Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016

February 16, 2017

nayttokuva-24
Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016: Types, Trends and Data is a new bulletin recently issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Full Document in PDF Format HERE but below some highlights from the mentioned report:

Throughout 2016, Palestinian terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Israel continued carrying out various types of popular terrorism attacks(the so-called “popular resistance”). The wave of popular terrorism waned in April. After April, the average monthly distribution was greater than in previous years.
nayttokuva-20

On the other hand, along the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, the relative calm prevailing since the end of Operation Protective Edge (summer 2014),continued. That was manifested by the continuing decrease in the number of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in 2016. The number of rockets fired into Israel was the lowest since Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and the takeover of the Strip by Hamas in 2007.

nayttokuva-23
Greater Jerusalem and the Hebron region continued as focal points for popular terrorism. Still prominent but somewhat less so were the regions of Gush Etzion and Ramallah. On the other hand, the regions of Nablus and northern Samaria, which played a central role in the second intifada, played a secondary role in the wave of popular terrorism and attacksin 2016. Most of the terrorists who carried out attacks came from towns and villages near the sites of the attacks.

nayttokuva-22

The various types of attacks changed, as follows:

1) Stabbing attacks continued as the main type of popular terrorism attack(61% of all the significant attacks carried out in 2016). Prominent over the past year were a stabbing spree on the seaside promenade between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, in which an American tourist was killed, and a stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba in which a 13 year-old girl was killed as she slept in her bed.

2) There was a decrease in vehicular attacks as the wave of popular terrorism waned(about 8% of all the significant attacks in 2016). However, the truck attack carried out on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem in January 2017 was a reminder of how deadly such attacks can be, especially when carried out with heavy vehicles.

3) There was a rise in shooting attacks(23% of significant attacks in 2016). The trend continued during January 2017. Prominent were drive-by shootings carried out in three locations in Jerusalem (two people killed), and the shooting attacks in a pub in central Tel Aviv (two killed) and in the Sarona commercial-entertainment center in the heart of Tel Aviv (four killed).

4) The number of people killed remained high despite the decline in the wave of popular terrorism. In 2016, 17 Israelis were killed, ten in shooting attacks and seven in stabbing attacks.

nayttokuva-21

 

The perpetrators of this terrorism have been glorified, celebrated, and honoured by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and even Palestinian civilians.

untitled4

Muhannad Halabi, who stabbed and murdered 2 Israelis, Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett, and injured Bennett’s wife, Adele, and their 2-year-old son in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 3rd, 2015. Not only was Halabi, the Palestinian law student, granted an honourary law degree, but the municipality of Surda-Abu Qash, where he lived, has decided to name a street after him. “This is in order to honor Halabi, who carried out a stabbing and shooting operation against settlers in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem,” the independent Palestinian news agency Donia Al-Watan reported on October 14th, 2015.


My related articles about palestinian terrorism against Israel, 2016 (in Finnish):

Hamas vaalitunnelmissa ja Israelin pelotemuistutus

Hyökkäystunneleista matkailukohde

Israel: 9 kuukautta terroria – yli 200 terrori-iskua

Poikkeuksellinen terrorisolu pidätetty Israelissa

Ramadanin kunniaksi terrori-isku Tel Aviviin

Lasten vihakoulutus jatkuu Gazassa

Gaza’n tunnelisota jatkuu kaikilla rintamilla

Hamasin poliittinen siipi menettänyt asemiaan sotilaalliselle

Israel varautunut ydinterroriin

Tunnelisodankäynnin uusi aika: Israelin maanalainen ’Rautakupoli’

Gazalainen syytteeseen terrori-iskujen suunnittelusta Ukrainassa ja Israelissa

Palestiinalaispoliisi hyökkäsi IDF:n sotilaita vastaan

B’Tselem aktivisteja pidätetty

 

intifada3


Forgotten Court Rule: Israel Is The Legal Occupant Of Judea And Samaria

February 8, 2017

usrael-palestine conflictISRAELI so-called settlements in West Bank – Judea and Samaria – are a complex issue. As a rule the news and newscasts claim that Israeli construction activities beyond 1967 line will destroy the Two-State idea. During last five decades there has been a continuous flow of statements from sc. international community that West Bank settlements are against sc. International Law.

But besides statements there is actually one trial – which escaped the media’s awareness – and which ruled the opposite: the 3rd  Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria.

 

New level of West Bank construction

World Israel News reports that Israel announced on Tuesday 31st Jan. 2017 the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria. This announcement, made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, follows last week’s statement regarding the construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria and the municipality of Jerusalem’s approval of the construction of 566 new homes in the city. The back-to-back announcements of a total of 6,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria within a single week is almost unprecedented. The statement comes as 42 Israeli families in the community of Amona in Samaria are being removed from their homes because it was allegedly built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

For example the New York Times was using distorted facts on issue as follows: Israel approved 3,000 more housing units in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, the largest number in a wave of new construction plans that defy the international community and that open a forceful phase in the country’s expansion into land the Palestinians claim for a future state. However to build housing units both within existing settlements and in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is not an expansion as the area of land for settlements is not expanding even if the number of houses and Jews living in them is increasing.

On 6th Feb. 2017 the Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Regulation Law by 60 votes to 52. The Regulation Law retroactively gives residents of up to 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes which were built – some accidentally – on private Palestinian land, in return providing the landowner with an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value. However the Law might be overturned by the Supreme Court. (Source: BICOM , more in BICOM briefing: Download PDF)

 

Israel as legal occupant of the West Bank

Israel’s claim in West bank is based e.g. on the following earlier acts of International Law: The Jan Smuts Resolution of January 30, 1919, Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, including the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, The legal title of the Jewish People to the mandated territory of Palestine in all of its historical parts was first recognized on April 24, 1920 when the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council (Britain, France, Italy and Japan), meeting in San Remo, Italy, converted the 1917 ‘Balfour Declaration’ into a binding legal document. This was confirmed by the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne. All these recognized the historical connection of the Jewish People with the Land of Israel.

