Israel: Minion Madness

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August 18, 2021: According to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon their Iranian sponsors believe now is the time for an all-out joint attack on Israel. The religious dictatorship in Iran is now dominated by the extremists, or “radicals”. Most of the extremist attitudes come from the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) who suffered greatly from the return of economic sanctions in 2017. Because of these sanctions Quds force, which handles foreign wars and terrorism, saw its budget cut by half since 2017, forcing major reductions in Quds activities in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The IRGC was created in the 1980s to protect the new religious dictatorship and suppress, with violence if necessary, local opposition to the new religious overlords. The IRGC has become increasingly assertive in backing radical solutions to problems and that has created a growing number of nationalist clerics, including some eligible to be one of the twelve senior Shia clerics who run the Guardian Council. The senior clerics have become divided into mutually antagonistic factions. The “moderates” are those who want to put Iran’s interests first and concentrate on the economy and reducing the poverty that is visibly turning more Iranians against their government, Islam and all the foreign wars the radicals have dragged Iran into. These “realists” are also nationalists and often called “moderates” by foreigners. The IRGC believes force is the key to Iranian power and all Iranians must support that. Most Iranians do not support the IRGC and for over a decade have become increasingly open about that opposition. The IRGC has killed over a thousand of these protestors over the last few years. As a result of this the Guardian Council has blocked nearly all “nationalist” candidates from running in the latest national elections. This meant the new parliament and senior leaders were dominated by IRGC and Quds Force veterans, including several recognized as terrorists or guilty of war crimes.

A more aggressive new government in Iran has led to more Iranian violence and threats against neighbors. Arab states, including Iraq, are seeking help from Israel and the United States to improve air defenses against Iranian ballistic missiles and UAVs used as cruise missiles. The Americans point out that the most successful weapons against the Iranian missiles and UAVs have been developed by Israel, which now has diplomatic relations with the UAE, and other Arab states are considering doing the same because Israel is the most technically advanced country in the region and a primary target for Iranian aggression. Israel has also been the most successful at fighting back against Iran. This is popular in Arab countries, as is the seeming Iranian inability to retaliate against Israel.

Now Iran is openly calling for its foreign minions in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria to unite in a joint massive attack on Israel. Iranian hardliners believe their allies are getting weaker and that Israel will never be this vulnerable to attack. Some of the hardliners also understand that the religious dictatorship is in danger of being overthrown. The IRGC faction needs a win. The decision to pull the trigger has not been made yet because even in the IRGC and Quds Force there is disagreement about just how effective and reliable Iranian allies are. Many of those foreign supporters believe Iran will order an attack and then not participate themselves. This is a common and often used Iranian tactic.

Closer to home Israel has an even more complicated situation in Syria, where Russia and Turkey are supposed to be Iranian allies but are less frequently acting the part. Russia sent forces to Syria in 2015 to help preserve its old Cold War era ally the Assads. This was done for the benefit of Russia, not Syria or Iran. Russia was the second foreign power to come to the aid of the Assads. Iran had been helping keep their old Shia ally, the Assads, in power since 2013. Iran had more ambitious goals in Syria; to increase its ability to attack Israel. A year after the Russians showed up, the Turks sent in troops, but largely depended on Syrian mercenaries.

The Russians hoped to rebuild the Syria military. That proved impossible and the only alternative was hiring local or foreign mercenaries, which the Iranians, Turks, Americans and Syrians all relied on. By 2015 the pre-2011 Syrian military was gone for good and improving the equipment and air support for the Syrian forces merely made it easier for the Assad troops to play defense, which is all they really wanted to do after several years of civil war. Eventually Russia began hiring some Syrian mercenaries as well, if only to help eliminate the last remnant of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in eastern Syria. Russia was content to let the Israelis keep the Iranian forces busy and taking heavy damage trying to destroy Israel. While the continuing war in Syria has eliminated the decades-long military threat from Syria, it has brought more armed and dangerous Iranians to Israeli border. This Iranian threat has existed on the Lebanese border since the 1980s. The Assads wouldn’t allow their Iranian allies to operate on the Syrian border but would accept new ballistic missiles from Iran, and developed chemical weapons with Iranian help so that these short-range ballistic missiles could carry chemical warheads. All the Assad missiles and chemical weapons disappeared after 2011 and now Iran is trying to replace them with Iranian-controlled missiles trucked in from Iran via Iraq, That has not worked out because of hundreds of Israeli air strikes against these missile shipments. This is something everyone, including the Assads, unofficially approves of. Iran realizes this but continues to pretend this general hostility to their presence in Syria does not exist.

