November 21, 2019:
The Gaza based and Iran backed Islamic Jihad Islamic terror group has declared the latest round of fighting with Israel over after having achieved its purpose. Exactly what that purpose was is hard to see. Islamic Jihad lost its leader to an Israeli airstrike, used a lot of its rockets against Israel, caused some damage but did not kill any Israelis. Islamic Jihad also lost a lot of rockets before they could be fired because of airstrikes against rocket storage sites and rocket building workshops. Islamic Jihad did show off some of its new (to Gaza) rocket designs they obtained from Iran. These Badr 3 unguided rockets have a longer range (40 kilometers) and larger warheads (250 kg/550 pounds). Israeli voters have seen the immense damage these inaccurate rockets can do and are putting more pressure on the government to destroy the stockpiles in Gaza. That is difficult to do because most of these rockets are deliberately stored in residential neighborhoods or in schools and hospitals.
Israel is also being blamed for a week of violent protests in Iran that have left as many as 200 dead and caused half a billion dollars in damage. The government mobilized over 100,000 IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) reservists to help control the continuing protests. Millions of Iranians are protesting government mismanagement of the economy and the resulting growth in the cost-or-living and the percentage of Iranians slipping into poverty. Desperate to reduce expenses, a week ago the government eliminated fuel subsidies. This meant Iranians suddenly had to pay three times as much for petroleum products. That meant 25 cents a liter ($1.10 a gallon) to heat your home or run your car (cab or truck), which was a painful burden to small businesses as well as families. It was the last straw for many Iranians and violent demonstrations began. The crowds called for an end to the religious dictatorship and establishment of a real democracy. Again there were also calls for an end to Islam in Iran but the majority of rioters wanted economic relief. The government blamed the United States and Israel but the government has been doing that for decades and Iranians have noted that the problems are the work of their own corrupt and incompetent leaders.
Bloody public protests against the Iranian government have already been going on in Iraq and Lebanon. The violence in Lebanon has been so severe that the economy is suffering and the elected government has collapsed. It is almost as bad in Iraq.
Iran And Syria
Israel has become more aggressive against what Iran is doing in Syria to prepare for major attacks on Israel. At the same time, Iran and Russia are backing Syrian forces coming to the aid of the Kurds. Russia needs to remain on good terms with Israel despite the fact the Russian allies (or “partners”) in Syria (Turkey, Iran and the Assads) all want Israel destroyed. Israel will continue to attack any Iranian moves towards Israel, especially the Israeli border and those attacks have recently become more intense.
Iran was surprised by the Americans withdrawing their troops from Syria and leaving the Kurds without American air support and the presence of U.S. troops. That was not entirely true as the Americans are keeping some troops, and air support, to protect the Kurdish run oil fields in eastern Syria. The Americans moved their withdrawing troops to the Iraq border. The Iranians have more than Turkey and Israel to worry about. The Syrian effort is costing Iran a lot of money which it cannot afford. This has led to a major reduction in Iranian mercenary forces in Syria. Quds and IRGC forces there are mainly concerned with carrying out an attack on Israel. The humiliation of constant defeats in the form of Israeli airstrikes and loss of Iranian lives has enraged the Iranian government, but it has not empowered it to do any better. So far Iran has tolerated the losses and continues to pour resources into permanently establishing itself in Syria. Iran is determined to finally achieve a victory over Israel using the growing presence it has in Syria but is encountering resistance from Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and most NATO nations. Now there is the Turkish invasion that has made the Iranians a potential battlefield opponent of the Turks. Iran made it clear it was not willing to do much about halting the invading Turks. Over the last four centuries, Iran has fought the Turks many times and usually lost. The same pattern exists with Israel and over the last two centuries Russia has also been a difficult foe. Back in Iran most Iranians are more willing to recognize what a bad place Syria is for Iran and since 2017 there have been more and more public protests about that, and other shortcomings of the Iranian government.
November 20, 2019: Both Palestinian factions (Hamas and Fatah) are under growing pressure because of the amount of foreign aid they spend on encouraging terrorism. These payments go to imprisoned terrorists or the families of dead ones. Between Hamas and Fatah spend over $200 million a year on this and payments on this scale would not be possible without using foreign aid funds. Recently, embarrassed by published details of how this works, many donor countries are cutting their aid in a show of opposition to this “Pay For Slay” policy. In the United States Palestinian charities are being sued for illegally soliciting money for needy Palestinians and using a lot of the contributions for supporting terrorism (either for "Pay for Slay" or to finance current and future attacks.) The “Pay for Slay” program is very popular among Palestinians because it makes the losses they suffer for carrying out these attacks easier to tolerate. This makes it easier for Fatah and Hamas to continue avoiding restoring a united Palestinian government. The split occurred a decade ago when Hamas won local Gaza elections in 2007 and outlawed any future elections and declared itself the true leader of the Palestinians. Fatah and most Palestinians disagreed and a decade of negotiating has changed nothing.
