The border with the Gaza Strip remained quiet this past week; no rockets were fired into Israeli territory.

Temple Mount RiotsThis past week riots and violent confrontations continued in Judea and Samaria, although events in support of Palestinian prisoners were on the wane. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was the focal point for violent events, where stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Mughrabi Gate. Rioters threw Molotov cocktails at the Israeli police forces sent to disperse them. Nine policemen and several rioters sustained minor injuries.

In anticipation of the visit to the Middle East of American President Barack Obama, the Palestinian media report a pessimistic atmosphere and low expectations. PLO and Fatah activists said they did not expect Obama to bring solutions for the Palestinians’ problems. Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestinian leftist National Initiative Movement, called for an escalation of the “popular resistance” during Obama’s visit.

The Gaza Strip border was quiet this week. Since Operation Pillar of Defense ended, one rocket hit was identified in Israeli territory, on February 26, 2013. Since then there have been no additional rocket or mortar shell hits.

Judea and Samaria Update

Increase in “Popular Attacks” in February

The Israel Security Agency reported that during February 2013 there was an increase in the number of “popular attacks” in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Most of them involved Molotov cocktails (119 of 138, not including stones thrown). In addition, there was an increase in terrorist attacks using IEDs (15 in February 2013 as opposed to 7 in January 2013). The February stone-throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks resulted in injuries to one Israeli civilian and two members of the security forces (Israel Security Agency website, March 2013).

In addition, IDF forces stationed at the crossings in Judea and Samaria reported an increase in the number of pipe bombs thrown at security personnel. The focal point for the attacks was the Rachel crossing, near the Tomb of Rachel (on the outskirts of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem) (IDF spokesman, March 10, 2013).

Riots in Judea and Samaria

Riots and violent confrontations continued throughout Judea and Samaria this past week, while events in support of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel were on the wane. Rioting peaked on Friday, March 8, 2013 on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. After the Friday afternoon prayer in the mosques rioters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Mughrabi Gate. Israeli security forces entered the Temple Mount courtyard and threw stun grenades to disperse the rioters; two Molotov cocktails were thrown at them. Nine policemen and several rioters sustained minor injuries; a media photographer was also injured. The police detained four rioters (Ynet, March 8, 2013). 

Riots on Temple Mount After Friday Prayer

Riots on the Temple Mount after the Friday prayer (YouTube, March 8, 2013).

Other prominent events (Ynet, March 8, 2013):

  • An estimated 100 rioters threw stones near the Shavei Shomrom village (west of Nablus) and were dispersed.
  • Several dozen Palestinians rolled burning tires and threw stones near the Hawara roadblock (south of Nablus).
  • Dozens of Palestinians approached the community of Efrat in the Gush Etzion Block (south of Bethlehem) and threw stones.
  • At Bayt Ummar (northwest of Hebron) the Israeli security forces prevented Palestinians from blocking the road.
  • In Hebron there were riots at the Shoter roadblock and near Beit Hadassah.

Palestinian Rioter Shot with Rubber Bullet Dies

Muhammad Samih Asfour, a 22 year-old Palestinian, died in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. He was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during a riot in the village of Aboud (northwest of Ramallah). He was wounded two weeks ago while rioting near the Ofer Prison in support of the hunger-striking Palestinian terrorist operatives in Israeli jails. An investigation was ordered into the circumstances of his death (Ynet, March 7, 2013).

  • Hamas said that Asfour had been a Hamas operative. The Palestinian terrorist organizations, headed by Hamas, declared the day of his funeral “a day of rage.” His funeral was attended by many Palestinians, among them senior figures from Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations. His coffin was draped with a Hamas flag. After the funeral violent confrontations broke out between mourners and Israeli security forces.

