Senior figures in the ministry of health in Gaza hold APC after the rise in infection (Palinfo Twitter account, March 21, 2021).
Mahmoud Abbas vaccinated in his office (Mahmoud Abbas' Facebook page, March 20, 2021).
Sheikh Atef Hanaisheh throwing rocks during a confrontation with the IDF (Palinfo Twitter account, March 19, 2021). It is unclear when the picture taken the day he was killed or on a previous occasion.
Hamas sign hung at the entrance to the mourning tent in Bayt Dajan (QudsN Facebook page, March 21, 2021).
Riyad al-Maliki meets with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (PA foreign ministry Facebook page, March 18, 2021).
Muhammad Shtayyeh meets with a delegation of Sheikh Jarrah residents (Wafa, March 18, 2021).
- Coronavirus: In Judea and Samaria the number of active cases continues to rise. The ministry of health in Ramallah also noted a rise in hospital occupancy and in serious and critical cases. The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced the lockdown would be extended to April 3, 2021. Vaccinating Palestinians has begun and social media users have criticized its lack of transparency. During the vaccination campaign in the PA territories, Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that in recent weeks ministry of health medical staff had vaccinated 105,000 Palestinians who work in Israel. Social media users criticized him, claiming it was Israel that had vaccinated them and not the PA. In the Gaza Strip the number of active cases also continues to rise. Worried public health figures have called on local residents to employ preventive measures, warning that the Gaza Strip might be locked down again. Vaccinating Gazans has also begun, accompanied by claims that the number of doses received by the Gaza Strip is insufficient to inoculate the entire population.
- Terrorist attacks: The Gaza Strip has been relatively quiet. In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continue throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israel vehicle and communities, although this past week the number of incidents decreased. During a Friday riot near Nablus a Palestinian rioter was killed and his death led to condemnation from the Palestinians.
- The Gaza Strip: Following an appeal from the families of the three fishermen who were killed off the Khan Yunis shore, Mahmoud Abbas declared them shaheeds (Wafa, March 17, 2021). That may mean they will be eligible for monthly payments from PA.
- The PA: Preparations for the elections continue. This past week representatives of the Palestinian organizations met again in Cairo. The Palestinian foreign ministry paid a visit to The Hague and met with the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor and her staff. On his return Israel revoked his permission to travel freely through Judea and Samaria, and through the crossings. Speaking at the tenth Bayt al-Maqdis online conference, Shtayyeh stressed the Muslims’ connection to al-Aqsa mosque, condemned Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and said the PA intended to strengthen Islam’s connection to al-Aqsa mosque.
The Gaza Strip
- Dr. Majdi Dheir, director of preventive medicine in the ministry of health in Gaza, said the situation in the Gaza Strip had recently become dangerous. He said the rise in the number of new active cases indicated the beginning of a second wave of coronavirus, adding that steps had to be taken similar to those of the first wave (al-Aqsa, March 21, 2021).
- Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, said the ministry of health was monitoring the epidemic indices, which until recently had been declining, but during the past few days the daily rate of infection had risen (al-Aqsa, March 21, 2021).
Right: Senior figures in the ministry of health in Gaza hold APC after the rise in infection (Palinfo Twitter account, March 21, 2021). Left: Inoculating Gazans in UNRWA infirmaries
(Twitter account of Ali Jadallah, March 17, 2021).
- According to Dr. Majdi Dheir, the number of vaccine doses supplied to the Gaza Strip was insufficient and they were currently inoculating medical personnel, the aged and the chronically ill. He said there were about 150,000 people had conditions that put them at high risk (al-Aqsa, March 21, 2021).
Judea and Samaria
The spread of infection
- The rising spread of infection worries the ministry of health in Ramallah, which has issued warnings:
- Dr. Usama al-Najar, director of medical services in the ministry of health, reported a sharp rise in the spread of the infection and in the number of patients on ventilators. He said that despite the measures taken by the PA they were not seeing a decline in infection. He added that the hospitals had a sufficient supply of oxygen (al-Quds, March 22, 2021).
- Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra, ministry of health spokesman, also said the situation was particularly serious and that the virus had spread widely (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 20, 2021).
- Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health, said she was worried by the rise in infection, mortality and the occupancy of hospital beds, which had reached 110%. She said 44% of coronavirus patients in ICUs were on ventilators. She added that they had received twenty thousand test kits that would enable them to test for variants (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 17, 2021).
