Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (May 4 - May 9, 2011)
The Israeli south remained quiet this past week.
On May 3, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo. It was based on general formulas in an attempt to bridge unresolved ideological differences. Contacts were initiated to make the agreement practicable.
Popular protests are planned for May 15, the eve of the so-called Nakba Day, in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, Arab countries and around the globe. It has been reported that in countries bordering on Israel (Jordan, for example), marches will reach the border.
On May 3 a reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas. The signing was attended by Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah, Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus and representatives of various Palestinian terrorist organizations. On May 4 a ceremony was held to celebrate the signing, attended by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The main points of the agreement were the following (Wafa News Agency, May 6, 2011):
The PLO will be reorganized to include all the Palestinian factions, and will establish itself as "the only legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people. A new Palestinian Legislative Council will be elected, based on proportional representation of all factions. Until then, the reorganized PLO will serve as the temporary leadership.
Elections will be held simultaneously for the presidency, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian National Council throughout Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
An interim unity government will be set up to reestablish the Palestinian security services, do what is necessary to hold elections, rebuild the Gaza Strip and deal with other administrative issues.
Agreements will be made to determine the structure of the Palestinian security services, into which the existing security services will be integrated. The source of authority for the security services will be designated.
The main points of the speeches given at the signing were the following (Egyptian radio broadcast, May 4, 2011):
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, praised the agreement. He claimed that it came at a good time, because "the Israeli occupation" against the Palestinian people and land "has escalated in recent years." He noted that recently "one after another," the nations of the world had recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. He said that September 2011 was the target date for the Palestinians to announce the establishment of their state, and in a veiled threat added that if Israel did not change its path [of action] the date might be moved to the earlier " fifth or sixth month [May or June]." He said also that so far Israel had used the schism [between Fatah and Hamas] as an excuse not to negotiate with the Palestinians and that he rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's demand that he [Mahmoud Abbas] choose between peace with Hamas and peace with Israel. However, he said that the Palestinians were committed to the two-state solution within the June 1967 borders, and emphasized that the Palestinians rejected violence and denounced terrorism.
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, also praised the reconciliation, saying that now the Palestinians were "deploying to achieve a common national goal," which was the establishment of a free Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whose capital would be Jerusalem, "without ceding a single inch." Now, he said, the Palestinians could jointly wage "our campaign against the Israeli occupier." He added that Hamas was in favor of "a movement on all the fronts:" a struggle on the ground, the "resistance" [i.e., violence and terrorism], and achieving international [pro-Palestinian] decisions and legitimization by means of a diplomatic struggle.
While the various delegations were in Egypt, they were invited to a Muslim Brotherhood center in a Cairo suburb. They met with Mohamed Badia, the movement's general guide. Present at the meeting were Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, Ahmed Jibril, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ramadan Shalah, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's Sahar Bseiso (Muslim Brotherhood website, May 7, 2011).
The reconciliation agreement is based on general formulas in an attempt to bridge the differences in matters of principle which were not resolved during the long-term contacts which preceded it. The morning after the ceremony, contacts were initiated between Fatah and Hamas to make the agreement practicable. Some of the issues discussed were the following:
The issue of the prisoners held by each side is the main stumbling block. Senior Hamas figures have repeatedly stated that it will be the top priority when the agreement is implemented. For example, Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called on the Palestinian Authority to stop interrogating and detaining activists from Hamas and the other organizations (Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, May 5, 2011). Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said that the most urgent issue was "releasing political prisoners [sic] in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
The Palestinian and other Arab media reported that the Palestinian Authority's security forces began releasing Hamas operatives immediately after the signing of the agreement, while Hamas made it easier for senior Fatah figures to leave the Gaza Strip. However, it was also reported that detentions continued (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 5; Qudsnet, May 6, 2011). Adnan al-Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services, said that they had not yet received instructions regarding the issue (Voice of Palestine Radio, May 5, 2011). Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar said that if the Palestinian Authority continued detaining [Hamas operatives] in the West Bank, Hamas would appeal to the Arab League and Egypt to oversee the agreement's implementation. He added that it was a problem which, at this stage, prevented the implementation of the agreement, and accused the Palestinian Authority of responsibility for its failure (Al-Quds TV, May 8, 2011).
