News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
(November 23-29, 2011 )
Damage caused by the rockets fired from south Lebanon into the western Galilee
(Photo by Max Yelinson, courtesy of NRG, November 29, 2011).
On the night of November 28 three rockets were fired from south Lebanon into the western Galilee. There were no casualties but property was damaged. A network affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. Two years ago the same network claimed responsibility for two rocket attacks.
Sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip continues to plague southern Israel. This past week two rocket hits were identified in the western Negev. In response the Israeli Air Force attacked two terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.
On November 24 Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo as part of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation process. Both sides described the meeting as positive. In effect it would seem that both preferred not to decide the essential items on the agenda, and the agreements reached reflected common issues of relatively slight importance.
Rocket Fire into Northern Israel
On the night of November 28 three rockets were launched from south Lebanon into the western Galilee. There were no casualties. A chicken coop and gas balloons were hit by shrapnel. The IDF returned fire (IDF Spokesman, November 29, 2011). On the morning of November 29 UNIFIL and Lebanese Army forces patrolled the region of Aita al-Shaab in the western sector of south Lebanon from which the rockets were fired (Al-Jazeera TV, November 29, 2011). UNIFIL said in a statement that it was investigating the incident (MTV, November 29, 2011).
Since the end of the Second Lebanon War there have been a number of rockets fired into Israeli territory from south Lebanon. The last was a little over two years ago on October 27, 2009, when a rocket was fired into the eastern Galilee, apparently a 107mm shell (IDF Spokesman, October 27, 2009).1
Firefighters put out one of the fires caused by the rocket fire
(Photo by Max Yelinson, courtesy of NRG, November 29, 2011).
A network calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the rocket fire (Al-Nashra website, November 29, 2011). The network is affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. It is headed by Salah al-Qar’awi, a Saudi Arabian who fought the Americans at Fallujah in Iraq. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades are a terrorist network in Lebanon operating in the Palestinian refugee camps and have a branch in the Arabian Peninsula which calls itself the Companies of Yusuf al-Ayiri.2
Two years ago the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for two rocket attacks from south Lebanon against Israel:
On September 11, 2009, two or three 122mm rockets were fired from the western sector of south Lebanon into the western Galilee. On September 14 an Internet forum affiliated with the global jihad posted the statement that a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, whose Lebanese branch was called the Companies of Ziad al-Jarrah, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire (Al-Fallujah forum, September 14, 2009).
On October 27, 2009 a rocket, apparently 107mm in diameter, was fired into Israel from the central sector of south Lebanon. It fell in an open area near one of the villages in the eastern Galilee. There were no casualties but the rocket caused a fire (IDF Spokesman, October 27, 2009). The following morning the Lebanese found four additional rockets ready for launching in the same area from which the first rocket had been fired. They were located in the yard of a building under construction on the outskirts of the town of Hula. (Lebanese News Agency, November 28, 2009). A global jihad forum issued a statement claiming responsibility for placing five rockets around the Hula (Al-Fallujah forum, October 29, 2009).
Logo of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades
Important Terrorism Events Israel’s South
Rocket Fire into Israeli Territory
On November 26 two rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory. Both fell in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 3
Rocket Fire — Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire — Monthly Distribution
Israeli Air Force Activity
In response to the rocket attacks, on November 27 Israeli aircraft struck two focal points of terrorist activity in the southern and central Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, November 27, 2011).
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. There were an increasing number of incidents in which stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at Israeli security forces and vehicles.
Developments in the Gaza Strip
Export of Agricultural Products from the Gaza Strip to Europe
On November 27 agricultural products began being exported from the Gaza Strip to markets in Europe. The forecast is for 150 tons of cherry tomatoes, 50 tons of green peppers, 100 tons of strawberries and 20 million flowers. The trucks leave the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The exports are part of a large-scale project carried out in coordination with the Israeli government coordinator and financed by the Dutch government (IDF Spokesman, November 27, 2011).
Truck loaded with strawberries for European markets
(Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, November 28, 2011).
