Down south in Gaza the inability of Hamas to enforce ceasefire agreements and halt attacks on Israel has had some dire consequences The Hamas failure has led to the majority (currently 61 percent) of Israelis backing another (the second since 2014) invasion of Gaza, which this time would not only go after combat tunnels and stocks of rockets but take complete control of Gaza and exploit the hatred of many Fatah supporters in Gaza to obtain more intel on where Hamas hides its thousands of rockets and other weapons as well as hideouts and bunkers built to house Hamas leaders in an emergency. Israel could then offer, with the cooperation of Egypt, to turn control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, which would put the Palestinians in a terrible position. This would be an expensive (in terms of casualties and the diplomatic problems) but most Israelis see no other way because every other approach has been tried and failed, often multiple times. Egypt is convinced and apparently so is Fatah (which now controls the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority). Many, but not all, Hamas leaders are also convinced but at this point Hamas as few options left and none of them are promising.
And Then There Is Iran
When it comes to dealing with Iran the Americans and Israelis are on a roll and intent on exposing much more Iranian bad behavior. In some cases, Iranians will be a source, but in all cases, Iranians will be consumers of such news and that weakens the control the Iranian clerics have over the Iranian government. More and more evidence of Iranian bad behavior surfaces. This is largely because Israel is allowing the European nations to send their own intel and nuclear weapons experts to examine the huge trove of Iranian documents Israel got out of Iran earlier in 2018. So far these documents have been toxic for Iran and any Iranian claims to never having had a nuclear weapons program.
Many older Iranians, who were young when the monarchy was overthrown in 1979 now admit that the religious dictatorship that replaced the Shah (emperor) was worse and maybe even more difficult and costly (to Iranians) removing it than it was overthrowing the imperial government. These older Iranians also speak of a time when Israel was an Iranian ally. That has not been forgotten in Israel. That explains the recent appearance of two-minute video by the Israeli prime minister in which he offered to share Israeli tech used to deal with water shortages (especially low use and recycling tech). This is a growing problem throughout Iran (and in neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey) but Israel has been dealing with far worse situations for decades. Iranian leaders angrily refused the Israeli offer but the average Iranian, especially one personally suffering from the current water problems is willing to take help from whoever offers it. While the Iranian government angrily dismissed the Israeli offer hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the Internet, and eventually to the streets, to back the offer. This has led to a new catchphrase in Iran; “We (Iranian government) offer them death, they (Israel) offer us life”. The Iranian government was further rattled by this response and insisted that Iran had all the technology it needed to deal with the growing water shortages. The average Iranian doesn’t see it that way and the nationwide protests continue. Iranian leaders need a win against Israel and they are not having much luck in getting one.
This is one reason Russia made it clear that it sides with Israel when it comes to Syria and a long-term peace deal. Despite that Israel has concluded that Russian pressure will not persuade Iran to back off on their efforts to increase Iranian controlled military forces in Syria and then launch attacks on Israel. But Russia will cooperate with Israel.
Russia backed this up by openly accepting Israeli use of Jerusalem as their capital and moving functions normally held in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This angers many Moslems, and especially Iran. This support for Israel is one the few things the United States and Russia agree on these days. The durability of this alliance is mainly a matter of paying attention to who can do what. For example, unclassified rankings of “the most powerful nations” tend to include tiny Israel in the top ten, as in; U.S., Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). These rankings combine economic, technical, military and diplomatic capabilities. Israel may be small in population but they are world class in many technology areas, have nukes and the most capable armed forces in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and UAE have much of the world oil reserves and armed forces they have built up over decades at great expense and, to the surprise of many (including Iran) made it work. Their combat pilots are competent and their anti-missile defenses work (as they have intercepted over a 100 ballistic missiles, many of them Iranian made, fired by Yemeni Shia rebels at targets in Saudi Arabia.) Iran and Turkey are not in the top ten and Russia notices that. Despite all that the Israeli alliance with Russia is unwritten and has limits. Yet it is real because Israel has not attacked any Russian targets with its growing air offensive against Iranian forces.