Right: The Arabic reads, “The pressure on the hospitals” (al-Quds, March 18, 2021). Left: Infographic issued by the PA ministry of health shows general and ICU hospital occupancy at 100% (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 20, 2021).
- However, Dr. Shawqi Sabha, chairman of the PA medical association, criticized how the ministry of health was combatting the virus. He said most of the decisions and measures had not been formulated by medical professionals but rather by district governors. He also claimed that adding beds to ICUs was insignificant because of the extensive spread of the virus (QudsN Facebook page, March 22, 2021).
The increase in coronavirus infection in Judea and Samaria
(According to the ministry of health in Ramallah)
Number of coronavirus-related death
(According to the ministry of health in Ramallah)
Further measures announced
- The rise in infection led the PA government to extend the public health guidelines until April 3, 2021. PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that in view of the situation they had added 2,000 medical personnel to the public health system as support for the hospitals (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 21, 2021). The minister of health said they had opened another ICU in the hospital in Ramallah and that in the coming week they would open the Mahmoud Abbas Hospital in Halhul (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 21, 2021).
- On March 17, 2021, Israel delivered 60,000 doses of vaccine from COVAX to the PA, 24,000 from AstraZeneca and 37,000 from Pfizer (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 17, 2021). The minister of health said another delivery from COVAX was expected to reach the PA in the coming weeks and that. 100,000 doses donated by China would arrive in the coming days (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 18, 2021).
- The announcement of the arrival of the vaccines led to a wave of responses on the ministry of health’s Facebook page. They accused the PA of “stealing vaccines” and of having hidden 2,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. They said that according to reports from Israel the PA received 40,000 doses, but the PA had reported the receipt of only 37,440 doses (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 17, 2021).
- AMAN, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, a Palestinian organization based in Ramallah, called on the minister of health to immediately publish a program detailing the criteria, numbers and schedule for distributing the vaccine. Such a program, according to AMAN, would increase transparency and strengthen public faith in the PA (AMAN website, March 17, 2021).
Vaccines prepared for transport through Israel to the PA
(Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, March 17, 2021).
- After the arrival of the vaccines, on March 21, 2021 the ministry of health formally announced the opening of a vaccination campaign. The first groups would be medical personnel in the government and private hospitals, the elderly over the age of 75, and dialysis and oncology patients. Other groups would be announced at a later date (Wafa, March 21,m 2021). On the eve of the campaign Mahmoud Abbas was vaccinated and the picture was published by all the Palestinian media.
Mahmoud Abbas vaccinated in his office
(Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, March 20, 2021).
Vaccinating Palestinians working in Israel
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that during the past two weeks the ministry of health in Ramallah had vaccinated 105,000 Palestinians who work in Israel (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 21, 2021). He was widely criticized by people claiming Israel had vaccinated the workers, not the PA (QudsN Facebook page, March 21, 2021). In response, Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra, ministry of health spokesman, explained that teams of PA ministry of health personnel had participated in vaccinating the workers at the crossings (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, March 21, 2021).
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
- This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. According to reports, “resistance” [i.e., terrorist] operatives launched two experimental rockets towards the sea to test their capabilities (Filastin al-Yawm, March 21, 2021).
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Palestinian security fence-crossers detained
- On March 21, 2021, IDF soldiers detained two Palestinians who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip and entered Israeli territory. They had knives which they used to cut the fence. They were taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, March 21, 2021).
Fisherman who were killed declared shaheeds
- The ministry of the interior in Gaza issued the results of its investigation into the deaths of the three fisherman killed off the Khan Yunis coast on March 7, 2021. According to the report, they [allegedly] died as the result of a dummy explosive device released by an Israeli quadcopter. After the fishermen’s families appealed to Mahmoud Abbas to have them declared shaheeds Mahmoud Abbas granted their request (Wafa, March 17, 2021). That would make them eligible to receive monthly payments from the PA. Neither in the clan’s appeal nor in Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement was there any mention of Israel’s responsibility for the explosion that killed the fishermen.
Appeal sent by the al-Laham clan to Mahmoud Abbas
(Wafa, March 17, 2021).
Palestinian rioter killed in confrontation with IDF
- On Friday, March 19, 2021, during the weekly protest march in Bayt Dajan (east of Nablus) a riot broke out and dozens of Palestinians threw rocks at IDF forces. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal measures and by shooting into the air. According to reports, a Palestinian demonstrator was killed. The event is under investigation (IDF spokesman, March 19, 2021). The ministry of health in Ramallah announced the death of Atef Yusuf Hanaisheh, 45, father of three, who was the muezzin of one of the village mosques and regularly participated in the Friday demonstrations. Hamas flags were in evidence at the funeral alongside PA flags. Hamas flags and signs were also hung at the mourning tent opened by the family (QudsN Facebook page, March 21, 2021).
