces left Lebanon he remained there with the DFLP leaders. He then moved to Syria and between 1992 and 1996 was in charge of the Syrian branch of the organization. Until 1998 he was in charge of the organization’s branches abroad. At the end of 1998 he arrived in the Gaza Strip and held many leadership positions until 2010, including responsibility for the organization’s office. After that, he moved to Judea and Samaria where he held a position in the popular organizations (NPA website, 14 April 2022).
Ramzi Rabah interviewed during the first anti-apartheid conference in al-Bireh (Watan TV, December 11, 2022)
- Other activists:
- Dr. Maher Amer: Director general of the Department (Petra, November 24, 2022; PLO website, December 9, 2022) and a DFLP activist (Dunia al-Watan, March 10, 2021). According to his Facebook page studied at al-Najah University in Nablus.
Dr. Maher Amer (right) at the meeting in Brussels, following which the European-Palestinian Initiative against Apartheid and the Settlements was established (Maher Amer’s Facebook page, June 10, 2022)
- Shadi Zahed: Head of the public relations department (Petra, November 24, 2022). According to his Facebook page he studied at al-Najah University in Nablus.
Shadi Zahed (Shadi Zahed’s Facebook page, May 28, 2022).
 For further information see the December 19, 2022 ITIC report, "The Palestinian committee to 'fight apartheid' and slander Israel meets for the first time to discuss policy." ↑
 A body established in June 2022 in Brussels by the "National Bureau to Defend the Land and to Resist the Settlers" (a depot of the PLO's Executive Committee, established in 1996 by Taysir Khaled, a member of the Executive Committee and formerly a member of the DFLP's political bureau). The Bureau's headquarters are in Nablus and it operates jointly with the BDS movement, human rights organizations, social organizations and pro-Palestinian organizations in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and Britain. ↑
 L’Alliance Internationale pour la défense des Droits et des Libertés (AIDL) ↑
 Saleh Hijazi is a senior activist and coordinator of the BDS campaign in South Africa. ↑
 Biram was a Maronite village in the Upper Galilee whose residents were evacuated during Israel's War of Independence and not permitted to return. ↑
Al-Murtada looks at the territory of Israel (Ali Shoeib's Twitter account, August 18, 2023).
Al-Murtada (wearing glasses, at the right).
The delegations meet in Sidon (al-'Ahed, August 20, 2023)
Lebanese government officials visit the rig. Najib Mikati stand in the center, Nabih Berri is to his right (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 22, 2023).
- This past week there were relatively few Lebanese provocations along the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah’s deputy secretary claimed Hezbollah was not interested in war, but was ready to engage in fighting quickly and effectively.
- Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, met with senior Iranian officials to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon.
- An ISIS operative involved in carrying out the attack on the shrine of al-Sayyidah Zaynab in Damascus, was killed when Hezbollah attempted to apprehend him.
- Senior Lebanese government officials visited the offshore drilling rig in the Qana field, and the prime minister of Lebanon’s interim government called it a historic day for Lebanon. A senior Hezbollah figure claimed the arrival of the rig had been made possible by the organization’s “successful strategy.”
- In preparation for extending UNIFIL’s mandate, there is apparently no international willingness to make the changes requested by Lebanon regarding the force’s operations.
- The weapons in the truck that overturned in al-Kahala will be returned to Hezbollah by the Lebanese army once it has completed its investigation.
- The presidential crisis in Lebanon continues as no candidate acceptable to all parties has been found.
- Hezbollah is attempting to expand its influence within the Sunni community in Lebanon by means of economic support.
- An attack against Hezbollah and Iran targets on the outskirts of Damascus, in which two people were killed, was attributed to Israel
- The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps are training fighters, including pro-Iranian militias, in the al-Mayadeen desert in Syria to launch anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles.