Sure local Arabs have also historical connections between Mediterranean and Jordan river but they have already received their lands under the Mandate system as (Trans-)Jordania was separated from Palestine during the British Mandate. So Jordan is the Arab Muslim state (kingdom) on 77% of old Palestine made legal 1946-League of Nations. They wanted more and made a war and annexed West bank 1950 which then was reclaimed by Israel 1967. According negotiated Oslo agreements (1995) for administration of West bank there are three areas C=Israel state, B=shared by Israel and Palestinian authority (PA) and A=PLO/PA/Fatah but Jerusalem is not Jordans or anyone elses.

Israel made peace treaty with Jordan – occupant of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 – in 1994 and Jordan does not have any territorial claims in West Bank.

A trial which escaped the media’s awareness

logo3-dreuzIn a historical trial, the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria. As this groundbreaking ruling escaped the media’s awareness, a pro Israel activist – Jean-Patrick Grumberg – has worked to bring this “old news” to light. “I decided to put to work my years of Law Studies in France, and I meticulously analyzed the Court ruling,” Jean-Patrick Grumberg wrote and continued

To make sure I did not overestimate my legal abilities and that I wasn’t over optimistic – as usual-, I submitted my analysis and the Court papers to one of the most prominent French lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, President of Lawyers without borders, to receive his legal opinion. He indeed validated my finding. Then I decided to translate it to English, and it will soon be submitted to Benjamin Netanyahu thru a mutual friend.

The main source of following description is the article in Dreuz.info –  Israël est l’occupant légal de la Cisjordanie, dit la Cour d’appel de Versailles , Publié par Jean-Patrick Grumberg le 25 décembre 2016 – with help of the report by United with Israel about the case.

The story goes back to the ’90s, when Israel began work for for the construction of the Jerusalem light rail. The tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The light rail was completed in 2011, and it crosses Jerusalem all the way through the city. Following this, the PLO/ the Palestinian Authority and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because according to PLO, the construction of the tram was illegal since the United Nations (UN0, the European Union (EU) and other governments consider Israel’s presence there illegal. The Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is unequivocally legal under international law, dismissing a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom and Veolia. To rule on the suit, the Court of Appeals had to determine the legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the region. Their conclusion was that the Palestinians have no right – in the international legal sense – to the region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to all land beyond the 67 line.

british-mandate-for-palestine-1921

It is said that the court decision is only marginally significant for a debate about the legality of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as it’s only talking about transport infrastructure, not e.g. about settlements. However in trial the PLO, explaining that the occupation is illegal, claimed that Israel is violating: Articles 49-6 and 53 of the Geneva Convention, Articles 23, 27 and 46 of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, Article 4 of the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954. Article 27 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, Article 5 of the Convention IX of the 1907 Hague. and Article 53 of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.

So in order to rule whether the light rail’s construction was legal or not, the court had to review the texts of international law and examine international treaties in order to establish the respective legal rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The Versailles Court of Appeal rejected all the Palestinian arguments. Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal considers that Israel is entitled to ensure order and public life in the region, and therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, infrastructure and dwellings. All the international instruments put forward by the PLO were acts signed between states, and the obligations or prohibitions contained therein are relevant to states. Neither the PA nor the PLO are states, and therefore, none of these legal documents apply to them.

The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), who was co-appellant, to pay 30,000 euros ($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to Veolia Transport. Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the Supreme Court, and therefore the judgment became final. This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian legal claim that Israel’s occupation is illegal.

napoleon


Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila – site


Paris Peace Conference – From Nonsense Idea To Fruitless Outcome

January 26, 2017

“I must say that this conference is among the last spasms of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near.” (PM Benjamin Netanyahu)

French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

The much-discussed Paris Middle East Conference ended Sunday 15th Jan. 2017 with a rather bland statement reaffirming support for a two-state solution, and a call to stop violence and “ongoing settlement activity.” From the very beginning the French initiative of the Paris Middle East Conference was ill-planned bad idea: it had wrong timing, wrong participants and its agenda and content – a working draft of the communique – was seriously biased. No wonder that the result was null and void. The best result of Paris peace conference might be its ending without outcome; it can be concluded that in Paris sundown actors speculated on worn-out idea and dead end roadmap without new visions nor real stakeholders.

While the Conference can be doomed as waste of time whereas the developments on the ground seemed to get boost in opposite directions.

Wrong timing and participants

The fact that France is home to one of the most important Muslim communities in Europe and the largest Jewish community could be seen as giving Paris the mandate to hold the summit. In addition Israeli-Palestinian violence came especially since the early 2000s and the second Intifada on French soil, commonly referred to as the “import of conflict.” The outbreak of anti-Semitic violence, rioting and other actions were particularly evident during the last war in Gaza in the summer of 2014; a synagogue was stormed and slogans such as “Screw you Jews, France isn’t yours” were chanted by the crowd at gatherings “in support of Gaza.” An “unprecedented anti-Semitic climate led many Jews of France to emigrate to Israel.

