The U.S. sponsored peace talks between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians continue to be stalled, despite optimistic American government press releases. Israel is particularly angry over the increase in Palestinian terror attacks since the peace talks began. It’s no secret that several smaller Palestinian terrorist groups oppose the peace talks and insist on constant attacks as part of their strategy to destroy Israel. Hamas refuses to even participate.
The war in Syria continues to have minimal impact on Israel but is causing more terrorist violence in Lebanon. In 2013 over 70,000 died in Syria, about a third of them civilians. The anti-Hezbollah feelings in Lebanon are becoming more violent. Saudi Arabia recently gave the largely Sunni and Christian military $3 billion to upgrade their capabilities. Hezbollah has long feared an army attempt to disarm the Shia (and very pro-Iran) militia.
The Arrow 3 anti-missile system conducted another successful test, and remains on track to enter service in 2015. This version of Arrow can destroy missiles at higher altitudes (over 100 kilometers) and farther away. In 2011 the Israeli Air Force began receiving the new Arrow 2 anti-missile missile, which is better able to detect and destroy incoming Iranian ballistic missiles.
Israeli warplanes attacked several targets in Gaza after a rocket fired into Israel from Gaza yesterday. The air raids on Gaza began again last November after three months of no rocket fire from Gaza.
Hamas announced it is not interested in another war with Israel, at least not in the short term. Hamas also said it was willing to negotiate with Fatah to unify Palestinians. Both of these statements were made to placate Arab donors, who are withholding aid until Hamas makes some real progress in uniting with Fatah. That means maintaining the truce with Israel and talking to Fatah again. Recently Hamas ordered its military commanders to cooperate with Israeli security forces to keep more radical Islamic terrorist groups from trying to attack Israeli troops along the border fence. This has lowered the number of violent incidents along the Gaza border but not stopped them entirely. What aid Gaza still gets often comes via Israel and peace on the border is necessary to keep that route available.
In December Hamas announced that Iran had resumed diplomatic relations with Hamas. Hamas is a radical Palestinian group that runs Gaza in much the same way that the Iranian clerics run Iran. This move annoyed the Arab donors and Hamas had to assure the Arab states that Hamas will not do anything for Iran that can be interpreted as “anti-Arab”. The cash squeeze and the severe economic problems in Gaza has led Hamas to depend more on Arab Gulf states for financial support. Hamas is also in trouble for its support for the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, which attempted to turn Egypt into a religious dictatorship and was removed from power in July 2013 by a popular uprising and the army. Hamas feels more comfortable with the Iranian clerics, who will now resume financial aid. But it is not enough because what hurt Hamas the most was Egypt shutting down nearly all the smuggling tunnels into Gaza. These had become a major source of income for Hamas (which heavily taxed the smugglers) and there was nothing to replace the lost income. Hamas needs that cash to pay the thousands of civil supporters, people who are its most enthusiastic supporters.
The recent Egyptian decision to declare the Moslem Brotherhood a terrorist organization has caused more demonstrations and terror attacks. The Brotherhood renounced terrorist violence back in the 1970s but a Brotherhood faction went rogue in the 1990s and took part in a major terrorist campaign against the government and foreign tourists. The attack on foreigners and Egyptian civilians led to the defeat of the Islamic terrorists and Brotherhood promises to behave. The Brotherhood condemned the recent terror attacks by groups in the Sinai. These have killed over a hundred soldiers and police. The Brotherhood condemns all violence, but now it’s the 1990s all over again with some Brotherhood members getting involved with Islamic terrorists. Many Brotherhood members are very angry at government efforts to prosecute their leader Mohamed Morsi, despite the fact that Morsi was elected president in mid-2012. The majority of Egyptians are anti-Morsi but many of those who still back Morsi are willing to use violence to try and get Morsi back in power. Israel wants things to quiet down in Egypt, as long as the place does not turn into a Islamic terrorist sanctuary.
