Despite the lull process in the Gaza Strip, sporadic rocket fire into Israeli territory continues, and incendiary balloon and IED terrorism has been renewed as a means of exerting pressure on Israel.

This past week the security situation in the Gaza Strip heated up: four rockets were fired into Israeli territory, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, and two fell in open areas. In addition, the launching of incendiary and IED balloons has been renewed (after stopping almost completely around March 2019). Moreover, the Night Harassment Units intend to renew their activity shortly if no progress is made in implementing the lull arrangement.

Palestinian Terrorism, 2019: Overview and Trends

Two main trends in attacks characterized Palestinian organized and popular terrorism in 2019: in Judea and Samaria, the annual decline in the scope of popular terrorism and its lethality continued; in the Gaza Strip there was a significant rise in the scope and intensity of terrorism and violence, especially rocket fire. In 2019 1,403 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel, an almost unprecedented number (with the exception of Operation Protective Edge, 2014).

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, profile of an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Qods Force

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. The two other militias are the Hezbollah Battalions (Kataeb Hezbollah) and the Nujaba Movement (Harakat al-Nujaba or Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba). These three militias played a key role during the fighting against the US forces while they were deployed in Iraq. They consist of commanders and operatives who had acquired extensive fighting experience and maintain particularly strong ties with the Qods Force. In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.

Initial Palestinian reactions to the killing of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force

Contrary to the reactions of senior Iranian officials and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who did not relate to Israeli as being involved in the attack, senior Hamas and PIJ figures accused Israel of collaborating with the United States in the killing. Some even accused Israel of direct responsibility for Soleimani's death. However, Hamas and PIJ spokesmen were careful not to overtly threaten Israel. The London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that senior Hamas figures had made it clear to Egypt that they had not interest in an escalation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the killing of Soleimani (al-Sharq al-Awsat, January 5, 2020).

Responses in Iran and Initial Assessment of the Impact of Eliminating Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

On January 2, 2020, American drones struck two vehicles in Baghdad ferrying senior commanders of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The strikes killed Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Deputy Commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi (the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Iraq) and several Qods Force and Hashd al-Shaabi members who were in the targeted convoy.

Turkey as a Terrorism-Sponsoring State: Turkey allows Hamas to conduct terrorist activities from its territory, including the handling of terrorist squads in Judea and Samaria and the transfer of funds to Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to finance terrorism.

A Hamas delegation headed by Isma'il Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, recently paid a visit to Turkey. The delegation was accompanied by Jihad Yaghmour, who for the first was officially mentioned as Hamas' representative in Turkey. Yaghmour is a Hamas terrorist operative from Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem who was involved in the abduction of IDF soldier Nahshon Waxman 1994.

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