Security Situation in Gaza
Hamas in Gaza created a 300-strong force operating under the authority of Interior Minister Fathi Hammad with the sole purpose of preventing Palestinian militants from launching rockets at Israel. According to a Gaza source, the force operates, "day and night, 24 hours, everywhere in the Strip." Anyone arrested for launching rockets can expect to spend at least a couple of months in prison. The force doesn't act against rocket launchers when Israel initiates an attack, as in the March flare-up.
Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen told the Knesset that Iranian agents are in the Gaza Strip, providing Gaza terrorists withtraining and support. According to Cohen, Gaza is a "giant arms warehouse" with Hamas in possession of more than 8,000 rockets, including shoulder-launched rockets smuggled from Libya. "Hamas has military capabilities almost of a state," Cohen noted, saying that in some areas Hamas's military capabilities are better than Hezbollah's. Cohen also said that Hamas operates in the West Bank, and out of 28 planned kidnappings thwarted there last year, 18 of them were connected to Hamas.
An Israeli soldier and Palestinian terrorist were killed in early June during a gun battle along the Gaza border. According to the Israeli military, the terrorist cut through the Gaza border fence and opened fire on troops. The Palestinian reportedly had night vision gear and the attack may have been part of a plan to kidnap an Israeli soldier.
According to a report in Asharq Al-Awsat, militant groups in Gaza affiliated with Fatah have failed to unify as one movement under Fatah's banner and leadership after efforts were exerted to do so. Instead, disagreements escalated and many of these groups have split and formed new groups that now receive funding from Iran and Hezbollah. Currently, Fatah does not officially sponsor any armed groups. It is unclear whether or not Fatah would start funding militant groups under its banner if the various organizations do unify.
Security Situation in Egypt
In the first week in May, masked gunman attacked a military checkpoint in the Sinai with rocket-propelled grenades, injuring two. The attack was the third on a security checkpoint and the first on a military checkpoint in the Sinai. Soldiers in the Sinai are demanding protection as many have been kidnapped or injured with little action taken by Egypt's authorities in Cairo.
Egypt authorities seized a truck carrying 10,000 liters of fuel in northern Sinai en route to the smuggling tunnels that connect Egypt to Gaza underground. A few weeks later, the authorities seized two vehicles in the Sinai carrying 1,100 liters of fuel and 900 liters of petrol on their way to Gaza.
Egypt launched an operation in May to fight the violence in Sinai in response to attacks against Egyptian forces in the region. The raids resulted in the arrest of Egyptians and Palestinians linked to the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing.
According to Nabil Naeem, a member of Islamic Jihad, about 500 al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists are currently in Egypt, mostly in the Sinai.
Egyptian authorities seized weapons near the border with Libya bound for the Sinai Peninsula ahead of Egypt's presidential elections. The weapons included 40 surface-to-surface missiles, 17 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortar rounds, automatic rifles and 10,000 artillery shells.
Egyptian authorities seized a weapons cache of some 191 rockets, including anti-aircraft and Grad missiles, believed to be on its way from Libya to Gaza.
According to Maj. Gen. Warren James Whiting, the commander of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai, one of the biggest challenges facing his troops is weapons smuggling, including of the Russian SA-24 surface-to-air missile, which is being smuggled to Gaza through Egypt. The SA-24 can hit aircraft flying at 11,000 ft. Whiting also noted an increase in attacks against MFO bases in 2012, and said that in October 2011, an Iranian Fajr-5 missile landed near an MFO base possibly after it was test-fired.
Hamas called the new Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet sworn-in by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in May illegitimate, and the call for municipal elections in the West Bank "unacceptable." According to Hamas, forming a new cabinet is not in-line with the Doha Agreement signed by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, which called for forming a "national consensus government to oversee elections"â€”presidential and primaryâ€”in the West Bank and Gaza as an effort to unify the two enclaves.
On May 20, news broke that Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo and agreed to continue moving towards reconciliation and Palestinian elections. Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed and Deputy to Hamas leader Abu Marzook signed a deal "stipulating that the electoral commission will start its work on May 27 in the Gaza Strip and to launch consultations to set up a government of independents" on that same day. Members of the new cabinet would be agreed upon within ten days from the start of consultations and, if all goes according to plan, elections would be held in approximately six months. "Without elections there will be no reconciliation," Abbas said.