Israel has told the Assads that if they stick with Iran they will be destroyed. The Assads realize that the Iranians are fanatics about destroying Israel and that the Israelis have demonstrated their ability to counter any move the Iranians make. Moreover, all the other Arab states consider the Assads traitors for aligning themselves with the Iranians, who are quite openly at war with Arab control of Arabia and much else. Worse, no one has much sympathy for the Assads, who have very few good qualities. Despite this, the Assads apparently try to side with Russia and Israel rather than Iran. What this comes down to is the fact that Iran is a foreign (Indo-European, not Arab) power that wants to increase its direct control over Syria. Russia and Israel do not. Many Iranians (but few of their leaders) note that the three most powerful Middle Eastern states (Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE) are now allies, mainly against Iran. While the Turks are now led by a nationalistic Islamic leader who also wants to destroy Israel the Turks also admit that Iran is a traditional rival and the Arabs are not as weak as they were during the centuries the Turks (the Ottoman Empire) ruled them. Many Turks are smitten with the nationalism thing, just as they once were when they had an empire. But the Turks didn’t get their empire and then transition to a modern, industrial age state when the empire collapsed a century ago by being stupid. The only dummies at this point are key factions of the religious dictatorship that rules Iran.
August 2, 2018: In the north Russian military police are operating with UN peacekeepers so that, for the first time since 2014, the peacekeepers can patrol the 1974 UN demilitarized zone (extending 24 kilometers from the Israel-Syrian border). By the terms of the 1974 deal, any Syrian violation of that zone would be considered an act of war and would be met with force from Israel. Russia has also agreed to keep Iranian forces 85 kilometers from the Israeli border. This includes Hezbollah and other Iranian mercenaries. The Russian military police are also taking possession of the abandoned Syrian observation positions which, along with their Israeli counterparts, monitored the border and the actions of the UN peacekeepers. The Russians will soon turn over these observation posts to the Assad forces.
In southwestern Egypt Sudanese forces handed over five Egyptian soldiers who had been captured in mid-July by a Chad militia force from Libya and held prisoner until late July. The Egyptian soldiers (an office and four subordinates) were carrying out a border reconnaissance near the Sudan border when they accidentally crossed into Sudan and caught the attention of the Chadian gunmen (who often pass this way because of their smuggling activities). Sudanese troops were alerted and at the end of July had conducted an operation in southeast Libya to help free the five Egyptian soldiers. At that point, Sudan insisted that Egypt reciprocate with problems Sudan was having with rebels and dissidents finding sanctuary in Egypt. Negotiations ensued and an agreement was reached.
August 1, 2018: In the south, Israel banned the delivery of gas (petrol) and other flammable fuels to Gaza until there is a verified agreement for Hamas to halt the fire kite/balloon attacks on Israel. Today seven fires set by fire kites are burning on the Israeli side of the border. In the last few days, larger fire balloons have been detected more than 30 kilometers inside Israel. Hamas has been told that unless the fire kite/balloon effort stops Israel will consider those building or launching fire kites/balloons as legitimate targets and attack them on sight.
In the north, on the Syrian border, an Israeli airstrike just across the border killed seven ISIL men belonging to the Khaled Bin Walid Army as they approached Israeli territory. A larger number of ISIL men were trying to get into Israel and Jordan and most were heading for Jordan. All these ISIL efforts were apparently failing because Israel and Jordan knew ISIL was coming. Syrian and Iranian forces have driven rebels out of the southern border areas and while most rebel fighters could accompany pro-rebel civilians out of the area (via a surrender deal) the ISIL men could not because they are at war with everyone and many of them are not even Syrian. The Israel border with Syria is much shorter than the Jordanian ones but both countries share surveillance and intelligence information about Islamic terrorists in southern Syria so over the last two days Jordan has also reported intercepting even more of the Khaled Bin Walid Army men.
The United States has resumed providing cash aid for the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. From now on this aid is dependent on the Palestinian security forces cooperating when it comes to counter-terrorism and related programs. The aid had been halted in January when the American told the Palestinians they had to convince the United States that they cooperate.
