Posts Tagged ‘IDF’

Something is rotten in the terrorist kingdom of Hamas

March 16, 2018

Bomb attacks against PA prime minister and IDF troops in areas under full control of terror group point to someone on the inside trying to undermine the organization’s strategy

Avi Issacharoff

Members of the Hamas security forces inspect the crater left at the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister during his visit to the Gaza strip, near the Erez crossing, on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Members of the Hamas security forces inspect the crater left at the site of an explosion that targeted the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister during his visit to the Gaza strip, near the Erez crossing, on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Once again an explosive device was detonated in the Gaza Strip. And once again it appears that Hamas was not responsible for the attempted terror attack. However, the spate of recent incidents in Gaza raises suspicions that something is particularly rotten in the kingdom of Hamas. At best, there are officials within the terror group who are not following the orders of the leadership; at worst, they may be receiving a quiet nod to work secretly against Israel.

Thursday was not the first time that a roadside bomb within the coastal enclave has targeted Israeli troops or that the IDF has discovered explosives put in place to do just that. This, in areas that are supposed to be under the full control of Hamas forces.

On Tuesday, the chaos had escalated in an unusually serious incident, when someone, at present unknown, attempted to murder Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj as they visited Gaza.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-R), escorted by his bodyguards, is greeted by police forces of the Hamas terror group (L) upon his arrival in Gaza City on March 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

According to Hamas Deputy Interior Minister Tawfik Abu Naim, there were two 15-kilogram (33-pound) bombs placed 37 meters (120 feet) apart from each other. One bomb exploded but the second failed to detonate due to a technical problem. The devices were placed on the main north-south route through the Gaza Strip (Salah a-Din Street) only a few hundred meters away from the Erez border crossing to Israel — and under the nose of Hamas security forces.

“There is no chance that someone in Hamas didn’t know that these bombs were placed there,” a senior Palestinian Authority official told The Times of Israel later. “From a security point of view, someone there closed their eyes or gave it their blessing. It is impossible that everything was done there without anyone in Hamas knowing about it.”

It must be said that this Palestinian official is not known for his love of Hamas, but his suspicions are reasonable. It is equally difficult to imagine that no Hamas officials knew of the bombs intended to target the IDF on Thursday close to the border, which Hamas watches carefully.

Hamas’s former interior minister Fathi Hamad (YouTube screenshot)

Fathi Hamad is a senior Hamas official who opposes reconciliation with Fatah, the party that leads the Palestinian Authority, and urges a resumption of war against Israel. His name is being raised as a possible mastermind behind the Hamdallah assassination attempt, or perhaps as a senior figure who gave his blessing to Salafist terrorists from outside Hamas who may not even have known of his involvement.

In the past, Hamas has worked behind the scenes to root out those, including Fatah members, behind attacks — even when Hamad himself, working from within the organization, had a hand in planning them. Hamad is now a suspect in these latest incidents. But there are more than a handful of other groups or officials who could be responsible for an assassination attempt like this, or for the bomb attacks against the IDF.

Meanwhile, Hamas seems to be working vigorously to catch those responsible for the attempted killing of Hamdallah and Faraj. We may soon see the “guilty parties” publicly confessing their crimes in front of the Palestinian media. They may even say that the Israeli Mossad pushed them to the deed.

Such confessions can rarely be taken at face value.

Hamas representative Saleh al-Arouri, after signing a reconciliation deal with senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, during a short ceremony at the Egyptian intelligence complex in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. (AP/Nariman El-Mofty)

Though seen by some as signals of a new militancy on Hamas’s part, these attacks are actually a sign of confusion, of an organization working at cross-purposes. The group’s leadership in Gaza is trying to establish better ties with the Egyptians while the leadership abroad, led by deputy head Salah al-Arouri, attempts to get closer to Iran.

Hamas wants reconciliation with Fatah and is ready to compromise on the civilian front, but is not prepared to give up its military branches or its weapons. It is trying hard to avoid an escalation with Israel, while someone in Gaza is working hard to bring on a war with Israel, perhaps under the nose of Hamas and maybe even with (part of) the organization’s blessing.

Inciting the West Bank

If there is one thing that is clear and obvious, it is Hamas’s incessant attempt to inflame the West Bank. The organization has devoted a tremendous amount of energy towards this goal.

For example, Hamas terrorist Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, who became a hero among Palestinians when he murdered Raziel Shevach in a deadly West Bank shooting near the Havat Gilad outpost and escaped Israeli security forces several times before being killed in a shootout in the village of Yamoun, received financial assistance from Hamas in Gaza, from a group known as “The West Bank Headquarters.”

Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)

This group is made up of some of the 150 terrorists freed by Israel in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal who were expelled to Gaza, and work alongside Hamas’s military wing in the Strip trying to orchestrate terror cells in the West Bank. Most of their attempts fail, but sometimes, as in the case of Jarrar, they bear murderous fruit.

In addition to the “West Bank Headquarters,” Hamas also operates the “Office of the West Bank” which is run from abroad, also mainly by those freed in the Shalit deal. One of the group’s bases is in Istanbul. It seems that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to host Hamas terrorists, including people who visit and operate from there continually: Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, Musa Dodin and others. This group of West Bank Palestinians, now based overseas, is also in contact with Iran and hopes Tehran will foot the bill for their livelihoods and activities. This despite the inevitable cost they may have to pay in loss of support in Sunni states like Egypt or Saudi Arabia if they are perceived as getting too close to Shiite Iran.

