Children and adolescents throw stones east of Gaza City (Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March Facebook page, August 2, 2019).
Palestinian flag and swastika near the security fence during the return march (IDF spokesman, August 2, 2019).
Pictures documenting the presence of Hamas security operatives near the border during the return march (Hasan Rabee's Facebook page, August 3, 2019).
The fourth day of the second session of Pioneers of Liberation camps of the Khan Yunis brigade (video on the Facebook page of Tlae3, July 31, 2019).
The fourth day of the second session of Pioneers of Liberation camps of the Khan Yunis brigade (video on the Facebook page of Tlae3, July 31, 2019).
Isma'il Haniyeh and Yahya al-Sinwar help carry the body at the funeral (Palinfo, August 5, 2019; Facebook page of the al-Rahma mosque in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Yunis, August 5, 2019).
- On Friday, August 2, 2019, the return march in the Gaza Strip was held with about 6,000 participants (the average for the past weeks). Hamas security operatives were photographed removing young Palestinians from the region of the fence. Nevertheless, the violence near the fence included, as usual, the throwing of IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails. There were also attempts to sabotage the security fence and a number of attempts to cross the border into Israeli territory. In addition, this past week incendiary balloons were launched, some of them causing fires.
- On August 1, 2019, the day before the return march, a Palestinian crossed the security fence east of Khan Yunis. He shot and wounded three IDF soldiers. The Palestinian, who was identified as a Hamas military operative, was shot and killed. He apparently acted on his own initiative. The IDF fired shells at a Hamas post and the incident came to an end.
- A committee met in the Palestinian Authority (PA) to implement Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to stop acting in accordance with agreements signed with Israel. During the meeting Mahmoud Abbas said that the government would continue taking steps to separate the PA’s economy from Israel by examining Arab alternatives, especially in Jordan and Iraq. The PA’s minister of transportation said that talks were currently being held with Jordan regarding the transport of goods from the port of Aqaba instead of the Israeli ports through which merchandise passes today.
The return march of August 2, 2019
- On Friday, August 2, 2019, the 69th return march was held with the theme, “the slaughter of Wadi Hums.” The march was dedicated to solidarity with the families whose houses in Wadi Hums (southeast Jerusalem) had been destroyed. About 6,000 Palestinians participated in the events, gathering at the five return camps. During the events several dozen Palestinians approached the security fence. They threw IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails at the IDF forces. They also tried to sabotage the security fence and made several attempts to cross into Israeli territory. A spokesman for the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip said 49 Palestinians had been injured (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Twitter account, August 2, 2019).
- The Palestinian media reported that Hamas had deployed security forces to prevent clashes between demonstrators and IDF forces. Pictures published in the media and social networks documented their actions. In response Ayman al-Batniji, spokesman for the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip, said the pictures were apparently old, because police forces are not stationed at the border, but rather operate in city centers. He said the police deal mainly with directing traffic from the cities to the border and intervene only if a problem arises or a fight occurs (Dunia al-Watan, August 3, 2019). The response of the police spokesman indicates the lack of popularity of Hamas’ activities to restrain rioters, forcing it to publicly dissociate itself from them.
Pictures documenting the presence of Hamas security operatives near the border during the return march (Hasan Rabee’s Facebook page, August 3, 2019).
- The Supreme National Authority announced that the theme of the August 9, 2019 march would be “Palestinian youth” (Paltoday, August 2, 2019). The Supreme National Authority later issued an announcement cancelling the march scheduled for August 6, 2019, to allow the residents of the Gaza Strip to make preparations for Eid al-Adha (August 11-15). According to the announcement, instead of the march, mass prayers will be held in the return camps east of Gaza City and east of Khan Yunis (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, August 5, 2019).
- This past week a number of incendiary balloons were launched into Israeli territory. Some of them caused fires:
- On August 2, 2019, during the return march, an incendiary balloon from the Gaza Strip landed in Israeli territory and caused a fire in a forest near the Gaza Strip. Another balloon landed in the western Negev.
- On August 1, 2019, a number of incendiary and IED balloon launchings were identified. One of them caused a fire in Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip.
