Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
On July 19 Israeli naval commandos took control of the French boat DignitÃ©/Al Karama, the only vessel of the Freedom Fleet 2 which managed to set sail for the Gaza Strip. The Navy received the order from the government to take control of the boat after all direct and indirect appeals not to sail to Gaza had been rejected. The action was carried out peacefully and the ship was escorted to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the passengers were transferred to police and immigration authorities.
This past week there was an increase in rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev. Eleven rocket hits were identified. There were no casualties and no damage was done. In response Israeli aircraft attacked terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority continued promoting its September appeal to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state. Its activities take place in the Arab and international arenas.
Flotillas to the Gaza Strip – Update
The French Boat DignitÃ© Sails from Greece
The French boat DignitÃ©/Al Karama anchored in a Greek port
(Picture from the freedomflotilla.it website, July 17, 2011).
On the afternoon of July 19 Israeli naval commandos boarded and took command of the French boat DignitÃ©/Al Karama. It was escorted to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod where the passengers were transferred to police and immigration authorities. The Navy received the order from the government to take control of the boat after all direct and indirect appeals not to sail to Gaza had been rejected (IDF Spokesman, July 19, 2011).
Flying the French flag, the boat sailed from the Greek island of Kastelorizo on the afternoon of July 16, officially en route to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It is the only Freedom Fleet 2 vessel which managed to set sail for the Gaza Strip. According to the passengers, it did not carry a cargo of humanitarian assistance for the residents of the Gaza Strip. Although Alexandria was its designated port of destination, on July 18, when the ship approached Port Said, the passengers announced that they intended to sail to the Gaza Strip (Agence France-Presse, July 18, 2011).
The Israeli Navy contacted the boat and informed it that it was approaching an area under maritime blockade. A dialogue was initiated with the passengers and they were presented with the legal means they could use to reach the Gaza Strip overland through the crossings. They were told they could also return to Greece at any time before the IDF soldiers boarded the ship (IDF Spokesman's website, July 19, 2011). All suggestions were rejected.
There were 10 activists aboard, most of them French, three representatives of the media and three crew members:
StÃ©phan Corriveau: Canadian, lives in Montreal, one of the organizers of the Canadian ship. Human rights activist. Holds an MA in international relations and one of the founders of Alternatives, a Montreal-based NGO. Ship spokesman.
Jacqueline Le Corre: Member of the French communist party.
Jean-Claude Lefort: French, born 1944, former member of the Parliament representing the French communist party. In 2009 elected president of the AFPS, the French Palestinian Solidarity Association.
Claude Leostic: Spokesman for the French delegation to the flotilla. AFPS vice president. Pro-Palestinian activist since the 1970s. Has visited Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Yamin Makri: From Lyon, France, editor, represents the Collectif 69 to Support the Palestinian people, an organization dealing mainly with boycotting Israel and suing Israeli companies (such as Agrexco, which exports Israeli fruits, vegetables and flowers).
Omeyya Naoufel Seddik: Tunisian, PhD in political science, human rights activist in Tunisia and among Tunisian immigrants in France.
Dror Feiler: Leftist activist from Sweden, musician, born in Israel in 1951, participated in the first flotilla aboard the Sfendoni 8000. Holds Israeli citizenship. Has lived in Sweden since 1973 and has an important role in the flotilla campaign. Was also the spokesman for the previous Swedish flotilla network and is often involved in anti-Israeli propaganda activities.
Vangelis Pissias: Greek, professor of water engineering at the Technical University of Athens. Spokesman for the Greek ship, member of the flotilla steering committee. Participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
Three media representatives: Two from Al-Jazeera TV and Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass (Freedomflotilla website, July 17, 2011).
Important Terrorism Events
This past week there was a marked increase in rocket and mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip. Eleven rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory; one mortar shell was fired. Most of the rockets fell in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done. Responsibility for most of the attacks was claimed by networks affiliated with the global jihad:
On July 13 two rocket hits were identified.
