Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Summary News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (December 15-21, 2010)
The western Negev continues to heat up. This past week 15 mortar shells and a rocket hit the western Negev. In response the Israeli Air Force attacked terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. In one attack a squad of five Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees operatives were killed. They were about to fire rockets into Israel.
The Palestinian Authority's diplomatic attack for the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders continues. However, the American Senate passed a motion condemning the one-sided recognition of a Palestinian state and supporting a two-state solution achieved through negotiation. Senior Palestinian figures, including Mahmoud Abbas' political advisor, denounced the motion, claiming that it damaged the United States' credibility and might increase regional anti-American sentiments.
Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
This past week a rocket hit was identified on December 21. It fell in an open area in the western Negev. A young woman sustained minor injuries.
This past week 15 mortar shells were fired at the western Negev. On December 20, 12 mortar shells were fired and landed in open areas. On December 19 three mortar shells were fired and landed in open areas. There were no casualties and no damage was done. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attacks (Website of the PRC military wing, December 19 and 20, 2010).
Site of a rocket fired at the western Negev on December 21
(Photo by Adi Israel, courtesy of NRG, December 20, 2010).
In response to the rocket and mortar shell fire, on December 20 the Israeli Air Force attacked seven terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, including five tunnels, a site for the manufacture of weapons and one other terrorist target (IDF Spokesman's website, December 20, 2010).
On December 19 the IAF attacked a terrorist squad of five operatives, members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, who were preparing to fire rockets into Israeli territory. The Palestinian media reported that they were killed (IDF Spokesman and Israel Channel 10 TV, December 19, 2010).
Judea and Samaria
This past week the Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and seizing weapons (IDF Spokesman's website, December 17, 2010).
Two stabbings near Jerusalem:
On December 18 two women were stabbed near the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, southwest of Jerusalem. One woman, an Israeli, was seriously injured, and the other, a tourist from Britain, was killed. At this point it is unclear whether it was a terrorist attack.
An IDF soldier reported that three Palestinians attempted to stab him, but fled when he prepared to fire his weapon. The incident took place near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Ze'ev (Ynet, December 20, 2010).
Stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles continues in Judea and Samaria:
December 20 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle southwest of Bethlehem.
December 16 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle north of Hebron. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, December 16, 2010).
December 14 – Stones were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Qalqiliya. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, December 14, 2010).
This past week demonstrations and riots were held at the usual friction points: On December 17 demonstrations were held in the villages of Bila'in and Ni'lin (west of Ramallah) and Nebi Salah (northwest of Ramallah). Palestinians, Israeli civilians and foreigners gathered to throw stones at the Israeli security forces (IDF Spokesman's website, December 17, 2010).
In addition, on Saturday, December 18, Palestinians gathered near Beit Ummar (southwest of Bethlehem) and threw stones at Israeli security forces (IDF Spokesman, December 18, 2010).
This past week between 181 and 270 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip. Four trucks carrying strawberries and flowers left the Gaza Strip and entered Israeli territory (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, December 20, 2010).
As part of easing restrictions for the Christmas season, Israel will allow 500 Christians from the Gaza Strip, all over 35 years of age, to enter Israel, Judea and Samaria to visit their families (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, December 19, 2010).
Hamas Denounces UNRWA Following the Palestinian
Youth Delegation's Visit to the United States
An UNRWA delegation of 15 Palestinian youths in UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip who excelled in the study of human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance went to the United States for a visit. During their stay they met with members of the Congress, visited a Holocaust exhibition and were exposed to the American way of life. Their stay was filmed and shown as a documentary which won a prize at the recent "We the People" film festival in London.2 As a result, the authority for refugee affairs in the de facto Hamas administration denounced the visit and expressed its hope that UNRWA "would not do it again."
Hamas' denunciation is another example of the campaign the movement is waging against UNRWA over the nature of the education of the children in the Gaza Strip. The campaign attempts to prevent children from participating in UNRWA summer camps and attending UNRWA schools, and includes force, arson and the destruction of the camps, as well as attempts to prevent UN-authorized human rights studies to be taught in the UNRWA education system. For example, in September 2009, following news that the UNRWA school curriculum would include Holocaust studies, Hamas undertook a broad media attack. It included Holocaust denial, calling it a "lie" which "has not yet been scientifically proved" and whose objective was to reinforce the legitimacy of the so-called Israeli "occupation" of "Palestine."3
Senior members of Salafist Islamist4 networks affiliated with the global jihad claim that their relations with Hamas are tense because they want to continue firing rockets into Israel, while Hamas tries to prevent them. They claim that they are the victims of "persecution, detentions and threats to their lives." Hamas, they claim, prevents the various networks in the Gaza Strip from uniting, which would mean "the beginning of an Islamic emirate," and they accuse Hamas of betraying their principles. They also claim that Hamas detains and follows them during "important jihad activities," keeps them from going about their daily lives and detains and tortures many of them (Agence France-Presse, December 16, 2010).
