Israel: Mad Max Time in Gaza


April 15, 2007: Hamas is demanding hundreds of Palestinians be freed from prison, in exchange for the Israeli soldier they seized last year. There are 9,300 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, for various criminal offenses. Initially, Hamas demanded that 1,400 of them be freed in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier. That number has since been reduced to a few hundred, and the haggling is over who should be on the list. Many of the Palestinians in questions are convicted terrorists, and putting all of them back on the street would improve the Palestinian ability to launch terror attacks in Israel. These attacks have largely been stopped because Israel has killed or captured most of the Palestinians who planned and carried out the terror attacks.

Meanwhile, the Western journalist kidnapped in Gaza last month, is apparently not being held for ransom. His kidnappers are demanding the release of an al Qaeda terrorist held in Jordan. Al Qaeda kidnappers aren't the only new-kids-on-the-block in Gaza. In the last few months there have been dozens of night time attacks, often using bombs, on video shops, Internet cafes and bookstores (well, at least one owned by a Christian) by a shadowy Islamic radical group. Many Islamic radicals want to eliminate use of "un-Islamic" media, especially videos and stuff available on the Internet. Since there is no longer an effective police force in Gaza, the Islamic radicals have more opportunities to "punish" offenders.

April 14, 2007: Garbage collectors, and many other government employees in Gaza, have been on strike for over a week now. Because Hamas is not getting a lot of foreign aid, most municipal employees have received only partial pay over the last year. Hamas is cut off because they refuse to change their policy of demanding the destruction of Israel. Foreign aid groups still deliver most of their aid, but are doing it directly. Thus health and education employees are receiving most of the their pay, direct from foreign aid organizations. But other civil servants have to depend on whatever Hamas (which now controls the government) can scrape up from Arab countries. The Western donors normally give over a billion dollars a year to the Palestinian government. Arab governments provide much less.

April 11, 2007: After years of debate, Israel has decided to form a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) similar to the one created in the United States two decades ago. The new SOCOM will coordinate the training and use of all Israeli commando units, and eliminate duplication and wasted efforts.

April 10, 2007: Police revealed that, in late March, they had rounded up 19 West Bank Palestinians who had plotted to set off a car bomb in Tel Aviv during Passover. The bomber had a step-mother who was an Israeli Arab, thus he had an Israeli ID card and his car had Israeli plates. But the car bomber had second thoughts about his mission, and drove back to the West Bank and left the car in a yard. The bomb later malfunctioned and exploded. Opinion surveys find more and more Israeli Arabs (20 percent of the Israeli population) are in favor of terrorist attacks against Jewish Israelis, and more young Israeli Arabs are being arrested for terrorist activities.

April 9, 2007: Increasingly, the violence in Gaza and the West Bank isn't between Hamas and Fatah, but involves the increasingly powerful clan militias. The breakdown of policing in the Palestinian lands has forced the clan organizations to form vigilante groups to impose law and order in their own neighborhoods. These groups sometimes clash with the few police still operating, or the Hamas and Fatah militias.

April 8, 2007: Israeli helicopters fired two missiles into Gaza, at Palestinians trying to plant bombs along the road that runs along the border fence. At other times the helicopters fire at Palestinians trying to get through the fence, or launching rockets into Israel. Meanwhile, Egyptian police discovered two freshly dug tunnels from Egypt into Gaza.

April 7, 2007: While there are no major battles between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza, there are an increasing number of minor ones. These are usually escalations from one side taunting each other. Graffiti, or posters bad-mouthing the other side, leads to arguments in the streets, followed by brawls and some gunfire. So far, the leaders of both sides have prevented these incidents from escalating into larger battles. But there are still a dozen or more casualties a week, and any one of those spats could spiral out of control.

April 5, 2007: Another sign that Israel has won its current war with the Palestinians, cruise ships have resumed stopping at Israeli ports. This practice was halted in 2000, when Palestinians began their terror bombing campaign against Israel. But the suicide bombing campaign was defeated three years ago, with new tactics the Palestinians have not been able to deal with. The Palestinians have since turned on each other in a civil war, while the Israeli economy is booming.


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