News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (September 23 – 30, 2020)

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Testing kits delivered by the W.H.O. (Facebook page of W.H.O. office in the Palestinian territories, September 25, 2020).

Testing kits delivered by the W.H.O. (Facebook page of W.H.O. office in the Palestinian territories, September 25, 2020).

The ventilators received by the European Hospital in Khan Yunis (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 24, 2020).

The ventilators received by the European Hospital in Khan Yunis (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 24, 2020).

Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).

Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).

Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).

Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).

Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health receives medical equipment from the Indian ambassador to the PA (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, September 27, 2020).

Mai al-Kayla, PA minister of health receives medical equipment from the Indian ambassador to the PA (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, September 27, 2020).

Mahmoud Abbas gives an online speech to the UN General Assembly (Mahmoud Abbas' Facebook page, September 25, 2020).

Mahmoud Abbas gives an online speech to the UN General Assembly (Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, September 25, 2020).

  • This past week the number of active Covid-19 cases in the Gaza Strip declined and currently stands at 1,596, down from 1,669 (on September 22, 2020). However, the number is still high and it is unlikely that the decline indicates a trend. The opening of the Rafah Crossing and the entrance and exit of thousands of Palestinians, and the easing of the quarantine conditions of the past week, may lead to a new rise in infections.
  • The number of active cases in Judea and Samaria also declined, and currently stands at 6,519, down from 9,062 (on September 22, 2020). The Palestinian Authority (PA) reported 1,106 active cases in east Jerusalem, down from 1,856. Most of the active cases are in the Hebron and Ramallah districts.
  • The Gaza Strip was relatively quiet this past week. In Judea and Samaria, however, there were many incidents of stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at civilian Israeli vehicles. Almost no casualties were reported but many vehicles were damaged.
  • In an incident off the coast of Egypt, Egyptian army soldiers shot and killed two fishermen whose boat strayed over the nautical border between Egyptian and the Gaza Strip. During the funeral held for the two, slogans were shouted condemning Egypt and Egyptian President el-Sisi.
  • Prominent events in the political and internal Palestinian arenas were the following:
    • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the UN General Assembly in which he attacked Israel and the United States, accusing them of violating both international law and the rights of the Palestinian people. He called for an international conference to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and claimed the Palestinian organizations had agreed to hold elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and the presidency.
    • Talks for a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation were held in Turkey, with Turkish observers present. Reportedly, the organizations agreed to hold elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and later for the presidency and the Palestinian National Council. Senior Hamas and Fatah figures interviewed after the talks expressed optimism. Past experience has shown that difficulties may present themselves.
    • Palestinian diplomatic activity included updating Qatar and Egypt on the talks. In all probability, moving the reconciliation talks to Turkey angered Egypt, which sponsored them in the past.
Gaza Strip

Since September 22, 2020, the number of active Covid-19 cases inside the Gaza Strip has declined, with more recoveries than new active cases recorded every day. Between September 23 and 30, 2020, 503 new cases were detected, down from 518. The number of active cases currently stands at 1,595, down from 1,669. So far 21 Gazans have died, 20 inside the Gaza Strip and one woman who returned from abroad.