The lull process
- During an interview Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, related to a possible escalation with Israel. He claimed Hamas was leading “a peaceful popular resistance” and had no interest in an unplanned escalation. However, he said, if Israel attacks the Gaza Strip Hamas will respond with all its force. He also said that the concept of “resistance” is more successful than an arrangement with Israel. That, he claimed, was because the arrangement is being carried out under the aegis of the United States, which is interested in eradicating the Palestinian cause. The concept of “resistance,” on the other hand, is supported by the Palestinian people and important regional powers (Sawa, July 29, 2019).
- Suheil al-Hindi, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said Israel was using delaying tactics and not implementing the understandings. He said the joint operations room of all the organizations in the Gaza Strip was monitoring Israel’s actions. He added that they would respond to the death of shaheeds, and had informed the Egyptian mediator that the “resistance” would not hold back but intended to respond (al-Aqsa, August 2, 2019).
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 since January 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Penetration into Israeli territory prevented
- This past week Palestinians from the Gaza Strip made a number of attempts to penetrate into Israeli territory. The main event incident occurred on August 1, 2019, at 0200, when IDF soldiers identified a suspicious figure approaching the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. An alert was issued and forces were sent to the site. A Palestinian was seen crossing the security fence east of Khan Yunis. He shot and wounded three IDF soldiers, one of them seriously. He was shot and killed. During the incident an IDF tank fired at a Hamas post (IDF spokesman, August 1, 2019).
- The Palestinian media reported that the Palestinian fatality was Hani Hassan Abu Salah, 20, from Khan Yunis. He was an operative in Hamas’ military wing (Sawa, August 1, 2019). His brother, Fadi Abu Salah, disabled and on crutches, routinely participated in the return marches and was killed during a return march on May 14, 2019 (Shehab Facebook page, August 1, 2019).
Right: Palestinian terrorist Hani Abu Salah armed and in uniform (Twitter account of Amin al-Wafi from Gaza, August 1, 2019). Left: Hani Abu Salah in a mosque (Twitter account of Abu Rida from Gaza, August 1, 2019).
Right: Hamas observation post east of Khan Yunis, attacked by an IDF tank (Shehab Facebook page, August 1, 2019 ). Left: Sand barrier constructed by the IDF near the security fence to prevent anti-tank fire from the Gaza Strip (Amad website, July 29, 2019). Hani Abu Salah hid behind such a barrier.
- In the Gaza Strip the penetration of the terrorist and the shooting of IDF soldiers was considered “an act of heroism.” Many speeches given during the return march, which was held the following day, praised the “hero” and his action. Some of the remarks were the following:
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman Musab al-Brim called it an act of “resistance” and “an act of heroism.” He said that if Israel acted stupidly or tried to harm the Palestinian people, the “resistance” was capable of responding with cruelty (Sabaq24, August 1, 2019).
- The military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) issued a statement praising the attack and calling it “a brave, high-quality act” carried out in response to Israel’s [so-called] crimes against the Palestinians (Palinfo, August 1, 2019).
Other infiltration events
- Other attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory included the following:
- On August 4, 2019, IDF soldiers detained two Palestinians who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. They had a gas grenade and a knife in their possession. They were taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, August 4, 2019).
- On August 3, 2019, IDF soldiers detained a Palestinian who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. He was taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, August 3, 2019).
- On August 2, 2019, IDF soldiers detained a Palestinian who crossed the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. He was taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, August 2, 2019).
- On August 1, 2019, IDF soldiers detained two young Palestinians who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. They had a knife in their possession. They were taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, August 1, 2019).
Events on the ground
- In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and civilian targets, primarily vehicles. Israeli security forces carried out counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity, confiscating funds used to finance terrorist activities, and seizing military grade and improvised weapons. The more prominent events were the following:
- August 5, 2019 – IDF forces identified two Palestinians near the village of al-Zawiya (west of Ariel). They had two guns and ammunition in their possession. They were taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, July 5, 2019).
- August 4, 2019 – IDF soldiers halted a vehicle at the entrance to Tulkarm (east of Nablus). Three guns were found in the vehicle (IDF spokesman, August 4, 2019).
- August 4, 2019 – Molotov cocktails were thrown at an IDF post on the Gush Etzion-Hebron road near the al-Aroub refugee camp. No casualties were reported (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, August 4, 2019).