On May 28, Palestinian Authority election officials arrived in Gaza to formally begin their work of updating voter records to pave the way for Palestinian elections. That same day, Hanna Nasir of the Palestinian Central Election Commission (CEC) met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza to begin negotiations on forming a temporary unity government. Nasir was reportedly appointed by PA President Abbas to help choose members of the government that will oversee the elections.
The CEC announced it would begin registering voters on July 2 at 274 stations in schools across Gaza. More than 250,000 new voters from the Gaza Strip are expected to register at the CEC's stations. The process is expected to take six weeks.
Senior Fatah and Hamas leaders met in early June to discuss potential candidates for the post of prime minister in the planned Palestinian unity government. Abbas and Mashaal are expected to select a new prime minister by June 20.
In response to Israel's unity government created in May by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, Hamas said that the new coalition is dangerous for the Palestinians because Mofaz believes in killing women and children, according to Hamas's spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum.
The Shin-Bet in May revealed that it uncovered a plot hatched by jailed Palestinians to kidnap an Israeli citizen to use to secure their release. The plot was uncovered weeks after Israel reached an agreement with prisoners in which they pledged to refrain from terror activity. The terror group, Holy Freedom Fighters, is reportedly involved. The group has also fired rockets from Gaza and set roadside bombs along Israel's border targeting IDF patrollers.
Israel allowed Egypt to transfer fuel sent from Qatar into Gaza to operate Gaza's power plant for two months. After a month-long delay due to a disagreement over which crossing the fuel should be transferred through, the first shipment was set to enter Gaza through Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing during the first week in June. On its way, however, armed militias hijacked some of the fuel trucks. Egypt responded by sending reinforcements, which assisted in the safe passage of the remaining trucks.
In Israel's south, the rocket-battered Sdot Negev Regional Council has experienced a 55% increase in population over the last five years due to its good school system and desired rural environment.
Hamas's Violent Rhetoric
Hamas chief in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said the group would not go to war against Israel if it attacks Iran. He also said that Hamas would not abandon armed struggle. Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation would continue "in all forms - popular resistance, political, diplomatic and military resistance," Haniyeh said.
In a statement commemorating "Nakba Day"â€”or "Day of Catastrophe," Hamas urged Fatah and the PA to not negotiate with Israel, and noted that Hamas still will not recognize Israel's right to exist. The statement also called on Britain, "which contributed to the Nakba of Palestine" to "do penance for their sin by stopping Israeli aggressiveness." Also to commemorate the day, Haniyeh ran in Gaza's "Jerusalem Marathon."
During May, Haniyeh reminded that there is no future for Israel "on the land of Palestine" and that Hamas "will not recognize Israel." Hamas released a statement reiterating this fact on the anniversary of the Six Day War. The statement underscored that Hamas considers all of Israel as "Palestine," and that it would never stop fighting for the entire land. Hamas also said that uniting the Palestinian governments is an important step in gaining a state.
Israel returned the remains of 91 Palestinian militants who killed over 200 Israelis as a goodwill gesture to revive peace talks. Eleven bodies were sent to Gaza, and 80 to the PA in the West Bank. "Palestine today glorifies its heroes," said a presenter on Hamas's Al-Aqsa radio. "With the return of the remains of the heroes, some of whom blew themselves up for Palestine, we hope the spirit of resistance and the smell of gunpowder will return to the alleys and streets of villages and refugee camps."
Starting in the fall 2012 school semester in Gaza, the Hamas government will offer students a new elective: Know Your Enemy. The course will teach Gazan students the Hebrew language so "we can understand the structure of the Israeli society, the way they think," explained Mahmoud Matar, director general of the Hamas-run Ministry of Education. "We teach our students the language of the enemy," he added. The last time Hebrew was taught in Gaza's public schools was 1994. It is not taught in the PA-controlled areas. On the other hand, learning Arabic is compulsory in Israeli middle schools.
The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent (UAERC) announced that it plans to donate $817,000 to the UN for a food aid program in Gaza. The UAERC contributed over $5 million for food over the last five years.
Australia announced it would donate $90 million to the UN over five years to pay for additional teachers and doctors for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.
2012 Rocket Count:
In May 4 rockets and 2 mortars were launched into Israel. This is down from the 10 rockets that were launched the previous month.
In March, 173 rockets and 35 mortars
(a total of 208 projectiles) were launched from Gaza, almost one-third of which were long-range rockets
. This is compared to the 36 rockets and 1 mortar shell
launched at Israel from Gaza in February, and the 9 rockets and 7 mortars launched in January.
Related Topics: Gaza, Hamas, Palestinian Rockets, Palestinians, Terrorism | Samara Greenberg
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