A large gathering of Fatah activists are trying to determine how to resume negotiations with Israel, and Hamas. The Palestinians remain divided into Hamas and Fatah factions, although leaders from both groups have been more united in their public pronouncements of how important it was to destroy Israel. The two factions differ on how they plan to go about this. Fatah takes a longer view, and is willing to wait decades for the higher Arab birth rate and growing anti-Israeli attitudes in the West, to do the job. Hamas is piling up rockets and other weapons, and wants to destroy Israel by force, as soon as possible. Neither faction is willing to negotiate a meaningful, long term, peace deal with Israel. At least that's what they tell their followers.
Because of the sharp reduction in terrorist activity in the West Bank over the last few years, Israel will stop manning dozens of concrete watch towers and low lying bunkers (pill boxes). Another reason for getting the troops out of the concrete structures, is because many soldiers just goofed off (drank alcohol or smoked marijuana) while on tower or pillbox duty. Because of the great expense, the concrete structures will not be dismantled, but instead locked up.
August 1, 2009: An Israeli court convicted a Fatah official, Fuad Shubaki, who, under the orders of the late Yasser Arafat, organized the shipment of fifty tons of Iranian weapons on a ship that was intercepted by Israeli commandos off the coast in 2002. Shubaki was caught in 2006.
July 28, 2009: In Gaza, a smuggling tunnel with a fuel pipeline caught fire because of an electrical spark, killing seven Palestinians in the tunnel at the time. So far this year, over a hundred Palestinians have died in the tunnels, usually from collapses of the compacted sand the tunnels are dug in. Israel believes there are 300-800 tunnels operating, which employ at least 4,000 Palestinians. Given that the Gaza border under Egyptian control is only about 14 kilometers long, it would appear that the actual number of operating tunnels is closer to a hundred, or less. In the last few months, Egyptian police have cracked down on tunnels devoted to moving weapons into Gaza. The tunnels for consumer goods have been left alone, as long as they pay off the cops.
July 27, 2009: Fatah has called 1,500 key members to a meeting in the West Bank, to discuss and vote on key issues. But Hamas refuses to let 400 Fatah members to leave Gaza until Fatah releases many Hamas members imprisoned in the West Bank. Israel prevented the few Fatah members Hamas did allow to leave Gaza, to travel to the West Bank. At the same time, the senior (Hamas appointed) judge in Gaza ordered female lawyers to begin wearing headscarves, and a burqa like dress under their judicial robes, starting in September. The bar association in Gaza protested.
July 25, 2009: Hamas negotiators have added the names of 20 Israeli Arab terrorists to the list of about a thousand Palestinian terrorists that Hamas wants released, in return for the freedom of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for three years. Earlier this year, negotiations broke down, over the issue of how many senior terrorists would be released, and how many would be released outside of Gaza or the West Bank. In response to this, Israel arrested ten Hamas leaders in the West Bank, and restricted visitors and packages for 11,000 Palestinian prisoners. Negotiations remain stalled.
July 24, 2009: In Gaza, two Palestinian terrorists were killed by an explosive device they were transporting. Such accidents are more common over the last decade because of Israeli tactics of going after the technical experts who build bombs.