Israel: Hamas Becomes Collateral Damage

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December 3, 2015: Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza are urging Palestinians of all ages to keep up their suicidal attacks on Israelis. Maintaining this wartime mentality means Palestinians will not be agitating for their corrupt leaders to change their ways. The current terror campaign seems larger than it actually is because each casualty gets so much media coverage. Most of the Israeli casualties have been civilians. So far that’s 22 Israeli deaths so far have along with 200 wounded. Because they are less likely to be armed civilians have been the main target of the 80 (so far) attacks. The most used weapons are rocks, vehicles and kitchen knives. Children are encouraged to participate and some of young as 11 have attempted knife attacks. So far about a hundred Palestinians have died and over a thousand wounded. There have actually been over 120 attacks attempted but a third of those were disrupted before attackers could hurt anyone. This is all mainly about money and power. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza, while bitter rivals, are both suffering from declining support (especially financial) from Moslem nations. The Palestinians are seen by Arab (Gulf oil states) supporters as being self-destructive, unreliable and ungrateful. The Palestinians hope that killing more Israelis will change that but this is not working. Arab Gulf states are improving their relations with Israel mainly because the Arabs need powerful local allies to deal with ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) and Iran.

Israeli leaders, operating in a democracy, are under tremendous pressure to stop this violence. This includes deploying more reservists in Israeli territory and reviving practices like destroying the family homes of those who attack Israelis. These home demolitions are meant to take the economic incentive out of Palestinian terror attacks. The Palestinian government pays families of attackers who are killed or jailed. Thus many families encourage, or don’t discourage, such violence among their children. In 2005 Israel halted such demolition as another gesture to encourage the Palestinians to stop supporting Palestinian terrorists who go after Israelis. 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.) Israel has also been shutting down Palestinian radio stations that become too explicit in urging Palestinians to go out and kill Israelis. There are also plans to further reduce Palestinian access to Israel.

Israel has other threats to deal with. Russia revealed that it is bringing some of their new S-400 anti-aircraft (and missile) systems to Syria. Israel says it has no problem with that as long as the S-400s are kept under Russian control. While S-400 could, on paper, threaten Israeli air superiority in the region, having them operating in Syria gives Israel a change to collect more data on how the system works and develop more effective countermeasures. Israel has done this before with great success. The S-400 entered service in 2007 when the first units were deployed around Moscow. Russia claimed the S-400 could detect stealth aircraft, implying that the hypothetical enemy is the United States. Russia also claims the S-400 can knock down short range ballistic missiles (those with a reentry speed of up to 5,000 meters a second, in the same way the similar U.S. Patriot system does.) Russia is offering the S-400 for export, an effort that is limited by a lack of combat experience for the system. Patriot has knocked down aircraft and ballistic missiles, S-400 has not. Moreover, Russia anti-aircraft missile systems have a spotty history (especially when confronted by Western electronic countermeasures.) The S-400s based around Moscow are part of a project to rebuild the Soviet era air defense system, which has fallen apart since the early 1990s.  Russia continues to bring more EW (Electronic Warfare) equipment into Syria. This gear was first noted in October as Russian electronic jamming equipment was used to against ISIL and NATO communications. Some NATO radars and satellite signals are also being jammed. NATO is already familiar with some of these jammers, particularly the truck mounted Krasukha-4, which has been encountered in eastern Ukraine (Donbas). Russia has also brought in a lot more electronic data collection and analysis equipment to listen on ISIL and NATO communications when not jamming them. This involves jamming low orbit space satellites as well. In response NATO and Israel have deployed more EW gear and personnel and this has led to a generally unseen (and unreported) electronic war over Syria. Israel is also monitoring all this EW gear which means it is more likely countermeasures will be developed by Israel and then sold to Western customers.

