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Israel: Iran Closes In
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May 1, 2010: Several weeks ago, Israel accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with SCUD ballistic missiles. This sort of thing has been rumored for more than a year. With a range of several hundred kilometers, such missiles could hit any part of Israel with large (half ton) warheads. Syria and Hezbollah denied such a transfer, but recently, Hezbollah has been boasting that it has received longer range missiles that enable it to hit any part of Israel. Hezbollah used longer range rockets (not ballistic missiles) during the 2006 war, but not ones that could strike all of Israel. All this is apparently related to growing Iranian fears of an Israeli attack. Israel is fearful of Iran developing nuclear weapons, and making an air attack on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities is often talked about. Syria and Hezbollah are clients (heavily influenced, but not subordinates) of Iran and are expected to attack Israel if Israel bombed Iran. Israel would be under a lot of voter pressure to find and destroy Hezbollah Scuds if Hezbollah openly boasted of having them, so Hezbollah is coy about the matter.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has other problems. The radical Islamic organization is trying to take control of the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has already collected several non-Shia factions as allies, but most Lebanese still resist Hezbollah domination (because Hezbollah is likely to trigger another war with Israel, and because Hezbollah is an ally of Syria, which believes Lebanon should be part of "Greater Syria.")

Corruption has always been widespread in the Middle East, and Israeli officials are more frequently getting caught taking bribes. Over a dozen prominent politicians are currently being prosecuted for taking bribes to allow the construction of a widely unpopular high rise apartment complex (Holyland). Even former prime ministers are being prosecuted. The corruption is much worse among the Arabs (and the Israelis descended from Jews expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s), but these days, it's merely a matter of degree.

The Palestinian government in the West Bank is trying to have it both ways. The Fatah leadership are trying to show they are more radical than Hamas by naming streets and squares after dead Palestinian suicide bombers that killed Jews. But the Palestinian police are trying, with some success, to keep Western news media from filming those places or interviewing Palestinians about the official Fatah policy that Israel does not exist and "peace negotiations" are simply tactical moves to weaken the "Zionists" so that all Jews can be killed or expelled from the Middle East (at least that's how it's described in Palestinian Arab language news media and school textbooks).

Hamas, continues to impose the kind of lifestyle rules common in Iran. Recently, Hamas broke up a large concert of popular music (rap, hip-hop). Women are increasingly restricted in what they can wear (no jeans) and do (no going to cafes or restaurants without a male relative). Many Gazans are unhappy with this, but Iran has also helped show Hamas how to run a more efficient police state, and keep opposition groups under control.

Hamas is cracking down on the drug trade, and recently burned two million pain killer pills it had seized from smugglers. Thousands of Gaza residents are addicted to pain killers. Hamas has raised taxes on legal addictions (cigarettes, luxury cars and so on), and has raised fees smuggling tunnel operators must pay to stay open. Meanwhile, Egypt continues to search for and destroy tunnels. Egypt recently bought another 200 homes and businesses near the border, and demolished the structures so they could not be used by tunnel operators. Egypt has been moving its citizens farther and farther from the border, as tunnel operators dig their tunnels farther into Egypt to escape the police. All this effort shows down the tunnel operations, but does not stop them.

Islamic radicals continue to skirmish with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank this often means throwing gasoline bombs at troops or police, or using knives or guns in suicidal attacks.  The police have had to crack down more on Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who have become more violent in their response to Palestinian attacks.

April 26, 2010: In the West Bank, Israeli police located a wanted Hamas terrorist, who refused to surrender, then fired on police, and was killed.

April 22, 2010:  Two 122mm rockets landed, without doing any damage, in Jordan near the Israeli border (Aqaba). There was a similar attack five years ago, involving three rockets. Al Qaeda members were caught and prosecuted for that one. No one took credit for this attack.

April 17, 2010: In Gaza, two Islamic terrorists were killed when a bomb they were transporting malfunctioned and went off.

April 15, 2010: For the first time, Gaza held public executions (of two men accused of being Israeli informants). Hamas has informally killed hundreds of opponents in the last five years.

April 14, 2010: Hamas agreed to temporarily close smuggling tunnels, because Egypt was concerned about threats to kidnap Israelis vacationing in Egyptian Sinai resorts. Over 600 Israeli tourists were persuaded to quickly return to Israel. Apparently Israeli and Egyptian intelligence were persuaded that this was a real threat, and Hamas saw an opportunity to improve relations with the Egyptians.

April 13, 2010:  Four armed Palestinians were killed, and two wounded, when Israeli troops caught the six near the border fence. Hamas has boasted of its intention to kidnap more Israeli soldiers (they already hold one), so the Israelis fire on sight when they catch armed Palestinians near the Gaza border fence.

April 9, 2010: The only electrical power plant in Gaza shut down because of a feud between Hamas and Fatah over who should pay what for the fuel. Both Palestinian groups blamed Israel, which allows fuel in, if someone will pay for it. That shut down persuaded Fatah and Hamas to settle their dispute, and fuel purchases resumed, and the plant began operating again after two days.

