Palestinians rioting at the border fence in Gaza City (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, April 6, 2019).
Rioters burn tires near the security fence in eastern Khan Yunis (Facebook page of photojournalist Mariam Riyad DaGga, April 5, 2019).
Rioters burn tires near the security fence in eastern Khan Yunis (Facebook page of photojournalist Mariam Riyad DaGga, April 5, 2019).
Isma'il Radwan reads the summary announcement of the Supreme National Authority at the end of the day's activities (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, April 5, 2019).
Demonstrations in support of the prisoners. Right: Demonstration in Nablus (Wafa, April 6, 2019).
Isma'il Haniyeh meets with Palestinian journalists and intellectuals (Right: alresala.net Twitter account, April 2, 2019. Left: Twitter account of the information department of Isma'il Haniyeh's bureau, April 2, 2019).
Isma'il Haniyeh gives the Friday sermon in the Sheikh Salim Abu Muslim mosque in Beit Lahia.
- This past week events focused on the Friday return march, attended by about 10,000 Palestinians. The level of violence demonstrated was relatively low, similar to the previous week’s march (held on the anniversary of the first return march). A speaker from the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March said there was an informal agreement to stop the activities of the Night Harassment Units and the launching of incendiary balloons.
- This past week senior Hamas figures often made references to the understandings achieved through Egyptian mediation for an arrangement. They said Israel had already taken a number of positive steps, such as increasing the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles, transferring a donation of money for the employment of 20,000 residents of the Gaza Strip and lifting the ban on the import of certain goods. According to Isma’il Haniyeh, other issues are under discussion, including the supply of water and electricity, the crossings, a sea port, employment and freedom of movement.
- The security prisoners in Israeli jails announced that they would begin a hunger strike on April 7, 2019. The strike is apparently directed by Hamas. The Hamas prisoners’ information bureau announced that initially the prisoners’ supreme leadership would go on strike, and if understandings were not reached with the Israeli Prison Authority, 1,400 prisoners in five jails would join the strike.
The return march of April 5, 2019
- On Friday, April 5, 2019, the 53rd weekly return march was held. Its theme was “The victory of honor.” About 10,000 Palestinians participated in the march. The level of violence demonstrated during the events was relatively low. Most of the demonstrators gathered at the five return camps, located a few hundred meters from the border fence. However, there were several instances of Palestinians’ rioting at the security fence, throwing IEDs and stones, and burning tires. Several Palestinians tried to cross the security fence into Israeli territory. In one instance a Palestinian managed to cross the security fence but a short time later returned to the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians rioting at the border fence in Gaza City (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, April 6, 2019).
- A spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported that 83 Palestinians had been injured (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Twitter account, April 5, 2019). The Supreme National Authority announced that the theme of the April 12, 2019 march would be “Together we will struggle against normalization” (al-Aqsa, April 5, 2019).
- Senior Hamas figures were present at the events, among them Khalil al-Haya and Fathi Hamad. Khaled al-Batash from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was also present. They said that the easing of the situation in the Gaza Strip had been achieved by the return marches, and they would not stop until the siege had been lifted. Khalil al-Haya said the strategy of the marches was clear, and the objective was to exert pressure on Israel to meet the demands of the Palestinian people. He said Israel evaded all the agreements and understandings, and therefore the Palestinian people did not trust it (al-Aqsa, April 5, 2019). Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ political bureau who went to the return camp in Rafah, said the Palestinians were determined to continue the return marches until they had achieved their rights. He added that the restoration of their lands was close (al-Aqsa TV Twitter account, April 5, 2019; palsawa, April 5, 2019).
Right: Ahmed al-Mudallal from the PIJ (right) sitting next to Fathi Hamad at the return camp in eastern Rafah (Facebook page of the “Support of the intifada in the Rafah district,” April 5, 2019). Left: Isma’il Radwan reads the summary announcement of the Supreme National Authority at the end of the day’s activities (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, April 5, 2019).