Hamas has great expectations for the elections currently being held in Egypt. It assumes that the Muslim Brotherhood, its parent organization, will gain significant influence in the Egyptian politics and be able to support Hamas in various areas, especially the conflict with Israel. However, in public Hamas spokesmen are careful to express support of all the Egyptian parties in order to preserve its flexibility and freedom to maneuver.
For example, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said that Hamas had strengthened its ties with many Egyptian parties. High-ranking Hamas figures said that the elections would serve Hamas’ interests regardless of whether the Muslim Brotherhood won or not. According to Hamas spokesmen, as far as Hamas is concerned, after the elections it can be assumed that Egypt’s support for the Palestinians in general and the Gaza Strip in particular will grow (Agence France-Presse, November 27, 2011).
Note: At the end of October 2011 a delegation of high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood visited the Gaza Strip for the first time. However, the Muslim Brotherhood, which has received political legitimacy and become an important center of political power in Egypt, also wants closer public ties with Hamas, its Palestinian branch, since under Mubarak the movement was forced to reduce its ties with Hamas to a minimum because of internal security.4
Hamas’ Political Activity
On November 24 a meeting was held between Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal in Cairo to reach a series of agreements which would make it possible to implement the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. After the meeting, which lasted for two hours, Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmed and Hamas’ Izzat al-Rishq held a press conference where they reported that the meeting had been “positive, open and sincere,” and that agreements had been reached on various issues. Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal issued statements after the meeting stressing that it had been “positive” and that there had been no differences of opinion.
Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal in Cairo
(Wafa News Agency, November 24, 2011).
However, in reality, it would seem that both parties preferred not to make decisions regarding the essential internal Palestinian issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the decisions they did reach were general and reflected common issues of relatively slight importance. They decided to appoint a central election committee and hold elections for Palestinian Authority institutions in May 2012. However, no agreement was reached regarding the composition of the transition government, the identity of the prime minister and changes in the PLO. Regarding those issues, they decided to have more Fatah-Hamas deliberations and another Mahmoud Abbas-Khaled Mashaal meeting.
As to the conflict with Israel, according to the reports in the Palestinian media, at the meeting Hamas committed itself to maintaining the lull in the Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and to prevent the other terrorist organizations from violating it in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It was also reported that Hamas would join the Palestinian Authority in the “popular resistance.” However, high-ranking Hamas figures stressed that did not mean they would give up the so-called “resistance” (i.e., terrorism):
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, said that the “resistance” was the so-called “right” of all those living in occupied territory, and it included military means (Agence France-Presse, November 25, 2011).
Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, said that Hamas had not agreed to give up armed “resistance.” He said that the “popular resistance” was one of the ways Hamas and Fatah could cooperate, but in the final analysis each side had its own program. He also said that aggressive steps could be taken against the Gaza Strip without the Palestinians’ responding. However, the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations] would decide in which instances it would escalate and in which it would not (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, November 26, 2011).
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas political bureau, said that Hamas had not abandoned the armed struggle. He said that the option of “popular resistance” was part of the “option of overall resistance,” of which armed activity was also a part (The PIJ’s Paltoday website, November 26, 2011).
The Position of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on the “Resistance”
After the publication of understandings between Hamas and Fatah, Khaled al-Batash, a high-ranking figure in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, elaborated his organization’s position on the “resistance” (i.e., terrorism). He said that the PIJ would not prevent others from adopting the option of “popular resistance” but only on the condition it would not replace armed resistance. He said the PIJ did not believe in confronting Israel with quiet marches “which do not cause the enemy losses and are not painful for him,” and that only a “painful conflict” would be beneficial in dealing with Israel (Ma’an News Agency, November 27, 2011).
Khaled Mashaal’s Visit to Sudan
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, headed a Hamas delegation to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The delegation included Musa Abu Marzouk, Khalil al-Hayeh and others. Khaled Mashaal met with Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, to discuss the recent developments in the Palestinian and Arab arenas. Al-Bashir was also updated on the Mahmoud Abbas-Khaled Mashaal meeting (Ma’an News Agency, November 26, 2011).
