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Israeli Palestinian Confrontation Update June 5, 2008

June 5, 2008
News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation
May 27-June 3, 2008
       Hamas uses rocket fire and manipulates the Gaza strip population to exert pressure on Israel
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(Left) A Hamas-organized “popular” procession marches toward the Sufa Crossing (Al-Aqsa TV, May 30). (Right) A rocket hits Kibbutz Kfar Aza on May 30 (Zeev Trachtman, May 30).
 
 
Overview 
No progress was made this past week in the contacts for the Egyptian initiative regarding a lull in the fighting. Hamas continues to threaten an escalation of terrorism and manipulating civilians at the crossings if its demands for the lull are not met (focusing on opening the crossings and lifting the blockade).

On the ground rocket and intensive mortar shell fire continued, wounding five Israelis. Hamas also held a “popular” demonstration at the Sufa Crossing and threatened to hold more at other crossings in the coming weeks.
 

Important Events 

Rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip
During the past week rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel continued. Fifteen rocket hits were identified, compared with 13 the previous week. In addition, 44 mortar shells were fired at the villages close to the security fence and at IDF forces, compared with 23 the previous week. On May 27 a standard Grad missile was fired at the southern city of Netivot , which has become a target for terrorist organization rocket fire.

On May 31 a rocket hit an agricultural village in the northwestern Negev , wounding two foreign workers, one of them critically. On June 3 rocket fire continued to pound the same area; a barrage of five rockets was fired, wounding three foreign workers (Ynet, May 31 and June 3).
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Firing mortar shells on May 28. The launchers have been camouflaged
to prevent identification from the air (Al-Aqsa TV, May 28).


The Palestinian Islamic Jihad carried out most of the rocket fire, but the other large terrorist organizations also participated. In general, Hamas fired mainly mortar shells at IDF forces and at the villages close to the Gaza Strip .

                  Daily Distribution of Identified Rocket Hits in Israel
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         Rocket Hits during the Past Week Compared with Previous Weeks
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Counterterrorist Activities 

The Gaza Strip

The IDF continued acting against terrorist squads firing rocket and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip:

• June 3 – The Israeli Air Force attacked rocket launchers in the southern Gaza strip. Three PIJ terrorist operatives were wounded in the attack (Ynet, June 3).
• June 1 – An IDF soldier was critically wounded by terrorist fire during a night action in the southern Gaza strip. Two of Hamas's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives were wounded in the incident (Al-Qassam Website, June 1).
• May 28 – An IDF soldier was critically wounded in an action against terrorist networks in the southern Gaza strip when operatives opened fire on the IDF force.
• May 28 – Sixty Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities were rounded up by IDF forces in the Gaza Strip and brought to Israel for interrogation. Hamas issued a statement condemning the action and threatened that as long as IDF activities continued “the Zionist enemy will not enjoy security and quiet” (Palestine-info Website, May 29).
• May 28 – In an IDF action in the southern Gaza strip, the IAF attacked a squad of rocket launchers ready to fire. Ten mortar shells were fired at the force, wounding one soldier slightly. Two Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives were killed (PalMedia Website, May 27).
• May 27 – Mortar shells and light arms were fired at IDF forces during an action in the northern Gaza Strip. One soldier was slightly wounded. Thirteen suspected terrorists were detained and two rocket launchers were seized.

On the morning of May 31 there was an explosion in the Al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City . Iranian Al-Alam TV reported that Hamas had announced the death of an operative working with explosives. According to a report issued by the AP on May 31, the man was Nader Abu Shaaban, the owner of the house in which the explosion occurred. Sixteen Palestinians were wounded, neighbors and passersby, two of them critically. Such “work accidents,” which occur from time to time, illustrate the danger posed to the local population when Hamas activities are held in residential areas

Weapons to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip uncovered in Sinai

On May 31, close to the Gaza Strip border, Egyptian security forces uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition including dozens of anti-aircraft missiles , RPGs, hand grenades and rifles destined for the Gaza Strip. A senior member of the Egyptian police (who preferred to remain anonymous) said that the region, 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the Rafah Crossing, had previously been used by terrorist networks involved in the series of terrorist attacks in Egypt in 2004 which killed 125 individuals (AP, May 31). According to a report given on June 2, the Egyptian security forces exposed another weapons cache in a mountainous region in the northern Sinai which included 27 sacks of ammunition, anti-tank missiles and hand grenades (Radio Sawa, June 2).

Judea and Samaria

The Israeli security forces continued counterterrorist activities in Judea and Samaria :

• May 27 – In a combined IDF-Israeli police action, Ismail al-Harub Ahmed Abd al-Kader , a PIJ operative, was detained. He was involved in planning an attack and also expressed his willingness to carry out a suicide bombing attack. His helper, also a PIJ operative, was detained (IDF Spokesman's Website, May 28).
• May 27 – IDF soldiers found a sniper rifle in the possession of a Palestinian who arrived at a temporary IDF barrier north of Ramallah. The weapon was confiscated and the Palestinian was taken for interrogation.

