June 23, 2014: The Palestinian leadership (Fatah) in the West Bank denied that they, or Hamas, had anything to do with the June 12th disappearance of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. So far Israel has sent several thousand additional soldiers and police to the West Bank to help in the search. This has led to over 500 Palestinians arrested, including some Palestinian leaders, especially those belonging to Hamas. Also rounded up were some recently released prisoners (terrorists set free at American insistence to promote Palestinian peace talks). The arrests took place as the Israelis raided over 1,400 locations in the last eleven days. Decades of Palestinian propaganda (easily found, at least for Arabic speakers, on the Internet) glorifying terrorism against all Israelis and promoting suicide attacks against Israeli security forces has made it common for young Palestinian males to turn out to throw rocks or fire bombs at Israeli soldiers and police who show up for whatever reason. This has happened on dozens of occasions during the current search and Israeli troops can return fire if the projectiles are likely to cause injury. This has resulted in four Palestinians dead and several dozen wounded. There have been dozens of Israelis wounded by the Palestinian attacks, although because of their helmets and body armor, most injuries do not require hospitalization. Palestinian leaders call these defensive measures unfair and illegal. Palestinian police, who come in after the Israeli raiding party has left, often encounter continuing violence and also end up suffering, and inflicting, casualties but this rarely gets publicized by the Palestinians. While the Palestinians (at least Fatah) officially condemns the kidnapping they also accuse the Israelis of using excessive efforts to find three teenagers and that this amounts another Israeli war crime. The Israeli public disagrees and is putting tremendous pressure on elected officials to find the three kids no matter what it takes.
Most of the sites raided in the West Bank were associated with Hamas and lots of weapons, explosives, documents and Islamic terrorism related materials have been seized. Over 70 percent of those arrested were associated with Hamas. Israel has not revealed if any of this provided clues about the three kidnapped teenagers. Actually no one has taken responsibility for the disappearance of the three Israeli kids. Because of that it is believed that the three Israeli captives are still in the West Bank and subject to being rescued by the searching soldiers and police. Some Israeli officials did indicate that the search is being controlled by intelligence efforts that are indicating the most likely locations of kidnappers and places that might be used to hold the captives. In other words some police believe it’s just a matter of time before the captives are found.
Palestinians, and many Israelis, see the search for the teenagers as an opportunity to destroy the Hamas organization in the West Bank. This is good news and bad news for Fatah. On the positive side Fatah rival Hamas is suffering serious and permanent damage in the West Bank, where Hamas has always had a lot of supporters among Palestinians disgusted with the corrupt and inept leadership of Fatah. On the downside Fatah recently worked out a political compromise with Hamas that created a united (in theory) Palestinian leadership. This had long been demanded by major Arab donors if the Palestinians wanted to see continued financial support. Some Hamas supporters are blaming Fatah for the damage Hamas is suffering in the West Bank. Israeli intelligence is following this dispute closely as it may indicate who actually grabbed the three teenagers. Was it is a renegade Hamas group? Was it Hamas at all, because Fatah media have always promoted the idea of kidnapping Israeli soldiers that could be exchanged for hundreds of imprisoned Palestinians. Then again, Hamas is also a big fan of kidnapping soldiers. It’s possible that one of the many criminal gangs in the West Bank grabbed the kids and is looking for an opportunity to sell them to an Islamic terrorist group. Of course there is also the usual paranoid speculation among Arabs in general that it’s all the work of the Israelis or the Americans to provide an excuse to crack down on Hamas.
On the Syrian border Israeli warplanes attacked nine Syrian army targets overnight. This was continued retaliation for fire from the Syrian side yesterday that left one Israeli dead and two wounded. The Syrian army recently regained control of most of the Israeli border and that was apparently done with the help of Hezbollah. This may explain the increased mortar, rocket and gun fire from the Syrian side. Most of that fire has been unintentional but recently it has been noted that some of it appears to be deliberate attempts to kill Israelis. The Syrian government is also very mad at Israel for several air attacks on recently imported Russian missiles. Meanwhile Israeli intelligence has concluded that only about 20 percent of the 120,000 rebels fighting the Assad government are secular. The rest are, to one degree or another, “Islamic” and that means all of them want Israel destroyed.
