Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will outline positions for a new government by August 14th, senior Fatah official Mohammad Shtayyeh announced. Shtayyeh says the date marks the "last chance" for Hamas to end the national division and create a unified government. Hamas later dismissed the deadline. According to a Hamas political advisor, there has been no communication between the leadership of the two sides. On May 24th, Fatah and Hamas officials in Cairo agreed to a three month deadline to create a unity government of technocrats and set an election date.
Hamas rejected Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, stated President Abbas does not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Additionally, the Hamas-run government in Gaza believes new talks without Hamas representatives could place the future of any Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in jeopardy.
Living Situation in Gaza
Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing into Gaza following the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The border gate was closed for five consecutive days before temporarily reopening on July 10th. Gisha, an Israeli rights group, estimated the closing disrupted travel plans of more than 10,000 people.
Since mid-July, Egyptian security forces have closed the crossing multiple times or have only opened it for limited four-hour periods. Ma'an News Agency reported that the second set of closures also affected 1,600 Palestinians returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Gaza's government is coordinating with Egyptian officials to keep the crossing open on a regular basis according to a minister in the enclave.
The Egyptian military reportedly destroyed around 800 tunnels linking Gaza with Egypt. Despite Hamas' appeal to the interim Egyptian government to cease its crackdown, a UN official reported that 80 percent of the smuggling tunnels have now been rendered unusable.
The tunnel closures has impacted the economy in Gaza. It has lead to increased gas prices, shortages of essential goods and has strained hospitals. According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Economy, the Gazan economy lost $230 million and has seen more than 20,000 job cuts. Almost 90% of Qatari and Turkish-funded projects were suspended since June 15th due to a lack of supplies. Shortages of building supplies from tunnel closures between Gaza and Egypt halted the construction of 39 schools, according to Gaza's Ministry of Education. The fuel crisis was somewhat eased, however, when smugglers resumed pumping fuel into the Gaza strip via the tunnel network.
As the summer heat and electricity outages drive Gazans to the Mediterranean beaches, Al-Monitor details environmental hazards on waterfront. According to its report, three sewage drains are responsible for dumping thousands of liters of pollution onto Gaza's beaches, making the water hazardous. Additionally, power and fuel shortages often cause the enclave's waste water treatment facilities to shut down.
A Palestinian boy looks up as he walks on the beach of Gaza City, June 24, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Hamas shut down two Arab media outlets after they gave unfavorable coverage of Gaza's Islamist leaders. Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jaber said Al Arabiya and Ma'an News Agency "spread fabricated rumors" that "harm the Palestinian national interest and resistance movements."
Security Situation in Gaza
Militants fired two rockets from Gaza on Thursday July 18th, after weeks of relative calm. Israel's "red" siren sounded as the projectiles landed in open territory near Eshkol. There were no injuries or damages reported.
On July 30th, militants from Gaza fired a single rocket into Israel, no injuries were reported.
According to an Israeli Army radio report, Hamas has regained the ability to domestically produce M-75 long-range rockets. After Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the terrorist organization was only able to smuggle the rockets capable of targeting Tel Aviv into the enclave from abroad.
Wael Abu Rida remains in Israeli custody after being detained on June 21st. An Israeli court indicted the former Palestinian policeman on multiple charges, including attempted murder, belonging to a terrorist group, and liaising with hostile foreign agents. Prosecutors believe Ridah served in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist affiliated groups.
The Israeli government filed an indictment against the two sisters of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, both Israeli citizens, for crossing into Gaza through Egypt after Israel denied their request to travel to Gaza.
Ramat Negev Police and the IDF confiscated over 330 pounds of marijuana and 30 pounds of methamphetamine along the Gaza-Egypt border. The drugs were found in a stolen car that was disguised as an IDF contractor vehicle.
Police arrested two men in Gaza suspected of counterfeiting over 20 million Israeli shekels ($5.5 million). Authorities suspect a third man of supplying the paper used to make the fake notes.
A Hamas commissioned committee acquitted a Hamas militant accused of murdering an Islamic Jihad member. The June incident resulted in a temporary severing of ties between the two organizations.
In an attempt to warn Hamas' rulers not to back the militants in Sinai, the Egyptian military ordered a helicopter to fly over the southern end of the Gaza Strip. This assertion of power has raised concern with many Hamas officials that Egypt may be attempting to restore its sovereignty over the Gaza Strip.
Security in Sinai
Renewed violence broke out in the Sinai Peninsula following the army's removal of Morsi from the Egyptian presidency. Militants took up arms prompting the government to launch a state of emergency. The Egyptian military announced earlier in the month that it was planning a "cleansing" operation of militants in Sinai. Various Islamist groups in the region have launched attacks against the army and police on a near daily basis following Morsi's ouster in early July.
Egyptian tanks patrol in the area of the Rafah crossing border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on May 21, 2013. (Photo: AFP)
According to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Egyptian security personnel arrested dozens of Hamas fighters after they passed through tunnels from Gaza into Sinai. Hamas denied the report, referring to it as a smear campaign.