Hezbollah, Israel and Lebanon
Lebanese/Hezbollah provocations along the Israel-Lebanon border
- On August 20, 2023, about ten Lebanese youths, apparently sent by Hezbollah, clashed with a patrol of UNIFIL soldiers in the al-Hiyam area, north of Metulla. A short time later the Lebanese left the area (al-Nashra, August 20, 2023; Ayman Shihadi’s Twitter account, August 20, 2023).
Lebanese youths confront a patrol of UNIFIL soldiers (Ayman Shihadi’s Twitter account , August 20, 2023).
- On August 19, 2023, a pro-Iranian source reported that two electrical cables had been cut near Metulla and an IED attached to the border security fence between Israel and Lebanon (Sabrin Plus, August 19, 2023).
Cut electrical cables and an IED attached to the border security fence near Metulla (Sabrin Plus, August 19, 2023).
- Muhammad Wassim al-Murtada, Lebanese minister of culture, toured the area of Kfar Shuba near Har Dov. He said he had come to show solidarity with residents facing the “Zionist occupation,” adding that the “struggle for the liberation of Lebanese and Palestinian lands” would continue (Ali Shoeib’s Twitter account, August 18, 2023).
Right: Al-Murtada (wearing glasses, at the right). Left: Al-Murtada looks at the territory of Israel (Ali Shoeib’s Twitter account, August 18, 2023).
Na’im Qassem’s remarks
- Na’im Qassem, Hezbollah deputy secretary general, relating to the tents the organization erected in the Har Dov area (Shebaa Farms) in Israeli territory, said neither side was interested in war. He claimed Israel avoided friction lest it led to war. He said the fact that Israel, which was ready for war, had not attacked for 17 years proved it did not want one, and neither, he claimed, did Hezbollah. However, he said, if Hezbollah was “forced” to fight, it would do so “quickly and effectively.” He also claimed that in recent years Hezbollah’s “operational level” had improved significantly, but Israeli had not improved at the same rate and today Israel was suffering from a deep social crisis and a decrease in motivation in the ranks of the IDF (khamenei.ir, August 16, 2023).
- On another occasion Na’im Qassem claimed Israel should be wiped off the map because “the Zionist entity is a threat to mankind, the future and the Earth.” He also claimed the “resistance” [anti-Israeli terrorism led by Hezbollah, Iran and the Palestinian terrorist organizations] symbolized the honor of the Islamic nation and served as an example and role model for free people around the world (al-Manar, August 22, 2023).
Renewal of the UNIFIL mandate
- Abdullah Bou Habib, Lebanon’s foreign minister, postponed his planned visit to the United States. On August 22, 2023, he was supposed to go to New York to participate in the UN Security Council deliberations for renewing the UNIFIL mandate (al-Gomhuria, August 21, 2023; al-Markazia, August 22, 2023). The Lebanese media issued various reasons for the postponement. According to one version, it was postponed because the trip had not been paid for (Nadaa’ al-Watan, August 22, 2023). According to the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, the visit was postponed because the United States State Department refused to provide him with security during his visit. It also reported Lebanon understood it would not be able to cancel the amendment made to UNIFIL’s mandate last year regarding UNIFIL’s freedom of action in the region, whose limitation was demanded by Lebanon (al-Akhbar, August 23, 2023).
Nasrallah meets with senior Iranian officials
- Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, met in Lebanon with Mehdi Shushtari, assistant Iranian foreign minister; and with Mojtaba Amani, the Iranian ambassador to Beirut. According to reports, they discussed the latest developments in Lebanon (Radio al-Nur, August 19, 2023).
Document revealed claiming the al-Naqoura tunnel belongs to Lebanon
- Al-Akhbar reported the receipt of a new document (of unspecified source), which revealed that the blocked train tunnel at Rosh Hanikra which used to connect Israel and Lebanon belonged completely to Lebanon, adding it to the 13 disputed points on the Israel-Lebanon border. A map and photos of the area showing the borders of the Lebanese part of the tunnel were attached to the article. The newspaper claimed the map “proved” that the entire tunnel was located in territory belonging to Lebanon’s ministry of public works and transportation and was therefore part of Lebanon. It also claimed the tunnel passed under the border security fence and crossed the Blue Line towards the north, so in effect the fence was Lebanese territory. According to paper, the tunnel therefore also had to be considered “as the occupation of Lebanese lands” which required action to restore them, and Lebanon had already demanded “the fence that Israel built on Lebanese territory” be removed (al-Akhbar, August 23, 2023).
