Hamas officials denied reports in Israeli and Arab news outlets that it had proposed a five year ‘hudna’ cease fire with Israel. Western diplomats, including UN Middle East representative Robert Serry and Swiss consul to the Palestinian Authority Paul Garnier, met with Hamas officials who said they would end all “above and below ground” military activities in exchange for Israel’s lifting the Gaza blockade. The offer was received by the Israeli government, but it remains unclear if it was ever seriously considered. However, upon publication of the ceasefire terms, Hamas strongly denied involvement.
Meanwhile, newly released video shows Hamas militants constructing fortifications on the Gaza border with Israel near the community of Netiv HaAsara. Seperately, a top al-Qassam Brigades commander, Marwan Issa, warned Israel that Hamas was working hard to build up its rocket stockpiles.
Fighters with the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, staged military drills in Gaza. Videos of the exercises posted to YouTube showed masked men shooting at cutouts of IDF officials and promising the “daily” development of rockets.
Representatives from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency overseeing trade with Gaza, met with Qatari officials to discuss how to facilitate a $1 billion development project in Gaza. Doha promised the funds at an aid conference in Cairo last fall that raised a total of $5.4 billion.
Masked Fatah operatives practice military skills during a drill in Gaza, March 6, 2015. (Photo: Times of Israel)
The Israeli government eased restrictions on fresh produce exports from Gaza. Palestinian farmers in the enclave can now sell fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and eggplants, to Israelis for the first time since Hamas took power in 2007. COGAT estimates 1,000 to 1,500 tons of food may be exported through September, giving a much needed cash infusion to Gazans. COGAT also announced a doubling of water supplies piped into Gaza following a depletion in groundwater.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense announced last week it completed fortifying 34 daycare schools in southern Israel against rocket attacks. Around 30 more facilities are in the process of being strengthened near the communities of Eshkol and Ashkelon at a total cost of $7.5 million.
IDF soldiers shot and killed a fisherman when they opened fire on the engines of his boat. The boat had deviated “from the designated fishing zone” and did not respond to warning shots. Two other men were arrested.
From March 1st to 15th, the Egyptian military killed 115 militants and arrested at least 97 others during a series of raids in North Sinai. Most operations took place in al-Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid to combat Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a local jihadist group that pledges allegiance to Islamic State. Two attacks before the March 13th Economic Summit killed a civilian and a security officer and injured 45 others.
A roadside bomb killed three soldiers in the village of el-Kharouba in northeast Sinai on March 9th. A fourth soldier was seriously injured.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington will “soon” decide on whether to unfreeze hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Egypt, as Cairo fights an insurgency in Sinai and Islamist radicals in Libya.
Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah crossing with Gaza after it was closed for two months due to security concerns.
The IDF mobilized 13,000 troops for an unannounced two-day military exercise in the West Bank. Israeli officials contend the drill was not designed to address any specific threat, but instead would focus on how to combat widespread rioting and unrest.
Palestinian Authority security forces arrested up to 100 Hamas members during a series of raids in the West Bank over the past two weeks, as relations between Fatah and Hamas continue to deteriorate. According to the Middle East Monitor, many of the Palestinians arrested include “university professors, schools teachers, doctors, imams” with some previously spending time in Israeli jails. Additionally, the PA has failed to disclose a reason for the arrests or charged any Hamas members publicly. Hamas leaders call the detentions arbitrary and politically motivated, saying that the PA feels threatened by Hamas’s rising popularity in the West Bank.
The IDF central command temporarily suspended the use of military K-9s after a video showed two dogs attacking a 16 year-old Palestinian who was already under the IDF control. The commander indicated that the incident lacked professionalism and was “unworthy moral behavior”. The government is investigating the video and will review protocols and training for dog handlers.
Screenshot of an Islamic State video showing Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam. (Photo: The Independent UK)
Islamic State released a video said to show the execution of Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam, a 20-year-old Arab from East Jerusalem. In the video, Musallam is accused of being a spy for Mossad before being shot in the head by a child. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the incident, but a spokesman for Shin Bet said that the young man had left home for Turkey last fall “on his own initiative”.
Iranian IRGC officers are leading Syrian government forces and Hezbollah fighters in the battle against rebels on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, according to an Israeli general. Seperately, Russian government affiliated media reports the Syrian Air Force killed 120 al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front fighters during a series of bombing runs near the Sunni group’s local headquarters in the Quneitra provence.
An officer with the IDF’s Engineering Corps was lightly wounded from shrapnel after a bullet hit a disabled bulldozer she was working to free. The officer did not require medical treatment.
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) requested three Czech soldiers to fill positions in the Golan Heights.