The "return march" in eastern Gaza City.
The "return march" in eastern Jabalia (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 18, 2019).
"Harassment group" operatives in the "return camp" in the central Gaza Strip carry a "coffin" covered with an Israeli flag (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 18, 2019).
"Harassment group" operatives in the "return camp" in the central Gaza Strip carry a "coffin" covered with an Israeli flag (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 18, 2019).
Conference delegates (Rami Hamdallah's Facebook page, January 20, 2019).
Saeb Erekat interviewed by Palestinian TV (Palestinian TV Facebook page, January 19, 2019).
- This past week there was a relatively low level of violence at the “return march” (about 14,000 participants). The Gazan media reported that the demonstrators had been instructed to exercise restraint and discipline. In ITIC assessment that was because of the expected arrival of the third installment of money from Qatar for Gazan salaries. However, the Arabic media reported Hamas sent messages threatening Israel that if it did not meet its commitments to the lull (transferring funds, increasing the fishing boundaries, allowing materials to enter the Gaza Strip), Hamas would escalate the events on the ground.
- This past week a stabbing attack was prevented near an IDF check post south of Nablus. The would-be stabber was shot and killed. In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
- On February 3, 2019, an American law will go into effect making any recipient of American aid subject to the jurisdiction of its courts. Therefore, Mahmoud Abbas ordered a letter sent to the American administration stating the Palestinians would refuse security aid from the United States until a solution had been found.
The “return march” of January 18, 2019
- On January 18, 2019, the Palestinians held the 43rd “return march” in the Gaza Strip. About 14,000 demonstrators participated. Palestinian sources reported that the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March had taken steps to guard the safety of the demonstrators during march activities and to preserve the [so-called] non-violent nature of the events. The steps were taken to prevent Israel from harming the demonstrators.
- Da’ud Shehab, a member of the Supreme National Authority, said the Authority had taken steps to protect the marchers from the [so-called] “terrorism of the occupation.” He also said preparations had been made to reduce the amount of damage and loss of life (palsawa.com, January 17, 2019). A senior Supreme National Authority figure said that all the committees and groups operating at the five “return camps” had been given clear instructions to exercise restraint and discipline during the demonstrations. In addition, he said the Authority had asked the demonstrators to keep away from the friction and “danger” points exposed to attack (Filastin al-Yawm, January 18, 2019).
- Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, said that during the January 18, 2019 “return march” 30 Palestinians had been injured by IDF gunfire. In addition, two journalists and three paramedics who had inhaled tear gas were injured (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Facebook page, January 18, 2019; al-Andalou News, January 18, 2019).
- Senior Hamas figures who participated in the event said the marches would continue, and threatened that they would intensify if Israel did not carry out its side of the understandings:
- Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said the Palestinians were determined to restore all their villages and cities by means of the “return march.” He added that they emphasized the need [for Israel] to implement the understandings, and if the understandings were not implemented, the marches would return to “harsh activities,” including [launching incendiary] balloons, night harassment, [burning] tires, etc. (video on the Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 19, 2018).
Senior Hamas figure Fathi Hamad during the “return march”
(Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 19, 2019).
- Ahmed Bahar, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council, said national unity was the way to victory and liberation, and the Palestinians were united around the “resistance.” He added that the Palestinians were united in their determination to continue the “return marches” (alresala.net, January 18, 2019; Palestinian Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip Facebook page, January 18, 2019).
Ahmed Bahar speaking at the “return camp” in the eastern part of Gaza City (Facebook page of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip, January 18, 2019).
- Senior Hamas figure Essam Aldalis claimed Israel was shirking its commitments, recently agreed upon through the mediation of Egypt, the UN and Qatar. As an example he gave Israel’s preventing the passage of funds into the Gaza Strip. He called on the mediators to exert pressure on Israel. He said the Palestinian organizations would be committed to the understandings as long as Israel was committed to them, and that Israel had to meet its commitments if it wanted to avoid a new confrontation (Filastin al-Yawm, January 19, 2019).