The accusations express the tension between Hamas and the Salafist jihadist networks, especially since the violent confrontation between them on August 14, 20095. One of the reasons for the tension is the networks' refusal to adjust their activities to Hamas' restrained firing attack policy. Hamas regards the increase in their activities and influence as a threat, even though they are not strong enough to undermine its control of the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority Continues Its Diplomatic Attack to Achieve International Recognition of a Palestinian State within the in Borders and a UN Condemnation of Israel
The Palestinian Authority continues its diplomatic attack to achieve recognition from more countries:
Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO's negotiation department, sent a letter to Catherine Ashton, foreign minister of the European Union, asking the EU countries to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. According to the Palestinians, similar letters were sent to all the UN member states. Western countries were sent letters asking to have the status of the Palestinian legations upgraded to embassies (Al-Hayat, December 17, 2010).
Nabil Shaath, a member of the PLO's executive committee, met with ambassadors from European countries, including France, Britain, Sweden and Denmark, to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the in borders (Ma'an News Agency, December 16, 2010). He later met with the foreign minister of Malta (Wafa News Agency, December 16, 2010).
Saeb Erekat noted that the activity undertaken to achieve international recognition for the Palestinian state is part of Mahmoud Abbas' policy to "put Palestine back on the map," alongside the peace process. He said it was not a unilateral Palestinian step, but rather the direct continuation of the Palestinian declaration of independence of 1988. He said the Palestinians were currently focusing on a number of EU countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and North and Central African countries (Al-Arabiya, December 18, 2010).
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority is trying to arrange a UN condemnation of Israel. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that he was promoting an appeal to the UN Security Council through the Arab, unaligned and Muslim countries to have the settlements declared illegal (Al-Ra'i, December 19, 2010). Riadh Mansour, the Palestinian observer in the UN, confirmed that Mahmoud Abbas had instructed him to contact members of the Security Council to have them vote for a resolution calling on Israel to stop the building in the settlements (Sawt Al-Arab, December 16, 2010).
Following the recognition by some South American countries of a Palestinian state, the American Senate passed a motion which denounced the one-sided move to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and supported a negotiated resolution for the conflict. It pressed the Palestinian Authority to stop its unilateral recognition activities (Agence France-Presse, December 16, 2010).
Senior Palestinians strongly denounced the motion:
Nimr Hamad, Mahmoud Abbas' political advisor, claimed that the Senate motion reflected "preference for internal American interests" over the position of the international community. He expressed sorrow at the American position which, he said, put the United States "alone" at the side of Israel, while denying the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. He added that America's "absolute" bias toward Israel was likely to increase anti-American sentiments in the Middle East (Wafa News Agency, December 16, 2010).
The PLO's executive committee issued a notice to the press denouncing the motion, calling it "crude and cruel." It stressed that the motion "weakens the United States' credibility and places it against the world." According to the notice, recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital was the only way to prevent unfortunate developments in the region (Wafa News Agency, December 16, 2010). Yasser Abd Rabbo, executive committee secretary, said that the motion would not prevent the Palestinians from appealing to the Security Council (Voice of Palestine Radio, December 16, 2010).
The Arab League's committee for monitoring the peace process met on December 15, 2010. It announced that it blamed Israel for the failure of the negotiations which began in September 2010, claiming that the only way currently open, following the "failure of the American administration," was "the clear and immediate declaration that the border between the two states will be the June 1967 line." The committee stressed that any security arrangement would have to include a "full and comprehensive" withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and the end of the Israeli military presence in those territories (Wafa News Agency, December 15, 2010).
Hamas exploited the announcement to attack the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said that the committee's announcement proved the failure of the Palestinian Authority and called for the end of the negotiations with Israel and the rejection of anyone who continued them (Hamas' Palestine-info website, December 16, 2010). Ali Barake, Hamas representative in Lebanon, said that the announcement was "a recognition that the path of arrangements failed." He claimed that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority should "reunite around the resistance" [i.e., terrorism], especially armed resistance, since the "Zionist enemy" understood only force (Al-Alam TV, December 16, 2010).