- Many Palestinians responded to Atef Yusuf Hanaisheh’s death by praising the residents of the village for their protests, saying that every form of the “resistance” could restrain the “occupation” and uproot the settler strongholds. The ministry of the interior in Ramallah issued a statement assigning Israel full and direct responsibility for “the crime of executions.” According to the statement, the silence of the international community regarding “such crimes” gives Israel permission to act above the law and immunity [from consequences]. In addition, Israel (“the occupation”) continues committing crimes despite the decision of the chief prosecutor of the ICC to begin an investigation, as though Israel had never signed peace agreements with the Palestinian leadership. The foreign ministry called for eyewitnesses and for human rights and humanitarian organizations to assist in documenting the event for the ICC and UN agencies (Wafa, March 19, 2021).
- A meeting of Fatah’s Central Committee chaired by Mahmoud Abbas harshly criticized what he called Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians manifested by the killing of Atef Yusuf Hanaisheh (Wafa, March 19, 2021). Mahmoud Abbas also called the family to offer his condolences.
- Hamas issued a statement claiming Hanaisheh as one of its shaheeds. Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, spoke with his parents by phone and offered his condolences (Sawa, March 20, 2021). Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem called his death “a Zionist crime and [an example of] Israel’s unchecked terrorism” against the Palestinian people (Hamas website, March 20, 2021).
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at vehicles driving on the roads. The more prominent events were the following:
- March 20, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle north of Hebron. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
- March 20, 2021: Rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at an Israeli bus northeast of Hebron. No casualties or damage were reported.
- March 18, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported.
- March 17, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported.
- March 16, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israel vehicle east of Hebron. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
- March 16, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Hebron. No casualties were reported. The windshield was damaged.
- March 16, 2021: Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle northeast of Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019
Filastin al-Yawm channel shut down over debts?
- “Sources” reported that broadcasts of the Filastin al-Yawm channel, affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), were stopped because of its mounting debts to the satellite channel that transmits its programs. The channel claimed its broadcasts were cut off by technical problems which were currently being solved (Dunia al-Watan, March 15, 2021). However, the channel continues broadcasting as usual.
The Filastin al-Yawm channel continues broadcasting.
From a live afternoon broadcast on March 22, 2021.
Sudan asks INTERPOL for assistance in detaining Hamas operatives
- According to reports, on March 17, 2021 Sudan formally requested assistance from INTERPOL in detaining Maher Araf Abu Jawad, director of Hamas’ investments in Sudan. Sudan also asked for assistance in detaining other operatives affiliated with Hamas and suspected of financing terrorism and money laundering. They include al-Wazir Hasan Muhammad Ahmed, who owns a number of companies in Sudan and whose income is used to support terrorism (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 17, 2021).
- PA government secretary Amjad Ghanem revealed that the ministry of the treasury estimated 2021 would have an annual deficit of $1,200,000 (al-Quds, March 16, 2021).
- The Palestinian Monetary Authority issued its 2020 report for Palestinian banks. According to the report, despite the coronavirus and tax revenue crises, the Palestinian banking system is still strong, stable and has the full confidence of the Palestinian public. Bank deposits rose by 13%, or $15 billion, up from $13 billion in 2019. The Palestinian Monetary Authority provided $300 million in funding for various projects, eased procedures for businessmen and allowed them liquidity of funds. The Authority said it would continue developing the banking system in 2021 to preserve its stability and strength (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, March 19, 2021).
- Meanwhile, Muhammad Shtayyeh announced a $50 million donation had been received from Arab and Islamic funds for development projects in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (Wafa, March 18, 2021).
Thanks to Palestinian determination, the economy continues growing despite the rise in the coronavirus infection curve (al-Quds, March 22, 2021).
Palestinian organizations meet in Cairo
- On March 16, 2021, representatives of the Palestinian organizations met again in Cairo. Meetings were held over two days and dealt mainly with resolving organizational issues that would enable the process to advance to the next stage, including providing the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) with party slates. All the organizations participating in the elections signed a gentleman’s agreement ensuring transparent, untainted and fair elections (Wafa, March 16, 2021).
