So far this year at least 160 Palestinians have died because of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. In all of 2022 there were 230 such deaths. Most of these deaths were the result of Israelis responding to Hamas attacks from Gaza and, increasingly from the West Bank and Lebanon. This has been going on for decades and is described by Hamas as an ongoing effort to destroy Israel and drive all Jews from the middle east. Some of the efforts are massive but always end in failure with far more Arabs than Israelis killed.
Hamas sees these wars more as media campaigns than military ones, and they see victory achieved by getting more Palestinians killed. A classic example was visible in the aftermath of the 2009 war where Hamas lied regularly to exaggerate the nature and extent of their losses. For example, Palestinians claimed that the 22 day long 2009 War indiscriminately killed civilians. Hamas claimed that 1,434 Palestinians were killed. Hamas further claimed that only 235 were Hamas fighters, while another 239 were police officers, and 960 of the dead were civilians. Hamas admitted that most of the "civilians'' were men, mostly of military age. They also claimed that 121 of the dead civilians were women and 288 were children, which was defined as anyone under 18, even if they were armed teenagers attacking Israelis. It went downhill from there. The Arab world unites behind these lies, and encourages all other Moslem nations to join them. Many Western nations, seeing a cheap way to ingratiate themselves with the Moslem world, join in. One thing Hamas and Fatah (in the West Bank) agree on is that over half a century of failed Palestinian (and Arab) efforts to destroy Israel are not their fault. They insist that Arabs are victims of a conspiracy by Jews and the West, to sustain Israel and keep the Arabs down. This is the core of Palestinian propaganda on all their media, and now accepted by many leftist supporters in the West. Just another conspiracy theory, but one with thousands of heavily armed believers, who will kill if they get an opportunity. And trying to defend yourself against this is called oppressing the Palestinians.
Hamas has long been a big believer in using civilians as human shields, often against their will. Israeli soldiers are not allowed to use civilians as human shields, even to protect Israeli soldiers from attacks by Palestinians. Hamas, on the other hand, encourages the use of human shields, and describes, in their training manuals, how best to do it. Lots of dead civilians are essential to Hamas success in getting enough Western countries threatening Israel and forcing ceasefires and concessions. Much of what Hamas knows about using human shields it learned from Hezbollah up in Lebanon. There, Hezbollah has been using human shields for decades. Back in 2006 Israel released video, and other evidence, showing how Hezbollah used civilians as human shields during rocket attacks on Israel. Hezbollah's attitude in response to this was largely one of, "so what?"
On a regular basis Israel has to deal with violence coming from Gaza and the West Bank, two neighbors that are obsessed with destroying Israel. These entities are not really countries in the traditional sense. Rather the two began as refuges for Arabs who, in 1948, did not want to live in the new state of Israel. The West Bank was originally part of Jordan, an Israeli neighbor that was a stable monarchy in 1948 and still is. Jordan also had problems with Palestinians and killed or expelled the most troublesome Palestinians, especially those who wanted to overthrow the monarchy and turn Jordan into a bae for carrying out attacks on Israel. Jordan also declared that the West Bank was no longer part of J0rdan but no one else wanted the West Bank either. Palestinians behaved similarly in most other Middle Eastern countries, so their Arab rulers responded like the Jordanians did and killed or expelled the most troublesome Palestinians while tolerating the Palestinians who were willing to behave. Despite that many Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria never became part of the local community. This is a common practice in the Arab world, where non-native Arabs are not welcome as migrants or refugees. That is not the case in most Western countries, even though some of their new Palestinian citizens remain devoted to attacking Israel or local Jews. Ancient feuds and prejudices tend to persist in the Middle East.
Israel’s problem is that it is not a Middle Eastern country. It is a prosperous democracy with an affluent and well-educated population that is mainly Jewish but contains a large Arab minority as well as smaller religious minorities. Many Israeli Arabs are Christians, while Jews which migrated from Arab countries are Middle Eastern, not Western in appearance and behavior. They spoke Arabic and Israel united all these minorities by adopting Hebrew, an ancient Semitic language that ceased to be used by anyone over a thousand years ago. That meant all the different groups forming the modern state of Israel had to learn Hebrew. It was often annoying but also unifying.
There are three million Palestinians in the West Bank and two million in Gaza. Their obsession with destroying Israel and the proliferation of armed terrorist and terrorist-related groups in the West Bank and Gaza sustains very corrupt and inefficient local governments. Many Palestinians want to emigrate to less chaotic countries, particularly in the West. That is difficult because so many Palestinians never adapt to their new homelands and resort to criminal or terrorist behavior.
