Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | (December 28, 2011 – January 3, 2012)
This past week the Israeli Air Force struck terrorist operatives planning and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel, killing four of them, three of them apparently operatives of global jihad-affiliated networks and one Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. Palestinian terrorist organizations attacked the western Negev with six rockets and two mortar shells, all of which fell in open areas.
On January 3 an Israeli and a Palestinian representative met in Amman under the aegis of the International Quartet and the Jordanians. At the same time, the Palestinians are planning a campaign of anti-Israeli diplomatic actions beginning January 26, 2012, which will include appeals to the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and requests to join various UN agencies, among them the UN International Court of Justice.
Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, continues his flying tour of the Arab-Muslim states. From Egypt he went to Sudan and from there to Turkey, where he met with Turkish prime minister Erdogan and was the guest of the Islamist IHH, which played a major role in the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
Counterterrorism Activities in the Gaza Strip and Rocket Fire
On December 27 Israeli aircraft carried out two strikes against terrorist squads. The first targeted a cell of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives in Jabaliya in the northwestern Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, December 27, 2011). The Palestinian media reported that the strike killed Abdallah al-Talbani, 22, an operative in the PIJ's military-terrorist wing (The PIJ's Paltoday website, December 27, 2011). The PIJ denied his membership in its military-terrorist wing (Jerusalem Brigades website, December 27, 2012).
The second Israeli strike was carried out two hours later and targeted terrorist operatives belonging to a global jihad network who were planning a terrorist attack against Israel on the Israel-Egypt border (IDF Spokesman, December 27, 2001). Two operatives were killed. The Palestinian media reported eight wounded (The PIJ's Paltoday website, December 27, 2011). According to the Israeli media, the operatives planned to carry out a terrorist attack on the Israel-Egypt border from the Sinai Peninsula (Ynet, December 27, 2011).
The two terrorist operatives who were killed were:
Rami Daoud Jaber Kafarneh, born 1984, from Jabaliya. He was formerly an Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative (Hamas' military-terrorist wing). He participated in attacking Israel's south with rockets (IDF Spokesman, December 28, 2011).
Hazam Muhammad Saadi al-Shaker, born 1985, from Beit Hanoun. Formerly a Hamas operative, his activities included laying IEDs in the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, December 28, 2011).
On December 28, following Israeli security force counterterrorism activities, two rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. The rockets fell in open areas; there were no casualties and no damage was done. On December 29, in response to the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft struck a tunnel used for terrorist purposes in the northern Gaza Strip and a focal point for terrorist activity in the central Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, December 29, 2011). The Palestinian media reported that one of the targets was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad base (Jerusalem Brigades website, December 29, 2011).
Before dawn on December 30 Israeli aircraft struck a cell of terrorist operatives in the northern Gaza Strip who were identified before they could launch rockets into Israeli territory. The attempted rocket attack was prevented. It was the same cell which fired rockets in the days preceding the strike (IDF Spokesman, December 30, 2011). The Palestinian media reported that the terrorist who had been killed was Ma'mun Abu Def, an operative in a Salafist network affiliated with the global jihad which calls itself the Army of Sunnah Supporters (Ma'an News Agency and Al-Aqsa TV, December 30, 2011)
Ma'mun Abu Def's funeral in the Gaza Strip (Hamas' Palestine-info website, December 31, 2011).
This past week six rocket hits and two mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory. All the rockets and mortar shells fell in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done. The attacks were the following:
December 28: Five rocket hits were identified in the western Negev. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for two of them (Qawm website, December 28, 2011).
December 29: One rocket hit was identified in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done.
January 1: Two mortar shells were fired at a village in the western Negev. The shells contained phosphorous. It was not the first time the Palestinian terrorist organizations fired phosphorous-containing shells (Ynet, January 1, 2012).1 The military-terrorist wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack (Qawm website, January 1, 2012).
Judea and Samaria
The Situation on the Ground
This past week the IDF carried out routine counterterrorist activities in Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons. During the week Palestinians continued their attempts to attack IDF forces and Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria. Stones were thrown at several Israeli vehicles, among them two buses.
