This past week Israel’s southern border was quiet, after rockets were fired the previous week. A terrorist network was detained in Judea and Samaria, weapons were seized, an Israeli bus was shot at and Palestinian violence continues as part of the so-called “popular resistance.”
John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, ended a week of shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman in an attempt to renew Israel-Palestinian negotiations. He said that significant progress had been made. The Palestinians, on the other hand, claimed that there were still great disparities between the sides and that Israel was the one causing the difficulties. However, Saeb Erekat, a member of the politician’s Executive Committee and the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, said that the discussions would continue and the Kerry would return to the region for another round of talks.
The Situation in Israel’s South
Rocket Fire on the Southern Border
This past week there was quiet along Israel’s southern border. No rockets and no mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory.
Judea and Samaria
Palestinian Shot near Hebron
On the night of July 1, 2013, a young Palestinian was killed in the village of Dura (south Mt. Hebron) by IDF fire. According to the IDF spokesman, during a nighttime operation in Dura Palestinians attacked an IDF force with stones. The force responded by using riot control equipment. A Palestinian was reported wounded, and later died of his wounds. The IDF is investigating the circumstances of his death. The Palestinian was a cadet at the Palestinian Academy for Security Sciences in Jericho (Ynet, July 2, 2013).
The Border Police Detain a Terrorist Network Planning an Attack
During a Border Police patrol in the area of El-Khader (near Bethlehem) on June 28, 2013, after Molotov cocktails had been thrown in the region, the soldiers noted a suspicious vehicle with three passengers. They ordered it to stop. An examination uncovered three sniper rifles, telescopic lenses, two silencers, magazines and ammunition. An initial investigation revealed that the three were planning to carry out a terrorist attack (Israel Border Police website, June 28, 2013).
Weapons Seized in Nablus
A joint Israeli security forces activity carried out on the night of June 26, 2013 uncovered a large quantity of weapons in the homes of terrorist operatives in Nablus. Among them were two hand guns, parts of an M-16 assault rifle, magazines, various types of ammunition and military equipment. Three suspects were detained (IDF spokesman, June 27, 2013).
Israeli Bus Attacked
On June 25, 2013, shots were fired at an Israeli civilian bus in the region of the village of Hawara (near Nablus). The bus driver reported that he heard gunfire and that at least one shot was aimed at him. The security forces called to the scene found a bullet hole in the bus, and initiated a search for the shooter or shooters. The previous week an Israeli bus was shot at in the same location. There were no casualties in either attack (Ynet, June 25, 2013).
Terrorist Squad from Hebron and Nablus Detained
In May 2013 the Israeli security forces detained a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist squad from Hebron and Nablus. One of the operatives shot at Israeli tourists near Wadi Qelt (in the Judean Desert) in May 2013. The operative from Hebron belonged to the PFLP andmade contact with its operatives abroad. He had met with operatives in Jordan to carry out the attack. His interrogation also revealed that PFLP operatives abroad were directed by and collaborate with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Four other operatives from Hebron and Nablus were detained, all of whom confessed to having carried out other attacks. One of them was a woman named Sati Yussuf Mansour, 30, from Kafr Qallil (near Nablus), who confessed to having helped plan the terrorist attack in Wadi Qelt and to collecting information for other attacks (Israel Security Agency website, June 27, 2013).
Palestinian Continue Rioting in Judea and Samaria
This past week violence and riots between Palestinians and the Israel security forces continued at the traditional friction points, part of the so-called “popular resistance.”
Palestinians confront IDF forces at Ma’sara (Bethlehem district) at one of the weekly riots protesting the security fence and the settlements (Wafa News Agency, June 28, 2013).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
The media continue to issue reports about the severe economic crisis developing in the Gaza Strip in the wake of increased Egyptian security activities along Egypt-Gaza Strip border. The security activities, carried out in light of internal events in Egypt, led to the closing of tunnels and the cutting off of supplies to the Gaza Strip. Most critical are the shortages of fuel and building materials, and as a result many building projects have stalled and the workers have been dismissed (Al-Ayam, June 27, 2013). According to Maher Abu Subha, head of general administration for the crossings and borders young Gazans have recently found it difficult to leave the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing, and most of those allowed passage are older men with families (Safa News Agency, June 26, 2013).
On June 25, 2013, Israel ordered the reopening of the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings, after they had been closed following the rocket fire targeting Israel’s south (on the night of June 23, 2013).
Attempts to Repair Hamas-Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Relations
Following the tension between Hamas and the PIJ caused by the killing of a senior PIJ operative, Hamas has made attempts to repair their relations. Senior PIJ figures were in favor of the return to normal relations:
- Khader Habibsaid that his organization had renewed contact with Hamas following the differences of opinion over the death of Ra’ed Jundia. He said the PIJ maintained close relations with Hamas and that the two organizations were a united front against Israel (Palestine Online, June 25, 2013).
- Khaled al-Batashsaid that the appointing of an investigation committee, Ismail Haniya’s phone conversations with the PIJ’s leadership and its secretary general Ramadan Shallah, and the visit of a Hamas delegation to the home of the PIJ victim helped to calm the troubled waters and to restore friendly relations. He said those who had been involved in the killing would be tried and dealt with according to Muslim religious law (Ma’an News Agency, June 26, 2013).
