In the West Bank the Palestinian Fatah government accused Hamas of being unable to control all its Gaza factions and make it possible to form a unified Palestinian government. That is an accurate assessment but it ignored the fact the Fatah is equally self–destructive and unable to control its radical (terrorist) factions. Case in point is Fatah threatening to cause an economic catastrophe in the West Bank by refusing partial payments from Israel and donor nations unless the donors and Israel stop deducting the money Fatah spends on supporting and encouraging terrorist activity. This has become more of an issue since 2018 when Israel passed a law to deduct from the $130 million a month it collects in taxes and fees for the Palestinians in the West Bank, the amount (over $20 million) Fatah pays out to Palestinian terrorists in prison or to the families of deceased terrorists. The U.S. had already enacted a similar law and was deducting a similar amount from the $300 million it currently gives to the West Bank Palestinians. Other foreign donors have taken similar measures. Fatah refuses to deal with this and maintains payments to terrorists by cutting government services it controls. That includes less money for Palestinians to receive medical care in Israel. To justify this Fatah complains that the U.S., Israel and other donors are being unfair.
Yet it is no secret that many Palestinians become terrorists because they are attracted to the financial rewards, which are considerable for many impoverished (by Fatah corruption and incompetence) young residents of the West Bank. Palestinians who are jailed, injured or killed (martyred) while trying to kill Israelis receive large payments from Fatah. For example families of dead terrorists get an immediate payment of $1,700 from Fatah plus monthly payments for the life of the immediate family. These monthly payments ($400 to over $1,000 depending on the number of wives and children) can make a family relatively affluent and open new opportunities, like enough cash to afford a people smuggler who can get one or more family members to the West. There is also a bonus ($86 a month) if you are a legal resident of Israel and a similar monthly bonus if you were living in Jerusalem when you were an active terrorist. Fatah is currently paying about $200 million a year to the families of over 26,000 “martyrs” (dead terrorists) as well as smaller payments to 6,000 badly injured while trying to kill Israelis. Monthly payments to jailed Palestinians vary according to how long they have been in jail, how many dependents they have and so on. There are also bonuses for how many Israelis the prisoner killed or injured. Some of these convicts get over $50,000 a year. Fatah currently spends nearly $200 million a year to reward over 6,000 jailed terrorists. These rewards were recently increased. Fatah considers the payment program a success even though hundreds of Palestinians have died in the Fatah-promoted violence. These attacks also left a few Israelis dead and for Fatah that is political gold as far as Arab language media is concerned. With this approach, Fatah and Hamas together currently spend over $400 million a year to make murder economically attractive to many young Palestinians and their families. Most of it comes from Fatah although Hamas is trying to make more payments to Palestinians in the West Bank who support Hamas and attack Israelis in the name of Hamas.
The Arab language media throughout the Middle East take for granted that these payments are just and necessary for the war against Israel. In response to the current American and Israeli efforts to penalize Fatah for what is spent to encourage terror attacks, Fatah made it clear it would not halt payments to families for dead or jailed terrorists. Instead, it cut pay to Palestinians who worked for the West Bank government. But by refusing money still being offered Fatah will cause widespread shortages of food and other necessities in the West bank. The ensuing Palestinian outrage and resulting damage will be blamed on the efforts to halt “pay for slay” terrorism support. Fatah is pleading with Russia and Arab oil states to help them out. Russia is broke (and prefers to be on good terms with Israel) and the Arab oil states are fed up with the Palestinian preference for self-destructive behavior.
Fatah and Hamas are both failures when it comes to effectively governing their respective Palestinian territories. The only differences are that Hamas is more violent and Fatah is more corrupt. Not a lot to choose from there, although Hamas rule is so oppressive that force has to be used to prevent outright rebellion. For Hamas, the most important expense is armed Hamas personnel, who are the largest segment of Gazans with paying jobs.
