Gazans during the "return march" in the eastern Gaza Strip on September 28, 2018 (Palinfo Twitter account, October 1, 2018).
Demonstrators block the path of the vehicle of the UNRWA director's bodyguard in the Gaza Strip (Shams News, October 1, 2018).
Demonstrators block the path of the vehicle of the UNRWA director's bodyguard in the Gaza Strip (Shams News, October 1, 2018).
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (center) and the Palestinian Minister of the Treasury Shukri Bishara (left) at a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at UN headquarters (Wafa, September 28, 2018).
Some of the members of the Hamas delegation in Cairo (Twitter account of the al-Ra'i agency, established by the de facto Hamas administration, October 1, 2018).
Da'ud Shehab's press conference (Paltoday, September 28, 2018).
Ziyad al-Nakhalah, referred to as "the secretary general-elect," in the center of the banner hanging behind Da'ud Shehab when the results of the elections were announced. The heading reads, "Towards Jerusalem...keeping the promise...loyal to the obligation" (al-Istaqlal, September 28, 2018).
- The trend toward escalation continues in the Gaza Strip, with an increase in the frequency of riots and propaganda events and in the level of their accompanying violence. It has increased the friction between the rioters and IDF soldiers, leading to a rise in Gazan casualties. Apparently the situation on the ground has been influenced by a sense of frustration at the lack of progress in attempts to reach a reconciliation and arrangement, potentially leading to another round of escalation.
- The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate. UNRWA workers announced a strike, and sources within the agency are trying to raise funds to reduce the budget deficit caused by America’s reduction of its contribution.
- Mahmoud Abbas, speaking before the UN General Assembly, said he was committed to the path of peace and was opposed to violence and terrorism. He claimed the Palestinians had never opposed negotiations. He also again justified the funds the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays to the families of shaheeds and prisoners, citing the Israeli laws and the American administration’s opposition to the payments.
- In internal Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) elections, Ziyad al-Nakhalah was chosen as the organization’s new secretary general. He replaces Ramadan Shalah, who had been in a coma since April and is hospitalized in Lebanon.
Escalation along the Gaza Strip border
- As they have every Friday since March, during the past two weeks “return marches” were held along the Gaza Strip border. On September 21 and 28 a relatively large number of Gazans participated (about 20,000). They gathered at several “traditional” and new locations along the security fence and held particularly violent riots. They burned tires, threw stones, pipe bombs and hand grenades at the IDF forces, and broke through the border fence at several sites. There was also an increase in the number of incendiary kites and balloons launched into Israeli territory, including some with explosive devices attached to them. About 70 fires broke out in the western Negev. One incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip reached Kiryat Gat (about 20 kilometers, or 12.5 miles, from the Gaza Strip).
- During the riots eight Gazans were killed and several hundred were wounded. As usual, senior Hamas figures attended the “marches” and encouraged the participants to continue the events and expand them. In response to the relatively large number of Gazans killed, Hamas issued a statement accusing Israel of using mortar fire, tank shells and live ammunition. According to the statement, all the measures used by Israel to prevent the demonstrations [sic] will only strengthen the Palestinian people, who will continue the “marches”and broaden their scope. Senior PIJ figures said the organization would not remain silent in the face of seven Gazans killed during the “return march” and the [many] wounded on September 28, 2018, and would decided how and when to retaliate (al-Manar, October 1, 2018).
- During the days between the “marches,” thousands of Gazans rioted along the border. Some were held during the night by the unit Hamas calls the “Night Harassment Unit.” Rioters threw hand grenades and IEDs at IDF forces. The high level of violence led in turn to a large number of Gazan casualties.
- On the afternoon of October 2, 2018, in answer to a call from the “National authority of the great return march,” several hundred Gazans gathered near the border, primarily in the area around Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip (Shabakat Quds, October 2, 2018). They threw stones and hand grenades and shot fireworks at the IDF forces. Several tried to cross the security fence into Israel. They attempted to set fire to an Israeli post, hung Palestinian flags on the fence and returned to the Gaza Strip. Incendiary balloons caused four fires. One incendiary balloon was found at a junction in the western Negev; the road was subsequently closed to traffic.
