Riots in the village of Beita, south of Nablus (Wafa, February 16, 2018).
Protest rally of nationalist and Islamic organizations in the center of Gaza City. Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash gives a speech (website of the Popular Resistance Movement headed by Zakaria Dughmush, February 16, 2018).
Hamas' military-terrorist wing announcement of anti-aircraft fire attacking Israeli planes (Paldf Twitter account, February 18, 2018, Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, February 17, 2018).
Remains of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip that fell in an open area in the western Negev (Israel Police Force, February 18, 2018)
Hamas cartoon blames the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip on Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Palestinian national consensus government (alresala.net, February 19, 2018).
Muhammad al-Amadi kicked out of the Shifaa hospital after the press conference (al-Youm al-Sabaa, February 19, 2018).
Mahmoud Abbas meets with the Kuwaiti foreign minister in New York before his speech in the UN Security Council (Twitter account of the Kuwaiti foreign ministry, February 20, 2018).
- This past week events focused on the attack in the Gaza Strip, the most serious since Operation Protective Edge. IDF soldiers approached the border security fence to remove a flag hung on it during a riot. An IED attached to the flag exploded, wounding four soldiers, two of them critically. It was the first time a “popular demonstration” near the fence was exploited for a terrorist attack. The Popular Resistance Committees, a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip that at least in the past was affiliated with Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack.
- In response, IDF tanks fired at a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) observation post and Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked 18 “terrorist targets.” The IDF spokesperson reported that among the targets were a tunnel whose route was directed towards Israel. During the attack and the day after, two rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. One hit a house in a community in the western Negev. No casualties were reported.
- The incident was another example of the erosion of the relative calm between Hamas and Israel since the end of Operation Protective Edge. While Hamas still continues its policy of restraint, apparently the deterioration of the economy in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ strategic hardships have weakened it. In ITIC assessment that increases the potential for the deterioration of the situation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Riots, clashes and popular terrorism
- This past week demonstrations and riots continued in Judea, Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most of the demonstrators were still protesting Trump’s decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem. Some of them clashed with the Israeli security forces. The Palestinian ministry of health and the Red Crescent reported that a number of Palestinians were injured (Wafa, February 16, 2018). Sources in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Gaza Strip continued calling for rallies, demonstrations and the escalation of the “popular resistance.” Call were also heard for school children to participate in the events (Wafa, February 17, 2018). Notices were issued calling for the protests to continue and peak on Friday, February 23, 2018.
- In the Gaza Strip as well demonstrations were held to protest the United States and in support of the “Jerusalem intifada,” alongside demonstrations protesting the difficult humanitarian situation.
- In the meantime Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and civilian targets. Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity and seizing weapons.
- February 19, 2018 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at cars on the Gush Etzion road near al-Khader. No casualties or damage was reported (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 19, 2018).
- February 18, 2018 – Border Policemen stationed at the entrance to the military court in Samaria (a frequent target for terrorist attacks) saw a Palestinian who seemed suspicious. When they approached to question him he pointed at a bag he had hidden nearby. It contained an improvised “Carlo” submachine gun. The suspect, 19, from Nablus, was detained for questioning (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 18, 2018).
- February 18, 2018 – A young Palestinian woman went to the check point at the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem. She seemed suspicious and the security guards detained her for examination. She was found to be in possession of a knife, and was taken for interrogation (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 18, 2018).
- February 15, 2018 – During an Israeli security force activity a vehicle was halted for inspection. A search of the vehicle revealed an improvised “Carlo” submachine gun. Two Palestinian suspects from Duma were detained for interrogation (Facebook page of Red Alert, February 15, 2018).
Significant terrorist attacks during the past year 
Exposure of a PIJ terrorist squad operating in the Bethlehem region
- In recent weeks the Israeli security forces exposed a PIJ terrorist squad which operated in the Bethlehem region. The squad planned to carry out shooting attacks targeting Israeli civilians and operatives of the Israeli security forces in the Gush Etzion region. Six Palestinians were detained. Their leaders were two PIJ operatives. One of them had been under administrative detention for planning a terrorist attack and the other had been imprisoned twice for terrorist activity as an operative of a PIJ squad planning to attack IDF forces.
- The squad operatives wanted explosives and asked terrorist sources in the Gaza Strip for funding. When they could not acquire materials for manufacturing a real IED they decided to make a dummy IED to receive funding and recognition for their activities and to carry out other attacks. According to the investigation, their motive was to be detained and receive prisoners’ allotments from the PIJ. They also planned to assassinate the Israeli defense minister by planing an IED on a road he customarily used, but they were deterred by the heavy security around him (Israel Security Agency, February 20, 2018).
24 hours of clashes along the Israel-Gaza Strip border
- On February 17, 2018, an IDF force operated near the border security fence in the southern Gaza Strip to remove a flag hung by Palestinians during a demonstration. When the soldiers approached the fence a powerful IED attached to the flag was detonated by remote control. Four soldiers were wounded, two critically and two seriously.