  • The Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip has not yet reimposed a general lockdown. However, the ministry of the interior announced a tightening of the lockdowns in the areas where the number of infections increased, among them the Jabalia refugee camp, the northern Gaza Strip district and the al-Turkman district in the eastern part of the Gaza district (website of the ministry of the interior in Gaza, September 22, 2020). According to the updated map appearing on the ministry of health’s website, most of the northern Gaza Strip district, most of the central Gaza Strip district and the center of the city of Khan Yunis are red areas.
Updated map issued by the ministry of health showing the areas with heavy concentrations of Covid-19 infection.    Cumulative statistics issued by the ministry of health in Gaza on September 29, 2020 indicate the number of active cases according to districts and regions (Facebook page of the ministry of health's medical committee for combatting the coronavirus, September 29, 2020).
Right: Cumulative statistics issued by the ministry of health in Gaza on September 29, 2020 indicate the number of active cases according to districts and regions (Facebook page of the ministry of health’s medical committee for combatting the coronavirus, September 29, 2020). Left: Updated map issued by the ministry of health showing the areas with heavy concentrations of Covid-19 infection.
  •  On September 24, 2020, the ministry of health in Gaza announced that a PCR machine donated by the Qatari committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, could no longer be used and as a result the central laboratory had lost 50% of its ability to process Covid-19 tests (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 24, 2020). Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, later announced that they had received 8,000 testing kits from the W.H.O., 4,000 of them for the machine that was no longer functional. He added that the kits were sufficient for four days (Facebook page of the ministry of health’s medical committee for combatting the coronavirus, September 24, 2020). The European Hospital in Khan Yunis received ten new ventilators, a gift from the unions of the Palestinian doctors and pharmacists in Germany (website of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 24, 2020).
  • However, the Hamas administration also announced that all the government offices and institutions would reopen on September 27, 2020. All the offices that reopen will be subject to the following rules: there will be no passage of employees between districts; no offices designated as red will reopen; some employees will work from home; employees will be randomly tested, especially those who come into contact with the public; public transportation will not operate and organized transportation will be provided for employees to and from work (Filastin al-Yawm, September 24, 2020).
Opening the Rafah Crossing
  • The ministry of the interior Gaza announced the Rafah Crossing would be open in both directions for three days between September 27 and 29, 2020. While it was open 2,659 Gazans left and 1,700 returned. Two days before their date of departure, the ministry of health administered Covid-19 tests to those planning to leave. Those who returned will remain in quarantine for a week. Palestinians are stranded abroad in several countries, including Turkey, Algeria and Sudan (Sawa, September 26, 2020; Wafa and Dunia al-Watan, September 27, 2018). The arrival of Palestinians from around the globe and changing the quarantine conditions to one week of isolation in a quarantine center and one week at home, are liable to lead to a new rise in Covid-19 infection inside the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).   Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).
Palestinians return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing (Twitter account of the ministry of health in Gaza, September 28, 2020).
Judea and Samaria

This past week were was a decline in the extent of Covid-19 infection in Judea and Samaria. Since September 22, 2020, 2,816 new active cases were detected, down from 5,380. This past week the largest number of cases were again in the Hebron district, while the Ramallah district has successfully flattened the curve (1,372 active cases remain in the Hebron district, 1,131 in the Ramallah district). According to the PA report there are 1,100 active cases in east Jerusalem, down from 1,856. Of the active cases in the PA territories, 39 are in ICUs, 14 on ventilators. So far 290 Palestinians have died, 57 in the Jerusalem neighborhoods. Since the first outbreak of the coronavirus, the number of active cases has risen to 36,951, up from 34,135.

Medical aid
  • On September 29, 2020, the ministry of health in Ramallah received a truckload of medical equipment donated by Saudi Arabia which included 12 ventilators. The truck reached the PA territories with the help of Jordan (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, September 29, 2020).
  • The PA signed an agreement with India, represented at the signing by the Indian ambassador to the PA, for the receipt of $29 million worth of medical equipment for the construction of a hospital in Douha (Bethlehem district) (Facebook page of the ministry of health in Ramallah, September 29, 2020).
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
  • This past week no rocket or mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire

Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire

Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits

Annual Distribution of Rocket Hits

Attempted infiltration into Israeli territory
  • IDF soldiers detained two suspicious Palestinians who crossed the security fence from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. They were carrying two knives and a Molotov cocktail (IDF spokesman, September 24, 2020).
  • Sources in Gaza reported that on September 22, 2020, Hamas security forces detained a 35-year-old woman who tried to enter Israeli territory through the security fence east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (Amad, September 23, 2020).
Renewal of incendiary balloon launches
  • On September 29, 2020, a suspicious objective was found attached to a balloon snagged on an electric wire in one of the Israeli communities in the western Negev. A police demolitions expert arrived and removed the balloon (Field Security News, September 29, 2018).
Stones and Molotov cocktails
  • In Judea and Samaria Palestinians continued throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, with a significant increase in incidents this past week. A large number of stones were thrown from moving vehicles The more prominent events were the following:[1]
    • September 30, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle southeast of Ramallah. A woman suffered minor injuries. The front windshields of two vehicles were damaged.
    • September 30, 2020: Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the fence of the committee of Psagot, north of Ramallah. No casualties were reported.
    • September 29, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli bus south of Nablus. No casualties were reported.
    • September 29, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli bus north of Hebron. No casualties were reported.
    • September 29, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle west of Hebron. No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged.
    • September 29, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle northwest of Jerusalem. No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged.
    • September 27, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle north of Hebron. No casualties were reported.
    • September 25, 2020: Stones were thrown, apparently from a moving vehicle, northeast of Nablus. No casualties were reported.
    • September 25, 2020: Stones were thrown northwest of Jerusalem. No casualties were reported.
    • September 25, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle from a moving vehicle northeast of Ramallah. One man suffered minor injuries. The windshield of the vehicle was damaged.
    • September 24, 2020: Bottles of paint were thrown at an IDF patrol northeast of Hebron. No casualties were reported.
    • September 24, 2020: A Molotov cocktail was thrown from a moving vehicle at the rear gate of the community of Ofra (north of Jerusalem). No casualties were reported.
    • September 24, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle north of Jerusalem. No casualties were reported. The front windshield of the vehicle was damaged.
    • September 24, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle north of Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
    • September 24, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle west of Nablus. No casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
    • September 24, 2020: IDF soldiers saw a number of Palestinians about to throw Molotov cocktails north of Ramallah. They shot at the Palestinians, wounding one (IDF spokesman, September 24, 2020).
    • September 23, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli bus north of Hebron. No casualties were reported.
    • September 23, 2020: Stones were thrown at a civilian Israeli vehicle northeast of Ramallah. No casualties were reported.
Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019[2]

Significant terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria since January 2019

