Written by THE MEIR AMIT INTELLIGENCE AND TERRORISM INFORMATION CENTER
Sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory continues. A Palestinian armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle was shot and killed by an IDF force near the Gaza Strip security fence.
The events of March 30 passed relatively quietly without significant media provocations meant to embarrass Israel. Rallies were held near the border in Lebanon and Jordan and contained by local security forces. In Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip there was rioting on a small scale which did not spin out of control. The events held in the Middle East and around the world received scant media coverage.
This past week one rocket hit from the Gaza Strip was identified in Israeli territory, landing in an open area. In addition, two mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory. There were no casualties and no damage was done
Terrorist Attack at the Security Fence Prevented
On March 31 an IDF force identified an Palestinian terrorist digging in the ground near the security fence in the central Gaza Strip. They shot and killed him. A search held the next morning revealed he had been armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, magazines, a knife and a shovel (IDF Spokesman, April 1, 2012).
Note: The March tally includes 50 rockets from the Gaza Strip which were intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome aerial defense system during the latest round of escalation.
The Situation on the Ground
On the morning of April 2 a 65 year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was attacked by a young Arab man wielding an axe. The attack took place near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The victim, who had been on his way to the Western Wall to pray, sustained minor injuries and was evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment.
On the evening of April 2 stones were thrown at a bus near Beit Horon, an Israeli village to the northwest of Jerusalem. Two women suffered minor injuries and were evacuated to a hospital for further treatment.
For the events in Judea and Samaria on March 30 see below.
In recent weeks joint Israeli security forces activities resulted in the detention of 13 Palestinians, all residents of the Amari refugee camp (near Al-Bireh), on suspicion of involvement in shooting at an IDF vehicle in Ramallah on January 25, 2012.2 Among the detainees were Salah Barael, the goalkeeper on the Palestinian Olympic soccer team; Palestinian Red Crescent workers; and Mansour Abbas, an officer in Palestinian general intelligence in Ramallah and an arms dealer.
nterrogation revealed that the attack itself was carried out by Barael and another man, who worked for the Palestinian Red Crescent. The two used Kalashnikov assault rifles which they had received from Mansour Abbas. Interrogation also revealed that they were planning another shooting attack targeting other IDF forces (Israel Security Agency website, April 2, 2012).
Following an arrangement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding the administrative detention of hunger-striking Hana Shalabi, she was released and deported to the Gaza Strip for a period of three years in return for ending the strike (Ma'an News Agency, March 31, 2012). Hana Shalabi is a terrorist operative belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who, according to court findings based on reliable intelligence information, was involved in preparations for a terrorist attack.
Hana Shalabi welcomed to the Gaza Strip by Ismail Haniya
(Facebook page devoted to Shalabi, April 2, 2012).
Sources within Hamas and the PIJ were critical of the arrangement, calling the deportation of prisoners a "crime" and gross violation of international law. However,PIJ spokesman Daoud Shihab said that Shalabi had succeeded, as Khader Adnan had before her, in the campaign to "shatter administrative detentions" (Safa News Agency, April 1, 2012).
A Fatah representative told a press conference on April 1 that it was launching a campaign in Ramallah "in support of national products." Mahmoud al-A'alul, a member of Fatah's central committee, said that the campaign would be part of a comprehensive strategy to boycott Israeli products. He said the campaign would be comprised of several stages and accompanied by extensive "explanations" in the markets, homes and schools (Wafa News Agency, April 1, 2012).
The Gaza Strip
The Energy Crisis Continues
Three children between the ages of two and six died in a fire in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp. The fire was caused by candles, used to combat the energy crisis in the Gaza Strip. Following their deaths, public criticism of the functioning of the de-facto Hamas administration increased. Senior sources in Hamas blamed those imposing "a closure of the Gaza Strip" for the crisis and called on Egypt to accept responsibility and supply the Gaza Strip with fuel immediately. Senior Hamas figure Salah al-Bardawil said that the energy crisis was almost like "war crimes and crimes against humanity" (Filastin al-'Aan, April 1, 2012).
