Hamas-organized march in Gaza City to celebrate the terrorist attack (Shehab Facebook page, March 17, 2019).
Hamas hands out pastries and candy in Gaza City to celebrate the terrorist attack (Palinfo Twitter account, March 17, 2019).
Supreme National Authority press conference in preparation for the 25th mini-flotilla (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, March 18, 2019).
The night harassment unit burns tires in eastern Gaza City.
Khaled al-Batash announces activities for Land Day (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, March 14, 2019).
Solidarity demonstration of Palestinian journalists in Ramallah in support of the journalist in the Gaza Strip (Wafa, March 18, 2019).
- Events this past week focused on the combined stabbing and shooting attack at two locations near Ariel in Samaria. An IDF soldier and an Israeli civilian were killed and another soldier was critically wounded. The IDF is searching for the terrorist operative. (Note: The terrorist was killed near Ramallah on the night of March 19, 2019, during an IDF attempt to detain him.) The Palestinian Authority (PA) did not officially respond to the attack but exceptionally, two senior PA figures condemned it. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rushed to praise the terrorist attack and in the Gaza Strip candy and pastries were handed out to passersby in celebration.
- On March 15, 2019, two Iranian-made Fajr M-75 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at the Tel Aviv region in central Israel. One rocket exploded in the air and the other fell into the sea. Hamas and the PIJ denied any involvement in the launching, which was carried out during talks with the Egyptian negotiating delegation (which quickly left the Gaza Strip). According to the IDF spokesman, the rockets were launched by Hamas operatives, not deliberately, but by mistake. Following the rocket fire Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked approximately 100 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, including the offices of Hamas’ West Bank headquarters in Gaza City and an underground site for the manufacture of rockets. Exceptionally, Hamas cancelled the Friday, March 15, 2019 “return march.”
- However, during the past few days Hamas raised the level of violence in the Gaza Strip, after more than a week of relative quiet. The rise was manifested by penetrations into Israeli territory, the renewal of the activities of the night harassment unit, and launching IED balloons. In the meantime, preparations continue for the mass march to be held on m march 30, 2019 (called the “million-man march”), which is liable to be accompanied by a high level of violence. “Palestinian sources'” threatened that if Palestinians are killed and wounded during the march, the terrorist organizations will defend the marchers with “the rifles of the resistance.” The possible rise in the level of violence and the Palestinian threats have the potential to lead to a deterioration in the situation on the ground (a short time before the general elections in Israel, April 9, 2019).
Combined stabbing and shooting attack near Ariel
- On March 17, 2019, a combined terrorist attack was carried out in two locations near the city of Ariel in Samaria. A Palestinian walked from the village of Salfit to the Ariel bus stop. Two IDF soldiers were stationed at the bus stop to secure it. The terrorist stabbed and killed one of them, grabbed his gun and continued walking north. As he walked he shot at three civilian vehicles driving on the road. The shots fired at the first vehicle mortally wounded a civilian who died the following day.
- The terrorist stole one of the vehicles and drove towards the nearby Gitai Avisar Junction, continuing to fire the gun indiscriminately as he drove. At the junction he shot at an IDF soldier and continued driving. He abandoned the vehicle near the village of Burqin (southwest of Ariel). The IDF brought in reinforcements and is searching for the terrorist. (Note: The terrorist was killed near Ramallah on the night of March 19, 2019, during an IDF attempt to detain him.) (IDF spokesman, March 19, 2019). An IDF soldier and an Israel civilian were killed in the attack. Another soldier was critically wounded.
Right: The scene of the stabbing attack. Left: The other arena of the combined terrorist attack near Ariel (Palinfo Twitter account, March 17, 2019).
- The Israeli media reported that the terrorist who carried out the attack was Omar Amin Abu Layla, 19, from the village of al-Zawiya, west of Salfit (Arabs48, March 18, 2019). Social network users posted pictures of Abu Layla, praising the attack and its “hero.”
Omar Abu Layla, who carried out the attack (Arabs48, March 18, 2019).