July 31, 2018: In the north, on the Syrian border, Iranian forces appear to be pulling back. Russia says it has persuaded the Iranians to stay at least 85 kilometers from the Israeli border. The problem is constantly monitoring and verifying compliance. The Iranians regularly make peace deals like then and then devote a lot of effort to developing ways to violate the terms of their agreement and not get caught. Russia has also told Israel that Iran has rebuffed Russian suggestions that Iran withdraw its forces from Syria.
In Egypt three police operations near Cairo left five Islamic terrorists dead, five arrested and a stockpile of their weapons seized. This operation was against Hasm, a radical faction of the Moslem Brotherhood that has been carrying out terror attacks since 2016.
July 30, 2018: In the south Hamas has developed longer range fire balloons because one of them landed near Beersheba, which is 35 kilometers from the Gaza border. There was nothing flammable where the kite landed but that was a matter of chance.
Hamas and Fatah negotiators are in Egypt for another round of unification talks mediated by Egypt. Hamas has so far found it impossible to agree on how to restore cooperation, and eventual reunification with Fatah (which runs the West Bank) and establish a united Palestinian government. Israel is not going to try and make peace with a group that is not in control of its own territory and people. Hamas continues to feud with Fatah and persecute Fatah supporters in Gaza. Fatah is a bit less open about its desire to destroy Israel rather than make peace but is considered more reliable and easier to work with then Hamas. Meanwhile, one the oldest and most powerful Palestinian backers, Saudi Arabia, has told all Palestinians to make peace, taking whatever they can get. Fatah might go for this but current Hamas leaders would not. Worse, Hamas is running out of options and that is the main reason they are attending this round of negotiations. Sending terrorists into Israel didn’t work (the high-tech security fence ended that). The mass rocket attacks didn’t work (Israelis would shoot back and send in troops). The occasional rocket attacks didn’t work (Iron Dome and firing back). The tunnels into Israel didn’t work (Israel extended their security fence and sensors deep underground). Offering financial incentives to get large crowds of demonstrators to border crossings is nothing new but not only did this not work but backfired when someone in Gaza used 12.7mm sniper rifle to kill an Israeli soldier. This triggered the most massive retaliation Hamas has experienced since the 2014 war. Worse, Egypt advised Hamas that Israel was on the verge of another invasion of Gaza and Egypt was not going to assist Hamas in any way, nor was any other Arab country. Not a lot of aid from Iran was likely because while the Iranian government supports Hamas again (since 2017) more and more Iranians have been participating in anti-government demonstrations where one of the favorite chants is “Down with the Palestinians.” At the moment the main Hamas sponsor is Iran and the Iranians have lots of new ideas, especially when it is Arabs who are going to do most of the dying. Most of the current Hamas leadership is opposed to getting involved with an Iranian offensive against Israel, although a minority faction of Hamas is all for any offensive operations against Israel. Hamas leaders have noted that Iran is suffering heavy losses from Israeli airstrikes in Syria and over 130 Gazans have died in the current Hamas “fence offensive” with nothing to show for it. Hamas managed to kill one Israeli soldier and suddenly a major chunk of Hamas military assets in Gaza disappeared. This time around Egypt sees an opportunity to get Fatah and Hamas to unite. In part that is because several of the senior Hamas leaders who live outside of Gaza have agreed to visit Gaza and decide whether or not they will support an enforced ceasefire with Israel as well as the fate of the Hamas/Fatah negotiations.
July 29, 2018: The Israeli navy intercepted one of the four boats of another Gaza Aid flotilla. The seizure took place 88 kilometers from Gaza City. There was no violence from the people on the former Norwegian fishing boat carrying medical supplies and an international (mainly European) collection of Hamas supporters seeking to break the blockade or, failing that, show the world what noble and heroic advocates they were. This is reminiscent of the 2010 flotilla of six boats, some of them containing Turks who supported Islamic terrorism as well as Hamas. That did not end well. In 2010 Turkish politicians backed themselves into a corner by supporting the Turkish radical group (IHH) that organized the convoy of ships that tried to break the Gaza blockade. Nine Turkish members of pro-Terrorist Islamic charity IHH were killed when they attacked Israeli commandos landing on one of the ships. Despite video evidence that the nine Turks attacked the Israeli commandos with metal pipes and knives, the nine are considered martyrs in Turkey and the Islamic politicians who run the government must risk cutting diplomatic (and many other) relations with Israel if Israel does not take the blame for the deaths of the nine Turks. Israel refused to do this because it was politically impossible to take the blame when so many Israelis blame the Turks for supporting the Gaza flotilla, which was trying to open supply lines for Hamas, an organization openly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The Turkish leaders have a problem in that many Turks do not back IHH and blame Israel, including many commanders in the Turkish armed forces. Israel allows food and medical supplies into Gaza no matter what but it must pass through Israeli territory and be carefully checked for contraband (explosives, weapons and other military equipment.)
