Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation March 4-11

Written by IICC

Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
Week of March 4-11
mar0608.jpgStill shot from a video which shows, according to a Popular Resistance Committees claim, the attack on the IDF jeep on March 6 which killed two IDF soldiers (Muqawamah Website, March 6).

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which also claimed responsibility for the attack, said the picture was fabricated.

On March 6, 2008, as the latest round of escalation from the Gaza Strip began to fade, two deadly terrorist attacks were carried out: in one, a mass-casualty attack in Jerusalem, a terrorist from East Jerusalem shot eight students to death at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha'Rav.

In the other, which occurred near the security fence around the Gaza Strip, two IDF soldiers were killed by an IED detonated by remote control.

During the past few days there has been a shaky, fragile lull in the fighting on the ground, manifested by a sharp decrease in rocket fire (although a few isolated rockets are launched daily) and by the IDF's avoidance of initiating air and land attacks within the Gaza Strip.

The lull is not anchored in a formal agreement , which the Egyptians are trying to broker. According to Palestinian media reports, the agreement the Egyptians are trying to mediate would be based on a mutual ceasefire, opening the Gaza Strip crossings and the release of Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier abducted in June 2006.

Important Events
Post-Escalation Calm
Since the end of the last round of escalation (February 27-March 3) there has been a gradual but significant decrease in rocket fire targeting Israeli population centers, although isolated rocket fire continues.

Between March 4 and 6, 22 rocket hits were identified on Israeli territory. In one instance, on March 6 there was a direct rocket hit on a house in Sderot, seriously wounding a grandfather who was watching over his two granddaughters. Three other civilians were slightly wounded and a number were treated for shock (Ynet, March 6).
Direct rocket hit on a house in Sderot (Alex Zeger for www.sderotmedia.co.il , March 6).

Beginning March 7 there was a significant drop in the number of rockets fired , with only a few isolated instances for which no organization has claimed responsibility . 1

During the past week a total of 26 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.

In addition, 20 mortar shells were fired at population centers and at IDF forces operating close to the Gaza Strip security fence.

Daily Distribution of Rocket Hits in Israel Territory

Terrorist Shooting at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha’Rav in Jerusalem Kills Eight Students
 On March 6 a terrorist from East Jerusalem used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to carry out a mass-casualty attack at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha'Rav in Jerusalem . Eight yeshiva students were killed in the attack and ten wounded, four of them critically. So far it is unclear which organization was behind the attack, and the Palestinian terrorist organizations have yet to claim responsibility it. marmerkaz_harav.jpg

A blood-soaked prayer shawl which belonged to one of the murdered yeshiva students at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha'Rav (Avi Ohion for the Israeli Government Press Office, March 6).

The terrorist who carried out the attack was Alaa Hashem Abu Adhim , a resident of Jabel Mukaber, southeast of Jerusalem .

He worked driving students around Jerusalem and held an ordinary Israeli identity card, making it easy for him to move in Israeli territory. In our assessment the site of the attack was not chosen randomly and the terrorist's preparations included collecting information about the yeshiva's daily routine. 2

IED Kills Two IDF Soldiers

On March 6 two IDF soldiers were killed by a IED attack against a jeep on a routine patrol along the Gaza Strip security fence near Kissufim.

One of the soldiers, a professional scout, was killed outright when the IED was detonated. The other, Liran Banai , an Ashqelon resident, was mortally wounded and died in the hospital on March 9. Two other soldiers were slightly wounded. The IDF assessment is that the IED weighed several dozen kilograms and was detonated by remote control marliran_banai.jpg(Ynet, March 6).

First sergeant Liran Banai, one of the two soldiers killed in the attack (IDF Spokesman, March 9). Evacuating the jeep (Pal-today Website, March 6). Still picture from a video showing, according to the PRC, the IDF jeep during the attack (Muqawamah Website, March 6).


Counterterrorist Activities
The Gaza Strip
The IDF Lowers Its Counterterrorist Activity Profile

In recent days, with the lull in the fighting on the ground, the IDF has avoided initiating attacks in the Gaza Strip (incursions and air strikes). IDF forces have engaged only in pinpoint activities against terrorist squads trying to attack.

Before March 6 the IDF continued its intensive activities in the Gaza Strip:
March 6 – A squad was seen placing an IED near the site of the attack on the IDF jeep in which two soldiers were killed. An IDF force attacked and three PIJ terrorist operatives were killed (Ma'an News Agency, March 6).
March 5 – In the northern Gaza Strip the IDF hit stationary rocket launchers ready for firing.

March 4 – Yusuf Samiri , a senior PIJ operative, was killed by the IDF in the central Gaza Strip. During the action an IED was detonated to attack the soldiers and shots were fired from inside nearby buildings (IDF Spokesman's Website, March 4).

Judea and Samaria
Increase in Stones and Molotov Cocktails

The increase in stones and Molotov cocktails thrown throughout Judea and Samaria continues :
Throwing stones :
March 9 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli bus southwest of Nablus . There were no injuries but the bus was damaged.