Support Campaign for the Palestinian Prisoners Continue

  • The fervor over the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners has not yet abated and rallies and demonstrations continue to be held, although recently they have been on the wane. On March 6, 2013, dozens of Beir Zeit University students held a rally in support of the terrorist operatives, and then marched from the university to the Ofer Prison. As they approached the prison a violent confrontation broke out between them and Israeli security forces. According to the Palestinian media, an estimated 15 rioters, including Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian prisoners’ society participated in the confrontation (Wafa News Agency and the PalPress website, March 6, 2013).
  • Issa Qaraqa, minister of prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Shawan Jabarin, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) activist and head of the Al-Haq human rights organization, held a press conference. They announced that they had sent a letter to Mahmoud Abbas asking him to advocate the inclusion of the PA in international institutions and conventions so that it would be possible to promote the issue of the Palestinian prisoners (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, March 11, 2013).

The Crossings

  • The de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip changed its decision regarding the closing of the Kerem Shalom crossing. Thus on March 6, 2013, the crossing reopened and became fully active, and 400 trucks entered the Gaza Strip. Three of them were accompanied by the head of the Turkish Red Crescent and carried 60 tons of food, a gift from Turkey to the Gaza Strip. It was the first time since the events of theMavi Marmara flotilla that Turkish aid entered the Gaza Strip via the Israeli port of Ashdod (Website of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, March 6, 2013).

Egypt Continues Destroying Tunnels

  • Egyptian sources reported that reinforced Egyptian army forces were deployed in the central Sinai Peninsula and along the Israeli border. It is one aspect of the struggle to stop smuggling through the tunnels and prevent the infiltration of Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula (Al-Ayam, March 9, 2013). On the night of March 10, 2013, Egyptian forces blew up tunnelsinstead of flooding them. That might have been because local residents complained that flooding caused the tunnels to collapse and damage nearby buildings (Anadolu News Agency, Turkey, March 11, 2013).
  • According to tunnel owners, the destruction of the tunnels by Egyptian forces, which started about two months ago, has led to a 60% reduction in the amount of goods smuggled into the Gaza Strip. One tunnel owner said that before the Egyptian operation he had smuggled in an estimated 400 tons of aggregate per day, and today perhaps only 100 tons per day (Anadolu News Agency, Turkey, March 11, 2013).
  • However, Hamas officials maintain contact with the Egyptian leadership in a effort to limit the destruction of the tunnels:
  • Salah al-Bardawil said that the commotion instigated by flooding the tunnels did not serve either Egypt or Hamas, and that the tunnels were intended to provide only items needed by the Gazans. He added that Hamas was in contact with the Egyptians to find an alternative. He [falsely] denied that there was a connection between the tunnels and smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip (Safa News Agency, March 7, 2013).
  • Ghazi Hamed, deputy foreign minister in the de-facto Hamas administration, said that contacts were being held with the Egyptian leadership regarding the destruction of the tunnels. He said that Hamas was prepared to have the tunnels destroyed if alternatives could be provided, such as opening the Rafah crossing to commerce (Shihab website, March 10, 2013).

Musa Abu Marzouq Meets with Senior Iranian Figures in Tehran

  • Musa Abu Marzouq, deputy chairman of Hamas’ Executive Committee, paid a visit to Iran where he met with Iranian president Ahmadinejad and other senior administration figures. At a meeting with Ahmadinejad on March 5, 2013, he emphasized Hamas’ so-called “victory” in Operation Pillar of Defense. Ahmadinejad said that “the liberation of Jerusalem is a common goal for all Muslims and peoples. The liberation of Palestine is a religious issue and that is how it must be viewed” (Shihab website, March 5, 2013). On March 3, 2013, Musa Abu Marzouq met with Sayeed Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Jalili said that the “resistance” [i.e., the path of terrorism] was the only way to liberate [sic] Palestine (Al-Alam TV, March 3, 2013).

The Mujahideen Network Holds Training Exercises

  • On March 8, 2013 a terrorist network calling itself the Mujahideen Movement held training exercises entitled “the promise of liberation.” The exercises were held north of Rafah, and included firing 107mm rockets, sniping and abducting Israeli soldiers (Shihab website, March 8, 2013).

Mujahideen network holds military training exercises at a facility north of Rafah
The Mujahideen network holds military training exercises at a facility north of Rafah
(Hamas forum website, March 8, 2013).