July 28, 2018: In Egypt (Sinai) security force commanders report that the ongoing (since February) counter-terror operations in Sinai have so far left over 320 Islamic terrorists (and a few local tribesmen) dead as well as 38 soldiers. Civilian deaths often occur when the troops call in air strikes (F-16s and armed helicopters) or artillery fire. The operation has also taken more than a thousand terrorist bombs, explosive vests and landmines out of action. Over a thousand weapons and large quantities of ammo have also been seized along with equipment and vehicles. These losses have hampered Islamic terrorist operations and recruiting. This has enabled army engineers to complete several major civilian construction projects in Sinai. Military projects include upgrading the buffer zone (now 3.5 kilometers wide) along the Gaza border that makes it easier to detect tunnel construction. Once detected the tunnels are destroyed. The buffer zone will eventually be five kilometers wide as more lands are bought or seized and structures were torn down.
July 27, 2018: In the south, on the Gaza border, Hamas continues to sponsor the mass demonstrations along the border fence that usually result in the mob surging towards the fence to provide human shields for armed Hamas men who will try to cut through the fence, plant bombs or thrown explosives at Israeli troops. Today about 7,000 Gaza residents showed up and two of those attacking the fence were killed and 80 wounded. Hamas offers large cash rewards to the families of civilians killed during these border attacks as well as assured medical care and cash payments for those injured. There is also free food, water and tents to take shelter in while these spontaneous demonstrations are being organized. Israel struck back with an airstrike on a Hamas military facility later in the day, killing three Hamas men.
In Jerusalem, Israeli troops entered al Aqsa mosque compound and arrested 24 Palestinian men who were trying to use the mosque (which is rarely entered by Israeli troops) as a base for attacks (using fireworks and rocks) on Jewish pilgrims below.
July 26, 2018: In the West Bank a Palestinian got into an Israeli settlement and attacked three residents, killing one of them. The attacker was shot dead by another settlement resident.
In the north Syrian troops raised the Syrian flag over the main crossing between Syria and Israel. The Syrians had lost control of this crossing to rebels in 2014.
July 25, 2018: In the south, nine rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel. One rocket was intercepted by Iron Dome while the rest of the projectiles were ignored because they landed in uninhabited areas.
Earlier in the day an Israeli soldier at the Gaza border fence, trying to persuade about 20 Palestinian teenagers to move away from the fence, was wounded by a sniper deeper inside Gaza. Israel retaliated by firing on seven Hamas military positions in Gaza and killing three Hamas members.
In Egypt (northern Sinai) security forces, acting on a tip, raided a construction site and were met by gunfire from 13 Islamic terrorists who were using the site to prepare for a terror attacks. All 13 Islamic terrorists died in the gun battle and a search of the area found three explosive vests as well as weapons and ammo.
July 24, 2018: Israel had decided to add $8 billion to its anti-missile system development and production budget.
July 23, 2018: In the north, the new Israeli David’s Sling (formerly Magic Wand) anti-aircraft system experienced a system failure during its first combat test. The fire control computer miscalculated where a Syrian SS-21 ballistic missile fired towards Israel would land. The SS-21 has a range of 120 kilometers and Syria has had at least forty of them since the 1990s. In this case, two Syrian SS-21 s were launched at targets in Syria near the Israeli border. Two David’s Sling missiles were launched to intercept the SS-21s but both missed because the SS-21s were not headed for Israeli territory. One of the David’s Sling missiles did not self-destruct and crashed in Syria (where debris could be collected for analysis.) Israel successfully completed tests for David’s Sling in early 2017 and planned to deploy the first battery of the system by the end of the year. This was a year later than expected because earlier testing had revealed some potential problems that required fixing. Israel is very exacting about such technical problems because these weapons are the first line of defense against threats that are very real and openly calling for the destruction of Israel. David’s Sling is the Israeli replacement for existing American Patriot and Hawk systems. The first battery is expected to be deployed in northern Israel but now use of that battery will be restricted until the investigation is complete and any recommendations tended to.
