News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
(October 6-11, 2011 )
Crowds waving Hamas flags in the Gaza Strip celebrate the expected release of Palestinian terrorists after news of the exchange deal was made public (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, October 11, 2011)
Events this week focus on the Egyptian-brokered agreement for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. On October 11 the Israeli government convened a special meeting where a large majority of ministers voted to exchange 1,027 Palestinian terrorists for Gilad Shalit. Some of the terrorists had been sentenced to life terms. The agreement will be implemented in two stages. (An initial update of the agreement will be issued separately as a supplement to this bulletin.)
The Palestinian Authority has been conducting intensive diplomatic efforts, including a visit by Mahmoud Abbas to France and Latin American countries, to enlist support for the vote in the UN Security Council. However, the Palestinians rejected the International Quartet’s call to invite Israeli and Palestinian representatives to meet in the near future, returning to their preconditions for negotiations, that is, demands for a full freeze on construction in the settlements and a recognition of the 1967 borders as the basis for the peace process.
Important Terrorism Events Israel’s South
This past were no rocket or mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 1
Rocket Fire — Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire — Monthly Distribution
Judea and Samaria
The Situation on the Ground
This past week the Palestinians continued demonstrating at the traditional friction spots, particularly Bila’in and Nili’in. There were numerous incidents of stones thrown at Israeli security forces and at Israeli settlers. In some instances the security forces used riot control measures to disperse the crowds.
Protest demonstrations were held in many locations to show solidarity with the hunger strike currently being carried out by Palestinian terrorist operatives in Israeli jails. Protest marches were held in Ramallah and other major cities in Judea and Samaria, including Jenin, Hebron, Qalqiliya and Bethlehem. Demonstrations and marches were also held in the Gaza Strip, organized by Hamas (Wafa News Agency and Safa News Agency, October 7-8, 2011).
As part of the protests, before the agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit had been made public, high-ranking Hamas figures called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips for the release of terrorist prisoners:
Ahmed Bahar, Hamas activist and deputy chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, called on the Palestinian terrorist organizations (“the Palestinian resistance factions”) to invest additional “military efforts” for the sake of the prisoners. Speaking at a rally in front of Red Cross headquarters in Gaza he stressed that the plan to take more Israeli soldiers captive should be continued, and they would join Gilad Shalit and help “break the enemy’s spirit” and make Israel surrender to the Palestinians’ “national demands” (Safa News Agency, October 10, 2011).
Ismail Radwan spoke at the same rally. He appealed to the terrorist organizations (“the Palestinian resistance”) to abduct Israeli soldiers (in addition to Gilad Shalit), stressing that it was the only way all the Palestinian prisoners would be released (Al-Aqsa TV, October 10, 2011).
The Palestinian Legislative Council held a meeting to express solidarity with the prisoners. Ahmed Bahar, deputy chairman of the council, said that Hamas called for a new Palestinian intifada to protect the prisoners. He called on the terrorist organizations (“the factions of the resistance”) to adhere to the conditions of a deal which would exchange Palestinians for Gilad Shalit, and at the same time “to continue working on the plan to abduct more Israeli soldiers, who would be like Gilad Shalit,” until Israel “surrenders to all our national demands” (Wafa News Agency, October 9, 2011).
Felesteen, Hamas’ newspaper, printed a column by former editor-in-chief Mustafa Sawaf, calling on the terrorist organizations to abduct “soldiers and Zionists” “everywhere,” even beyond the borders of Palestine. According to the column, if Palestinians could not do that then “Arab and Muslim sectors” should abduct “Zionists” as prisoners as an effective way of exerting pressure on Israel (“the occupying state”). It also noted that it was “the most effective means and should be implemented fully and as quickly as possible” (Hamas’ Felesteen, October 10, 2011).
Demonstrations in the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the Palestinian terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails
(Safa News Agency, October 10, 2011)
The Political Front
UNESCO to Vote on Accepting “Palestine” as a Full Member
The administrative committee of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recommended that its general conference, which will be held on October 25, 2011, accept Palestine as a full member of the agency with the right of a “state.” The new status in UNESCO, if the recommendation is accepted, will enable thePalestinians to request having sites put on the list of national heritage sites, including holy sites whose status is a matter of disagreement between Israel and the Palestinians (Agence France-Presse, October 4, 2011).