Support for the Gaza Strip
  • The Palestinian government signed a €24 million agreement with the French Development Agency for developing the fields of water and agriculture in the Gaza Strip (Wafa, September 22, 2020).
Announcement marking the 20th anniversary of the second intifada
  • Hamas issued an announcement marking the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada. It called on the Palestinian people to confront IDF soldiers and settlers to defend al-Aqsa mosque (Dunia al-Watan, September 28, 2020).
Display of balloon launches to mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of the Popular Resistance Committees
  • The Popular Resistance Committees in Rafah marked the 21st anniversary of the organization’s founding by launching balloons at the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. The balloons carried pictures of senior PRC operatives who were killed, pictures of Yasser Arafat [Fatah], Ahmed Yassin [Hamas], Fathi Shqaqi [the Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and Abu Ali Mustafa [the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine]. They also burned Israeli and American flags. Abu Fares al-Shamali, senior PRC figure in Rafah, said they were sending the message that the “resistance” [i.e., violence and terrorism] would continue in all its forms (Safa, September 29, 2020).
Burning Israeli and American flags (Telegram channel of Ahfad al-Nasser in Rafah, September 28, 2020).    Terrorist operatives launch balloons.
Right: Terrorist operatives launch balloons. Left: Burning Israeli and American flags
(Telegram channel of Ahfad al-Nasser in Rafah, September 28, 2020).
Egyptian navy fire targets fishermen from Gaza
  • On September 25, 2020, Egyptian army soldiers attacked a Palestinian fishing boat that had strayed over the nautical border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, shooting and killing two fishermen, brothers from Khan Yunis. The funeral held for the two in Deir al-Balah turned into an anti-Egypt protest demonstration, with slogans shouted against Egyptian President el-Sisi. Maher al-Houli, a senior Hamas figure from Deir al-Balah, gave a speech in which he said they would have expected Egyptians, who supported the Palestinian cause, to allow Gazan fisherman to work to support themselves instead of killing them. He called for the immediate appointing of a committee to investigate the incident (al-Jazeera Mubasher, September 27, 2020).
Right: The funeral held for the fishermen (Facebook page of the fishermen's union in the Gaza Strip, September 27, 2020). Left: Cartoon by Isma'il al-Bazam, September 25, 2020.
Right: The funeral held for the fishermen (Facebook page of the fishermen’s union in the Gaza Strip, September 27, 2020). Left: Cartoon by Isma’il al-Bazam, September 25, 2020.
Mahmoud Abbas speech at the UN General Assembly
  • Mahmoud Abbas gave his annual speech at the UN General Assembly. This year it was prerecorded and delivered online. He strongly attacked Israel and the United States, accusing them of violating both international law and the rights of the Palestinian people. He said the “Israeli occupation government” and behind it, the current American administration, had replaced the legitimate international institutions with the “deal of the century” and the annexation plan, including the annexation of east Jerusalem and al-Aqsa mosque. He said the PA intended to continue its struggle against the [so-called Israeli] “occupation” and to resist Trump’s plan.
Mahmoud Abbas gives an online speech to the UN General Assembly (Mahmoud Abbas' Facebook page, September 25, 2020).
Mahmoud Abbas gives an online speech to the UN General Assembly
(Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, September 25, 2020).
  • Other issues in the speech were the following (al-Jazeera, September 25, 2020):
    • Criticism of the UAE and Bahrain for normalizing relations with Israel. He said Israel had “killed” the last opportunity for peace by taking unilateral measures, including normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain in violation of the Arab peace plan, which he thought was still relevant.
    • A call to the UN secretary general in collaboration with the International Quartet and the Security Council to begin preparations for an international conference. It would have full authority and all the relevant parties would participate in it.
    • A dialogue of the Palestinian organizations, because despite the obstacles, all the organizations are willing to hold elections to Palestinian Legislative Council and after that a presidential election. However, no date was mentioned.
Ongoing attempts for an internal Palestinian reconciliation
The talks in Turkey
  • Fatah and Hamas delegations met in Turkey for talks to end the internal Palestinian schism, and to set a date agreed on by all for elections (Filastin al-Yawm, September 22, 2020). The talks were held in the Palestinian consulate in Istanbul on September 24, 2020, in the presence of Turkish observers. Fatah was represented by Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee; and Rawhi Fatouh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee. Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Saleh al-‘Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, represented Hamas.
  • At the end of the round of talks a joint announcement was issued stating that a vision had been formulated that was acceptable to both sides and which would be presented at a national discussion in which all the Palestinian organizations would participate. “Knowledgeable Palestinian sources” reported that an agreement was reached for holding fully representational elections, i.e., Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip would be considered one electoral district. They also agreed Mahmoud Abbas would issue a presidential edict on the issue within ten days.
The Hamas and Fatah delegations at the talks in Turkey. No masks, no social distancing (Twitter account of Muneir al-Jaghoub, head of the media office of Fatah's bureau of mobilization and organization, September 24, 2020).