Iran Closes In

 

May 1, 2010: Several weeks ago, Israel accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with SCUD ballistic missiles. This sort of thing has been rumored for more than a year. With a range of several hundred kilometers, such missiles could hit any part of Israel with large (half ton) warheads. Syria and Hezbollah denied such a transfer, but recently, Hezbollah has been boasting that it has received longer range missiles that enable it to hit any part of Israel. Hezbollah used longer range rockets (not ballistic missiles) during the 2006 war, but not ones that could strike all of Israel. All this is apparently related to growing Iranian fears of an Israeli attack. Israel is fearful of Iran developing nuclear weapons, and making an air attack on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities is often talked about. Syria and Hezbollah are clients (heavily influenced, but not subordinates) of Iran and are expected to attack Israel if Israel bombed Iran. Israel would be under a lot of voter pressure to find and destroy Hezbollah Scuds if Hezbollah openly boasted of having them, so Hezbollah is coy about the matter.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has other problems. The radical Islamic organization is trying to take control of the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has already collected several non-Shia factions as allies, but most Lebanese still resist Hezbollah domination (because Hezbollah is likely to trigger another war with Israel, and because Hezbollah is an ally of Syria, which believes Lebanon should be part of "Greater Syria.")

Corruption has always been widespread in the Middle East, and Israeli officials are more frequently getting caught taking bribes. Over a dozen prominent politicians are currently being prosecuted for taking bribes to allow the construction of a widely unpopular high rise apartment complex (Holyland). Even former prime ministers are being prosecuted. The corruption is much worse among the Arabs (and the Israelis descended from Jews expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s), but these days, it's merely a matter of degree.

The Palestinian government in the West Bank is trying to have it both ways. The Fatah leadership are trying to show they are more radical than Hamas by naming streets and squares after dead Palestinian suicide bombers that killed Jews. But the Palestinian police are trying, with some success, to keep Western news media from filming those places or interviewing Palestinians about the official Fatah policy that Israel does not exist and "peace negotiations" are simply tactical moves to weaken the "Zionists" so that all Jews can be killed or expelled from the Middle East (at least that's how it's described in Palestinian Arab language news media and school textbooks).

Hamas, continues to impose the kind of lifestyle rules common in Iran. Recently, Hamas broke up a large concert of popular music (rap, hip-hop). Women are increasingly restricted in what they can wear (no jeans) and do (no going to cafes or restaurants without a male relative). Many Gazans are unhappy with this, but Iran has also helped show Hamas how to run a more efficient police state, and keep opposition groups under control.

Hamas is cracking down on the drug trade, and recently burned two million pain killer pills it had seized from smugglers. Thousands of Gaza residents are addicted to pain killers. Hamas has raised taxes on legal addictions (cigarettes, luxury cars and so on), and has raised fees smuggling tunnel operators must pay to stay open. Meanwhile, Egypt continues to search for and destroy tunnels. Egypt recently bought another 200 homes and businesses near the border, and demolished the structures so they could not be used by tunnel operators. Egypt has been moving its citizens farther and farther from the border, as tunnel operators dig their tunnels farther into Egypt to escape the police. All this effort shows down the tunnel operations, but does not stop them.

Islamic radicals continue to skirmish with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank this often means throwing gasoline bombs at troops or police, or using knives or guns in suicidal attacks.  The police have had to crack down more on Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who have become more violent in their response to Palestinian attacks.

April 26, 2010: In the West Bank, Israeli police located a wanted Hamas terrorist, who refused to surrender, then fired on police, and was killed.

April 22, 2010:  Two 122mm rockets landed, without doing any damage, in Jordan near the Israeli border (Aqaba). There was a similar attack five years ago, involving three rockets. Al Qaeda members were caught and prosecuted for that one. No one took credit for this attack.

April 17, 2010: In Gaza, two Islamic terrorists were killed when a bomb they were transporting malfunctioned and went off.

April 15, 2010: For the first time, Gaza held public executions (of two men accused of being Israeli informants). Hamas has informally killed hundreds of opponents in the last five years.

April 14, 2010: Hamas agreed to temporarily close smuggling tunnels, because Egypt was concerned about threats to kidnap Israelis vacationing in Egyptian Sinai resorts. Over 600 Israeli tourists were persuaded to quickly return to Israel. Apparently Israeli and Egyptian intelligence were persuaded that this was a real threat, and Hamas saw an opportunity to improve relations with the Egyptians.

April 13, 2010:  Four armed Palestinians were killed, and two wounded, when Israeli troops caught the six near the border fence. Hamas has boasted of its intention to kidnap more Israeli soldiers (they already hold one), so the Israelis fire on sight when they catch armed Palestinians near the Gaza border fence.

April 9, 2010: The only electrical power plant in Gaza shut down because of a feud between Hamas and Fatah over who should pay what for the fuel. Both Palestinian groups blamed Israel, which allows fuel in, if someone will pay for it. That shut down persuaded Fatah and Hamas to settle their dispute, and fuel purchases resumed, and the plant began operating again after two days.

Next Article → SEA TRANSPORTATION: Japan Builds First Foreign Base Since World War II