Press conference held by Yahya al-Sarraj, the mayor of Gaza City (Facebook page of the Gaza City municipality, April 28, 2020).
Vehicle at the Rihan Crossing after it rammed into a security post (Facebook page of the Crossings Authority in the Israeli ministry of defense, April 30, 2018).
Funds from Qatar distributed at post office bank branches, while people practice social distancing and operatives of Hamas' security forces supervise (Facebook page of Qatar's National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, May 2, 2020).
Mahmoud Abbas speaks before the unaligned nations forum (Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas, May 4, 2020).
Taysir Abu Sneineh, mayor of Hebron, condemns Israel's plan (Facebook page of the Hebron municipality, May 4, 2020).
- The spread of COVID-19 in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip has been moderate and is currently still under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. In Judea and Samaria the number of reported cases rose to 345 (69 recoveries). In the Gaza Strip there are 17 reported cases (12 recoveries).
- This past week events focused on the stabbing attack carried out near a shopping mall in Kfar Sava, in which a woman was slightly wounded. The attacker was a Palestinian who was staying in Israeli illegally. A vehicular attack carried out by an Israeli Arab was prevented at the Rihan Crossing (west of Jenin). The two attacks, in addition to the vehicular attack near Ma’aleh Adumim on April 22, 2020, indicate an initial resurgence of popular terrorism.
- In the political arena, the PA began diplomatic and media activity after reports that the future new Israeli government intends to annex parts of Judea and Samaria. The PA is making attempts to enlist the Arab states and the international community to exert pressure on Israel.
- In the legal arena, Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, issued a report stating that she has the authority to open an investigation into Israeli’s alleged “war crimes” in Judea, Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The PA’s foreign minister and the secretary general of the PLO’s Executive Committee thanked her for her “daring report,” stressing her legal opinion that the ICC has jurisdiction in the PA territories.
Judea and Samaria
- On May 4, 2020, Mai al-Kayla, the Palestinian minister of health, reported that the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Judea and Samaria had risen to 345 with the addition of nine cases from the Hebron district (eight from the village of Samo’a (south of Hebron), and one from the city of Hebron). The number of reported cases in east Jerusalem is 170 (Wafa, May 4, 2020). Following the increase in cases in Samo’a, Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of the Hebron district, immediately imposed a full lockdown on the village and closed all its businesses (Facebook page of the governor of the Hebron district, May 4, 2020). So far there have been 91 recoveries and two deaths (Corona Map portal, May 3, 2020).
- The distribution of COVID-19 cases according to the PA’s Corona Map portal is the following: the towns and villages surrounding Jerusalem (140 cases), the Ramallah district (77), the Bethlehem district (59) and the Hebron district (50), the Nablus district (seven), the Tulkarm district (six), the Jenin district (four), the Jericho district (one) and the Salfit district (one).
Extending emergency regulations
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh suggested that Mahmoud Abbas extend the emergency regulations in the PA territories once the original decree ended on May 4, 2020. Following his suggestion Mahmoud Abbas announced the emergency regulations would be extended by one month, that is, until June 5, 2020, to enable the PA to continue coping with the spread of the coronavirus (Wafa, May 5 2020)..
Return of Palestinians from Jordan
- During the past few days several hundred Palestinians who had been in Jordan returned to Judea and Samaria. About 300 entered the PA territories on May 3, and about 500 on May 4 (Sawa, May 4, 2020). According to Tawfiq Abu Na’im, deputy minister of the interior and responsible for the internal security forces in the Gaza Strip, about 170 of them are Gazans who are expected to enter through the Erez Crossing. Upon their arrival they will be taken directly to quarantine centers.
The Gaza Strip
- There has been no change in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the Gaza Strip. Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Hamas ministry of health, said that about 500 Gazans who were quarantined for 21 days had been discharged. He said that in the coming week the ministry of health expects to examine and discharge all those in quarantine who arrived in the Gaza Strip during the first half of April (Amad, May 4, 2020).
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
- On the afternoon of April 28, 2020, a Palestinian carried out a stabbing attack near a shopping mall in Kfar Sava, slightly wounding an Israeli woman standing at a bus stop. The attacker was shot and critically wounded. He was a Palestinian who wore a mask. A security guard driving by saw the attack and shot at the attacker, wounding him.
- The Palestinian was Muhammad Alaa’ Risha, 19, from Tulkarm, who arrived in Israel illegally on April 28, 2020 (Twitter account of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories in Arabic, April 28, 2020; Watan news agency, April 29, 2020).
