A riot in the village of Qusra (Facebook page of Qusra Now, December 5, 2017).
Israeli vehicles damaged by stones thrown by Palestinians near the village of Husan, west of Bethlehem (Palinfo Twitter account, December 3, 2017).
Post belonging to the PIJ's military-terrorist wing in the northern Gaza Strip after an IDF attack (Safa, December 4, 2017).
Gazans demonstrate in front of the government's offices demanding the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip be lifted immediately (Palinfo Twitter account, December 4, 2017).
Egyptian security delegation headed by General Sameh Nabil meets with Isma'il Haniyeh and other senior Hamas figures, including Rawhi Mushtaha, Fathi Hamad and Khalil al-Haya (Palinfo Twitter account, December 4, 2017).
- This past week there was a stabbing attack in the southern Israeli city of Arad. An IDF soldier was killed while waiting for a ride to his base. The attack was carried out by two men who stabbed him in the back and fled. The Israeli security forces detained two young Bedouin suspects. They gave up a gun they stole from the soldier.
- On November 30, 2017, in an exceptional attack, between ten and twelve mortar shells were fired at an IDF post and IDF soldiers north of the Gaza Strip. In Israeli security source assessment, the attack was the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) response to the destruction of a tunnel a month ago that caused the deaths of 12 operatives. PIJ spokesmen said the organization was waging “an open [i.e., unending] war against the [Israeli] occupation,” and that “accounts with Israel have not yet been settled.”
- Difficulties continue in implementing the internal Palestinian reconciliation. The two main problems on the current agenda are the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) demand to enable the transfer of authority over the Gaza Strip to the national consensus government, and Hamas’ demand to lift the sanctions the PA imposed on the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian mediators are trying to bridge the gap between the two sides and motivate them to make progress.
- In light of reports in the media that the president of the United States is planning to declare recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the American embassy, the PA initiated a campaign to exert pressure on the Americans. Its main message is that if the United States does carry out its intentions regarding Jerusalem, it will not be able to continue as a mediator in the peace process. Hamas also called for Palestinians to take a firm stance against the American proposal and to reawaken the so-called “Jerusalem intifada” [i.e., popular terrorism]. Note: In the meantime, the American media reported that on December 6, 2017, Donald Trump was expected to announcement American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Terrorist Attacks and Attempted Terrorist Attacks
- On the evening of November 30, 2017, an IDF soldier was stabbed to death in the southern Israeli city of Arad. He was waiting for a ride to his base when two men stabbed him in the back, stole his weapon and fled. They erected roadblocks and searched for suspects.
- Four days later, on December 4, 2017, the media were allowed to report that the day after the attack two Israeli Bedouins in their twenties were detained on suspicion of murder. Interrogation revealed that their motive was apparently nationalist. They said they had especially chosen a site where soldiers waited for rides. They also gave up the weapon they stole from the soldier (Israeli media).
Israeli hikers attacked near the village of Qusra
- On November 30, 2017, a group of young Israeli hikers was attacked near the village of Qusra (near Nablus) by dozens of Palestinians who threw stones and rocks at them. One of the Palestinians grabbed a weapon from one of the group’s security guards and threatened to shoot at the young Israelis. The Israelis fled to a nearby cave and were later rescued by the IDF. Two Israelis were wounded. In response to the attack one of the adults accompanying the trip opened fire, killing Muhammad Z’al Awda, 47, who was working the land nearby. The Palestinians claim he was not involved in the event.
Muhammad Z’al Awda, killed by Israeli fire at Palestinians who attacks a group of Israeli hikers (Palinfo, December 1, 2017).
- The PA condemned the action taken by “settlers” against the Palestinian villagers from Qusra. The PA claimed the event demanded immediate international intervention. The PA also claimed the Israeli government was responsible and had to punish those involved (Wafa, November 30, 2017). Fatah called the event “genuine [Israeli] terrorism” and said that the blood of the Palestinian (“shaheed”) who had been killed was not shed in vain and that would intensify the “popular resistance” in its struggle against Israel (Wafa, November 30, 2017).
