Written by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Between April 7 and 10 there was a new round of escalation in the Gaza Strip. It followed the Hamas anti-tank missile attack of a school bus and barrages of rocket and mortar shell fire targeting Israel's south (132 rocket and mortar shell hits were identified during those four days). In response, the IDF attacked a series of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and struck Hamas operatives, among them senior operatives.
On April 10 the rocket and mortar shell attacks waned and on April 11 and 12 the region was quiet. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations claimed they were not interested in an escalation and that a lull in the fighting from Israel would be met by a lull from them. The Israeli prime minister also said that if Hamas stopped its attacks quiet would be restored.
Escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Situation on the Ground as of April 12
On the afternoon of April 7 Hamas operatives fired a laser-guided anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus in the western Negev. The preceding weekend had been marked by an escalation in terrorist attacks and Israeli responses. Between April 7 and 10, 65 rockets and 67 mortar shells fell in Israeli territory. Some of the rockets were long-range and fell in the regions of Beersheba, Ashqelon and Ashdod. Eight of them were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome aerial defense system (which does not intercept rockets falling in open areas). On April 10 the rocket and mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip waned and the region has been quiet since.
In retaliation, during the escalation Israeli aircraft, armored forces and infantry attacked a series of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. Among them were terrorist squads on their way to launch rockets and mortar shells into Israel, terrorist networks and posts, tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and sites for producing and stockpiling weapons. Seventeen Palestinians were killed, among them terrorist operatives and several civilians, who were killed inadvertently. One of the terrorist operatives killed was Taysir Abu Sneimah, a senior Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative, who was involved in the abduction of Gilad Shalit.2
Following recent events, Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip stated they were not interested in further escalation and agreed to a lull in the fighting with Israel. The Arab media reported that an unofficial lull agreement had been reached with Israel based on the principle of "a lull in return for a lull" (Al-Hayat and Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 11, 2011). Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu also stated that if Hamas stopped firing rockets and mortar shells quiet would return to the region (Israeli prime minister's website, April 10, 2011).
The terrorist organizations had the following to say regarding the lull:
Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, claimed that the lull agreement was reached after Arab countries and international organizations had exerted pressure on Israel and after the Hamas administration had held intensive consultations with them (Al-Ghad, April 11, 2011).
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, said that restoring the lull depended on Israel. He called on Israel to learn the lesson of the barrages of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip, which proved that "the resistance [i.e., the terrorist organizations] have the upper hand" (Al-Aqsa TV, April 10, 2011).
Abu Ahmed, spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's military wing, said that his organization would be committed to a lull in the Gaza Strip as long as Israel was committed to stopping its "aggression" against the Palestinians (PIJ's Paltoday website, April 10, 2011).
Daily Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire (April 7-10)
Israeli Prime Minister's Response
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, on site in Ashqelon, said "No other country would be willing to countenance the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile at a children's bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks against civilians, and Israel is certainly not willing to accept it. Today, the Cabinet instructed the IDF to do whatever is necessary to stop the firing at our people and restore quiet to the south. This is our intention. I hope that this will be Hamas's intention as well. If this is what it intends, then quiet will return. If it steps up its aggression, it will feel our arm and our response will be much harsher" [ITIC emphasis].
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 4
Rocket Fire -- Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire -- Monthly Distribution
** Rocket and mortar shell hits identified in Israeli territory, not the Gaza Strip.
* As of April 12, 2011
Important Terrorism Events
Hamas Cell Detained in Jerusalem5
In February 2011 the Israeli security forces detained a cell of Hamas operatives, residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher, who were planning a mass-casualty terrorist attack in Jerusalem. The operatives were:
Jihad Atoun – Born in 1989, bother of Mahmoud Atoun, currently serving a life sentence for killing three Israelis, including policeman Nissim Toledano, and of Ahmed Atoun, a senior Hamas activist from Jerusalem who was a Hamas representative in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Muneir Marwan Atoun – Born in 1983, brother of Muhammad Atoun, who served a sentence from 2007 to 2008 for Hamas activities.
Ahmed Nimer – Born in 1986, served a sentence from 2006 to 2007 for Hamas activity. Bother of Murad Nimer, who had been in jail since January 2010 for involvement in Hamas activities directed by Hamas' external headquarters.
Ahmed Dwiyat – Born in 1982.