November 19, 2019: In the north, four rockets were fired at Israel from Syria and intercepted by Iron Dome. This was believed to be the work of Iran. In response, over the next 24 hours, dozens of airstrikes were carried out against Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria, all within 80 kilometers of the Israeli border. In addition to substantial material damage, at least 24 people were killed, most of them apparently Iranians. Four civilians were wounded but most of the casualties were Iranian or Iranian allies. The main targets were Quds force and IRGC bases as well as Syrian air defense systems and military bases in general. Anything connected with the Iranian effort to attack Israel was more likely to be hit. Some or all of the civilian casualties were the result of Syrian air defense missiles hitting the ground. In several cases missiles failed to launch properly and fell, intact, into residential areas.
Once the attacks were over the Israeli Defense Minister warned Iranian leaders in Syria and Iran that they were not immune to attack. The implication was that if Iran continued militarizing Syria for attacks on Israel, the conflict would get more personal for the Iranian leadership, who would be considered prime targets. Iranian leaders have already recognized this danger and adopted more security measures to make it more difficult for any form of assassination to take place.
November 18, 2019: In the north, the military conducted a “no-notice” two day training exercise to test skills and readiness of air and ground combat units. The exercise involved calling up some local reservists, as would happen if there were an actual attack from Lebanon or Syria. These no-notice events are carried out often enough to keep the troops mentally and materially prepared for the real thing.
November 17, 2019: Russia criticized the Israeli airstrikes in Syria but that was it. Russia is an ally of Syria and Iran but has made it clear it is not willing to go to war with Israel in support of that alliance. Russia does not want to discuss the ineffectiveness of the Russian made air defense systems Syria uses. Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria over the last few years and the Syrian Air Defenses have not been able to shoot down any Israeli warplanes. One Israeli F-16 did get damaged and crash landed in Israel but that was more about pilot error than effective air defenses.
November 16, 2019: In the south (Gaza), multiple Israeli airstrikes hit Islamic terrorist targets throughout Gaza. This was in response to two rockets fired at Israel hours earlier. Israel eavesdropped on a phone conversation between the new Islamic Jihad leader and his Hamas counterpart. The Hamas leader offered condolences for the loss of the Islamic Jihad leader to an Israeli airstrike and pledged Hamas' cooperation in retaliating against Israel. Despite this, the latest airstrikes avoided hitting Hamas and concentrated on Islamic Jihad. In general, Hamas was standing aside this time and leaving Islamic Jihad on its own. Islamic Jihad is more hated in Gaza and Egypt because it is more destructive, less reliable and working for Iran. Both Israel and Egypt see Iran as the enemy and Hamas goes along with that if only because most Gazans are also anti-Iran.
November 15, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Hamas leaders arrived at the “mourning tent” erected so mourners could honor the memory of the Islamic Jihad leaders killed on the 12th. The Hamas men were expelled from the tent by angry Islamic Jihad members. Hamas leaders had not immediately offered condolences to Islamic Jihad and the dead leader's family and this was seen as a sign of disrespect. Islamic Jihad expected more support from Hamas, which normally sees Islamic Jihad as an annoying and much smaller rival. Hamas is particularly critical of Islamic Jihad becoming dependent on Iran. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have worked out an arrangement that keeps Hamas from going to war with Islamic Jihad and seeking to destroy it, as it did successfully when an ISIL affiliate sought to establish itself in Gaza. This “arrangement” includes Hamas controlling many of the Islamic Jihad rocket stockpiles and various other restrictions. These to not prevent Islamic Jihad from independently attacking Israel but does limit the extent of such attacks. Iran ordered Islamic Jihad to agree to these restrictions because the Iranians understood that Hamas could, if they felt they had to, destroy Islamic Jihad.
Israel pointed out that they did not promise to halt attacks on Islamic Jihad leaders when the current ceasefire was negotiated (with the help of Egypt). Islamic Jihad leaders had demanded an end to Israeli attacks on Islamic terrorist leaders and Israel refused. But somehow Islamic Jihad negotiators believed otherwise, or perhaps they feared repercussions if they agreed to a ceasefire without getting assurances that “targeted killings” would cease.