Khaled Mashaal meets the Sudanese president’s adviser
(Hamasinfo.net website, November 27, 2011).
Internal and External Palestinian and Arab Activities
Raising the Issue of the Palestinian Prisoners at the UN
Issa al-Qaraqe, minister of prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority, said that his ministry had completed its preparations to raise the issue of the Palestinian prisoners at the UN General Assembly to have that body bring the subject to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for deliberation. He added that consultations were being held with the Arab League to formulate a legal document for lodging the request. He said that his objective was to have the prisoners considered “prisoners of war” and to end the “way Israel treated them like criminals.” He added that it was important for the issue to be presented at the next UN session (Al-Bian website, November 24, 2011).
Responses to Reports that Israel Intended to Build a New Bridge over the Mugrabi Gate
The media reports that Israel intended to destroy the Mugrabi bridge, which joins the Temple Mount and the area in front of the Wailing Wall and has long been in danger of collapse, led to a wave of angry responses and a broad media campaign. Most of the appeals were to the Jordanian government, which is considered as responsible for the endowments in Jerusalem, to have it influence Israel to change its decision. For example:
An urgent communiqué was sent by Yussuf al-Qardawi, head of the World Council of Muslim Sages, to the king of Jordan, calling on him to prevent the “occupation” [i.e., Israel] from destroying the Mugrabi path at Al-Aqsa mosque. He said that the most dangerous threat to Jerusalem was the plan of the “occupation” to implement its decision to destroy the path from the Mugrabi gate at the western wall of Al-Aqsa mosque and construct an iron bridge in its place.
A network (apparently Jordanian) calling itself “the forum of the culture of Al-Aqsa” said it had launched a campaign called “I am Jordanian and Al-Aqsa is my responsibility” to make Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque the center of interest and to stand against Israel’s threats to destroy the Mugrabi bridge (Al-Arab Al-Yawm, November 24, 2011).
Abd al-Salam al-Abadi, Jordanian minister of endowments, said that Jordan would make contacts to put an end to “violations of Al-Aqsa mosque.” He appealed to the international community to exert pressure on Israel to make it stop violating the Temple Mount, and warned that its excessive measures would lead to a new outbreak of violence in the Middle East (Jordanian News Agency, November 25, 2011).
The Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the destruction of the bridge be delayed for a week after he received messages from Egypt and Jordan warning that destroying the bridge would lead to demonstrations and protests. It was not the first time the planned destruction of the bridge has been delayed since the Mugrabi gate collapsed in 2004 (Israel TV Channel 2 news, November 27, 2011).
Convoys and Propaganda Events
Propaganda Events to Stress the Muslim Identity of Jerusalem
On Friday, November 25, consciousness-raising propaganda events were held in several locations in the Middle East, organized by Islamist activists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The events were held to stress that Jerusalem had a Muslim identity, and were held on or around the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947.
The Gaza Strip
On November 25, after the Friday prayers, mass marches were held throughout the Gaza Strip as a call to defend Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque. The marches were organized by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They were attended by Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, Ahmed Bahar, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and others. Participants in some of the marches were members of the recently arrived Freedom Spring convoy.5 Ismail Haniya gave a speech at the Al-Amri mosque in which he said that Jerusalem was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate (Hamas’ Palestine-info website and the Paltoday website, November 25, 2011).
Events of “Al-Aqsa Rescue Friday” in the Gaza Strip
(Hamas’ Palestine-info website, November 25, 2011).
The “Million Man March” in Jordan
About 7,000 civilians participated in the so-called “Million Man March for Jerusalem” in the Jordan Valley. The propaganda event was held on November 25 to show solidarity with Jerusalem. The demonstrators were bussed in from various districts in Jordan and gathered north of the Dead Sea. According to a reporter from Al-Aqsa Radio, most of them belonged to the Islamic Movement or lived in refugee camps. The event was conducted without violent clashes and no attempt was made to march to the Israeli-Jordanian border.