- A “Fatah source” said the Palestinian organizations had agreed in Cairo that if in the future Israel detained a PLC member, his organization would have the right to replace him with someone else from the organization, and when the original member was released he could resume his post (al-Arabiya, March 18, 2021).
Forming political parties
- On March 20, 2021, the PLC began accepting party slates, and will continue accepting them until the end of the month. Muhammad Dahlan, former senior Fatah figure who was expelled from the party in 2011 and is a rival of Mahmoud Abbas, announced for the first time that candidates aligned with him would run on an independent ticket (al-Arabiya, March 17, 2021).
- Regarding a joint Fatah-Hamas ticket, Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee, said Fatah had no intention of participating in such a ticket because it would run independently. Rajoub called on all the organizations to join a “broad national front.” He also said to leave Marwan Barghouti, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee imprisoned in an Israeli jail, and the other prisoners out of the “power games” (Palestinian TV, March 20, 2021).
- According to Hamas spokesman Husam Badran, the Hamas representatives in Cairo discussed the issue of forming a joint national ticket, but in effect for some time Hamas had been forming its own ticket. He said Israel would have the most to gain from Palestinian factionalism, fearing a Hamas victory and the movement’s return to the PLO and West Bank (al-Aqsa, March 20, 2021).
Fatah and Hamas intend to run on separate slates
(QudsN Facebook page, March 21, 2021).
The issue of the east Jerusalem voters
- Hussein al-Sheikh, senior Fatah figure close to Mahmoud Abbas, again stated that elections would not be held without the residents of east Jerusalem, as both candidates and voters. He tweeted that they had formally approached Israel regarding the participation of east Jerusalem residents in the elections, and Israel answered it would give its response after the elections in Israel (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account, March 18, 2021).
- According to Jibril Rajoub, the elections are an internal Palestinian issue with no connection to Israel, and the Palestinians insist they be held in all the Palestinian territories. He said there were agreements in place regarding elections, which in any case had already been held in the past. He said that at the meeting in Cairo there had been a consensus regarding Jerusalem’s participation in the elections and that the residents of Jerusalem, who were on the most difficult front line facing Israel, deserved representation and justice (Palestinian TV, March 20, 2021).
Israeli Security Agency head meets with Mahmoud Abbas
- The Israeli media reported that Nadav Argaman, head of the Israeli Security Agency, met with Mahmoud Abbas with an American representative present. They reportedly discussed three issues: the PA’s attempt to advance an investigation of Israel in the ICC, Fatah’s intention to run on a joint slate with Hamas in the PLC elections and an agreement to form a joint Fatah-Hamas government. Nadav Argaman warned Mahmoud Abbas of the consequences of the Palestinian efforts to advance an investigation and of Hamas’ establishing itself in Judea and Samaria after the elections (Israeli media, March 19, 2021).
The International Criminal Court (ICC)
- The office of the ICC’s chief prosecutor said it had sent formal announcements to the PA and Israel on March 9, 2021. From the moment the announcements are received the sides will have 30 days to decide if one or both of them want to hold internal investigations of [alleged] war crimes and to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations. If the court is satisfied with the process, it could allow the investigation to unfold under periodic ICC supervision, postponing or even cancelling its own investigation (AP, March 17, 2021).
PA foreign minister visits Holland
- Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki visited Holland this past week and met with the Dutch foreign minister. He also met with the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and with Peter Lewis, the ICC registrar. Al-Maliki said he esteemed the chief prosecutor’s office. He asked her to increase the pace of the investigation, noting that the Palestinians would cooperate with the ICC and its staff to reach an outcome (Wafa, March 18, 2021).
Riyad al-Maliki meets with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
(PA foreign ministry Facebook page, March 18, 2021).
- When al-Maliki returned it Ramallah from The Hague he was questioned by Israel at the border crossing from Jordan, as were those who crossed with him. That was after he and his entourage had been stripped of their permits to move freely within Judea and Samaria and through the border crossings (Israeli media, March 22, 2021). Palestinian figures were critical, and according to a statement from the PA foreign ministry, Israel was a vengeful country unable to resolve issues within a legal framework, and therefore escaped to scare tactics, sanctions and threats.