Israel has to worry about the Iranians in Syria doing something desperate, and stupid. Over the last year, the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) has suffered multiple defeats, usually delivered by Israel or the Americans. Many of these embarrassments have occurred in Syria, where Israel finds and destroys IRGC projects will great regularity. Many Iranians do not see these as Iranian defeats, but as more reasons to hate the IRGC. Blame is most often directed at the IRGC and the Islamic dictatorship that has ruled (and mismanaged) Iran since the 1980s. Iranians see corrupt IRGC men and Shia clergy in general as responsible for their current economic and diplomatic woes. The IRGC is not seen as the protector of the Iranian people but rather the source of growing violence against Iranians who protest the proliferating poverty. The IRGC is accused, by Iranians and the rest of the world, of trying to taunt someone, preferably the United States or Israel, into attacking Iran itself in the hope that this would make the IRGC more popular inside Iran. Many Iranians are not so sure. Meanwhile, the Americans concentrate their sanctions on Iranian leaders, including senior IRGC commanders, which is popular among most Iranians.
Israel has not only become an active ally of most Arabian Arab states, but many Iranian leaders believe joint Israeli and Arab military operations are taking place. An example of this is the belief, inside Iran, that an Israeli F-35 escaped detection by Iranian military and commercial aviation radars earlier in 2019 to take high-resolution photos over Iranian cities and key military facilities. Senior Iranian air defense commanders lost their jobs over this in late May. The Israelis never claimed to have done this, although such silence is normal. If Israel did this it either meant the F-35 used a Saudi airbase to refuel or the Saudis allowed the F-35 and an Israeli aerial tanker free passage through Saudi air space. In early July the Israeli leader remarked that Israeli warplanes can operate anywhere in the Middle East. This connects with the Iranian suspicions that the Israelis really were sending in F-35s to confirm the effectiveness of the stealth and to confirm that Israeli warplanes could carry out a devastating air assault on Iran, despite all the air defenses Iran has amassed and recently upgraded. Whether or not this overflight actually happened, the damage has been done to the IRGC, whose main job is preventing foreign operations like this inside Iran.
July 14, 2019: Two more F-35s arrived from the United States, giving Israel 16 so far. The first one arrived in 2016 and Israeli F-35Is were declared operational in 2017. Israel has ordered 50 F-35s and will have 20 by the end of 2019. Israel has been given priority in deliveries to export customers, mainly because Israel was able to customize its F-35s (making them F-35Is) and use them regularly in combat zones. While the F-35 is still working out the usual new aircraft problems, Israeli pilots have been enthusiastic about how well the aircraft performs right now. The stealth apparently works well against the latest Russian air defense systems and the many sensors carried, combined the “information fusion” software provides the pilots the ability to react more quickly to combat situations.
In a related development, Turkey recently began receiving Russian S400 air defense systems, which means Turkey will not get receiving the F-35. Since 2000 Turkey has had a government hostile to Israel and the West. Now Turkey is receiving an air defense system the F-35 is optimized to defeat while not receiving F-35s itself and increasingly likely to be expelled from NATO. Israel would prefer to have the friendlier more cooperative pre-2000 Turkey back but that is not likely to happen any time soon.
In the south (Gaza), Hamas insisted that a remark, on Friday, by a senior Hamas official calling on Palestinians worldwide to “kill all Jews” did not represent official Hamas policy. That policy, as long preached and published by Hamas, is to kill or expel all Jews in the Middle East. The call to Palestinians worldwide was made on Friday to Gazans assembled at the Israeli border for the weekly anti-Israel riots which involve encouraging Gazans to force their way through the border fence and to kill Israelis. These efforts have, since March 2018, have been accompanied by rocket and fire balloon attacks on Israel and have resulted in 395 dead Gazans and seven dead Israelis. A few Gazans have gotten through the fence but none have got much farther. Meanwhile, Hamas is recognized as an international terrorist organization by the U.S. and most Western nations and these attitudes towards Israel and Jews is one reason why.
July 12, 2019: In the south (Gaza), three rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Two did not trigger a rocket alert because the air defense radar calculated that the trajectory would take these rockets to an uninhabited area. The one rocket that did set off some of the attack alert sirens, did not hit anything either.
July 11, 2019: Israeli media revealed that Mossad (the Israeli CIA) has been using its extensive informant network in Iran to discover where Iran is storing illegal nuclear materials and components of its nuclear weapons program. Some of this information is being passed on the UN IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) staff to make their inspections more productive this year. This sort of thing is embarrassing for Iran, which still insists it never had a nuclear weapons program. Israeli revelations demonstrating otherwise are embarrassing and causing the IRGC to increase their efforts to find “Israeli spies.” That results in more harassment (and worse) for the growing number of Iranians who are converting to other religions (like Christianity). Abandoning Islam has been a popular slogan during recent anti-government protests. Technically converting to another religion is illegal doe Moslems in Iran and the maximum penalty is death. The government is not considering executions for apostates but spies are another matter. Not many spies are being found but there are a lot of recently converts to other religions available.