On the morning of December 27 a Palestinian was detained near the Hawara crossing south of Nablus. He was found to be carrying two pipe bombs, an improvised gun, ammunitions and a Molotov cocktail. He was taken for interrogation (IDF Spokesman, December 27, 2011).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
Yasser Othman, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, said that Egypt was planning a significant improvement in the procedures governing the Rafah crossing to ease the passage of the residents of the Gaza Strip and merchandise through the crossing, insofar as was possible (Voice of Palestine Radio, December 28, 2011).
Ismail Haniya's Flying Visits to Arab-Muslim Countries
On December 27 Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, and his delegation met with Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood's general guide. Haniya stressed Hamas' relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that Hamas was the Egyptian movement's continuation. He said Hamas' founder, Ahmed Yassin, was another link in the chain forged by Hassan al-Banna, and thatHamas had been nurtured in the bosom of the Muslim Brotherhood. Regarding recognition of the State of Israel, Haniya said Hamas would not recognize the Israeli entity or implement agreements which ignored what he called Hamas' "rights" (Safa News Agency, December 26, 2011).
On December 27 Ismail Haniya arrived in Sudan. He and his delegation met with the Sudanese president,Omar Bashir (Hamas' Palestine-info website, December 29, 2011). While in Sudan Haniya participated in a Jerusalem forum held in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. In a belligerent speech given at the forum he called on the Arab states to raise a "Jerusalem army" and to increase their financial and political support for the sake of Jerusalem. He swore to remain faithful to the "resistance" [i.e., the path of terrorism] and not to cede the land of "Palestine" or the [Muslim] holy places, and he swore he would never recognize the State of Israel (Hamas' Palestine-info website, December 31, 2011).
Right: Ismail Haniya speaks at the Jerusalem conference held in Khartoum (Hamasinfo.net, December 31, 2011). Left: The Hamas leadership headed by Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniya meets with Sudanese president Omar Bashir (Hamasinfo.net, December 31, 2011).
On January 1 Ismail Haniya flew from Sudan to Turkey, where he met with Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan. After the meeting Erdogan said in a statement that no solution could be found for the Palestinian issue without the involvement of Hamas. He added that lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip was one of Turkey's demands of Israel as part of rehabilitating relations between the two countries (hurriyetdailynews.com, January 2, 2012).
Ismail Haniya and the Hamas delegation in Istanbul
(Hamas' Palestine-info website, January 1, 2012)
On January 2 Haniya was the guest of the Turkish Islamist organization IHH, which played a major role in the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May 2010. He met with high-ranking IHH figures and visited theMavi Marmara. He also met with Palestinian terrorists who had been released from Israeli jails (as part of the prisoner exchange deal which led to the liberation of Gilad Shalit) and deported to Turkey. He thanked Turkish prime minister Erdogan for his efforts in securing their release and for agreeing to accept them in his country. He ended by presenting the terrorists with awards and gifts (Islamigundem.com, January 2, 2012).
The IHH organized a press conference for Ismail Haniya, where he said that the events aboard the Mavi Marmara were "a case of piracy such as has never been seen before in history," adding that "thanks to the shaheeds aboard the Mavi Marmara we succeeded in breaking the siege of the Gaza Strip and defeating Israel." He thanked Erdogan and the Turkish people for not abandoning the Palestinian cause (Islamigundem.com, January 2, 2012).
Right: Ismail Haniya and Tayyip Erdogan (Hamas' Palestine-info website, January 1, 2012). Left: Ismail Haniya and the IHH leaders at a press conference (fotogaleri.ismaigundem.com, January 2, 2012).
Fatah and Hamas are still making efforts to promote a reconciliation of their differences. To that end Nabil Shaath, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, went to the Gaza Strip to discuss reconciliation with the Hamas leadership (Alresalah.net website, January 1, 2012). In the same vein, the PLO's Executive Committee, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, confirmed the results of the "interim leadership" conference held in Cairo on December 22, attended by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, chairman of the Hamas political bureau.
On December 26 the social reconciliation committee met in Ramallah. Its appointment had been decided on during the last round of internal Palestinian reconciliation talks. The committee discussed how it would operate and set another meeting for December 28.