Launching incendiary balloons and the activity of the Night Harassment Units
- Before the march, Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and of the Supreme National Authority, said there was an informal understanding regarding the cessation of the use of violence along the Gaza Strip border. He said the activities of the Night Harassment Units would stop and incendiary balloons would no longer be launched. He said no discussions had yet been held about the mini-flotillas, and the issue would be decided according to the weather. He called the cessation of violence an opportunity for the Egyptians to complete their work regarding the understandings reached with Israel (Dunia al-Watan, April 4, 2019). In addition, according to an article in al-Quds, the progress in achieving a lull allowed Hamas and the PIJ to instruct their operatives to completely stop the launching of balloons and the activities of the Night Harassment Units along the border (al-Quds, April 4, 2019).
The head of the Supreme National Authority lists the return march achievements
- Hamas, in coordination with the Supreme National Authority, organized a meeting to mark Land Day and a year of return marches. The meeting was attended by Isma’il Haniyeh, Yahya al-Sinwar and Supreme National Authority members. Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash, who heads the Supreme National Authority, listed the prominent achievements of the return marches, which he referred to as “a special event in Palestinian history.” He said the marches had returned the Palestinian cause to the spotlight, especially the issue of the refugees (Dunia al-Watan, April 2, 2019).
Contacts for an arrangement
- Contacts continue to reach an arrangement. A “senior figure” in the Supreme National Authority, who asked to remain anonymous, revealed information about the understandings with Israel. He said they were only humanitarian understandings and did not relate to politics. He said they did not come at the expense of the internal Palestinian reconciliation, but noted that they were necessary because of the sanctions the Palestinian Authority (PA) had imposed on the Gaza Strip. According to the “senior figure,” among the understandings reached were the following: extending the fishing zone, doubling the volume of trade by operating the crossings, restoring industry and agriculture, establishing industrial zones and agricultural lands, creating new jobs for young Palestinians, developing the infrastructure and finding a solution for the electricity crisis. He said it might take a while before all the understandings were implemented (Arabs21, April 4, 2019).
- Hamas sources revealed information about the contacts for an arrangement. They said that in light of Israel’s request, which was transmitted by the Egyptian delegation, the Hamas leadership was committed not to carry out attacks or showcase activities in the near future (al-Araby al-Jadeed, April 3, 2019).
- The following statements regarding contacts for a lull and understandings were made:
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, said Hamas had reached understandings with Israel regarding contacts for a lull and had received positive responses from Israel. He said that working on the issue were Egypt, Qatar and the UN through Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy to the Middle East (al-Andalou News, April 5, 2019).
- Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip, expressed esteem for the role of Egypt and Qatar in lifting the “siege” of the Gaza Strip. He said the understandings with Israel would have no political price and would not come at the expense of the “right for resistance” [i.e., terrorist activities] (Hamas website, April 6, 2019).
- Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said positive progress had been made in an understanding for a lull and lifting the “siege.” Some of the understandings were being implemented, he said, and demands were being met on the ground, although slowly. He said the return marches would continue but with changes in their methods in order to exert pressure on Israel to meet the demands of the Palestinians, and that Israel had no choice but to meet those demands. He said the organizations were following Israel’s degree of commitment. They had received confirmation from the groups overseeing the process regarding Israel’s agreement and commitment to meet many of the demands according to a set time table, and the understandings would be implemented one after another (Filastin al-Yawm, April 6, 2019). On another occasion he said the understandings were only humanitarian and Hamas and the other organizations were examining each step carefully to ensure that Israel did not receive any political concessions. He also said that despite the progress being made in the understandings, the option for a [military] confrontation with Israel was still on the table (Istiqlal, April 7, 2019).
- Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said the understandings regarding the lifting of the “siege” were progressing gradually according to a time table. He said Israel had already extended the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles, and had begun allowing the transfer of donations of funds for employing 20,000 Gazans. He also said the ban on the import of more than 80 items had been lifted (Abd al-Latif al-Qanua’s Twitter account, April 4, 2019).