July 10, 2019: In northern Jerusalem someone, apparently Arab Israeli terrorists, threw fire bombs over a fence and into a border patrol compound, setting fire to several vehicles. Firefighters quickly arrived and prevented the fire from spreading. The use of fire bombs is more popular in the West Bank because troops or police will not always open fire when they see fire bombs. It is different on the Gaza borer where in the last year troops were told to deal with the increasing border violence by using more lethal force against those to try to damage or get across the border fence and against anyone trying to throw explosives or fire bombs across the fence.
July 8, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Israeli radar spotted a commercial UAV coming across the border from Gaza and shot it down. The wreckage was taken away for examination. Elsewhere along the Gaza border a construction crew installing the new tunnel detection system along the border detected another Hamas tunnel that had crossed the border into Israel. The army then got involved and dug down to enter the tunnel that was 80 meters (250 feet) under the surface. The army is trying to determine if this is a new tunnel or an old one.
July 7, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Israeli troops fired on two armed men who were approaching a border gate and refusing orders to halt. One of the men, hit in the leg, later died of that wound. The dead man was also a Hamas leader who was approaching the gate to assist in keeping Gaza demonstrators away from it. Israel apologized for the incident but Hamas said it would seek revenge. Better training of its armed personnel would have been a better move but the details of the shooting incident may have proved instructive for many Hamas gunmen. Later in the day, Hamas gathered about 5,000 civilians and hundreds of Hamas security personnel to carry out violent demonstrations along the fence. One Israeli army vehicle was damaged by a firebomb and over 30 demonstrators were wounded when they got too close to the fence. This fence violence is a violation of the current ceasefire deal with Israel.
July 4, 2019: At the British port of Gibraltar, 30 Royal Marine Commandos, secretly flown in for the occasion, boarded and seized an Iranian supertanker at 4 AM. The tanker was there to resupply after a long voyage around Africa. Britain claimed the tanker was breaking sanctions by transporting two million barrels of Iraqi oil to Syria for Iran. Syria is under sanctions and Iran is making an enormous (and expensive) effort to get the Syrian government the oil it needs to continue fighting rebels and Islamic terrorists. The tanker was acting suspiciously as it avoided traveling via the Suez Canal and instead took the longer and much more expensive route around Africa. The Egyptians would have carefully scrutinized the tanker if it had used the canal. After the British seized the tanker Iran threatened to retaliate by seizing a British tanker and attempted to do just that a few days later but failed. By July 13th Britain was offering to free the tanker if Iran could offer guarantees that the Iraqi oil in the Iranian tanker did not reach Syria.
July 2, 2019: Russia criticized the recent Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria. Russia did not interfere and Iran sees that as tacit support of the Israeli operations.
In Egypt, a Ukrainian tanker carrying Iranian oil was seized when it sought to move through the Suez canal. Such seizures have occurred several times this year and is losing illegal oil export sales because of it.
July 1, 2019: In Syria, Israel carried out more airstrikes on Iranian targets. These most recent attacks left 16 dead and 21 wounded. Earlier
Russia criticized such Israeli airstrikes but did not interfere. Iran sees that as tacit Russian support of the Israeli operations. Iran is constantly pressuring Russia to be more forceful in dealing with these attacks on Iranians in Syria. The Russians are reluctant to admit that do not want to take on the Israelis and suffer the same embarrassing defeats Iran endures on a regular basis. Russia wants to come out of the Syrian civil war on the winning (Assad) and with its military reputation largely intact. That requires not angering the Israelis. Angry Iranians are much less of a problem. Actually, given the long and generally hostile history Iran and Russia, have the current pain Iran is suffering in so many areas is seen as good for Russia.