This odd alliance is to be expected because for centuries Turkey, Iran and Russia were all antagonists, not allies, and their seeming “alliance” in Syria is all a mirage. All three of these allies are scheming against each other. Russia notes that Turkey is selling weapons to Ukraine, where Russian forces are still at war with Ukraine. Turkey is also trying to repair its damaged relationship with NATO, and that means reneging on weapons purchases from Russia and other forms of anti-Russian behavior. Russia is sticking it to Iran by backing Israel and the efforts of Arab states to replace Iran as the protector of the Assad government. The Turks play defense, adding layers of protection to their border to prevent any of the remaining Islamic terrorists and civilians near the border from getting into Turkey. Iran doesn’t care and is content to let the Turks deal with the Islamic terrorists while Iranian resources concentrate on Israel.

Northern Tunnels

Since 2018 Israel has been investigating Hezbollah tunnel building efforts. This first became news when Israel used their new tunnel detection tech, developed to deal with tunnels in Gaza, in the north after border patrols came across evidence of tunnel construction. This was often in the form of cave ins or work on exits. In early 2019 Israel announced that it would destroy those tunnels if they reached the Israeli border. By then Israel had found a sixth tunnel. This one was about 60 meters (180 feet) deep, about 800 meters long and extended less than ten meters (30 feet) into Israel. Israel had earlier revealed that it had developed technology to detect tunnel construction activity farther away but has not revealed how far. Now it has been revealed that the Hezbollah tunnel network is more extensive than earlier believed. Some of these military tunnels have been built in Hezbollah controlled sections of Beirut, the largest city in Lebanon as well as further inland, to the Beqaa Valley, long a Shia and Hezbollah stronghold. Some of these tunnels are large enough to allow SUVs and pickup trucks to use and some of these provide underground “roads” that extend for over ten kilometers. This enables truck mounted rocket launchers that exit near the Israeli border. That enables Hezbollah to fire some rockets, then return to the tunnel and drive to another launch site many kilometers away. Estimates that Hezbollah has hundreds of kilometers of tunnels providing access to underground facilities (supply, command and medical).

Growing anti-Hezbollah attitudes in Lebanon make it easier for Israel to obtain information about the tunnels. Aerial and satellite surveillance made it possible to gain a greater understanding of the entire tunnel system and how it is used. Israel keeps telling Lebanon that is Hezbollah attacks Israel again, like they did in 2006, Israeli attacks on Hezbollah would damage a lot of non-Hezbollah property and kill or injure a lot of Lebanese who do not belong to Hezbollah because Hezbollah has built a lot of its military facilities, especially tunnels, in residential areas. This was an effort to use their civilians as involuntary human shields against airstrikes. That does not work and most Lebanese are angry at Hezbollah, not Israel, for this situation.

Israel admits that their military operations inside Lebanon have been continuous during August and unpublicized. Hezbollah will only talk about “Israel aggression” without revealing any details. There have been daily airstrikes and use of artillery as well as more intense intelligence gathering operations, including some Israeli forces operating inside Lebanon.

August 17, 2021: In the north (Golan Heights) Israeli missiles hit several Iranian bases near a village where Hezbollah personnel wearing Syrian army uniforms were trying to conceal their nationality and efforts to prepare attacks on Israel. Until 2017 Israel regularly and discreetly provided medical care for badly hurt Syrians who showed up (usually at night) on the Israeli border. From 2011 to 2017 about 3,000 Syrians were treated, most of them in between 2015 and 2017. Israeli border guards regularly allowed badly wounded Syrians in and sent them to Israeli hospitals for medical care. Until mid-2015 Israel would transport badly wounded Syrians to Israeli hospitals outside the Golan Heights. After 2015 treatment was provided at the border, using a temporary hospital set up there. By 2015 over a thousand Syrians had received such treatment. By 2017 Iranian mercenaries and some Iranian operatives gained control of the border and fighting in the area died down. There were few civilian casualties and helped revive the medical care in the border area to discourage “fraternizing with Israel.” The Iranians are seen as another bunch of foreign invaders endangering the local Syrians.

August 16, 2021: In the south (Gaza) Hamas fired a large rocket into Israel, which was intercepted by Iron Dome because the missile was apparently headed for a populated area. Until now Gaza Islamic terrorists had observed the ceasefire and this was the first rocket attack since the end of the 11-day war in May.

In Gaza, Iran-backed Hamas has told Egypt, the mediator of ceasefire talks with Israel, that peace with Israel is no longer possible and another offensive will soon begin. Hamas is trying to get some sympathy and outside access from Egypt. That has not worked since Iran is at war with Egypt because it is an ally of Saudi Arabia. Hamas had demanded free access to the outside world and that means the ability to bring in dual-use materials that can be used for military purposes.