The De-Facto Hamas Administration Trains Officers and Instructors for Its Al-Futuwwa Program
At the beginning of June 2013 the training administration of the de-facto Hamas administration’s national security service began a course to train officers and instructors for the coming school year’s Al-Futuwwa program, which gives school children military training. The participants in the training course underwent physical and military training and were listened to lectures on various theoretical topics. They also received a visit from Colonel Muhammad al-Nakhaleh, Al-Futuwwa director (Facebook page of Al-Futuwwa, June 5 and 17, 2013).
Anniversary of the Abduction of Gilad Shalit
On the seventh anniversary of the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, issued a video entitled “We began with our goal…and we will reach its end.” Beginning with the end of the 1980s, the video boasts about the abductions and murders of IDF soldiers, and gives names of Israelis who were abducted and murdered. Gilad Shalit is shown on the day of his release as he dresses in a cell before he is turned over to Israel (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, June 26, 2013).
Pictures of Gilad Shalit from the Hamas video (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, June 26, 2013)
Abu Obeida, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, said that the abduction of Gilad Shalit led to the release of 1,027 Palestinian [terrorist] prisoners from Israeli jails and was a “slap in the face” for Israel. He added that Shalit’s abduction was not the last word and that [Hamas] would continue to abduct Israeli soldiers until all the Palestinian prisoners had been released (Sawt al-Aqsa, June 26, 2013). Abu Atia, spokesman for the Salah al-Din Brigades (the Popular Resistance Committees’ military-terrorist wing), which had collaborated with Hamas in abducting Shalit, said that abducting Israeli soldiers was the path chosen by the military wing and their strategic option in the campaign to release Palestinians currently imprisoned in Israel (Qawem website, June 25, 2013).
Recent Statements from a Senior Hamas Figure
Interviewed by Al-Monitor, Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, related to a number of subjects (June 27, 2013):
- Firing rockets into Israeli territory– Despite the rockets fired into Israeli territory last week, all the Palestinian organizations are committed to the lull in the fighting. Preserving the quiet is a “supremely important matter” for them.
- Hamas-Iran relations – Iran’s financial and military support for Hamas has been cut off. Hamas is now looking for alternative sources of funding, Qatar for example, which would not condition support on political demands.
- Hamas-Syria relations– Hamas does not involve itself in Syria’s internal affairs. Despite Hamas’ support for the rebels’ objectives, it does not maintain a presence in Syria, with the exception of a minimal presence in the Palestinian refugee camps.
- Hamas-Egypt relations– Hamas and Egyptian security are pleased with their security collaboration, especially with regard to the Sinai Peninsula.
Criticism of Hezbollah’s Activity in Syria
Senior Hamas figure Salah al-Bardawil strongly criticized Hezbollah for its involvement in the fighting in Syria. He said it was unfortunate, but Hezbollah was being dragged into a campaign that created a negative image for itself. It had turned away from its true enemy, Israel, and was exhausting the best of its young fighters in battles in Syria. Salah al-Bardawil rejected the claim made by Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah that the fighting in Syria was for the sake of Palestine. He said it was an illogical excuse, because the road to Palestine did not pass indirectly through “the murders of women and children in Syria.” However, he said, it did not affect Hamas’ relations with Hezbollah (Ma’an News Agency, June 29, 2013).
The Palestinian Authority
American Secretary of State John Kerry’s Attempts at Mediation
As part of the American effort to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, spent three days shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman. The objective of the visit (his fifth) was to get the sides to agree to the terms for renewing negotiations. Despite a number of meetings held with each side individually and despite the fact that he stayed for one day longer than planned, a breakthrough has apparently not been achieved. However, he said that his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas had led to progress in the peace process and that he believed negotiations could be “within reach” (White House website, July 1, 2013).
At the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said he had held a third meeting with John Kerry, along with his negotiating team. He said Israel was ready to begin negotiations without delay and without preconditions. He said Israel was not raising obstacles to renewing the permanent talks or to a peace agreement. However, he said, there were things Israel would strongly insist on, especially security (Israeli prime minister’s website, June 30 2013).
According to Palestinian reports, the meetings Kerry held in Ramallah and Amman focused on the three main issues which are the foundation for the PA’s renewing negotiations: a freeze on construction in the settlements, a declaration that the 1967 borders were the basis for negotiations and the release of Palestinians imprisoned before the Oslo Accords (Wafa News Agency, June 28, 2013). However, the Palestinians refused to alter their demands and claimed that they were not preconditions but rather commitments Israel had made in writing in the past and which it had to fulfill. Palestinian sources claimed that there were large disparities between the sides and that it was Israel that was causing the difficulties (Voice of Palestine Radio, July 1, 2013).
 As of July 2, 2013. The statistics do not include mortar shell fire.
 The statistics do not include mortar shell fire.
 The attack was carried out on May 2, 2013. A Palestinian opened fire at an Israeli civilian vehicle parked in the Wadi Qelt parking lot. Two passengers sitting in the car, an Israeli woman and a tourist from Europe, were unharmed, but the vehicle was damaged. The shooter escaped.
 For further information about the killing of the PIJ operative, see the bulletin “News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (June 19 – 25, 2013).”
 For further information see the May 8, 2013 bulletin “Hamas has introduced a program in Gaza Strip schools called Al-Futuwwa, which provides military training for tens of thousands of adolescent boys.”