For the first time in 15 years Gaza is quiet. Hamas is facing growing public protests because of its inability to effectively administer Gaza. There are shortages of all sorts including hours without electricity. At the same time Hamas diverts economic aid to military purposes and urges young men young men to volunteer for military training and join terror organizations. This has led to public calls for the return of Israeli rule. The Israelis left in 2005 as a peace gesture that was not reciprocated. Neither Hamas nor the Gaza population want a violent insurrection against Hamas but they do want some improvements in living conditions and Hamas leaders are getting similar complaints from their most loyal supporters. There have been no rockets fired at Israel lately, in part because all the Islamic terror groups in Gaza are more concerned with the increasingly effective Egyptian counter-terror operations in Sinai. The Egyptians have closed most of the smuggling tunnels and made it much more difficult to build new ones and keep them operational. Thus Gaza has been more isolated than ever before. Israel has also been more prompt and effective in its retaliation attacks after rockets or mortar shells are fired at them from Gaza. This indicates that the Israeli (and Egyptian) informant systems in Gaza are expanding. This is understandable because the money is good even if you can get killed if caught. Because Hamas and everyone in Gaza realize that they are truly isolated and only good behavior against the neighbors (Egypt and Israel) will bring relief. The thousands of Islamic terrorists inside Gaza still hate Israel and the current Egyptian government but these guys also have to eat and many have families. The peace is temporary but may last longer than expected because Hamas has angered most of its foreign supporters. Mainly this is Iran and the Arab oil states, who are at war with one another just now and Hamas has become collateral damage.

Egypt is opening the main border crossing with Gaza for today and tomorrow so that aid supplies and stranded (and verifiable) Gazans can return to Gaza and foreigners can leave. Egypt only opens the border crossings like this if Hamas cooperates. Israel has a similar policy.

The Egyptian counter-terror campaign in Sinai is believed to have reduced the number of active Islamic terrorists (outside of Gaza) from 4,000 to a few hundred in the past few years. The decreasing number of Islamic terror attacks seems to attest to that. In the last few months the Sinai Islamic terrorists appear to have concentrated on finding better hideouts and reorganizing to better deal with the security situation. There are still suicide bombings against the security forces but no large scale attacks. The ISIL bombing of the Russian airliner is a good example of the new approach. ISIL has been smuggling cash and weapons (including explosives for bombs) to its Sinai branch (usually via Libya) and that would have enabled the building of a bomb and the bribing of airport personnel to assist in a “smuggling operation.” Even corrupt airport personnel are not going to risk their jobs with an aircraft bombing that will greatly reduce traffic to the airport and the need for aircraft personnel. But smuggling, usually drugs, is more common and acceptable.

For Egyptian leaders the major concern is the economy. Islamic terrorists are a threat mainly because they threaten the economy, and that has an impact on all Egyptians. Despite the damage to tourism (mainly from the recent ISIL bombing of a Russian airliner) the government has got the economy going again. In the last year GDP growth has been five percent and that is expected to be closer to six percent in the next year. The current ruler (a former general named Sisi) got elected mainly because he was seen as responsible for forcibly removing the ineffective (in reviving the economy) and unpopular Moslem Brotherhood from control of the government in July 2013. Making that removal stick has led to nearly 2,000 have dead since then, mostly Morsi supporters and Islamic terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Some 20,000 (or more) Moslem Brotherhood members are in jail. About 3o percent of the dead have been soldiers and police, which has made the counter-terrorism effort into a quest for vengeance by the security forces. Attacks on soldiers and police continue but the security forces are fighting back and the attacks diminish as more and more of the most violent opposition groups are taken apart. This is how Egypt defeated a major Islamic terrorist uprising in the 1990s. But that victory did not cure the disease, it only addressed the symptoms. Egypt is still looking for a cure. But in the meantime Egyptians have to eat and have some hope of a better life. Thus the economy is the major concern of the government and everything else is secondary. Because of that the security forces have been getting a lot of cooperation (and tips) from Egyptians who may not like Sisi and the return of authoritarian government, but like Islamic terrorists even less.

In Sinai the government has deployed 16,000 officials to supervise the parliamentary elections taking place there. The security forces have suppressed nearly all Islamic terrorist activity and the additional officials are there to ensure that the voting is fair and available for all who want to vote. The Islamic terrorists have threatened voters with retaliation if they vote but many people are ignoring the threats. Throughout Egypt voter turnout has been low.

December 1, 2015: On the Lebanese side of the Israeli border Lebanese troops destroying an Israeli remote sensor wounded two nearby civilians who were too close to the explosion. These devices are used to track Hezbollah operations and keep track of Hezbollah preparations for another war against Israel.