- Senior PIJ figure Ahmed al-Mudallal said no signed political agreement, lull or long-term ceasefire existed, but rather the stabilization of the terms for a ceasefire that were signed in 2014 (at the end of Operation Protective Edge). He said that according to the understanding, the obvious equation would be “lull in return for lull” (al-Aqsa TV, April 6, 2019).
Rocket and mortar shell fire
- This past week no rocket or mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Attempted penetration into Israeli territory
- On April 4, 2019, IDF soldiers shot at three Palestinians who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip under the cover of darkness. The three were carrying knives. They were evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment (IDF spokesman, April 4, 2019).
Attempted stabbing attack
- On April 3, 2019, a Palestinian armed with a knife went to the roadblock near Hawwara (south of Nablus). He approached a car where a father was driving with his daughter and tried to stab them. The father fought back and a truck driver shot and seriously wounded the Palestinian, who later died in a hospital (IDF spokesman, April 3, 2019).
- The Palestinian media reported that the Palestinian was Muhammad Abdel Muni’m Abdel Fattah, 23, from Khirbet Kays in Salfit (Ariel region). He lived in the town of Beita (near Nablus) where he worked in a quarry. Also wounded in the incident was a Palestinian from the village of Rujeib (southeast of Nablus) (Wafa, April 3, 2019; Ma’an, April 3, 2019). The Fatah branch in Salfit issued a death notice on its Facebook page for its “son, the hero, the shaheed” (Facebook page of Fatah in Salfit, April 3, 2019). The PA foreign ministry condemned what it called “settlers’ terrorism” and said the Israeli prime minister was fully responsible for the [so-called] “crimes of the settlers” (Wafa, April 3, 2019). Hamas claimed the killing was part of the “crimes” Israel carries out in the West Bank (alresala.net, April 3, 2019).
Notice on the Facebook page of Fatah in Salfit mourning the death of its “son, the hero, the shaheed” Muhammad Abdel Muni’m Abdel Fattah (Facebook page of Fatah in Salfit, April 3, 2019).
Other events on the ground
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and civilian targets. Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity, seizing military grade and improvised weapons. The more prominent events were the following:
- April 8, 2019 – Israeli security forces carried out searches in the Qalqilya area and seized locally-manufactured weapons and tens of thousands of shekels intended for funding terrorist activities (IDF spokesman, April 8, 2019).
- April 7, 2019 – Stones were thrown at a vehicle near Givat Asaf (south of Beit El). No casualties were reported. The windshield of the vehicle was damaged (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, April 7, 2019).
- April 4, 2019 – Israeli security forces carried out searches in the village of Khirbet al-Adeir (Bethlehem area) and seized weapons, including a gun and ammunition (IDF spokesman, April 4, 2019).
- April 4, 2019 – Israeli security forces carried out searches in Hebron and Qabatiya and seized tens of thousands of shekels intended for funding terrorist activities (IDF spokesman, April 4, 2019).
- April 3, 2019 – Stones were thrown at a school bus full of children in al-Fawar, southwest of Hebron. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders, April 4, 2019).
- April 3, 2019 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle west of Ramallah. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders, April 3, 2019).
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since July 2017
Hunger strike of security prisoners in Israeli jails (updated to the morning of April 8, 2019)
- The security prisoners in Israeli jails announced, for the first time in two years, they would begin a hunger strike called “the second campaign for honor.” It would begin on April 7, 2019. The hunger strike protests the conditions in the jails, especially the devices intended to block cell phone reception (Shehab, April 6, 2019).
- According to the Hamas-controlled prisoners’ information bureau, the prisoners have four basic demands: to have a public phone installed that would enable them to call their families; to remove the devices blocking cell phone reception (of phones smuggled into the jails); to restore family visits and to cancel the measures and sanctions recently imposed on prisoners (Safa, April 7, 2019).