- Husam Badran, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, claimed the number of attacks carried out by settlers in Judea and Samaria has recently risen. He said the most suitable response to the attacks is “the resistance and its weapons” [i.e., terrorism], and therefore the PA has to defend the “resistance,” supporting it instead of oppressing and persecuting it. Badran called on the “resistance” operatives in Judea and Samaria to avenge the deaths of the shaheeds (Safa, November 30, 2017).
Riots, clashes and popular terrorism
- This past week Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. The Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining several dozen Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity and seizing weapons. Other events were the following:
- December 4, 2017 – Dozens of Palestinians rioted near the village of Qusra (Nablus region). They threw stones and rolled boulders, burned tires and threw Molotov cocktails. The Israeli security forces closed the area and used riot control measures to contain the rioters. The Palestinian media reported one Palestinian was wounded (Wafa, December 4, 2017).
- December 1, 2017 – The Israeli security forces destroyed the house of Muhammad Abd al-Rab in the town of Qabatiya. He was one of the murderers of Reuven Shmerling, who was killed in a stabbing attack in the village of Qassem in October 2017. During the razing of the house dozens of Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli security forces and burned tires. No casualties were reported (Facebook page of Red Alert, December 1, 2017).
- November 30, 2017 – Palestinians threw stones at an IDF vehicle between Migdalim and the Alon Junction in Samaria. A female Israeli soldier was injured. (Facebook page of Red Alert, November 30, 2017).
- November 29, 2017 – Israeli policemen in Tel Aviv detained two Palestinians staying in the country illegally who tried to enter the central bus station. A knife was found in their possession. They were taken for interrogation (Facebook page of Red Alert, November 29, 2017).
- November 28, 2017 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a bus north of Halhul (Gush Etzion). No casualties were reported (Facebook page of Red Alert, November 28, 2017).
Significant Terrorist Attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem during the Past Two Years
Mortar shell fire attacking Israel
- On November 30, 2017, in an exceptional attack, between ten and twelve mortar shells were launched at IDF posts and IDF soldiers constructing a barrier near the community of Erez north of the Gaza Strip. The mortar shells fell in open areas. There were no casualties and no damage was reported. Israeli security sources reported that the mortar shells were fired by the PIJ in revenge for blowing up one of its tunnels and the deaths of 12 operatives (October 30, 2017).
- In response to the mortar shell fire, IDF tanks and aircraft attacked four terrorist targets of Hamas and the PIJ’s military-terrorist wing. Israel stressed that while the mortars had been fired by the PIJ, Israel regarded Hamas as responsible for everything that happened in the Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, November 30, 2017). On orders from Israel security, train service was halted between Ashqelon and Ashdod, and farmers were asked not to work their fields.
- The Palestinian media reported that Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a number of posts of the PIJ’s military wing and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The combat information unit of the PIJ’s military-terrorist wing reported that there had been no losses. A spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported that three Palestinians had incurred minor injuries in the attack on the “Abu Jarad” post south of Gaza City (Websites of the Jerusalem Battalions, Paltoday and Shehab, November 30, 2016).
- “Informed sources” reported that a senior figure of Egyptian General Intelligence spoke on the phone with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, deputy PIJ secretary general, who stays in Lebanon, to prevent an escalation of the hostilities with Israel. In the meantime the Egyptian delegation in the Gaza Strip met with the PIJ leadership to discuss the reconciliation agreement (Filastin al-Yawm, November 30, 2017). Nafez Azzam, a member of the PIJ’s political bureau, said the meeting with the Egyptian delegation had been “positive” and that there was mutual trust (al-Sharq al-Awsat, December 2; Paltoday, December 1, 2017).