On the other hand, in Ramallah Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas received a delegation of about 100 Israelis, including Knesset members from the Kadima, Labor and Meretz parties, Likud activists and former Knesset members Amram Mitzna and Efraim Sneh. Speaking before them, he said that the Palestinians were "willing to talk more" and that the only solution to the conflict lay in negotiations. He added that they had changed their concept from violence to non-violence and that he did not want any bloodshed (Wafa News Agency, December 19, 2010).
Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Amram Mitzna during the Israeli visit to Ramallah
(Wafa News Agency, December 19, 2010).
On December 2 Salam Fayyad, Palestinian prime minister, told Israel's Channel 2 TV that there was no reason to despair of negotiating, and called for serious negotiations to further the core issues. He claimed that the Palestinians did not unilaterally want a Palestinian "entity" and that the Palestinian people understood that "freedom cannot be realized through violence" (Israel Channel 2 TV, December 18, 2010).
Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, speaking on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the founding of Hamas, said that the movement adhered to its position of not recognizing Israel. He said that "Israel is in retreat" and that the occupation of so-called "Palestine" would end soon. He emphasized that he did not mean only the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, but "Palestine" "from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river and from Rosh Hanikra to Rafah." He said Hamas was at the center of an Islamic reawakening, part of the resistance of the Islamic nation "in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia" (Al-Quds TV, December 14, 2010).
The Asian Convoy Arrives in Syria via Turkey and Iran 6
The Asian convoy which left India on December 5 arrived in Turkey on December 17 and was welcomed by senior representatives from IHH, which apparently hosted the convoy during its stay in the country. The convoy visited several counties in eastern Turkey. Its presence was not widely covered in the Turkish media, with the exception of the IHH website, local papers in the locations it visited, and the Islamist Turkish press.
A welcoming ceremony for the convoy participants was held in the city of Diyarbakir, attended by IHH leader BÃ¼lent Yildirim. The crowd carried Palestinian flags and signs in support of Hamas, and there was a poster of the picture of one of the Turks killed aboard the Mavi Marmara which called him "a descendant of Salah al-Din." BÃ¼lent Yildirim said that Israel would now have to contend with "all the Salah al-Dins" and that IHH stood alongside the oppressed everywhere: "Turkey, Kurdistan, the Caucasus and Bosnia" (Diyarbakirsoz.com website, December 19, 2010).
The convoy now has 115 participants from 22 countries. Bashar al-Din al-Sharqi, the representative of the Indian delegation to the convoy, claimed that seven members of the Iranian parliament had joined the convoy (Syrian Arab News Agency, December 18, 2010). However, it is not clear whether any Turks have joined it. In any event, on December 20 the convoy left Turkey and arrived in Damascus, and from there it is expected to go to the Syrian port of Latakia (Iran's PressTV, December 20; Tishreen website, December 21, 2010).
Pictures from the Asian Convoy's Stay in Turkey
Left: IHH head BÃ¼lent Yildirim speaks at the reception for the convoy.
Right: the Turks welcome the convoy in Diyarbakir (IHH website, December 20, 2010).
Left: A kaffiyeh with a picture of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Palestinian flag around the neck
of one of the Asian convoy participants. "Jerusalem is ours" and "Oh, Jerusalem,
we are coming" are printed on the kaffiyeh (IHH website, December 19, 2010).
Hate posters were waved during the ceremony in Diyarbakir to welcome the convoy. The signs read "Every place is Palestine, revolution is everywhere;" one relates to the battle at Khaybar, where the armies of Islam killed Jewish tribes who opposed Muhammad and forced the Jews under the yoke of Islam. The poster at the right shows Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas, and reads "Muslim, when will you awaken?" The one at the left reads "Israel, go to hell" (IHH website, December 20, 2010).
European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza activity: The ECESG continues preparations to organize an upgraded flotilla to the Gaza Strip called Freedom Fleet 2. Rami Abdo, ECESG coordinator, said the large number of participants has caused them to examine the possibility of dividing the flotilla in half, and claimed that it would "surprise a lot of people." He said that they expected boats from France, Switzerland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Greece, and participants from Jordan, Algeria and Kuwait. He said that the Mavi Marmara would also participate in the flotilla (Al-Aqsa website, December 15, 2010).
Italian participation in the European flotilla: An organization called Italy's Palestine Forum Group announced its intention to launch an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip (Iran's PressTV, December 19, 2010). In our assessment it may be part of Freedom Fleet 2.
Spanish flotilla: Three Spanish activists who were aboard the Mavi Marmara unveiled a memorial in memory of those killed aboard the boat and declared their intention to send two aid ships to the Gaza Strip. (Yenisafak, December 19, 2010)