- After the demonstrations the Supreme National Authority called on the public to participate in the Friday, January 25, 2019 march, whose theme would be “The crime of the siege – a plot that will not succeed” (qudspress.com, January 18, 2019). This week as well the Authority announced that the weekly mini-flotilla and its activities scheduled for January 21, 2019, would be postponed, [allegedly] because of the difficulty in reaching the site (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, January 20, 2018).
Rocket fire into Israeli territory
- This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israel territory.
Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire During and Between the Recent Rounds of Escalation
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Gunfire targeting IDF forces
- On January 22, 2019, IDF forces near the security fence were attacked with gunfire. In response an IDF tank shot at a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, January 22, 2019).
Attempted stabbing attack
- On the evening of January 21, 2019, a Palestinian drove south from Nablus to an IDF checkpoint. He was asked to present identification. He got out of his vehicle and tried to stab an IDF soldier. He was shot and killed (IDF spokesman, January 21, 2019).
- The attacker was Muhammad Fawzi Adawi, 36, originally from the Qalqilya district. He lived in the village of Rujeib south of Nablus district and worked in the sanitation department of Salfit (Wafa, January 21, 2019; Facebook page of Muneir al-Jaghoub, the head of Fatah’s bureau of mobilization and organization, January 21, 2019).
Right: The knife the terrorist planned to use to carry out the stabbing attack
(IDF Twitter account, January 21, 2019). Left: Muhammad Adawi (Facebook page of Muneir
al-Jaghoub, the head of Fatah’s bureau of mobilization and organization, January 21, 2019).
Other events on the ground
- Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities in Judea and Samaria, detaining dozens of Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity, seizing weapons and confiscating funds used to finance terrorist activities. Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at vehicles, damaging several. The more prominent events were the following:
- On the night of January 20, 2019, the Israeli security forces secured the entrance of 1,500 Jewish worshippers into the precinct of the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus. As they entered, Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli security forces, slighting wounding two soldiers (IDF spokesman, January 21, 2019).
- On January 20, 2019, Israeli security forces operating in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley detained thirty Palestinians wanted of involvement in terrorist activities (IDF spokesman, January 21, 2019).
- On January 18, 2019, Israeli security forces destroyed the apartment of terrorist Khalil Yusuf Ali Jabarin in the village of Yatta (south of Hebron). On September 16, 2018, he stabbed an Israeli to death at the Gush Etzion Junction. During the activity Palestinian rioters threw stones at the IDF forces (IDF spokesman, January 18, 2019).
- On January 16, 2019, Israeli security forces confiscated six lathes used to make weapons; the lathes were found in a workshop in Nablus (IDF spokesman, January 16, 2019).
- On January 16, 2019, during Israeli security force searches, money used to fund terrorist activities totaling about $2700 was confiscated (IDF spokesman, January 16, 2019)
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria during the past year
The third installment of funds from Qatar to Hamas
- Mohammed al-Emadi, the chairman of the Qatar committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, reported that the third installment of money from Qatar to pay salaries in the Gaza Strip, totaling $15 million, would arrive in the Gaza Strip on January 23, 2019. The Israeli government postponed it due to the violence on the border. According to al-Emadi, “the agreement is subject to there not being too much violence, so last Friday they [Israel] approved to do the third tranche.” This time, he said, he would not bring the money himself as he had done previously, but that a new system had been arranged for the transfer of the funds. He refused to provide more information (Reuters, January 20, 2019).
- Before the Israeli decision Hamas threatened Israel. According to a report in the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Hamas threatened through various mediators that if Israel did not meet its commitments to the understandings (authorizing the transfer of funds from Qatar, extending the fishing zone and allowing materials to be delivered to the Gaza Strip) it would escalate the events on the ground. Al-Jazeera reported that Israel agreed to allow the money from Qatar to enter the Gaza Strip after a significant decrease in violence during the most recent Friday demonstration (al-Jazeera, January 19, 2019).