- PIJ spokesman Da’ud Shehab blamed Israel and claimed that the “resistance” had the right to defend itself and respond (Filastin al-Yawm, November 30, 2017). On another occasion he said Israel had left them “no choice but to respond in an appropriate manner.” He claimed the mortar shell fire into Israel was in response for what had happened in the village of Qusra and that the PIJ was waging “an open [i.e., unending] war against the occupation” (al-Mayadeen, November 30, 2017).
PIJ spokesman Da’ud Shehab interviewed by the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV channel (al-Mayadeen, December 3, 2017).
- According to Khaled al-Batash, a senior figure in the PIJ, the “resistance” has to be ready at all times for every Israeli attack. For that reason the PIJ has many plans in place to attack Israel. He also said that it was always possible to go from defense to offense, that “accounts with Israel have not yet been settled,” and the death of the shaheeds was not in vain (al-Quds, December 2, 2017).
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.
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits in Israel’s South
Clashes along the Israel-Gaza Strip Border
- On December 1, 2017, young Palestinians approached the border security fence and clashed with IDF forces. The clashes occurred east of the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, and east of the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. A spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported that a 16-year-old Palestinian had been seriously injured east of Jabalia when he was hit in the leg by a bullet, and that he had been taken to a hospital (Ma’an and alresala.net, December 1, 2017).
Difficulties in transferring authority over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian national consensus government
Positions taken by Hamas and Fatah
- Azzam al-Ahmed strongly criticized Hamas, saying that while Hamas had stated in writing that it was prepared to transfer control over the Gaza Strip to the PA, in reality it is doing no such thing. He said that so far only a small fraction of the transfer had been completed (al-Jazeera, November 29, 2017). On another occasion he said that since the beginning of the process many obstacles had been placed in the path of the national consensus government. He also said that Hamas’ administrative committee has not yet been disbanded (al-Najah, November 30, 2017).
Azzam al-Ahmed accuses Hamas of making it difficult to transfer authority over the Gaza Strip to the national consensus government (al-Jazeera TV, November 29, 2017).
- According to Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, all the [Palestinian] organizations had agreed that the date had to be postponed to December 10, 2017. He claimed there were differences of opinion about the wording of the announcement. He claimed Hamas was interested in reconciliation and that despite the differences of opinion and accusations, Hamas would continue making progress towards it (al-Jazeera, December 2, 2017).
Main points of disagreement
- One of the disagreements between the sides is the fact that the national consensus government has not yet announced it would lift the sanctions Mahmoud Abbas imposed on the Gaza Strip. Hamas issued a statement demanding the national consensus government lift the sanctions, and if it didn’t, it should resign and appoint “a national rescue government.” According to the statement, the national consensus government had received “full authority for all the ministries in the Gaza Strip,” but continued the sanctions. The statement also claimed that the government had been negligent in defending the “resistance” of the Palestinian people to Israeli policy, and had made it difficult for the “resistance” to function (Hamas website, December 2, 2017). In response a spokesman for the national consensus government said the Hamas statement was full of lies and that the government had not received all the authority for the Gaza Strip, but rather “no more than 5%” (Wafa, December 2, 2017).
- Another issue for continuing disagreement is the rehiring of PA employees fired in 2007 when Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip. On November 28, 2017, a meeting of the national consensus government decided that all the employees in the public sector who had been sitting at home since 2007 would return to work (Wafa, November 28, 2017). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Hamas regarded the decision as a violation of the 2011 Cairo agreement, and as circumventing agreed upon missions of the legal-administrative committee, according to which the return of the employees would be carried out according to a mechanism recommended by the committee (Hamas movement website, November 28, 2017).
- Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, claimed the PA’s decision to rehire its employees in the Gaza Strip was provocation, and demanded the government revoke the decision (Dunia al-Watan, November 28, 2017).
Hamas cartoon criticizing the Palestinian national consensus government decision to rehire its former employees in the Gaza Strip (alresalah.net, November 30, 2017).