However France’s desire to establish itself as a central player in the peace process, and now “Paris Peace Conference”, experienced a failure already before it started due bad timing: to organize international summit conference, just days before the inauguration of the new US President and the swearing in of his new administration in Washington. With no representatives from the new US administration or from the two parties who are directly involved, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, the conference essentially offered no new platform on how to restart the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

Some 70 countries and international organizations, including the foreign ministers of more than 30 states, participated to “Paris Peace Conference . However British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson intentionally kept away from the Paris conference, but he gave the British representatives – some junior officials – clear instructions not to sign any statement of its conclusions, thus giving a clear indication of where the loyalty of the British government will lie in the future. Australia also refused to sign the final document. Canada and many other EU member states chose to send only second-ranking officials to the summit instead of their foreign ministers. Newly appointed UN Secretary-General António Guterres also chose not to attend.

An idle declaration…

A copy of a working draft of the communique published by Ha’aretz included a general expression of support for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution and broad ideas about how the participating states can contribute towards this, without either a specific definition of what the final resolution should look like or any clearly defined follow up action. A draft summary statement says the participating countries will not recognize unilateral changes to 1967 borders, including Jerusalem.

final_declaration_of_paris_conference_2017It remained to be seen if the final version will be more concrete and detailed – it wasn’t. In the conference conclusions, the participants (except for the UK and Australia) confirmed their support for a two state solution with a call to the two parties directly involved in the peace process to dismiss any government representatives who do not share this goal. But the text of the final conclusions was softened after pressure from the outgoing US administration; criticism of Israeli settlements was balanced by the inclusion of a statement of the need to stop (Palestinian) terrorism and incitement. The final communique also shied away from explicitly criticizing plans by Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, although diplomats said the wording was meant to send a “subliminal” message. While the declaration contains all the right elements, it emerges as a water downed document without any details or new ideas. It states the obvious when it calls on each side to refrain from unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues such as Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees.

Full Text: Paris ‘Peace’ Summit Joint Declaration, January 15, 2017

…of no effect

Already the timing of the conference suggested that any measure adopted in Paris could remain a dead letter – and so happened as after Paris – Monday 16th Jan. 2017 – Britain, Balkan countries block EU from adopting Paris declaration. The fallout was reflected just one day after the Paris summit, as the 28 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for a pre-scheduled EU-Council meeting in Brussels without issuing a statement adopting either UN Security Council Resolution 2334 or the declaration that emerged from the Paris conference. The British Foreign Secretary decided to block the adoption of the Paris summit conclusions by the EU foreign ministers, hence causing further embarrassment for the EU during a week which was intended to demonstrate EU solidarity and unity for the peace process. The Jerusalem Post has learned that France was pressing inside the meeting for the EU to adopt the Paris declaration, but these efforts were rebuffed by Britain and some Balkan states keen on getting off on the “right foot” with US President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office.

maxresdefaultIn addition U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry eased Israeli suspicions Sunday in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he provided assurance that the Paris peace conference would not lead to any kind of concrete outcome at the U.N. Security Council or elsewhere. Kerry promised Netanyahu that the United States would not assist in passing a resolution against Israel in next Security Council meeting, due to follow both the Paris conference and December’s passing of Resolution 2334 against the settlement enterprise.

Expectations were high on the Palestinian side that the Paris conference would outline the two-state solution and determine a time-plan for its implementation. There is nothing of this in the statement nor any follow-ups after that.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member, expressed on Wednesday (18th Jan. 2017) her gratitude and appreciation to the French government for its initiative to organize an international peace conference of foreign ministers and diplomats in Paris on January 15, and “for putting the Palestinian issue back on the global agenda.” “Nevertheless,” Ashrawi noted, “it is evident that Israel and its proxies managed to water down the Joint Declaration and weaken its effectiveness. The Declaration omitted any reference to the creation of the Palestinian state on 1967 borders and restricted that “to ending the occupation that began in 1967 which does not necessarily conflate with the boundaries of the state.” “Absent effective follow-up mechanisms with the responsibilities of arbitration, monitoring and evaluation, and concrete engagement, the outcome of the Conference becomes just another verbal exercise. “We regret the unfortunate stance of the British and Australian governments, as well as the UK going so far as to prevent the EU Foreign Affairs Council from adopting the Declaration. (Source:The Palestine Chronicle  ).

Way forward

Palestinian conflict from my point of view is not via outside bystanders ala Paris Peace Summit but with real actors who were not participating to this playacting – such as given in following picture:

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

An analysis  BICOM Forecast: The Middle East in 2017  gives a wider context – it  is available as a PDF below:

 Download PDF

  Meanwhile elsewhere…

While diplomats were formulating their declaration the developments on the ground showed a huge gap between high-flown statements and reality on the grassroots. Here some highlights:

According WIN Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is proposing to incorporate a handful of towns located outside of Jerusalem into Israel’s capital, essentially annexing them to Israel in the process. “Today I will propose at the security cabinet that we pass the ‘Greater Jerusalem Law’ that includes extending Israeli sovereignty to the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem,” continued Katz. “This is a necessary first diplomatic step in the era of President Trump.” Katz’s plan essentially goes farther than that of Education Minister and Jewish Home party Chairman Naftali Bennett to officially declare the town of Ma’ale Adumim as a part of Israel. The “Greater Jerusalem Law” would also incorporate Givat Ze’ev to the northwest of Jerusalem as well as Beitar Illit and the Etzion regional bloc of communities, which are directly southwest of Jerusalem, into Israel’s capital.

The Local Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem on Sunday approved the construction of 560 units in the eastern part of the city, beyond the Green Line, after US President Donald Trump formally took power. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated, “We went through eight difficult years of [former US President Barack] Obama’s pressure to freeze construction.” Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his security cabinet that Israel will expand construction in settlement blocs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (Source: JPost)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday [24th Jan. 2017] announced their approval for construction of approximately 2,500 new housing units in Judea and Samaria. Most of the units are planned for the existing blocs of Israeli communities and are based mainly on prior decisions and commitments by previous governments. Liberman also authorized construction of an industrial area meant for Arabs near Tarkumiyah, in the Hebron area. It is designed to be one of the largest in the region and includes diversified industrial components. (Source: United with Israel)

Former US President Barack Obama, in his waning hours, quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which Congress had been blocking. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said a written notification dated January 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. (Source: United with Israel)

mailservice-2Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 15th Jan. 2017 signed an agreement to renew cooperation on joint water projects benefiting Israeli and Palestinian residents of the West Bank after a six year freeze in activities. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC). (Source: i24News )

After a friendly telephone discussion on 22nd Jan. 2017, US President Trump invited PM Netanyahu to come to Washington for a meeting next month, to discuss close cooperation in a number of areas, including Iran’s nuclear program and the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians. “The President emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal”, according to a White House statement. (Source: GPO/Israel)

The Arrow Weapon System (AWS), the upper-most tier in the Israeli strategic capability, entered into a new era on 18th Jan 2017 in its defense from ballistic missiles threats.Earlier the AWS consisted of Arrow-2 interceptors, and has now added for the first time the Arrow-3 operational interceptor (made by Israel Aerospace Industries/MLM). The Arrow-3 interceptor capabilities enable longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric) and more precise ballistic missile engagements. The combined interception capabilities of the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 will significantly reduce the possibilities of ballistic missiles impacting the State of Israel. (Source: IsraelDefence )

After a decade of failures to implement reconciliation agreements between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a new deal took place in Moscow. According Al Jazeera – on 18th Jan. 2017 – the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time. Earlier, both Fatah and Hamas showed many signs that they were neither willing nor interested in having a genuine agreement that bridged the intra-Palestinian divide, as the current status quo is convenient for them especially with the absence of any forms of popular local accountability . Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Moscow, said the agreement in Russia signals the Palestinians “looking away” from the United States, which has been involved in the peace process for decades. “Historically, peace discussions have been dominated by the US. They are looking for a different approach, and Russia certainly offered a different approach,” she said. The Moscow declaration provided an opportunity for the Palestinian political leaders to shape a new reality, it remains to see if they really seize the opportunity this time round?

knifeintifada


Related article: Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East


Update: Mideast Peace Process

July 5, 2016

ISRPALMideast peace process, or more precisely negotiations to solve Israel-Palestine conflict, has been in deep freeze nearly two years. Officially the international community is repeating the need for talks to implement Two-State-Solution, however the main stakeholders –leaders of Israel and Palestinian Authority – have not even met despite that offices of PM Netanyahu and President Abbas are almost neighbors and despite that outside facilitators have tried to organize informal meetings when both leaders have been same time in same foreign capital.

If direct or facilitated negotiations don’t start so the alternatives are the zero-option, unilateral decisions, regional or part-solutions. The zero-option describes the present situation which in course of time might be drifting towards One-state solution. Unilateral decisions can be made both parties, at best – if they are constructive – they can lead part-solutions or even in long run to Two-State. Regional solution might be e.g. Three-State solution where Gaza will be returned to Egypt and main part of West Bank to Jordania, like they were before Six-Days-War ( more in ”The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ). One pragmatic part-solution could be Hamas-Israel deal about long term ceasefire or implementing Sinai option or Palestinian-Jordanian confederation or both.

 

IPConf

 

 

The Quartet Report

The Middle East Quartet is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002. (More about the Quartet: Office of the Quartet )

Mideast_quartetThe newest report was published on 1st July 2016 and describes in its eight pages the stalled peace process without any new initiatives. The core point of the report is that according it the Israeli policy “is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.””This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state”. In addition Israel should stop building settlements, denying Palestinian development and designating land for exclusive Israeli use that Palestinians seek for a future state, the Middle East peace “Quartet” recommended. The Quartet said urgent affirmative steps needed to be taken to “prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”

The report claims Israel had taken for its exclusive use some 70 percent of Area C, which makes up 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources and land reserves. Under the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s, Israel retains full control over Area C, where large tracts have been declared closed military areas.“Israel should implement positive and significant policy shifts, including transferring powers and responsibilities in Area C,” the Quartet report said.

Also amid a spike in violence, the Quartet criticized Palestinian leaders for “not consistently and clearly” condemning terrorist attacks and said illicit arms build up and militant activities in Gaza – controlled by Islamist group Hamas – must stop. The whole report Report of the Middle East Quartet – the European External Action Service in EAAS page.

 

The Israeli view

The statement of Israel government welcomes the Quartet’s recognition of the centrality of Palestinian incitement and violence to the perpetuation of the conflict. This culture of hatred poisons minds and destroys lives and stands as the single greatest obstacle to progress towards peace. The report unfortunately says nothing about the payments made by the Palestinian leadership to terrorists and their families. The graver the violence, the greater the payment. This Palestinian practice must stop.

Israel shares the Quartet’s historical commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace through direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions.

In previous agreements, Israel and the Palestinians committed to discuss every difficult issue exclusively through direct, bilateral negotiations. Nevertheless, the record shows a history of repeated Palestinian rejection of offers to negotiate and compromise from Israeli governments across the political spectrum. Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself. According government statement “We regret the failure of the Quartet to address the real core of the conflict: the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in any boundaries.”

From government statement:

The report also perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace. When Israel froze settlements, it did not get peace. When Israel uprooted every settlement in Gaza, it did not get peace. It got war. It is troubling that the Quartet appears to have adopted the position that the presence of Jews living in the West Bank somehow prevents reaching a two-state solution. The presence of nearly 1.8 million Arabs in Israel isn’t a barrier to peace; it is a testament to our pluralism and commitment to equality.

Israel will continue to strive for a genuine, negotiated peace based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision of two states for two peoples. While the report includes numerous factual and policy assertions with which we take issue, Israel will discuss with the Quartet envoys ways to explore moving toward this end.

Source: Government Press Office

 

Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself

The Palestinian Authority President rejected again the opportunity to meet with Israel’s President during a visit to Brussels by both leaders. With both Rivlin and Abbas in Brussels at the same time, the Europeans, very cautiously, proposed to explore the possibility of a Rivlin-Abbas encounter.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz attempted to broker the meeting between Presidents Reuven Rivlin and Mahmoud Abbas 23.6.2016, with President Rivlin keen to sit down with Abbas. President Rivlin said: “I was happy to welcome the initiative by the representative of the EU to set a meeting between me and President Abbas who is also visiting Brussels this very day.”

During a press conference alongside European Union (EU) foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, the Israeli president said he was “very sorry to learn that he [Abbas] rejected such a meeting,” and found it “strange” that Abbas “refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders”.

President Rivlin, who addressed the European Parliament and pledged Israeli support for the two-state solution, added: “We can talk. We can talk directly and find a way to build confidence.” Source: BICOM

European leaders had high hopes for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s June 20-23 visit to Brussels, and none of them tried to hide it. Indeed, the scope of Rivlin’s visit was practically unprecedented. Crisscrossing the Belgian capital, Rivlin met successively with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Belgian King Philippe, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. In between, Rivlin was also welcomed at the European Parliament, where he gave an address in Hebrew. But unlike the other political leaders Abbas rejected meeting with Rivlin.

 

Unilateral decisions?

One provocative view to issue

One provocative view to issue

From my perspective a new framework is needed, even if some apparent negotiations start the outcome probably will be a placebo to status quo.  Earlier I have referred two new leftist initiatives in my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future, leftist think tank – which both in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future. A quote from Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union. He concludes:

If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions.

On January 2016, the leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog, unveiled an alternative approach to the issue of Israel’s nearly 49-year old presence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The main point of Herzog’s plan is, that Israel will complete the security barrier around the major settlement blocs. “We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there,” Herzog said. “Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.” (more in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank )

From Israeli side unilateral withdrawal and unilateral annexation are the main strategy options related to West Bank. I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually. Sure this option is promoted by Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, but I understand that the proposal has support in addition to center-left also from center and center-right in Israeli’s political sphere.

The Palestinian Authority has already taken constructive unilateral steps by seeking United Nations recognition as a state and building the institutions of statehood in the West Bank.

 

Regional solutions?

The best possibilities to develop negotiated peace process might be in a regional peace track proposed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in which Egypt would facilitate direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Egypt, one of few Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, is a close ally of the Palestinians and enjoys good relations with Arab states which will be needed to make any potential concessions to Israel to reach a peace deal. Israelis and Palestinians have both been speaking to Sisi’s government about playing a role in talks.

clinton parameters

Cairo wants to build upon the areas of agreement already reached between Israelis and Palestinians during the Kerry-led talks in 2013-2014 and extensive security discussions between the two sides. It’s based on the premise that both sides have had extensive discussions, have discussed various parameters and know what is needed for an agreement. The Egyptians also want to revive the 2003 Arab Peace Initiative originally put forward by Saudi Arabia, in which Arab states could make some gestures to Israel in order to secure better conditions for the Palestinians. According CNN an Egyptian official said Netanyahu has shown a “sense of receptivity” to such a process led by Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Part-solutions

On November 2015 Jerusalem Post reported   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. (More in Sinai Option again )

Earlier in August 2015 it was reported in the Times of Israel, that Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire One part of the deal is now coming to reality with new plan of Gaza seaport (more in Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change and background in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal ) Gaza seaport has been one aspect with reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey which talks are now proved to be a success.An expression of new warmer Israeli-Turkish relations was on July 4th, 2016 , as the first truck from the Turkish transport ships arrived from Ashdod Port to the Kerem Shalom crossing. The truck contained a shipment of toys (dolls and teddy bears) as well diapers in cartons bearing the Turkish flag. Ministry of Defense Crossing Authority personnel and COGAT officials unloaded the goods and are preparing them for transfer into Gaza. Source: Ministry of Defense

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict as well Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’. With this context the Gaza seaport is from point of view a positive step forward.

Jordan is Palestine Map low resInstead ‘knife intifada’ and no-talks policy the Palestinians could now think outside the box and reopen talks about the Palestinian-Jordanian confederation structure. The Palestinian-Jordanian confederation means the establishment of two states for two peoples, after the establishment of the Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines. This confederation solution was first raised by Jordan in 1972, but the PLO categorically rejected it in the same year. According to the confederation system, there would be two capitals — Jerusalem for the Palestinians and Amman for Jordanians — a centralized judiciary and one armed force led by the Jordanian king, one centralized council of ministers and one national assembly elected by the two peoples. The state should allow citizens to have full freedom of movement between the two regions.

My bottom line

The components of Two-State solution have been roughly clear last two decades – see e.g. Clinton Parameters – but the final agreement is still missing. The international pressure might lead to talks or negotiations again, with or without outside facilitators, but probably with the same outcome than earlier. So from my perspective unilateral actions are steps forward and in my opinion also to the right direction.

If peace negotiations don’t start, they fail again or regional solutions can’t be realized this time so from my viewpoint Israel could independently implement what I have called a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, where Israel would annex main settlements from West-bank inside the security fence and return to negotiations about other than so solved border issue when both parties feel need to make a long term deal. This solution in my opinion is the best way forward and it even might be possible to implement. If unilateral solutions are made in the framework of constructive unilateralism so this approach might be the right roadmap towards more permanent two-state solution.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Related articles:

Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

Sinai Option again

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!


Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change

June 22, 2016

A proposal to provide the Gaza Strip with an outlet to the rest of the world through a man-made island could soon become a reality, Israel’s Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz said Monday [20th June 2016], according the Jerusalem Post. Although the idea of building this artificial island has been floating around for years, real headway has only been made in the recent months, according to Katz, who estimates the project will cost some $5 billion.

The project would include a 5 km. bridge from the Gaza Strip through Israeli waters and into the planned 8 sq. km. chunk of land, which likely would have a marine port and, eventually, an airport, in addition to a hotel and small port for yachts.

ShowImage (6)

Gaza island model as presented on June 20, 2016. (photo credit:COURTESY/THE ISRAEL PROJECT)

Hamas has said that among its conditions for a long-term truce with Israel are the reopening of the Strip’s Yasser Arafat Airport and construction of a new seaport. Such an option on existing Gaza land, Katz said, would put Israel’s security at risk and allow Hamas to misuse funds allocated for its construction. According to Katz, the process is still being deliberated by officials who are mainly trying to decide how exactly Israel would be involved in maintaining security at a port that would be internationally funded and secured. The minister said the project would not be built or funded by Israel in any way. Rather, he said, the initiative is more of a statement of support were this plan come to fruition and Israel would allow international entities to enter Israeli waters in order to carry out construction.

Katz acknowledged that the island would not necessarily put an end to weapon smuggling and rocket firings at Israel, but would help the populace to become less radical as it receives a better standard of living and the possibility of traveling and commerce with the rest of the world without Israeli involvement.

In May, Katz announced an initiative that would transfer Turkish goods to Jordan and onward to the rest of the region through Israel via a train route from the Port of Haifa to Beit She’an, which is a 15-minute drive from the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing into Jordan. Source: Jerusalem Post

New Gaza wall

Up within the Israeli defense establishment, many believe that the time has come for Israel to set up a civilian seaport for the Gaza Strip. According to their view, if Gaza is going to stop exploding into conflict every two years, its 1.8 million residents need to have better hope for the future.

While the new port is part of the defense establishment’s concept of “restraining factors” that Israel can put into place, there is also military counterterrorism measures, to push back the next war for as long as possible.

One such new planed investment is a New Gaza wall. According The Jerusalem Post Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border. Implementation of the plan will cost an estimated $568 million. The wall is intended to block off any terror tunnels, and will be constructed solely on Israeli soil.

Israel’s plan to block off Gaza above and below ground with security wall has been met with an uproar from Gaza Arabs, who are demanding that the UN intervene and halt construction plans. Gazans have loudly protested the wall, at least partially on environmental grounds.

Egypt's Gaza barrier

Egypt’s Gaza barrier

Sea-based smuggling rising

As Israel sends some 900 trucks per day into Gaza, carrying all manner of goods, medical equipment, food, fuel and construction material, it is hardly enough to keep the Gaza Strip’s economy functional. To get more goods, luxery items and weapons and weapon materials Hamas has used its smuggling tunnels. The original tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border were used to smuggle arms and commercial goods from Egypt to Gaza. Hamas substantially expanded this infrastructure after 2007 and Israel’s imposition of a sc, blockade. At the time, it is estimated that there were as many as 2,500 such tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. There are estimates that as much as $3 billion in goods were moved annually from Sinai into Gaza. However since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in June 2013, the Egyptian military has eliminated most of the smuggling tunnels beneath the border in the southern Gaza Strip and expanded the buffer zone. Egypt has demolished tunnels e.g. by exploding them, Egyptian army also fires tear gas or throws wastewater inside the tunnels to kill diggers. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! and Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts )

Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

Earlier in May 2016 security forces announced the arrest of a suspected Gazan weapons smuggler who disguised himself as a fisherman. In a joint navy, Shin Bet and Israel Police operation, security forces said that during questioning, “it emerged that for a lengthy period, he was involved in sea-based smuggling of weapons and other items, for Hamas and other terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip.”

The suspect allegedly smuggled ammunition and liquid fiberglass used to manufacture rockets. Details on Hamas’s operational plans in the Mediterranean Sea also arose in the investigation, the domestic intelligence agency said, including its use of fishing boats to disguise its activities. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

 

Conflicting views related to Israeli security

Would the creation of a seaport enable Hamas to upgrade its weapons smuggling program? According to former navy chief V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, the answer is an unequivocal yes:  “In general, my view is absolutely opposed to a Gaza port. It is a certain recipe for Iranian military boats arriving in Gaza. We do not want that to happen.” Hamas, he added, has “very high motivation to smuggle via the sea. It uses fishing boats to smuggle between Sinai and the Gaza Strip,” and the need for sea arms-trafficking routes has grown since Egypt began blocking smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

But others took a different view. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, head of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian Relations at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post that a Gazan port would assist, not harm, Israeli security. Brom, who in the IDF headed the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff, said, “I am among those who support the idea. Without a port, the Gaza Strip will continue to be a pressure cooker housing two million people which explodes every once in a while. There are a few good ideas that enable the operation of a port, with good security supervision, that will prevent it from being exploited to smuggle weapons.”

Such ideas include making every vessel en route to Gaza dock in Cyprus first, where its cargo will undergo a security check. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

 

Wider context

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Moni Chorev, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said the idea of a seaport for Gaza could not divorced from the wider strategic picture. Chorev, a former IDF division commander and former head of the officer training school, told the Post that one must place the Gaza port question in a far wider context. “Since Hamas rose to power in 2007, the Gazan economy has been kept down. Is there room to change Gaza’s economic situation? This question is not only about Gaza, however. If you look at the Palestinians as a whole, one must weigh up how creating economic growth in Gaza will affect [President] Mahmoud Abbas, the PA, and its ability to rule,” he said. That question, in turn, is tied into how Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and perhaps Turkey will interact with Israel and the Palestinians in the coming years, Chorev argued. “If you want to enlist the Egyptians, one must realize that they view Hamas as a sort of extension of their biggest enemy, the Muslim Brothers,” he said. Thus, a port would have an impact on the wider Palestinian, Arab and regional arena.

If Gazans are provided with new hope and an economic horizon, Hamas will be significantly less willing to risk the wrath of the people it controls by launching reckless and costly military attacks on Israel, he said. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

According reports the deal would include the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. According to the reports, Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a “floating port” located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinized by NATO representatives.

Earlier in August 2015 it was reported in the Times of Israel, that Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire The gist of the deal is that Israel will end the blockade and allow thousands of Palestinian day laborers to enter Israel. Gaza will import items through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed) and cease all rocket fire and tunneling for eight years. A prisoner swap may be in the works too.  Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

sinai option by Ari RusilaOn November 2015 Jerusalem Post reported   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. (More in Sinai Option again )

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict. In addition Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. With this context the Gaza seaport is from point of view a positive step forward.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

Related articles:

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

Sinai Option again

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

 


Appendix Aug. 2016:

Asaf Ashar,  Port and Shipping Expert (www.asafashar.com), PhD send me his following analysis and an alternative initiative related to Gaza Port.

Palestinian International Port in El Arish

Background: The establishment of a seaport for Gaza was agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accord and the following 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. The construction began in mid 2000, but the port was bombed and destroyed before completion by the Israeli army later this year during the Second Intifada. The 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, following the Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, re-announced the start of the works, but due to the hostility between Israel and the Hamas, it has not been resumed.

Katz Plan: Recently, Israel’s Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz, proposed the construction of an artificial island, 3 miles offshore Gaza, adjacent but outside the territorial waters, to accommodate a seaport and an airport.  The island will be connected to the mainland by bridges with checkpoints manned by international inspectors to prevent smuggling.  The bridges can be bombed in case of resumed hostility.  The cost of the island is estimated by Katz at $5 billion; others suggested $7 – 12 billion.   Construction time may extend 5 – 8 years.

Katz’s plan is both hugely expensive and operationally impractical: 

  • Area — The proposed area of the island port is way too small for accommodating the modern port required to serve the 4.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank; moreover, such port is usually supported by a large import/export-related industrial zone adjacent to it. 
  • Road Access — A modern port requires highway access to heavy trucks, which cannot be provided through the congested streets of Gaza City. 
  • Rail Access — Serving the West Bank requires rail connection and large railyards, which cannot be provided in the congested Gaza City area. 
  • Territorial Waters –The width of territorial waters has long been extended from 3 to 12 nautical miles, requiring much longer bridges and deeper-water reclamation, resulting in much higher costs. 
  • Sovereignty — Countries are not allowed to create land in international waters, outside their territorial waters (e.g., the crises in South China Sea). 
  • Ecology — The island may obstruct the littoral (coastal) current, resulting in beach pollution and erosion. 
  • Security — Past experience suggests that inspection by international inspectors is ineffective and expensive.  In case of hostility, there is no need to bomb bridges; Israel could simply blockade ship traffic to/from the port, as is the current practice with fishing boats.

Ashar Plan: Gaza International Port should be part of the expansion plan of the Egyptian Port of El Arish, located near Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.  It is a common practice for countries to neighboring countries with autonomous ports via long-term leases (99 years + extension): Tanzania/Zambia; Peru/Bolivia; and Uruguay/ Paraguay. The total cost of the shore-based port in El-Arish would probably be $300 – 500 million, would take 2 – 3 years to construct, with the Egyptians and Palestinians sharing in the fixed costs: navigation channels, breakwaters, land access.   El Arish has plenty of land for accommodating a Palestinian-leased, port-related industrial zone.  El Arish also could be linked via rail to the West Bank through the Israeli rail system. Since Egypt already controls Gaza’s southern border, there will be no need for additional security arrangements.  The expanded El Arish Port will create substantial regional economic benefits to Gaza and Egypt’s Northern Sinai; both are presently stricken by poverty and insecurity.

And interview here:

Jerusalem Post, 8-2-2016

and updated port plan By Asaf Ashar

Gaza Port in El Arish 5


False Reporting

June 22, 2016

The Independent published a story claiming that Israel had cut off water to Palestinians. Just one problem: the whole thing was a lie. And now they won’t fix it!

Watch the video 

 

Source: Honest Reporting


Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

April 24, 2016

 

Gaza’s tunnel war continues on all fronts – on Egypt-Gaza border, on Israel-Gaza border and on home front.  While Egyptian
army flooded again a Hamas tunnel, the Israel army discovered the first terror tunnel inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. 
terror tunnelsHamas says its smuggling and terror tunnel network is twice as large as the Viet Cong’s was at the height of the Vietnam War. On home front Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

 

The new tunnel flooded again by Egypt

Palestinian media reported Monday morning [18th Apr. 2016] that the Egyptian army flooded a Hamas tunnel in the southern part of Gaza Strip. Seven Hamas terrorists are missing. The tunnel flooded was a commercial tunnel, used by Hamas to smuggle commodities into Gaza Strip, and not a military tunnel. The collapse happened after the Egyptians performed another one of their routine flooding of the area with sea water – or some say with sewage.