On July 14 five rocket hits were identified.
On July 15 one mortar shell hit was identified.
On July 16 two rocket hits were identified
On July 17 two rocket hits were identified.
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 1
Rocket Fire -- Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire -- Monthly Distribution
** Rocket and mortar shell hits identified in Israeli territory, not the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Air Force Response
In response to the rocket attacks Israeli aircraft struck a number of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, primarily targets belonging to Hamas, among them:
On July 13 Israeli Air Force planes attacked two weapons-manufacturing sites in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, July 13, 2011). The Palestinian media reported five wounded and two missing (Wafa News Agency, July 13, 2011).
On July 14 Israeli Air Force planes attacked two smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip and an attack tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, July 14, 2011). The Palestinian media reported one killed and four wounded (Wafa News Agency, July 14, 2011).
The Israeli Air Force also prevented rocket fire. On July 16 Israeli aircraft attacked a terrorist operative preparing to fire a rocket from the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory (IDF Spokesman, July 16, 2011). The Palestinian media reported that the operative, of unknown affiliation, was seriously wounded (Wafa News Agency, July 16, 2011). On July 18 Israeli aircraft attacked a terrorist squad preparing to fire rockets from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory (IDF Spokesman, July 18, 2011). According to reports, four operatives were wounded, two belonging to Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. According to the Palestinian media, the squad was planning to fire the rockets from a site close to a mosque (Wafa News Agency and Safa News Agency, July 18, 2011).
In response to the rocket fire and the Israeli Air Force attacks, Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip announced that his administration was enforcing the ban on rocket fire and demanded that Israel stop its activities in the Gaza Strip (Safa News Agency, July 15, 2011).
Judea and Samaria
The Situation on the Ground
This past week the Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities throughout Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons. On July 13, Ibrahim Omar Sirhan, a Hamas operative, was killed during one of the detentions in Nablus, and three other Palestinians were wounded. Palestinian sources headed by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, strongly denounced the action (Wafa News Agency, July 13, 2011).
There were a number of confrontations between Israeli settlers and Palestinians at various locations in Judea and Samaria. According to the Palestinian media, three young Palestinians were wounded in a confrontation south of Ramallah (Wafa News Agency, July 18, 2011).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
This past week between 196 and 284 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip every day (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, July 19, 2011).
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Expected to Visit the Gaza Strip
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is examining the possibility of visiting the Gaza Strip, apparently at the end of July. He reported his intention to the Egyptian authorities, and his entrance into the Gaza Strip has apparently been authorized (Ma'an News Agency, July 17, 2011). Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the visit would grant legitimization to the Palestinians, whom the entire world refused to recognize (Gazatvnews.com website, July 17, 2011). Efforts are being made in Israel to prevent the visit on the grounds that it would strengthen Hamas and further damage Israeli-Turkish relations.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority
Senior Palestinian Figures Denounce the Boycott Law
On July 12 the Israeli Knesset passed a law which would label any initiative for an economic, academic or cultural boycott of the State of Israel or bodies in Israel or Judea and Samaria as a civil offense. Thus any body boycotted will be able to demand reparations from the boycott initiator without consideration of the extent of the damage caused. The bill also allows the minister of finance to prevent boycotters from participating in governmental tenders.
Senior figures in the Palestinian Authority denounced the law and threatened to take action against it:
Even before the law was passed, Hassan Abu Libda, finance minister of the Palestinian Authority, said that the Palestinians would increase their boycott of goods from the settlements (Voice of Palestine Radio, July 11, 2011). After the vote, he said that every Israeli companied that obeyed the law would be boycotted by the Palestinians (Ma'an News Agency, July 13, 2011).
Saeb Erekat, member of the PLO's executive committee, denounced the law, claiming that it showed that Israel was "not committed to the two-state solution." He exploited the opportunity to call on the world to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders to "stop Israel's policy of expansionism" and to support its acceptance by the UN (Italian News Agency AKI, July 11, 2011).
