A balloon cluster carrying a mortar shell launched by the Sons of al-Zawari unit in the al-Shati refugee camp (Facebook page of Thuar al-Shati, February 11, 2020).
IED balloons launched on February 12, 2020, by the Sons of al-Zawari unit in Rafah at an IDF post east of Rafah (Facebook page of the Sons of al-Zawari unit in Rafah, February 13, 2020).
The stabber attacks a Border Police fighter.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh gives a speech at the rally (Wafa, February 11, 2020).
The rally in support of Mahmoud Abbas in the center of Ramallah.
The front windshield of the car (Magen David Adom, February 17, 2018).
Launching terrorist campaign to visit the families of the shaheeds began at the house of Ahmed al-Ja'abari in Gaza City (right) and Fathi Shqaqi in Rafah (left) (Hamas website, February 15, 2020).
- This past week terrorism from the Gaza Strip included sporadic rocket fire and the launching of IED balloons into Israel. The Palestinian and Israeli media reported that after the visit of the Egyptian security delegation to the Gaza Strip (February 10, 2020), it was decided to stop the IED balloon launches. Israel, for its part in the arrangement, promised to implement measures within the lull understandings to ease situation in the Gaza Strip if quiet is maintained. However, the situation is still volatile and time will tell if political activity will bring an end to the ongoing violence from the Gaza Strip.
- In Judea and Samaria this past week there was a stabbing attack at the Cave of the Patriarchs. A Border Police fighter struggled with and overcame his attacker (February 16, 2020). The previous day a Palestinian planning to carry out a stabbing attack was detained at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs. In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued protests against the Trump plan, although with low intensity and without exceptional friction with the Israeli security forces.
- On February 12, 2020, the UN Human Rights Council issued a list of 112 “business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.” The Palestinians are planning to use the list as leverage for their legal, political and propaganda campaign against Israel. Senior Palestinian figures said that in the near future they would send communiqués to the countries in which the “business enterprises” are based, with a demand to close their offices and branches in the Israeli settlements. Otherwise, the Palestinians would “deal with them” in international courts.
- This past week terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip continued. They included the continuation of sporadic rocket and mortar fire and the launching of IED balloons into Israeli territory. In response Israel renewed its sanctions, including the limitation of the fishing zone, revoking the permits for businessmen to enter Israel, and again banning the delivery of cement into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli and Palestinian media reported that Israel had agreed, again, to implement measures within the lull understandings to ease situation in the Gaza Strip if quiet is maintained in return for the cessation of rocket and mortar fire and the launching of IED balloons. However, time will tell if this political activity stabilizes security in the Gaza Strip.
- The Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March announced that in light of “new challenges,” especially the Trump plan, the name of the authority has been changed to the “Supreme Authority for the Return Marches and the Struggle Against the Deal.” The stated objective is to emphasize the united Palestinian position against the Trump deal.
- However, the Authority announced that the activities it organizes would continue and called on the Palestinian people to participate (al-Ra’i, February 17, 2020). Mahmoud Khalaf, a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the return marches would recommence of March 30, 2020 (as initially planned). He added that the activities of the Night Harassment Units and the mini-flotillas were on the agenda and were being considered by the Supreme Authority (Dunia al-Watan, February 17, 2020).
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
- Rocket and mortar fire attacking Israel continued this past week as well. Three rockets were fired into Israeli territory, falling in open areas. No casualties or damage were reported:
- February 15, 2020: Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev, falling in open areas. No casualties or damage were reported. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a Hamas military compound in the central Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, February 16, 2020). The Palestinian media reported attacks on targets near the port in western Khan Yunis, the Deir al-Balah region and Rafah (Dunia al-Watan, Shabakat Quds, February 16, 2020).
- February 11, 2020: A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. No casualties or damage were reported (IDF spokesman, February 11, 2020).
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
Weekly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since the Escalation of November 11, 2019
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
IED balloon terrorism
- On February 11, 2020, a number of hours after an Egyptian security delegation left the Gaza Strip, a “source in the Gaza Strip” reported that the leadership had decided to stop launching incendiary and IED balloons into Israel. The source added that the decision had been circulated to the field units dealing with balloon-launching (al-Quds, February 11, 2020).