In the West Bank (Jenin) Israeli security forces encountered gunfire as they sought to carry out a pre-dawn raid to arrest some Islamic terrorists. For of the Palestinian shooters were killed and one wounded. There were no Israeli casualties.

Later in the day soldiers encountered and arrested an armed Palestinian wearing a convincing Israel army uniform.

August 14, 2021: In the north an Israeli UAV crashed on the Syrian side of the border because of equipment failure. This happens regularly as the number of UAV operations along the Syrian border have increased. Israel doesn’t lose any tech secrets because of these crashes because there have been several already meaning Iran and Russia don’t offer as much money for the wreckage.

Elsewhere in the north (Lebanon) there was another warehouse explosion, this one near the Syrian border. There were 28 deaths and nearly a hundred injured. The warehouse stored large quantities of gasoline, kerosine and diesel fuel that was repackaged so that it could be smuggled across the border into Syria, where there is a growing shortage of such fuels. At first it was thought that the warehouse owner and smugglers were working for Hezbollah but that was apparently not the case. Some other influential faction in northern Lebanon was protecting, and profiting from this operation. There have been smaller explosions in similar situations recently, indicating growing smuggling operations along the border. Lebanon is suffering from a severe economic recession and growing public hostility towards Hezbollah and Iran.

August 12, 2021: In the south, across the border in Egypt (northern Sinai) security forces attacked an Islamic terrorist base, killing 13 terrorists while losing nine soldiers. Large quantities of ammo, weapons and other equipment were seized. This clash was part of a larger operation that included several raids and violent encounters. Egypt has reduced the presence of Islamic terrorists in Sinai, where groups like ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and al Qaeda are most active. They have done this with the help of Israel and the United States and want to expand that cooperation.

August 11, 2021: In the south, a Hamas quadcopter was monitored as it approached the Israeli border and brought down, apparently electronically, as soon as it crossed the border.

In the north, a Hezbollah UAV was detected and shot down as it crossed the border.

In Ethiopia, satellite photos revealed several Iranian Mohajer-6 UAVs at an airbase, along with a truck mounted control ground station. The Mohajer-6 entered service in 2017 and appears to be a copy of the original Israeli Heron UAV, which entered service in the 1990s and was one of the Israeli UAVs that led to the larger American Predator. The Heron has undergone several major upgrades since the 1990s but the Mohajer-6 appears to be the same weight, size, shape and performance as the 1990s Heron. One difference is that the Iranian UAV was equipped to carry two laser guided missiles. Ethiopia usually buys its UAVs from Israel, but few Israeli UAVs are equipped to carry weapons while the Iranian models carries up to four small guided missiles or bombs. Israeli UAVs specialize in reconnaissance and surveillance, passing on target information to ground and air forces. That works inside Israel but some UAV customers requested armed models. Ethiopia apparently needed some armed UAVs fast and the Iranians had some Mohajer-6s available. This was attractive because the Mohajer-6 had seen a lot of combat use in Iran and Syria since 2018 and was cheaper than the alternatives.

Ethiopia is currently dealing with another rebellion, this time in the north, adjacent to Eritrea. Ethiopia had been buying smaller Israeli surveillance UAVs for decades but no one could supply larger armed UAVs on short notice. Iran saw an opportunity and took it. The Iranians point out that the Mohajer-6 could also be used against al Shabaab Islamic terrorists active on Ethiopia’s Somali border.

August 10, 2021: In Syrian port of Latakia an Iranian tanker docked there experienced an onboard explosion that led to a fire and some casualties. The tanker was smuggling oil to Syria. Israel has interfered with these tankers in the past.

In southern Israel, American jet fighters completed several days of joint training with their Israeli counterparts. This included air-superiority and ground attack operations. This is the first time American and Israeli warplanes had done this sort of thing inside Israel.

August 7, 2021: In the south (Gaza) Israel carried out air strikes against Hamas targets in retaliation for a large-scale Hamas use of incendiary balloons the day before that caused four brush fires in Israel. This was the first Hamas use of the fire balloons since July 25th. Hamas is supposed to be observing a ceasefire negotiated with the help of Egypt.