The map showing the tunnel belongs to Lebanon. The upper arrow shows the location of the tunnel and the lower arrow the security fence (al-Akhbar, August 23, 2023).
A delegation from the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp meets with senior Hezbollah officials
- A delegation of the neighborhood committees in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp met with senior Hezbollah and Amal officials at Hezbollah headquarters in Sidon. Present were Sheikh Zaid Dhaher, responsible in Hezbollah for the Sidon region, and Bassam Kajak, a member of Amal’s political bureau. The members of the delegation thanked Hezbollah and Amal for their efforts to stop the fighting in the refugee camp and reduce tensions. They also discussed the situation in the camp and the investigation of the events that led to violence almost a month ago. The Hezbollah and Amal representatives said their leadership would continue their efforts to prevent tensions and escalation in the camp (al-‘Ahed, August 20, 2023). The meeting was held because of further tensions in the refugee camp in the past week which could lead to another round of violence (al-Jadeed TV, August 20, 2023).
The delegations meet in Sidon (al-‘Ahed, August 20, 2023)
Internal Lebanese Affairs
Lebanese officials visit the offshore drilling rig in the Qana field
- On August 22, 2023, Najib Mikati, prime minister of Lebanon’s interim government; Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese Parliament and head of the Amal Movement; Ali Hamia, minister of public works and transportation; and Walid Fiyad, minister of energy and water, visited the drilling rig that arrived in Lebanese waters this past week (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 22, 2023). Mikati called it a historic day for Lebanon and said he hoped all involved parties would cooperate to stop the decline Lebanon’s economy. Nabih Berri called it the first step in overcoming Lebanon’s economic crisis (Lebanon prime minister’s Twitter account, August 22, 2023).
Right: The drilling rig in Lebanese waters (@alihamie_lb Twitter account, August 17, 2023). Left: Lebanese government officials visit the rig. Najib Mikati stand in the center, Nabih Berri is to his right (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 22, 2023).
- Sheikh Nabil Kauk, a member of Hezbollah’s Central Council, said the arrival of the rig proved the organization’s strategic success. Upon its arrival, Hezbollah initiated a campaign claiming it was the result of the organization’s activities. Kauk also expressed hope that the production of energy from the Qana field would rescue Lebanon from its economic crisis (Multaqa al-Alam al-Muqawim, August 20, 2023).
The economic crisis in Lebanon
- Given the economic crisis afflicting Lebanon, Najib Mikati, the prime minister of the interim government, and Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanon Parliament met to discuss the issue. After the meeting Mikati said that unlike other elected governments, the Lebanese Parliament was doing nothing to resolve the economic crisis, and it had to formulate a program for recovery. He said many countries had experienced similar economic crises, during which their elected governments held regular meetings and quickly passed the necessary laws and the crises were resolved. In Lebanon, he said, they had been talking about the supervision of capital for four years, but had not managed to hold deliberations to resolve the problem.
- Mikati also said there were many parliamentary bills pending related to the recovery plan, such as restructuring the banks and dealing with the financial gap, and they all needed immediate resolution. He warned that if the government did not convene to approve them as a single plan, the country would have no economic stability. He also said Lebanon had unfortunately turned into a cash economy, which was liable to expose Lebanon to many risks. He called for banking activity to return to its natural course to make it possible for Lebanon to overcome the crisis (Twitter account of Lebanese prime minister’s office, August 17, 2023).
- A report published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) indicated safety problems at the Beirut airport because of a lack of flight inspectors (thenationalnews.com, 17 August 2023).