Criminal or terrorist behavior continues to thrive in the West Bank, where the local Fatah group running the government promotes violence against Israelis to distract the Palestinians there from overthrowing the corrupt Fatah bureaucrats. During the first three months of 2023, Fatha claimed that there were nearly three thousand “acts of resistance” toward Israel and Israelis. A more tangible achievement was the murder of twelve Israelis by Palestinians. This is the sort of thing Fatah politicians and Fatah controlled media have been encouraging enthusiastically for decades. Fatah not only encourages all Palestinians, including children, to join in the violence, but also spends a lot of money on rewarding those who succeed but are killed or arrested and imprisoned. This is a common practice throughout the region but no one does it so energetically as Fatah.
May 30, 2023: In the West Bank an Israeli civilian was shot dead by gunmen belonging to the Fatah-backed Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
May 29, 2023: In the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested two men. While doing this the soldiers were attacked by Palestinians. The Israelis opened fire and wounded at least eight of the Palestinian attackers.
May 27, 2023: Egypt’s western neighbor Libya remains divided and deadlocked. This is a problem Egypt, and to a lesser extent Israel, have been dealing with for a long time. Currently Libya has two main ruling factions, one in the east based in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, in the west. The UN backs the Tripoli faction, as do local Islamic militias and Turkish troops and their mercenaries. The eastern faction controls most of the oil and export ports. The Russian Wagner Group mercenaries are based in the east but now see themselves as peacekeepers and work with the Turks to maintain a ceasefire. This allows Russian oil firms to operate in Libya and do work for the Libyan national oil company. Both factions support national elections to unite the country but neither faction trusts the others enough to proceed with elections. Russia and the Turks refuse to withdraw their troops from Libya until they receive guarantees that their interests in Libya are respected. The UN and NATO oppose that because the Tripoli faction wants to legitimize an illegal treaty signed by the Tripoli faction in 2019 granting Turkey some of Greece’s offshore oil and natural gas rights in an area between Libya and Turkey that ignores existing, and internationally recognized, claims on that area. Turkey and Greece are both NATO members and NATO backs Greece in this matter. Turkey won’t withdraw its forces from Libya until a new national Libyan government assures the Turks that the illegal agreement is confirmed by a national Libyan government. Many people in both factions do not want to be stuck with a treaty that the UN and NATO consider illegal. Russia is no friend of NATO and is currently at war with NATO in Ukraine. Turkey is also a NATO member but most other NATO members would like to expel the Turks from NATO and there is no legal mechanism for that. Turks and Russians are troublemakers in Europe and Libya is a foreign branch of that mischief.
Egypt, which long supported the eastern faction, is now willing to work with both factions as well as the Turks and Russians to reach a settlement in Libya. For a long time, the primary Egyptian interest in Libya was the threat of Islamic terrorists getting across the Libyan border into Egypt. In Libya the eastern faction proved very effective at controlling Islamic terrorist activities and gradually eliminating most of them. Currently the only Islamic terrorist activity in Libya comes from Islamic terror groups that raise money by working with people smugglers. That is all about getting paid, not carrying out attacks in the name of defending Islam.
Another problem Egypt and Israel have to deal with is Iran. Currently Iran is encouraging Hamas to boast of its preparations for another war with Israel. Hamas believes that if they can inflict enough damage on Israel by killing or capturing soldiers and civilians they can prompt Moslem and Western countries to pressure Israel to allow more access to Gaza and send more aid. Hamas also hopes that Israel bombs and ground forces do enough damage inside Gaza to allow Hamas to get away with portraying itself as a victim and again persuading other nations to help. This will be difficult because the Arab donors no longer trust Hamas (or Fatah either) and are put off by the recent Iranian announcement that it was still subsidizing Hamas, which has run Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinians since 2005. Iran supported Hamas early on. There were recently more rumors that Iran had stopped supporting Hamas. Iran had decreased its support, in large part because of Western sanctions for Iranian support of terrorism and lower oil prices, but never cut off Hamas completely. Although Sunni Hamas sometimes persecutes Shia, Iran supports energetic Hamas efforts to attack Israel. Hamas also supports Islamic terrorists active in Egypt, which turned Egypt completely against Hamas and helped put Egypt firmly into the anti-Iran Sunni coalition. The Iran link makes Hamas an enemy as far as most Sunni Moslem nations are concerned. Hamas has made a lot of bad decisions since 2005 and the Iran link is seen as one of the worst. In response to Arab states who have cut aid to Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinian leaders have quietly told the reluctant Arab donors that if they do not increase aid there will be violent Palestinian protests (in Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem) against the Arab donors as well as Israel. These Arab donors (mainly Gulf oil states like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait) have lost patience with the Palestinians and not only cut donor aid, which was being stolen or misused by corrupt Palestinian leaders, but also openly allied themselves with Israel against Iran. The Arab world still technically backs the Palestinians and their effort to destroy Israel but has lost confidence in the Palestinians.