In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province), numerous Israeli air strikes against Iranian bases outside Mayadeen city have led Iran to bring in air-defense radars and mobile SAM (Surface-to Air Missile) units to the area. This is an effort to discourage Israel from continuing their airstrikes. The Iranians have also installed a radar for detecting low flying UAVs. Syrian and Russian air defense systems have been unable to stop the Israeli attacks and now the Iranians are seeking to show the Syrians and Russians what effective air defense is. The Israeli response has been more airstrikes. Iran is trying to turn this area, just west of the Euphrates River, as a major logistics and training center for its Syrian operations against Israel. So far that effort has provided more targets for Israel to attack and those airstrikes are increasing.

August 6, 2021: In the north Hezbollah took credit for firing nineteen rockets into Israel from Lebanon over the last two days. All were either intercepted by Iron Dome or fell in unoccupied areas. There were no casualties or property damage in Israel. Israel launched retaliatory attacks against Hezbollah targets immediately on the 4th, carrying out three separate waves of attacks within a few hours. There were more airstrikes and use of artillery today and yesterday. Hezbollah was apparently encouraged to make the attacks by Iran, where a new hardline president was in power and threatening attacks on all enemies of Iran.

Some Lebanese villagers near the Israeli border discovered that Hezbollah had brought in a truck mounted rocket launcher to their village and were about to launch rockets against Israel. The Druze villagers attacked the Hezbollah men trying to set up and launch rockets. The villagers know that Israeli forces can determine where a rocket came from and promptly use artillery or an airstrike to destroy the launch site. For that reason, Hezbollah often uses truck mounted launchers or installs rocket storage bunkers and above-ground launching into one of the many Hezbollah owned buildings near the border. Druze are particularly hostile to Hezbollah, whose official position is that Druze are heretics. That’s an attitude towards Hezbollah that most Lebanese, especially the non-Shia (Christians, Sunni Moslems and several other religious minorities) share. Shia are less than a quarter of the population and not all of them support Hezbollah. In this case Hezbollah accused the Druze villagers of being supporters of Israel and enemies of all Lebanese. That press release backfired as Hezbollah was reminded that most Lebanese hate them and situations like this make that hatred more visible.

July 29, 2021: Near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, off the Oman coast an Israeli owned tanker was hit by an airstrike which killed two crew members, one British and other Romanian. This was believed to be Iran trying to retaliate for more than ten Israeli attacks on Iranian ships since 2019. In the current attack two or more armed UAVs were aimed at the crew quarters indicating the UAVs were under remote control and deliberately seeking to cause casualties. Examining fragments of the UAVs that hit the tanker revealed that they were Iranian. Israel, Britain and the United States openly demanded that Iran admit its guilt and cease such illegal behavior. Iran denied responsibility but as more and more nations viewed the evidence, Iran found it had few nations that believed their denial of responsibility. The U.S. led calls for Iran to be punished for this blatant attack on Persian Gulf shipping. Iran has long attacked foreign merchant ships operating near their coast, sometimes openly, to persuade foreign countries to comply with Iranian demands. Apparently, the age of compliance is coming to an end and such Iranian attacks will be treated as acts of war and responded to as such. Despite this, Iranian leaders continue to believe their intimidation tactics are still working.

July 25, 2021: In southern Iraq (the Shia shrine city Najaf) two Iran-backed militias reported that their ammo depots had been attacked by missiles fired by unidentified UAVs. The missiles set off numerous secondary explosions caused by stored munitions. Finding enough missile fragments to identify who made the missile has been difficult. American, Israeli and Chinese armed UAVs are all used in the region. China supplies Iraqi forces with UAVs armed with Chinese versions of the American Hellfire missile. Israel doesn’t use armed UAVs that much or that far from Israel. The Americans denied responsibility.

July 22, 2021: In eastern Syria (Homs province) Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes against Iranian military targets again, as it had done yesterday. A Russian source claimed that four of the Israeli air-to-ground missiles, launched from Lebanese air space, did not reach their targets. If true this meant that Russia had, for the first time, used the S-400 air defense system to spot and track Israeli missiles and intercept them. Syria had long been asking for Russia to use its more advanced air defense systems to counter the hundreds of Israeli air strikes. The Russians refused to confirm the media report and Israel ignored it. Both “intercepted” air strikes destroyed their intended targets and it is unclear what the purpose of the false report that Russia would neither confirm or deny. If true it would have meant Israel finally had their long-sought opportunity to scrutinize the S-400 in action and upgrade their countermeasures. Israel has been using standoff weapons, fired from Lebanese, Israeli or Jordanian airspace, to avoid exposing its manned aircraft to the S-400 if the Russians should finally decide to actually use them. Tracking missiles is a start because Israel has a wide variety of air launched missiles, some better equipped to deal with the S-400 than others. This unusual rumor appeared to be a Russian effort to improve the reputation of their new systems without actually using them against the Israelis.

 

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