- August 4, 2019 – Border Police soldiers detained a Palestinian suspected of throwing stones at a Border Police jeep in the region of al-Jib (northwest of Jerusalem). When the soldiers left the village dozens of Palestinians threw stones at them. The soldiers pursued them and detained one (Israel Police Force’s spokesman’s unit, August 4, 2019).
- August 3, 2019 – Stones were thrown at a vehicle on the Jerusalem-Modi’in road (route 443) east of Bayt Horon. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged (443 Center, August 3, 2019)
- August 1, 2019 – Shots were fired at an Israeli security force vehicle near a junction northwest of Nablus. No casualties were reported (IDF spokesman, August 1, 2019).
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since June 2017
Distribution of aid for Eid al-Adha to Palestinians wounded in the return marches
- The high committee for monitoring the wounded in the return marches in the northern Gaza Strip held a ceremony attended by Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ political bureau. In honor of Eid al-Adha, $50 was given to 80 Palestinians who had been wounded in the return marches in the northern Gaza Strip (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, August 5, 2019; Facebook page of Fares al-Harb, August 5).
- In response to the post on the Supreme National Authority’s Facebook page regarding the ceremony, many people criticized Hamas, claiming that photographing the distribution of aid was humiliating and shaming. Many even cursed Hamas, saying Hamas “traded in blood and traded in the Palestinian people” (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, August 5, 2019).
Distribution ceremony. According to the sign, the ceremony is being held under the aegis of the association of the charitable societies of the Jabalia refugee camp and that the donor was Abu Dhabi (Fares al-Harb Facebook page, August 5, 2019)
- On July 30, 2019, a meeting was held in the office of the secretariat of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. It authorized the July payment of support to the wounded and the families of return march shaheeds (website of the information office of the Hamas administration, July 30, 2019). Following the authorization the ministry of social development announced on July 31, 2019 that payment would made at all the branches of the post office bank in the Gaza Strip. The names of those entitled to support could be found through a link on the ministry’s website (Facebook page of the ministry of social development, July 30, 2019).
Hamas summer camps in the Gaza Strip end
- Abu Hamza, spokesman for the Pioneers of Liberation summer camps of Hamas’ military wing, said the two weeks of camps had ended. He said that more than 35,000 young Palestinians had participated (alresala.net and Hamas’ military wing website, August 3, 2019). According to a video summing up the 2019 camps, there were programs for military-security activities, physical fitness, civil defense, first aid and “the struggle against espionage.” Each camp lasted for a week. One was held for high school students and the other for junior high school students (Facebook pages of Abu Islam and Rashad al-Aqad, August 3, 2019).
Changes in the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip
- In recent days the social network and other media reported that given the stalemate in the attempts to achieve an internal Palestinian reconciliation, it was decided to reappoint Hamas’ administrative committee for directing the Gaza Strip, chaired by Dr. Muhammad Awadh (who in the past headed the secretariat of the Hamas administration). General Salah Abu Sharah, who was deputy minister of transportation, was appointed to the position of deputy interior minister, replacing General Tawfiq Abu Na’im (Ma’an, July 30, 2019; Amad, July 31, 2019; al-Ayn, July 31, 2019). It was also reported that Hamas has begun merging government ministries and turning a number of them into governmental authorities (al-Monitor, July 25, 2019; Amad, July 30, 2019).
Right: Ceremony of changing positions in the Hamas national ministry of economics. Dr. Rushdi Wadi (left) replaces Dr. Ayman ‘Abed (right) as deputy minister (website of the national ministry of economics in the Gaza Strip, August 2, 2019; palsawa, August 1, 2019). Left: Dr. Muhammad Awadh (second from left), chairman of the committee monitoring the activity of the government, visits the ministry of local municipalities in Gaza City (website of the ministry of local municipalities in the Gaza Strip, August 1, 2019).
- Sources in Hamas explained that the changes were meant to increase popular support for Hamas, after complaints that bad government services had caused a decline in Hamas’ popularity. In addition, most of the commanders of the security forces will reportedly be retired and replaced by young commanders. A number of security forces will be merged, for example, the general intelligence will be merged with internal security. No final decision has yet been made regarding the issue (al-Akhbar, Lebanon, July 31, 2019; al-Risalah, July 31, 2019).