The presidential crisis in Lebanon
- The Lebanese daily Nadaa’ al-Watan reported that in talks Najib Mikati held with Nabia Berri, he said that if Berri did not insist on electing a president before the end of September 2023, he, Mikati, “will be out of the government” (Nadaa’ al-Watan, August 23, 2023). Mikati did not elaborate, but it can be assumed he meant he would resign or abandon the discussions regarding the presidency. Mikati recently expressed concern about the internal and international consequences for Lebanon’s status without an elected president.
- According to the al-Medan news site, the current security situation works in favor of Joseph Aoun, the Lebanese army’s chief of staff, increasing his chances of being elected president. According to al-Medan, Aoun has broad support in Lebanon and abroad (al-Medan, August 18, 2023). The Asas Media news site claimed that behind the scenes people were saying that France’s last opportunity to influence the presidential elections would be in early September 2023, and after that heavy international pressure would be exerted on Lebanon. In the site’s assessment, the appointment of Suleiman Frangieh as president would be considered an achievement for Hezbollah [he is its preferred candidate]. However, even if they compromise on a different candidate who met their demands, Hezbollah would still benefit (Asas Media, August 19, 2023).
The speaker of the Lebanese Parliament calls for an internal dialogue
- Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Parliament, called on the opposition parties to promote an internal dialogue with Hezbollah in accordance with the appeal of Jean Yves Le Drian, advisor to the French president for the Middle East and the French envoy to Lebanon. The opposition parties refuse to dialogue with Hezbollah, at least until a president has been appointed, and demand limits be placed on the use of illegal weapons and on the possession and use of weapons by the country’s law enforcement agencies of the country (Lebanese army and security forces), something Hezbollah opposes (naharnet.com, August 21, 2023).
Investigating the Hezbollah’s overturned weapons truck
- The London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat reported the Lebanese army had completed its forensic investigation of the overturning of Hezbollah’s weapons truck and the death of a Hezbollah operative and an activist of the Lebanese Forces party. The newspaper claimed Christian political forces refused to allow the residents of al-Kahala, where the truck overturned, to testify, while Hezbollah cooperated and sent the truck’s security guards to be questioned (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 20, 2023). A legal source stated that at the end of the investigation the ammunition on the truck would be handed over to Hezbollah (al-Nahar, August 22, 2023).
Confiscation of Israeli products in Lebanon
- On August 22, 2023, the official Lebanese news agency announced that members of the General Administration for State Security had broken into warehouses and commercial buildings throughout Lebanon that marketed Israeli products. They also broke into the main headquarters of the importer and confiscated products. In addition, those suspected of importing and marketing Israeli-made goods were summoned for questioning (NNA, August 22, 2023).
ISIS operative dies while being apprehended
- According to reports on August 19, 2023, an ISIS operative died after jumping (or was thrown) from the seventh floor of a building in the al-Salam neighborhood of the southern suburb of Beirut (the Dahia, a Hezbollah stronghold) when Hezbollah operatives came to arrest him. The operative, Wissam Mazen Dalla, a 23 year-old Syrian citizen, was suspected of involvement in ISIS’s attack on the shrine of al-Sayyidah Zaynab, south of Damascus, about a month ago. He went from Syria to Lebanon illegally after the attack and was suspected of planning another (Lebanese news agency, al-Mayadeen and Reuters, August 19, 2023).
The head of the Lebanese Forces accuses Hezbollah of killing a party member
- On August 20, 2023, Samir Geagea, chairman of the Lebanese Forces party, accused Hezbollah of the death of party member Elias Hasrouni, who was strangled and shot to death about two weeks ago. According to Geagea, the circumstances point to Hezbollah, as it was unlikely that a car with eight passengers could enter territory controlled by Hezbollah and kidnap someone without the organization’s knowledge (al-Nashra, August 20, 2023).