Right: The scene of the stabbing attack in Kfar Sava (Twitter account of the Tulkarm Times, April 28, 2020). Left: Muhammad Risha, who carried out the stabbing attack (Twitter account in Arabic of the COGAT, April 28, 2020).
Vehicular attack prevented
- On April 30, 2020, an man drove to the Rihan Crossing (west of Jenin) from the Israeli side. He stopped his car a few yards from the security post at the entrance to the crossing. A guard motioned him to drive up slowly for a security check. At that point he accelerated and sped towards the guard, apparently planning to ram into him. The guard carried out established procedure for halting a suspect, which included firing his weapon into the air. The suspect drove his vehicle into a number of concrete blocks and finally into the guard’s booth. No casualties were reported. The driver of the vehicle was an Israeli Arab from the northern Israeli village of Barta’a. Interrogation revealed that he planned to carry out an attack and wanted to die (Israeli ministry of defense spokesperson’s unit, April 30, 2018).
Vehicle at the Rihan Crossing after it rammed into a security post (Facebook page of the Crossings Authority in the Israeli ministry of defense, April 30, 2018).
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles, although there has been a reduction in the number since the outbreak of COVID-19.
- The more prominent events were the following:
- May 4, 2020 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle at a junction southwest of Hebron. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, May 4, 2020).
- May 4, 2020 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near and at an Israeli security forces’ post near Hebron (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, May 4, 2020).
- May 3, 2020 – The Israeli security forces identified a number of Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails at near an Israeli community in the Jordan Valley. The forces shot at them, wounding one in the leg, and they ran away (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, May 4, 2020).
- May 3, 2020 – Palestinians placed tires and rocks on the road an IDF guard post northwest of Ramallah. In addition, three Molotov cocktails were thrown at an Israeli civilian vehicle. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, May 3, 2020).
- May 3, 2020 – A bottle of paint was thrown at an Israeli civilian vehicle southeast of Bethlehem. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, May 3, 2020).
- April 30, 2020 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli civilian bus northeast of Jerusalem. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, April 30, 2020).
- April 30, 2020 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli civilian vehicle north of Ramallah. No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, April 30, 2020).
- April 28, 2020 – Palestinians threw a pipe bomb at the trans-Judea road west of Hebron. The bomb exploded before it hit the ground. The Palestinians claimed the Palestinian who threw the bomb was wounded in the hand (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, April 28, 2020).
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019
The Rafah Crossing
- In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis the number of people entering and exiting Gaza through the Rafah Crossing has declined considerably. According to the data, during March 2020 6,287 civilians passed through the crossing, most of them (about 4,000) returning to Gaza, a significant decline from the 12,500 of February 2020 and 14,000 of January.
Financial difficulties of the local municipalities in the Gaza Strip
- Yahya al-Sarraj, mayor of Gaza City and chairman of the association of local municipalities in the Gaza Strip, said that because of the severe financial crisis of the local municipalities caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the decline in revenues, they had begun reducing services provided to the residents. He called on all the administrative and local bodies, and on international organizations as well to provide the funds necessary to continue the municipalities’ activities, especially fuel for operating local facilities, vehicles and sewage pumps. He also asked for financial aid to pay the salaries of municipal workers and to provide the means needed by the municipalities to continue their fight against COVID-19. He asked residents who were able to pay their municipal bills to do so (according to the Gaza City municipality, the rate of tax payments is 10%).
- Al-Sarraj stressed that reducing services would have negative consequences for public health because garbage could pile up in the streets as a result of delayed collection. Pumping water into the residents’ houses could also be affected, and the municipalities might have to dump sewage into the sea because the sewage treatment plants would no longer be in operation (website of the Gaza City municipality, April 28, 2020; al-Andalou News, April 28, 2020).
- Husni Muhanna, head of information for the Gaza City municipality, said the programs for the regular scheduled disinfection of vital facilities as part of the fight against COVID-19 had taken a heavy toll of the municipality’s budget. He said collecting and disposing of garbage had declined by 50% because there was not enough fuel to operate the garbage trucks. He added that the crisis also influenced the municipality employees, who had not been paid for two consecutive months (al-Andalou News, April 27, 2020).
The distribution of funds from Qatar
- Mohammed al-Emadi, chairman of Qatar’s National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, announced that on May 2, 2020, the committee would begin distributing aid funds. The money will be distributed through post office bank branches to 100,000 needy families, $100 to each. He said distribution would take place over two weeks and be carried out in coordination with the relevant agencies to ensure that public health guidelines were followed (Sawa, April 30, 2018). A spokesman for the ministry of the interior in Gaza said the ministry was making preparations to receive the money. He added that during the days of distribution large police forces would be deployed to prevent crowding at the post office branches to enforce COVID-19 restrictions (Facebook page of the ministry of communications and IT in Gaza, April 30, 2020).