- So far, no official response to the attack has been made by Mahmoud Abbas or the PA. The Palestinian Wafa News Agency (which is directly subordinate to the office of the PA chairman) reported factually that IDF forces had reinforced the closure of the Salfit-Nablus region following the killing of an IDF soldier near Salfit (Wafa, March 17, 2019). However, in the PA and Fatah there were exceptional condemnations of the attack: Hassan al-Sheikh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and minister of civil affairs, condemned the attack, saying the PA security forces should make every effort to expose the perpetrators. Adnan al-Dameiri, spokesman for the PA’s security forces, said the attack was a Hamas plot to deflect attention from the demonstrations protesting the high cost of living in the Gaza Strip.
- Hamas and the PIJ rushed to praise the attack. Hamas called it a response to Israel’s [alleged] “violations and crimes,” claiming it proved all forms of “resistance” were the best choice for the struggle against Israel. In the Gaza Strip candy and pastries were handed out to passersby in celebration. In a number of locations gleeful marches and demonstrations were held to celebrate the attack (al-Aqsa, March 17, 2019).
- At one of the marches, Salah al-Bardawil, a member of the Hamas’ political bureau, praised the “resistance.” He said the attacks were carried out in retaliation for the harm Israel does to the Palestinians (al-Aqsa, March 17, 2019). Khaled al-Batash, a member of the PIJ’s political bureau, praised the attack, saying that Palestine would be restored only by the “resistance” and not by a political arrangement or normalization (al-Aqsa, March 18, 2019), PIJ spokesman Da’ud Shehab praised the attack, saying it had transferred the battle to “its real, natural territory” [i.e., Judea and Samaria].
Hamas hands out pastries and candy in Gaza City to celebrate the terrorist attack (Palinfo Twitter account, March 17, 2019).
Right: Hamas-organized march in Gaza City to celebrate the terrorist attack (Shehab Facebook page, March 17, 2019). Left: Gleeful Hamas notice celebrating the terrorist attack (Palinfo Twitter account, March 17, 2019).
- On March 14, 2019, shots were fired from the direction of Jilazoun towards the community of Beit El (north of Ramallah). A house was hit. No casualties were reported (IDF spokesman, March 14, 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 and seizing military grade and improvised weapons. The more prominent events were the following:
- March 19, 2019 – Israeli security forces carried out searches in Nablus and the nearby village of Azmut, seizing an improvised Carlo machine gun and two other weapons (IDF spokesman, March 19, 2019).
- March 18, 2019 – A Palestinian was stopped at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. He was carrying a knife (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, March 18, 2019).
- March 18, 2019 – Stones were thrown at a vehicle on highway 5 near the Ornit roadblock. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged (Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria, March 18, 2019).
- March 17, 2019 – During an IDF force activity in Jenin, two IEDs were thrown at the forces. No casualties or damage were reported (IDF spokesman, March 18, 2019).
- March 17, 2019 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli bus on the Gush Etzion-Hebron road. The Molotov cocktail caused a fire. No casualties were reported (United Hatzalah, March 17, 2019).
- March 17, 2019 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli bus north of Maaleh Amos (eastern Gush Etzion). One man was slightly injured (United Hatzalah, March 17, 2019).
- March 17, 2019 – A Palestinian woman who arrived at an examination post at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs aroused the suspicion of the Israeli security forces. A search revealed she had a hidden knife which she planned to take into the compound with her (Israeli media, March 17, 2019).
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria during the past year and a half 
Rocket and mortar shell fire
- The PIJ, Hamas’ military wing and the Popular Resistance Committees all rushed to deny the reports of their responsibility for the rocket fire. Hamas and the PIJ told the members of the Egyptian delegation that they were not responsible (al-Hadath Twitter account, March 15, 2018). The IDF reported the rockets were launched by Hamas operatives, not deliberately, but by mistake (IDF spokesman, March 15, 2019). Immediately after the rocket fire Hamas evacuated all its posts (al-Hadath Twitter account, March 14, 2019). The Egyptian security delegation left the Gaza Strip following a request from Israel (al-Arabiya, March 15, 2019).
- How was the rocket fire received by the Palestinian public? The Ma’an News Agency (considered one of the most popular Palestinian media outlets; its offices are located in Bethlehem) is holding an Internet survey about the rockets launched at the Tel Aviv area. The survey will continue until March 22, 2019. The interim results were published on March 18, 2019:
- 52.2% are of the opinion that the rocket launching was “heroic” and a fitting response to the [alleged] “crimes of Israel.”