November 30, 2015: On the Lebanese side of the Israeli border Lebanese troops found and destroyed (by triggering the self-destruct mechanism) a remote Israeli intelligence gathering device.

November 29, 2015: A Russian warplane briefly entered Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. An Israeli air controller was able to contact the Russian pilot, who acknowledged his error and immediately returned to Syrian air space. Russia later reported that it was a navigation error and the Israelis accepted that. This was all quickly resolved because Russia and Israel had already agreed to procedures for situations like this. Israel will attack intruders and shot down a Syrian warplane in September 2014 that had entered Israeli airspace over Golan.

November 28, 2015: In Lebanon Israeli aircraft used smart bombs and missiles to attack a Hezbollah weapons storage facility along with trucks recently arrived from Syria carrying Iranian missiles. This is the third such Israeli air strike in this area in the last week. For the first time the Israeli government admitted that they did operate in Syria occasionally. No details were provided but other sources indicates they means over a dozen air strikes since 2011 and a smaller number of ground (command0) operations.

In northern Egypt (outside Cairo) gunmen on a motorcycle killed four policemen at a checkpoint.

November 27, 2015: In Sinai ISIL managed to make an attack against the additional officials brought in to help with the voting. Two ISIL men attacked a hotel where these officials were staying and killed two of them along with four policemen and a local civilian. Seventeen others were wounded. Both attackers were killed, one by explosives in the car he was driving and the other and the other by his explosive vest after he sneaked in via the beach and fired on some of the hotel guests.

November 23, 2015: In Syria, outside Damascus, Israeli warplanes fired five or more missiles at a Hezbollah base, apparently to destroy a supply of new Russian ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles) Hezbollah had recently received and was apparently planning to move them back to Lebanon for eventual use against Israeli tanks.

On the Israeli border in Sinai Egyptian policeman killed five illegal African migrants trying to get into Israel. Eleven others were arrested.  The police opened fire when their warning shots and calls to halt were ignored and the armed smugglers with the migrants shot at the police. The largely African migrants pay Egyptian gangs thousands of dollars, per illegal migrant, to get them into Israel. Between the more aggressive Egyptian border police and the new Israeli security fence on the Egyptian border the flow of illegal African immigrants has been greatly reduced. Some 60,000 Africans have sneaked into Israel in the last few years, but now fewer than a hundred a month get across the border and most are caught inside Israel. Before the fence was built as many as 2,000 a month got in. Egypt has also agreed to take back illegal migrants who cross from Egypt to Israel.

November 22, 2015: Israel believes that the Syrian government has, since 2011, used about 90 percent of its operational ballistic missiles against rebels. While Israel has bombed several attempts to move some of the remaining ballistic missiles to Lebanon, Israel believes it is possible that Hezbollah may have gotten some of these missiles to bunkers in southern Lebanon. Iran can provide personnel to help train Hezbollah on how to maintain and use the missiles. The Israeli air strike in Syria on November 2nd was apparently an effort to destroy ballistic missiles being moved to Lebanon. Israel also believes that Hezbollah now has 150,000 other rockets, most of them short range (20 kilometers or less) installed along the border, often in or close to homes and government buildings. Because of its commitments in Syria Hezbollah is not interested in another war with Israel just now but that attitude is expected to change depending on how the war in Syria ends.

November 17, 2015: Russia confirmed that an ISIL bomb was responsible for the death of 224 Russians when a Russian airliner exploded over Egypt while flying Russian vacationers home on October 31st. In response Russia has increased its military activity in Syria against ISIL, which said it ordered the airliner attack as revenge for the Russian intervention in Syria. Egypt is enthusiastically assisting Russia in investigating the bombing and finding those responsible, who are apparently based in Egypt. Russian tourists have, for over a decade, been a boon to Egyptian tourism and the only way to get them back (hopefully before the end of 2016) is by finding those responsible for the bombing and convincing the world that travelling to Egypt is safe.  

November 15, 2015: On the Israeli border in Sinai Egyptian policeman killed 15 illegal African migrants trying to get into Israel. Eight others were wounded and arrested. The police opened fire when their warning shots and calls to halt were ignored and the armed smugglers with the migrants shot at the police.

 

 

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