Funds from Qatar distributed at post office bank branches, while people practice social distancing and operatives of Hamas’ security forces supervise (Facebook page of Qatar’s National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, May 2, 2020).
- In the meantime, the ministry of the treasury in Gaza announced the beginning of the April payments to families of Palestinians wounded and killed during the return marches. Payment will be made through the branches of the post office bank beginning May 5, 2020 (alresala.net, May 4, 2020).
Aid from Turkey for Ramadan
- The delivery of food packages to needy families for the Muslim religious month of Ramadan continues. Among the organizations sending help are the IHH, TIKA, the Turkish waqf and volunteers of a Turkish organization called “Life for Gaza” (website of the ministry of Muslim endowments in Gaza, April 28, 2020).
Food packages funded by Turkish organizations and delivered to the Gaza Strip
(website of the ministry of Muslim endowments in Gaza, April 28, 2020).
Hamas military wing operatives donate blood
- Hamas’ military wing published pictures of operatives of one of the Brigades holding a blood drive for “our sick people” (Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades Twitter account, April 28, 2020).
Activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military wing
- The website of the Jerusalem Brigades, the PIJ’s military wing, issued a video called “Our jihad continues even in the shadow of the coronavirus.” The video documents military activities of the wing’s operatives, such as digging tunnels, surveillance and preparing rockets for firing from underground launchers. The pictures show operatives obeying the required COVID-19 public health guidelines (Jerusalem Brigades website, April 28, 2020; Jerusalem Brigades Telegram channel, April 28, 2020).
Pictures from a PIJ video
(Jerusalem Brigades website, April 28, 2020; Paltoday, May 2, 2020).
- The al-Tufah wal-Darah Brigade of the PIJ’s military wing held a military display in the streets of Gaza City. It included a visit, for Ramadan, of operatives to the house of Bahaa Abu al-Atta and the houses of operatives killed during the most recent round of escalation (Paltoday, April 30 and May 2, 2020).
Jerusalem Brigades operatives visit the families of Bahaa Abu al-Atta and other terrorist operatives killed during the round of escalation after he died in a targeted killing (Paltoday, April 30 and May 2, 2020).
Al-Aqsa broadcasts for Ramadan
- At the beginning of Ramadan Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV started showing episodes of a series called “The ink of fire” in the evening. According to Amad Zaqout, deputy general manager of al-Aqsa TV, the channel produced the 26-episode series in fewer than ninety days. Each episode deals with an aspect of the Palestinians’ “firm stance” and “resistance” [i.e., violence and terrorism]. He added that the staff of al-Aqsa TV had faced many obstacles, the most serious of which was the lack of financial resources, which led to a delay in filming the series. Another obstacle was the coronavirus, to which one of the episodes was dedicated (gaza post, April 18, 2020).
Right: A picture from an episode called “Slingshot” dealing with how young Palestinians use slingshots to attack IDF spokesman soldiers. Left: A picture from an episode called “Ghost” dealing with a Palestinian sniper who from time to time leaves his hiding place to shoot at IDF soldiers (qudsnlive Facebook page, April 25, 2020).
Pictures from an episode called “Wadi al-Haramiya” dealing with a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian sniper on March 3, 2002, during the second intifada, which targeted an IDF roadblock in Wadi Haramiya (qudsnlive Facebook page, April 30, 2020).
The PA’s financial situation
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that so far the PA’s budget deficit had reached $1.4 billion. He said Israel’s decision to hold back $450 million of PA funds was “genuine piracy” and [allegedly] theft, and would increase the PA’s deficit. He added that the damage to the Palestinian economy caused by the COVID-19 crisis was expected to reach $3.1 billion by the end of the year (2020) (Facebook page of Muhammad Shtayyeh, April 27, 2020). According to the PA ministry of the treasury, at the end of March 2020 the Palestinian public debt was $10.27 million. The Palestinian government asked for a loan of $1.4 million from the local banking system, money that will be used until September 2020 (al-Eqtasad, May 1, 2020).
PA diplomatic and media activity regarding the Israeli government’s plans for annexation
- The PA and Hamas continue their diplomatic and media activity in the wake of the publication of the future Israeli government’s intention to annex parts of Judea and Samaria. To that end internal forums to discuss the issue were convened. At the same time, the PA is trying to enlist Arab and Western states to its side in an attempt to exert pressure on Israel to prevent the implementation of the plan.