- Reportedly, the “return march” events of October 5, 2018, will have “Perseverance and a firm stance” as their slogan (Filastin al-Yawm, September 28, 2018). Calls have been heard throughout the Gaza Strip for the general public to mobilize and participate in the events (Shehab Twitter account, October 2, 2018).
A poster issued by the “National authority of the great return march”
calls on the public to participate in the “return marches” on Friday,
October 5, 2018. Their slogan is “the Friday of perseverance and a firm stance”
(Facebook page of the National authority of the great return march, October 2, 2018).
Rocket and mortar shell fire
- This past week no rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Rocket and mortar shell fire during and between the recent rounds of escalation
* Minimum number of rockets and mortar shells fired in May, June and July. At this stage the ITIC cannot distinguish between rocket and mortar shell fire.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire since January 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits
Terrorist attacks and attempted attacks
- On September 18, 2018, Yom Kippur eve, a Palestinian armed with a knife went to the Nablus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, where there was a large crowd of Jewish worshippers. He went up to one and tried to stab him, throwing him to the ground. He ran towards a group of Border Policemen and tried to stab one of them. He was shot and killed. The Palestinian media reported he was Muhammad Yusuf Sha’aban Alian, 26, from the Qalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem (Palinfo Twitter account, September 18, 2018).
Muhammad Yusuf Sha’aban Alian, who attempted the stabbing
attack in Jerusalem (Palinfo Twitter account, September 18, 2018).
Events on the ground
- The throwing of stones at Israeli vehicles continued and intensified throughout Judea and Samaria. The Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity and seizing funds used for financing terrorist activities, as well as standard and improvised weapons. The more prominent events were the following:
- Sept 29, 2018 – Shots were fired at an IDF post near the Jalazone refugee camp (near Ramallah). No casualties or damage were reported. After the shooting several dozen Palestinians gathered and threw stones at the IDF forces searching for the shooters (Red Alert Facebook page, September 29, 2018).
- Sept 27, 2018 – Three incendiary balloons were seen in the sky over the community of Ein Tsurim in Gush Etzion. Two of them exploded in the air and the third landed in the the community but did not cause damage(Red Alert Facebook page, September 27, 2018).
- Sept 27, 2018 – During the entrance of Jewish worshippers into the Grave of Joseph in Nablus Palestinians rioted and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli security forces securing the worshippers (Red Alert Facebook page, September 27, 2018).
- Sept 26, 2018 – An IED was thrown from a moving car at Israeli security forces near the Jalazone refugee camp (near Ramallah). The soldiers responded by firing their weapons at the vehicle. No casualties or damage were reported (Red Alert Facebook page, September 26, 2018).
- Sept 16, 2018 – A military vehicle carrying soldiers mistakenly entered the Qalandia refugee camp. A crowd of Palestinians gathered, throwing stones and other objects at it. Three soldiers incurred minor injuries. Israeli security forces entered the refugee camp and extracted the vehicle and its passengers.
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria during the past year
Prevention of attempts by Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip to carry out terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria
- Indictments were handed down for two operatives of a Hamas cell at Bir Zeit University. According to the indictment, in 2015 an operative from Hamas’ military-terrorist wing in the Gaza Strip formed a network of terrorist operatives from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip with the objective of recruiting terrorist operatives in Judea, Samaria and Israel to carry out terrorist attacks targeting Israel. A particular effort was made to recruit engineering and technology students. The plan was exposed by the detention of the two students, who revealed during interrogation that they had been recruited on Facebook by Hamas terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip. They received military training and helped transfer funds for terrorist activities, and were also instructed to carry out an attack. The attack was prevented by their early detention (Israel Security Agency, October 3, 2018).
