Israel recently complained to the UN that Iran is still trying to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza). The Gaza effort is having more problems as these shipments are being detected and seized (or turned back) by both Israel and Egypt. Israel has also been bombing Iranian arms shipment moving through Syria to Lebanon and did so again this week. Egypt is mad at Iran over lots of things, including recent revelations that Iran had established a large spy network in Egypt, which had recently suffered heavy losses (and provided Egyptian counter-intelligence with a lot of embarrassing, to Iran, details.) The UN cannot do much to help, but being kept informed about the details of the arms smuggling the UN is more willing to keep the sanctions pressure on Iran.
Iran also wants to use its presence in Syria to threaten Israel but so far the more important task of keeping the Assad government functioning has prevented any real moves against Israel. Meanwhile Israel has had more success supporting some of the rebels. Israel has quietly supplied the Kurds (mainly in Iraq but now in northern Syria as well) with advisors, intel and equipment. The Kurds have never openly acknowledged the relationship, so as not to offend other supporters who are Moslem and officially in favor of destroying Israel. But ask any Kurd in Syria or Iraq and they will confirm that the Israelis are friends and allies. The Kurds are largely Sunni but few of them got involved with Islamic radicalism and terrorism.
Egypt also needs all the friends it can get. While Egypt is now officially at war with Islamic terrorists in Libya and Shia rebels in Yemen, the government is not eager to actually do anything. That’s because the security forces are still needed to deal with Islamic terrorists and political opposition that is allied with some of the terror groups. This makes Egypt a more cooperative ally of Israel, who share an Islamic terrorist threat in Gaza.
The newly elected Egyptian government is not accepted by all Egyptians and is seen by many as similar to the corrupt and incompetent Mubarak dictatorship overthrown in 2011. On a more basic level the country is broke and dependent on foreign donors to keep functioning. The two major donors are the United States and the Arab Gulf states. The Americans don’t want Egypt invading Libya and the Arabs want assurances that if the situation in Yemen gets really bad they can depend on some Egyptian troops. So far the Egyptian leadership has been able to keep its two major donors happy by saying much (about despicable terrorists in Libya and evil Shia rebels in Yemen) and doing as little as possible. Some Egyptian warships are helping to blockade Yemen (and held safeguard ships headed to and from the very lucrative Suez Canal). More troops have been sent to the Libyan border and some recent army training exercises were done to demonstrate a willingness to send troops to Yemen if needed.
Egypt has no legal economic interests in Libya but some Libyans complain that many of the illegal migrants coming through Libya on their way to Europe are being helped along by corrupt Egyptian border police. It’s not surprising that the border police can be bribed as these are the same border police that worked for Mubarak. Actually, most of the security forces are men who long worked for Mubarak and are as corrupt and undisciplined as ever. The 2011 revolution shocked the police and many found it prudent to behave for a few years. But now the bad habits have returned and the government is not cracking down on pro-government media that report on this bad behavior.
Egypt has scored one minor victory in Yemen and that’s because the Saudi led coalition (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt) has humiliated Iran because Sudan joined the coalition. Sudan has been a long time (and well paid) ally of Iran. But the UN has indicted the Sudanese president for war crimes (for his massive attacks on Sudanese Moslem civilians in Darfur) and it was only the willingness of the Sunni Arab nations to restrain the UN that kept the Sudanese leader out of prison. Now it was payback time and Sudan paid part of their debt. At the same time the Saudis suffered a notable diplomatic defeat as well. Most Moslem majority nations (that contain most of the world’s Moslems) did not actively support the Arab coalition’s operation in Yemen. Most Moslems see this as an Arab-Iran dispute and feel no reason to get involved. Thus Saudi diplomats insist that Arabs are not at war with Iran, but with rebels in Yemen who happen to be Shia. At the same time Arab newspapers in the Gulf area are pointing out that non-Arab Moslem states need the oil-rich Arabs more than the other way around. That may be true, but few of those other Moslem states are willing to die for the Arabs. The Saudis were particularly disappointed that Egypt did not get more involved.
The Egyptian security forces continue fighting Islamic terrorists in northern Sinai, doing enough damage to prevent the terror groups from spreading into the more densely populated parts of Egypt. This means a hundred or so dead terrorists each month plus hundreds of suspects arrested. This involves dozens of raids and constant patrols.
