Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip targeting Israel's south continues (one rocket hit identified this past week); a yeshiva student was stabbed in Jerusalem, apparently for nationalistic reasons; two Palestinians from Nablus were detained at the Tapuach junction (south of Nablus) with four IEDs, a gun and ammunition in their possession.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets members of the Palestinian Authority delegation Saeb Erekat and Majid Faraj (Israeli Government Press Office, April 17, 2012)
On April 17 the Israeli prime minister met with a delegation of Palestinians who brought him a letter from Mahmoud Abbas. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, did not attend the meeting because relations between him and Mahmoud Abbas have become strained. Hamas denounced the letter and called on the Palestinian Authority to end its "useless contacts" with Israel.
The Palestinians have begun preparations for the May 15 marking of Nakba Day. Demonstrations and marches are planned for the territories and along Israel's borders.
Rocket Fire Targeting the Western Negev
Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip targeting the western Negev continues. One rocket hit was identified in an open area. There were no casualties and no damage was done.
Rockets Fired into Israeli Territory 1
Note: The figures for March 2012 include 50 rockets intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome aerial defense system during the most recent round of escalation. In April 2012 three rockets were fired at Israel's southernmost city of Eilat.
Infiltration from the Sinai Peninsula along the Israeli-Egyptian Border Prevented
On the afternoon of April 23 an IDF force engaged in routine security operations along the Israeli-Egyptian border identified a suspicious vehicle driving along the security fence and called to the vehicle to halt. When the driver and passengers ignored the order, the force opened fire. A number of suspicious persons were wounded and were taken to a hospital in Israel for treatment (IDF Spokesman, April 23, 2012).
Judea and Samaria
Stabbing in Jerusalem
On April 19 in Jerusalem a 20 year-old yeshiva student was stabbed in the stomach, incurring serious wounds. Two young Arab men were detained as suspects. The initial investigation revealed that the motive for the attack was apparently nationalistic.
Other Events in Judea and Samaria
On April 21 Israel border policemen saw two Palestinians about 17 years old alighting from a taxi at the Tapuach junction (south of Nablus), carrying a suspicious-looking bag. The policemen ordered them to halt but the two turned and ran. The youths, both residents of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, were found to be carrying four IEDs, a gun and ammunition (Israel Border Police Spokesman, April 21, 2012).
The IEDs and weapons found in the possession of the two Palestinians
(Israel Border Police Media Office, April 21, 2012)
There has recently been a rise in the number of stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli vehicles south of Jerusalem in the Gush Etzion district; on April 19 there were five such attacks. In one instance Palestinian youths threw stones and rocks at an Israel car at the Gush Etzion junction. One of the rocks hit the car and shattered the front windshield. Riding in the car were a couple and their two-year old son (Ynet, April 20, 2012).
The Situation in the Gaza Strip
Temporary Response to the Gaza Strip Fuel Crisis
Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, claimed that the arrival of a Qatari tanker at the port of Suez had solved the Gazan fuel crisis. He said that in the next few days fuel would be delivered to the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. He noted that it cost $35 million and would be sufficient to run the power plant for two months, adding that the Emir of Qatar had already promised to send more fuel (Sama News Agency, April 17, 2012). In addition, the Gaza Strip energy authority announced that the power plant would operate to full capacity during May, when its four new generators had been installed (Shihab News Agency, April 18, 2012).
A delegation of members of the Egyptian Salafist Al-Nour party, headed by the party chairman arrived in the Gaza Strip and met with high-ranking Hamas figures. The visit was a another sign of the increasingly good relations between Hamas and the Salafist Al-Nour party, which recently made significant gains in Egypt's parliamentary elections (Safa News Agency, April 21, 2012). (Note: On October 29, 2011, a Muslim Brotherhood delegation also visited the Gaza Strip.)