Exposure of a terrorist cell in east Jerusalem organizing riots on the Temple Mount
- The Israeli security forces exposed a group of young Palestinians from east Jerusalem who were behind the riots on the Temple Mount on July 27, 2018. Four Israeli policemen were injured in the riots and the Temple Mount compound was closed for a number of hours. The group was headed by two Hamas operatives who held Israeli ID cards. One had been incarcerated in Israel for involvement in a stabbing attack. The father of the other carried out a shooting attack in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016, killing two Israelis, one of them a policeman. The two operatives recruited others and gave them money to buy fireworks. The fireworks were then smuggled into the Temple Mount compound and used to attack the Israeli security forces (Israel Security Agency, September 20, 2018).
Shortage of medicines in hospitals
- A senior figure in the Gaza Strip ministry of health held a press conference where he warned of a serious shortage of medicines. He said the shortage made it difficult to provide medical services to the Gaza Strip population, especially the wounded and chronically ill (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Twitter account, September 30, 2018).
UNRWA workers on strike
- On October 1, 2018, the UNRWA staff workers’ union went on strike to protest budget cuts and the agency’s intention to fire hundreds of employees. The cuts are part of UNRWA’s attempt to reduce its budget deficit in the wake of the cuts in American aid to the agency. The employees protested at a series of locations in the Gaza Strip, including UNRWA headquarters and a hotel in the western part of Gaza City where senior agency figures were holding a meeting (al-Quds, September 24, 2018). Reportedly, as a result of the strike about 250,000 students did not go to school and the medical and service centers operated by the agency were closed (alresala.net, October 2, 2018).
- Following the strike, UNRWA decided to evacuate ten of its international employees from the Gaza Strip. They left the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing into Israel (despite the fact that it was closed for the holiday). The UN made the decision after demonstrators prevented workers from entering their offices and threatened their lives (The Daily Star, October 1, 2018). According to UN spokesman Sami Mushasha (who lives and works in Jerusalem), UNRWA decided to temporarily withdraw part of its international staff from Gaza following a series of worrying security incidents affecting its personnel in the Strip. Matthias Schmale, the Director of Operations and [a few members of the] international staff will remain, and UNRWA activities will continue (UNRWA website, October 1, 2018).
- Iyad al-Bazam, spokesman for the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, said in response that the ministry of the interior was committed to protecting UNRWA institutions and its foreign and local employees. He said security measures had not been changed and demonstrations would not be permitted to develop into attacks on workers or facilities (Reuters in Arabic, October 1, 2018).
Demonstrators block the path of the vehicle of the UNRWA director’s bodyguard in the Gaza Strip (Shams News, October 1, 2018).
Attempts to raise funds for UNRWA
- On the General Assembly sidelines various forums met to raise contributions for the Palestinians, among them a meeting of UNRWA’s donor countries, held at the request of Jordan on September 27, 2018. At the meeting the EU, the Gulf States, Turkey, Japan and other countries pledged funds to the agency as part of the effort to reduce the deficit resulting from the American cuts to its budget (Maariv, September 27, 2018). Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said they had raised $122 million. The Jordanian foreign minister said that after the donations had been pledged, UNRWA’s deficit stood at $68 million. Fifty million dollars was also donated at the meeting to purchase fuel and to improve the water system in the Gaza Strip (UAE website, September 28, 2018).
- On the eve of the meeting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund issued reports about the economies of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. According to the reports the reduction of funds the PA transfers to the Gaza Strip resulted in the stagnation of the Gazan economy. The reports also stated that in 2017, 53% of the Gazan population lived below the poverty line and 79% of the Gazan population relied on external support, which has been declining in recent years (alresala.net, September 25, 2018).