Meanwhile Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan continue to have problems with the Palestinians. While Arabs do not like to discuss this openly, everyone acknowledges that the biggest problem the Palestinians have is the corruption of their own leaders. Because of the corruption their leaders try to keep people focused on the effort to destroy Israel. This is meant to distract Palestinians from their more immediate internal problems. Palestinians know about these two problems, and also know that they would suffer far more (economically and physically) if they protested against their leaders as violently as they do against the Israelis. Palestinian leaders control the many government jobs paid for by aid money and these jobs are a major source of employment. If a Palestinian is identified as an “enemy” he and all his family are going to have a difficult time obtaining or holding onto one of these jobs. Many Palestinians are well aware of this and find that they can stay away from the violence Fatah and Hamas still encourage. But it’s easy to get young (especially teenage males) Palestinians fired up because these kids have been raised with Arab media that constantly praises violence against non-Moslems (and especially Israelis) as an admirable and worthy activity. That includes extensive children’s programming on TV for kids of all ages. This is an absurd situation and Israel is making little headway in persuading its critics in the West that the Palestinians do not want peace. What Palestinian internal propaganda (in Palestinian media and in speeches by officials) has been saying for decades and still says is that the Palestinian objective is the destruction of Israel and the death or expulsion of all Jews from the Middle East. More radical Palestinians (and many other Arabs) not only call for all non-Moslems to be killed or expelled but act on that wherever possible (like Syria, Iraq and Egypt.) Pro-Palestinian Westerners keep making up excuses to explain away this religious bigotry but that is wearing thin as the death toll mounts and the Israelis publicize (in detail) the Palestinian media exhortations to violence. Even more embarrassing is the attention now given in Western media to the double talk from Palestinian and Arab leaders, who talk peace to Western audiences while simultaneously continuing to call for death to non-Moslems in Arabic. It’s ironic that the global mass media, which is a recent (in the last few decades) development was quickly recognized by Arab leaders as an excellent way to reach all Moslems, even those who had moved to the West. But that ignored the fact that this international media is available to anyone, and as more and more Westerners translated the messages (or simply looked at the maps and images, which needed no translator) they noted that what Arab leaders were saying in English (and other Western languages) was quite different from what was said in Arabic. For Arab, and especially Palestinian, leaders this exposure is becoming a problem. A lot of financial and political support comes from Westerners who perceive Palestinians as victims, not genocidal aggressors and religious bigots. Even Arab donors are getting tired of all this, but so far most of the pressure has been verbal and in private. That is starting to change as more Arab media pundits say what everyone knows to be true about the “Palestinian Problem.”
May 5, 2015: Hamas launched a crackdown on what they consider the most dangerous Islamic terror groups in Gaza. Dozens of leaders were arrested and heavily armed checkpoints were set up outside neighborhoods where these more radical (and generally anti-Hamas) groups were based. While Gaza has long been a sanctuary for all manner of Islamic terrorist groups, many have turned their sights on Hamas, which they consider not-radical-enough and in need of reform, or replacement. Hamas does not want a civil war and had worked out deals with other Islamic terror groups to ensure their neutrality and is now going after its most implacable rivals to make it clear who runs Gaza. After eight years that rule is less and less secure and Hamas will not allow anymore elections. It can only be replaced by violence.
May 4, 2015: On the Syrian border mortar shells fired from within Syria hit a UN position and wounded two Nepalese peacekeepers. The wounded were taken across the border to Israel for medical treatment.
May 2, 2015: In Gaza Hamas announced the heroic death of one of its fighters. The man was killed while building a tunnel. Israel believes that over a thousand Hamas men are being used to build (actually rebuild) a secret tunnel network, both inside Gaza and into Israel, in preparation for another war with Israel. Because of the Israeli informant network inside Gaza only trusted Hamas men are being used for the tunnel work. Most Gazans resent the tunnel effort because many construction supplies are diverted to the tunnel work, along with some of the construction equipment. As a result of the tunnel work there has been very little rebuilding to replace structures lost during the mid-2014 war with Israel. Even the UN and Arab aid donors complain to Hamas about these diversions but Hamas refuses to stop the work. Israeli military leaders responsible for the Gaza border are asking, unsuccessfully so far, for permission to attack the tunnels headed for Israel before they reach Israel itself. Meanwhile Israel has agreed to allow massive amounts of construction materials into Gaza in return for UN assurances that UN inspectors would monitor where the stuff goes. This is to see if the UN will do anything when confronted with obvious evidence of Hamas diverting construction materials to military uses. No one expects this to work as Hamas has made it clear that any aid groups that interfere with Hamas activities will be expelled for “anti-Palestinian” activities and denounced as Israeli puppets. This has worked in the past, and will probably continue to work until everyone (Gazans and aid groups) get angry enough to confront Hamas over it. More Gazans are angry at Hamas, really angry. Angry enough to join the Israeli informant network. While this pays well, it can get you killed if Hamas catches you. At the same time Hamas is gaining more adherents in the West Bank. Gaza residents believe that is because Hamas does not run the West Bank and the Palestinians there are not reminded every day how corrupt and cruel Hamas is.
