Palestinian leaders are trying to generate more popular enthusiasm for widespread violence against Israelis by continuing to organize violent protests around the al Aqsa mosque (which is just above the Wailing Wall, a popular Jewish holy place and tourist attraction) in Jerusalem. The current campaign began a year ago. Seeing an opportunity to grab more headlines , sympathy and, hopefully cash contributions from the Moslem world, the Palestinian leadership (Fatah) invested some effort and cash to get something going. It is working and angry Israelis soon persuaded the government to wake up and admit that many of the violent “protestors” were organized and should be arrested. The anger was because of the increasing number of attacks against Israelis. While there were fewer than ten terror related deaths a year in Israel in 2012 and 2013 (and only 21 in 2011) the war with Hamas raised this to 41 in 2014 and this made Fatah, which runs the West Bank, look bad. Thus the new campaign. Four Israelis have been killed in the last week and if the Palestinians can keep this up they can kill enough Israelis to justify Palestinians continuing to support Fatah rule in the West Bank.
Palestinian leaders don’t even try to hide what they are doing as Palestinian media regularly runs stories encouraging Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to use whatever kind of violence they can to attack and kill or injure Israeli Jews. Palestinian leaders get on TV and tell teenagers that throwing rocks and fire bombs at Israelis, especially those in cars or busses, is not breaking any law and is justified resistance to Israeli repression. The Palestinian politicians further encourage the teenagers by pointing out that if Israel uses force against rock throwers and kills or injures any of them it is the Israelis who will be guilty of war crimes. Naturally this encourages a lot more Palestinian teenagers to throw rocks and those that manage to injure or kill Israelis are considered heroes. Palestinians also know that in addition to praise and lots of media attention any Palestinians who are jailed or injured while trying to hurt Israelis receive large payments from Fatah. Payments to jailed Palestinians vary according to how many Israelis the prisoner killed or injured. Some of these convicts get over $70,000 a year. Palestinians who get killed see their families receiving payments. These economic and media attention incentives have always encouraged many Palestinian men (and some women) to join the violence.
In the face of these cynical tactics Israel has threatened to shut down Fatah and rule the West Bank directly. That does get some attention from Fatah. Normally the only thing the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) has to offer to avoid this (aside from halting its support of violence against Israelis) is written and unwritten agreements with Israel whereby Fatah helps Israel control Islamic terrorists in the West Bank and Israel helps keep Fatah in power. The current violence violates that understanding. But Fatah desperate in large part because it is regarded by most Palestinians as corrupt and self-serving. Fatah does provide some jobs and public services. With Fatah the Israelis know they are basically dealing with gangsters. For the Palestinians their inability to create competent, honest and efficient leaders is a great shame and the main reason why so many Palestinians want to emigrate, or support terrorism (against Israel or, in support of Hamas, against Fatah). Many Palestinians understand, but will not say out loud, that even if the Palestinians somehow eliminated Israel and the entire area became Palestinian the Palestinian people would still suffer from corrupt and ineffective government.
Saudi Arabia has its lobbyists in the West working overtime to deal with accusations that the Saudi led Arab coalition air attacks in Yemen has killed more civilians (more than 2,000) this year than Israel did during their 2014 war in Gaza with Hamas. That conflict saw 2,100 Palestinians killed and about two-thirds of them were civilians. The Palestinians, and their Arab allies in the UN, want Israel prosecuted for war crimes because of this. There is no such clamor for the Saudis to be similarly prosecuted. The reality is that the situation is much worse than that. Far more Palestinians are killed by other Palestinians (and other Arabs) than by Israelis. For example nearly 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian Civil War since 2011. Hundreds were tortured to death and more than that were executed, often in gruesome ways, for being on the wrong side or for “blasphemy”. In Gaza hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in factional fighting or executed by Hamas for various offenses (like disagreeing with Hamas rule.) In the last half century more far more Palestinians have been killed by Arabs than by Israelis. The current situation becomes more embarrassing when you look at the reaction of Arabs and their supporters in the West to all this. The Palestinian accusations, and willful ignorance of Palestinians killed by Arabs has been increasingly supported in the West, especially among leftist political groups, who automatically agree with the Palestinians. This justifies accusations that Israel must be doing something wrong. Israel points out that their Arab and Western critics would, and do, respond as Israel does when attacked by nearby terrorists but that fact is ignored. Well, not completely. Many Arabs, especially Arab diplomats who know a lot about Israel and the Palestinians privately agree with the Israelis. But to openly point out the reality of the situation in the Moslem world will get you death threats, or worse. In the West it’s safer to point out the obvious although in leftist political circles the pro-Palestinian supporters can be loud and even a little violent at times. In Europe this has led to more tolerance of anti-Semitic violence and more European Jews moving to Israel (and elsewhere).