Attempts to reach an arrangement continue
- Alongside talks with Fatah, Egypt continues to work with Hamas for a lull arrangement in the Gaza Strip before completing the internal Palestinian reconciliation. On September 22, 2018, a delegation of the Egyptian General Intelligence visited the Gaza Strip (Shehab, September 22, 2018). The delegation met with the Hamas leadership to discuss the lull arrangement and attempts to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Hamas representatives stressed that they had no interest in escalation, and called on all sides to work to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip (Filastin al-Yawm, September 22, 2018). According to “sources in the Gaza Strip,” the Egyptian delegation tried to reduce the intensity of the “return marches” and the activities of the “Night Harassment Unit” (al-Araby al-Jadeed, September 22, 2018).
- On September 29, 2018, a large Hamas delegation headed by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, arrived in Cairo. According to a Hamas website, the delegation held a long meeting with members of Egyptian General Intelligence, the first of several still to be held. Husam Badran, head of Hamas ministry for international relations, said that lifting the “siege” of the Gaza Strip was an urgent national mission which could not be delayed or protracted. Hamas, he said, was working towards a lull based on confirming the ceasefire of 2014 [the end of Operation Protective Edge], with the full cooperation of “all sectors of the Palestinian population” (Hamas website, September 30, 2018).
- Regarding the “lull” [with Israel], Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations] was not desperate to reach a lull and that it was possible to return to the understandings of 2014 only if all Hamas’ demands were met regarding lifting the “siege.” He said efforts to achieve a lull had not ended even though it seemed they had, and that they were continuing far from the eyes of the media. That was because many people were trying to misrepresent the facts and claiming Hamas was appeasing Israel (Palestinian TV, September 20 2018). On the other hand, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri announced the indirect negotiations with Israel had been suspended, for which he blamed Israel (al-Arabiya al-Hadath, September 23, 2018).
New Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) secretary general
- On September 28, 2018, PIJ spokesman Da’ud Shehab held a press conference in the “return camp” in the eastern part of Gaza City, where he announced the election of Ziyad Rashid al-Nakhalah (Abu Tareq) to the position of PIJ secretary general. Al-Nakhalah will replace Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who is ill and can no longer fill the position. Also announced were the names of nine members of the organizations political bureau, among them Dr. Muhammad al-Hindi, Dr. Anwar Abu Taha and Khaled al-Batash. Shehab stressed that others had been elected from “other jihad arenas, such as the West Bank, the 1948 territory and the jails,” and that their names had not been revealed for security reasons.
- Regarding the election process, Shehab said that internal elections began more than a year ago, with the supervision and direction of Ramadan Shalah. Procedures and lists were authorized, and central and secondary election committees were appointed. He also said that the elections had been held in all the sectors at the same time, and that 99.3% of those eligible to vote had participated (Paltoday, September 28, 2018).
Da’ud Shehab’s press conference (Paltoday, September 28, 2018).
- Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who today lives in Lebanon, was born in the Gaza Strip in 1953 and grew up in Khan Yunis. He is married and has six children (two sons and four daughters). In 1971 he was detained by Israel for the first time and sentenced to life imprisonment. After 14 years he was released in the “Jibril deal.” After his release he was elected to the PIJ’s first Shura Council, and Fathi Shqaqi, who was the PIJ’s secretary general, delegated him to establish a military wing. He was detained again in 1988 for his part in igniting the first intifada and was expelled to south Lebanon, where he advanced through the ranks of the organization. In addition to this military-terrorist activities, he was appointed PIJ representative in Lebanon. After al-Shqaqi was killed in 1995, the Shura Council elected al-Nakhalah as deputy secretary general, and he was a member of the limited military leadership headed by Ramadan Shalah (al-Istaqlal, September 28, 2018).
Ziyad al-Nakhalah, referred to as “the secretary general-elect,” in the center of the banner hanging behind Da’ud Shehab when the results of the elections were announced. The heading reads, “Towards Jerusalem…keeping the promise…loyal to the obligation” (al-Istaqlal, September 28, 2018).