The first attacks in Sinai began July 3rd, 2013 when a police station in Rafah came under rocket attack wounding two soldiers and killing one. Additionally, a soldier and police officer were killed during separate attacks in el-Arish. Security officials also arrested a Palestinian man suspected in bombing a natural gas pipeline near el-Arish soon thereafter.
On July 12th, two Egyptian Apache helicopters fired on bunkers filled with Jihadist gunmen in el-Arish. That same day, men armed with portable rocket launchers attacked four military checkpoints in Rafah and el-Arish. Three of the men were identified as Palestinians and were charged with attacking military and vital institutions. On July 13th, a warplane dropped flyers over el-Arish informing the people of Sinai that the military was there to help them.
Militants opened fire upon a Rafah checkpoint on July 14th and the army exchange fire. A bomb also exploded near a military vehicle in North Sinai on July 14th. The following day, Sinai militants launched a rocket attack killing three workers and injuring 17.
Terrorists fired upon Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack west of the town of Nitzana on July 14th. The militants fled into Sinai and no injuries were reported.
On July 15th, militants attacked an Egyptian army camp in the Sinai Peninsula with mobile anti-aircraft rockets and machine guns. A security official reported that two officers were injured in the attack. Six soldiers and a civilian were wounded in a nighttime attack by unidentified militants on a military outpost near the Egypt-Gaza border.
Armed men killed a policeman posted outside of a police station in el-Arish was on July 17th. Later that day, militants killed three policemen and seriously wounded two in the Sinai Peninsula. A military source revealed that on July 18th the armed forces killed 10 jihadists within the past 48 hours with security operations expanding throughout the region.
On July 21st, two Egyptian soldiers and a policeman were murdered in three separate attacks. In a massive outbreak of violence, six Egyptians died and 11 wounded in at least 10 attacks in a single night. Islamist militants assaulted two military checkpoints in concurrent attacks in Sinai on July 22nd. A civilian and a police officer were killed in North Sinai in separate attacks near the Egyptian borders with Israel and Gaza. An Egyptian police officer was shot dead as he walked home on July 23rd.
A July 25th attack on a North Sinai border guard headquarters killed two soldiers and injured four. Assailants attacked an army post in Rafah on July 29th, killing an Egyptian soldier and injuring eight.
The first Egyptian deployment of heavily armored vehicles and soldiers, including 30 tanks, arrived in el-Arish on July 16th. Israel granted Egypt permission to deploy two infantry battalions to el-Arish and Rafah, sidestepping the peace treaty forbidding military buildup in Sinai. The move was coordinated with Israeli senior officials in accordance with a 1979 peace treaty.
Egypt has also banned fishing off the coast of northern Sinai in an attempt to stop Palestinians and members of militant groups from entering the peninsula by sea.
A high-ranking Egyptian officer accused Hamas of smuggling 19 rockets into Egypt to terrorize Egyptian citizens. The Grad rockets were intercepted on the Suez-Cairo highway.
Terrorists in Sinai claimed responsibility for two rockets fired into the southern coastal city of Eilat. While some residents heard two blasts on July 5th, no rocket debris was located and no injuries were reported. Israel deployed Iron Dome to Eilat in response to the unrest.
The IDF's Southern Command increased focus on "Operation Hourglass," a project originally begun in 2005 to stem terrorism and drug and weapons smuggling from Sinai. Notably, the Israelis are employing high-tech electronics, defensive weaponry, and increasing coordination with Egyptian forces to mitigate anti-aircraft missile attacks on commercial airplanes landing in Eilat.
Aid and Trade
Palestinian volunteers in Gaza Strip packing food for the poor. (Photo: The New York Times)
The New York Times detailed recent operations of the Khomeini Relief Foundation, a Beirut-based charity in Gaza. The Iranian-funded organization finances over $2 million worth of food aid in the enclave, distributing some 40,000 parcels filled with oil, sugar, pasta and other staples. Targeted aid shows how Tehran wields political influence, promoting groups such as Islamic Jihad. Iran, a traditionally strong supporter of Hamas, has a tense relationship with the Islamists over its support for rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Selective aid serves as a reminder to Hamas that Iran is its only reliable backer, according to a local political science professor quoted in the article.
The Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) released June figures for border crossings with Gaza. Almost 5,800 Palestinians traveled through the Erez Crossing and more than 5,500 truckloads of goods entered the enclave. Food and construction materials accounted for 23% and 32% of Gaza's imports respectively.
2013 Rocket Count
July: 5 rocket launchings from Gaza. One attack and two rocket launchings from Sinai.
2012 Rocket Count
A total of 2,335 rockets and 226 mortar shells were launched at Israel last year; 1,435 of those rockets hit Israel.
JPC researchers Skyler Schmanski and Beth Kanopsic compiled this report.
Related Topics: Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Iran, Israel, Palestinian Rockets, Palestinians, U.S. Government, United Nations | Michael Johnson
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