By providing sanctuary to Islamic terror groups that operate in Egypt, Hamas has made an enemy of Egypt. Thus, since 2012, Egypt has limited the ability of Gaza residents to enter or leave Gaza via Egypt. Worse, the Egyptians have gone after the smuggling tunnels. The most successful tactic has been filling the smuggling tunnels with water. This began in 2013 when the Egyptians dug small canals for seawater that could then be pumped into tunnels discovered. It was eventually found that flooding permanently destroyed the tunnel better than any other method because it caused the sandy soil in the area to collapse and remain unstable. It is believed that only about twenty tunnels are still operating and every week several of those are discovered and flooded. The army engineers have learned that you have to not only flood the tunnels but keep flooding them because the Palestinians can obtain pumps to remove the water and repair the damage. But if you keep the tunnel flooded long enough it collapses and has to be rebuilt as if there were never a tunnel there in the first place. Egypt has also created a buffer zone along the border by moving Egyptians out and destroying all buildings. This means tunnels from Gaza now have to be over a kilometer long and deeper as well to evade detection. To make matters worse Egyptian police watch buildings within a few kilometers of the Gaza border for signs of a tunnel entrance. The police are less likely to take bribes from smuggling tunnel operators because Gaza-based Islamic terrorists have killed a lot of Egyptian police and soldiers in the last few years.
May 26, 2023: In the West Bank a Palestinian man was shot and killed as he attempted to sneak into a Jewish settlement and kill Israelis living there. Security camera video shows the man crawling under a gate holding a knife and then walking off looking for a victim. Before he could do that he was shot dead by an armed settler.
May 22, 2023: Israel troops carried out a raid in the West Bank to arrest several members of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. The soldiers were fired on as they approached the building the Al Aqsa men were living in. A gun battle broke out that left three Palestinians dead and one arrested. A large quantity of weapons and explosives was also seized. The Al Aqsa men were manufacturing bombs. The explosives were detonated where they were after nearby civilians were moved away. Al Aqsa blames Israel for all this because Israeli settlers buy land from Palestinians and build settlements. Al Aqsa insists it is illegal for Palestinians to sell land to Israelis. Many land-owning Palestinians want to sell their land and move somewhere else where there is less Al Aqsa and violence in general. Israel has carried out several similar raids in the West Bank this month.
May 13, 2023: Israeli soldiers raided a West Bank location where some armed Palestinians were based and planning armed attacks on Israelis. Two Palestinians were there and opened fire on the Israelis. After a brief gun battle the two Palestinians were killed and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition were found with them. In the last few days there have been several of these raids that resulted in 25 armed Palestinians being arrested.
May 11, 2023: An unguided rocket fired from Gaza hit an apartment building in Israel, killing one civilian and wounding eight.
May 9, 2023: Today a major rocket attack from Gaza began. Over the next five days nearly 1,500 rockets and mortar shells were fired into southern Israel. Most of the rockets headed for populated areas were detected and intercepted by Iron Dome missile defense system. About 20 percent of the rockets fired from Gaza were defective and landed inside Gaza, killing three Gaza civilians and wounding three others. Israel used UAVs, some of them armed with missiles, to find the rocket launching sites and fire on them if there were still rockets waiting to be launched.
May 8, 2023: Israel began a major effort to kill leaders of Iran-backed PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), which is based in Gaza and responsible for the growing number of rocket attacks on southern Israel as well as more ambitious operations in the West Bank to kill or kidnap Israelis. Hamas had a major presence in Gaza when they formed JOR (Joint Operations Room). This was a coalition of twelve Palestinian factions seeking, and sometimes succeeding in attacking Israel or individual Israelis. Hamas supervises JOR and supplies rockets and other weapons from Iran. Israel has armed patrol boats operating along the Gaza coast and regularly intercepting Iranian arms shipments trying to land weapons from fishing boats. These shipments have an even more difficult time getting across the Gaza border with Egypt. The Egyptians are often the victims of Iranian weapons and guard their border with Gaza. Israel and Egypt exchange information on Iranian arms shipments and often cooperate in capturing the smugglers trying to get in via Sinai or Iranian smuggling tunnels. Israel had found and killed at least six leaders of the JOR and that encouraged Iran to increase its weapons smuggling efforts.
