This past week rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip continued to target southern Israel. Five rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory, one of them hitting the yard of a residential dwelling. Note: Rocket fire continued throughout the night of October 23 and into the morning of October 24. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft struck terrorist targets, including rocket-launching squads.
On October 20 the Israeli Navy took control of the Estelle an estimated 30 miles from the Gaza Strip. There were 30 passengers aboard the ship, three of them Israelis. The ship was dispatched by networks and activists affiliated with the campaign to delegitimize Israel. Its objective was to violate the naval closure of the Gaza Strip and challenge Israel. The takeover of the ship did not provoke any particular media or diplomatic reaction and it seems that the international community has reservations regarding flotillas to the Gaza Strip.
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, arrived to participate in launching Qatari-financed projects to rebuild the Gaza Strip. It was the first time an Arab leader had visited the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover in 2007. The visit was a political blow to the Palestinian Authority and may indicate the deepening of the rift between the Gaza Strip on one hand and Judea and Samaria on the other.
Israeli Takeover of the Estelle
On the morning of October 20 the Israeli Navy took control of the Estelle at an estimated distance of 30 miles from the Gaza Strip. The ship had been dispatched by networks and activists affiliated with the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and its objectives were to violate the naval closure of the Gaza Strip and challenge Israel. The ship was boarded by IDF soldiers following a political decision and in accordance with international law after direct appeals to the ship had shown themselves to be of no avail. The takeover was carried out without exceptional event, although several passengers attempted to employ techniques of passive resistance. The ship and its passengers were taken to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod (IDF Spokesman, October 20, 2012).
In June 2012 the Estelle set sail from a port in Sweden en route to the Gaza Strip. It made several stops along the way, exploited by anti-Israeli activists for solidarity demonstrations. There were 30 passengers aboard the ship, five of them members of European parliaments and three of them Israelis (Shihab, October 18, 2012). The takeover of the ship did not provoke any particular media or diplomatic reaction and the international community apparently still has reservations regarding flotillas to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu praised the IDF activity to enforce the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in keeping with international law. He said that “even the people who were on the ship know that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Their entire objective was to create a provocation and blacken Israel’s name. If human rights were really important to these activists, they would sail to Syria… ” [ITIC emphasis].
In response Hamas strongly condemned Israel’s takeover of the ship, calling it “a crime against humanity and against the Palestinian people.”Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of Hamas-affiliated Popular Committee for Resisting the Siege [of the Gaza Strip], claimed that the takeover of theEstelle would only increase the rate at which such events were held and raise the number of activists who showed solidarity with the Palestinians (Al-Aqsa TV, October 20, 2012). In addition, Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, accused Israel of “aggression [directed] against the ship” and called for many more flotillas to be dispatched to the Gaza Strip as a response to Israel’s so-called “crime” (Filastin al-‘Aan, October 20, 2012).
Important Events Israel’s South
Rocket Fire and Attacks on Israeli Forces Continue
This past week rocket and mortar shell fire continued to target Israel’s south. During the week five rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. One of the rockets fired on October 16 fell in the yard of a residential dwelling in the western Negev. Two civilians were treated for shock. Responsibility for some of the rocket and mortar shell fire was claimed by the military wings of the Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Qawm and Ma’an News Agency, October 17 and 21, 2012).
On October 23 an IDF officer was seriously wounded during an IDF security activity near the security fence in the central Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, October 23, 2012).
In response to the rocket and mortar shell fire, Israeli Air Force aircraft struck a number of terrorist targets and rocket-launching squads:
October 22 – IAF aircraft struck two terrorist squads in the northern Gaza Strip which were making final preparations to launch rockets into Israeli territory (IDF Spokesman, October 22, 2012). The Palestinian media reported three dead: Abd al-Rahman Darwish Abu Jalala (25, from Beit Lahia); Yasser Jumaa al-Tarabien (26, from Beit Hanoun), a terrorist operative in Hamas’ military wing; and Khalil Kafarna (29, from Beit Hanoun), a terrorist operative in the Popular Resistance Committees military wing (Ma’an News Agency, October 22, 2012).
October 18 – The IAF struck a center of terrorist activity in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, October 19, 2012).
October 17 – The IAF struck a training camp belonging to Hamas’ military-terrorist wing in the Sheikh Zayid area of the northern Gaza Strip. According to reports the site was heavily damaged (Ma’an News Agency, October 17, 2012).