Gazans riot near the border security fence in the eastern Gaza Strip
(Twitter account of QudsN, February 16, 2018).
- The IDF responded immediately with tank fire at a PIJ observation post. Later, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked 18 “terrorist targets.” The IDF spokesperson reported that “unique targets” were attacked belonging to Hamas, which Israel regards as responsible for every occurrence in the Gaza Strip. Among the targets was a terrorist attack tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City, dug in the direction of Israel. Also attacked were a military compound in the central Gaza Strip of unique Hamas military systems, sites for the manufacture of weapons and a military facility near Khan Yunis.
- Hamas’ military-terrorist wing reported, exceptionally, that its operatives had fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli planes. It issued a statement saying that anti-aircraft weapons of its military wing had been fired at “Zionist planes” that attacked the Gaza Strip (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades website, February 17, 2018).
Targets of Israeli Air Force attacks in the northern and
central Gaza Strip (Facebook page of the IDF spokesperson,
December 17, 2018)
Right: Hamas terrorist tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City, attacked by the IDF (Paldf Twitter account, February 18, 2018). Left: Observation post near the Israeli border, east of Khan Yunis (Paldf Twitter account, February 18, 2018).
- The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for detonating the IED east of Khan Yunis. According to the announcement, it was a response to the entrance of the “enemy” into the Gaza Strip and was a message sent to emphasize the readiness of the organization to defend the Palestinian people (Twitter account of Filastin al-Yawm TV, February 17, 2018). Interviewed by telephone, Muhammad al-Barem (Abu Mujahed), spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, called it a “heroic activity” which came as a “natural response to Israel’s crimes.” He claimed it had greatly embarrassed Israel because it had been unexpected (Filastin al-Yawm, February 17, 2018). On another occasion he said that the “Palestinian resistance” had promised to cut off the hand that attacked the demonstrators on the Gaza Strip border, and had kept its promise (Popular Resistance Committees website, February 17, 2018).
Announcement from the Popular Resistance Committees reporting the attack carried out against IDF soldiers (Facebook page of Sawt al-Muqawama, February 17, 2018)
- It was the most serious attack in the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014) and the first time popular demonstrations near the border security fence were exploited for a terrorist attack. In response Hamas issued a number of statements blaming Israel and stressing the right of the “resistance” [i.e., terrorist organizations] to defend the residents of the Gaza Strip. According to one announcement, the extent of Israel’s attack indicated its intentions for escalation and to create regional tension (Hamas website, February 18, 2018). Other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip praised the results of the attack.
- Additional responses included:
- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blamed Israel for the escalation in the Gaza Strip, saying it was the role of the “resistance” to defend the Palestinian people and respond to every act of Israeli aggression. He also claimed they would not allow Israel to “force new confrontations” on them (al-Manar, February 18, 2018).
- Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said that despite the escalation and tension, Israel does not want a confrontation with the Palestinian “resistance” in the Gaza Strip, especially after the tension in northern Israel. He claimed there were measures to avoid escalation and another war. However, the “resistance” was completely prepared for a confrontation and to resist any escalation (alresala.net, February 18, 2018).
- On February 18, 2018, the Palestinian media reported the death of two Palestinians killed by IDF tank fire east of Rafah, after a group of young Palestinians tried to approach the border security fence to infiltrate into Israel. The two were Salem Muhammad Sabah Abu Ghaith, 17, and Abdallah Ayman Abu Sheikha, 17, from the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah. (al-Quds and the Shehab Agency, February 18, 2018). During the funerals the bodies were covered with the Hamas flag.
Rocket Fire Attacking Israel
- During the tension in the Gaza Strip, two rocket hits were identified in Israel territory. A number of mortar shells were also fired.
- On February 17, 2018, a rocket hit was identified in Israeli territory. It hit a house in one of the communities in the western Negev and did not explode. No casualties were reported. The roof of the house was damaged.
- On February 18, 2018, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. It fell in an open area in the western Negev. No casualties or damage was reported. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked “an underground infrastructure” in the southern Gaza Strip. According to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a “terrorist tunnel” in the Kerem Shalom area was destroyed (Ynet, February 19, 2018).
Monthly Distribution of Rocket Hits in Israel since January 2016
* Six of the rockets fired in February 2017 were launched from the Sinai Peninsula at Israeli territory, apparently by ISIS’s Sinai Province. In April a rocket was launched from the Sinai Peninsula by ISIS’s Sinai Province. In October 2017 two rockets were fired from the northern Sinai Peninsula by ISIS’s Sinai Province. They fell in an open area in the western Negev.
** The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip
- The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to be critical. Throughout the Gaza Strip there were strikes and protest demonstrations. Hamas issued a statement denying responsibility for the humanitarian situation. According to Hamas, such claims give Israel a green light to continue its “aggressive behavior” against the Palestinian people. Hamas claimed the United States was responsible for the harm done to the Palestinian people. According to Hamas, the American administration shields Israel and gives it diplomatic defense in international institutions by using its veto (Hamas website, February 18, 2018).
- In informal discussions in the UN Security Council about the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Riyadh Mansour, PA representative to the UN, called on the members of the Council to visit the Gaza Strip and other areas of the “occupied territories” at the first opportunity for a first-hand look at the suffering of the inhabitants. He also demanded that the Security Council take responsibility and lift the [so-called] “siege” of the Gaza Strip (Ma’an, February 15, 2018).
The situation at the crossings
- During the past week the Rafah crossing was closed to human passage. On February 19, 2018, Egypt, apparently after the intervention of Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, agreed to open the crossing in one direction. That would enable Palestinians stuck in the Cairo airport for two weeks to enter the Gaza Strip (alresala.net and Filastin al-Yawm, February 19, 2018).
- Institutions in the private sector stopped coordinating the entrance of merchandise into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing in protest over the deterioration of the Gaza Strip economy. On February 14, 2018, a convoy of trucks was organized from Gaza City to the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing to protest the situation. The chairman of the office of commerce and industry in the Gaza Strip appealed to Israel with a series of demands to ease the passage of merchandise and the situation of Palestinian businessmen, industrialists, contractors and transport companies (Khaber, February 14, 2018).
Convoy of trucks and press conference of the private sector on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing (Facebook page of the office of commerce and industry in the Gaza Strip,
February 14, 2018)
The supply of electricity
- According to the Egyptians, the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula does not allow for regular deliveries of fuel to the Gaza Strip. Therefore, Muhammad Thabet, spokesman for the electric company in the Gaza Strip, announced the complete shut down of the power plant, reducing the already low supply of electricity even more. On February 18, 2018, the power plant returned to operation thanks to an Egyptian permit renewing deliveries of fuel through the Rafah crossing (Filastin al-Yawm, February 16, 2018). It was then announced that electricity would be supplied in cycles of 4 hours with a 12-hour hiatus (Dunia al-Watan, February 17, 2018).
- Musheir al-Masri, Hamas spokesman in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the cessation of the operation of the power plant caused a serious crisis. He blamed the national consensus government for not taking responsibility for the supply of diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip, saying the government was punishing the Palestinian people and implementing a policy of revenge against the Gaza Strip (al-Quds, February 16, 2018).
Health services in the Gaza Strip
- Additional hospitals and medical centers have announced their closing. In addition, the strike of hospital sanitation workers continues after the ministry of health announced the postponement of hundreds of operations (al-Rai Agency, established by the de facto Hamas administration, February 18, 2018). Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, tweeted that the medical services system in the Gaza Strip was on the brink of collapse and warned there would be serious consequences for patients as a result of the shutdown of the power plant (February 14, 2018).
Hospital sanitation workers demonstrate in front of the ministry of health building in Gaza City to demand their salaries (Palinfo, February 18, 2018).
- On the other hand, Usama al-Najar, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and spokesman for the ministry of health in Ramallah, said the medical crises in the Gaza Strip were “fabricated” and divorced from reality. He added that as of February 14, 2018, the ministry of health would no longer transfer funds to the sanitation companies. He also claimed it had been agreed that the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip would transfer one million shekels (about $286,000) to the national consensus government, and the money had not yet been transferred (al-Ra’i, February 14, 2018).
- On February 19, 2018, emergency aid reached the Gaza Strip, as ordered by the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamed, on February 8, 2018. Muhammad al-Amadi, the chairman of the Qatari committee to rebuild the Gaza Strip, arrived in the Gaza Strip along with the aid (al-Ra’i, February 19, 2018). He held a press conference near the Shifaa hospital, where he said the emergency aid from the emir of Qatar was worth about $9 million and included medical equipment, fuel, funding to rebuild buildings, and support for needy students. Towards the end of the press conference Shifaa hospital sanitation workers began rioting. They tore down Qatari flags and pictures of the emir, and tried to attack al-Amadi, who was forced to get into a car and flee the site (Ma’an, February 19, 2018).
Reactions to the proposed American bill to impose sanctions on Hamas
- The United States Congress House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee proposed a bill called the “Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act (H.R. 3542), which sanctions Hamas for using civilians as human shields, a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.” The bill also calls on the president to instruct the American mission to the UN to propose a resolution that would impose sanctions on Hamas (website of the House Foreign Affairs Committee).
- Senior Hamas figures criticized the bill, claiming it was the continuation of American policy unilaterally biased towards Israel.
- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it showed the United States stood with Israel and was clearly harming the Palestinian people and its rights. He said it was part of an American plan to destroy the Palestinian cause and violate the rights of the Palestinian people, and was a continuation of the American decisions regarding Jerusalem and UNRWA (Hamas website, February 15, 2018).
- Musheir al-Masri, spokesman for the Hamas faction of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the United States had proved yet again that it stood with Israel, continued to harm the Palestinian people and supported the idea of the [so-called Israeli] occupation. He also said the objective of American policy was to harm the interests of the Palestinians, and that American activities were intended to cover Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people (al-Jazeera, February 15, 2018).
- Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Radwan denounced the United States for its support of Israel, for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people and for the [so-called Israeli] occupation. He said the bill would not stop the “resistance” program, but rather strengthen it. He called on the Palestinians to hold days of rage and another intifada (al-Aqsa TV, February 15, 2018).
Saleh al-Arouri’s visit to Iran
- On February 15, 2018, the Iranian ministry of the interior held a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the killing of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughnieh. One of the participants at the ceremony was Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force. Also present were Ahmed Jibril, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command; Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau; senior Hamas figure Usama Hamdan, and Ziyad Nakhaleh, deputy secretary general of the PIJ (al-Akhbar in Lebanon, February 16, 2018; Mehr News Agency, February 15, 2018).
Right: Saleh al-Arouri (left) stands next to Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Iranian supreme leader for international affairs (Lebanese OTV YouTube channel, February 15, 2018). Left: Ziyad Nakhaleh in conversation with Qassem Soleimani (Mehr News Agency, February 15, 2018).
Speech given by Mahmoud Abbas
- On February 19, 2018, Mahmoud Abbas arrived in New York. On February 20, 2018, he was expected to speak before the UN Security Council. Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said his speech would focus on the issues of Jerusalem, the holy sites and the national values of the Palestinian people (Wafa, February 17, 2018). Riyadh Mansour, PA representative to the UN, said the objective of the speech was to create the possibility of a new international sponsor for the political process (quds.net, February 15, 2018).
- Before his speech Mahmoud Abbas met with Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti foreign minister. Mahmoud Abbas thanked him for Kuwait’s support of the Palestinians (Twitter account of the Kuwaiti foreign ministry, February 20, 2018). The Kuwaiti foreign minister is the current chairman of the Security Council.
Mahmoud Abbas meets with the Kuwaiti foreign minister in
New York before his speech in the UN Security Council
(Twitter account of the Kuwaiti foreign ministry, February 20, 2018).
The PA’s international activity
- Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said that after Mahmoud Abbas’ speech he would meet with UN Secretary General António Guterres (UN website, February 17, 2018). Riyadh Mansour, PA representative to the UN, said that immediately after the speech diplomatic measures would be undertaken for the PA to achieve full UN membership (al-Quds, February 19, 2018).
- Ibrahim Kharish, PA representative to UN institutions in Geneva, said the PA was taking steps to join international organizations and institutions, among them the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the World Media Organization, the Universal Postal Union, and the World Trade Organization (Dunia al-Watan, February 19, 2018).
Palestinian objections to imposing Israeli law on academic institutions in Judea and Samaria
- On February 12, 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted to impose Israeli law on academic institutions in Judea and Samaria. The PA rejected the law, considering it a step towards annexation. During the weekly Palestinian national consensus government meeting, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the measures taken by Israel proved its determination to waive all the agreements between the sides and its lack of desire for peace (Wafa, February 13, 2018).
Senior Fatah figure visits the mourning tent of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly terrorist attack
- Jamal Muheisen, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and representative of the movement’s mobilization and organization unit, visited the mourning tent of the family of Nimr al-Jaml (official Fatah Facebook page, February 17, 2018). On September 26, 2017, Nimr al-Jaml carried out a shooting attack at the entrance to Har Adar, near Jerusalem, killing two Israeli security guards and a Border Policeman. His body was transferred to the family on February 16, 2018, and he was buried in Beit Surik.
Jamal Muheisen gives a speech in the mourning tent in Beit Surik
(official Fatah Facebook page, February 17, 2018).
 A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, shooting, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included. ↑
 The Popular Resistance Committees is a Palestinian terrorist organization established in the Gaza Strip in 2001 during the second intifada. It was established by Jamal Abu Samhadana (who was killed by the IDF on June 8, 2006). The organization operated under the aegis of Hamas, and in the past was a subcontractor for Hamas terrorist attacks. The organization's most prominent attack was near Eilat on August 18, 2011, in which 8 Israelis were killed. After the attack, of which the Popular Resistance Committees denied all involvement, IDF aircraft attacked a structure in the Gaza Strip where Popular Resistance Committees operatives were gathered and killed Kamal Nirab, the head of the organization's military-terrorist wing. In response, the organization fired dozens of rockets into Israeli territory. The current affiliation of the Popular Resistance Committees with Hamas is unclear. ↑