Hamas Administration Plans to Establish a Military and Defense Academy in the Gaza Strip

  • On March 11, 2013, Fathi Hamad, minister of the interior in the de-facto Hamas administration, met with Osama al-Muzeini, minister of education,to discuss a proposal to establish an academy in the Gaza Strip for military and defense studies. According to Hamad, the objective would be to develop the military capabilities of the operatives working for the security services of the Hamas ministry of the interior (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 11, 2013).

Fathi Hamad minister of the interior in the Hamas administration meets with Osama al-Muzeini minister of education
Fathi Hamad, minister of the interior in the Hamas administration, meets with Osama al-Muzeini, minister of education (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 11, 2013).

Hamas Event to Commemorate Ibrahim al-Muqadma

  • On March 9, 2013, Hamas held a march in the Al-Bureij refugee camp (central Gaza Strip) to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of senior Hamas terrorist commander Ibrahim al-Muqadma.[3] An estimated 500 masked Hamas terrorist operatives participated in the march alongside senior Hamas figures. They waved Hamas flags, carried pictures of al-Muqadma and held a display of suicide bombers. They also burned a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and a coffin representing the State of Israel. Senior Hamas officials presented the al-Muqadma family with a map of Palestine with a superimposed picture of a Hamas-manufactured long-range M75 rocket (M for Muqadma), used for the first time in Operation Pillar of Defense (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 10, 2013).

The Muqadma family presented with a map of Palestine to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death Left A display of suicide bombers
Right: The Muqadma family presented with a map of Palestine to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death. Left: A display of suicide bombers (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 10, 2013).

 The Palestinian Authority Update

Hopes Lowered for Obama’s Visit

  • In anticipation the upcoming Middle East visit of American President Barack Obama, the Palestinian media reported an atmosphere of pessimism and low expectations:
  • Aziz Dweik, senior Hamas activist and chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that as far as he could see, Obama’s visit would bring no new promises to the Middle East because the United States did not care about the rights of the Palestinian people. The American president, he said, had proved his bias when he used the United States’ veto to defend Israel in the Security Council (Ma’an News Agency, March 6, 2013).
  • Taysir Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, claimed that Obama would not bring solutions for the Palestinians’ problems, but was rather coming only to listen to the positions of the two sides. He said that news items about gestures made by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to the Palestinians were “nothing more than a media spin” (Qudsnet website, March 5, 2013).
  • Mahmoud al-‘Aloul, a member of Fatah’ Central Committee, also said that he was pessimistic about Obama’s visit to the Middle East. He said that “the Palestinians do not need gestures to ease their situation, they need a serious political position regarding the Palestinian issue” (Qudsnet website, March 7, 2013).
  • Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestinian leftist National Initiative Movement, called for an escalation in the “popular resistance” during Obama’s visit. He said that “even if today there is a lull agreement with Israel, we have to oppose it through the ‘popular resistance,’ which cannot be stopped” (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 12, 2013).

Hamas Propaganda and Incitement against Obama’s Visit

  • In the Gaza Strip there has been serious criticism of the fact that Obama’s trip to Jerusalem will allegedly include a visit to the Temple Mount accompanied by Israeli security. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organized a protest march from the Al-Omari mosque in Gaza City after the Friday prayer. Senior Hamas and PIJ figures headed the march waving Qur’ans and denouncing the affront to the holy places in Jerusalem.
  • Musheir al-Masri, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, threatened that if Obama’s trip to Jerusalem included a visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque it would be considered “a declaration of war.” He also demanded that the PA stop security coordination with Israel and called on the masses to ignite a third intifada, called the “prisoners of Al-Aqsa” intifada (Safa News Agency, March 8, 2013). Senior PIJ figure Khaled al-Batash said that the masses in Jerusalem would not let President Obama visit Al-Aqsa mosque, and claimed that such a visit would mean “legitimizing the occupation of Al-Aqsa” (Paltoday website, March 8, 2013).

