The good news is that Israel believes most (over 90 percent) of the missiles and rockets Syria had aimed at Israel in 2011 have been used or destroyed in the five year old civil war there. These missiles had been a threat to Israel for decades and as recently as 2013 Syria television showed maps of Israel with cities, military bases and industrial facilities marked for attack by Syrian missiles and long-range rockets. The bad news is that some of the Syrian threat has shifted to Lebanon. I
sraeli aircraft have been attacking Hezbollah trucks trying to move Syrian missiles into Lebanon. And there have been five of these attacks since early 2013. Israel promises more such attacks and apparently has an arrangement with Russia that eliminates the risk of Russian interference. Hezbollah has been threatening another massive rocket attack on Israel, larger than the last one in 2006. But the need to send men to fight in Syria has made Hezbollah vulnerable in southern Lebanon. There over 50,000 rockets have been hidden in basements of homes and public buildings (schools, hospitals and the like) and the threat of an Israeli military advance into southern Lebanon to find and destroy those rockets is giving Hezbollah and Israeli civilians nightmares. The Hezbollah war plan is to launch over a thousand rockets a day into Israel despite an Israeli offensive into southern Lebanon. Israel is calling on the United States to halt military aid to the Lebanese armed forces because Hezbollah has gained a lot of control over the Lebanese government and security forces and prevented the Lebanese from disarming Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia agrees and recently halted a $4 billion program to provide weapons and military equipment to Lebanon because of the inability of the Lebanese government to restrain Hezbollah.
Iran blames Israel for negotiating a secret deal with Russia (involving Syria and other matters of mutual interest) to delay the Iranian effort to get the S-300 anti-aircraft systems delivered. These S-300s are not yet operational and the Iranians are angry about it. The Iranians are also angry about some Russian behavior in Syria, mainly the Russians insisting that everything be done the Russian way.
In Egypt (northern Sinai) ground and air operations have killed at least 60 Islamic terrorists in the last week and wounded another 40. Troops destroyed 29 vehicles and air strikes hit stored ammo, which led to secondary explosions. There were less than a dozen casualties among soldiers and police. Since 2013 over 700 soldiers and police have died fighting Islamic terrorists, mostly in northern Sinai near Gaza. Islamic terrorist casualties have been much higher. Since 2013 about a thousand people a year have died from Islamic terrorism. About half the dead are terrorists (actual or suspected), most of the rest civilians. Most Egyptians oppose Islamic terrorism, if only because it tends to kill lots of innocent civilians and cripple the economy. But in a few rural areas, mainly in northern Sinai, there are populations willing to support Islamic terrorists. Outside of Sinai there a lot of people who are Islamic conservatives and are more tolerant of Islamic terrorism. But these terrorism supporters have to be careful because the neighbors are often willing to alert the police about any pro-Islamic terrorist activity in the neighborhood. There are about 10,000 members of the Islamic Brotherhood, from which most Islamic terrorists come (after denouncing the non-violent policies of the Brotherhood). While fewer than one percent of Egyptians support any form of terrorism, that’s still more than half a million people. More worrisome is the growing activity of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups. Even other Islamic terror groups fear ISIL because ISIL is very lethal and considers anyone not ISIL a target. The security forces don’t consider ISIL a long-term threat because ultra-violent groups like this are self-destructive and tend to burn out sooner rather than later.
Egypt is concerned that ISIL is continuing to recruit and organize terror attacks in Egypt and Israel. ISIL has pulled off a few spectacular attacks in 2015 (including getting a bomb aboard a Russian airliner that killed 224 Russians.) But so far in 2016 the more numerous raids and air strikes seem to have hampered ISIL and other Islamic terrorist groups. Despite all this counter-terrorism activity the poor state of the economy and the return of corrupt government (led by a former general) has kept a lot of Egyptians angry enough to support or at least tolerate Islamic terrorists.
The 450,000 personnel in the Egyptian military are having morale problems because of the growing popularity of conservative Islam (if not Islamic terrorism). Since 2013 that has led to growing violence by Islamic conservative troops against less religious Moslems and especially against non-Moslems. This had led to beatings, brawls and at least six cases where non-Moslem troops died in what was reported as suicides but many believed were murder. Egypt's considerable Coptic Christian minority (about ten percent of the population) has long been grossly underrepresented, and often mistreated, within the Egyptian Army. Copts are often singled out for discrimination by the police and public in civilian life, but beatings, ill-treatment, and sometimes outright torture are becoming increasingly common against army conscripts by Islamic conservative troops. Sometimes these beatings are motivated by a desire to force Copt recruits to convert to Islam, sometimes they occur just out of discriminatory attitudes.