PA-American relations renewed
- A UAE news website revealed the draft of a document written by Hady Amar, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and elaborating on the approach of the American administration to the renewal of relations with the PA. According to the report, the document was sent to Anthony Blinken, the secretary of state. It mentioned an idea to decrease Palestinian violence and incitement while dealing with [alleged] Israeli violations relating to settlement activity and military invasions. One of the main ideas was the renewal of American aid to the Palestinians, including a variety of economic, security and humanitarian programs, and the renewal of American support for UNRWA. It was suggested that $15 million be given to the Palestinians to help combat the coronavirus epidemic, that the PLO legation in the United States be reopened and that formal relations be renewed (The National, March 18, 2021).
- The Palestinian reaction to the draft version of the document was unenthusiastic. Critics noted it included formal, unimportant measures like the reopening of the PLO legation, the restoration of part of America’s support for the Palestinians and UNRWA, and United States pressure on Israel to stop expanding the settlements. According to the critics, it was a return to America’s previous public foreign policies. They also claimed the United States would not be able to conduct normal relations with the Palestinians as long as it did not recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine” (Palestinian media).
Response to Israeli intention to raze buildings in Sheikh Jarrah (east Jerusalem)
- The Jerusalem Municipality recently authorized a plan to construct a memorial to the fighters of the 71st Paratroopers Battalion who participated in liberating the Temple Mount in the Six Day War. The memorial site is to be constructed in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, and will include a statue and an amphitheater (Israeli Kan TV, March 14, 2021).
- The Palestinian media gave extensive coverage to the plan which, they claimed, would include the demolishing of Palestinian homes. They published propaganda cartoons attacking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and notices calling on the Palestinian public to rescue the neighborhood (al-Quds, March 18 and 19, 2021). Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the official PA newspaper, gave coverage to Israel’s activities in east Jerusalem, described as [so-called] “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians and [alleged] “war crimes” against them. The newspaper claimed Israel was “forcing east Jerusalem residents to destroy their homes with their own hands” (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, March 21, 2021).
Right: Anti-Netanyahu cartoon (al-Quds, March 19, 2021). Left: The Arabic reads, “Save Sheikh Jarrah” (QudsN Facebook page, March 17, 2021).
- Muhammad Shtayyeh met in his office in Ramallah with a delegation of Sheikh Jarrah residents. Also present was Fadi al-Hidmi, PA minister for Jerusalem affairs. Shtayyeh condemned Israel’s actions in Sheikh Jarrah, promised he would put a stop to the “Judaization” [of east Jerusalem] and would strengthen the firm stance of the neighborhood’s residents (Wafa, March 18, 2021).
- The PIJ issued a statement calling Israel’s actions in Sheikh Jarrah “aggression against the Palestinian people,” and appealing to the public to use “popular resistance” [i.e., popular terrorism] measures against to combat the actions. The PIJ claimed Israel would pay for its aggression and that the “ball of fire Israel lit in Jerusalem will blow up in its face” (PIJ website, March 17, 2021).
Pakistani cleric proposes military and nuclear aid for the sake of al-Aqsa mosque
- The PA, in cooperation with Dr. Mahmoud al-Habash, Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor for religious affairs and the PA’s head cadi, held an online meeting of the Tenth Bayt al-Maqdis Conference. Participants included Muslim endowments ministers and clerics from a number of Muslim countries. The meeting was broadcast in real time by official Palestinian TV (which is directly subordinate to Mahmoud Abbas’ office).
- The opening speech was given by Muhammad Shtayyeh, who used quotations from Islamic sources to stress their connection with al-Aqsa mosque. He condemned Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, which he claimed “desecrated” the site and tried to change its Muslim character by determining prayer times and preventing Muslim worshippers from entering. He said that in the coming year the PA intended to strengthen the Islamic ties to al-Aqsa mosque.
- Attending the meeting was Maulana Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, a Pakistan religious authority and advisor to the Pakistani prime minister and chairman of the Pakistani council of Muslim scholars. He claimed Pakistan was the largest nuclear country and had a large army, and that every Pakistani loved “Palestine.” He said, “Men of Palestine, we are with you in our hearts and with our words. Our blood is yours to use for the sake of Islam’s holy places. Our blood is yours to use for the sake of the land of the two holy mosques [Mecca and Madinah], our money, our children and our blood are yours to use for conquest and to protect the two mosques and al-Aqsa” (Palestinian TV Facebook page, March 18, 2021).
Right: PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh’s opening speech. Left: Pakistani religious authority Maulana Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi speaks at the online conference (Pakistani TV Facebook page, March 18, 2021).
 Next week the bulletin will not appear because of Passover. We wish all our readers a happy holiday. ↑
 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. ↑