- Essam Aldalis, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, wrote that it was Israel that had delayed the receipt of the funds from Qatar so far. He claimed it was a violation of the understandings reached through mediators to end the “siege” of the Gaza Strip (Essam Aldalis’ Twitter account, January 19, 2019). Interviewed by Radio Sawt al-Shaab, he added that the Supreme National Authority would decide on the future course of the marches in light of Israel’s evasion of the understandings, and that “the options of our people are broad and open.” He called on Israel to return to the understandings “so that we don’t find ourselves in a new confrontation” (Paltoday, January 20 2019).
Cartoon by Gazan cartoonist Isma’il al-Bazam claiming the money from Qatar buys quiet in the Gaza Strip. The Arabic reads, “We want quiet,” and “Let it be” (Isma’il al-Bazam’s Facebook page, January 10, 2019).
The Rafah Crossing
- Since January 6, 2019, when the Palestinian Authority (PA) officials left the Rafah Crossing after Mahmoud Abbas decided to remove them, the crossing operates in only one direction, from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. However, since then the media have issued contradictory reports about the opening of the crossing in both directions:
- Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said the crossing was not closed for political reasons but rather for security reasons. He added that its new directorate, which was appointed by Hamas, was making preparations to open it (Shehab, January 17, 2019).
- Senior Hamas figure Essam Aldalis, expressed surprise at the continued closing of the crossing, because he said the Egyptian delegation which had recently visited the Gaza Strip promised the Rafah Crossing would open within a number of days. He said he hoped the crossing would open soon (Filastin al-Yawm, January 19, 2019).
- Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said Egypt had promised the Rafah Crossing would be closed temporarily because of the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula, but would shortly open in both directions (alresala.net, January 21, 2019).
- Walid al-Qitati, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) political bureau, said that Egyptian General Intelligence had told the organization’s leadership that Egypt had decided to open the Rafah Crossing in both directions in the coming days. He said the decision had been made at the highest levels, including Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He claimed the crossing would be opened regardless of whether or not the PA officials returned (Filastin al-Yawm, January 19, 2019).
- However, a Palestinian website in the Gaza Strip claimed the information published about the opening of the Rafah Crossing was incorrect and that the situation was complicated by the disputes between the PA and Hamas over the crossing. In addition, according to the site, the Egyptians do not want the crossing closed but they do not want to take sides in the dispute (al-Watania, January 21, 2019). According to Palestinian sources, Egypt does not intend to open the crossing unless the PA officials return (al-Araby al-Jadeed, January 17, 2019).
- Mohammed al-Emadi, chairman of the Qatar committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, said Qatar would promote an $80 million electricity project. It would effectively manage the Gaza Strip’s power supply by buying Israeli electricity in bulk and distributing it across Gaza while collecting payment from Palestinians in return. He said, “We will fund this project but I want to make sure I have control of the electricity so I can get my money back.” According to the plan, Qatar would build a power substation and network to end the need for costly fuel shipments (Reuters, January 20, 2019).
- Sources in Hamas reported that a Hamas delegation would shortly leave for Egypt to meet with Egyptian General Intelligence to continue their talks (Filastin al-Yawm, January 19, 2019). According to another report, direct communications between Yahya al-Sinwar, and Egyptian General Intelligence were cut off after Hamas decided to keep al-Sinwar from directing ties with Egypt. The main reason for the decision was the lack of faith in al-Sinwar’s ability to get results in talks with Egypt, because of everything relating to the issues of the internal Palestinian reconciliation and the regular opening of the Rafah Crossing (Rai al-Youm, January 19, 2019).
Senior Hamas figures talk about the next confrontation with Israel
- Senior Hamas figures gave speeches at memorial services for military wing operatives who were killed, where they praised the path of jihad and “resistance” [i.e., terrorism].
- Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, spoke at a Hamas military wing memorial event held for a Hamas operative killed by a stray bullet while engaging in security activity near the border. According to al-Haya, there is no alternative and no other way to liberate the land and holy places except for “resistance,” and there is no way to fight the enemy and be victorious over him without training and preparations. He said their choice and course was the path of jihad, and they would not abandon it despite the many sacrifices it took. “Regardless of how many sacrifices there are, and regardless of how hard the siege is, we will not abandon the resistance, and we will send our children, operatives of the Qassam [Brigades], to turn the ground into hell for the settlers and occupiers” (Hamas website, January 19, 2019)
Senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Haya speaking at the event
(Hamas website, January 19, 2019).