Egypt, historically the Palestinians’ major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.  But Egypt has intensified a blockade of Gaza  by largely sealing the border since 2013. Egypt has destroyed and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel. Recently Egypt accused Hamas of involvement in last year’s assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.  (More in Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened )

 

New terror tunnel with sturdier construction methods

The tunnel flooded by Egypt appeared to have been a commercial tunnel used to smuggle people and goods in and out of the Strip, as opposed to the “terror tunnel” located in southern Israel, which could have been used to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

It is the first such tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During the Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. The tunnel was located approximately 100 feet (30 to 40 meters) below ground and extended “tens of meters into Israel,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. It was discovered close to the border fence, he added. Though the tunnel was found just over one week ago, news of its discovery was forbidden from publication by the military censor. [Source: The Times of Israel ]

The newer tunnels, as now discovered one, built after Operation Protective Edge benefit from sturdier construction methods, improving structural integrity, which make them less likely to collapse due to rainfall. The wall of the tunnels discovered during Operation Protective Edge consisted of pre-cast concrete slabs placed vertically, with reinforced concrete arches above them to prevent the tunnel from collapsing due to the weight of the soil above it. In this type of construction, the wide vertical slabs are the weak point, and that is why Hamas is now building its tunnels using long, narrow concrete slabs laid horizontally, one on top of the other, within a metal frame. This structure is much stronger and more durable. It can withstand not only the pressure from the soil overhead, but also explosions and fighting inside the tunnel. It also allows for safer working conditions on rainy days when water seeps into the work area. Too much rainfall could cause the soil above a tunnel built using the pre-Protective Edge method to collapse, as seen several times in recent months. The new structure makes it far less likely that the tunnel would collapse. [Source and more in Ynet ]

 

Israel’ anti-tunnel campaign

Israel has started testing a secret new weapon for defeating the tunnel systems which the Palestinian Hamas and Hizballah are busy digging for surprise attacks against Israel. Now, according to Foreign Policy magazine, it appears Israel has found that solution. Western sources reported on 11th March 2016, that the new weapon, dubbed the  “Underground Iron Dome,” can detect a tunnel, then send in a moving missile ton blow it up.

Beside ‘Underground Iron Dome’ part of Israel’s anti-tunnel campaign are military robots [e.g. Talon 4] and the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) built by Roboteam, to explore the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza. [More in Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ].

Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians. However, some Palestinian outlets claimed the true source of Israel’s tunnel discovery was not a technological breakthrough but rather one man: Mahmoud Jasser Awad Atawna who had been an active member of Hamas’s tunnel operations until he fell into the hands of Israeli forces a few weeks ago.

Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

 

Gaza’s tunnel war – a short history

Gazans have been using tunnels regularly since the mid-1990s, when they were dug under the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah for smuggling purposes. By 2001, and again in 2004-2005, Hamas terrorists used tunnels to plant explosives under IDF installations. In 2006, Hamas dug a tunnel into Israel near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, ambushed a tank unit, kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit—who would be held in captivity for five years—and killed two of his fellow soldiers. By 2009’s Operation Cast Lead, Hamas’ use of tunnels had evolved into a clear threat. In 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF targeted the tunnels as much as it did Hamas’ rocket capabilities. In 2013, a large tunnel was discovered that led to an Israeli town. It was clearly intended for a large-scale terrorist attack. An even bigger tunnel was discovered later that year.

During Protective Edge, a major tunnel infiltration aimed at the residents of a kibbutz near the Gaza border was thwarted just as terrorists were emerging on the Israeli side. Four more such attacks would be interdicted, some with the Hamas fighters having already crossed into Israel. One attack was successful; five Israeli soldiers were killed. During Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. Hamas even used a tunnel to try to kidnap a soldier after a ceasefire had come into effect. The tunnel extended for over a mile, some of it deep into Israeli territory

The original tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border were and still are used to smuggle arms and commercial goods from Egypt to Gaza. Hamas substantially expanded this infrastructure after 2007 and Israel’s imposition of a sc, blockade. At the time, it is estimated that there were as many as 2,500 such tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. There are estimates that as much as $3 billion in goods were moved annually from Sinai into Gaza.

A second type of tunnel is the tactical or “defensive” variety. These are meant to assist Hamas in its next war if Israel sends in ground troops. They form a subterranean web underneath Gaza, and give fighters and commanders freedom of movement, allowing them to evade capture, hide from aerial assault, and maintain the element of surprise. Rockets, launchers, and ammunition are also stored in these tunnels, so Hamas can continue firing even while under aerial attack. Hamas commanders are said to have personal tunnels for themselves and their families.

It is the third type of tunnel, however, which is most worrying—the terror tunnels. Given Israel’s security fence and buffer zone on the border, Hamas was left with essentially two options for launching attacks on Israel—going over the fence, via rockets and mortars, or going under it. And since Israel’s anti-missile capabilities have advanced to the point where the rocket threat is largely neutralized, Hamas shifted its investments underground.

The human intelligence capabilities and other covert efforts in Gaza are the key element to detect tunnel entrances. Hamas too is aware of this and reportedly executed dozens of tunnel diggers in the past to prevent them from leaking information to Israel.

There is one aspect with Hamas’ tunnel strategy related to Gazans daily life and wellbeing. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. According to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

[Source and good background article: Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels by Dan Feferman ]

tunnel-price-en

Bottom line

  • The flooded smuggling tunnel is the last example that Egypt is implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling via its border with Gaza causing also the collapse of Hamas’ financial base.
  • The first tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 proves that Hamas now has developed a much stronger tunnel structure than before.
  • Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians.
  • Besides technology there is indications that the IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over the past two years and that it is today well integrated with other IDF elements.
  • According Channel 2 report (March 2016) the Israeli security establishment estimates that Hamas is not presently seeking a military escalation with Israel. The report noted that the assessment stands despite the terrorist group’s continued digging and armament of underground tunnels. Also despite the newest find, IDF does not expect escalation in Gaza in near future.

 

More background in

Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ,

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared ,

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened ,

Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption and

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!


[This article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila ]


%d bloggers like this: