July 23, 2009: After a month of quiet, there have been two rocket or mortar attacks from Gaza in the last week. There has also been some rifle fire from inside Gaza, at Israeli troops patrolling the security fence. Israeli troops entered Gaza in response, and returned fire. Israeli police continue to make raids into the West Bank to arrest terrorism suspects. Fatah and Israeli police are cooperating to identify and round up Hamas terrorists. Pro-Fatah terrorist groups are chased down by the Israelis alone, although Fatah does not interfere as much as it used.
Arrests of suspected Israeli spies continue in Lebanon. Over fifty people have been taken into custody so far, although not all are believed to be Israeli agents. That Israeli spies existed in Lebanon has long been understood, but not much discussed. Many Lebanese were shocked at the degree to which Israel had penetrated the Lebanese government and armed forces, and the sophistication of the equipment captured with some of the spies. The big question is, how many networks remain? The current arrests only involve a few separate cells. Typical spycraft sets up as many independent (of each other) spy cells as possible, and Israel is believed to have more that are undetected and still active. While the espionage "problem" is now part of the Lebanese peace talks, the major issue blocking progress here is Hezbollah, and its growing control in the south, near the Israeli border. This is happening under the gaze of the UN peacekeepers, who are supposed to halt the militarization of the area (by Hezbollah) but do not.
Israel is having a growing problem with its Jewish religious radicals. These ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews now comprise about 14 percent of the population, and are the fastest growing portion of the population. The Haredi are very poor (most men spend the bulk of their time in religious studies), but increasingly violent when it comes to imposing their customs (no traffic on the Sabbath, no advertising of women or women and men together on the same bus). Street demonstrations are increasingly common, as is physical violence (stabbings and shootings). The Haredi believe their religious laws trump secular ones, and this increasingly brings them into violent conflict with the police, and their secular neighbors. Most Haredi men do not serve in the military, and some sects believe that Israel should not exist.
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas (to open the Gaza borders, and halt Hamas attacks on Israel) are stalemated, as are talks between Hamas and Fatah (to determine who will speak for all Palestinians. Currently no one does, and that does not seem likely to change any time soon.)
Hamas has said it will not interfere if Fatah and Israel negotiate some kind of peace deal. This would permanently split the Palestinian community, between the one in Gaza and those in the West Bank. Those two communities have always been different, in addition to being physically separated. Gaza is basically a refugee camp, and should belong to Egypt. The West Bank is territory captured from Jordan in 1967, and occupied by Arabs who have been there for generations.
There's continued talk of an Israeli air raid on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, but no action. Israel does appear to have formed an informal alliance with several Arab states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) against Iran. The Arabs cannot officially admit to an alliance with Israel, because of decades of state sponsored anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) propaganda. Some of this propaganda is being shut down, quietly. Something is going on here.
An important test of the Arrow anti-missile missile, held on the U.S. West Coast, failed. The test was for new technology that would enable Arrow to shoot down the very long range (over 2,000 kilometers) Iranians missiles.
July 21, 2009: A bomb went off at the wedding of a nephew of a Fatah leader. Fifty people were injured, and Hamas was suspected of being responsible. The Fatah leader in question, Mohammed Dahlan, has been responsible for many of the anti-Hamas operations in the West Bank.
July 17, 2009: Fifteen Lebanese civilians (most of them women and children) crossed a remote part of the Lebanese border, waved some Hezbollah flags, and quickly moved back across the border when Israeli troops showed up. Hezbollah has long used civilians as human shields, and this incident may indicate an escalation in those tactics. For several decades now, Hezbollah has been indoctrinating children about how great it is to die for Islam (as a fighter, suicide bomber or human shield). Many Shia civilians are willing to be human shields for Hezbollah terrorists, and others can easily be coerced.
July 14, 2009: A house exploded in southern Lebanon, as rockets and other weapons stored there by Hezbollah somehow caught fire. Hezbollah denied that the explosive materials was theirs, and said the explosives were very old artillery shells. No one believed that, for Hezbollah has been vigorously building new storage bunkers under homes and businesses, and filling them with rockets and other weapons brought in from Syria (and supplied by Iran). Israel has warned Lebanon that, if there is another attack on Israel by Hezbollah, the damage to southern Lebanon will be greater than in 2006. That's because back then, Hezbollah stored a larger proportion of its weapons away from villages and civilian structures. Not so this time, so Israel is targeting all the civilian buildings believed to conceal Hezbollah fighters. The Lebanese government, however, cannot control the Shia minority that, mainly through Hezbollah, does what it wants in the south. Lebanon does not want another civil war, and that's what Hezbollah threatens to start if the Lebanese government tries to curb Hezbollah activities. The UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon are also cowed, although they deny it.
July 13, 2009: Two Israeli Saar class warships passed through the Suez canal, to the Red Sea. An Israeli submarine, that had passed through the canal (the first Israeli warship ever to do so) last month to the Red Sea, recently returned via the canal.