Oil has been discovered on the Golan Heights. There appears to be several billion barrels. Israel uses about 100 million barrels a year. Syria claims the Golan Heights but Israel holds the territory because it is high ground overlooking a lot of Israeli territory. Israel does not trust Syrian occupation of the heights, which Syria has used in the part to fire on Israelis below. UN troops have been there since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. Israel defeated Syria in 1967 and took the Golan Heights. In 1973 Israel defeated a strong effort by Syria to regain the Golan Heights. Since then the UN has watched over an uneasy peace.
Across the border in Syria additional Hezbollah and Syrian Army forces are arriving apparently to try and regain control of the Israeli border. Rebel groups have taken control of most of this border area in the last year. This sudden effort to regain the border is a side effect of the recent Russian intervention in Syria. This was very good news for Hezbollah. The Iran backed Hezbollah militia has been providing thousands of fighters inside Syria for the Iran backed Assad government but this has been increasingly unpopular among Hezbollah members and even more unpopular with Lebanese in general. That’s because Syria considers Lebanon a “lost province” and has always treated Lebanon badly. Hezbollah had to fight in Syria for the hated (by most Lebanese) Assad government because Iran has long been the main financial and military support for Hezbollah and demanded that Hezbollah send fighters to Syria. But Hezbollah leaders eventually told Iran that the Hezbollah operations (and casualties) in Syria were causing serious damage to the unity and effectiveness of Hezbollah in general. In fact, once it became clear that Russia was putting substantial combat forces in Syria, Hezbollah quietly informed Iran and the Assads that by the end of September Hezbollah would cease offensive operations in Syria and confine their participation to fighting Syrian rebel (especially Islamic terrorist groups) attempts to get into Lebanon. Decisions like this are very popular with most Lebanese and especially welcome by Hezbollah fighters, who always thought they had signed up mainly to defend Lebanon in general and the Shia minority of Lebanon in particular. Guarding the border is doing just that and will repair the damage to morale done because of combat operations inside Syria (and several thousand casualties suffered as a result). Now it is clear that Hezbollah, after receiving some additional weapons (including tanks) has been encouraged to do a little more. This might be something like pushing Syrian rebels much farther away from the Lebanese border as that would be tolerable to most Lebanese and help the Assad government as well. Putting Hezbollah forces on the Syrian border with Israel is also popular with many Lebanese, as long as the effort does not get a lot of Lebanese killed.
In Sinai Egyptian security forces have been on the offensive against Islamic terrorist groups for the last month. Egypt claims the troops have killed 20-30 Islamic terrorists a day and captured hundreds of suspects plus many vehicles and large quantities of weapons, ammo and explosives. There has been a lot less Islamic terrorist activity because of this. The main target of the offensive are Islamic terrorists who have joined ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which is considered more dangerous than other groups. Moreover the Islamic terrorists (especially ISIL) are making more of an effort to move their operations out of the Sinai and carry out attacks in the more populated parts of the country. There the Islamic terrorists will find a more hostile population, one that is more concerned with surviving and not the message of violence and the afterlife that the Islamic terror groups preach. In Egypt most of the Islamic terrorist activity is in Sinai, which is largely desert and sparsely populated. In the rest of the country the major concerns are the economy and the return of dictatorship, something the 2011 revolution was supposed to have eliminated.
In the Sinai Egypt is succeeding in shutting down the smuggling tunnels with water. In 2013 the Egyptians began flooding smuggling tunnels to reduce the flow of weapons into Gaza and terrorists coming out into Egypt. This required digging small canals for seawater that could then be pumped into tunnels discovered. It was eventually found that flooding permanently destroyed the tunnel better than any other method because it caused the sandy soil in the area to collapse. It is believed that only about twenty tunnels are still operating and every week several of those are discovered and flooded. The army engineers have learned that you have to not only flood the tunnels but keep flooding them because the Palestinians in Gaza can obtain pumps to remove the water and repair the damage. But if you keep the tunnel flooded long enough it collapses and has to be rebuilt as if there were never a tunnel there in the first place.