May 6, 2023: In southern Syria (Daraa province) on the Israeli border, there has been a lot of random violence so far in 2013, with over 200 separate incidents of violence that have caused over 500 casualties. The violence is mainly against Syrian army personnel. This level of violence remained fairly constant since 2018. This is part of the undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces going on there since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. There are also attacks against former members of ISIL and other militant groups. These victims had accepted amnesty. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area. In 2022 and 2023 much of the violence is from other groups, some of them criminal gangs retaliating against those who refuse to pay for protection from the violence. Daraa is the most violent province but similar violence continues in many parts of Syria.
May 4, 2023: Visiting Syria for two days, Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, met with key members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These two terror groups are based in Gaza and depend on Iran for financial support and weapons. Raisi discussed planned terror attacks in southern Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and now from Lebanon. Iran forced Hamas to establish a partnership with Hezbollah to recruit Palestinians living in Lebanon to carry out rocket attacks into Israel. The Lebanese are not happy with this because Hamas could get too aggressive and trigger a major Israeli response against Hamas and the larger Hezbollah in southern Lebanon as well as terrorist targets throughout Lebanon. Iran is using a complex and dangerous strategy with all these terrorist groups. For one thing, these groups are divided by religion. Hezbollah and Iran are Shia while Palestinians are Sunni or Christian. Then there is the ethnicity problem. All the Arabs are Semitic while the Iranians are Indo-European and have a history of treating Arabs poorly. Most Lebanese want Iranian and Palestinian radicalism gone from Lebanon, or at least kept quiet. Firing rockets into Israel is dangerous for all Lebanese. Iran is playing a dangerous and explosive game here, one that could backfire on Iran. Most Iranians oppose these expensive sponsorships of Arab terror groups that cost a lot, make a lot of noise and don’t seem to be hurting the Israelis. The popular anger against the government in Iran grows and Raisi has to keep that in mind while working with all these Arab terror groups and their demands for more money. Raisi also met with the Syrian president Bashar Assad to discuss continued cooperation between Syria and Iran as well as problems with Israeli, Islamic terrorist and Turkish operations in Syria, especially the ones aimed at Iranians in Syria. Then there is the Syrian effort to get back in the Arab League and accept large amounts of Arab aid and investment to rebuild Syria’s shattered economy. Iran does not get along with many members of the Arab League while Syria wants to get cozy with the League. In late 2011 Syria was suspended from the Arab League and many of the 21 other League members cut diplomatic relations or imposed sanctions. The Arab League was unable to do much more. By early 2013 the Arab League was still unable to muster enough unity to call for international (Western) intervention in Syria. The Arab League did that in 2011 for Libya and many Arabs considered it shameful that the Arab world could not handle the military intervention itself. Despite trillions of dollars in oil income and hundreds of millions of Arabs demanding something be done, the Arab League had to call on outsiders to save Libya from degenerating into an interminable bloodbath. That is what happened in Syria and many Arabs refused to accept responsibility and just blamed the West and Israel for the mess. Given that toxic atmosphere, Western nations, including NATO member Turkey, were reluctant to do what the Arabs wanted done but would not admit they cannot do it themselves. Iran and the Russians intervened in support of the Assads and the slaughter of pro-rebel civilians continued as did Assad efforts to force pro-rebel civilians out of Syria.
May 1, 2023: In northern Syria (Aleppo) Israeli airstrikes against targets at the international airport destroyed Iranian weapons recently flown in. Iran claimed the lost material was earthquake aid but the secondary explosions (by the Iranian weapons) indicated otherwise. One soldier was killed during this attack and the airport was closed temporarily. Three members of an Iran backed militia and one Syrian soldier were killed. This was the 16th Israeli airsrike against Iranian targets in Syria so far in 2023.
April 29, 2023: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit an airport Iran has been using to fly in weapons for Hezbollah and the new Lebanese branch of the Gaza-based Hamas.
April 24, 2023: Finland has ordered the Israeli David’s Sling (formerly Magic Wand) air defense system to improve its ability to defeat Russian aircraft and missiles (cruise or ballistic). The initial $345 million purchase is one battery plus support equipment. There is an option to buy a second battery for about $250 million.
April 19, 2023: In southern Syria (the Syrian Golan Heights) Israeli artillery fired on stockpiled equipment and supplies belonging to Iran-backed Hezbollah.