The chairman of the Al-Nour party meets with Ismail Haniya during a visit to the Gaza Strip
(Hamas' Palestine-info website, April 22, 2012)
Interview with High-Ranking Hamas Figure
Musa Abu Marzouk Interviewed by American-Jewish Newspaper
Musa Abu Marzouk, a high-ranking figure in Hamas' external leadership, was recently interviewed by a correspondent from The Jewish Daily Forward, an American-Jewish newspaper. Attempting to represent and market Hamas as a pragmatic organization, he presented Hamas' concept of a long-term cease-fire(hudna) as the future type relations preferred by Hamas for Israel and the Palestinian state.
Marzouk said emphatically that Hamas would not recognize Israel as a state, and that the movement would "feel free to shift away" from provisions on an agreement that defined it as a peace treaty. Relations between Hamas and Israel, he said, would "be like the relationship between Lebanon and Israel or Syria and Israel."2
Musa Abu Marzouk (right) (The Jewish Daily Forward website, April 19, 2012).
Israel and the Palestinians
The Israeli Prime Minister Meets with a Palestinian Authority Delegation
On April 17 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his personal envoy Yitzhak Molcho met withSaeb Erekat, the PLO's chief negotiator, and Majid Faraj, head of the Palestinian Authority's general intelligence. The Palestinians delivered Netanyahu a letter from Mahmoud Abbas. Within the next two weeks Netanyahu will send Abbas a reply. Both sides expressed their hope that the exchange of letters would help find a way to advance peace (Israeli Prime Minister's website, April 17, 2012).
The meeting between Netanyahu and the Palestinians provoked criticism from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Within the Palestinian Authority there was criticism of the fact that Salam Fayyad had not attended the meeting, reflecting the strained relations between him and Mahmoud Abbas.Saeb Erekat gave Fayyad's full schedule as the excuse for his absence and said that in any case, the objective of the meeting was only to deliver the letter (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, April 18, 2012). "Palestinian sources," however, said that Salam Fayyad's refusal to join the delegation had created a rift between him and Mahmoud Abbas. According to the sources, Mahmoud Abbas was embarrassed and forced to change the composition of the delegation (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, April 22, 2012).
Hamas denounced the delivery of the letter. Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, said that it had been a ploy to get attention from the media. Ismail Radwan, a high-ranking Hamas figure, claimed that delivering the letter had harmed the efforts to restore the internal Palestinian dialogue, and called on the Palestinian Authority to stop its "useless contacts" with Israel. Additional criticism was heard from Hamas on the timing of the meeting, which was held on Palestinian Prisoners' Day (marked on April 17). In response, Saeb Erekat said that Mahmoud Abbas had planned the meeting for Prisoners' Day to impress the Israelis with importance of the date for the Palestinians (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, April 19, 2012).
Mahmoud Abbas' Political and Public Diplomacy Activities
During a visit to the Maldives, Mahmoud Abbas told a press conference that the peace negotiations had come to a standstill because of Israel's policies in Judea and Samaria, its reneging on its commitment to peace and the expansion of the settlements. Thus, he said, the Palestinian Authority would "again knock at the gates of the UN" to achieve recognition for the Palestinian state (Ma'an News Agency, April 16, 2012).
Mahmoud Abbas visits the Maldives (Wafa News Agency, April 17, 2012)
Upon his return, Mahmoud Abbas met with David Hill, the American envoy to the Middle East. Among the issues discussed was the letter sent by Mahmoud Abbas to Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians told the Americans that they were waiting for Israel's answer (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, April 22, 2012).
In a previous interview, Mahmoud Abbas said that dismantling the Palestinian Authority was not an option on the agenda. He appealed to the world at large to exert pressure on Israel, saying that the Palestinian Authority had always wanted direct, productive negotiations but the Israelis had not offered anything in writing, so the negotiations had become meaningless and useless (Al-Muqaf website, April 19, 2012).