Egypt is helping in the search for the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers by pressuring Hamas to share what they know about the kidnapping. Hamas is trying to play nice with Egypt to get Gaza access with Egypt restored. This access has been blocked for most of the last year because of the Egyptian effort to clear Islamic terrorists out of Sinai. Egypt is angry at Hamas for not doing more to suppress Islamic terrorism in Gaza, which has become a sanctuary for Egyptian Islamic terrorists.
In Sinai the ten month old Egyptian counter-terrorism campaign has left at least a thousand Islamic terrorists dead and several thousand arrested. About 500 soldiers and police have died fighting Islamic terrorists so far. This has prevented these Islamic terrorist groups from taking their violence into the rest of Egypt and gradually diminished the terrorist violence in Sinai. The Islamic terrorists claim victory because some of them have survived all this mayhem. At the same time the Islamic terrorists in Sinai are not associated with the Moslem Brotherhood that dominates the rest of Egypt. Indeed the Sinai Islamic terrorists look down on the Moslem Brotherhood as a bunch of wimps. The Sinai groups are more into the old-school, hard-core al Qaeda approach. The Sinai crowd wants open warfare with Egypt and Islamic religious dictatorship for Egypt and eventually the world. The Egyptian war against the Moslem Brotherhood has more targets to hit. The Brotherhood owns a lot of businesses and social welfare organizations and these are being seized or shut down. Yet the Brotherhood continues to survive, mainly because the Brotherhood was intent on doing something about the corruption and government inefficiency. Unfortunately, the Brotherhood has an extremist wing that always demands extremist solutions and that always causes problems with the government and most Egyptians.
The U.S. has resumed military aid to Egypt and is negotiating restoration of economic aid. The U.S. and most Western nations are not happy with the return of military rule in Egypt. While the new president Sisi was elected, Egyptian elections are notoriously corrupt and while Sisi may have actually won the recent vote, if the past is any guide he can stay in power indefinitely by manipulating future elections. This has been the pattern since the 1950s and the 2011 uprising in Egypt meant to end the rule of the generals. Sisi says he will be different. Maybe, because even the generals realize that the mood and political dynamics have shifted in Egypt and at the very least there has to be some improved economic performance. The easiest way to make that happen is to suppress the corrupt government bureaucracy that has long stifled economic progress. While a worthy goal, most Egyptians doubt Sisi will take on the bureaucracy. These government employees are a key part of the military’s core supporters.
June 22, 2014: In the south a Palestinian with a grenade got through the security fence and headed for a nearby Israeli town. Police seized the man before he got to a residential area.
Israeli warplanes hit three Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza in retaliation for yesterday’s rocket attack.
On the Syrian border a car carrying three Israelis was hit by an explosion, which killed a teenage boy and wounded the two adults. It is still unclear if the explosion was a rocket, mortar shell, landmine or roadside bomb. Whatever the case the Israelis are certain that the source is Syrian troops, who have fired into Israel recently but not hit anyone. Israel has fired back and this time there was soon Israeli artillery shells landing in some known Syrian army positions.
In Egypt (Sinai) counter-terrorist raids continued and in two clashes with armed men 19 Islamic terrorists were killed.
June 21, 2014: Four rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties.
June 20, 2014: In Lebanon police arrested another local man and accused him of being a spy for Israel.
In Egypt (Cairo) four pro-Morsi (Moslem Brotherhood) protestors were killed when the regular Friday (the day of prayer for Moslems) demonstrations turned violent. Another 33 protestors were arrested. One policeman was killed.
June 19, 2014: Israel banned a Britain based Islamic charity from operating in the West Bank because police now had ample evidence that the group was mainly a fund raising effort for Hamas terrorist activities.
June 18, 2014: Two rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties but a building suffered some damage. Later in the day Israeli warplanes hit Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza in retaliation for this rocket attack.
