Israel: ISIL Demands To Be Heard

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August 13, 2015: While Hezbollah still talks about attacking Israel the reality is that Hezbollah will remain tied down in Syria and fighting ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and other Sunni Islamic terror groups on the border for some time to come. Hezbollah leaders quietly admit this is necessary because as much as most Lebanese hate everyone involved in the Syria civil war (especially the Assads) they give Hezbollah credit for fighting to keep Islamic terrorist rebels from moving into Lebanon. There is growing opposition (to the Syrian operations) within Hezbollah and Hezbollah admits that it has arrested a growing number of its own armed men for refusing to fight in Syria. Since 2013 Hezbollah has suffered several thousand casualties in Syria and that has caused declining morale among the armed members of Hezbollah (mostly part-time militia who are paid for their part-time or full-time participation). While Hezbollah tells its followers that the new Iran treaty that will lift economic sanctions and mean more aid for Hezbollah this is not expected to change much. More money is not going to make Hezbollah more palatable to most Lebanese. Hezbollah leaders don’t discuss that openly.  

Things are not doing much better with the other Iranian ally down south. In July Israel managed to arrest a Hamas employee (trying to legally enter Israel for dental care) involved in rebuilding the Hamas military tunnel system. A tip from an informant inside Gaza alerted Israel to the name and true occupation of the man who was going to try and enter for medical care. Facing prosecution for Islamic terrorism, and apparently in pain from the dental problem, the man switched sides and told the Israelis everything he knew. The guy knew a lot as he was one of the hundreds of Gazans hired to work on the tunnels. He and his fellow tunnel employees would gossip among themselves about what they saw and they saw where the new tunnels were going, where the construction materials were coming from (items imported to rebuild housing and civilian infrastructure) and the extent to which Iran was supporting the effort with smuggled in cash, electronics and weapons. There are apparently some Iranian technical advisors in Gaza as well. Hamas is definitely planning for another war and is still storing weapons, rockets and bombs inside residences. Israeli military officials said that these revelations, in general, were not new but some of the details were. The Israeli generals said they were prepared. The testimony of a Hamas employee would help support foreign aid groups in Gaza complaining about Hamas diverting aid to military purposes. Many of these groups have left Gaza over the issue, or been forced out by Hamas. This has meant less aid for Gaza, which Hamas attributes to an Israeli plot and a Western war on Islam not anything Hamas has done.

Hamas and Fatah prefer to concentrate on the fact that Israeli terrorism in the West Bank is getting worse. This began in 2007 after the defeat of the Palestinian terrorism campaign against Israel that began in 2000 (and is still, technically, underway). At that point more Israelis were giving up on efforts to work out a peace deal with the Palestinians, who showed no sign of backing off from their "Israel must be destroyed" attitudes (reinforced by decades of propaganda within the Palestinian community in particular, and the Arab community throughout the region in general.) This led to Israeli extremists getting more violent and that trend has continued. This is most visible with the 400,000 Jewish settlers, who have established about a hundred communities in the West Bank since 1967 and are determined to drive the Arabs out of the area, which they believe to be part of "Greater Israel." This does not have popular support among a majority of Israelis, but the settlers and "Greater Israel" fans are carrying out more attacks  on Palestinians and trying to terrorize the Arabs in the West Bank. This is becoming an embarrassment for Israel, although the settlers point out that, no matter what you do, the Palestinians will never accept Israel and continue to carry out and support attacks on Israelis. But the increased settler violence has forced the government to do more to contain the very radical and out-of-control settlers. Since this sort of thing tends to make some of the radicals more radical, the prospect of Jewish terrorists attacking Israelis becomes more of a reality. By 2008 this had forced the government to pay more attention to protecting senior Israeli officials from Jewish radical assassins. But now the main goal is to reduce the amount of violence in the West Bank.

Palestinian violence is not only more likely to be fatal but also seeks to take Israelis alive. Hamas is still eager to kidnap another Israeli and hold them for ransom. Back in 2011, for the first time since 1985, Israel exchanged imprisoned Palestinians for a captured Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit). Hundreds of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal returned to terrorism and at least six Israelis have since been killed because of that violence. During the 2014 Gaza War 39 of those 1,027 were rearrested on terrorism charges and put back in prison. Others were known to have died fighting for Hamas in Gaza. This all began in 1985 when three Israelis that had been captured during the 1982 war with Lebanon and Syria were exchanged. Each Israeli freed required that 350 Palestinians be released. Over the last three decades, Israel has released some 7,000 Palestinians and other Arabs to obtain the freedom of 16 Israelis. That's 438 Arabs per Israeli. Many Israelis disagree with this exchange policy but the issue is such an emotional one that Hamas and other Palestinian groups believe it can still be exploited.

Meanwhile not all the relationships with Moslem neighbors is hostile. Starting in late 2014 Israel began transferring sixteen of its recently retired AH-1 “Cobra” helicopter gunships to its neighbor Jordan. While the helicopters are provided free Jordan will assume operational and maintenance costs, which will not be a great burden because Jordan already operates twenty or so AH-1Fs. The United States supplied upgrade and maintenance support to Jordan for the Israeli AH-1s. Some of the Israeli AH-1s will be used for spare parts and rest will be used to increase border security. Islamic terrorists are increasingly threatening Jordan and helicopter gunships are frequently used to deal illegal border crossers. Only about a dozen of the Jordan’s AH-1s are operational because of age and lack of spare parts. The United States is helping out with the maintenance issues and Israel has some parts left over from the 17 AH-1s earlier retired. Israel has had good relations with Jordan since the 1960s, especially concerning Islamic and secular Palestinian terrorists. Both countries continue to have problems with these terrorists and Jordan chose to remain on good terms with Israel despite the criticism it received about that from other Arab countries. Israel rarely gives Jordan major weapons systems, but during times like these Jordan accepts all the help it can get. 

In Egypt (northern Sinai) the security forces have managed to keep the Islamic terrorist violence down in the last month. This was all the result of a massive and violent government response to a series of attacks on checkpoints in Sinai on the July 1st. ISIL took credit and Egypt has been retaliating ever since. Egypt said this was an attempt by ISIL to take control of Sinai and that this never came close to success. Egypt also revealed that some of the ISIL men in Sinai had recently come from Libya, where the situation for ISIL is grim. The initial ISIL attacks in Sinai left nearly a hundred Islamic terrorists, soldiers and police dead. Meanwhile outside Sinai weekly anti-government demonstrations are still organized by the Moslem Brotherhood, leaving dozens of Brotherhood members dead or wounded every month. The Brotherhood demonstrations are illegal and often turn violent when police try to shut them down. While many of the Islamic terrorists in Sinai have switched allegiance to ISIL, most of the smaller number operating outside Sinai have not. ISIL is desperate to do something spectacular to increase their media visibility and popularity among pro-Islamic terror Egyptians. The government is trying to prevent that.

August 12, 2015: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested fifteen people accused of leading and participating in violent (rocks, fire bombs) actions against police and Israeli civilians.

In Egypt the local ISIL affiliate released pictures of a beheaded Croatian man. ISIL had kidnapped the Croat in July and demanded Egypt release thousands of Islamic radical prisoners to get the foreign man back.

August 11, 2015: Israel issued orders to its troops in the West Bank to change their ROE (Rules of Engagement). As is usually the case details of the “temporary” ROE changes were kept secret. But Israeli troops and police serving in the West Bank were uniformly hostile to the changes. Some officers questioned how they are to enforce the more restrictive ROE. The new rules are meant to reduce Israeli use of gunfire but apparently still leave officers and troops responsible for deciding what a “life threatening” (to the armed Israeli) situation is before they do open fire.

August 10, 2015: In Gaza Hamas launched another locally made rocket into the Mediterranean. These test firings have been going on since late 2014. That was when Hamas resumed rocket production and since then has fired dozens of unguided rockets towards the Mediterranean, so as not to violate the ceasefire. Hamas is building some rockets with a range of over 50 kilometers.

August 9, 2015: In the West Bank Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man who had just stabbed to death an Israeli civilian.