Delegations meet in Cairo
- In light of the differences of opinion and delays in implementing the agreement, the Egyptians are making an effort to rescue the reconciliation, and to that end summoned Hamas and Fatah delegations to Cairo for talks. A Hamas delegation headed by Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip, went to Cairo at the summons of the Egyptians to examine the issue of the reconciliation (Hamas website, December 2, 2017). The Fatah delegation was headed by Azzam al-Ahmed and Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian general intelligence. The delegations met with Khaled Fawzy, head of Egyptian General Intelligence (Dunia al-Watan, December 2, 2017).
- Upon its return to the Gaza Strip, the Hamas delegation published a statement according to which all the important issues had been discussed at the meetings in Cairo and in the future they would hold more meeting to implement the agreements that had been signed. Hamas said it was committed to the reconciliation process and noted the need for the national consensus government to fulfill “its duty to the Palestinian people” (Hamas website, December 3, 2017).
- Azzam al-Ahmed claimed that as far as he was concerned, resolving all disagreements related to transferring authority to the national consensus government had been agreed on at the meeting. He claimed that in light of the long meetings that had been held one after another, he hoped that by December 10, 2017, all the obstacles would be removed and the national consensus government could begin its work, with Egyptian supervision and support. He also claimed Egypt would increase the number of members of the security delegation currently in the Gaza Strip (Wafa, December 3, 2017). In consequence, on December 4, 2017, General Sameh Nabil, responsible for the Palestinian portfolio in Egyptian General Intelligence, arrived in the Gaza Strip to join the Egyptian delegation (Palinfo, December 4, 2017).
The humanitarian situation
- The Rafah crossing remains closed to the passage of Palestinians into and out of the Gaza Strip. However, Egypt renewed the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip: Egyptian trucks have been entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing carrying fuel to operate the power plant (Filastin al-Yawm, December 1, 2017).
Hamas’ security forces continue to secure the border with Egypt
- Hamas’ national security forces in the Gaza Strip (and not the PA’s national security forces) continue to secure the border with Egypt. They detained four smugglers who tried to infiltrate into Egyptian Rafah in the Sinai Peninsula. Before they were detained two of them were wounded by Egyptian security force gunfire (Facebook page of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, November 28, 2017).
Na’im al-Ghoul, commander of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, visits the border after an attempted infiltration (Facebook page of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, November 28, 2017).
- In the meantime, work continues to complete the program to increase security control of the Egypt-Gaza Strip border. Hamas’ national security forces placed a number of new posts along the border after the barbed wire fence was installed and the ground along the border was levelled (Facebook page of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, November 29, 2017).
Palestinian reactions to the American intention to declare Israel the capital of Israel and relocate the embassy
- This past week the American media reported that the American president was planning to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and to relocate the American embassy. If Donald Trump does in fact decide to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it will mean a change in American policy. Until now it has been American policy that the future of Jerusalem will be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. On December 4, 2017, a spokesman for the White House announced that the president had delayed the date of deciding about the embassy and that he would make the decision in the coming days. As to recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, no decision has yet been published. Note: In the meantime, the American media reported that on December 6, 2017, Donald Trump was expected to announcement American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
- In order to exert pressure on the United States, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas held talks with regional leaders. He spoke with King Abdallah of Jordan, the presidents of Turkey and Egypt, the emir of Qatar and the Saudi Arabian crown prince, and asked to the act (Wafa, December 2, 2017). He said no position should be taken that would destroy the political negotiations and that the status quo could not be changed (Wafa, December 2, 2017). He also spoke with Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ overall political bureau.
- On instructions from Mahmoud Abbas, Riyad al-Maliki, foreign minister of the national consensus government, held talks with the heads of the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He said that if the United States continued as planned concerning Jerusalem, it would lose its role as mediator in the peace process (Wafa, December 3, 2017). Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, also appealed to Ahmed Abu Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, calling for an emergency meeting because “the issue of Jerusalem is a matter for the entire Arab nation” (Filastin al-Yawm, December 3, 2017).
- Mahmoud Abbas sent Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian general intelligence, to Washington to participate in contacts with the American administration, along with Husam Zomlot, the PLO’s representative in the United States, and Saeb Erekat (al-Ghad TV and PNN, December 1,2017). According to Husam Zomlot, during an urgent meeting held in the White House, a message was delivered from the Palestinian leadership to the American administration, stating that any change in American policy regarding Jerusalem would prevent the United States from continuing as a mediator in the peace process, destroy the hope of achieving a just and comprehensive peace, and increase regional instability and extremism (Wafa, December 4, 2017).
- While contacts were being held in Washington, Ziyad Abu Amro, deputy PA prime minister, speaking for Mahmoud Abbas, met with the American consul in Jerusalem. He told the consul that relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem or recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be potentially dangerous and extensively protested in the Palestinian territories and in the Arab-Muslim world. That was because Jerusalem was not only the capital of “Palestine,” but also an Arab-Muslim issue. Abu Amro called on the American administration to reexamine its position in order to preserve the remaining chances for achieving peace, and not to take any step that might threaten those chances (Wafa, December 4, 2017).
- The Palestinian ministry of information called for Wednesday, December 6, 2017, to mark an international day for support of Jerusalem (Palestinian TV, December 4, 2017). The Palestinian ministry of education declared a “day of rage” in all the PA schools to express opposition to the American position (Safa, December 4, 2017).
Right: Announcement issued by the secretaries of the Fatah branches in Judea and Samaria calling on Fatah activists to follow the plan for the struggle issued by the movement if Trump’s December 6 speech includes a decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize it as Israel’s capital (Facebook page of the Fatah movement, December 4, 2017). Left: PLO circular calling on labor unions and associations to join its protests on December 6 if Trump announces the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem (Twitter account of QudsN, December 5, 2017).
- Some additional reactions were the following:
- Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating the embassy were potentially dangerous for the future of the peace process and harmed regional security (Wafa, December 2, 2017).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said if the United States put its plan into operation it would end the peace process (Dunia al-Watan, December 23, 2017). He said a Palestinian state would have no significance without east Jerusalem as its capital. He said Jerusalem was one of the most important issues and had been left for the final negotiations, and thus it was unthinkable that one side would irreversibly change the situation and put results ahead of negotiations (al-Jazeera, December 1, 2017). In another interview he claimed that stopping negotiations with Israel in response to a relocation of the American embassy would be the proportional response demanded by the Palestinian people and the Arab nations (al-Arabiya al-Hadath, December 1, 2017).
- Nabil Shaath, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas for foreign affairs and international relations, condemned the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and claimed if the United States did recognize it that would end its role as mediator in the peace process. He claimed the Palestinians would not cooperate with anyone who acted against the decisions of international agencies or with anyone who recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- Hamas said in a statement that it had concerns about the decision which, it claimed, expressed “serious American aggression towards Jerusalem.” According to the statement, no decision would change the fact that Jerusalem was land belonging to the Palestinian people. Hamas called for Palestinians to take a firm stance against the decision and to reawaken the Jerusalem intifada [i.e., popular terrorism] to keep the decision from being implemented (Hamas website, December 2, 2017).
- Salah al-Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said America’s threats to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were a “new Balfour Declaration.” He claimed the United States was unable to determine the identity of Jerusalem because its identity was linked to the Muslims around the globe and the Arab-Muslim nation. He warned that the consequences would be very dangerous (Safa, December 2, 2017).
Right: The American president gives Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu the Temple Mount over the heads of Muslims. The Arabic reads, “The direction for Muslim prayers!..” (Palinfo Twitter account, December 3, 2017). Left: Trump as a scarecrow in the hands of the Jews, while the Arab regimes hide their heads in the sand (Facebook page of Isma’il al-Bazam, December 3, 2017)
 A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included. ↑
 For further information about the destruction of the tunnel, see the News of Terrorism and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict bulletin for October 25 –31, 2017. ↑
 The statistics do not include mortar shell fire or rockets which misfired and fell inside the Gaza Strip. ↑