Egypt is trying use the growing isolation of Gaza (via patrols on the border fence, closings of the main crossings and destroying tunnels) to get Hamas to cooperate in shutting down anti-Egypt Islamic terrorists that are still tolerated inside Gaza. So far Hamas has expressed interest in cooperating but has not taken much action.
October 7, 2015: A Russian delegation has arrived in Israel for more talks about cooperation and coordination between Russian and Israeli military forces now that Russian troops and warplanes are operating inside Syria. An initial agreement was made on September 21st.
October 6, 2015: In Jerusalem troops destroyed three homes belonging to Palestinians caught making attacks against Israelis. These home demolitions are meant to take the economic incentive out of Palestinian terror attacks. In 2005 Israel halted such demolition as another gesture to encourage the Palestinians to stop supporting Palestinian terrorists who go after Israelis. That did not work so the demolition practice was soon reinstated because interrogations of captured terrorists indicated that it did prevent some terrorist violence (via families paying more attention to what their pro-terrorism kids were up to.)
Near Gaza construction of a security fence around twelve Israeli towns near the Gaza border was completed. The new fence protects the towns from Islamic terrorists getting across the Gaza border fence, either by cutting through the fence or using tunnels. Construction of this new fence began after the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza. That conflict revealed the many Hamas “kidnapping” tunnels underneath the Gaza border fence. Hamas is intent on kidnapping Israeli civilians or soldiers and ransoming them for the freedom of imprisoned terrorists. The most vulnerable Israelis are those living in isolated communities near the Gaza border.
October 5, 2015: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested five Hamas members who confessed to three gun attacks on Israelis in the West Bank, the latest of which killed two adults who were driving in a vehicle with their four children. One of the dead was an American citizen. The five arrested terrorists admitted they belonged to Hamas and had been active for several months. Their first two attacks failed to inflict any casualties. On October 2nd Israel sent four additional battalions of troops into the West Bank to help with the search for the killers and to make it more difficult for more such attacks to be made. Hamas supports terrorism in the West Bank as part of its effort to replace Fatah as ruler of that area. The 2012 Fatah and Hamas reconciliation agreement is dead. According to that deal the head of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, was to become president of the reunited Palestinian people, at least until new elections could be held. These elections are not going to happen. The senior Hamas leadership, which does not live in Gaza, conducted the negotiations. This resulted in vigorous protests from Hamas leaders in Gaza, who were not willing to submit to Fatah leadership, even on a temporary basis. Meanwhile Hamas did not tone down its demand for Israel to be destroyed and Fatah became more public with similar demands. These were usually confined to its Arab language media but have, since 2012, more frequently appeared in English. Hamas and Fatah have now stopped even pretending that this reconciliation agreement is anything more than a publicity stunt to placate foreign donors angry at the constant bickering between Hamas and Fatah.
October 4, 2015: In Gaza a rocket fired into Israel causing no casualties or damage. Hamas blamed a dissident Islamic terror group for this attack.
October 3, 2015: Seven Israeli Arabs were indicted for planning to make terrorist attacks inside Israel in support of ISIL.
September 27, 2015: Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian Army units just across the border from Israel because of recent rocket fire that had landed in Israel. These attacks remind Syrian commanders that such attacks have serious consequences. Often these attacks are accidents but when that is unclear, Israel retaliates, just to be certain that the other side understands.
September 22, 2015: Egypt and Algeria are calling on the Libyan Tobruk government to halt its offensive in Benghazi. This would put more pressure on the rival Tripoli government to get its dissident factions in line and agree to the UN sponsored peace deal.
September 21, 2015: Israel and Russia reached an agreement on how to avoid military clashes in Syria. In short, Russia recognized the Israeli need to stop Iran or Syria from transferring weapons to Hezbollah. Thus Russia said it would not interfere with Israeli aircraft or ground forces attacking attempts to make such transfers. Israeli warplanes have also been used to retaliate against rebel and Syrian forces for incidents where bullets, rockets or shells from Syria landed in Israel. Russia will also leave these actions alone. Israeli warplanes have made dozens of attacks in Syria since 2013, several of them to destroy Russian weapons being moved to Lebanon (by Hezbollah). Israel made it clear that it could not back off on using air power to protect their Syrian and Lebanese borders and Russia said it understood that and did not want any problems over this issue. Apparently the two nations have set up a procedure to keep each other informed when Russian and Israeli warplanes or ground forces might encounter each other. This includes regular consultation to work out any current or potential problems.
September 17, 2015:
Israeli and Russian diplomats began quietly trying to work out an arrangement regarding the recent Russian military buildup in Syria.