- Following the report, the Sons of al-Zawari unit in the al-Shati refugee camp posted to its Facebook page that an official decision had been made by “supreme headquarters” to stop the IED balloon launches. According to the post the launches had been stopped in return for a number of Egyptian-Israeli gestures to ease the situation in the Gaza Strip, which would go into effect on February 12, 2020. The measures included increasing the range of the fishing zone, increasing the number of permits for entrance into Israel issued to businessmen, the delivery of fishing boats, authorization for the export of a number of Gazan-made commodities which so far have been banned (Facebook page of Thuar al-Shati, February 11, 2020). On February 14, 2020, a few other Sons of al-Zawari units announced they would stop launching balloons (Twitter account of the Popular Resistance Movement, February 14, 2020).
The post about the formal decision to stop launching IED balloons
(Facebook page of Thuar al-Shati, February 11, 2020).
- In reality, apparently so far there has been no total cessation of IED balloon launches into Israel. The Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported that the instructions had been to decrease the number of balloon launches but not to stop them completely. That would be until an assessment had been made of the degree of Israel’s commitment to meeting the demands of the [terrorist] organizations (al-Akhbar, February 15, 2020).
Right: IED balloons launched on February 12, 2020, by the Sons of al-Zawari unit in Rafah at an IDF post east of Rafah (Facebook page of the Sons of al-Zawari unit in Rafah, February 13, 2020). Left: Operatives of Ahfad al-Nasser in Khan Yunis launch incendiary and IED balloons on February 13, 2020 (Facebook page of Gazan journalist Hassan Aslih, February 13, 2020).
- Notable launches were the following:
- February 18, 2020: An IED balloon carrying an RPG warhead was found in an orange grove in a kibbutz in the western Negev (Ynet, February 18, 2020).
- February 17, 2020: A balloon cluster carrying a suspicious object was found in a field in the western Negev (western Negev spokesman’s unit, February 17, 2020).
- February 16, 2020: An IED balloon landed in the yard of a house in the western Negev near children who were playing close by (Israel Channel 13 news, February 16, 2020).
- February 14, 2020: A balloon cluster with a suspicious object attached to it was found in the southern Israeli city of Netivot. Demolitions experts were summoned to deal with it.
- February 13, 2020: IED balloon clusters were found in two schools in the southern Israeli city of Sderot (Sderot municipality, February 13, 2020). An IED balloon cluster exploded in the air above a community in the western Negev (Ma’ariv, February 13, 2020).
IED balloon cluster found in back of a school in Sderot
(Sderot municipality spokesman’s unit, February 13, 2020).
- On February 17, 2018, a Palestinian armed with a knife went to a Border Police checkpoint at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. His behavior aroused the suspicions of the Border Police fighters manning the checkpoint and he was not permitted to enter the Cave precinct. He was requested to present himself for a more thorough examination. In response he drew the knife he had hidden in his jacket and began stabbing one of the Border Police fighters. The fighter, with the aid of one of his comrades, overcame the terrorist. The stabber, 19 years old, came from the village of Ramadin (southwest of Hebron). He was taken for interrogation (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, February 17, 2020).
- On February 16, 2020, Border Police fighters at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs detained a Palestinian who had refused to be examined. He attacked one of the fighters. A knife was found in his possession. According to the initial interrogation, the 16-year-old Palestinian came from the village of Dura (southwest of Hebron). He said he had planned to carry out a stabbing attack (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, February 16, 2020).
The knife found in the Palestinian’s possession
(Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, February 16, 2020).
Body found of a terrorist who carried out a shooting attack
- After an intelligence and operational effort and extensive searches, the Israeli security forces found the body of the terrorist who carried out a shooting attack on February 6, 2020 (during which an IDF soldier was slightly wounded). It was found in dense underbrush. Near the body were an M16 assault rifle and a hand gun. Hamas issued a mourning notice for Fakhr Abu Zayid Qart, 51, from Bituniya, who carried out the shooting attack (Hamas website, February 17, 2020).
Events in Judea and Samaria
- In Judea and Samaria protests against the Trump plan continued, although with a low intensity. Despite the calls for the public to participate in the protests there was no extensive response and the events were relatively limited. Notable was the rally in Ramallah on February 11, 2020, held close to the time of Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the UN Security Council. Thousands of Palestinians attended the rally, some of them bussed in with organized transportation.
- Mahmoud al-‘Alul, deputy Fatah chairman, gave a speech in which he said the Palestinians could not accept the Trump plan because it recognized Israel as a Jewish state, ceded Jerusalem, waived the [so-called] “right of return” [of the Palestinian refugees] and did not relate to dozens of other Palestinian conditions. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh noted the obligations to the families of the shaheeds and the prisoners, while the crowd chanted Arafat’s war cry, “A million shaheeds are marching to Jerusalem.”