- According to a request from the PA, on April 30, 2020, the foreign ministers of the Arab League held a [virtual] ad hoc conference to discuss possible steps the Arab countries could take against the annexation of PA territories. Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, accused Israel of exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to annex territories, and called on the Arab states to foil the plan. He expressed hope that the international community would offer support and exert pressure on Israel through sanctions (Palestinian TV, April 30, 2018).
- The foreign ministers called the Israeli government’s action to annex part of the 1967 territories “a new war crime,” to be added to the many other crimes Israel has [allegedly] committed against the Palestinian people. The foreign ministers called on the EU to exert pressure on Israel to halt its plans and to immediately recognize “Palestine” (Wafa, April 30, 2020).
- Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at a meeting of the unaligned nations, asking them to prevent Israel from exploiting the current situation to carry out the annexation. He said if Israel did annex the territories, the PA would consider itself released from the obligations of all the agreements signed with Israel and the United States (Palestinian TV, May 4, 2020).
Right: Mahmoud Abbas speaks before the unaligned nations forum (Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas, May 4, 2020). Left: A meeting of the Arab League’s foreign ministers (Facebook page of the Arab League, April 30, 2020).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, gave two lectures, one to Harvard and the other to the London Forward Thinking organization (both via Zoom) warning of Israel’s intention to annex territories in Judea and Samaria. He stressed that a partial or full annexation would destroy the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He also said that Mahmoud Abbas had sent letters to various countries warning of Israel’s intention and indicating the consequences (Twitter account of Saeb Erekat, May 2, 2020).
Saeb Erekat delivers a lecture using Zoom
(PLO website, May 2, 2020).
- The PA praised the initiative of nearly 130 members of the British Parliament who wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to impose economic sanctions on Israel if it annexed parts of Judea and Samaria. In addition, ten European ambassadors also sent an official protest to Israel. They said annexing parts of Judea and Samaria would have serious consequences for regional stability and Israel’s global status (The Guardian, May 2, 2020).
The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor claims she has the authority to open an investigation into “war crimes”
- On April 30, 2020, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, issued a 60-page report entitled “The Situation in the State of Palestine” [sic]. In the report she claimed she had the authority to open an investigation into the [alleged] “war crimes” committed by Israel in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. She also claimed “Palestine” is a state and therefore the court has the authority to order an investigation. She asked the court to determine the territorial borders of the area where an investigation could be carried out (ICC website, April 30, 2018).
- Note: In January 2020 a pre-trial panel of ICC judges rejected the prosecutor’s request to examine the court’s authority in the Palestinian issue and the possibility of the commission of war crimes in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The request was rejected at the time because of technicalities (the request was longer than permitted). At the time the panel of judges said the decision had been procedural and that the prosecutor could resubmit the appeal according to the rules of the court (ICC website, January 21, 2020).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, thanked Fatou Bensouda for her “daring report,” saying it was part of the defense of the “rights of the Palestinians” in the face of Israel’s [alleged] “crimes.” Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, welcomed the new report, and especially the decision that the court had jurisdiction over the PA territories (Wafa, April 30, 2020).
Plans to improve accessibility to the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
- Naphtali Bennet, the Israeli ministry of defense, authorized the improvement of accessibility to the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, at a cost $6 million. The renovations are being funded by the ministries of tourism, religion, heritage and defense. According to the plan, an elevator will be installed, a path will be paved from the parking lot and there will be a bridge between the elevator and the entrance to the Cave. The plan includes appropriating the land needed for construction. The Hebron municipality and the Jordanian waqf expressed opposition to the plan, claiming it violated both international and Jordanian law. In that way, according to the claim, Israel would own the site, which is directed by the Jordanian waqf and whose planning is under the authority of the Hebron municipality (Haaretz, May 4, 2020).
- The Israeli decision led to reactions from the Palestinians, who threatened they would carry out terrorist attacks (employ “resistance”) to prevent the implementation of the plan. Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees said they would do everything in their power to prevent the construction work.
Anti-Israel cartoons in the Palestinian media
Right: Israel is the tree the coronavirus grows on and Trump waters it while claiming China is the source of the disease (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the organ of the PA, May 4, 2020). Left: Israel exploits the COVID-19 crisis to extend construction in the settlements in Judea and Samaria (al-Quds, May 3, 2020).
 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. ↑
 Bahaa Abu al-Atta was the commander of the PIJ's northern Gaza Strip brigade. He died in an IDF targeted killing on November 12, 2019. His killing led to a round of escalation in the Gaza Strip. ↑