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Israeli Palestinian Update

News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation
April 1-8, 2008                                    

Shooting at Minister Avi Dichter’s convoy. In the upper left hand corner are the insignias of Hamas’s Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades and the Al-Aqsa Defenders, both of which claimed responsibility for the attack (Al-Aqsa TV, April 4). 


During the past week rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at western Negev population centers, including Ashqelon , was “routine,” although there were fewer hits. Sniper fire targeted Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's convoy during a visit to the Sderot area; the minister's aide was wounded.

Regarding the Annapolis process, on April 7 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen after a hiatus of a month and a half. The IDF removed 60 barriers in Judea and Samaria as part of the package of eased restrictions promised to the Palestinians by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Palestinians spokesmen played down the importance of the events. 

Important Events

“Routine” rocket fire continues
This past week there were fewer rockets fired into Israel than in previous weeks . Nine hits were identified in Israeli territory 1 compared with 32 the previous week. On April 7 three rockets fell south of Ashqelon , one in the city's industrial zone. At the same time there was an increase in the number of mortar shells fired at Israeli population centers near the security fence and at IDF forces operating near the fence and in the Gaza Strip. During the past week a total of 49 mortar shells were fired, compared with 26 the previous week.

Hamas continues avoiding rocket fire but does claim responsibility for mortar shell fire. The Popular Front, the Democratic Front and groups within Fatah also claimed responsibility for rocket and mortar shell fire. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for mortar shell fire.

Daily Distribution of Identified Rocket Hits in Israel

Rocket Hits during the Past Week Compared with Previous Weeks
Snipers fire at the Internal Security Minister’s convoy

On April 4 snipers attacked the convoy of Avi Dichter, the Internal Security Minister, during a tour near Kibbutz Nir Am near Sderot. One of his aides was wounded by the fire and evacuated to the hospital in Ashqelon (Ynet, April 4).

Hamas and a Fatah-affiliated group calling itself the Defenders of Al-Aqsa claimed joint responsibility for the attack (Al-Aqsa TV, April 12). According to a Hamas Website, the attack was in retaliation for Israeli activities and for the “holocaust” in the Gaza Strip 2 (Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades Website, April 4). Hamas also posted a video clip documenting the attack. The Popular Resistance Committees and the PIJ-affiliated National Army also claimed responsibility for the attack (Ma'an News Agency, April 4).
After the attack on the Israeli Defense Minister's convoy,
the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades boasted of their ability “to make Israel tremble”
(Palestine-info Website, April 8).

In response to the attack on the Minister's convoy, which was accompanied by a Canadian delegation, Canadian Foreign Minister Maxim Bernier condemned the incident and said that attacks on civilians were unacceptable (Agence France Presse, April 5).

Stabbing at Shiloh (Follow-up)

On March 31 a Palestinian terrorist attempted to stab two Israeli civilians waiting for a ride near at the junction between Eli and Shiloh . A group calling itself Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades/the Struggle and Return Battalions claimed responsibility for the attempted attacks (Qudsnet Website, Ma'an News Agency, March 31). Photographs posted on a Hamas forum showed the funeral of the terrorist, Abd Al-Latif Ali Muhammad Kharoub, his body wrapped in a Hamas flag . Hamas flags and those of other Palestinian terrorist organizations were flown at the funeral (PALDF Forum, April 3).

The funeral of the Hamas terrorist operative. His body
was wrapped in a Hamas flag (PALDF Forum, April 3).

Counterterrorist Activities 

The Gaza Strip

The IDF continued its counterterrorist activities near the security fence with local incursions into the Gaza Strip:

•  April 3 – During an IDF activity in the central Gaza Strip the force encountered a squad of armed terrorists and shot and hit three of them. The Palestinians reported six wounded, among them at least one PIJ operative (Palestine-info Website, April 3). 
Judea and Samaria

Dangerous materials confiscated

On April 2 the Israeli security forces at the Tarqumia roadblock, northwest of Hebron , found 300 liters (79 1 gallons) of sulfuric acid in an Israeli truck (IDF Spokesman's Website, April 3). In another event security forces in the villages of Tamoun and Tubas, northeast of Nablus, found sacks of fertilizer weighting 300 kg (660 lbs) (IDF Spokesman's Website, April 4). The use and possession of both materials are forbidden in Judea and Samaria because the terrorist organizations use them to manufacture explosives.

Twelve Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives escape from jail in Nablus

On the night of April 4, 12 Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives escaped from the Al-Juneid prison in Nablus . They had been imprisoned since the beginning of the year as part of the wanted prisoners' amnesty agreement. One of the fugitives, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander in Nablus Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh , said that despite the fact that the operatives were not in jail, they were completely committed to the cease fire and lull in the fighting with Israel, and that they had escaped because of the harsh treatment received at the hands of the Palestinian security forces (Nablus TV, April 4).

Nablus district governor Jamal al-Muheisin said that the escape would not influence Nablus 's internal situation, but added that Israel was liable to exploit the situation to undertake actions in the Nablus region. He added that Israel was supposed to examine the issue of wanted prisoners after they had spent three months in jail, but that the escape might influence its decision (PNN Website, April 5


The Annapolis Process 

Olmert and Abu Mazen meet

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Abu Mazen met on April 7 in Jerusalem . The meeting took place after a hiatus of a month and a half (Haaretz, April 8).


Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen meet in Jerusalem on April 4
(Amos Ben-Gershom for the Government Press Office, April 7).

Saeb Erekat , head PLO negotiator, said after the meeting that there were still serious disagreements between the two sides. He said that “most of the meeting was spent discussing the settlements. Israel continues to build new ones” (Palestinian TV, April 7).

Barriers removed in Judea and Samaria

As part of the package of easing restrictions offered by the Israeli Defense Minister on March 30 in a meeting with the American Secretary of State and the PA Prime Minister, 60 dirt barriers in Judea and Samaria were removed. Saeb Erekat claimed that nothing had changed on the ground and that Israel continued its “blockade” of the Palestinians (Al-Quds newspaper, April 4).

Abducted Soldier Gilad Shalit 

Senior Hamas figure’s statements about Gilad Shalit

Musa Abu Marzuq , deputy chief of Hamas's political bureau, said of Gilad Shalit that if Israel did not release the 350 prisoners demanded by Hamas in return for Shalit's release, “ he will remain with us and we will use his bones to bargain with ” (Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Qabas, April 6). Such a statement, hinting at a threat on Shalit's life, is exceptional and in our assessment was meant to exert pressure on Israel to accede to Hamas's conditions. 
1 As of 12 noon , April 8, three rockets were fired at Sderot, two of them hitting the entrance to the city and one in landing in an open field. They are not included in the weekly total.

2 The Hamas media continue to refer to Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip as a “holocaust.” For further information see our March 12 Bulletin entitled “Throughout the recent escalation, the Palestinian propaganda campaign has frequently employed the term “holocaust” to provide a false description of IDF activity in the Gaza Strip” .

3 The package included both security and civilian components. For further information see our March 26 Bulletin entitled “News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation March 18-25, 2008” . 

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