According to information from the Israel Security Agency, the cell organized in 2008 following the operatives' frustration with the results of Operation Cast Lead, which made them desire to carry out terrorist attacks. In 2010 they contacted a Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip named Sharhabil al-Gharib, who at their request transferred $15,000 to them to fund their terrorist activities. The money was transferred via Jordan through a money changer.
On February 14, 2011, al-Gharib instructed the cell to carry out a shooting attack "similar to the one at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva" (i.e., a mass-casualty attack carried out in March 2008 in which eight yeshiva students were killed and nine wounded). To that end he transferred 10,000 Jordanian dinars (about $14,000 at the current rate of exchange) and planned to transfer 20,000 more. The cell operatives planned to use the money to buy an M-16 assault rife and two hand guns in addition to the one they already had.
Terrorist Operative Detained Who Prepared a Pipe Bomb Which Wounded an Israeli Civilian6
In addition to the detention of the Sur Baher Hamas terrorist cell, the Israeli security forces detained Hamas operative Muhammad Dwiyat, born 1981, brother of Ahmed Dwiyat. He admitted to having prepared a pipe bomb which was supposed to be exploded at a bus stop in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. However, he decided to throw it into the bushes on the Hebron Road in Jerusalem instead. On March 6, 2011, the bomb was found by a Jerusalem municipality sanitation worker. It exploded in his hands, leading to the partial amputation of one of his arms.
During interrogation Dwiyat said that in the past he had also manufactured and "upgraded" IEDs. Recently, he agreed to help his brother acquire weapons and had constructed IEDs for the cell. In December 2010 an IED he made was found by children in his village and defused by the police.
Judea and Samaria
This past week the Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and seizing weapons.
This past week demonstrations were held throughout Judea and Samaria at the usual friction points, during which stones were thrown at Israeli security forces.
Developments in the Gaza Strip
Following the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed to traffic this past week. However, according to data from the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, the Gaza Strip has a sufficient supply of food and medicines and no lack is expected until the situation calms down. Before the crossing was closed 128 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman's website, April 10; website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, April 9, 2011).
Flotillas and Convoys to the Gaza Strip – Update
The Upgraded Anti-Israeli Flotilla (aka Freedom Fleet 2)
Representatives from the Free Gaza Movement and other organizations participating in the flotilla met in Athens on April 9 and 10 to plan the voyage of the upgraded flotilla, aka "Freedom Fleet 2." Present at the press conference held at the end of the meeting was Izzat Shahin, IHH representative in Judea and Samaria, who was deported by Israel last year. Also present were members of the Greek parliament, Palestinians living in Greece and representatives of NGOs whose names were not mentioned.
The flotilla's organizers reported that they expected participants from Algeria, the United States, Canada, Scotland, Spain, France, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Jordan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Switzerland, Turkey and "organizations of exiled Palestinians." They called on the governments whose citizens would participate in the flotilla to take steps to prevent Israel from using force against the ships. They also expressed their disappointment at the Greek government's inability to release the Greek ships which participated in Freedom Fleet 1 (the Mavi Marmara flotilla), which have been held since last May at the port of Ashdod (Zaman website, April 12; FGM website, April 11, 2011).
It is not clear whether the flotilla will in fact sail at the end of May as planned. According to one of the participants, Vaggelis Pissicas, preparations will be completed by the end of May. According to the Turkish newspaper Zaman, the flotilla will not sail before the Turkish elections on June 12 (Zaman, April 12; Agence France-Presse, April 11, 2011).
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center opened in 2001. It is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) , an NGO dedicated to the memory of the fallen of the Israeli Intelligence Community and it is located near Gelilot , north of Tel Aviv. It is headed by (Col. Ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich .
1 Supplement to the April 10, 2011 bulletin "Latest escalation in terrorist activities from the Gaza Strip. The situation on the ground as of 12:00 hours, April 10, 2011" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e183.pdf. Next Tuesday, April 26, the Weekly Summary will not appear because of the Passover holiday.
2 For further information, see the ITIC bulletin above at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e183.pdf.
4 The statistics do not include the rockets and mortar shells which fell inside the Gaza Strip.
5 Information based on the Israel Security Agency Hebrew website, April 11, 2011.
6 Information from the Israel Security Agency Hebrew website, April 11, 2011.