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and civilian targets The more prominent events were the following:
- February 17, 2020 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle on the Gush Etzion-Hebron road. No casualties were reported. Previously stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle on the same road. One man incurred minor injuries (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, February 17, 2020).
- February 17, 2020 – Stones were thrown at an Israel school bus in the Jordan Valley north of Jericho. No casualties were reported. The front windshield of the bus was damaged (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, February 17, 2018).
- February 17, 2020 – Palestinians threw a rock at an Israeli vehicle west of Ramallah. A woman was slightly injured and the front windshield of the car was damaged (Magen David Adom, February 17, 2018).
- February 16, 2018 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle near Modi’in Ilit. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged. In addition, stones were thrown at an Israeli bus northeast of Ramallah. No casualties or damage were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, February 16, 2020).
- February 13, 2020 – Palestinians threw a burning tire containing an IED at an IDF guard post northwest of Ramallah. An explosion was heard. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, February 13, 2020).
- February 12, 2020 – Stones were thrown from a passing car at an Israeli vehicle northeast of Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, February 12, 2020).
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019
Egyptian security delegation visits the Gaza Strip
- Given the ongoing rocket and mortar fire and terrorist violence from the Gaza Strip, a delegation of senior Egyptian General Intelligence figures entered the Gaza Strip on February 10, 2020, through the Erez Crossing. The visit lasted for a number of hours. “Knowledgeable sources” reported that the talks between the delegation and the Hamas leadership did not end and that calm has not yet returned. According to the sources, the members of the Egyptian delegation asked the Hamas leadership to act urgently to stop the launching of the balloons and the rocket fire. Hamas asked that Israel meet its obligations to the lull understandings (al-Quds al-Arabi, February 11, 2020).
PLO delegation visit to the Gaza Strip
- Fatah and Hamas continue to blame one another for the delay in a PLO delegation visit to the Gaza Strip. The Fatah delegation which recently visited the Gaza Strip did not meet with Hamas representatives and did not return to the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a date agreed upon for a PLO visit (Dunia al-Watan, February 13, 2020). According to Wassel Abu Yusuf, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, Hamas has not yet set a date for the delegation’s visit.
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said all the organizations were prepared to go to the Gaza Strip and that Hamas was responsible for the delay (al-Najah news website, February 15, 2020). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in response that Saeb Erekat’s statements were ridiculous, untrue and not worthy of a reply from Hamas. He accused Fatah of sabotaging efforts to reach unity (Hamas website, February 16, 2018).
Ali Larijani meets with senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas figures
- Ziyad al-Nakhalah, PIJ leader, met with Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian majlis (parliament), who visited Lebanon. The meeting was held in the Iranian embassy in Lebanon. Larijani stressed the dangers inherent in the Trump plan and Iran’s support for the Palestinian people and the “resistance” (PIJ website, February 17, 2020). Larijani also met with a delegation of the Hamas leadership headed by Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of the Hamas political bureau (al-Andalou News, February 17, 2018).
Larijani meets with Ziyad al-Nakhalah in the Iranian embassy in Lebanon
(Paltoday YouTube channel, February 17, 2018).
Hamas campaign to visit the families of shaheeds
- On February 15, 2020, Hamas began a series of visits to more than 10,000 families of shaheeds from all the Palestinian terrorist organizations. According to Hamas the visits are part of an effort to maintain contact with all Palestinian groups (Hamas website, February 15, 2020) Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said that the campaign had begun with a visit to the home of Ahmed al-Ja’abari in Gaza City and Fathi Shqaqi in Rafah (Palestine Online, February 15, 2020).
Launching terrorist campaign to visit the families of the shaheeds began at the house of Ahmed al-Ja’abari in Gaza City (right) and Fathi Shqaqi in Rafah (left) (Hamas website, February 15, 2020).
Ongoing reactions to the Trump plan
- In the Gaza Strip events continue to resist the Trump plan, where senior figures from various organizations speak out against it. Some of their statements were the following:
- Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, speaking at a ceremony held to honor released prisoner Hazem Hasanein, said the way to struggle against the “deal of the century” was to oppose the [Israeli] occupation with every means possible. He said the only measures that would be effective against Israel were the heroic acts of vehicular, stabbing and IED attacks (Hamas website, February 12, 2020).