Increasingly the pro-Morsi demonstrators are set upon by crowds of locals who do not want roads blocked and commerce interfered with by the demonstrators. Thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters have been arrested, but many Egyptians continue to believe that a religious dictatorship is the only way to solve the corruption and inept governance that have crippled Egypt for centuries.
January 2, 2014: A young Palestinian man ignored Israeli warnings to stop damaging the Gaza border fence and was shot and wounded. Palestinian terrorists are constantly trying to cross the fence or plant bombs on it.
In the West Bank Israeli police arrested four men believed responsible for a bus bombing in Israel in December. The attack failed because the bomb was detected and the bus evacuated before the device exploded. One of the four men arrested was a Palestinian policeman and all four were found to be members of a known Palestinian terrorist organization. This makes 14 people arrested in connection with the bus bombing.
In Egypt (Cairo) police found a terrorist bomb and disabled it. Elsewhere (Sinai) police killed an Islamic terrorist as he was planting a bomb. Another 13 Islamic terrorist suspects were arrested in Sinai. Egyptian police also found and closed five more smuggling tunnels into Gaza.
In Lebanon (Beirut) a car bomb killed four and wounded 77. The attack took place in a Shia neighborhood controlled by Hezbollah and is considered an attack against Hezbollah.
December 31, 2013: In Gaza Hamas tested one of its M175 long-range rockets by firing it out to sea. The M175 had an explosive warhead that went off when the rocket landed in the sea some 40 kilometers off the coast and the explosion could be heard in Gaza. The M175 is locally made and based on the hundreds of longer range Fajr 3 (43 kilometers) and Fajr 5 (72 kilometers) rockets smuggled into Gaza over the last few years. During the 2012 war with Hamas Israeli anti-rocket missiles destroyed 85 percent of the Fajr rockets that were going to land in populated areas of Israel, but five Israelis were killed by Fajrs that got through, and dozens more Israelis were wounded.
In Gaza someone fired several shots at Israeli troops patrolling the border fence. There were no casualties.
In Egypt the government froze the assets of 572 Moslem Brotherhood leaders. In addition 87 private schools affiliated with the Brotherhood were taken over by the government. The government has also created a list of 1,055 NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations like charities and aid groups) that are part of or associated with the Brotherhood and froze their assets as well.
December 30, 2013: A rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza but there were no casualties.
In Israel freed another 26 Palestinian terrorists. Israel is particularly angry at how Palestinians praise recently released prisoners who have killed Israeli civilians as heroes. The prisoner release is part of the current peace effort forced on Israel by the United States and 23 of these 26 were serving long terms for killing Israelis.
In Egypt (Sinai) terrorists blew up a portion of a natural gas pipeline supplying local factories.
December 29, 2013: In Lebanon two rockets were fired into Israel. Within an hour Israel fired 32 artillery shells at the launch sites. Shortly thereafter Lebanese troops found the launch sites and began an investigation to identify the perpetrators. The last such attack was in August and Lebanese investigators eventually identified and arrested the terrorists responsible. Both the Lebanese security forces and Hezbollah are opposed to these attacks on Israel, but smaller terrorist groups want to trigger another war with Israel. The last one, in 2006, was started by Hezbollah attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and resulted in much damage to Hezbollah and Lebanon.
In Egypt (north of Cairo) a bomb went off outside an army compound and wounded four soldiers.
In Egypt police arrested four al Jazeera reporters and accused them of working with Islamic terrorist groups. Two of the reporters were foreigners (Canadian and Australian).
December 28, 2013: In Egypt (Cairo) continuing anti-government violence at the Al Azhar University (the oldest in the Moslem world) has left three students dead and nearly a hundred arrested. These actions were all part of the increased number of demonstrations protesting the government designating the Moslem Brotherhood a terrorist organization. This has led to the arrest of about 200 protestors throughout Egypt.