June 30, 2019: Israel released satellite photos showing that Syria had deployed a battery of its new Russian S-300 air defense systems. These arrived in 2018 but have not been used yet. In the past, some of these S-200 missiles fired southward entered Israeli airspace and were destroyed by Israeli anti-missile systems. In a related incident noted by Russia, the U.S. carried out airstrikes in northwest Syria (Idlib province) for the first time in two years, against al Qaeda targets. In the past the Americans had hit ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) targets all over Syria but in the last two years, American airstrikes had concentrated on supporting Kurdish operations against ISIL groups in eastern Syria. Now the Kurds are dealing with al Qaeda as well and further west.
June 29, 2019: In the south (Gaza), Egyptian mediators persuaded Hamas to accept another ceasefire or face a major military retaliation from Israel. That would be a response to or over a week of Hamas violence along the border that included rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel as well as more than a hundred fires started in Israel by fire balloons. Israel told Egypt it would retaliate without invading and this would cause massive damage to Hamas facilities and Gaza infrastructure in general. That would mean more problems for Egypt, which also has a border with Gaza. Egypt must guard that border carefully to prevent Gazans, especially those that are Islamic terrorists, from getting into Egypt. While Hamas will not accept reality from Israel it is more willing to do so if Egypt is delivering the bad news. So Hamas agreed to another ceasefire and assurances that they would behave if the Israelis and Egyptians would help restore foreign aid and economic activity. That is all being worked out but no one believes it will work because the more extreme Islamic terror groups in Gaza always resume attacks on Israel. Then Hamas will plead that it cannot control these more fanatic (than Hamas) zealots and that it is all Israel’s fault if Israel responds to these attacks with retaliation. Palestinians have been held captive by their fanatic factions since the 1960s and blame everyone but themselves for a problem only the Palestinians can solve but refuse to do so. Over the last decade, Egypt and other Arab states have been telling the Palestinians to get their own house in order or they will continue to be poor and miserable. Palestinian leaders cannot and will not follow this advice. It has reached the point where Israel and most Arab nations agree on things; Iran is a common enemy, the Palestinians are their own worst enemy and Israel and Arabs should be allies, especially when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.
June 26, 2019: In Egypt (Sinai), ISIL gunmen attacked three checkpoints near Arish, killing seven policemen. Four of the attackers died as well. This was the third day of terrorist attacks for June (the others took place on the 5th and 13th). ISIL is believed trying to carry out attacks that would disrupt the Africa Cup football (soccer) games that will take place in Egypt between June 21 and July 19. Egypt is expecting over 50,000 more foreign visitors just for the games and does not want those visitors to get the impression that it is dangerous to visit Egypt. Earlier this year Egypt went public with the fact that cooperation with Israel, to deal with ISIL in Sinai, had been going on for years. This meant that Israeli UAVs sometimes did surveillance on the Egyptian side of the 240 kilometer border the two nations share. Israeli UAVs or manned aircraft would occasionally carry out airstrikes in Sinai if it was a time-sensitive target and Israel was able to hit it first. Perhaps most importantly the two countries share intel on ISIL regularly, making it more difficult for ISIL to operate near the border.
June 25, 2019:
In Israel (Jerusalem), security officials from Russia, Israel and America met to discuss who should do what in Syria. The Russian position was pro-Iran, yet in practice, Russia will not confront Israel or the Americans in Syria. Russia criticizes Israel for airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria but will not open fire against Israeli missiles or aircraft. So Russia gets criticized by Iran, Israel and the United States. Iran suspects that Russia has a secret deal with Israel and the Americans but cannot afford to antagonize Russia because Russia does supply considerable support to the Syrian military. Even that can be interpreted as anti-Iran because Russia agrees with the Assads that Syria should not be dominated by Iran and permanently occupied by Iranian special operations troops (IRGC) and Iranian mercenaries.
June 22, 2019: In Egypt (Sinai), Islamic terrorists attacked a construction crew that was putting up a fence around the el Arish airport. Four workers were killed and wounded five others. Two construction vehicles were destroyed as well. The fence makes it more difficult for Islamic terrorists or any other criminals, getting into the airport complex.
June 18, 2019: In Egypt, the ISIL Sinai faction released a video in which their leader (Abu Jafar al Ansari) renewed his groups allegiance to ISIL chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. This comes a few days after one of the two sub-Saharan Africa ISIL factions released a similar video. In April Baghdadi released a rare video, to show he was still alive and to call on the various ISIL factions to carry on.