The energy crisis in the Gaza Strip
(Hamas' Palestine-info website, April 1, 2012).
The Events of March 30
The events of March 30 which took place in the countries bordering on the State of Israel, as well as in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, passed relatively quietly with only minor rioting and no significant media coverage. The various events did not spin out of control, in our assessment for the following reasons: governmental and security apparatuses in the various sectors over the border acted, for their own interests, to contain the events, prevent attempts to break through border fences, and distance demonstrators from direct contact with IDF forces; the early, effective deployment of the IDF and preemptive political activity; and the fact that regional and global attention focused on other issues considered more newsworthy in the Middle East, especially the events unfolding in Syria.
One result was that the organizers of the so-called Global March to Jerusalem did not succeed in embarrassing the State of Israel and thus failed to achieve their main goal. In our assessment, the organizers were disappointed, evident from remarks made by two Hamas activists in Britain, both active in the events:
Zaher al-Birawi, GMJ spokesman, said in an interview that while the activities had been successful to a certain extent, the organizers were "realistic." He said they were aware that if it hadn't been for "weak spots in some Arab-Muslim countries," there would have been more participants. He consoled himself with the claim that it was only the first step and that there would be more, and that the marches had put Israel on high alert and cost it a lot of money. He called on various nationals to exert pressure on their regimes, and said that the march organizers would meet in the near future and formulate a working plan to continue the activities (Al-Aqsa TV, March 31, 2012).
Muhammad Sawalha said that the organizers were satisfied to a certain extent, but repeated the claim that "weak spots were discovered in certain countries, caused by their internal situations." He also said that the marches were "the beginning of a new stage" in continuing activity for the sake of Jerusalem (Al-Quds TV, March 31, 2012).
The following were the main events in the various locations:
Jordan: Jordan saw the greatest response to the calls issued by the organizers for participation. A rally was held near the Allenby bridge attended by 10,000 participants (more, according to other reports). The Jordanian security forces, which supervised the event, prevented the demonstrators from approaching the border. The rally was attended by Palestinians and Jordanians, conspicuous among them senior Muslim Brotherhood figures (including Hammam Said, the general guide). There were also 230 activists from abroad, four of them members of the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist anti-Israel Jewish sect, Neturei Karta. Speakers at the rally called for the "liberations of Jerusalem" and the "liberation of Palestine," and shouted condemnations of the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement.
The rally in Jordan (GM2J website, April 3, 2012)
Lebanon: The events in Lebanon passed relatively quietly, as opposed to the Nakba Day events last year. A rally was held at the foot of the Beaufort Castle (about five kilometers, or three miles, to the northeast of the northern Israeli city of Metulla), attended by 3,000 demonstrators. Most of them were Palestinians from refugee camps in Lebanon. Among the participants were activists from the Asian caravan and South Africa. Palestinian, Lebanese and Hezbollah flags were waved. The Lebanese army oversaw the event and reportedly prevented several demonstrators from proceeding toward the Israeli border. Among the speakers at the rally were Hezbollah and Hamas representatives. Nabil Qaouq, senior Hezbollah figure, boasted that on Land Day 2012 the rockets of the "resistance" [i.e., the terrorist organizations] threatened Tel Aviv and the central part of Israel, and said that Hezbollah would continue supporting Palestine "at any cost." Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, speaking on the evening of March 30, emphasized the importance of Land Day, attacked the Arab-Muslim world for not fulfilling its responsibility to the Palestinians, and quoted a saying of the Ayatollah Khomeini, that if all Muslims joined the battle against Israel it would be wiped out.