- 37.3% are of the opinion that it was a spontaneous response that harms the national interest.
- 10.4% had no opinion.
Interim results of the poll of Internet surfers (Ma’an, March 18, 2019).
- A number of hours after the rockets were launched, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked military targets in the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF spokesman, approximately 100 Hamas terrorist attacks were hit. They included the compound of offices of Hamas’ West Bank headquarters in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, and an underground site for the manufacture of rockets. In addition, a number of military compounds were attacked, including a post of the Hamas naval force which served as a location for manufacturing weapons; a training compound that served Hamas’ UAV system; posts and underground infrastructure (IDF spokesman, March 15, 2019).
Targets in the Gaza Strip attacked from the air by the IDF in response to the launching of the rockets (IDF spokesman, March 15, 2019).
Hamas’ headquarters for the West Bank in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, where terrorist operatives in Judea and Samaria are handled (IDF spokesman, March 17, 2019).
Right: Underground site for the manufacture of rockets. Left: Post of Hamas’ naval force used for the manufacture of weapons (IDF spokesman, March 17, 2019).
- The Palestinian media reported the attack on the new port in Khan Yunis (Shabakat Quds Twitter account, March 15, 2019); a Badr forces’ post (Paldf Twitter account, March 15, 2019); a post of the naval police in the southern part of Gaza City (Dunia al-Watan, March 15, 2019); posts in the Beit Lahia region (Paldf Twitter account, March 15, 2019); and a post in Rafah (Dunia al-Watan, March 15, 2019). According to reports the attacks caused a great deal of damage. No casualties were reported.
Rocket and mortar shell fire in response to the IDF attacks
- In response to the Israeli Air Force attacks a number of rockets and mortar shells were fired at the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. Six rockets were fired at the communities and at the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted five of the rockets (IDF spokesman, March 15, 2019). There has been quiet on the ground since the morning of Friday, March 15, 2019. After the events, the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March announced, unprecedentedly, the cancellation of the “return march” planned for the afternoon (Sawt al-Aqsa, March 15, 2019). However, according to a report, a number of Palestinians went to the security fence east of Gaza City and set tires on fire (Palinfo, March 15, 2019).
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Attempts at penetration
- This past week IDF forces detained a number of Palestinians who tried to cross the security fence on the Gaza Strip border and reach Israeli territory. On March 14, 2019, a Palestinian was detained near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. He had a knife, and was taken for interrogation (IDF spokesman, March 14, 2019). On March 17, 2019, IDF forces detained a number of Palestinians who tried to cross the fence in the security forces (Ynet, March 18, 2019).
Launching of IED balloons
- After a hiatus of about a week the “sons of al-Zouari” unit, which launches incendiary and IED balloons into Israeli territory, resumed its activities. On March 17, 2019, the “sons of al-Zouari in Rafah” posted a video showing a unit operative preparing a balloon for launching. He is seen attaching the detonator of an IED to the balloon.
- The following are some of the balloon launchings from the previous week:
- On March 18, 2019, demolitions experts from the Israel Police Force were called to deal with balloons found in an open area in the western Negev. Suspicious objects were attached to the balloons (western Negev police unit spokesman, March 19, 2019).
- On March 17, 2019, a plane made of Styrofoam with an improvised hand grenade attached to it was found on one of the roads in the western Negev. A demolitions expert from the Israel Police Force was summoned (western Negev spokesman’s unit, March 17, 2019). In the northern Negev two balloon clusters were found. It was suspected they had been attached to IEDs (Ynet, March 18, 2019).
Night harassment unit activities
- The night harassment unit resumed its activities on March 18, 2019, at a number of locations along the Gaza Strip border. They burned tires, lit fireworks and used laser beams to harass the Israeli security forces.
- The Supreme National Authority held a press conference where it announced the 25th mini-flotilla would be held on Tuesday, March 25, 2019. Its slogan will be “Gaza will be victorious over those who impose a closure on it” (Supreme National Authority Facebook page, March 18, 2019). During recent weeks the events of the mini-flotillas have been irregular, due to the talks with the Egyptian mediators who are trying to broker a lull in the Gaza Strip. Note: In effect, a mini-flotilla was held on March 19, 2019.