November 14, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Israel and Islamic Jihad agreed to a ceasefire. Since the 12th about 450 rockets have been fired at Israel and dozens of retaliatory airstrikes have hit Hamas targets. This has left at least 25 Islamic terrorists dead along with 16 civilians. That’s largely because Islamic terrorists place their facilities in areas shared with lots of civilians. No Israelis were killed or seriously wounded but dozens were lightly wounded or suffered stress related injuries (like heart attacks) that were potentially serious.
November 13, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Hamas border guards at the Rafah border crossing prevented three armed men from entering Egypt. One of the men was arrested but the other two got away. This is the second such incident this month. In the past Hamas was pretty lenient about letting armed Gazans into Egypt, assuming they could bribe their way past the Egyptian guards. But most of these armed men belonged to smaller Islamic terror groups in Sinai who were hostile to the Egyptian government as well as Hamas and Hamas has been cracking down on that.
November 12, 2019: In the south (Gaza), an Israeli airstrike killed the Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza. Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran and kept operational in Gaza with Iranian cash and equipment smuggled in. Islamic Jihad has its external headquarters in Syria, as many Islamic terror groups have for decades. An hour later there were more Israeli airstrikes against Islamic Jihad leaders and facilities in Syria (Damascus). Syria reported that its air defense systems fired on a “hostile target” to no effect. Islamic Jihad in Gaza retaliated by firing over 400 rockets at Israel. Some Hamas and smaller Islamic terror groups may have fired a few rockets as well. Most of the rockets were intercepted or hit uninhabited areas. No Israeli were killed but 58 were wounded or injured. Israel responded to that with dozens of airstrikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. This came as a surprise to Islamic Jihad because many of the targets hits were believed hidden from the Israelis. Many Islamic Jihad facilities and weapons storage sites are in residential areas to discourage Israeli airstrikes. In situations like this, the airstrikes take place anyway, using guided missiles and smart bombs to minimize civilian casualties.
As an example of that, it was later revealed that Israeli forces had managed to get a small helicopter type UAV to enter the home of the Islamic Jihad leader before launching the guided missile that went through the same window to kill the target and his wife.
November 8, 2019: In Egypt (Sinai), two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. No one took credit for this but ISIL is believed responsible.
On the Gaza border three armed men were stopped when they tried to enter Egypt at the Rafah crossing. Resisting arrest the three men opened fire on the Hamas border guards. Outnumbered and surrounded, the three gunmen surrendered and were arrested.
The Israeli government went public with its support for the Syrian Kurds. Israel had long unofficially and discreetly supported the Syrian (as well as the Iraqi) Kurds. The Americans are willing to go to war to protect Israel but not to assist the Syrian Kurds in fighting Syria, Turkey and Iran.
November 4, 2019: Egypt reported that it had killed 83 Islamic terrorists in Sinai since the end of September. During these anti-terror operations, 61 people were arrested and 376 explosive devices were found and neutralized. Not mentioned are civilian casualties resulting from the counter-terror operations. It’s estimated that in the last six years there have been 400-500 civilian casualties (dead and wounded) a year from friendly fire. This is largely the result of using poorly trained conscripts to man the many checkpoints in Sinai. These soldiers often open fire on civilians if they suspect are Islamic terrorists. When troops are firing on attackers that fire is poorly aimed and often just “spray and pray”. This means any civilians in the area are endangered and some are hit. About half the civilian casualties are caused by Islamic terrorist attacks, who do not try too hard to avoid civilian casualties if an attack has a chance of killing soldiers. Sometimes civilians are deliberately attacked to discourage cooperation with the security forces. Not counted are casualties from local feuds and the practice of firing weapons in the air as a form of celebration. Every year there are several casualties when these bullets fall to earth and hit someone. Casualties among the security forces are about the same as civilian losses. The troops have learned to be careful when carrying out raids and search routes for roadside bombs and mines. The troops used for raids are better trained and more experienced.
November 3, 2019: In the south ((Gaza), Israeli F-15s were sent to examine and destroy a UAV flying over Gaza at a high (4,000 meters/13,000 feet) altitude. Israel did not reveal details of the UAV or how it was destroyed.
October 29, 2019: In Egypt (Sinai), there was an Israeli airstrike against Islamic terrorists near the city of Rafah. Egypt and Israel have an understanding that allows Israel to carry out airstrikes against Islamic terrorists operating near the Israeli (or in this case Gaza) border. Israel shares with Egypt aerial recon data regarding these airstrikes. Egyptian troops carry out the follow-up to check the identities of the dead and search for useful documents, weapons or other evidence.