In Egypt, the local ISIL group confirmed that one of their senior leaders, Abou Jaafar al Maqdesi, had been killed in action recently. Local tribesmen reported that in early July Maqdesi and some of his followers had their sanctuary in Gaza and soon ran into security forces that led to Maqdesi and his associates were killed.
July 22, 2018: In the north, a Syrian Su-22 light bomber flew across the Israeli border and was shot down by Patriot missiles two kilometers inside Israel. Syria denied that the Su-22 had crossed the border and said it would retaliate.
Israeli again attacked an Iranian run missile assembly plant in northwest Syria. Several Hezbollah personnel were killed. This is the fourth such attack on Syrian targets so far this month.
July 21, 2018: In the north Israel allowed 400 Syrians to enter Israel on their way to sanctuary in Jordan. These Syrians consisted of 98 Civil Defense volunteers (“White Helmets”) and their families who were fleeing rebel held areas near the border that had recently by conquered by Syrian troops. The While Helmets operated mainly in rebel held areas and got a lot of good publicity for their selfless efforts to assist wounded or homeless civilians in combat zones. Hundreds of the several thousand While Helmets known to exist were killed or wounded. The Syrian government considered the While Helmets rebels and traitors and killed them whenever possible because they made the Syrian government look bad because the government has, since 2011, deliberately used artillery fire and airstrikes against civilians in rebel held territory. Israel did not take credit for allowing the White Helmet busses to move through Israel to get to Joran in order to deny Syria another reason to hunt down and kill While Helmets.
July 20, 2018: In the south Egypt helped arrange another ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and did so in record time. The Israelis were particularly angry because earlier that day a Hamas sniper, using a large caliber Iranian sniper rifle, killed an Israeli soldier on the Israeli side of the border. This was the first Israeli fatality since 2014. This time the Egyptians convinced Hamas that Israel was ready to again invade Gaza and do major damage to Hamas manpower and facilities because of the continued Hamas attacks on Israel. Egypt was able to quickly negotiate yet another ceasefire. There have been several of these ceasefires recently, all of them violated by Hamas, which often insists it has an obligation to attack Israel despite ceasefire agreements. Both Israel and Israel recognize Hamas as an Islamic terrorist threat and both have sealed off access to Gaza. Even though Egypt now calls in the UN to recognize Hamas as an Islamic terrorist organization Hamas still trusts Egypt enough to let them mediate ceasefire negotiations with Israel. Hamas has few supporters left in the Arab world, which openly accuses Hamas in particular and Palestinians as unreliable, self-destructive and delusional. Although Iran technically supports Hamas most Iranians do not, with Iranians openly opposing their government aiding the Palestinians in any way. Hamas leaders were demoralized by their lack of support from Egypt or other Arabs and basically agreed to cancel the current fence demonstrations and the use of fire kites and balloons. But Hamas proved unwilling or unable to enforce this ceasefire and the violence, and fire kite attacks continued.
July 19, 2018: In the south mortar shells were fired from Gaza at some soldiers on the Israeli side of the fence. There were no casualties. Earlier in the day, there had been an Israeli airstrike on Hamas personnel launching fire kites and balloons into Israel. Elsewhere in Gaza, an Israeli UAV fired a missile at several Islamic terrorists, killing one and wounding three others.
July 16, 2018: In Gaza IRGC general (and Quds Force commander) Soleimani canceled his scheduled speech at a conference at a hotel auditorium. The speech was supposed to be televised and sent via satellite to Iran as well as Arabic cable outlets. Hamas claimed it was technical difficulties that caused the cancellation. The rumors in Gaza ranged from “pressure from Arab countries” to “Israelis jamming the satellite feed.” All three explanations are plausible.