March 8 – An Israeli woman was slightly wounded when stones were thrown at her car, north of Ramallah. Near Jelazoun, northeast of Ramallah, Palestinian rioters threw stones and rolled burning tires at an IDF force and at the security fence. No one was injured and no damage was reported. One Palestinian who had participated in the events was detained.
March 8 – An IDF soldier was slightly wounded when a stone was thrown at the vehicle he was riding in south of Ramallah. In addition, north of Hebron two Israel civilians were slightly wounded in a traffic accident caused by stones thrown at their vehicle.
March 5 – Southeast of Nablus, an Israeli woman was slightly wounded when stones were thrown at her car.
Throwing Molotov cocktails:
March 7 – A terrorist squad drove up to the gate of the settlement of Migdal Oz, south of Bethlehem , and threw an IED and a Molotov cocktail at it. There were no injuries and no damage was reported. An IDF force identified the terrorist operatives and shot at them. A search was conducted which located the terrorist vehicle and three of the squad were detained (IDF Spokesman's Website, March 8).

March 7 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli bus southeast of Qalqilya. There were no injuries and no damage was reported. In a separate incident, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle southeast of Qalqilya. There were no injuries but the vehicle was damaged.
March 5 – A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle west of Bethlehem . There were no injuries and no damage was reported.

Israeli Civilian Shot At Near Hebron
On March 5 a wounded Israel civilian came the Tarqumia checkpoint west of Halhoul. He had been wounded by shots fired at his car in the village of Idna , northeast of Hebron (IDF Spokesman's Website, March 5).
Investigation revealed that he had entered Palestinian territory accompanied by a Palestinian man who was killed in the shooting. The two may have had business dealings (Ynet, March 6). Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. According to its announcement, the squad planned to abduct the civilian, but an IDF patrol arrived on the scene, preventing the abduction (Ma'an News Agency, March 5).

The Gaza Strip Crossings
Humanitarian Aid Passes into the Gaza Strip from Israel

 This past week as well humanitarian aid continued passing into the Gaza Strip through the Israeli crossings:
Nahal Oz Terminal – Fuel and cooking gas
Karni Crossing – Wheat and animal feed

Sufa Crossing – Food and humanitarian equipment
Erez Crossing – Humanitarian equipment and Palestinians with humanitarian problems
Kerem Shalom Terminal – Food and humanitarian equipment

Humanitarian Aid passes into the Gaza Strip from Egypt
The Egyptians continue providing authorization for the passage of Palestinians delayed in Egypt since the Rafah Crossing was breached. On March 5, 200 Palestinians returned to the Gaza Strip from the Sinai peninsula . On the same day, 55 patients went from the Gaza Strip to Egypt (Ma'an News Agency, March 5).

Egypt Tries To Broker an Agreement for a Lull in the Fighting Egypt Tries to Broker an Agreement between Hamas (and the Other Terrorist Organizations) and Israel

-The Arab and Palestinian media gave broad coverage to Egypt 's attempts to broker an agreement to stop the violence between Israel and Hamas (and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip). It is based on a mutual ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organizations, the reopening of the Gaza Strip crossings and the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, abducted and held in the Gaza Strip since June 2006.

On March 6 another round of talks began between the Hamas delegation, headed by Mahmoud al-Zahar , the PIJ delegation, headed by Muhammad al-Hindi , and senior Egyptian figures led by the chief of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman . At the meeting, held in El-Arish, the ceasefire with Israel, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the issue of the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt were discussed (Pal-today Website, Reuters, Agence France Presse, March 6). The chief of Egyptian intelligence was supposed to arrive in Israel to meet with highly-placed political and security figures, but he cancelled after the mass-casualty shooting in Jerusalem (Ynet, March 8). On March 9 Amos Gilad, head of the national security staff of the Israeli defense ministry arrived in Egypt for talks (AP, March 9).

Hamas's Approach to the Agreement for a Lull in the Fighting
Senior Hamas figures recently spoke about an agreement for a lull in the fighting with Israel , stating that it would be possible only if the IDF stopped its activities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip were lifted. The spokesmen said that at the present time there was no agreement and stressed that it was Hamas that determined the rules of the campaign against Israel .

Hamas figures said the following:
• Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya praised the Egyptian efforts to bring about an end to the violence, saying that it had to be mutual, simultaneous and fully implemented and had to lead to the rehabilitation of internal Palestinian relations and an end to the blockade of the Palestinian people (Filastin al-‘An Website, March 10).
• Abu Obeida, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades spokesman , said that his men would not grant Israel a lull in the fighting if they received nothing in return. He said that “the lull in the fighting we might agree to would be restricted in time and conditional on the end of Zionist aggression in the West Bank and Gaza Strip …” He also demanded an end to the blockade of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (Palestine-info Website, March 10).
• Ayman Tahe, Hamas spokesman , said there was no agreement to a lull in the fighting. He added that Hamas would decide the time and place to wage fighting it would initiate based on its tactical considerations on the ground, and not within the framework of an agreement. He said that the lull in the fighting with Israel depended on its being mutual and on the end of the blockade of the Gaza Strip (BBC Arabic Radio, March 10).
1 According to a report, on the afternoon of March 11 a rocket was fired at Ashqelon and fell in the industrial zone to the south of the city. It was fired a short time after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to the city ended. 2 For further information see our March 9 Bulletin entitled “Terrorist shooting at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha'Rav in Jerusalem leaves eight students dead”

SOURCE:IICC Published with full permissions from IICC. 
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