British Consul Driven from Beir Zeit University

Students at Beir Zeit University, near Ramallah, expelled Sir Vincent Fean, the British Consul General, who had come to the university to deliver a speech on the European Union. Before his arrival several dozen students demonstrated to protest his visit and then threw shoes and stones at his entourage. The students were protesting the British position on the Palestinian issue in general and the Balfour Declaration (1917) in particular (Shihab website and the Ma’an News Agency, March 5, 2013).

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British Consul General Sir Vincent Fean leaves his vehicle after angry Palestinian students make him flee Beir Zeit University (Shihab website, March 5, 2013). Right: Beit Zeit University students attack Sir Vincent’s car
(Anadolu News Agency, Turkey, March 5, 2013). 

 Propaganda and Incitement Events

  • Products from the Settlements Burned in the Palestinian Authority

    The Hamas-affiliated Filastin Al-‘Aan website posted pictures of Palestinian police in Ramallah burning a variety of products made in the “Israeli settlements.” The products were allegedly confiscated from Palestinians merchants. The pictures show packages of Israeli cellular phones being burned (Filastin Al-‘Aan, March 11, 2013). So far the veracity of the pictures and the information posted on the website cannot be verified.

Gaza Strip Fishermen Hold Protest Demonstration

    • Gazan fishermen and the local agricultural workers’ union organized a demonstration in which fishing boats left the port of Gaza and sailed to Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. According to the organizers, their objective was to end the Israeli attacks on Gazan fishermen and to retrieve the boats taken from them. A network called International Action for Palestine also participated in organizing the demonstration (International Action for Palestine website, March 3, 2013).[4]

British Convoy to the Gaza Strip

    • At the end of February 2013 the Gaza Aid Convoy left Britain for the Gaza Strip. The convoy, comprised of about 20 activists, is expected to pass through France, Spain Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and from there to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing (Convoy website, February 28, 2013).

Paris Suburb Grants Honorary Citizenship to Assassin of Israeli Minister

    • The Paris suburb of Bezons has granted honorary citizenship to Majdi al-Rimawithe PFLP terrorist operative who assassinated Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi and who is today imprisoned in Israel.[5] The decision to grant him citizenship was made at a meeting of the local municipality on February 13, 2013, a day dedicated to solidarity with the Palestinian people. The suburb also participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to the Gaza Strip, and is a twin city of the village of Bani Zayid, near Ramallah, Majdi al-Rimawi’s former place of residence (Ma’an News Agency, March 11, 2013).[6]

Terrorist operative Majdi al Rimawi
Right: Terrorist operative Majdi al-Rimawi (Ma’an News Agency, March 11, 2013).
Left: The ceremony granting al-Rimawi honorary Bezons citizenship (Facebook, March 11, 2013).

 [1] As of March 12, 2013. The statistics do not include mortar shell fire.
[2] The statistics do not include mortar shell fire.
[3] Ibrahim al-Muqadma was one of the heads of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing. He was also one of Hamas’ most extremist ideologues. He was killed by an Israeli attack on his car on March 8, 2003.
[4] International Action for Palestine is a network of volunteers from around the globe who come to the Gaza Strip and collaborate with local organizations. Their main objective is allegedly to support Gazan farmers and fishermen. They are also involved in support for the Palestinian terrorist operatives in Israeli prisons and their families.
[5] Majdi Rimawi, a senior PFLP terrorist operative, commanded the squad which carried out the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem on October 17, 2001. In 2008 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in an Israeli jail and an additional 80 years.
[6] For further information about the connection between anti-Israeli elements in France and PFLP operatives, see the February 17, 2013 bulletin “Terrorism and human rights: Shawan Jabarin, human rights organization director and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist activist, recently visited France to participate in the anti-Israeli campaign.”

 SOURCE: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) opened in 2002. It is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), a national site dedicated to the memory of fallen of the Israeli intelligence community. The ITIC is located near Gelilot, north of Tel Aviv, and is directed by (Col. Ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich. The objective of the ITIC is to collect, study and disseminate information about terrorism.