Preparations for the March 30 “return march”
- The Supreme National Authority held a press conference where senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash announced the programs for the “million-man march,” which will be held on March 30, 2019. He said events would be held at five locations along the Gaza Strip border. He called on the public to participate in the “peaceful” march and to arrive at the friction sites in order to clash with IDF soldiers. He also called for a general strike in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria on March 30, 2019, and called on Israeli Arabs to demonstrate against Israel (Ma’an, March 14, 2019). Senior PIJ figure Ahmed al-Mudallal said the march held on March 30 is the most important, and called on all Palestinians to take an active part during the coming second year of the “return marches” (al-Aqsa TV, March 14, 2019).
Hamas activity against the organizers of the demonstrations and those who cover them for the media
- Given the economic situation, this past week demonstrations were held against Hamas throughout the Gaza Strip. The demonstrators protested the high cost of living, unemployment and the taxes imposed by Hamas. Their slogan was “We want to live.” Hamas’ security forces have used extreme violence to brutally suppress the demonstrations. On March 19, 2019, the activists of the popular initiative “We want to live” declared a general strike throughout the Gaza Strip for March 20-22, 2019. They also called on the public to gather in the squares and streets beginning at 1600 hours. They issued a press release stating that the campaign would continue until Hamas met their requests (Wafa, March 19, 2019).
- Hamas’ security forces used mass detentions to suppress the demonstrations. Among those detained were human rights activists and journalists who covered the demonstrations, as well as Fatah activists whom Hamas suspects Fatah of being behind the demonstrations. Eye witnesses reported that armed, masked Hamas operatives broke into dozens of buildings in the Jabalia neighborhood of Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah and detained activists from the “We want to live” network. The detainees were taken to prisons for interrogation. Eye witnesses also reported that Hamas broke into the homes of senior Fatah figures and detained them. Hamas also erected roadblocks and its operatives searched every vehicle and interrogated passersby (Wafa, March 17, 2019).
- Hamas’ security forces also detained Rifa’t al-Qidra, managing director of PA radio and TV in the Gaza Strip. He was abducted from his home in Deir al-Balah. Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee and Tawfiq al-Tirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, condemned Hamas’ detentions (Dunia al-Watan, March 17, 2019). The PA issued an announcement asking for the release of al-Qidra. According to the PA, Hamas prevents it from “fulfilling its journalistic duty to cover the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip” (Shabakat Quds, March 16, 2019). It was also reported that about ten operatives of Hamas’ security forces attacked ‘Atef Abu Sayif, Fatah spokesman in the Beit Lahia region, causing him grievous injury. They also took his car and cell phone (Wafa and al-Hadath, March 11, 2019).
Fatah spokesman ‘Atef Abu Sayif in the hospital in Beit Hanoun after he was attacked (official Fatah Facebook page, March 18, 2019).
Closing of Hamas’ magazine al-Risalah
- For the first time in 22 years the management of the Hamas magazine al-Risalah announced, that because of financial constraints, it would no longer publish the printed version of the magazine. On Thursday, March 14, 2019, al-Risalah published its last printed issue, announcing it would now focus on digital media. The headline of the final issue was “The newspapers dried up…the final message.” In ITIC assessment, behind the closing of the newspaper might be the financial crisis facing Hamas and the Gaza Strip. Al-Risalah now joins other Hamas media which have recently shut down.
Consultations for forming the new Palestinian government
- During the week Dr. Muhammad Ashtiya, who was appointed to form the new Palestinian government which he will head, held a series of meetings and consultations in preparation for forming the new government. He met with representatives of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and other leftist groups, and with a delegation of independents (Wafa, Ma’an, Dr. Muhammad Ashtiya’s Facebook page, March 16 and 18, 2019). He said he would meet with representatives of all the Palestinian organizations, including those that had announced they would not take part in the government. He said the government would include representatives of the various organizations, civilians, businessmen and women from the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Palestinian TV, March 14, 2019).
Right: Muhammad Ashtiya meets with representatives of the DFLP (Dr. Muhammad Ashtiya’s Facebook page, March 16, 2019). Left: Interim Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah bids farewell to the various delegations on the eve of his departure from the government (Wafa, March 18, 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. ↑
 For further information, see the March 17, 2019 bulletin, "Protest Demonstrations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip because of Economic Distress." ↑