The Issue of the Palestinian Prisoners
Prisoner Day in the Territories
Palestinian Prisoners' Day was marked on March 17 with demonstrations in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, without unusual events. About 1500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced they would go on a hunger strike for an unlimited amount of time. (Note: We possess no information as to how many of them have actually done so.) On the eve of Prisoners' Day, Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that the Palestinians were planning to appeal to countries which had signed the Fourth Geneva Convention and ask them to implement the articles of the convention to have the Palestinian prisoners treated as prisoners of war (Al-Quds TV, April 17, 2012).
Prisoners' Day events in Hebron (left) and Ramallah (right)
(Wafa News Agency, April 19, 2012)
In view of the events of Prisoners' Day and the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, letters were sent to the UN secretary general, the president of the Security Council and the president of the General Assembly. Issa Qaraqa, PA minister for prisoners' affairs, sent a letter to the UN secretary general containing a report on the condition of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as well as a request that the secretary general appoint an international committee with the authority to investigate Israeli prison conditions (Ma'an News Agency, date, 2012).
In honor of Prisoners' Day, Palestinian spokesmen again called for Israeli soldiers to be abducted to be used as bargaining chips to release Palestinian prisoners:
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal was an example of a successful deal. He called on all the Palestinian [terrorist] organizations, especially Hamas, to abduct more Israeli soldiers (Al-Aqsa TV, April 21, 2012).
High-ranking Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure Khader Habib said that all the organizations had to make efforts to act quickly and abduct Israeli soldiers to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners and exert pressure on Israel (Al-Aqsa TV, April 21, 2012).
Anti-Israeli Propaganda Events
More, Smaller Fly-Ins Planned
At a press conference held by fly-in activists in Bethlehem, the organizers expressed satisfaction with what they called its " success" in raising media awareness. Jacques Neno, president of the EJE (L'Education, le Jeu et l'Enfant, a French organization working to help children) in the Palestinian Authority, said that in a summing-up meeting held on April 15, activists suggested having more fly-ins. He said the goal was to organize a small fly-in every month, adding that French activists had suggested having two more, one in August 2012 after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the other in December during the Christmas vacation (Ynet, April 21, 2012).
Preparations for Nakba Day
Every May 15 Palestinians mark Nakba Day. Preparations have already begun for this year's events, which will include demonstrations, rallies and marches to Israel's borders, similar to the events held last year.3
The initial information we have is the following:
Judea and Samaria: Coordinating committees met throughout Judea and Samaria to formulate a program for Nakba Day (Ma'an News Agency, April 22, 2012). Among the events planned are the main rally in Ramallah, demonstrations in important cities and a demonstration at the Qalandia checkpoint.
Gaza Strip: The main rally is planned for Gaza City.
Lebanon: The social networks have carried information about an event called "the return convoy," which will be held near the Israeli border on Tuesday, May 15 (Facebook, April 22, 2012). Events are also planned for the Palestinian refugee camps throughout the country.
The Jordanian and Syrian borders: Event organizers claim demonstrations will be held along the borders between Israel and Jordan and Israel and Syria (Ma'an News Agency, April 22, 2012). So far, no other information is forthcoming.
Europe: Kevin Ovenden, vice president of Viva Palestina, said that an aid convoy for the Palestinians called "The Right of Return Convoy" would leave the city of Bradford, UK, at the beginning of May 2012. It will pass through Europe, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt and reach the Gaza Strip on May 15, Nakba Day (Al-Quds TV, April 17, 2012)
1 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of April 24, 2012.
3 Nakba Day events are organized to mark the establishment of the State of Israel, regarded by the Palestinians as the catastrophe of their defeat in Israel's War of Independence in 1948. The focus of the events on May 15, 2011, was the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the northern Golan Heights. The Syrian security forces did not prevent rioters from invading Israeli territory, breaking through the border fence and entering the village. The rioters clashed violently with IDF forces during the invasion, four of them were killed and dozens were wounded. Along the Israeli-Lebanese border the Lebanese army tried unsuccessfully to contain the riot and in the attempted border crossing ten rioters were killed and dozens wounded. In Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, limited demonstrations were held and the PA and Hamas contained them and prevented them from spinning out of control.