- Senior Hamas figure Musheir al-Masri spoke at a Hamas military wing memorial event held in the eastern Gaza Strip for a Hamas operative (who died on January 17, 2019, after being wounded in an accident while engaging in a security activity near the border). According to al-Masri, operatives of the al-Qassam Brigades continue making preparations for the decisive campaign against the “occupation.” He said the audience was aware of the Palestinians’ adherence to the path of “resistance” and of the al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas website, January 20, 2019).
Senior Hamas figure Musheir al-Masri speaking at an event in the eastern Gaza Strip
(Hamas website, January 20, 2019).
Interview with Mahmoud al-Zahar
- Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas political bureau, gave an interview where he related to a number of issues (Shehab, January 17, 2019):
- The elections in Israel: the period before the elections is dangerous because the Israel government might take rash steps that could harm the Palestinian people. The Israel government is trying to exert pressure on the “resistance” but does not take into account the strength of the “resistance,” which is greater and more significant than what Israel might think.
- Understandings with Israel regarding the Gaza Strip: the understandings with Israel are based on the equation of “a lull in return for lifting the siege,” but it is the nature of the Jews to break promises and it is impossible to rely on the promises of the government of Israel. Therefore, the “resistance” has to always be on the alert. Israel is trying to expert pressure on the Gaza Strip, hoping that the Palestinian street will rise up and overthrow the Hamas administration/government.
- The possibility of a confrontation with Israel: the organizations in the Gaza Strip are dealing with internal challenges which are the result of the policies of Mahmoud Abbas, and therefore first and foremost they have to strengthen internal Palestinian cooperation, and only then to wage an organized struggle against the “occupation.” According to al-Zahar, the “resistance” is the only way to stand firm against Israel and to assure achievements.
- Relations with Egypt: the Palestinian organizations and Egypt conduct an ongoing, significant discourse and Egypt is aware of the importance of dealing with the issues of salaries and electricity.
PA activity in UN agencies
- Mahmoud Abbas participated in an event at the UN during which he was named head of the 77 Group and China. He thanked the members of the group, the Egyptian president, the Egyptian foreign minister and Egyptian ambassador to the UN for choosing him to head the group. He said Palestine was committed to acting according to international law and to resolving the Palestinian cause peacefully. He added that the issues of the Palestinian refugees and prisoners had to be resolved. He said that the PA signed 88 protocols with members of the group to fight terrorism (Filastin al-Yawm, January 15, 2019).
- Riyad al-Maliki, PA foreign minister, said that leading the group was a great achievement for the Palestinian people in general and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas in particular. He said the importance of heading the 77 Group and China was that the PA could propose resolutions to the UN General Assembly in the name of the group, but could not propose resolutions or vote in the name of the PA (Palestinian TV, January 16, 2019).
Mahmoud Abbas officially named head of the 77 Group and China by the Egyptian foreign minister, with the participation of the UN secretary general and the president of the UN Security Council (Wafa, January 15, 2019).
Palestinian delegation goes to economic summit meeting in Lebanon
- Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the national consensus government, arrived in Lebanon heading a delegation to the Arab summit meeting. The delegation was received by Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri (Wafa, January 19, 2019). Hamdallah spoke at the opening session of the meeting and stressed the importance of the Palestinian cause for the Arab world. He said there would be no normalization with Israel without the establishment of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders, in accordance with the 2002 Arab initiative. He accused Israel of “occupation policies” including the exploitation of the West Bank’s natural resources and imposing a “siege” on the Gaza Strip as part of a deliberate policy to paralyze the Palestinian economy in order to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. He also said that boycotting Israeli companies and businesses was a legitimate, non-violent form of resistance to the “occupation” and the “settlements.” He called on the institutions and companies of the Western countries not to do business with Israel, directly or indirectly (al-Jazeera, January 20, 2019).