Senior Hamas figures Khalil al-Haya and Rawhi Mushtaha attended the ceremony held to honor the released prisoner (Hamas website, February 13, 2020).
- Senior Hamas figure Maher Sabra gave a speech after a march in eastern Gaza City, calling on the PA to allow the “resistance” to operate freely in the West Bank in order to express its resistance to Trump’s deal (Hamas website, February 14, 2018).
- Senior PIJ figure Dr. Jamil Alian participated in a panel discussing the role of the West Bank in dealing with the “deal of the century” held in the Atlas Center for Israeli studies. He said all possible avenues should be explored to ensure the [Israeli] occupation in the West Bank paid a high price, such as blocking the main roads and encircling the settlements (PIJ website, February 14, 2020).
Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UN Security Council
- On February 11, 2020, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech before the UN Security Council, part of the diplomatic campaign against the Trump plan. Mahmoud Abbas softened his tone and pitched the speech mainly to Western ears. He did not threaten to cut off relations with Israel or dissolve the PA (threats often repeated by him and other senior PA figures). He presented an image of the Palestinians as seeking a “just peace” based on the two-state solution with the 1967 borders, attained by non-violent means. He completely rejected the Trump plan (calling it the “American-Israeli deal”), stressing that the Palestinians will never accept it. However, he said he was willing to negotiate with Israel, with international mediation, or without mediators, based on the two-state solution with the 1967 borders. An examination of the core issues noted in Mahmoud Abbas’ speech reveals a vast discrepancy between reality and the softened rhetoric he employed in the Security Council.
Right: The session of the UN Security Council. Left: Mahmoud Abbas gives a speech before the Security Council (Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, February 11, 2020).
Fatwa from Mufti Ahmed Hussein regarding the Trump plan
- Sheikh Ahmed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, who gives sermons in al-Aqsa mosque, issued a fatwa banning cooperation with the “deal of the century.” According to the fatwa anyone who cooperates with the deal is betraying al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem and Palestine, and is a traitor to Allah and all Muslims (website of the PA’s supreme fatwa council, February 11, 2020).
Right: The fatwa banning cooperation with the “deal of the century” (website of the PA’s supreme fatwa council, February 11, 2020). Right: Poster against the “deal of the century” on the Temple Mount (Palinfo Twitter account, February 14, 2020).
Palestinian reactions to the publication of the list of business operating in the settlements
- On February 12, 2020, the UN’s Human Rights Council issued a list of 112 “business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.” That was done “in response to a specific request by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), contained in a March 2016 resolution, that mandated the Office to produce a database of business enterprises involved in such activities” (UNHRCO website, February 12, 2020). The report lists ten activities which justify adding a company to the list (such as supply of equipment and materials facilitating the construction and the expansion of settlements, the supply of equipment for the demolition of housing and property, or use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes). The report noted that sufficient evidence had been found that the companies on the list fulfilled one or more conditions. It also noted that the report is not a judicial or quasi-judicial process and makes no determination about the legality of the activities of the companies whose names appear on the list.
- Of the 112 business entities identified in the report, 94 are in Israel and 18 in six other countries. According to Ibrahim Kharisha, the PA representative to the HRC, the original list had the names of 307 companies but it was shortened to 112. That, he claimed, was because some of the companies appealed to the office of the high commissioner and promised they would not renew their contracts to work in the settlements (Dunia al-Watan, February 13, 2020).
- The Palestinians welcomed the publication of the list (so-called by the Palestinians “the blacklist”), saying that it was an important step in the support and defense of the rights of the Palestinians. Muhammad Shalaldeh, minister of justice in the PA, said the ministry of justice was working with the foreign ministry to formulate a program to deal with and bring to trial the companies whose names were on the list (Dunia al-Watan, February 13, 2020). Other reactions to the publication of the list were the following:
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said it was a step towards revealing the “shame” of the settlements and the attempts to give them legitimacy. He called on the companies whose names appear on the list to close their offices in the settlements at the earlier possible moment (Wafa, February 12, 2020).
- Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, called it a victory for the Palestinians and international law. He said the publication of the list stressed the fact that the companies were violating international law (Wafa, February 12, 2020). On another occasion he said that in the near future formal communiqués would be sent to the home countries where the companies operating in the settlements are based. They would contain a demand that the companies’ offices and branches in the settlements be closed. According to Erekat, if the companies did not meet the Palestinians demands they would be brought to trial in international courts (Dunia al-Watan, February 13, 2020).
- PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called the list a “victory for international law” and called on UN member states and members of the HRC to study the list and order the companies whose names appear on it to immediately stop operating in the settlements (al-Quds al-Arabi, February 12, 2020).
- Salim Zanoun, chairman of the Palestinian National Council, said the publication of the list was a direct response to the attempts to legitimize the annexation and the “deal of the century.” He called on the home countries of the companies on the list to take responsibility and close their offices and branches (Wafa, February 13, 2020).
- PA Minister of the Economy Khaled al-Asili praised the publication of the list and called on the relevant countries to exert pressure on the various companies or to take the proper legal action against them. He warned the companies operating in the settlements that legal action would be taken against them if they continued their operations (Dunia al-Watan, February 13, 2020).
- Hamas also issued a statement welcoming the publication of the list. It called the list a step in the right direction in isolating and boycotting Israel until it could be brought to trial for its crimes. Hamas said it expected the international community to take practical steps to defend the rights of the Palestinians (Hamas website, February 13, 2020).
Cartoon issued after the publication of the UN’s so-called “blacklist”
(Facebook page of Isma’il al-Bazam, February 13, 2020).
Meetings held by PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh
- This past week the Munich Security Conference held its annual meeting. The Conference is a security forum of high-ranking representatives from various countries. The PA was represented by Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh. On the sidelines of the meeting he met with several representatives, among them 21 American Congressmen led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Muhammad Shtayyeh presented the Palestinian objections to the Trump plan. He said the plan did not include the rights of the Palestinians and that any future negotiations would be possible only with the mediation of an international body, not solely with Americans.
- Muhammad Shtayyeh also met with Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the ICC. He asked her to expedite the legal processes, especially in view of her declaration about beginning an investigation into Israel’s [alleged] “war crimes” in the PA territories. He also sad that it was a duty to defend the international judicial system and forbidden for various countries to exert pressure on it. In meetings he held with the leaders of Spain and Germany he called on the countries of Europe to publish their position regarding the source of authority for the peace process. He stressed the need for the establishment of an international mechanism for the process (Wafa, February 15, 2020).
Muhammad Shtayyeh meets with Fatou Bensouda
(Muhammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page, February 15, 2020).
Palestinian public opinion poll
- On February 11, 2020, Khalil Shaqaqi’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) published the results of its latest quarterly public opinion poll. The poll, held one month earlier than usual, dealt mainly with the positions of the Palestinian public on the Trump plan. Palestinians were polled in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip between February 5 and 8, 2020. The results were the following (PCPSR website, February 11, 2020):
- 94% of those polled opposed the plan and 94% believed that all Palestinians opposed it.
- 65% expressed support and 27% expressed opposition for the policy outlined by president Mahmoud Abbas against the Trump plan.
- 68% believe Mahmoud Abbas will not implement his decision to end security coordination with Israel.
- 82% believe the Trump plan brings the conflict with Israel to where it originally was, as an existential conflict.
- 69% believe the “deal of the century” will fail due to Palestinian opposition.
 On February 6, 2020, shots were fired a close range at an IDF force at a traffic circle west of Ramallah, apparently in a drive-by shooting. An IDF soldier was slightly wounded and evacuated to a hospital for medical care. The other soldiers returned fired and pursued the attacker (IDF spokesman, February 6, 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. ↑
 Hazem Hasanein is a Hamas terrorist operative who was released to the Gaza Strip on February 10, 2020 after serving a term of 16 years in an Israeli jail. ↑
 Jamil Alian was represented (December 2018) by the PIJ's website as in charge of the office of operations of the PIJ's Executive Committee in the Gaza Strip. According to updated reports he is in charge of the PIJ's prisoners' file. ↑
 The Atlas Center for Israeli Studies represents itself as an independent thinktank established in the Gaza Strip in 2012. Its objective is to serve the Palestinian cause by increasing awareness of the Zionist project and Israel, it policies and plans. The Center's director is Abd al-Rahman Shehab, a PIJ operative from Jabalia who was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal after having been imprisoned in Israel in December 1988. ↑
 For further information, see the see the February 17, 2020 bulletin, Hebrew: "The speech of Mahmoud Abbas in the Security Council, rhetoric versus reality." The bulletin is being translated into English and will appear shortly on the website. ↑
 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/DatabaseHRC3136.aspx ↑