In response Israel announced in a press release that the Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negated both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions, according to the release, are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process. UNESCO’s responsibilities address culture, science and education. UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East yet has found time during its’ current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians membership of UNESCO would not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever.
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the UNESCO decision “confusing” because the UN had not adopted a resolution dealing with the UN membership of a Palestinian state. She added that such a decision had to be made by the UN and not one of its subordinate agencies (Agence France-Presse, October 6, 2011). On the other hand, high-ranking figures in the Palestinian Authority, however, praised the decision. Saeb Erekat, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, criticized the American position, which opposed UNESCO’s decision, and said that Palestine’s joining the agency was “a natural right and positive plan for the the construction of the Palestinian state” (Qudsnet, October 6, 2011).
Intensive Palestinian Diplomatic Activity before the Vote in the Security Council
Mahmoud Abbas and other high-ranking Palestinian Authority figures arrived in France this week to participate in a parliamentary meeting of the European Union in Strasbourg. The council gave the Palestinian delegation the status of “partner for democracy” and called on the member states in the Security Council (France, Britain, Germany, Russia, Portugal, and Bosnia-Herzegovina) to vote in favor the a Palestinian state (Wafa News Agency, October 5, 2011). From France Mahmoud Abbas continued on to the Dominican Republic, and from there to El Salvador and Colombia.
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority gave a speech before the European Parliament in which he called on the European countries to support the “Palestinian spring.” He said that after the negotiations with Israel stalled the Palestinians had no choice but the appeal to the international community for recognition of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders. He also mentioned General Assembly resolution 181 (the Partition Plan). He said that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state because, he claimed, it would turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one which would threaten the status of Israeli Arabs (Wafa News Agency, October 5; PTV October 6, 2011).
Khalil al-Hayeh, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, was strongly critical of Mahmoud Abbas’ application the UN and of the Palestinian Authority for preventing terrorist activity on its territory. He also denied that Hamas had removed its offices from Syria and called on the Syrian regime to make haste and carry out reforms in response to the demands of the Syrian people. His main points were the following (from a program organized by the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum and called “Political Bulletin,” alresalah.net website, October 6, 2011):
Mahmoud Abbas’ application to the UN endangers the future of the PLO, which represents the Palestinian refugees, and their future. That is because recognition of a Palestinian state might lead to the cancellation of the refugees’ “right” to their land. He said that “we agree with everything that harms the occupation and defines it as criminal, but this step incurs many risks…”
A “program of stages” for confronting Israel is the basis for the internal Palestinian reconciliation: However, Mahmoud Abbas, he said, did not honor the “program of stages” which was the foundation for the internal Palestinian reconciliation. He said that there was “a national program of stages based on accepting a state with the 1967 borders, as well as the right of return, defending the Palestinian people and not recognizing the legitimacy of the occupier state [i.e., Israel]. It is the minimal program agreed on, because according to Hamas’ program the land of Palestinian reaches from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river. We do not agree to legitimizing the occupation on one inch of that land.”
“The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades work to carry out suicide bombings within Israel, but the security coordination [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] prevents them.” He added that “the resistance [i.e., the terrorist organizations] in the Gaza Strip is protected, as opposed to the West Bank, where it is persecuted by the [Palestinian] Authority’s security forces and the [Israeli] occupation.”
Al-Hayeh denied that in recent months Hamas had removed its offices from Syria. He called on the Syrian regime to hasten to carry out reforms and respond to the demands of the Syrian people. He said, “we did not move our offices. If we wished to move them we would do it openly. We did not interfere in the [other] revolutions [in the Arab world] and we don’t want what happened in Libya to happen in Syria. We hope that the Syrian people obtain their rights.”
The internal Palestinian reconciliation: Al-Hayeh appealed to Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah to again meet with Hamas again under Egyptian or other Arab aegis to discuss the Palestinian cause. He said Hamas did not fear elections but would not agree to them “before the internal Palestinian reconciliation has been achieved.”
The International Quartet Calls for a Renewal of the Negotiations
Following the announcement of the International Quartet calling for a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Catherine Ashton, foreign minister of the European Union, said that the Quartet planned to invite Israeli and Palestinian representatives to a meeting in the near future to renew the negotiations (EU Observer website, October 9, 2011).