- Riyad al-Maliki, PA foreign minister, accused Israel of systematically taking steps to strangle the Palestinian economy by stealing natural resources and imposing a “siege” on the Gaza Strip. He said that the Palestinians intended to open and change the Paris Protocol. He called on the Arab states to support the UN Conference on Trade and Development, following the decision to make Israel economically responsible for harming the Palestinian people (al-Mayadeen, January 18, 2019).
Right: Rami Hamdallah speaking at the Arab League economic conference in Beirut. Left: Conference delegates (Rami Hamdallah’s Facebook page, January 20, 2019).
American funds for the PA
- On February 3, 2019, an American law (the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018) will go into effect. According to the law any recipient of security aid from the United States will be subject to the jurisdiction of the American courts. That means the PA may be exposed to legal suits by American citizens. In response to the law Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said that instructed by Mahmoud Abbas, Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Palestinian national consensus government, sent a letter to the American administration. It stated that the PA would refuse to accept security aid from the United States until a solution had been found. He said no response had yet been received from the United States (Palestinian TV, January 19, 2019).
- In the meantime, according to Saeb Erekat, on February 1, 2019, the American administration will close the USAID offices in the PA and return the employees to the United States. He said that taking such a step showed the United States did not have the right to talk about peace and followed an ideology of “apartheid” and of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. He said that this past year the American administration had cut $844 million from the aid it gives the PA, including $359 million for UNRWA and $321 for USAID infrastructure projects (Palestinian TV, January 19, 2019).
- Taysir Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, called for an end to all relations with the United States, including security coordination with the CIA. He said that since Trump had become president he had cancelled all American aid to the Palestinians, with the exception of security aid, with the objective of having the Palestinian security apparatuses serve the interests of Israel’s fight against terrorism. Therefore, he said, given the law passed by the United States, the Palestinians had to refuse to accept any aid from the Americans (Ma’an, January 21, 2019).
Issam Aqel extradited to the United States
- According to Palestinian “security sources,” the PA handed Issam Aqel (a Palestinian with American citizenship, accused of selling Palestinian land to Israel) over to the United States, following strong American pressure on the PA (al-Araby al-Jadeed, January 17, 2019). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned his release, accusing Mahmoud Abbas and Rami Hamdallah of responsibility for his extradition (Hamas website, January 20, 2019).
Glorifying terrorists: Fatah memorial event for Ahmed Jarar in Jenin
- The Jenin branch of the Fatah movement held a memorial event for thee terrorist operatives and supporters: Ahmed Nasr Jarar, Hamas military wing operative and head of the squad that killed Rabbi Raziel Shevah from the community of Havat Gilad on January 9, 2018; Ahmed Isma’il Jarar, his cousin and supporter; and Ahmed Samir Abu Ubeid, killed in an IDF activity in the village of Burqin to locate Ahmed Jarar.
- The event was held at the home of the Jarar clan in Wadi Burqin. It was attended by Akram Rajoub, the governor of the PA district of Jenin; Muhannad Abu Ali, head of preventive security in the Jenin district; Jamal Hawil, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council; and A’tta’ Abu Armila, deputy secretary of the Fatah movement branch. The governor of Jenin stressed that the “crimes of the occupation” and “terrorism of the settlers” would not frighten the Palestinians, and they would continue to follow the path of the shaheeds and the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist path], to achieve their national objectives (Wafa, January 21, 2019; website of Fatah’s bureau of mobilization and organization, January 22, 2019).
Notice published by the Jenin branch of Fatah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade to mark the anniversary of the deaths of the three terrorists and supporters (Facebook page of Fateh Jenin, belonging to a Palestinian who represents himself as the Fatah spokesman in Jenin, December 21, 2019).
Jenin district governor Akram Rajoub (black coat, gray tie) at the event held at the home of the Jarar clan (Facebook page of Musab Zyoud, journalist from Jenin, January 21, 2019).
 The statistics of the launching of rockets and mortar shells are according to the IDF spokesman's assessment.. ↑
 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. ↑