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July 9, 2012 2:06 pm

June Headlines from the Gaza Strip

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Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal at a news conference in Tehran, Iran, 2008. Photo: wiki commons

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On June 20, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal were scheduled to meet in Cairo to choose cabinet members for the Palestinian interim government that would oversee elections. That meeting never came to fruition, however, and senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan later said that Hamas and Fatah delegations would hold meetings in late June-early July. Although Abbas and Mashaal have yet to meet, Hamdan added, the two parties continue to communicate. According to Fatah, Abbas and Mashaal are planning to meet in Cairo in July to continue reconciliation efforts. They have yet to do so.

Security forces detained a suspect who allegedly planted a bomb near the Central Election Committee (CEC) in Gaza. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh promised to “provide full protection of the committee members while they are in Gaza.” Allowing the CEC into the Strip to update Gaza’s electoral roll was one of the conditions stipulated by Fatah for reconciliation. In early July, however, Hamas suspended the CEC’s voter registration drive a day before it was set to begin working due to, according to Hamas, an escalation in detentions of Hamas members in the West Bank.

According to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, if Palestinian presidential elections were held in June, convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti would win, Ismail Haniyeh would come in second, and Mahmoud Abbas would finish in third. If the vote were between Abbas and Haniyeh alone, the former would win.

Security Situation in Gaza

In early June, an IDF soldier was killed while defending a fellow soldier from abduction by a Gaza militant. The militant infiltrated Israel by cutting a hole through the border fence and using night vision equipment. No group has claimed responsibility for the act since Islamic Jihad withdrew its claim.

On June 14, Palestinian militants detonated an explosive device at the border fence in an attempt to kill or wound IDF soldiers. No one was injured. Simultaneously, terrorists opened fire at soldiers responding to a fire. The IDF believes the same sniper instigated both incidents.

Hamas launched a new rocket campaign on June 18 after months of restraining from firing at Israel. Over the course of the flare-up, which ended June 23, 162 rockets landed in Israel. During the previous rocket escalation in March, Hamas did not participate but allowed members of militant groups, such as Islamic Jihad, to attack Israel.

Living Situation in Gaza

Anti-Zionist propaganda is continuously fed to children in Hamas-run Gaza. According a report in June, a kindergarten run by Palestinian Islamic Jihad teaches its children how to hate Israel. For its graduation ceremony, the children wore army uniforms and were given toy rifles. One kindergartner stated, “I’ll fight the Zionist enemy and fire missiles at it until I die as a shahid (martyr) and join my father in heaven.”

Fifty-eight new schools were built in Gaza over the past year, according to the Ministry of Education.

Recently built houses in Gaza may be in danger of collapsing, according to the Palestinian Contractors Federation, due to lax safety standards and substandard concrete cores of hastily built dwellings, whose materials are often smuggled in from Egypt and not checked for quality.

According to a June poll of Palestinians living in the territories, 42% of Gazans want to emigrate from the Strip while just 27% of those in the West Bank wish to leave.

Fuel needed to run the only power plant in Gaza was delayed again in early June because of “technical issues” on Egypt’s part. When the fuel finally left Egypt on June 6, Sinai militants attacked the delivery trucks, forcing the power station to shut down. The Qatari fuel, however, managed to enter the territory later that day. The transfer is to continue for another three months.

An aid convoy headed by a leader of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, Humam Saed, arrived in Gaza on June 10 through the Egyptian crossing of Rafah. Carrying over 10 tons of medical supplies, the convoy comes as a relief to the residents of the area who suffer from medicine shortages.

Gaza’s drinking water is “not fit for human consumption” according to several charity groups operating in the region. The reasons given for the water’s contamination include Israel’s blockade, war damage, and a lack of investment.

Hamas’s Interior Ministry announced on June 28 that it will release video footage on its website of confessions of Palestinian collaborators with Israel. The film reportedly includes information about Palestinians who have worked with the Shin Bet since the 1960s.

Egypt's President-Elect Mohamed Morsi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Situation in Egypt

On June 16, a terror cell launched two Grad rockets into southern Israel from the Sinai. According to an Israeli security official, Hamas ordered the launches at the request of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Two days after the rocket launches, the Egyptian military broke up a cell of 22 terrorists that included Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians with police uniforms and weapons. The cell’s intentions are unknown.

Terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda and calling themselves the Religious Council of Mujahedeen launched an attack in Israel from the Egypt border. According to an Egyptian intelligence officer: “We now have to face the reality that al Qaeda is present in Sinai” along with “Palestinian Islamic Jihadi factions”.

The Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt received major renovations in order to accommodate a growing number of people crossing the border. The Islamic Relief Foundation and Islamic Development Bank donated the necessary $1.5 million to upgrade the facility.

Bedouins in the Sinai blocked traffic at the Al-Ouja crossing to Gaza mid-June in protest of Cairo’s neglect of the region. Using burnt tires, rocks, and heavily armed gunmen, traffic ground to a virtual halt on June 12 save for aid shipments, including Qatari fuel, to Gaza, which were allowed through.

On June 18 a Gazan militant killed an Israeli construction worker, Sayed Fashafsheh, working on the border fence with Egypt. That same day, three terrorists infiltrated Israel via the Gaza-Sinai border and blew up an Israeli vehicle and opened-fire on others, causing one death.

Hamas welcomed Mohammed Morsi’s electoral victory in Egypt on June 24, stating that Morsi could help end Hamas’s isolation and that it hopes Morsi will first work to end the Gaza blockade.

On June 29, Egypt seized a stash of Libyan weapons bound for the Sinai and believed to be headed towards the Gaza Strip. The seizure was the largest weapons bust in the Egyptian Interior Ministry’s history, as the stash included 138 Grad rockets and over 7,000 rounds of ammunition.

Hamas’s Violent Rhetoric

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar welcomed activists aboard the Miles of Smiles aid convoy into Gaza by stating that Israel’s borders would soon disappear and the Palestinian Legislative Council building would become the “capital of the great Islamic nations.”

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for police officers in Gaza, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad stated that no peace would be made with secularism and Islamic rule will be victorious. Hammad added that among the graduates are future chiefs in the Israeli cities of Haifa, Akko, Yafa, and others. Hamas politburo deputy chief Mousa Abu Marzouq later tried to defuse Hammad’s remarks with calls for Palestinian unity.

Hamas Political Bureau member Sheikh Saleh Aruri called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers in order to expedite the release of 27 Hamas MP’s currently in Israeli prisons.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh gave a commencement speech at the Islamic University of Gaza on June 26. In his speech he said, “There is no future for Israel, not only in Gaza but in all Palestinian land.”

Hamas looked with disfavor upon Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to the Western Wall. Putin, upon his visit, remarked that “You can see how the Jewish past is engraved in the stones of Jerusalem.” Gaza’s Foreign Minister negated the Jewish connection to the site, referring to it as “an Islamic sacred place.”

Funding and Support

Saudi Arabia donated $5 million to a UN fund aiding Palestinian refugees in Gaza on June 19. The funds will help to feed over 800,000 Palestinians.

Bulent Yildirim, director of the Turkish-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) known for sponsoring the Gaza flotilla of May 2010, is being investigated for “providing financial aid to al-Qaeda via his foundation with absolute secrecy.”

World Bank Vice President Inger Andersen visited the Gaza Strip and West Bank on June 22 and expressed the Bank’s commitment to support the continued delivery of social and economic services to the Palestinian people.

The prestigious Paris Diderot University included a question in an exam administered to medical students that “inquired as to the classification of a bombing in the Gaza Strip which resulted in 22 victims: crime of war; crime against humanity or genocide,” recalled the institution’s president in an apology over the incident.

2012 Rocket Count

After a period of relative peace, Hamas launched a new rocket campaign against Israel between June 18 and 23. During the flare-up, 162 rockets landed in Israel. The Iron Dome saw action during the escalation, shooting down five rockets on June 23. The violence caused the closure of Israeli highways and schools. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded to Hamas’s escalation by targeting terror activity sites. Despite an Egypt-brokered ceasefire accepted on June 20, Gaza terrorists continued to fire rockets into Israel until the ceasefire on June 24, after which rocket attacks returned to a “routine” level with three hits identified the following week. According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, approximately 8 Palestinians were killed from June 18-21, and 4 were killed from June 21-23—the majority of which were militants. In addition, in Israel, four border policemen and a civilian were injured during the fighting.

Throughout the month of June, a total of 197 rockets and 21 mortars were launched into Israel, compared to the 4 rockets and 2 mortars launched the previous month.

In April, 10 rockets were launched from Gaza. March saw 173 rockets and 35 mortars 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.

JPC researchers Zachary Fisher and Kalen Taylor contributed to this report.

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