July 15, 2018: In the south (Gaza) the head of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade rocket unit and his teenage son were killed as the two were working on a rocket. The incident was described by Hamas as a “workplace accident”.
Israel released more documents on the Iranian nuclear program. Many intelligence and nuclear weapons experts from foreign nations have been allowed to examine all the documents and the consensus is that they are authentic and reveal details of the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons while keeping that effort a secret. Many Iranians believe Israel did indeed get these documents and that Mossad carried out a well planned and executed operation in January that took the material from a well-protected warehouse and hustled them out of Iran overnight to avoid getting caught. Israel spent months getting these documents authenticated while the news that the documents had been taken slowly went from rumor to reality in the three months between the documents were taken and Israel announced it. Now the Israelis are releasing more and more of the documents, and details of the Mossad operation (including photos of the inside and outside of the warehouse) to the media while the Iranian government tries to depict all of this as another clever Israeli fabrication. But even inside Iran, enough details of the Mossad operation got into circulation to confirm, for most Iranians, that it was all true.
In northern Syria (outside Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike destroyed part of an Iranian base. Iran denied this initially but two days later Israel released “before and after” satellite photos confirming the damage. Israel has its own photo satellites, built in Israel and put into orbit by Israeli rockets. Locals reported that nine Iranians were killed (and a dozen others) by the airstrike, which basically wiped out an Iranian military supply facility near an airport.
July 14, 2018: In the south, Israel responded to the latest Hamas attack (in which about 200 shells and rockets were fired) by carrying out airstrikes on several Hamas military facilities including a combat tunnel under construction, several headquarters and training facilities and one workshop for building fire kites and balloons. One of the airstrikes destroyed a multistory building under construction, which revealed a combat tunnel underneath.
July 13, 2018: In the south (Gaza) 31 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel. Six rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome while the rest of the projectiles were ignored because they landed in uninhabited areas.
Satellite photos of Syria show that the Iranian warehouses and other facilities destroyed at the Damascus airport during a May Israeli airstrike have been rebuilt. That was quick, and bold as well since the Israelis have continued to attack similar Iranian facilities all over Syria.
July 12, 2018: Israel announced it had an agreement with Russia to deal with Iranian efforts to move troops to the Israeli border. Russia agreed to withdraw its forces from the Israeli designated security zone and allow Israel to do whatever it thought necessary to deal with the Iranian threat. Russia had warned Iran not to take on the Israelis and now was telling Iran that if they went to war with Israel in Syria they were on their own. This Russian warning came after the third meeting this year between the Israeli and Russian leaders.
July 11, 2018: In Egypt (northern Sinai) security forces raided an abandoned house and ran into eleven Islamic terrorists who were using the site as a hideout. The Islamic terrorists refused to surrender and all died in the gun battle. Troops found weapons and ammo stored at the site.
July 8, 2018: Israel carried out another air (and missile) strike on the Syrian T4 airbase. Syria claims to have shot down some of the Israeli missiles and damaged an Israeli warplane. There is no proof of these claims but when one of your largest bases has been recently trashed three times by the Israelis, claiming to have made the attackers suffer sounds good in the press release acknowledging the attack. Israel had carried out similar attacks in February and April. Iran has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the first two attacks on T4. These threats were not unexpected but so far Iran has not been able to carry out an attack on Israel itself. Iran has been supporting efforts from its allies in Gaza but there has been nothing but failures so far. Israel recently revealed that the Iranian UAV shot down on February 10th as it entered Israeli airspace was armed with explosives. The UAV incident prompted the attack on Iranian UAV bases in Syria. Another reason for the T4 attack was also revealed; Iran had just set up a new air-defense system that might have made a later attack less successful. Meanwhile, the Iranian inability to strike a blow against Israel is making the Iranian radicals (IRGC, Quds) back in Iran look bad at a time when they are under attack for corruption and brutally suppressing widespread protests by Iranians against the misrule of the Iranian radicals and the religious dictatorship the radicals serve. To make matters even worse the radicals campaign against Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states has resulted in the Saudis openly siding with Israel and reveling in the apparent Iranian ability to hurt Israel. All this makes for a dangerous situation as the Iranians are notoriously sore losers and far more adept with technology than the Arabs.