The Palestinian Authority Continues to Promote a UN Vote to Establish a Palestinian State
The Palestinian Authority continues its activities in the Arab and international arenas to promote a vote in the UN General Assembly to establish a Palestinian state. Riyad al-Maliki, the PA's foreign minister, said that the Palestinian leadership was determined to appeal to the UN in September, but said that it would not do so if negotiations with Israel began before then. He claimed that the United States had officially told the Palestinian Authority that it opposed the appeal to the UN (Ma'an News Agency, July 12, 2011).
The Arab Arena
On July 14 the Arab League's monitoring committee held a meeting. According to Nabil al-Arabi, the League's Secretary General, the committee had decided to take two actions:
It would appeal to the UN's member nations to individually recognize a Palestinian state;
It would officially request the Security Council to accept Palestine [sic] as a full member of the United Nations.
However, the committee did not present a time frame which would ensure that the appeal be deliberated when the General Assembly met in September 2001 (Wafa News Agency, Agence France-Presse and Reuters, July 14, 2011).
In the meantime, Saeb Erekat said that two committees had been appointed. One, whose members were Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would be responsible for all the legal and political issues connected to presenting the request and for actually presenting it. The other, whose members were not named, would be responsible for monitoring developments in the UN and preparing the groundwork by means of the various ambassadors of the UN's member states. Erekat said that Mahmoud Abbas and not the Arab League would appeal to the UN (Italian News Agency, July 14, 2011).
In the Arab countries, Syria raised the Palestinian diplomatic representative to the status of ambassador. It said it recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders whose capital was East Jerusalem (Syrian News Agency, July 18, 2011). The Egyptian foreign minister again expressed his country's support for the Palestinian appeal to the UN, but said that Egypt still regarded negotiations as the solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also said that Egypt planned to exert its influence in the international arena to enlist recognition of the Palestinian state (Ruz Al-Yusuf, July 12, 2011).
The International Arena
The Palestinians are also engaged in extensive diplomatic activities for enlisting international support. To that end a number of Palestinian delegations left for East Asia and met with government heads:
A Fatah delegation went to China and met with Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, who said China would support the Palestinian move in the UN (Wafa News Agency, July 12, 2011).
Another Fatah delegation went to Vietnam and met with one of the members of the ruling party, who said his government supported the Palestinian move and promised that Vietnam would enlist the support of the Southeast Asian countries for the Palestinians (Wafa News Agency, July 12, 2011).
A Palestinian delegation went to Japan, where the government expressed understanding for the Palestinians' desire to appeal to the UN, and support for the two-state solution, but said it would decide on its position after it had examined the Palestinian proposal presented to the UN. From Japan the delegation is expected to go to South Korea (Wafa News Agency, July 17, 2011).
On July 17 Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas left for Europe, going to Norway and expected to go to Spain (Wafa News Agency, July 17, 2011). It was reported that the Belgian Senate authorized a draft version of a decision calling on the Belgian government and the EU countries to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (Wafa News Agency, June 14, 2011).
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas meets with members
of the Norwegian parliament (Wafa News Agency, July 18, 2011).
Terrorist Attacks Abroad
During the busy rush-hour evening of July 13 there were three near-simultaneous explosions in the Indian city of Mumbai: one in the Dadar district in the city center, one in Zaveri Bazaar and one in the Opera House business district. At least 21 people were killed and 140 wounded. As of this writing it is not known who was behind the attacks. Security sources in India are of the opinion that terrorists linked to Pakistan were responsible.2
One of the explosion sites in Mumbai
(Picture from the Juicyexpress.com website, July 13, 2011).
It was not the first time several Mumbai locations were attacked almost simultaneously. On November 26-28, 2008, 11 targets were attacked, one of which was the Habad Center. One hundred and seventy people were killed in the attacks, six of them Israeli/Jewish who were in the Habad Center at the time. Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the attacks, a Pakistani-global jihad organization which cooperates with Al-Qaeda.3