News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (June 13 – 19, 2018)

Operatives from the incendiary kites and balloons unit prepare an incendiary balloon (Palinfo Twitter account, June 14, 2018).

Operatives from the incendiary kites and balloons unit prepare an incendiary balloon (Palinfo Twitter account, June 14, 2018).

Fire in an Israeli wheat field near the Gaza Strip caused by an incendiary kite (Palinfo Twitter account, June 2, 2018).

Fire in an Israeli wheat field near the Gaza Strip caused by an incendiary kite (Palinfo Twitter account, June 2, 2018).

Scorched fields in the western Negev, the result of incendiary kite fires (Shehab Facebook page, June 4, 2018).

Scorched fields in the western Negev, the result of incendiary kite fires (Shehab Facebook page, June 4, 2018).

Motorbike attacked by Israeli Air Force aircraft (Filastin al-A'an, June 15, 2018).

Motorbike attacked by Israeli Air Force aircraft (Filastin al-A'an, June 15, 2018).

Ceremony of distributing support to children. The sign reads,

Ceremony of distributing support to children. The sign reads, "Ceremony of distributing candy and clothing for the holiday to children of the shaheeds, wounded and prisoners, and children of needy families; with the support of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee and in coordination the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance (IRNA in Arabic, June 14, 2018).

A sign in front of the stage reading,

A sign in front of the stage reading, "Thank you, Iran" next to the Iranian flag (Radio Tehran in Arabic, June 13, 2018).

The Palestinian representative in Spain (right) visits the boats (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, the former coordinator of the Gaza Ark project, June 15, 2018).

The Palestinian representative in Spain (right) visits the boats (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, the former coordinator of the Gaza Ark project, June 15, 2018).

French police prevent the boats from anchoring (Twitter account of French politician Ester Benbassa, June 17, 2018).

French police prevent the boats from anchoring (Twitter account of French politician Ester Benbassa, June 17, 2018).

The results of the vote in the UN General Assembly (UN website, June 13, 2018).

The results of the vote in the UN General Assembly (UN website, June 13, 2018).

  • The “return march” events of Friday, June 15, 2018, which began during Eid al-Fitr,[1] were the quietest since the “marches” began on March 30, 2018. No clashes with the IDF were reported. On the other hand, there was an increase in the launching of incendiary kites and balloons to Israeli territory, causing dozen of fires in the communities near the border (so far, since the beginning of arson terrorism, more than 6,000 acres have been burned in more than 400 fires).
  • In view of the situation the IDF intensified its responses. Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked nine Hamas targets, including facilities for the manufacture of weapons in the northern Gaza Strip. On the evening of June 18, 2018, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked additional Hamas targets. In response three rockets were fired at the western Negev north of the Gaza Strip. Two of them fell in Israeli territory.
  • At the end of April 2018 the Israeli security forces detained a Hamas network with more than twenty operatives. Interrogation revealed that they had been planning a series of terrorist attacks in large cities in Israel and attacks in Samaria. Among the attacks planned were placing IEDs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.
The “return march,” June 15, 2018
  • The events of Friday, June 15, 2018 (during Eid al-Fitr), along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were the quietest since the “marches” began on March 30, 2018. Only a few hundred Palestinians gathered at the focal points near the border fence to hold Eid al-Fitr prayers. There were no reports of clashes with IDF forces. During the demonstrations, however, Palestinians launched dozens of incendiary kites and balloons towards Israel, causing dozens of fires in the communities along the Gaza Strip border.
  • Senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) figures, including Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau in the Gaza Strip, Khaled al-Batash, a senior PIJ figure, participated in the Eid al-Fitr prayers held in the “return camps” in the eastern Gaza Strip (al-Aqsa, June 15, 2018).
Isma'il Haniyeh gives a speech for Eid al-Fitr (YouTube channel of the al-Jazeera Mubasher channel, June 14, 2018).   Senior Hamas and PIJ figures at Ramadan prayers in the "return camps" near the security fence in the Gaza Strip (Paltoday YouTube channel, June 15, 2018). Left
Right: Senior Hamas and PIJ figures at Ramadan prayers in the “return camps” near the security fence in the Gaza Strip (Paltoday YouTube channel, June 15, 2018). Left: Isma’il Haniyeh gives a speech for Eid al-Fitr (YouTube channel of the al-Jazeera Mubasher channel, June 14, 2018).
  • Although the memorial days set for the “marches,” which brought thousands of Gazans to the border, had passed, the Hamas leaders said they would continue:
    • Isma’il Haniyeh, in a speech for Eid al-Fitr, stressed the marches’ propaganda and political achievements. He praised the residents of the Gaza Strip who had fought for the sake of the marches and for “breaking the siege.” He claimed the marches were a “renewed opening shot,” proving the vitality of the Palestinian people. He said that the UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel showed the success of the “marches” (al-Aqsa TV, June 14, 2018).
    • Senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Haya gave a sermon in which he stressed that the Palestinian would continue the “return marches” until they had achieved their goals. He praised those who had been killed, saying their blood would bring more significant results than any political effort. He emphasized that sacrifice was the most effective path. He also praised the activists who sent their message with incendiary kites and balloons (al-Aqsa, June 15, 2018).