March 24, 2016: In the West Bank two Palestinians attacked soldiers with knives. The two attackers were shot dead, one immediately and the other later because a soldier suspected the wounded Palestinian had explosives on him that he might detonate. That soldier was later arrested and accused of murder because an officer had already checked the wounded Palestinian for explosives. The arrest of the Israeli soldier caused a media and popular outcry among Israelis who see the arrest as a political stunt to appease foreign critics of Israeli security practices and the reality, to most Israelis, of how Palestinian leaders regularly broadcast lies about Israel and calls for violence. For example, Palestinian media is currently featuring accusations that Israel, not ISIL was responsible for recent terror attacks in Belgium. Palestinian media regularly and blatantly encourages suicidal attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians using any means available. Many Israeli troops (especially reservists who are regularly called up for months of security duty) and emergency medical personnel believe it is only a matter of time before a wounded Palestinian attacker uses some other weapon, like hidden explosives, to harm soldiers or medical personnel. Islamic terrorism experts find that unlikely as it is more likely that Palestinian suicide attackers with more access to explosives would simply use them against Israeli soldiers or police immediately, not after being wounded and subdued. But the lack explosives indicates Palestinian leaders are aware of the fact that such attacks tend to kill more innocent (Moslem) civilians than soldiers or police and discredit the attackers. Nevertheless the fear among the frontline security and medical personnel is real and this arrest of an Israeli soldier brought this problem into the open. Actually it’s an old problem with combat troops, where the unofficial policy of “it is safer to just shoot to kill” is often tolerated and combat veterans don’t talk about it. But cheap video cameras and cell phone videos have made it impossible to keep things like this quiet. In the West Bank and Israel the Fatah sponsored “knife terrorism” campaign has, since last October killed 30 Israelis and over 200 Palestinians and generated much international sympathy for Palestinians and little for Israel. For Palestinian leaders all is going according to plan.
March 21, 2016: The government warned Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey until the current Islamic terrorist threat is dealt with. This is in reaction to a March 19th suicide bombing in Turkey (Istanbul) that left four dead and 36 wounded. Thee of the dead and eleven of the wounded were Israelis.
The last Yemeni Jews in Yemen were flown out and arrived in Israel. This was apparently done with the cooperation of the Yemeni Shia rebels. Details of that cooperation were not made public. The arrival of these 19 Yemeni Jews in Israel ends an effort that began in 1949 and eventually got over 50,000 Yemeni Jews out and safe from growing anti-Jewish violence there. The Yemeni government protested this latest “illegal action” and arrested two men and accused them of helping get a 500 year old Torah to Israel, carried by one of the departing Jews. Torah scrolls are sacred to Jews and many Jewish religious ceremonies require one. But in this case the Yemeni government considers this Torah, the oldest known to survive in Yemen, as state property and accuses Israel of stealing it. Over the last century growing anti-Jewish violence in Yemen has led to the destruction of many such elderly Torah scrolls, which is why this one is so valuable.
March 19, 2016: Hamas suffered another tunnel collapse in Gaza. There were no deaths but two other collapses on the 14th and 10th left three dead. Hamas admits to eleven such tunnel failures so far this year and 14 deaths. Hamas usually blames such collapses on heavy rain storms but Israel believes Israel and Egypt efforts to limit lumber and cement shipments entering Gaza has played a role because many of these recent accidents seem to be the result of poor tunnel construction compared to earlier, safer, tunnels. As a result of all these accidents, which began to accelerate in late 2015, a growing number of Hamas men are refusing to work in the tunnels because there is a widely believed (among Gazans) rumor that the real cause of all these tunnel collapses (including the unreported ones that didn’t kill anyone) were the result of new Israeli anti-tunnel weapons. This sort of thing has been mentioned in the Israeli media, but mainly in terms of new detection sensors not devices that could remotely trigger a tunnel collapse. Hamas denies Israel has any such weapon and Israel won’t discuss classified military matters like new tunnel detection sensors. Hamas also does not like to openly discuss the energetic Egyptian anti-tunnel methods which include digging a canal along the Gaza border and flooding it with sea water to collapse tunnels and make it more difficult (because of the unstable wet sand) to build new tunnels into Egypt. Hamas also adds to the mystery by refusing to release any details of their tunneling activities. That is because a lot of the underground work is on rebuilding “combat tunnels” destroyed by Israel during the mid-2014 “50 Day War”. In addition new tunnels are being built. Israelis living near the Gaza border complain that they can sometimes hear (or feel) Hamas tunnel building efforts. In 2014 the Israeli military said they would erect a detection system to locate new tunnels so they could be destroyed. The detection system has been delayed because of defense spending cuts but now the government says the detection system is coming soon.
In Egypt (northern Sinai) ISIL used a suicide bomber and a mortar to attack a police checkpoint. The suicide bomb and several mortar shells left fifteen policemen dead.
March 12, 2016: Four rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties or property damage in Israel because the rockets landed in unoccupied land. Israeli warplanes retaliated within hours and bombed four known Islamic terrorist training camps. Two civilians living next to one of the camps were killed by bomb fragments. These were the first civilian deaths from these attacks since October 2015. There have been seven rockets fired from Gaza so far in 2016 despite a ceasefire agreement with Hamas that promised to halt such rocket attacks.
Another Israeli Arab was confirmed to have died fighting for ISIL in Syria. That makes seven Israeli citizens (all Arabs) who have died fighting for ISIL so far. At least fifty Israeli Arabs are known to have joined ISIL.