A number of high-ranking figures in the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan gave speeches, among them Hamam Sayid, the general guide of the organization in Jordan, who conducted the Friday prayers for the participants. Sheikh Ibrahim Zaid al-Kilani, a high-ranking figure in the Islamic Movement and former minister of endowments, said that a “Judaization campaign” was being waged against Al-Aqsa mosque. There were various activities and demonstrators carried signs and shouted slogans such as “With spirit and blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa.” To complete the event the Israeli flag and models of Al-Aqsa mosque were burned (Agence France-Presse, November 25, 2011).
The “Million Man March” in Jordan (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, November 25, 2011)
“Rescue Jerusalem Friday” was marked in Cairo with a mass gathering in the Al-Azhar mosque square. According to media reports 5,000 people attended, most of them students and lecturers from Al-Azhar University. Speeches given stressed that Jerusalem was the “line in the sand” and that Muslims would not permit it to be harmed, and appeals were made to the Muslim countries to oppose the “Judaization of Jerusalem.”
A member of the guidance office of the Muslim Brotherhood gave a speech in the name of the general guide in which he said that the problem of Jerusalem was “the main problem of the Islamic nation” (Al-Ahram, November 25, 2011). Ahmed al-Tayyib, Sheikh Al-Azhar, made a similar remark (Al-Yawm Al-Saba’a, November 25, 2011). Khalil al-Hayeh, of Hamas’ political bureau, was also present. The participants said in a statement that they demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassadors from every Islamic country.
“Rescue Jerusalem Friday” in Cairo
(Hamas’ Palestine-info website, November 25, 2011)
Anti-Israel Conference in Beirut in Preparation for the Durban Conference
A two-day conference was held in Beirut with the theme “The Arab forum for the struggle against Zionist-apartheid racism.” The conference was preparation for the Durban, South Africa, conference in March 2012. Delegations came from the Arab-Muslim world and beyond. One was a delegation of the Popular Resistance Movement, headed by Zakaria Dughmush6 (Ma’an News Agency, November 28, 2011).
The Iranian ambassador to Lebanon met with conference participants at the embassy. He thanked them for their anti-Israeli, anti-American activities and for their support of the Palestinians. The activists expressed their support for Iran and Syria (ISNA, November 28, 2011).
“The Global March to Jerusalem”
The so-called “Global March to Jerusalem” is planned for March 30, 2012. The organizers plan to hold a mass march from all over the world to send the message of the Palestinians’ so-called “right of return.” Prominent among the organizations are figures familiar from the campaign to delegitimize Israel.
The website of the network behind the initiative, which operates from the West Coast of the United States, reported that the idea for the march was suggested by the organizers and participants of the Asiatic march. Since then the campaign has broadened and currently includes many groups and networks around the world. In preparation for the march four meetings have already been held in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The networks are currently enlisting activists to participate in the march (Gmj-na.org website).
1 For further information see the October 29, 2009 bulletin “Rocket fire from south Lebanon into northern Israel, another violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/lebanon_e002.pdf.
2 For further information see the September 1, 2010 bulletin “The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad, is likely responsible for the terrorist attack on a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The organization, which began operating in 2009, has an active network in Lebanon which fired rockets on Israel” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/lebanon_e005.htm
3 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of date November 29, 2011.
4 For further information see the November 20, 2011 bulletin “A high-level delegation of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood recently held a first-of-its-kind visit to the Gaza Strip, following up on meetings with top Hamas officials held in Cairo. Both sides consider the improvement of their contacts a means of scoring political gains in Egypt and furthering their status and power” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e242.pdf.
5 The Freedom Spring convoy is an international aid convoy which reached the Gaza Strip on November 21, 2011. It was comprised of 200 activists from various countries. Its members included Arafat Madi, chairman of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, which specializes in sending flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and Clare Short, a British activist and member of the Labour Party from Birmingham.
6 Zakaria Dughmush heads one of the factions of the Popular Resistance Committees, whose military-terrorist wing is the Al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades.