Operation Guardian of the Walls: Since a ceasefire was declared on May 21, 2021, there has been a tense calm in the Gaza Strip, where so far the Palestinian terrorist organizations have honored it. However, the Hamas leadership threatened that the time allotted for establishing a long-term ceasefire is about to expire and Israel has yet to commit itself to its conditions. A lack of progress, according to the Hamas leadership, will lead to a renewal of hostilities. In the meantime, the international community has been examining ways to rebuild the Gaza Strip. The intention is apparently to send funds through the Palestinian Authority (PA), a plan which has already been opposed by Hamas. On May 25, 2021, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East to promote the ceasefire and advance assistance for the Gaza Strip.
Judea and Samaria: Despite the ceasefire, the tension in Judea, Samaria and east
Jerusalem has not eased. On May 24, 2021 a Palestinian terrorist carried out a stabbing
attack at a light railway station, wounding an IDF soldier and a civilian. The renewed entrance of Jews into the Temple Mount compound on May 23, 2021, enraged the Palestinians.
Palestinian spokesmen called for intervention from the American administration to stop
“Israel’s provocations and escalation,” and warned of a renewal of hostilities.
The Gaza Strip: After the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip were closed during
Operation Guardian of the Walls, as of May 25, 2021, Israel allowed the delivery of
humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and the exit of Gazans seeking medical care through the Erez Crossing. The fishing zone off the Gaza coast was reopened to a distance of six nautical miles. Convoys of supplies began entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing. According to the UNRWA representative in the Gaza Strip, there is no lack of food or humanitarian equipment. Meanwhile, Hamas has been constructing its victory narrative with rallies and public events, with the participation of members of the leadership, where speeches were made directly threatening Israel.
Covid-19: Active cases continue declining in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian attempts to stabilize the ceasefire
Since May 21, 2021, when the ceasefire was declared, there has been no rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and no consequent Israeli reprisals. However, the situation is still tense and
explosive. The Hamas leadership claims Israel has not yet committed itself to the terms of the ceasefire, warning that the time allotted for establishing a long-term ceasefire is about to expire. They threaten that if no progress is made they will renew the hostilities. Egypt is
working to stabilize the ceasefire and consolidate an agreement. A high-level Egyptian
delegation made flying visits to Israel, the Gaza Strip and Ramallah. According to an RT
correspondent, a representative of Egyptian president joined the delegation’s first visit to the Gaza Strip, indicating to the Palestinians that Egypt was serious and positive about the
terrorist organizations’ demands for guarantees for east Jerusalem and for preventing
changes in the city’s status. Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, went to the
Jordanian capital of Amman and Ramallah for consultations and to coordinate positions on
the ceasefire. Mahmoud Abbas met with him and thanked him, in the name of the Palestinian people and his government, for the role Egypt played in “stopping the aggression against the Palestinians.” He said that once the ceasefire had been stabilized, the next step would be the political process under the aegis of the International Quartet. Hussein alSheikh, chairman of the PA’s commission for civilian affairs, met with Shoukry and said the PA would coordinate with Egypt in rebuilding the Gaza Strip (Dunia al-Watan, May 24, 2021).
According to Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas political bureau, the Egyptian
delegation dealt with three issues: reviewing the destruction and damage in the Gaza Strip
caused by Israel’s attacks, the mechanisms for rebuilding and lifting the so-called “siege” of
the Gaza Strip, and establishing a long-term ceasefire with Israel (Sawa, May 23, 2021).
Funds for rebuilding the Gaza Strip
One of the pressing issues the Palestinians discussed with the Egyptian delegation was the mechanism that would deal with the delivery of funds to the Gaza Strip. Egyptian sources reported that the Egyptians are planning to appoint an international committee to oversee and supervise the process. The Egyptians also said the funds would be deposited with the PA, adding that Egypt promised Israel the money would not be used to buy weapons (al-Arabiya, May 24, 2021). A senior Hamas figure said Hamas opposed depositing funds for the Gaza Strip with the PA, having had experience with the arrangement in the past. Hamas claimed the PA exploited its involvement to the detriment of the Palestinians in Gaza (al-Akhbar, May 25, 2021).
Hamas and the ceasefire
According to the Lebanon-based newspaper al-Akhbar, Hamas sent Israel a warning through the Egyptian mediators, threatening that any attack on the Gaza Strip would be met with a reprisal. Egypt promised to warn Israel not to carry out targeted attacks on the Hamas leadership while the ceasefire was being discussed. Egypt also promised that opening the fishing zone and crossings, and repairing the electric lines would be dealt with in the coming days, after Hamas asked not to link them to a long-term ceasefire agreement. Hamas also stated it would not accept the issue of the Israeli prisoners as a condition for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip (al-Akhbar, May 23, 2021).