Hezbollah provides aid to Sunni families
- This past week Hezbollah provided financial aid to the families of victims of the explosion of the fuel tank in the Akkar district, in the north of the country, most of whose residents are Sunnis. It was not the first time Hezbollah provided financial aid to areas with Sunni populations in an effort to bring them closer to the organization.
- On the second anniversary of the explosion, Hezbollah also unveiled a solar system for pumping water from a well supplying water to a neighborhood of the town of al-Houaich, about 15 kilometers (about 12 miles) south of the Lebanon-Syria border. The ceremony was attended by Sheikh Muhammad Amro, responsible for the Mount Lebanon region and the north in Hezbollah, Sheikh Radha Ahmed, in charge of the northern sector in Hezbollah, Afif Shuman, chairman of Hezbollah’s mutual aid association, dignitaries and residents of the town. Shuman reported that during the past three months Hezbollah had provided aid and services to the residents of the Akkar district of more than half a million dollars, including hospitalization expenses and medicines. He said the Akkar district received special attention from Hassan Nasrallah, adding that additional water and alternative energy projects would soon be implemented (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 7, 2023).
- According to Dr. Sami Nader, director of the Beirut-based thinktank, Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, Hezbollah wants to increase its influence among the Sunnis, exploiting the absence of prominent Sunni leaders. He added that the current financial crisis in Lebanon gave Hezbollah an opportunity to achieve its goal because local residents were desperate for help. Ali al-Amin, a Shi’ite opposition figure, said Hezbollah operated in the Akkar district, Tripoli and other Sunni areas in Lebanon through the Resistance Battalions [ Lebanese groups for “resistance to the occupation”]; Hezbollah also has political forces, sheikhs and associations. In his assessment, Hezbollah invests over half a million dollars in the Akkar district every month to attract supporters, but has not been successful because of rivalries and hostility from a large part of the Lebanese population (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 7, 2023).
Militia fighters trained in the al-Mayadeen desert to launch shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles
- According to reports on August 19, 2023, fighters in the pro-Iranian militias were on alert and redeployed to al-Mayadeen, about 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) southeast of Deir ez-Zor, in preparation for a series of large-scale joint training exercises involving soldiers of the Syrian army, its auxiliary fighters, fighters in the pro-Iranian militias, Syrian and Iraqi militias and operatives of Hezbollah-Lebanon. Training will focus on the use of anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles in anticipation of a possible attack by the American-led international coalition forces against the militias in the region (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 19, 2023).
Attacking Hezbollah and Iran targets in Syria
- Shortly before midnight on August 21, 2023, an attack attributed to Israel on targets in the al-Kiswah and al-Ghazlania area south of Damascus was reported. According to Syrian sources, Hezbollah and Iran targets were attacked. Two people, whose identity is not clear, were killed. Posts in al-Kiswah and near the Damascus International Airport were completely destroyed (Syrian TV, August 21, 2023; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 22, 2023).
Local Hezbollah-affiliated Syrian intelligence figure murdered in Daraa
- According to reports on August 22, 2023, a senior member of Syria’s military intelligence department in the Daraa region and his companion were shot and killed near the town of Da’el on the outskirts of Daraa. The senior figure was reportedly affiliated with Hezbollah (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 22, 2023).
 Between July 29, 2023 and August 4, 2023, riots and exchanges of fire took place in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp. They began with the attempted assassination, carried out by Fatah operatives, of a senior operative of Asbat al-Ansar, a Palestinian organization with a Salafi-Jihadist ideology. The attempt led to clashes between armed Asbat al-Ansar and Fatah operatives, resulting. in the deaths of 12 people and the injury of over sixty. Many thousands of residents fled the camp to the nearby neighborhoods of Sidon. ↑
 For further information about the attack, see the ITIC August 2, 2023, report, "Spotlight on the Global Jihad, July 27-August 2, 2023). ↑
 On August 15, 2021, a fuel tank confiscated by the Lebanese army a part of its fight against black market sales of gas, blew up, killing 28 people and wounding 79. ↑