Isma’il Haniyeh and Yahya al-Sinwar attend the funeral of Sheikh Ahmed Nimr Hamdan in Khan Yunis
- On August 5, 2019, Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau and Yahya al-Sinwar attended the funeral of Ahmed Nimr Hamdan, one of the first Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Many operatives of Hamas’ military wing also attended the funeral (Palinfo, August 5, 2019; Facebook page of the al-Rahma mosque in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Yunis, August 5, 2019). Isma’il Haniyeh spoke about Hamdan’s contribution to the education of the current generation of the Hamas leadership, and his routine participation in the return marches (al-Aqsa, August 5, 2019).
Right: Sheikh Ahmed Nimr Hamdan (Facebook page of the al-Rahma mosque in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Yunis, August 5, 2019). Left: Isma’il Haniyeh and Yahya al-Sinwar help carry the body at the funeral (Palinfo, August 5, 2019; Facebook page of the al-Rahma mosque in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Yunis, August 5, 2019).
PIJ military wing video about developments of its rocket program
- On August 3, 2019, the PIJ’s military wing issued a video reviewing the stages in the development of its locally-produced rocket launchers (Jerusalem Brigades website, August 3, 2019). According to the video, on January 21, 2007, for the first time the military wing announced the rocket launchers would be introduced in an operation of firing 100 rockets at Israel. After that, over the years vehicle-mounted launchers were developed. The video ended with the round of escalation of May 2019, and was followed with a threat for the future. The threat was headed “The circle of fire will expand,” and showed rockets aimed at the port of Ashdod, the nuclear reactor in Dimona, Ben-Gurion International Airport, and the oil refineries in Haifa.
PA decision to stop acting in accordance with agreements signed with Israel
- The PA continues its activity to implement Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to stop acting in accordance with agreements signed with Israel. The decision was made following Israel’s razing of houses in Wadi al-Hums, near Sur Baher in southeast Jerusalem. The PLO’s Executive Committee discussed the issue and reached the conclusion that agreements with Israel were no longer valid because, the committee claimed, Israel had long since abandoned them (Wafa, August 1, 2019).
- The deliberations about Implementing the decision are being accompanied by international political activity. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki reported that Mahmoud Abbas’ decision had been transmitted to all the Palestinian embassies and legations around the globe to put the decision into operation and clarity the reasons behind it to the international community. Al-Maliki said the Palestinians intended to call a session of the UN General Assembly (Sawa, July 31, 2019). According to Nabil Sha’ath, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas for foreign affairs and international relations, Mahmoud Abbas would visit European countries to get political support for the Palestinian position (Dunia al-Watan, August 5, 2019).
- On August 3, 2019, the committee met to discuss how to implement the decision. The first meeting was held in Ramallah and attended by Mahmoud Abbas (Wafa, August 3, 2019). According to Azzam al-Ahmed, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee, the committee is headed by Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee (Dunia al-Watan, July 30, 2019). Bassam al-Sahi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said that the committee’s guiding principle would be how to implement the decision to stop acting in accordance with agreements signed with Israel (Sawa, August 4, 2019). According to the announcement issued by the PA, the committee will continue to meet until it has made its suggestions public, and they will be implemented in accordance with decisions made by Mahmoud Abbas (al-Quds, August 4, 2019).
Mahmoud Abbas meets with the members of the committee in his office in Ramallah
(Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, August 3, 2019).
- After the meeting no details were made public about the decisions. “A senior committee member” said that at the first meeting the committee had drawn up guidelines for action and no immediate decisions had been made. The “senior member” said that during the meeting Mahmoud Abbas stressed that the government would continue taking steps for economic separation from Israel and would discuss Arab economic alternatives, especially with Jordan and Iraq (al-Quds, August 3, 2019). “Accessible sources” reported that the committee will recommend stopping agreements with Israel in a number of fields, especially the economic agreement for which an alternative can be found in the Arab markets (al-Quds, August 4, 2019).
- An Internet public opinion poll held by the Ma’an news agency regarding Mahmoud Abbas’ decision had the following results: 72.2% said it was a step in the right direction and could be implemented; 22% said it was an inappropriate measure and could not be implemented; 5.9% replied they didn’t know if it was an appropriate measure or not (Ma’an, August 5, 2019).
