An Israeli military court found Hebron resident Hossam Qawasmeh guilty of “participating in the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaer on June 12.” Qawasmeh, who is said to have confessed to organizing the killings, was given three life sentences in prison.
On January 4th, the Israeli government announced it had arrested at least three Palestinians in November suspected of planning ISIS-inspired attacks against IDF troops.
Israeli settlers threw stones at a U.S. diplomatic convoy visiting the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya on January 2nd. The diplomats had been examining Palestinian allegations that settlers uprooted thousands of Arab olive trees in recent weeks. No one was injured during the incident.
Israeli troops shot a Palestinian throwing rocks at cars in the West Bank on December 29th. The man subsequently died in the hospital and the IDF said it would launch an investigation into the incident.
Authorities arrested two Palestinians suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a passing Israeli car, critically injuring an 11-year-old girl. The girl suffered severe third degree burns and her father was also injured.
Local residents protest the withdrawal of IDF troops from their communities. (Photo: Ynet/Roee Idan)
Israeli police arrested four Palestinians at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Jenin. A search of the suspects’ vehicle uncovered numerous pipe bombs. Subsequent interrogations revealed the men planned to attack IDF personnel.
The IDF began a controversial troop reassignment in early January, withdrawing soldiers stationed at all but the closest three towns to Gaza. Local residents protested the military’s decision, but officials insist that new fences and electronic monitoring equipment will provide adequate protection.
On December 19th, Palestinian militants fired a rocket into Israel. No injuries were reported but the IDF bombed a Hamas weapons factory in response. An Israeli soldier was shot and injured during a routine patrol near Kibbutz Kissufim a few days later on December 24th. The IDF launched a retaliatory air strike that killed Hamas commander Tayseer al-Ismary. During the unrest, the IDF deployed two Iron Dome batteries near Beersheba and Netivot.
Israeli intelligence suggests Hamas terrorists are preparing for their next war with Israel, diverting dual-use materials away from civilian rebuilding efforts in order to rearm and reconstruct underground tunnels. Specifically, the group is readying new short range rockets that can fall under Iron Dome’s reach. Hamas is also positioning its forces to launch new, larger-scale incursions into Israel via tunnels and the sea. On December 23rd, Hamas held a military exercise in southern Gaza, simulating cross border raids and kidnappings.
A European Union court ruled on December 17th that Hamas must be removed from Europe’s list of terrorist organization. The court claimed that European Commission officials must use stronger evidence than press and internet reports to justify a terrorism designation. Legislators can appeal the decision within two months.
Hamas officials in Gaza say Qatar has not stopped funding the terrorist organization following a conflicting statement from a high ranking Egyptian diplomat. Cairo had been in talks with Doha to end financial assistance to Hamas over the group’s support for insurgents in Sinai. Other sources suggest that Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, could relocate Hamas’ headquarters from Doha to Tehran, following a constructive trip and high level meetings with the Iranian leaders last month. Other reports suggest Meshaal could seek refuge in Turkey.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal meet in September 2012. (Photo: AP)
Egyptian authorities estimate another 1,200 homes could be demolished as the government expands a 500m buffer zone to 1km along the Gaza border. Middle East Monitor reports that the military may expand the zone to up to 5km in some places.
Egyptian officials reported 14 militants had been killed during various operations in December. The Egyptian military killed a “highly dangerous terrorist” and arrested 297 other suspects during a series of raids ending on December 27th. Meanwhile, jihadists killed two troops in a roadside bombing and shot one policeman on a motorcycle the same day. On January 5th, four police officers were injured from a bomb planted at an apartment building near al-Arish.
Militants bombed the main natural gas pipeline through the Egyptian coastal city of al-Arish on December 23rd. Emergency services were able to contain the fire while the security forces attempted to locate the eight suspected bombers. Local media reported that the incident marks the 27th such attack on the Arab Gas Pipeline, which has caused a dramatic decrease in hydrocarbon exports to Jordan.
The Syrian army claimed to have shot down an unmanned IDF Skylark-1 drone near the border village of Hader. Israeli officials refused to comment on the incident.
Vice News released a video report detailing how Israel’s hospitals and field medics treat rebel fighters from Syria.
The Israeli government began work on a new underwater barrier between northern Israel and the southern Lebanese area of Ras al-Naqoura. The fence will include a sonar detection array that can alert the IDF if Hezbollah divers try infiltrating from the sea.