The Hamas and Fatah delegations at the talks in Turkey. No masks, no social distancing (Twitter account of Muneir al-Jaghoub, head of the media office of Fatah’s bureau of mobilization and organization, September 24, 2020).
  • Senior Fatah and Hamas figures interviewed after the talks said they were optimistic about holding elections and the chances for a reconciliation:
    • Jibril Rajoub said that they had agreed that elections would be held within six months, with proportional representation. He said first elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council would be held and then for the presidency (Felesteen, September 24, 2020). Isma’il Haniyeh said that Hamas gave great importance to the path of national dialogue and that the Hamas movement leadership would hold a meeting to examine the understandings reached with Fatah.
    • Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and responsible for the reconciliation talks, said an agreement had been reached with Hamas for Palestinian Legislative Council elections, after which elections for the presidency would be held. With six months after that elections would be held for the Palestinian National Council (Wafa, September 24, 2020). He said Mahmoud Abbas had called the organizations’ leaders for similar meeting held on September 3, 2020, to reach agreements and prepare for a presidential edict to set the date for elections (Filastin al-Yawm, September 25, 2020).
Diplomatic activity for the reconciliation
  • Hamas, Fatah and the PA held meetings to update various countries about the results of the reconciliation talks:
  • A Fatah delegation headed by Jibril Rajoub met in Qatar with Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari foreign minister, who told him Qatar supported the internal Palestinian reconciliation (al-Araby al-Jadeed, September 27, 2020).
  •  From Qatar the delegation went to Egypt to talk to senior officials in the Egyptian regime about recent developments in the internal Palestinian reconciliation. Jibril Rajoub met with Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister (Dunia al-Watan, September 28, 2020). Apparently the meeting in Turkey angered Egypt, since it was the first time such a Palestinian reconciliation meeting had been held without Egyptian mediation.
The Fatah delegation at a meeting with the Hamas leadership in Qatar. No masks, no social distancing (right to left): Izzat al-Rishq and Musa Abu Marzouq, members of Hamas' political bureau; Rawhi Fatouh, a member of Fatah's Central Committee; Khaled Mashaal, former head of Hamas' political bureau; and Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah's Central Committee (Jibril Rajoub's Facebook page, September 26, 2020).
The Fatah delegation at a meeting with the Hamas leadership in Qatar. No masks, no social distancing (right to left): Izzat al-Rishq and Musa Abu Marzouq, members of Hamas’ political bureau; Rawhi Fatouh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee; Khaled Mashaal, former head of Hamas’ political bureau; and Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee (Jibril Rajoub’s Facebook page, September 26, 2020).
Aggressive statements from Jibril Rajoub about continuing the struggle against Israel
  • After the reconciliation talks with Hamas, Jibril Rajoub continued his aggressive rhetoric:
    • Interviewed by al-Aqsa, he said the Palestinians reserved the right to struggle in every way. However, they currently regarded the “popular resistance” [i.e., popular terrorism] as the best option (al-Aqsa, September 24, 2020).
    • At a meeting in Qatar with Khaled Mashaal, former head of Hamas’ political bureau, Jibril Rajoub said the “popular resistance” had been a firm, permanent expression throughout the years “occupation.” He claimed the legitimate international institutions had given the Palestinians the right to resist in every way (al-Araby al-Jadeed, September 27, 2018).
Economic difficulties
  • At the weekly government meeting, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said the cause of the financial crisis in the PA was the discontinuation of the $500 million in aid from the United States and of Arab aid. He said the PA needed 1.2 billion shekels a month (about $351 million), about 500 million (about $146 million) of which came from tax revenues, which they no longer received. He said internal tax revenues had declined from about 350 million shekels ($102 million) to only 200 million shekels ($58 million). He said the funds were insufficient for the purchase of drugs for hospitals, for combatting the coronavirus and for paying salaries. He said the PA had reduced its expenditures by 70% and was borrowing 400 million shekels (about $117 million) from banks every month to pay 50% of the salaries (Wafa, September 28, 2020).
Anti-Arab League rhetoric
  • After the Arab League refused to condemn the peace agreement the UAE signed with Israel, Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, announced that in response the PA would waive its right to serve as temporary chairman of the Arab League Council. However, he emphasized that the PA was not planning to leave the Arab League, where it has been a member since 1976, because doing so would leave a “vacuum” that could hurt the Palestinians. He said the decision made by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel was a turning point in united Arab activity (Wafa, September 22, 2020).
  • Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, strongly attacked Abu al-Ghait, the secretary general of the Arab League, saying he was untrustworthy, incapable of fulfilling the position and should resign immediately. He said it was unacceptable that the secretary general of the Arab League would “market the normalization” (Saeb Erekat’s Twitter account, September 29, 2018).

[1] All information and reports are from Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria unless otherwise noted.

[2] A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.



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