Arson terrorism[2]

  • This past week the number of incendiary kites and balloons launched into Israeli territory increased, causing dozens of fires which burned thousands of acres of fields and natural forest. In addition to incendiary kites and balloons, kites and balloons with IEDs and explosives were also launched. For example, on June 17, 2018, police demolitions experts were summoned to the southern Israeli city of Sderot to deal with balloons launched from the Gaza Strip and suspected of containing explosives (Ynet, June 18, 2018).
IED balloons launched from the Gaza Strip that landed in southern Israeli city of Netivot (QudsN Facebook page, June 17, 2018).   Operatives from the incendiary kites and balloons unit prepare an incendiary balloon (Palinfo Twitter account, June 14, 2018).
Right: Operatives from the incendiary kites and balloons unit prepare an incendiary balloon (Palinfo Twitter account, June 14, 2018). Left: IED balloons launched from the Gaza Strip that landed in southern Israeli city of Netivot (QudsN Facebook page, June 17, 2018).

So far, arson terrorism has burned thousands of acres of fields and nature preserves. The homes of Israelis living near the Gaza Strip are also under constant threat of fire. According to the spokesman’s unit of the Israel Fire and Rescue Service, so far firefighters have dealt with more than 400 fires that burned more than 6,000 acres. The Administration of the Property Tax Compensation Fund has estimated that property damage so far is about seven million shekels (about $1,925,000).

  • Until recently the IDF’s response to Palestinians launching kites and balloons was relatively low-key. However, following the continuing, growing use of kites and balloons, the IDF intensified its response. What began as warning shots turned into Israeli Air Force attacks against Hamas and PIJ military targets.
  • Israeli Air Force aircraft attacks were the following:
    • June 14, 2018 – Aircraft fired warning shots at a squad preparing incendiary balloons in the southern Gaza Strip. (IDF Twitter account, June 14, 2018). The Palestinian media reported that a UAV had fired a missile at a group of young Palestinians in the eastern part of the al-Bureij refugee camp who were launching kites and balloons from a “return camp.” Two and a half hours later Israeli aircraft shot at another group of Palestinians preparing to fly kites, and damaged a water reservoir in a “return camp.” No casualties were reported (Palinfo, June 14, 2018).
    • June 15, 2018Israeli Air Force aircraft fired warning shots at a squad launching IED balloons and at a vehicle in the southern Gaza Strip. Aircraft also attacked a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip near a location from which Incendiary and IED balloons were launched (IDF Twitter account, June 15, 2018). The Palestinian media reported that two missiles were fired as warning shots at Palestinians launching incendiary kites in eastern al-Bureij. One of them hit a motorbike. No casualties were reported (Filastin al-A’an, June 15, 2018).
    • June 16, 2018 – Israeli Air Force aircraft fired close to where a squad was launchings Incendiary balloons in the southern Gaza Strip (IDF Twitter account, June 16, 2018). The Palestinian media reported that two Palestinians had been wounded, one of them seriously, in an attack in the eastern part of the al-Bureij refugee camp (Filastin al-A’an, June 16, 2018).
    • The night of June 16, 2018 – Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked the vehicle of one of the heads of the squads launching incendiary and IED kites and balloons (IDF website, June 17, 2018). The Palestinian media reported that a civilian vehicle had been attacked near the al-Murabitun mosque in the Sajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The vehicle was burned but no casualties were reported (Shehab agency, June 17, 2018).
    • June 17, 2018 – Israeli Air Force aircraft fired at a squad launching Incendiary balloons in the southern Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, June 17, 2018).
    • The night of June 17, 2018The IDF intensified its response. Israeli Air Force fighter planes attacked nine targets in two Hamas facilities and a Hamas facility for the manufacture of weapons in the northern Gaza Strip. The Palestinian media reported the planes had attacked the “Bader post” of Hamas’ military wing in western Gaza City and the “Boat post” in northern Gaza City. No casualties were reported (al-Jazeera, Shabakat Quds and Dunia al-Watan, June 18j, 2018).
    • The evening of June 18, 2018 – In response to the continuous launching of incendiary kites throughout the day, Israeli Air Force aircraft again attacked a number of targets. The Palestinian media reported that an observation post of the PIJ’s military wing was attacked east of Khan Yunis, and that no casualties were reported (Paldf, June 18, 2018).
Attempt to sabotage IDF security facility
  • On June 18, 2018, five Palestinians entered the area of the Karni crossing in the northern Gaza Strip and tried to sabotage a security facility, resulting in an explosion. One operative was killed and another was seriously wounded (IDF Twitter account, June 18, 2018). Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, reported the death of Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader (Adhibi), 24 from the al-Tufah neighborhood in Gaza City (Twitter account of the spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, June 18, 2018).
  • The Palestinian media reported different versions of his death. According to the Palestinian media, he was killed when he tried to remove an Israeli booby-trapped security camera. The camera exploded, killing him (Facebook pages of photojournalist Fadi Thabet, gazanews2012, and Shabakat al-Hadath, June 18, 2018). At his funeral there were no indications of organizational affiliation.
The funeral held for Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader (Twitter account of the Filistin al-Youm TV channel, June 18, 2018).    Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader (Facebook page of Sameh Ehdabe, June 18, 2018).
Right: Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader (Facebook page of Sameh Ehdabe, June 18, 2018). Left: The funeral held for Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader (Twitter account of the Filistin al-Youm TV channel, June 18, 2018).
Rocket fire[3]
  • Three rockets were fired at the western Negev north of the Gaza Strip. The rocket attack was carried out during Israeli aircrafts on Hamas military targets on the night of June 17, 2018. Two fell in Israeli territory. No casualties or damages were reported.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018

Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018

* Minimal number of rockets and mortar shells fired. At this stage it is impossible to distinguish between rocket and mortar shell fire.

Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits

Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits

* Approximate number of rockets and mortar shells launched during the two rounds of escalation.

  • In Judea and Samaria Eid al-Fitr was relatively quiet. Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity and seizing weapons.
  • The more prominent events were the following:
    • June 19, 2018 – During an Israeli security force activity to seize illegal weapons in the neighborhood of a-Ram, north of Jerusalem, an improvised Carl Gustav gun and ammunition were found in the home of a Palestinian policeman (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 19, 2018).
    • June 14, 2018 – Border Policemen stationed at one of the entrances to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron stopped a Palestinian who drew a knife he had hidden in his clothing. The knife fell out of his hand. No casualties were reported. The Palestinian was detained (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 14, 2018).
    • June 13, 2018 – There was an explosion in an apartment in the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. One person was seriously wounded. A police investigation revealed that the explosion was a “work accident” caused during the preparation of an IED. When the Israeli security forces left the refugee camp Palestinians rioted; the forces employed riot control measures to disperse them (Facebook page of Red Alert, June 13, 2018).
    • June 13, 2018 – The Israeli security forces detained Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid, 32, from the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah. He was accused of killing an IDF soldier by throwing a marble slab on his head during an Israeli security force activity in the refugee camp on May 24, 2018. Abu Hamid has five brothers serving life sentences in prison in Israel. A sixth brother, who was a Hamas terrorist operative, was killed in the first intifada (Watan TV, June 13, 2018).

Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid (Facebook page of the al-Amari refugee camp , June 15, 2018).
Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid
(Facebook page of the al-Amari refugee camp , June 15, 2018).

Significant terrorist attacks during the past year [4]

Significant terrorist attacks during the past year [4]

Exposure of a terrorist network in the Nablus region

At the end of April 2018 the Israeli security forces exposed a network of Hamas terrorist operatives, exceptional in its size and the extent of its activity, which operated in the Nablus region. The squad had been operational since October 2017 and had more than 20 operatives, most of them affiliated with Hamas. Some of them with a long record of terrorist activity. Interrogation revealed that they were planning a series of terrorist attacks in large cities in Israel and in Samaria. They were planning to place IEDs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, carry out a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem, an attack on the community of Itamar (southeast of Nablus) and shooting attacks in Samaria. During the investigation IEDs were seized (including one that weighed ten kilograms), explosives, materials for manufacturing IEDs and with instructions for manufacturing IEDs and explosives. The squad was headed by two Palestinians from Nablus (Israel Security Agency, June 17, 2018).