April 28, 2015: On the Syrian border two mortar shells from Syria landed in Israel. There were no casualties and no damage.
April 27, 2015: On the Syrian border Israeli warplanes destroyed missile launchers on the Syrian side of the frontier.
April 26, 2015: On the Syrian border Israeli warplanes attacked four men moving towards the border with a bomb, killing the four and setting off the explosives they were carrying. Islamic terrorists regularly set up bombs on the border and try to detonate them when Israeli patrols come close.
April 25, 2015: In the West Bank Israeli police killed two Palestinians who attacked Israelis with knives in two separate incidents within 24 hours. A third attack involved a Palestinian deliberately driving his car into a crowd and injured three policeman and a civilian.
In Syria Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian Army weapons storage area. This was another attack to destroy Iranian weapons being transferred to Hezbollah. In this case it the target was believed to be SCUD ballistic missiles.
April 24, 2015: Israeli tanks fired into Gaza in retaliation for a rocket that had been launched in Gaza the day before and landed in Israel.
The U.S. reassured Israel that deliveries of the new F-35 fighters for Israel would begin on schedule in 2016.
In Egypt an explosion at a rural farm was found to be the result of an accident while Islamic terrorists were building bombs. The big shock came when one of the four bodies was identified as a police bomb squad technician. Further investigation found that the dead policeman had been a supporter of the Moslem Brotherhood but had pretended to leave the group when most Egyptians turned hostile to the Moslem Brotherhood in 2013. A large minority of Egyptians still support the Moslem Brotherhood, often because it appears to be the only political party in the country that can do something about the corruption that cripples the economy and much else in Egypt.
April 20, 2015: Israel has turned over $450 million in taxes to the Palestinian Authority. The money was withheld when Fatah carried out its threat to seek more recognition from the UN and in response Israel retaliated with economic sanctions. In response to that the Arab League stepped up and promised up to $100 million a month in aid to make up for any funds (mainly taxes collected by Israel and passed on to the Palestinian Authority). Israel is still trying to collect over $400 million for Israeli electricity Palestinians have used but refuse to pay for.
April 19, 2015: In Libya ISIL released a video showing masked ISIL men murdering 35 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians (who were apparently trying to get to Europe). Two months earlier ISIL released a similar video showing the murder of 20 Egyptian Christians in Libya.
April 18, 2015: Russia warned Israel not to sell weapons to Ukraine. In the past Israel has used similar sales to bargain with the Russians to not sell weapons to Iran. The U.S. believes the new Russian S-300 sale to Iran is being done for economic reasons, to help keep the Russian manufacturer in business and to reduce the damage to the military rearmament plan. While the sanctions and plunging oil price have caused major cuts (10 percent for most areas) in the national budget military spending is only being reduced about four percent. The problem is that the Russian military is still equipped with a lot of Cold War era weapons and without new gear the force will decline in usefulness. Since the 1990s only the nuclear missile forces have received adequate financial support and have maintained most of their Cold War era capabilities. Israel believes the S-300 sale is more about persuading the United States to not provide weapons to Ukraine. Russia also knows that Israel may well take extreme measures to prevent Iran from receiving and installing those S-300 systems. Meanwhile no date for delivery has been set and Iran is still arguing with Russia over the details of the deal.
Egypt reported that it had destroyed 69 Gaza smuggling tunnels during the last four weeks and 285 in the last twelve weeks. Despite a new 1,000 meter buffer zone along the Gaza border (from which all civilians were removed and over 1,100 structures destroyed) the Gazans simply built tunnels deeper and longer. One of the tunnels recently found was 2,800 meters long. Because Hamas allows so many Islamic terror groups, including some that are anti-Egyptian, to operate in Gaza Egypt sees destruction of the tunnels as a matter of national security.