Remarks made by senior Hamas figures indicated two central themes: on one hand, they tried to present a conciliatory, pragmatic front which would not disturb the reconciliation, and at the same time support the Palestinian Authority in its political campaign against Israel. On the other, Hamas spokesmen repeatedly noted that Hamas would not accept the conditions of the International Quartet, that is, it would not recognize Israel and would not abandon the "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] as its central component.
Two senior Hamas figures, Khaled Mashaal and his deputy, Musa Abu Marzuq, presented a moderate, conciliatory front to Western and Arab audiences:
On May 7 Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, told the Wall Street Journal that he "stood firm behind Hamas's right to armed struggle against Israel [i.e., wage a terrorist campaign]." "How to manage the resistance," he said, "what's the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions..." However, according to the paper, "If Mr. Meshaal follows through on his pledge, it would mean that Hamas would no longer attack Israel without the agreement of Palestinian President [sic] Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader…"1
Musa Abu Marzuq, Khaled Mashaal's deputy, said that the unity government which would be established would not be responsible for negotiations with Israel, and that the issue would be in the hands of the PLO (Al-Jazeera TV, May 4, 2011). Thus there is an allegedly positive response to the Palestinian Authority demand that it continue as responsible for the peace process.
Other senior figures stressed Hamas' extremist fundamental positions, which have not changed:
Ismail Hamdan said that Hamas would not recognize the "Zionist entity" or compromise on the "resistance" [i.e., violence and terrorism]. He claimed that the armed resistance needed to be "complemented" by political and public efforts and by the construction of a "regional culture of resistance" to accompany that of the Palestinians. He added that the International Quartet was no longer united and rejected a return to negotiations with Israel, because they had "turned into a joke" (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 5, 2011). Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas political bureau said that Hamas was a "fighting resistance movement" whose objective was "to liberate Palestine [sic]" (Al-Quds TV, May 4, 2011).
Salah al-Bardawil said that the International Quartet's conditions were no longer relevant now that the reconciliation agreement had been signed. He claimed the conditions were a "decree" imposed on the Palestinian people in an attempt to abolish the "resistance" [i.e., the Palestinian terrorist campaign], which was the Palestinians' "natural right" (Al-Aqsa TV, May 4, 2011).
Both sides dealt with the issue of forming a government, especially with who would head it. The Arab media reported that Hamas and Fatah had agreed that Salam Fayyad would not be its prime minister, and each suggested its own candidate. However, a Hamas' Safa News Agency claimed that Mahmoud Abbas was insisted on promoting Salam Fayyad as a candidate for the position and that he and Hamas were discussing the issue (Safa News Agency, May 5, 2011).
Important Terrorism Events
The south of Israel was quiet this past week, with no rocket or mortar shell hits.
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 2
Rocket Fire -- Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire -- Monthly Distribution
** Rocket and mortar shell hits identified in Israeli territory, not the Gaza Strip.
Judea and Samaria
This past week the Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities.
This past week demonstrations and riots were held at the usual friction points in Judea and Samaria, with stones thrown at Israeli security forces. In Silwan in Jerusalem Palestinian youths threw stones at an Israeli vehicle which mistakenly entered the neighborhood (Reuters, May 6. 2011).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
This past week between 229 and 239 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip every day. In addition, 417 tons of equipment from the May 2010 Turkish flotilla also entered (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, May 9, 2011).
The Hamas Administration to Promote "Moderate Islamic Thought" and Eradicate "Extremist Religious Ideas"
According to a report from the Gaza Strip, following the April 14 murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist, the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip decided to promote education for "moderate Islamic though" and to denounce extremist religious thinking. The task was given to the ministers of religious endowment, released prisoners, Jerusalem and the refugees. According to the program, which will be implemented with the collaboration of religious sages in the Gaza Strip and the de facto Hamas administration's education ministry, sermons will be given and various activities will be held in schools (PIJ's Paltoday website, May 3, 2011).
In our assessment, the measures were taken to put a stop to the influence of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Salafist jihadist networks in the wake of the political, security and governmental challenges posed to Hamas by Arrigoni's murder. At the same time, in our assessment, the trend toward the Islamization of the Gaza Strip will continue, supervised by Hamas, in the spirit of Hamas' radical Islamic ideology.