Judea and Samaria: Groups of Palestinians and leftist activists gathered in various locations in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, the most prominent of which were Qalandia, Rachel's Tomb and the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. They threw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF forces, who responded with riot control measures. At the Qalandia roadblock, a (traditional) friction point, several hundred Palestinian youths rioted and confronted IDF forces. Prayers on the Temple Mount, restricted to men over the age of 40 with Israeli identity cards, were conducted without particular incident. The various clashes resulted in dozens of Palestinians being wounded, most of them primarily from inhaling tear gas. Two Israeli Border Policemen were also wounded. The Palestinian representative to the UN sent a communiquÃ© complaining that the IDF had used excessive force against the demonstrators.
Throwing stones at the Qalandia roadblock
(Al-Jazeera, March 30, 2012)
The Gaza Strip: Several thousand Palestinians demonstrated in the northern Gaza Strip (in Beit Hanoun and near the Erez crossing). An Egyptian parliamentarian delegation of 25 representatives and activists from abroad (including Ireland, Indonesia and Turkey) were also present. Ahmed Abu Halabia, chairman of the the Jerusalem committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, called on Israel to withdraw from Jerusalem and return it to the Palestinian people. The de-facto Hamas administration publicly supported the demonstration, however, on the ground its security forces contained the events. The Palestinian media reported confrontations between the forces and young Palestinians who tried to approach the Erez crossing (Hamas denied the report). When marchers approached the crossing, IDF forces responded with riot control measures to keep them away from the fence, resulting in the death of one Palestinian the wounding of 35. A friend of the dead Palestinian said that he had tried to break into the Erez crossing to take down the Israeli flag and exchange it for a Palestinian one (Safa News Agency, March 31, 2012).
The rally in the northern Gaza Strip
(Al-Jazeera, March 30, 2012)
Other Points of Activity in the Middle East and Elsewhere
Events in support of the Palestinians were held in dozens of cities in the Middle East and around the world, accompanied with calls for boycotting Israel.3 Some of the events were held in front of Israeli embassies and consulates, while others were held in central venues in the various cities. The events were organized by anti-Israel groups and activists, especially Islamists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Attendance at the activities was poor and they did not receive much media coverage.
The focal point of the activities was the demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in London. However, it was apparently attended by only a few hundred demonstrators and also received scant media coverage. Prominent among the demonstrators were activists from two anti-Israel organizations which play an important role in Britain in the campaign to delegitimize Israel: the PSC (the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an anti-Israel British organization affiliated with the radical left, which has an important function in the BDS campaign to boycott Israel) and the BMI (the British Muslim Initiative, an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood whose president is Muhammad Sawalha, a Hamas activist based in London who was involved in organizing the March 30 events).
The demonstration in London. Left: A demonstrator draped in a Hezbollah flag.
Right: Demonstrators carrying BMI signs (from YouTube).
Preparations for the Protest Fly-In to Ben-Gurion International Airport
On April 15, 2012 (around Easter and the date of the death of Italian journalist Vittorio Arrigoni, murdered by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip), anti-Israel activists plan to hold a protest fly-in to Ben-Gurion International Airport. From there they intend to go to Judea and Samaria. As soon as the March 30 events ended, Salah al-Khawaja, a member of the GMJ coordinating committee in Judea and Samaria, said that preparations had begun for the protest fly-in (Al-Quds TV, March 31, 2012).
A spokesman for the French foreign ministry recommended that French nationals planning to participate in the event not do so, out of concern for the fact that civilians at Ben-Gurion Airport might be involved in violent incidents. He said that the Israeli authorities had announced that they regarded fly-in participants as dangerous to public safety and would not allow them to enter Israel. The French foreign ministry representative also met with fly-in organizers to warn them about the dangers they might face (French foreign ministry website, April 2, 2012).
1 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of April 3, 2012.
2 On January 25, 2012, an IDF vehicle was attacked with automatic weapon fire. The soldiers were engaged in operational activity on the crowded main street of Ramallah when they were shot at by attackers using automatic weapons. Five bullets hit the rear of the vehicle. There were no casualties but the vehicle was damaged (IDF Spokesman, January 25, 2012).
3 BDS, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign