Israel and the West Bank
The latest wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis continued into December. The IDF reports that since September, terrorists have committed 80 stabbings, 29 shootings, and 10 car rammings. Meanwhile, rioters across the West Bank and East Jerusalem regularly confront Israeli security forces, throwing rocks and over 650 firebombs.
November 19th marked the bloodiest day of attacks with two Israelis stabbed to death at a makeshift prayer room in Tel Aviv. Later that day, a Palestinian man shot and killed three people south of Jerusalem in Gush Etzion including 18-year-old American student Ezra Schwartz.
Israeli prosecutors announced indictments against six men in the northern Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulia who planned travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. Shin Bet said two of the men were brothers that had helped 23-year-old Nadal Hamad Salah Salah cross the border with a hang glider in October.
Israeli security forces and rescue personnel at the scene of a drive-by shooting near Gush Etzion on Nov. 19, 2015. (Photo: Gershon Elinson)
The Israeli government is considering a proposal that would allow the security forces to deport relatives of terrorists to Gaza if they were aware of upcoming attacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced support for the measure, but it remains controversial in the defense establishment and would need Knesset approval.
A Jerusalem court convicted two Israeli teens of the July 2014 kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir on November 30th. A third man, identified as Yosef Haim Ben-David, was also found guilty but proceedings against him are on hold pending evaluation for an insanity plea. A sentencing hearing for the teens will be held early next year.
A Russian fighter jet briefly entered into Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights on November 28th. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the plane had traveled about a mile into the country but immediately turned back towards Syria. A few days later during a meeting in Paris, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin “agreed to deepen the coordination” in order to prevent confrontation between their two militaries.
The IDF restarted a search for Cpl. Guy Hever in late November, assigning navy divers to search two reservoirs in the Golan Heights. Hever, who was 20 at the time, was last seen leaving an army base with his rifle in 1997.
Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas military infrastructure in Gaza after a rocket was launched from the enclave on November 23rd. The rocket had landed in an open field near Eshkol and did not cause any injuries. A few days later, former IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman said that Gaza is now the “quietest” it’s been in the past 15 years.
Breitbart reported that Hamas caught Salafists allied with Islamic State planning a prison escape in Gaza. The jihadists sought to free their leader who had been taken by Hamas following clashes last May.
A court in Be’er Sheva indicted two men accused of smuggling dual-use materials, including welding wires and cables, on trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing and into Gaza. One of the defendants is identified as an Israeli-Arab, while the other is a Palestinian resident from Gaza.
Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate claimed responsibility for an attack that killed seven people outside a hotel in el-Arish. Egyptian state media reported the victims consisted of four policemen, one civilian, and two judges. Two other men were also able to slip inside the hotel, with one detonating a suicide vest.
Egyptian security forces discovered a new tunnel leading from Sinai to Gaza that was lined with 40-cm thick “iron”, according to officials. The 30-foot deep tunnel reached 600 feet into Egyptian territory and was subsequently destroyed with explosives.
The Israeli government criticised plans to decrease the number of peacekeepers with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) based in Sinai, saying the move would “reward terrorism”. Currently, 1,600 MFO personnel from 12 nations, including an American contingent, are assigned to oversee the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement and Egypt’s demilitarization of the peninsula.
A Lebanese TV station announced that the Israeli Air Force struck a Hezbollah weapons depot and a convoy near the Qalamoun region, close to the Syrian-Lebanon border. According to the late November report, the facilities housed long-range surface-to-surface missiles transferred to the terrorist group from the Syrian government. During the strike, several Hezbollah fighters were killed and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were injured.