- Nahed al-Fakhouri, director of the prisoners’ information bureau, said the hunger strike would be carried out in two stages:
- During the first stage members of the “supreme leadership of the prisoners’ movement in the prisons” would go on strike. The strike will be unlimited in duration. If understandings are not reached with the prison authorities, additional measures will be taken in the coming days. The supreme leadership of the prisoners in Israeli jails said that at this stage about 30 senior prisoners would go on strike (Paldf, April 7, 2019).
- During the second stage 1,400 prisoners from all the organizations in five jails are supposed to join the strike. If the Israeli Prison Service continues ignoring the prisoners’ demands they will take the unprecedented step of not drinking water beginning on April 14, 2019 (alresala.net, April 7, 2019).
- On April 7, 2019, when the strike was supposed to begin, the information bureau announced it would be delayed by what it called “developments in the negotiations” with the prison service regarding meeting the prisoners’ demands (Paldf, April 7, 2019). At a meeting of representatives of the Palestinian organizations, Yahya al-Sinwar said Hamas would transmit to Israel, through Egypt, its demands regarding the prisoners. He said negotiations were being held by the Israeli prisoners authorities with the prisoners to reach an agreement. Egypt, he said, would monitor the developments and update Hamas (al-Aqsa, April 7, 2019).
Demonstrations in support of the prisoners. Right: Demonstration in Nablus (Wafa, April 6, 2019). Left: Demonstration in Hebron (QudsN Facebook page, April 7, 2019).
The Rafah Crossing
- On April 7, 2019, the sixth group of Palestinian pilgrims left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing en route to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to carry out the religious duty of an umrah (a pilgrimage not carried out during the time of the hajj). Exits from the Gaza Strip for Saudi Arabia began in March 2019, after four years during which pilgrims could not leave because the Rafah Crossing was closed (Watan News Agency, April 7, 2019)
Projects to improve the conditions in the Gaza Strip
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, reported that Hamas was advancing a $550 million water desalinating project. He claimed the desalination station would begin operations in September 2019. He added that Hamas was also focusing on the absorption of 15,000 university graduates in projects funded by Qatar, the World Bank and UNDP, and that he hoped the number would grow. He also claimed he had asked Qatar to increase the size of its monthly donation and continue paying Hamas until the end of the year. Haniyeh said Israel would allow the entrance into the Gaza Strip of 30% of the materials previously banned (because they could have both civilian and military uses) (al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 3, 2019).
Statements from senior Hamas figures
- Yahya al-Sinwar held a meeting with representatives of the Supreme National Authority, representatives of the organizations and respected figures in the Gaza Strip to mark the first anniversary of the return marches. At the meeting he claimed the “resistance” was ten times stronger today than in 2011. He claimed if they were forced into a war, he promised Israel would evacuate its civilians not only from the settlements near the border, from the Negev (southern Israel) and from Ashqelon, but from Tel Aviv as well. He also related to the following (Hamas website, April 6, 2019):
- Understandings regarding an arrangement: Yahya al-Sinwar recounted the understandings for an arrangement and said Hamas had asked the Egyptian delegation to transmit a series of demands to Israel, including stabilizing the ceasefire on the basis of the understandings of 2014 (the end of Operation Protective Edge). Israel was also requested not to place obstacles in the path of the [internal Palestinian] reconciliation, to stop its “attacks” in Jerusalem and on al-Aqsa mosque [sic], and to remove the roadblocks around the cities and villages in the West Bank.
- The return marches: Yahya al-Sinwar praised the Supreme National Authority and its director, [senior PIJ figure] Khaled al-Batash, for the efforts they made for the success of the marches. He said the marches had created a new equation with Israel. He called for demonstrations to be held at the same time at all the friction points in the West Bank, and if possible to carry out attacks.
- Egypt: Yahya al-Sinwar praised Egypt and its efforts to lift the [so-called Israeli] “siege” of the Gaza Strip. He added that Hamas had strengthened its ties with Egypt and that Egypt played a key role in easing the lot of the residents of the Gaza Strip.
Yahya al-Sinwar meets with Supreme National Authority members. Also present at the meeting were public figures, mukhtars and academics (Hamas website, April 6, 2019).