June 17, 2014: Hamas and other Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations made public threats of more terror attacks if Israel did not halt its search operations in the West Bank. The search is hurting all Islamic terrorist groups in the West Bank but there’s not a lot the terrorists can do about it because they are already weakened by the constant Israeli counter-terror operations. Hamas is also angry at Fatah for having Palestinian police cooperate with the search and for many Fatah supporters unofficially celebrating the damage Hamas is suffering because of the search operations. Fatah points out that if its police do not cooperate Israel will forcibly disband them.
June 16, 2014: Israel announced that it believed Hamas was responsible for the recent kidnapping and the United States went on record as agreeing. The U.S. also believes that the recent unity government formed by Fatah and Hamas is a fraud and that the two groups are still quite separate and neither will subordinate itself to the other.
A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel landed near Ashkelon (a coastal city north of Gaza). There were no casualties or damage.
In Egypt (Sinai) troops raided two Islamic terrorist locations near Gaza and killed eight Islamic terrorists in the process.
In the West Bank soldiers shot three Palestinians trying to sneak into an Israeli settlement near Ramallah.
June 15, 2014: Two rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel towards Ashkelon (a coastal city north of Gaza). The two rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome missiles and thus there were no casualties or damage.
June 14, 2014: The government announced that the security forces had permission to do whatever was needed to find the three kidnapped teenagers in the West Bank. The government also said that Fatah had to cooperate in the search, or else.
Four rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties. Later in the day Israeli warplanes hit six Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza in retaliation for this rocket attack.
June 13, 2014: The Israeli army declared the three teenage boys who disappeared yesterday while hitchhiking were probably kidnapped and that a major search operation was begun to find them.
June 12, 2014: Three Israeli teenage boys disappeared while hitchhiking in the southern West Bank (near Hebron). This happened in an area where Israelis have lived since before World War II and where there is little Israeli-Palestinian violence.
June 11, 2014: In northern Israel guards conducting a routine search of the prison found a tunnel dug from inside a bathroom. The four meter (13 foot) long tunnel was part of a larger plot by Palestinian terrorist prisoners to escape. Other evidence of the plot (including fake guard uniforms and IDs) were also found. Prison officials are now trying to discover how many prisoners were involved.
A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties. Later in the day Israeli warplanes hit Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza in retaliation for this rocket attack. One Palestinian was killed and four wounded. This was the first rocket attack since the new Palestinian Unity government was made official on June 2nd.
Elsewhere in Gaza there was a mysterious explosion in a house which killed a 13 year old boy and wounded an 18 year old. Palestinian police are investigating the incident.
June 8, 2014: In the south soldiers arrested Palestinians trying to sneak into an Israel from Gaza.
In Egypt (the Israeli border in Sinai) a soldier was wounded during a clash with Bedouin smugglers who were trying to get African migrants into Israel. Elsewhere in Egypt former army commander Abdel Fattah al Sisi was sworn in as president.
June 7, 2014: A rocket was fired from Gaza towards Israel but landed inside Gaza. The rocket was apparently defective. The rocket launch did set off early warning alarms in southern Israel.
In Egypt the government has banned unauthorized preachers from speaking at mosques. There are also now more rules about who may teach in religious schools.
June 5, 2014: An Israeli polling firm revealed the results of an opinion poll they recently quietly conducted in Iran. Some 40 percent of the population was willing to recognize Israel if Israel could work out a peace deal with the Palestinians. A similar percentage of Iranians were willing to give up nuclear weapons if all sanctions were lifted. Some 74 percent were in favor of resuming trade and diplomatic ties with the United States. A similar percentage (70 percent) backed negotiations with the West over Iranian nuclear programs but only nine percent were willing to give up all nuclear programs (energy and weapons) in return for lifting sanctions. The poll was conducted using Israeli-Iranians who spoke Farsi like a native (which some were) and not mentioning the call was coming from Israel. The polling firm had enough data to get the phone numbers of a statistically significant sample of the Iranian population.