The Political Front
The Palestinian Authority Continues its Campaign for International Recognition of a Palestinian State within the 1967 Borders
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas stressed that the objective of the Palestinians, in the appeal they are expected to lodge with the UN, would not be to declare a state but rather to examine the position of the world regarding the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. He said the Palestinians would make it clear to the world that [because of the Israeli position] it was impossible to reach a political solution through negotiations. However, he expressed the Palestinians' readiness to return to negotiations with Israel based on the triple announcement of France, Britain and Germany (Wafa News Agency, May 5, 2011).
Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestinian negotiating team, called on Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to recognize an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. He said that the Palestinians rejected all attempts to change the borders of the Palestinian state through "temporary borders" or by leaving "occupation forces" anywhere within the Palestinian state (Kuwaiti News Agency, May 7, 2011).
Preparations continue for popular events called "the third Palestinian intifada," expected to take place on or around May 15, 2011, the eve of the so-called Nakba Day. The preparations are being made in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories and abroad, mainly through social networks on the Internet. In addition, a joint committee of Fatah and Hamas was reportedly set up to organize the Nakba Day activities (Ma'an News Agency, May 2, 2011).
According to media reports, various types of activities will be held, including mass marches to Israel's borders, such as the "return march" in Jordan on May 15, with the participation of pro-Palestinian organizations (Albosala website, May 6, 2011). There will also be demonstrations in Egypt and other Arab countries, and protest demonstrations, rallies and mass prayers throughout the Arab world.
It was also reported that events would include the arrival of assistance convoys to the Gaza Strip:
Egyptian activists belonging to the network calling itself "I am Egyptian with the intifada" are organizing an aid convoy for the Gaza Strip to arrive on May 15. The assistance will include food and first aid, and be accompanied by a small number of volunteers. According to convoy spokesmen, they have already received authorization from the Egyptian foreign ministry to enter the Gaza Strip (Al-Shuruq, May 2, 2011).
Students at the University of Alexandria affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood initiated a campaign called "The University Intifada" to collect donations for sending an aid convoy to the Gaza Strip on May 14, in which students will participate.
Anti-Israeli Activity around the Globe
Freedom Fleet 2 – The upgraded flotilla to the Gaza Strip:
Muhammad Sawalha, Hamas activist living in Britain who participated in organizing previous flotilla, said that the international coalition organizing the anti-Israeli flotilla would meet on June 7 and 8 to discuss the sailing date. He said that it would set sail from Europe and that one of the participants would be the mother of Vittorio Arrigoni, the ISM activist murdered in the Gaza Strip, as well as "many parliamentarians and political figures from Europe and America" (Al-Quds TV, May 8, 2011).
Stephan Corriveau, spokesman for the Greek ship planning to participate in the flotilla, said that the group had purchased a ship which it would call Tahrir ("liberation"). He said the ship would sail from Greece to the Gaza Strip "in the middle of June" with a delegation of 50 people, including Canadians, Belgians, Danes and Australians.
A Canadian group calling itself Canadian Boat to Gaza posted a message on its website regarding a number of fund-raising events for sending a boat to the Gaza Strip. The events, according to the announcement, would take place during May (group website, May 5, 2011).
Call for Pro-Palestinian Activists to Meet at Ben-Gurion International Airport and from There to Leave for Judea and Samaria
The website of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign issued a call for pro-Palestinian activists and organizations around the world to gather at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on July 8, and from there to leave for Judea and Samaria, where they would stay for a week. Their objective, according to the organization, would be the non-violent planting of olive trees.
The Global Jihad
According to the Wall Street Journal, on May 5 unmanned American aircraft (UAVs) carried out a number of strikes against Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior Al-Qaeda figure in Yemen. It was the first American unmanned aerial attack since 2002. The UAVs launched a number of missiles at a pickup truck in which al-Awlaki and others were riding, among them at least one other Al-Qaeda operative. Al-Awlaki managed to escape unscathed.3
Al-Awlaki is an Al-Qaeda operative who was born in the United States and went to Afghanistan, where he trained in Al-Qaeda camps. Today he lives and operates in the Shebwa province in south Yemen, which is considered an Al-Qaeda stronghold.