Economic separation from Israel
- In the meantime, the PA is looking for economic alternatives to Israel, primarily among the Arab states. Issam Salem, the Palestinian minister of transportation, said talks were being held with Jordan regarding the transport of imported goods through the port of Aqaba instead of the Israeli ports, through which imports pass today (Sawa, August 3, 2019).
- The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah-al-Bireh called on the Palestinians to escalate the “popular resistance” [i.e., popular terrorism] and participate in the activities planned for August 6, 2019 at the Bitunia Crossing, to prevent the entrance of Israeli goods into the Palestinian territories (Wafa, August 3, 2019).
- A confidential internal report issued by UNRWA’s ethics office revealed that the agency’s commissioner general Pierre Krähenbühl and a number of its other senior figures were accused of engaging in “abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives” (aljazeera.com, July 29, 2019). In consequence, Holland and Switzerland announced they would no longer fund the agency. Extreme worry was voiced in the PA and Gaza Strip over the recent developments, which added to the problems caused after the United States cancelled its financial support for UNRWA (Israeli media). Some reactions were the following:
- Senior Hamas figure Bassem Na’im said the Palestinians had to accept the report about UNRWA corruption and bring those involved to trial. He said that exposing corruption and issuing a verdict before the end of the investigation served American and Israeli interests (Hamas website, August 1, 2019).
- The DFLP called on the Dutch and Swiss governments to change their minds about cancelling UNRWA funding. He said the DFLP had ways of dealing with corruption, including legal measures that did not punish the Palestinian people and deprive them of UNRWA’s services (Dunia al-Watan, July 31, 2019).
- Following the developments, the UAE announced it would donate $50 million to UNRWA, which would help it continue its programs for 2019, especially those in the fields of first aid, education and social services (Dunia al-Watan, July 29, 2019). The Chinese embassy in the PA also signed a cooperation agreement with UNRWA and will donate a million dollars to support the food sector in the Gaza Strip (alresala.net, July 30, 2019).
Reactions to decision to construct dwelling units in Area C
- On July 30, 2019, the Israeli political-security cabinet unanimously passed the Israeli prime minister’s plan to construct 700 dwelling units for Palestinians living in Area C, which is under full Israeli control. The PA criticized the plan, claiming it was the PA that had to authorize construction. The PLO’s Executive Committee criticized the Israeli decision and warned that it was the beginning of Israeli measures to annex most of the West Bank (Wafa, August 1, 2019).
- According to Muhammad Shtayyeh, PA prime minister, construction in Area C is the right of the Palestinian people and cannot be negotiated with Israel. He said that the terms “Areas A, B and C” no longer exist because Israel violated the Oslo Accords and the Palestinians do not need permission from Israel to construct their houses on their own land (Wafa, July 31, 2019). At the opening of the weekly government meeting he said that all the areas [A, B and C] had to be considered as Area A, i.e., areas under full PA control. He added that the Palestinians would make efforts to reinforce their presence throughout Palestine to prevent Israeli violations (Wafa, August 5, 2019).
PA prime minister Muhammad Shtayyeh opens the weekly Palestinian government meeting (Wafa, August 5, 2019).
- Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians had the absolute right to construct in the 1967 territories and did not need authorization from any agency. He said the Palestinians did not have to justify the construction of settlements on their own territory (Wafa, July 31, 2019).
Payment of July salaries
- The PA ministry of the treasury announced that July salaries would be paid as follows (Wafa, August 4, 2019):
- Salaries of the wounded, the families of shaheeds and released prisoners will be paid in full.
- Sixty percent of the salaries of civilian and military officials and of pensioners will be paid, but not less than 2000 shekels (about $575).
- The ministry of social development said welfare payments to needy families would not be paid concurrently with salaries, but during the last third of the month (Safa, August 4, 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. ↑
 On July 22, 2019, the Israeli security forces razed 12 buildings in the Wadi al-Hums neighborhood near Sur Baher in southeast Jerusalem. The buildings were razed in accordance with a decision from the Israeli Supreme Court. They had been built in a forbidden area near the security fence. ↑