August 7, 2015: In Gaza another rocket was fired towards Israel. This is the third such firing this month and Hamas says it is the work of a local ISIL group that Hamas is actively trying to uncover and destroy. None of the ISIL rockets have done any damage or caused any casualties in Israel. Hamas rocket and training facilities are still being hit by Israeli air strikes in response to these rocket attacks as Hamas is considered responsible for preventing rogue Islamic terrorist groups from firing rockets into Israel. Hamas has an official policy now of avoiding another war with Israel, at least until they can obtain sufficient anti-aircraft weapons to eliminate or greatly reduce Israeli air attacks. Meanwhile Hamas encourages terror attacks inside Israel and the West Bank. Hamas also calls for such attacks against West Bank Arabs who do not support Hamas.

August 6, 2015: In Gaza a heavily damaged building exploded when civilians who were clearing the rubble found an unexploded Israeli missile from the 2014 war. Instead of calling for the experts to deal with it, the civilians picked the missile up and it exploded while they were carrying it away. Four people were killed and dozens of onlookers were wounded. Meanwhile in the West Bank a Palestinian drove his car into a group of Israelis, injuring three of them.

August 3, 2015: Two mortar shells landed on the Israeli side of the Syrian border, but caused no casualties or significant damage. When the fire is deliberate the Israelis fire back, but this incident appears to have been the result of fighting between government and rebels forces inside Syria, which is the cause of most bullets, rockets and shells crossing the border.

August 1, 2015: Israel has sent an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery to the Lebanese border. This is believed to be a training exercise not a long-term deployment.

July 31, 2015: In the West Bank someone (apparently radical Israeli settlers) threw a firebomb into a Palestinian home. An 18 month old child and an adult died. In response Israel ordered the arrest of two prominent and outspoken men who promoted the use of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Other settlers suspected of supporting the use of violence were also arrested.  Elsewhere in the West Bank the car of a local Hamas leader was damaged by a fire bomb tossed from a passing car. Hamas blamed Fatah for this and dozens of similar attacks.

In the south (northern Gaza) Israeli border guards killed a Palestinian man who got too close to the border fence and refused to back away. Israel has been pressuring Hamas to make good on promises to station Hamas guards on their side of the Israeli border to prevent Palestinians from getting too close to the border fence (to try and cross, to place a bomb or simply to harass Israeli patrols). The Israelis shoot at these Palestinians and that sort of thing happens every month, usually with Palestinians being wounded but occasionally there is a fatality.

July 30, 2015: Hamas has rejected demands from Fatah that Hamas allow Fatah officials to take over senior government jobs in Gaza. Fatah insists that this is a key part of the reunification deal with Fatah. Hamas now accuses Fatah of being allied with Israel and that apparently ends yet another reunification effort.

The Egyptian Navy took delivery of a 2,000 ton FREMM type frigate from France. This ship is part of a deal that also includes 29 Rafale jet fighters. The first three of those arrived in Egypt on July 20th.

July 29, 2015: In southern Syria, near the Israeli border, an Israeli airstrike killed Hezbollah gunmen and three members of a pro-Assad militia. One of the Hezbollah men had been released in the 2011 prisoner exchange. Israel also said it would attack ISIL groups in Sinai if they tried firing rockets into Israel again. Egypt did not like that and Israeli diplomats had to expend a bit of effort to repair the damage.

July 27, 2015: In the West Bank a Palestinian terrorism suspect fell from a roof while fleeing Israeli police who had come to arrest him.

July 25, 2015: Israel is upgrading its fleet of Saar class warships with new Israeli made radars and EW (Electronic Warfare) equipment. Currently the Israelis have fifteen Saar type ships in service (three Saar 5, ten Saar 4.5, and two Saar 4). Most of the older Saar 4s were retired, sold off, or converted to Saar 4.5. Apparently all of these, plus four new Saar 6 ships, will get the new electronics. The Saar 6 design is based on the new 1,800 ton warship design. Right now the largest Saar ships are the three 1,075 ton Saar 5s. The Saar 6 ships are to be armed with a 76mm gun, anti-missile/aircraft systems and anti-ship missiles. The Saar 6 ships have a max speed of 46 kilometers an hour and normal endurance of 10-12 days. Crew size is 60-70. 

 

 

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