December 27, 2013: The only power plant in Gaza has been shut down again because Israel closed the only border crossing on the 24th because of a number of attacks on Israel from Gaza in the previous week. The closing halted fuel shipments for the plant, which had only recently begun operating again after being shut for seven weeks because of the fuel situation. That fuel shortage was because Hamas refused to pay for the fuel used to run it. Rival Fatah buys and ships in the fuel, but Hamas refuses to collect money from electricity users and turn the cash over to Fatah. Hamas has a cash shortage because Egypt shut down the smuggling tunnels and has been using the electricity payments for more immediate needs (like paying and arming its militia force). Qatar sent more fuel by ship, which will keep the Gaza power plant running for 90 days. The Gaza power plant had been shut down since November 1st. While it only supplies 30 percent of the Gaza electricity, it is part of the electrical grid for Gaza and without the power plant there have to be blackouts to neighborhoods on a rotating basis. The main sources of electricity are supplies coming direct from Egypt and Israel. But this power must also be paid for or else it is shut down. Many Gazans have generators, but these require fuel, which used to come mainly from Egypt (where it is heavily subsidized and illegal to export). Since August Egyptian police have been enforcing the export restrictions.
In Lebanon (Beirut) a car bomb killed a prominent Sunni politician (and former finance minister) and six others. Several days of anti-Hezbollah demonstrations followed.
December 26, 2013: Two rocket were fired into Israel from Gaza but there were no casualties. Israel responded with two air strikes on terrorist targets, wounding one Palestinian.
Over the last two days Israel moved three Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries to guard the cities of Beersheba, Sderot and Ashdod from rockets that might be fired from Gaza.
December 25, 2013: Israeli intelligence believes that about 20 percent of the 10,000 foreign Islamic terrorist rebels in Syria are from the West and that this percentage is increasing. Israel also believes that as many as 15,000 Hezbollah men have fought in Syria in the last year, most of them serving only a few months at a time because Hezbollah taking sides in Syria is not popular with most Lebanese and many Hezbollah supporters as well. Israel admits that it has been coordinating its Syrian intel efforts with Western and (more discreetly) Arab countries. This effort shows the rebels losing ground to government forces, largely because of lack of unity among the rebels and increasing fighting between rebel groups.
A rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza but there were no casualties.
In Egypt the government declared the Moslem Brotherhood a terrorist organization and police began shutting down Brotherhood facilities and arresting members.
December 24, 2013: Someone inside Gaza shot dead an Israeli civilian doing maintenance on the border fence. The shooter got away. The next day Israel closed the main border crossing from Israel to Gaza in retaliation. There were also air strikes and other attacks in retaliation which left one Palestinian dead and six wounded. Hamas protested that these retaliation was unfair but Israel pointed out that Hamas ran Gaza and had agreed to halt all attacks on Israel.
It was recently revealed that about half the oil Syria has been importing has not come from Iran but from Iraq, via Egyptian and Lebanese firms that were used to hide the fact that the Iraqi oil was going to Syria.
In Egypt (Mansoura) an Islamic terrorist bomb killed 16 and wounded over 130. The Moslem Brotherhood was blamed, even though another Islamic terrorist group took responsibility.
December 22, 2013: In Israel a bus bombing failed because the bomb was detected and the bus evacuated before the device exploded.
A rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza but there were no casualties.
In Egypt (Sinai) police attacked a terrorist base and killed four and destroyed many terrorist facilities.
December 20, 2013: In Egypt (Sinai) police clashed with terrorists killing three of them while two policemen also died.
December 18, 2013: In the West Bank Israeli police killed two Palestinians wanted for attacking Israelis. Both resisted arrest and sought to escape.
December 17, 2013: In Egypt a court found two sons of former dictator Hosni Mubarak not guilty of corruption. The courts have found innocent most Mubarak officials charged with corruption. The courts are considered corrupt as well and these acquittals are widely unpopular. Many Egyptians feared this would happen after the 2011 election because so many Mubarak supporters are major land owners and businessmen.