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, met with a group of Palestinian intellectuals and journalists in the Gaza Strip and updated them about political developments. The meeting was held in the Commodore Hotel in Gaza City and lasted three hours (Filastin Online, April 2, 2019). Haniyeh related to a number of issues, including the following (Hamas website, April 2, 2019):
- Rocket fire into Israel and the most recent round of escalation: The rocket that fell north of Tel Aviv was the result of a technical error, but it was a small example of a Hamas response if Israel thinks of doing “anything stupid.” He added that the two rockets fired during Yahya al-Sinwar’s meeting with the Egyptian delegation were the result of a human error. In their wake Israel carried out an act of aggression despite the fact that the organizations, including Hamas, announced they had no intention of initiating a confrontation. The organizations responded with mortar fire [at the Israeli communities] near the border after the attack on Hamas headquarters, and after that there was quiet. Haniyeh claimed he had personally exerted pressure on Hamas’ military wing not to broaden its response, to prevent people from saying the response was carried out for personal reasons.
- The return marches: The marches are part of the [so-called] “popular resistance” [i.e., popular terrorism], they are not limited to any specific organization and their objective is not to achieve immediate goals. Haniyeh stressed the importance of the objective of the marches, which was to lift the “siege” of the Gaza Strip, but added that all the aspects of the Palestinian cause were on the table. He added that the two most important achievements they were proud of were the establishment of the Supreme National Authority and the joint “resistance” operations room.
- Understandings for an arrangement: The document agreed on with Egypt was also transmitted to Qatar and the UN, which have a broad field of action on the issue. The topics of the understandings are water, electricity, the crossings, the naval passage, an airport, a sea port, employment and freedom of movement. He claimed they were close to receiving responses regarding a number of electricity projects but at this stage they were focusing on absorbing 15,000 university graduates into projects funded by Qatar, the World Bank and the UNDP. He said Hamas was monitoring the degree of Israel’s commitment to carrying out the understandings, although Hamas was of the opinion that it was necessary to see a practical achievement rather than hearing about one. He claimed that on April 1, 2019, the Egyptian delegation had given Hamas a time table for the implementation of may issues related to understandings for a lull. The delegation also received three demands related to the prisoners in Israeli jails.
- Isma’il Haniyeh gave the Friday sermon in the Sheikh Salim Abu Muslim mosque inn Beit Lahia, claiming there was positive movement in the talks for a lull. He said Hamas was operating on three levels to exert pressure on Israel to meet their demands. He claimed the march of March 30, 2019 had played an important role in “Israel’s surrender” to the demands of the Palestinians. He also said the return marches would continue. He praised the joint operations room of the [Palestinian terrorist] organizations, saying they were “blood brothers, brothers in arms, and brothers in responding to the crimes of the Israeli occupation against our people” (Hamas website, April 5, 2019).
Right: Isma’il Haniyeh gives the Friday sermon in the Sheikh Salim Abu Muslim mosque in Beit Lahia. Left: The mosque (Sheikh Salim Abu Muslim mosque in Beit Lahia Facebook page, March 26, 2019).
Formation of the new Palestinian government
- The Palestinian media reported that the contacts being held for the formation of the new Palestinian government were reaching their conclusion and in the coming days Muhammad Ashtiya, who was chosen to serve as prime minister of the Palestinian government, would present the new government. According to Ashtiya, all the Palestinian organizations invited to participate in the government had announced their decision and six organizations would participate: Fatah, FIDA (the Palestinian Democratic Union), the Popular Struggle Front, the Palestinian People’s Party, the Arab Liberation Front and the Palestinian Liberation Front (Dunia al-Watan, April 3, 2019). On April 7, 2019, Majed al-Fityani, secretary of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, said the names of the ministers in the new government were not yet ready (QudsN Facebook page, April 7, 2019).
Hamas cartoon criticizing the new Palestinian government. “The government of all the Palestinians!” (Alaa’ al-Laqta’s Facebook page, April 6, 2019).
 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. ↑