Nabil Abu Rudeina, Palestinian spokesman, rejected the call. He said in an announcement that “we are prepared to return to negotiations on the condition that there is a full cessation of [construction] activities in the settlements and that Israel recognizes the 1967 borders as the basis for the peace process “(Wafa News Agency, October 9, 2011).
Following Palestinian disappointment with President Barack Obama’s speech in the UN General Assembly and in view of the United States’ stated intention to exercise its veto in the Security Council, a number of statements were made this past week about Palestinian-American relations:
Tawfiq al-Tirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, spoke at a rally held at the Al-Quds Open University in Hebron. He said that the United States was the Palestinian people’s number one enemy because it supported Israel and continually discriminated against the Palestinians. He said that “before we strike Israel with shoes, we should strike its collaborators” (Ma’an News Agency, October 9, 2011).
A “highly-placed source” in Ramallah told a correspondent from the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat that “we challenged the American administration and fended off its threats, but we cannot damage relations with it in a way that will make it impose a siege on us the way it has on the Hamas government.” He added that “at this point we are transferring the Palestinian cause to international sponsorship but without turning the American administration into an enemy, and without suffering from a financial or political siege” (Reported by Muhammad Yunis, Al-Hayat in Ramallah, October 8, 2011).
However, before he left Strasbourg, Mahmoud Abbas held a press conference where he expressed Palestinian anger with he United States, but said that it was being expressed in a cultured, non-violent way, and that it was the result of differences of opinion regarding the Palestinian state. He said that ending American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, as the Congress was planning to do, “would not serve either peace or Israel” (Wafa News Agency, October 7, 2011).
High-Ranking Fatah Activist Calls for Palestinian Expansion by Development in Area C2
Muhammed Ashtiyeh, member of Fatah’s Central Committee, has called on the Palestinians to expand to Area C with various development projects, especially agricultural projects. He claimed that the Israeli control of Area C and the steps taken there by Israel make it impossible to establish an independent Palestinian state. He called on Israel to turn authority to plan Area C over to the Palestinians, to be responsive to the needs of the Palestinian villagers and to include them in the Palestinian planning program (Wafa News Agency, October 9, 2011).
Aid Convoys Reach the Gaza Strip
Miles of Smiles 6
On October 5 the aid convoy Miles of Smiles 6 entered the Gaza Strip bringing 40 vehicles and medical equipment. The convoy’s entrance was coordinated with the Egyptian authorities. The convoy left from South Africa and was joined by pro-Palestinian activists from various countries, including Britain, Kuwait, Turkey, Algeria, Jordan and Bahrain (Alresalah.net website, October 5, 2011).
Hamas exploited the arrival of the convoy for purposes of propaganda. A festive reception was held for the convoy when it entered the Gaza Strip, attended by Yunis al-Astel, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Ghazi Hamad, Hamas administration deputy foreign minister. At the Friday prayers at a mosque in Gaza City, Ismail Haniya praised the convoy which, he said, was bringing the residents of the Gaza Strip “the aid they need,” and continuing to work to “lift the siege.” He also said that “liberating Gaza from the siege” was the first step on the road to “liberating Jerusalem” (Safa News Agency and Radio Al-Aqsa, October 7, 2011).3
Before the convoy entered the Gaza Strip, its members met in Cairo with Sheikh al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyib, the most important Sunni Muslim authority in Egypt and the Arab world in general. According to Issam Yussef, “the convoy coordinator” (deputy chairman of the British Interpal), Dr. Al-Tayyib was considering granting the convoy’s request to visit the Gaza Strip (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, October 5, 2011).
Aid Convoy from Algeria
On October 5 the Hamas Internet forum reported that an aid convoy had left Algeria for the Gaza Strip, sent by a charitable society called Al-Irshad wal-Islah (“guidance and reform”). The society sent two previous aid convoys to the Gaza Strip.
1 The statistics do not include the rockets and mortar shells which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of October 11, 2011.
2 The area of the Palestinian Authority under full Israeli control.
3 For further information about the nature of the Miles of Smiles convoys, see the August 3, 2011 bulletin “Seniors in Interpal, a British fund that supports Hamas, play a major role in sending aid convoys to Gaza. South African organizations belonging to the Union of Good are also involved” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e148.pdf.