Local residents close one of UNRWA's food distribution centers (al-Quds, February 21, 2021).
Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media advisor, responds to the events (Paltoday channel, February 21, 2021).
Anti-UNRWA protest demonstration in Khan Yunis. The sign reads, "The explosion has arrived" (Palinfo Twitter account, February 23, 2021).
Ziyad al-Nakhalah interviewed by the PIJ-affiliated Paltoday channel, February 19, 2021.
Ziyad al-Nakhalah interviewed by the PIJ-affiliated Paltoday channel, February 19, 2021.
Mahmoud Abbas meets with Tarek el-Molla, Egyptian minister of petroleum and mineral resources (top left) (Mahmoud Abbas' Facebook page, February 21, 2021).
Agreement with Britain signed while Muhammad Shtayyeh watches (Wafa, February 16, 2021).
- In the Gaza Strip the decline in the number of Covid-19 patients continues. In Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, however, the number rose significantly this past week, which had an effect on the number of seriously ill patients and coronavirus-related deaths. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government reinstituted a series of preventive measures which will be in force until March 9, 2021. Twenty-two thousand doses of coronavirus vaccine were delivered to the Gaza Strip but according to reports only a small number of local residents have responded to the call to be vaccinated.
- This past week the Gaza Strip was relatively quiet. In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing rocks and stones at Israeli vehicles driving on the main roads, although there was a significant decrease in the number of events. Israeli police detained a Palestinian from Sur Bahr in east Jerusalem who planned a stabbing attack.
- PA preparations continue for the upcoming elections. Mahmoud Abbas issued an order releasing all the political prisoners in Palestinian jails. He also ordered the security forces not to detain anyone for expressing an opinion or because of political affiliation.
- Palestinian sources close to Mahmoud Abbas reported he appointed Hussein al-Sheikh, chairman the civilian affairs authority, as PLO negotiator, replacing Saeb Erekat, former PLO negotiator and secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, who died in November 2020.
- Hussein al-Sheik sent a communiqué in the name of the PA to Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the bureau of Near Eastern affairs in the State Department. It said that all the Palestinian organizations were committed to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital and to “popular resistance (peaceful).” The Palestinians organizations, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), condemned the communiqué, claiming it did not represent their position, especially with regard to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
The Gaza Strip
- During the past week a shipment of Russian Sputnik V vaccines arrived in the Gaza Strip. On February 17, 2021, 2,000 doses were delivered through the Kerem Shalom Crossing (Sawa, February 17, 2021). A shipment of 20,000 additional doses donated by the UAE was delivered through the Rafah Crossing, after a delay in Egypt of several days due to harsh weather conditions (Dunia al-Watan, Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, February 21, 2021).
- On February 22, 2021, vaccinating the Gazan population began. The first to receive the vaccine were medical personnel, after them the aged and chronically ill, and then the general population in coordination with the ministry of health’s reserve of vaccines (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Gaza, February 22, 2021). Residents were informed they could register to receive the vaccine through the ministry of health’s phone application (alresala.net, February 22, 2021). The Ma’an news agency reported that so far 7,000 Gazans had registered to receive the vaccine. Dr. Majdi Dheir said that according to recommendations from the W.H.O., everyone over the age of 18 has to be vaccinated, which meant 1.2 million Gazans. He added that more shipments of vaccines are expected to arrive in the near future (al-Quds, February 22, 2021).
Right: Russian vaccines delivered to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, February 21, 2021). Left: Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, one of the first Gazans to receive the vaccine (Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, February 22, 2021).
Judea and Samaria
New preventive measures
- Given the rise in infection, the PA government ordered the enforcement of a series of preventive measures over the next two weeks until March 9, 2021. They include the following (Wafa, February 22, 2021):
- All movement between the districts is banned with the exception of medical personnel, ministry of education personnel and students. All movement within the districts is banned at night. Every district with a high rate of infection will be locked down.
- All weddings, festivals or other forms of gatherings are banned.
- Only skeleton services will be provided. Private and public institutions will operate on emergency footing.
- Israeli Arabs are strictly banned from entering the PA districts and cities. Palestinians working in Israel will remain in Israel.
- All government and private hospitals will designate wards for Covid-19 patients.
- At the beginning of the weekly government meeting PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, who confirmed the measures, said the level of Covid-19 infection was rising and that the region and the entire world were experiencing a new wave of Covid-19. He called on Palestinians to follow the public health guidelines and requested that the security forces take strict measures against those who violated them (Facebook page of Muhammad Shtayyeh, February 22, 2021).
Vaccinating Palestinian workers
- To prevent the spread of coronavirus variants, representatives of the Israel and Palestinians ministries of health held a meeting. It was agreed that Israel would vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians working in Israel. The ministry of health in Ramallah requested Israel to recognize Palestinian vaccination certificates. It was also agreed that there would be professional cooperation between the two ministries (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, February 19, 2021).
Allenby Bridge open
- Despite restrictions instituted in the wake of the rise in coronavirus infection, according to reports the Allenby Bridge is open for the passage of Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians entered the PA territories from Jordan and 222 left (Amun news agency, February 21, 2021).
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
- This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Israel Navy activity
- The IDF spokesman reported that on the morning of February 22, 2021, an IDF naval force identified maritime activity potentially threatened Israel Navy vessels. IDF fighters removed the threat (IDF spokesman, February 22, 2021). The Shehab news agency reported that Israeli vessels fired missiles close to a “fishing boat” on the high seas off the Gaza Strip shore (Shehab, February 22, 2021).
Detention of Palestinian who attempted to carry out a stabbing attack
- Israeli police forces in Jerusalem, acting on a report that a suspect was en route to a crossing in east Jerusalem, located a 27-year-old Palestinian from Sur Bahr. When the Palestinian saw police approaching he discarded a knife he had in his possession. He initially claimed he was planning to attack Israeli security forces because of the death of his mother. He was taken for interrogation (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, February 22, 2021).
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing rocks, stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles driving on the roads. This past week there was a decline in the number of attacks, possibly due to the harsh weather conditions. The more prominent events were the following:
- February 22, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle southwest of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported.
- February 22, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle west of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported. The front windshield was damaged.
- February 21, 2021: Stones were thrown at Israeli vehicles southwest of Hebron. No casualties were reported. Two vehicles were damaged.
- February 21, 2021: Three Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails at the community of Migdal Oz (southwest of Bethlehem). No casualties were reported.
- February 20, 2021: Rocks and stones were thrown at a bus southeast of Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
- February 20, 2021: Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at Israeli vehicles north of Ramallah. No casualties were reported.
- February 19, 2021: Rocks were thrown at the porch of Beit Leah in Hebron, a building near the Cave of the Patriarchs where a Jewish family lives. A child was slightly injured.
- February 19, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle east of Hebron. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
- February 19, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle northeast of Hebron. No casualties or damage were reported.
- February 19, 2021: Rocks and stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Jerusalem. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
- February 18, 2021: Stones were thrown at a bus north of Hebron. No casualties were reported. The bus was damaged.
- February 18, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle west of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
- February 18, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle, apparently from another car, east of Nablus. No casualties were reported.
- February 17, 2021: Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle southeast of Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019
Detention of suspects who attempted to attack IDF soldiers
- The Israeli security forces detained a number of Palestinians who were suspected of involvement in an attempted combined vehicular ramming and shooting attack targeting IDF soldiers near the village of Ya’bed (west of Jenin) on January 9, 2021. The Palestinians were detained during an operation in Qabatiya (south of Jenin) a number of days after the attempted terrorist attack. Interrogation revealed that the passengers in one of the vehicles were terrorist operatives who were planning to shoot at the security forces manning the check point with an improvised Carlo machine gun, but it fell out of the car before it could be used. As the car sped away it hit one of the soldiers. It was later found abandoned (IDF spokesman, February 22, 2021).
Carlo improvised machine gun which fell from the vehicle during the attempted shooting attack (IDF spokesman, January 9, 2021).
Protests over reduction of UNRWA services
- On February 21, 2021 local residents closed a number of UNRWA food distribution centers in the Gaza Strip to protest the agency’s new policy, which, according to the Joint Committees of Palestinian Refugees, would directly impact 770,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip (al-Quds, February 21, 2021).
- In response, Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media advisor, said it was not question of cancelling or reducing aid but rather of a more “fair and transparent distribution.” He said the new procedure would provide more food for more refugees (Wafa, February 21, 2021). Later, in another interview he said that they were, in fact, limiting the size of the food packages due to the agency’s problems of budget and resources (Paltoday channel, February 21, 2021). Note: UNRWA’s budget for 2021 is $1.5 billion, which is supposed to serve 5.7 million refugees in the Gaza Strip, Judea, Samaria, east Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Internal Hamas elections
- On February 19, 2021, Hamas internal elections began in the Gaza Strip. Two days previously they began outside Gaza and a week previously they began covertly in Judea and Samaria (al-Quds, February 15, 2021). According to one report, the final candidates for the leadership of the Hamas political bureau are Isma’il Haniyeh, the current head, Khaled Mashaal, the previous head, and Saleh al-‘Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau (al-Quds, February 19, 2021). On February 23, 2021, Hamas announced the end of the first stage of elections on its website.
Interview with Ziyad al-Nakhalah
- Ziyad al-Nakhalah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader, was interviewed by the organization-affiliated Filastin al-Yawm. He related to various current issues, among them the following (Filastin al-Yawm, February 19, 2021).
- The conference of the Palestinian organizations in Cairo: While the Egyptians called the conference a success, the Palestinians have many differences of opinion which are liable to lead to confrontations after the elections. Moreover, many issues were not discussed at all, such as the issue of “resistance” [i.e., terrorist activity against Israel]. Ziyad al-Nakhalah said that during the meetings only one thing was generally agreed on, and it was the decision to hold elections – beyond that no understandings were reached.
Cartoon showing the uncertainty of the Palestinian voter regarding the meeting in Cairo. The sign on the door reads, “Cairo dialogue” (Palinfo Twitter account, February 19, 2021)
- The joint operations room of all the organizations in the Gaza Strip: The establishment of the joint operations room led to a series of understandings between Hamas and Egypt, including the Egyptian-Israeli proposal to stop firing rockets in return for Israeli gestures to ease the situation in Gaza. According to al-Nakhalah, the agreement was an Israeli bribe for quiet in the Gaza Strip, and in PIJ perspective, ending any form of the “resistance” meant giving up the Palestinians’ rights. He also claimed that Israel had to reach understandings and make concessions to solve the problems of its residents who live near the Gaza Strip.
- A confrontation with Israel: al-Nakhalah claimed Israel was not implementing the understandings, for example the many promises of starting projects in the Gaza Strip. He also said he was convinced that at a certain point the PIJ would be forced into a confrontation with Israel, especially since Israel (“the enemy”) continued its aggression against the Gaza Strip.
Virtual anti-normalization conference
- During the online international conference called “United against Normalization,” Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, said that in view of the Israel’s normalization with a number of Arab states, a program was needed that would focus on the most important issue, which was continuing the “resistance” in all its forms (al-Aqsa, February 20, 2021). Ziyad al-Nakhalah, PIJ leader, said normalization gave Israel a free hand to change geography and to dictate history books. He said he hoped other Arab states would not surrender to their leaders (Filastin al-Yawm, February 20, 2021).
Publication of an order for release of prisoners
- As part of the agreements reached during the conference in Cairo and as a trust-building step to promote the elections, on February 20, 2021, Mahmoud Abbas issued an order to “strengthen public freedoms,” releasing all the political prisoners, male and female, in the PA jails. He also instructed the security forces not to detain anyone for voicing an opinion or for political affiliation.
- A delegation of members of the Central Elections Committee arrived in the Gaza Strip to complete the preparations necessary for holding elections and to meet with Fatah representatives (Sawa, February 11, 2021). The delegation left the Gaza Strip on February 21, 2021.
- The Central Elections Committee announced that voter registration had ended with 93.3% of all the eligible voters in the PA territories having registered. The committee said that 2.6 millions Palestinians would vote to elect representatives to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and for the position of PA chairman (Wafa, February 17, 2021). Muhammad Shtayyeh thanked the Central Elections Committee for completing voter registration and everyone else who had helped, and urged residents to register. He called on everyone who had registered to use his democratic right and vote (Facebook page of Muhammad Shtayyeh, February 17, 2021).
- The Central Elections Committee continues training voting teams and formulating procedure for putting together slates of candidates for the PLC elections (Facebook page of the Central Elections Committee, February 22, 2021).
Forming party factions
- Abdallah Abdallah, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, reported that Hamas had formally announced to Fatah that it would not join its slate in the PLC elections (al-Quds, February 20, 2021). However, Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said they had not yet decided whether or not they would run on a joint slate with Fatah, and would continue to monitor developments before making a decision. He also said they would not propose a candidate for the “presidency” because they were aware that if a Hamas candidate won it would be difficult for him to function in the international arena (Dunia al-Watan, February 22, 2021).
Cartoon in al-Araby al-Jadeed, London: Fatah and Hamas will try to sabotage one another in the upcoming elections (February 21, 2021).
Appeals to Israel
- According to Mahmoud al-‘Alul, deputy Fatah chairman, holding elections in Jerusalem was discussed in Central Elections Committee meetings and in all meetings held to discuss the elections. He said Fatah did not want difficulties regarding holding the elections in east Jerusalem, and therefore they had discussed the issue with all individuals and groups capable of exerting pressure on Israel. He said Israel had not yet responded to their appeals (Palestinian TV, February 16, 2021).
- Saleh Rifat, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said the PA ministry for civilian affairs was in contact with Israel to make it possible for prisoners in Israeli jails to realize their right to vote in the Palestinian elections. He said they were also in contact with the Red Cross and other international organizations to exert pressure on Israel regarding the prisoners’ voting rights (Dunia al-Watan, February 22, 2021).
Appeals to the United States
- With the upcoming elections in view and the changes in the Palestinians’ basic laws, Hussein al-Sheikh, writing for the PA sent a communiqué to Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the bureau of Near Eastern affairs in the State Department. It said that all the Palestinian organizations were committed to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital and to “popular resistance (peaceful).” According to the communiqué, the Palestinians are also committed to international law standards and to the PLO as the “political umbrella and legitimate sole representative of the Palestinian people.” A similar communiqué was sent to the International Quartet, the UN, the EU and Russia (al-Araby al-Jadeed and Sawa, February 21, 2021).
- The communiqué was condemned by the Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, the PIJ, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Hamas-affiliated al-Ahrar movement. Spokesmen for the organizations were interviewed by the media and criticized the PA, claiming the communiqué did not represent their position, especially the commitment to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (Paltoday channel, February 22 and 23, 2021).
The communiqué sent by Hussein al-Sheikh to Hady Amr (Amad website, February 20, 2021).
Foreign aid for the PA
Aid from Egypt
- Tarek el-Molla, Egyptian minister of petroleum and mineral resources, paid an official visit to Ramallah and met with Mahmoud Abbas, Muhammad Mustafa (Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor for economic matters) and other senior figures. They discussed ways to increase cooperation with Egypt, and signed a memorandum of understandings regarding the development of the gas field off the Gaza Strip shore. They agreed that developing the gas field would help find a solution for the Gaza Strip’s energy crisis, in addition to supplying gas to the power plant in Jenin. That would make it possible for the PA to rely mainly on independent sources of energy (Wafa, al-Shuruq, February 21, 2021).
Mahmoud Abbas meets with Tarek el-Molla, Egyptian minister of petroleum and mineral resources (top left) (Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, February 21, 2021).
Aid from Britain
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh was present at the signing of an aid agreement by Khaled al-Asili, the PA minister of the economy, and the British consul in Jerusalem. The agreement is for £15 million (about $20 million) over three years, to help trade and the Palestinian private sector, mainly by promoting Palestinian products in international markets (Facebook page of Muhammad Shtayyeh, February 16, 2021).
Agreement with Britain signed while Muhammad Shtayyeh watches (Wafa, February 16, 2021).
Saeb Erekat’s replacement appointed
- Palestinian sources close to Mahmoud Abbas said that he had appointed Hussein al-Sheikh, chairman of the civilian affairs authority, to the position of chief PLO negotiator to replace Saeb Erekat, former secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, who died in November 2020. Palestinian sources criticized the appointment, saying that Mahmoud Abbas had violated PLO laws which stipulated that anyone appointed to the position had to be a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee and be approved by a consensus of committee members (al-Risalah, February 19, 2021).
- Hussein al-Sheikh was born in Ramallah in 1960, and today serves as chairman of the civilian affairs authority with the status of PA government minister. He has been a member of Fatah’s Central Committee since 2008. Between 1978 and 1989 he was in prison in Israel. During the second intifada he was responsible for Fatah in the Judea and Samaria. Between 2000 and 2005 he was wanted by Israel. Since 2007 he has been chairman of the civilian coordinating committee and entrusted with coordination with Israel (Wikipedia, Facebook page of Hussein al-Sheikh, February 23, 2021). He is considered a senior Fatah figure and very close to Mahmoud Abbas, joining him on his trips abroad. As chairman of the civilian affairs authority he is directly subordinate to Mahmoud Abbas’ office.
Hussein al-Sheikh’s Facebook profile picture (November 24, 2020).
The PA and the International Criminal Court (ICC)
- At the weekly government meeting held on February 15, 2021, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said a complaint had to be lodged with the ICC over Israeli violations. He added that if the Jewish National Fund operated in the West Bank and Jerusalem it would be put on the list of “the tools used by colonialism” and be turned over to be dealt with by the ICC (Wafa, February 15, 2021).
 All information and reports are from Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria unless otherwise noted. ↑
 A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included. ↑
 On January 9, 2021, two Palestinian vehicles drove to an IDF military check point near the village of Ya'bed (west of Jenin). After the first vehicle had been examined the second, carrying two Palestinians, sped towards the IDF soldiers and tried to run them over. They hit one soldier but he did not need medical attention. An improvised Carlo machine gun fell from the vehicles while one of the passengers tried to shoot at the soldiers. The vehicle then sped away (IDF spokesman, February 9, 2021). ↑
 The so-called "popular resistance," that is, popular terrorism, is a strategy for waging the struggle against Israel which was formulated at the sixth Fatah conference and adopted by the PA in August 2009. Since then it has repeatedly been confirmed by various Palestinian forums. The "popular resistance" is not a non-violent peaceful protest, as touted through official Palestinian channels. It makes massive use of violence and deadly terrorism, from throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails to stabbing, shooting and vehicular ramming attacks, and has led to the deaths of many civilians. The attacks, even the deadly ones, have been both directly and indirectly supported by Fatah and the PA. ↑
 On February 21, 2021, the directorate of the Jewish National Fund authorized a proposal to extend the acquisition of lands in Judea and Samaria. ↑