Mahmoud Abbas’ speech before the UN General Assembly
- On September 27, 2018, Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech before the UN General Assembly. He spoke about a variety of issues, among them the meeting of the Palestinian National Council held several months ago, Israel’s “aggression,” Israel’ National Law, the internal Palestinian reconciliation and the American administration’s treatment of the PA. He expressed his commitment to the path of peace and his opposition to violence and terrorism, claiming the Palestinians never opposed negotiations. He also repeated his justification for transferring funds from the PA to the families of shaheeds and prisoners, citing the Israeli and American laws which oppose the payments.
Right: Mahmoud Abbas speaks before the UN General Assembly. Left: The General Assembly hall during his speech (Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, September 27, 2018).
- The main points of the speech were the following (al-Jazeera, September 27, 2018):
- Jerusalem: Mahmoud Abbas declared that Jerusalem could not be sold and he objected to any solution that did not include east Jerusalem as the capital [of Palestine].
- PA-America relations: Mahmoud Abbas claimed that at the beginning of Trump’s presidency the PA cooperated with the American administration, but to their great surprise, the administration made decisions that contradicted the peace process, did not uphold the commitments of previous administrations and destroyed the two-state solution. He called on the president of the United States to revoke his decisions regarding Jerusalem, the refugees and the settlements.
- PA-Israel relations: Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel’s policies, especially the National Law, which he claimed was racist and crossed every red line, and which would lead to the creation of an apartheid state and destroy the two-state solution. He said that during the past year the Palestinian National Council had met and renewed the legitimacy of the Palestinian people’s national institutions by electing a new PLO leadership. The Council had voted to reexamine the political, economic and security agreement signed with the Israeli government and to appeal to the ICC to examine Israel’s violations of the agreements.
- Hamas and the Gaza Strip: Mahmoud Abbas threatened to impose additional sanctions on the Gaza Strip, saying that if Hamas did not fulfill the conditions of the reconciliation agreements, the PA would not accept responsibility for the Gaza Strip.
- In the wake of the speech, the Palestinian government called on the international community and all the countries friendly to the PA to accept the speech as a document and source of political authority to renew the peace process (Palestinian TV, September 28, 2018).
- Sources within Hamas and other organizations criticized the speech, calling it proof that Mahmoud Abbas’ policies had failed. They were particularly critical of Mahmoud Abbas’ threats to impose additional sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said if new sanctions were imposed the Palestinian organizations and people would respond (Felesteen, September 22, 2018). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Mahmoud Abbas’ threats had crossed every ideological and moral line and proved the close relations between the PA and Israel, whose objective was to harm the Palestinian people (alresala.net, September 22, 2018).
Protests in the Gaza Strip during Mahmoud Abbas’ speech in the UN. Right: Demonstrators with pictures of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, reading, in both English and Arabic, “Criminals.” Left: Demonstrators in Rafah burn pictures of Mahmoud Abbas (Palinfo Twitter account, September 27, 2018).
Hamas cartoon criticizing Mahmoud Abbas. The Arabic reads, “Mahmoud Abbas
promises Gaza new sanctions” (Palinfo Twitter account, September 27, 2018).
Mahmoud Abbas meets with Ahed Tamimi
- Before going to New York Mahmoud Abbas paid state visits to European countries, including France and Ireland. While in France he met with Ahed Tamimi and her family, who were touring Europe. Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told her that “the peaceful popular resistance” was the most effective weapon for dealing with Israel and exposing its conduct to the world (Wafa, October 22, 2018).
PA appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration
- The PA appealed to the ICJ for arbitration regarding the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, claiming that it was a violation of international law. According to Riyadh al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, the PA demanded the ICJ require the United States to move its embassy from Jerusalem and prevent the United States from relocating it there again in the future. In an interview Muhammad Ashtiya, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said that the basis for the Palestinian appeal was that by relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, the president of the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people, thereby supporting the Jewish narrative as opposed to the Christian and Muslim narrative (Palestinian TV, October 1, 2018).
 For further information, see the October 2, 2018 bulletin, "Summary of Recent Escalation Along the Gaza Strip Border." ↑
 The statistics do not include rockets that fell inside the Gaza Strip. ↑
 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. ↑