In response to news items about Hamas' preparedness to adopt methods of the so-called "popular resistance," Khaled Mashaal, chairman of Hamas' political bureau, said that "all forms of resistance, especially armed resistance [i.e., the path of terrorism], are our right, but now, during the Arab Spring, we prefer the popular resistance" (Al-Jazeera TV, December 26, 2011). In response, a Syrian newspaper expressed severe criticism of Hamas, saying that by agreeing to collaborate with Fatah in the popular resistance it was abandoning the armed campaign against Israel and "leaving the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis for the other axis" (Al-Watan, December 27, 2011).
The Peace Process
A spokesman for the Jordanian foreign ministry said in an announcement that on instructions from King Abdallah, the foreign minister had arranged contacts and consultations with the Palestinians, Israel, International Quartet representatives and other international factors. The outcome was that on January 3 the Jordanian foreign minister hosted a joint meeting in Amman with representatives of the International Quartet, Israel and the Palestinians. The objective of the meeting was to construct a foundation for renewing the peace negotiations. According to the announcement, Jordanian efforts would focus on promoting the two-state solution and on raising the core issues (the refugees, Jerusalem, security and borders) (Jordanian News Agency, January 1, 2012).
According to the Israeli press, Israeli prime minister envoy Yitzhak Molcho was expected to meet with Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestinian negotiating team, in Amman on January 3. At the same time, however, the Palestinians are deploying for a campaign of anti-Israeli diplomatic actions, which will begin on January 26, 2012, the last day of the three-month period allotted by the International Quartet for Israeli-Palestinian talks about borders and security (Haaretz, January 2, 2012). According toIsraeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the meeting in Amman was "negotiations about negotiations," and its purpose was to determine whether or not there was a chance to reinstate direct, meaningful, bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians about border and security issues (Haaretz, January 3, 2012).
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas responded to the Jordanian initiative as follows:
Interviewed by Palestinian television, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority chairman, related positively to the Jordanian initiative but reiterated the Palestinian demands regarding the settlements and the 1967 borders. He said that if negotiations were not reinstated by January 26, it would be considered an International Quartet failure and the Palestinian Authority would be forced to seek other channels. He also said that violence was not one of the options and that an appeal to the UN Security Council was not an alternative to negotiations (Palestinian TV, December 31, 2011).
Saeb Erekat, chief of the Palestinian negotiating team, said that the meeting did not mean a return to peace talks, and stressed the Palestinians' conditions for returning to the peace process (Ynet, January 3, 2012).
Yasser Abd Rabbo, secretary of the PLO's Executive Committee, said that the Jordanian initiative was apparently a last-ditch attempt to make sure that no one of the International Quartet's members could blame the Palestinians and that everyone would understand that Israel was responsible for the failure (Voice of Palestine Radio, date, 2012).
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, said that similar talks had already been held and had failed. He said the meetings were a return to the same path which had failed over the years (Haaretz, January 3, 2012).
Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian Authority foreign minister, said in an interview that in 2012 the PA would do the following:
Regarding acceptance into international organizations, the Palestinian Authority would continue its move in the UN Security Council and at the same time lodge a request with the General Assembly for the recognition of Palestine as a non-member state. That would make it possible for the Palestinian Authority to join additional UN agencies, among them the UN International Court of Justice, to lodge suits related to the Palestinian cause. Members of the Palestinian Authority would also prepare indictments against Israel which would be lodged with the Court.
Regarding negotiations with Israel, al-Maliki said he did not foresee a return to negotiations in light of "Israel's stubbornness and the International Quartet's failure," which, he said, had exhausted all efforts. Therefore, he said, the Palestinian Authority would have to look for other options, such as adding more countries to the International Quartet forum.
As to the Palestinian Authority's strategy in 2012, Yasser Abd Rabbo, chairman of the PLO's Executive Committee, said that it would be a year of promoting the non-violent popular resistance, appeals to the UN and the Arab League regarding the settlements, and a strengthening of the Palestinian national institutions through elections (Voice of Palestine Radio, January 1, 2012)
1 For further information see the November 28, 2010 bulletin "Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have recently once again made use of phosphorus-containing 120-mm mortar shells" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e144.pdf,
2 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of date January 3, 2012.