Israel

The security forces detained three Arab residents from Lod who planned to abduct and murder a soldier to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners

The Israel Security Agency working with the Israeli police detained three young Arabs from the Israel city of Lod during April and May. The three planned to abduct and murder an IDF soldier to bargain for the release of Palestinian security prisoners. One of the detainees is Amir Nafar, a 20-year old who studies Islamic law ( sharia' ) in Jordan .

The three were all Muslim extremists influenced by radical Islamist groups. Their interrogation revealed that they met one another during Islamic Movement activities and were prominent in promoting the movement's ideology. Amir Nafar was exposed to radical Islamic ideas and influences during his studies in Jordan .

In December 2007 (when Eid al-Ahda, the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice was held) he invited his two friends to a secret meeting in the large mosque in Lod. He told them that all Muslims had the personal duty to wage jihad against the infidels and suggested they join him in abducting an Israeli soldier to use as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Palestinian security prisoners. The plan was to abduct a soldier, document his abduction by filming it and then murder and bury him. The three are currently being tried.

Statistical Data 

                                    Monthly Distribution of Rocket Hits
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                              Monthly Distribution of Mortar Shells Fired
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                                        Monthly Distribution of Attacks 1
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                           Monthly Distribution of Israeli Casualties
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The Egyptian Initiative for a Lull in the Fighting 

Status of the contacts

The meeting of the Israeli Political Security Cabinet planned for June 1 to discuss the proposed lull in the fighting was postponed until the following week. The prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister consulted and concluded that the issue was not ripe for a cabinet vote. Thus the visit to Egypt of Amos Gilad, head of the political-security branch of the Ministry of Defense, was postponed (Haaretz, June 1).

Sources within Hamas expressed their displeasure with the delay. Hamas spokesmen continued threatening the use of “other options” if no progress were made in the negotiations. Senior Hamas figure Ismail Radwan said that Hamas would not wait much longer and that it had the “ military and popular options to breach the blockade and shuffle the cards in the region, should it choose to” (Filastin al-Yawm, June 1). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that “the step to lift the blockade may be taken at any moment and surprise the world” (Filastin al-‘An Website, June 1).

Hamas's “popular actions” continue

On May 30 a Hamas-organized another “popular” demonstration, this one held at the Sufa Crossing. After Friday prayers hundreds of Palestinians marched toward the crossing, accompanied by cameramen and journalists from Al-Jazeera TV and Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV. IDF forces used riot-control equipment to disperse the demonstration after at least one armed Palestinian was observed in the crowd. According to Palestinian media reports seven demonstrators were injured.

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A “popular” procession organized by Hamas marches toward the Sufa Crossing (Al-Aqsa TV, May 30).

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that “such actions will continue in the future and will be larger” (Al-Aqsa TV, May 30).






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Khan Yunis Hamas spokesman Hamad al-Rakab threatened that uncontrollable struggles would follow, and that “they will erupt at all the crossings, regardless of the price” (Al-Aqsa TV, May 30).


European Parliament delegation with members of Hamas's “Popular Committee to Fight the Blockade” (PALDF Forum, June 1).



Hamas publication Al-Risala reported that for the next three weeks processions can be expected to march to the Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom and Kissufim Crossings. According to the report, after the stage of peaceful demonstrations, a breach of the crossings can be expected (Al-Risala, June 2).

The Annapolis Process 

Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen meet again

On June 2, the eve of his departure for the United States , Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Ehud Olmert met again with PA chairman Abu Mazen. The main topics of discussion were the borders and security arrangements for the final status agreement (Haaretz, June 3).

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Olmert and Abu Mazen meet in Jerusalem
(Israeli Government Press Office, June 2).











The Internal Palestinian Arena 

Attacks on Christian institutions in the Gaza Strip continue

In the early morning hours of May 31 armed men invaded the Al-Manara School , which belongs to the Christian Holy Scripture 2 Society of the Baptist Church in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City . The invaders beat two guards, tied them up and stole a bus belonging to the Palestinian Bible Society. 3 The guards lodged a complaint with the police.

It was another in the series of attacks against Christian institutions in the Gaza Strip carried out by radical Islamic elements. The Al-Manara school has already been attacked once this year, on February 21. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, does not take effective measures to stop the attacks on Christian targets and as far as is known, none of the crimes has been solved. In our assessment, the lack of effective Hamas response encourages those who carry out the attacks to continue them. 4
 
SOURCE OF REPORT
 Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
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1 Not including rocket and mortar shell fire.

2 Al-Kitab al-Muqaddas

3 A Christian association active in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

4 For further information see our June 2, 2008 Bulletin entitled “An increase in attacks on Christian and institutions identified with the West in the Gaza Strip”.
 

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