Mahmoud al-Zahar, interviewed by Sky News, said he was of the opinion the ceasefire
would remain in force because both sides accepted it and no one wanted a renewal of
hostilities. He claimed Hamas had won a strategic, symbolic victory, because it had attacked important Israeli targets, including densely populated areas. He denied rockets had been launched from populated areas in the Gaza Strip, claiming that “most” of them had been launched from the border (Sky News, May 24, 2021).
A journalist reports on Hezbollah appeals to Hamas to continue the hostilities
Ibrahim al-Amin, a political columnist affiliated with Hezbollah, wrote an article entitled
“Challenges after the war – The enemy has a plan to isolate the resistance.” He claimed that during the most recent hostilities Israel had not foreseen that Hamas’ military capabilities would be more than equal for Israel. He claimed that the Iron Dome aerial defense system had had to face the challenge of the rockets of Hamas’ ability to evade it. Now, after the hostilities, Israel, he claimed, would try to tempt Hamas into abandoning the “resistance axis” and isolate it from Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and the organizations in Iraq and Yemen. He said Hamas had to stay with the “resistance axis,” reinforce its existing capabilities and construct new ones, and create a new balance of power with Israel. He also wrote that Hamas had a responsibility to lead the hostilities in all the Palestinian territories and establish an equation in which the Gaza Strip equaled Jerusalem. That would require Hamas’ popular presence in the field in the “occupied territories” and continual rocket fire attacking Israel’s vital facilities. He claimed Hamas would not stand alone and if necessary, the “resistance axis” would lead the overall battle (al-Akhbar, May 24, 2021).
Judea and Samaria
Attacks and attempted attacks
During Operation Guardian of the Walls there was an increase in clashes and riots in Judea,
Samaria and east Jerusalem between the Palestinians and the Israeli security forces. There
was also a significant increase in the terrorist attacks carried out in Judea and Samaria, with ten carried out, most of them shooting attacks.
Stabbing attack in Jerusalem
On May 24, 2021, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a stabbing attack at the Ammunition Hill station of the light railway in Jerusalem, near the Israel Police national headquarters.
According to the initial investigation, he went to the train station and stabbed a civilian. An
IDF soldier who saw the attack tried to stop it and was stabbed in the back. A Border
Policeman present at the time chased the attacker and shot and killed him. The civilian and
soldier were seriously wounded. The Palestinian media reported the terrorist who carried out the stabbing was Zuhdi al-Tawil, 17, from Kafr ‘Aqab north of Jerusalem (QudsN Facebook page, May 24, 2021).
Zuhdi al-Tawil (QudsN Facebook page, May 24, 2021).
Rocks, Molotov cocktails and other events
Meanwhile, incited by recent tensions, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria increased rock
and Molotov cocktail attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian vehicles driving on the roads. The more serious events were the following:1
1 All information and reports are from Rescue Without Borders in Judea and Samaria unless otherwise noted.
May 24, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at IDF forces northwest of Ramallah. A Palestinian
was wounded in the leg when the forces followed protocol for apprehending suspects.
May 21, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at IDF soldiers south of Nablus. Three were
superficially wounded and did not require medical attention.
May 20, 2021 – Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Tomb of Rachel compound in
Bethlehem. No casualties or damage were reported.
May 20 2021 – An IED was planted southeast of Jenin. No casualties or damage were
May 19, 2021 – A rock was thrown at an Israeli vehicle southeast of Nablus. No
casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged.
May 19, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus and other vehicles west of
Ramallah. No casualties were reported. The vehicles were damaged.
May 18, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle northeast of Ramallah. No
casualties were reported. The vehicle was damaged.
May 18, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle northwest of Ramallah. The
driver was superficially injured by flying glass and a passenger went into shock.
May 18, 2021 – Rocks were thrown at an Israeli vehicle south of Nablus. One
passenger was superficially injured and another went into shock. The front windshield
The damage done to the vehicle.
May 18, 2021 – Molotov cocktails were thrown at a vehicle on the Gush Etzion-Hebron
road northwest of Hebron. A passenger went into shock.
May 18, 2021 – Burning tires were placed on the security fence of the community of
Har Gilo, northeast of Bethlehem. Molotov cocktails were thrown, one of them landing
near the front door of a home. No casualties were reported. Damage was reported.
On the night of May 24, 2021, during an Israeli security force action in Ramallah to locate
terrorist operatives a Palestinian was shot and killed. The Palestinian media reported the
death of Ahmed Fahad from the al-Am’ari refugee camp. According to reports he belonged to a Fatah-affiliated family. His body was wrapped in a Fatah flag for burial.
Rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel
During Operation Guardian of the Walls 4,360 rockets were fired at Israel. 3,573 rocket
hits were identified in Israeli territory, the rest fell either in the Gaza Strip or into the sea.
The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted about 90% of the rockets which targeted
populated areas. Eleven civilians were killed by rocket fire and one soldier was killed by an
anti-tank missile. Two civilians were killed while running to take shelter. Several hundred
civilians were injured, and residences, several educational institutions, industries,
commercial buildings and agricultural structures were damaged or destroyed. The IDF
attacked about 1,500 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.
A significant attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicular attack, the use of 2 IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
Attempts to smuggle raw materials to manufacture weapons into the Gaza Strip
Before the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israeli Defense Minister Benny
Gantz signed five administrative orders for the confiscation of chemicals and equipment at
the Kerem Shalom Crossing. They were being smuggled into the Gaza Strip and included
potassium, chlorine and glycerin, and communications equipment. According to suspicions,
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing would use the chemicals to manufacture explosives (Israeli
media, May 24, 2021).
Some of the equipment confiscated at the crossing (Israeli defense ministry, May 24, 2021)
Attempts to smuggle gold from the Gaza Strip into Judea and Samaria
Meanwhile, the defense minister signed an order for the confiscation of gold worth about $300,000. The gold was sent from the Gaza Strip and smuggled into Judea and Samaria as nails in wooden pallets. The gold was apparently meant to fund Hamas terrorist activity in Judea and Samaria (Israeli media, May 24, 2021).
Gold cast as nails and incorporated into a shipment of wooden pallets (uncredited photo).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
On May 24, 2021, the ministry of health in Gaza announced that during Operation Guardian
of the Walls 253 Palestinians were killed, 66 of them children, 39 women and 17 old people, and 1,948 people were wounded (ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, May 24, 2021).
Aid for the Gaza Strip
During Operation Guardian of the Walls the Gaza Strip crossings were closed, however,
starting on May 25, 2021, the Kerem Shalom Crossing reopened for the passage of
humanitarian assistance. Medical equipment, food and fuel for the private sector are among
the items that can be delivered to the Gaza Strip. So far exports from the Gaza Strip have not been allowed. Gazans can exit the Strip through the Erez Crossing for life-saving medical treatment and representatives of international organizations and the intifada press can enter. In addition, On May 25, 2021, the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza was reopened to a distance of six nautical miles.
Activity after the reopening of the fishing zone (Palinfo Twitter account, May 25, 2021)
In the meantime, convoys of humanitarian assistance donated by various sources began
deliveries to the Gaza Strip, entering through the Rafah Crossing.
On May 23, 2021, a convoy of Egyptian aid from the Long Live Egypt foundation arrived carrying more than 30 tons of equipment and food (Wafa, May 23, 2021). Muhammad Mukhtar, spokesman for Long Live Egypt, said that in three days they had organized 130 trucks. The foundation opened a designated bank account and many Egyptians had made donations. He added that a team from the foundation had gone to Rafah to ensure the assistance reached its correct destination (al-Shorouk, May 23, 2021).
Humanitarian assistance from Egypt for the Gaza Strip
(Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, May 23, 2021).
A convoy of 150 tons of food from the al-Azhar Institution was delivered to the Gaza
Strip (al-Shorouk, May 24, 2021).
A truck from al-Hikma, a Jordanian pharmaceutical company, sent by the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, arrived in the Gaza Strip with vital drugs worth about $1.5 million. It was the second Jordanian truck to reach the Gaza Strip (Jordanian News Agency, May 24, 2021).
The government of Belgium announced a donation of €8 million for humanitarian assistance for the Gaza Strip. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki thanked Belgium for the donation (Dunia al-Watan, May 22, 2021).
The UN Security Council emphasized the need for immediate humanitarian assistance for the Gaza Strip, and Mark Lowcock, the UN emergency relief coordinator, allotted $22.5 million (UN website, May 23, 2021).
Interviewed by Israel’s Channel 12 TV, Mathias Shimali, UNRWA director in the Gaza Strip, said he agreed with the IDF’s claim that during Operation Guardian of the Walls its attacks were precise and did not target innocent civilian bystanders. Hamas said in response that they were “shocked” by what Shimali had said, who spoke as an IDF spokesman or commentator, which “justified attacks” on civilians and their houses, underestimated Hamas’ losses and praised the IDF’s capabilities.
Rebuilding the Gaza Strip
Once the ceasefire went into effect Hamas began enlisting international support and
assistance to rebuild the Gaza Strip. Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s high representative,
said the EU could not be expected to finance the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip yet again in the absence of any significant hope for a resolution of the issues at the heart of the conflict
(EU website, May 24, 2021).
Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, and his deputy Saleh al-‘Arouri, met with
Tamim bin Hamad, the emir of Qatar. Haniyeh thanked the emir for his support of Hamas
and Qatar’s efforts to stop Israeli aggression. Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader outside the
Gaza Strip, called for urgent assistance for the families of killed and wounded Gazans and for those whose houses had been destroyed. He also called for aid for the residents of
Jerusalem, especially in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Isma’il Haniyeh
also met with PIJ leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah to discuss the “victory of the resistance and the
Palestinian people.” They sent a joint message to the families of the killed and wounded, and to families whose houses had been destroyed, stating that they stood with them (White House, May 23, 2021).
Funerals and victory marches
Hamas has begun constructing its victory narrative with rallies and other public events. On
May 23, 2021, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing held its first military display since the end of the hostilities. It was dedicated to the memory of Bassam Issa, commander of the wing’s Gaza Brigade, killed by Israel in a targeted attack (al-Araby al-Jadeed, May 23, 2021).
Hamas military-terrorist wing victory display (al-Araby al-Jadeed, May 23, 2021).
On May 24, 2021, Hamas held a rally in Gaza City to commemorate the Gazans killed in the
most recent hostilities. Attended by Yahya al-Sinwar, it was his first public appearance since
the ceasefire. He did not give a speech, but held up the rifle-holding infant son of Usama alZabda (of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades leadership, who was killed in the operation) (Palinfo Twitter account, May 24, 2021). Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, said Jerusalem and al-Aqsa mosque were a red line and the [terrorist organizations] were prepared for any eventuality with Israel. He said their fingers were on the trigger and they were waiting for a call (al-Mayadeen TV, May 24, 2021).
Appeal lodged with the International Criminal Court
According to reports, the owners of multistory buildings in the Gaza Strip attacked by the IDF during the hostilities have appealed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. They claimed that by attacking the buildings Israel deliberately increased the number of casualties. Jawad al-Mahdi, owner of the al-Jalaa Building, where foreign news agencies also had their offices, said they were working to establish a case against the government of Israel and that they were in contact with human rights organizations around the globe (al-Araby TV, May 24, 2021).
The Palestinian Authority (PA)
Gilboa (Jalameh) Crossing opened
The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that
after a year during which the crossing had been closed because of the coronavirus, and as
part of efforts to promote the Palestinian economy in Jenin, the crossing would reopen in
both directions for the passage of vehicles on May 25, 2021 (COGAT website, May 24, 2021).
Temple Mount tensions continue
Despite the ceasefire, the tension in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem has not eased.
According to al-Jazeera TV, on the evening of May 23, 2021, 253 Jews entered the Temple
Mount compound. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, called on the
American administration to intervene quickly to put a stop to Israel’s [so-called] “policies of
provocation and escalation.” He warned the Israeli government of a return to “escalation”
and tension caused by the “forced entrance of settlers” into al-Aqsa mosque, the continuing
“siege” of Sheikh Jarrah and the ongoing detention of Palestinians (Wafa, May 23, 2021).
The PA foreign ministry condemned the entrance of IDF forces, the police and Jewish
civilians into the Temple Mount compound and al-Aqsa mosque. According to the ministry,
Israel is fully responsible for the events. The ministry also called on the international
community to take responsibility for putting a stop to the crimes carried out by Israel (Sawa, May 23, 2021). Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki met with Ayman al-Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, to discuss what was described as “coordination for dealing with Israel’s violations in Jerusalem of the holy and other sites (Amun News Agency, May 23, 2021).
Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, who delivers sermons in al-Aqsa mosque, said the “invasions”
“proved” Israel was trying to use al-Aqsa mosque to show it had not been defeated in the war it had waged on the Gaza Strip (al-Andalou News, May 23, 2021).
Given the [spurious] claims that radical Jews were planning to destroy al-Aqsa mosque,
Sheikh Muhammad Yassin, the mufti of the PA and Jerusalem, called on Muslims to go to
the Temple Mount on May 25, 2021. He said that as long as Israeli settlers continued visiting the Temple Mount the battle for Jerusalem would continue. He also condemned Israel’s intention to evict 28 families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem, claiming the court in Israel did not rule in favor of the Palestinians and was “an arm of [Zionist] imperialism” (Wafa, May 25, 2021).
Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the official PA newspaper, published an article entitled “The Electronic
Intifada,” used by Palestinians in east Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and by Israeli Arabs for a campaign to showcase the issue of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa mosque in the international media through the social networks. According to the article, behind the
campaign are smart activists who use their knowledge and education as well as progress and sophisticated equipment to market and transmit the “hardships” of the residents of east Jerusalem caused by Israel’s actions (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, May 25, 2021).