  • According to the indictment handed down for Mu’tasem Salem, one of the squad heads, the idea to carry out terrorist attacks arose in a conversation with an al-Nusra Front operative in Syria (the al-Nusra Front is a jihad organization affiliated with al-Qaeda) via the Telegram app. The Syrian operative offered him $100,000 to manufacture an IED and use it to attack Israeli civilians or IDF installations (Israel Security Agency, June 17, 2018).
The Rafah crossing
  • The Egyptian authorities announced that the Rafah crossing, which was open throughout Ramadan, would remain open for Eid al-Fitr (alresala.net, June 15, 2018). Isma’il Haniyeh spoke on the phone with the head of Egyptian general intelligence and thanked him for Egypt’s contributions to the Gaza Strip, especially opening the Rafah crossing during Ramadan and its support in allowing aid convoys to enter the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians promised to take additional measures to ease the Gazans’ lot (Hamas website, June 16, 2018).
UNRWA’s financial situation
  • According to António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, UNRWA’s financial situation is precarious and a reason for concern, not only for millions of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip but also for the refugees in Judea and Samaria, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. He said today UNRWA had a deficit of $250 million, and called on all the UN member states to increase their financial support for the agency (Safa, June 17, 2018).
  • Hamas expressed worry over UNRWA’s financial crisis, and called on the international community to take responsibility and protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees. Hamas also appealed to Arab and Muslim states to commit themselves to transferring substantial funds to the agency (Hamas website, June 18, 2018).
Iranian support for the children of shaheeds in the Gaza Strip
  • On June 13, 2018, a ceremony was held in Gaza City where the Imam Khomeini Support Committee, an Iranian front organization, gave financial aid, food and candy to more than 400 children of shaheeds in the Gaza Strip. According to Wa’el Kuraz, the Association’s coordinator in the Gaza Strip, the aid sends a message from Iran to Arab and Islamic people that the Palestinians need support to continue the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism].
  • Senior PIJ figure Khader Habib, said the support had been generously provided by the Imam Khomeini Support Committee in coordination with the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance in Lebanon, and carried out by the PIJ movement. He thanked the committee, the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance and everyone who supported the “besieged” Palestinians (IRNA in Arabic, June 14, 2018).
  • Before the ceremony, it was reported that meals for breaking the Ramadan fast had been distributed to Palestinians in the “return camps” in the eastern Gaza Strip, to families of shaheeds and prisoners, the needy, the unemployed and those whose houses had been destroyed. The meals were provided by the Imam Khomeini Support Committee and the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance. According to a Lebanese newspaper affiliated with Hezbollah, that proved Iran was the only country that stood side by side with the Palestinians (al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 23, 2018).
Meals distributed for Ramadan. The sticker reads, "The charity kitchen of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee; funded by the Imam Khomeini Support Committee; under the aegis of and coordination with the Global Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance; Gaza district (al-Alam TV, Iran, June 11, 2018).   Ceremony of distributing support to children. The sign reads, "Ceremony of distributing candy and clothing for the holiday to children of the shaheeds, wounded and prisoners, and children of needy families; with the support of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee and in coordination the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance (IRNA in Arabic, June 14, 2018).
Right: Ceremony of distributing support to children. The sign reads, “Ceremony of distributing candy and clothing for the holiday to children of the shaheeds, wounded and prisoners, and children of needy families; with the support of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee and in coordination the Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance (IRNA in Arabic, June 14, 2018). Left: Meals distributed for Ramadan. The sticker reads, “The charity kitchen of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee; funded by the Imam Khomeini Support Committee; under the aegis of and coordination with the Global Association of Muslim Scholars of the Resistance; Gaza district (al-Alam TV, Iran, June 11, 2018).

A sign in front of the stage reading, "Thank you, Iran" next to the Iranian flag (Radio Tehran in Arabic, June 13, 2018).
A sign in front of the stage reading, “Thank you, Iran” next to the Iranian flag (Radio Tehran in Arabic, June 13, 2018).

The flotilla to the Gaza Strip
  • On June 12, 2018, two of the flotilla boats, the al-Awda and the Huriya, arrived in the port of Gijón in the Asturias region of northern Spain (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, the former coordinator of the Gaza Ark project, June 12, 2018). On June. 15, 2018, Musa Awda, the Palestinian representative in Spain, visited the boats and met with flotilla activists and the speaker of the Asturias parliament (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, June 15, 2018). On June 16, 2018, the boats set sail from Gijón to Lisbon, Portugal (Facebook page of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, June 16, 2018)
The Palestinian representative in Spain (right) visits the boats (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, the former coordinator of the Gaza Ark project, June 15, 2018).   The al-Awda anchors in the port of Gijón.
Right: The al-Awda anchors in the port of Gijón. Left: The Palestinian representative in Spain (right) visits the boats (Facebook page of Awny Farhat, the former coordinator of the Gaza Ark project, June 15, 2018).

2018Flotilla activists meet with the speaker of the Asturias parliament in northern Spain (parliament website, June 15, 2018).
Flotilla activists meet with the speaker of the Asturias parliament in northern Spain (parliament website, June 15, 2018).

  •  On June 17, 2018, two smaller boats, the Falestine and the Mairead, arrived in Paris, but the French police did not allow them to anchor (Twitter account of the France-Palestine Solidarity Association, June 17, 2018).
The international area
  • On June 13, 2018, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for an international force to protect the Palestinians. One hundred and twenty countries voted in favor of the resolution, eight voted against and 45 abstained. The resolution included a condemnation of Israel (referred to as the “occupying Power”) for its “excessive, disproportionate use of force” towards the Palestinians. The resolution also mentioned rocket fire at Israel but did not specifically mention Hamas or any other terrorist organization as having fired the rockets. The resolution also called for taking steps to preserve the security of Palestinian civilians. It charged the UN Secretary General with composing a report and the creation of an international mechanism to ensure the “protection of the Palestinian civilian population” (UN website, June 13, 2018).
  •  Before the vote, Nikki Haley, the American representative to the UN, proposed counter resolution which would condemn Hamas for firing rockets at Israel and inciting Palestinians to violence near the border. The resolution demanded that Hamas stop its violence and incitement, and condemned the use Hamas makes of the infrastructure and resources of the Gaza Strip to construct a military infrastructure, represented by the attack tunnels. The American proposal got a majority vote of 62, with 58 votes against and 42 abstentions. It was rejected by the president of the General Assembly on the grounds it had not received two-thirds of the votes (UN website, June 13, 2018).
  • The PA regards the General Assembly vote as a political achievement by means of which it returned the Palestinian issue to the international agenda and got a resolution passed condemning Israel. Mahmoud Abbas thanked the UN member states that voted for the resolution, saying it was “a victory for the rights of the Palestinian people, justice and international law” (Wafa, June 14, 2018). Mahmoud Abbas gave a Friday sermon in which he congratulated the Palestinian people on the victory in the UN General Assembly, calling the request of the Palestinians for international protection “legitimate,” despite the objections of a number of countries (Wafa, June 15, 2018).
  • Hamas also praised the results of the vote and the rejection of the American resolution condemning Hamas. According to the Hamas announcement, the results as very important and a victory for the rights of the Palestinian people (Hamas website, June 14, 2018).
Suppression of a demonstration in Ramallah to lift the sanctions on the Gaza Strip
  • In Ramallah protest demonstrations continue against the sanctions the PA imposed on the Gaza Strip. The PA issued an order banning protest marches during Eid al-Fitr. The PA is worried about the demonstrations, which appear to support Hamas. For that reason, on orders from Mahmoud Abbas, the PA security apparatuses used force to disperse the demonstration held in Ramallah. The demonstration was attended by about 200 people, most of them affiliated with Hamas. More than 20 demonstrators were wounded; journalists were not permitted to cover the events (Arabi21, June 12, 2018).
  • Human rights organizations in the PA territories and Palestinian organizations condemned the use of force to suppress the demonstration in Ramallah. Hamas strongly criticized the dispersal of the demonstrators, calling it a “violation of the freedom of expression and assembly” (Ma’an, June 14, 2018). Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the PA’s decision to prevent the demonstration was “a violation of Palestinian law” and an expression of the PA’s continued policy of suppression.
PA security force operatives in the center of Ramallah during the demonstration (middle east eye, June 13, 2018).  PA security force operatives in the center of Ramallah during the demonstration (middle east eye, June 13, 2018).
PA security force operatives in the center of Ramallah during the demonstration (middle east eye, June 13, 2018).

[1] The three-day holiday ending the Ramadan fast.
[2] For further information, see the June 18, 2018 bulletin "Arson Terrorism: A new method devised by Hamas during the "return marches" to attack the communities near the Gaza Strip and disrupt their daily lives."

[3] The statistics do not include rockets that fell inside the Gaza Strip.

[4] 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.