Here, too, Hamas is seen at cross-purposes. Yet that does not mean there aren’t unifying threads that should worry Israel. One obvious common denominator: both at home and abroad, Hamas’s activities are often driven to a significant extent by terrorists freed in the 2011 Shalit deal.


Israel moves to reinforce border wall amid tensions with Lebanon — Now add diapute over natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean

February 27, 2018


As Israel moves to reinforce border wall and Lebanon fights over its territorial waters, American mediation is making little headway – and Hezbollah isn’t helping

.Peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Lebanese army members are seen near the border with Israel near the village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
Peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Lebanese army members are seen near the border with Israel near the village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon February 10, 2018.\ ALI HASHISHO/ REUTERS

The dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the route of the northern border centers around Lebanese claims regarding 13 border points that the United Nations decided on 17 years ago. Tensions have increased in recent weeks based on two developments — the start of Israeli defensive efforts near Metula and the Rosh Hanikra area, and Lebanon’s renewed preoccupation with the two countries’ maritime borders due to the search for natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean.

When the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak completed Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel waited for UN confirmation that it had withdrawn completely to the international border, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425

A few months later the confirmation was given after the Israel Defense Forces, in cooperation with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, marked the border at several points where the United Nations had reservations. Israel moved the fence to the south, sometimes by a few dozen meters.

Areas in dispute between Israel and Lebanon
Areas in dispute between Israel and Lebanon; The border, this month.Gil Eliyahu

At the same time, Lebanon continued to make complaints about the route of the border. One reason was that the border had been drawn based on a map from the cease-fire agreement of 1949, a map with a scale of 1:50,000. As a result, there were places where the line’s thickness on the ground reached about 50 meters, leading to disputes between the sides.

A key Lebanese claim touches on the location of the border on the Rosh Hanikra coast. This is an important question because the two sides disagree on a marking on the coast — at a place where the Lebanese are gearing up to search for gas. Additional Lebanese claims relate to the following places from west to east: three points in the area opposite the town of Shlomi and Kibbutz Hanita, near moshavim Shetula and Shomera, opposite Mount Adir, opposite Avivim, opposite Kibbutz Yiftah, opposite Kiryat Shmona and another three points opposite Metula.

File: Israeli soldiers on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
File: Israeli soldiers on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.Ariel Schalit / AP

There are also other disputes regarding the area of Har Dov (which the Lebanese call the Shebaa Farms), but there Israel says the area was actually captured from Syria in the Six-Day War in 1967, not from Lebanon.

In the past month the Lebanese government has voiced many protests about IDF work along the border in two areas: between Metula and Misgav Am and in the Rosh Hanikra area. The Lebanese are also worried because the building of a wall instead of a fence is seen as a more permanent step.

Israel says it is determined to continue with the project, which is scheduled to last a few months along several kilometers. So far walls have been put up along only about 300 meters (328 yards). Israeli leaders are keeping close track of the barrier’s progress.

The project is designed to improve the IDF’s preparedness in light of fears of a sudden attack by Hezbollah, perhaps starting the next war. The army has been mapping the weak points along the border and has launched engineering projects to make any Hezbollah attacks on IDF outposts or Israeli communities along the border more difficult.

David Satterfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, has in recent weeks taken part in mediation attempts between Israel and Lebanon, though there has been no proof of any breakthrough. The party raising most of the complaints is the Lebanese government, while Hezbollah’s leaders say the problem is an Israeli blow to Lebanese sovereignty, so the Beirut government must deal with it.

Israel simulates war in Lebanon, amid tensions with Iran, Hezbollah

February 22, 2018

Reservist, conscript brigades take part in large-scale exercises along the Lebanese border to ‘improve preparedness on the northern front,’ army says

Times of Israel
February 22, 2018
The IDF's 188th Armored Brigade takes part in a large exercise  in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon in February 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF’s 188th Armored Brigade takes part in a large exercise in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon in February 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF Galilee Division on Thursday completed a series of large-scale exercises designed to prepare the military for a potential rapidly unfolding war in Lebanon, the army said amid rising tensions in recent weeks along Israel’s northern frontier.

“Conscripted soldiers, along with reservists, took part in the exercise. They practiced a rapid call-up of reservists, as well as operational capabilities and readiness to fight in Lebanese terrain,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

In addition, the army’s 188th Armored Brigade conducted its own, separate exercise in northern Israel, along with troops from combat engineering, infantry and artillery.

The drills came amid heightened tensions in the country’s north, following aerial clashes between the Israeli air force and the Syrian military earlier this month, and amid an ongoing diplomatic dispute between Israel and Lebanon over a portion of the Mediterranean Sea, which is believed to contain a natural gas reserve, that each claims as its own.

“The brigade exercises were held as part of the enhanced 2018 training program. Their purpose is to prepare combat soldiers and their commanders for any scenario, and to enhance their readiness and capabilities for real-time threats,” the army said.

Col. Manny Liberty, the head of the 769th Territorial Brigade, which is responsible for defending the eastern portion of the Lebanese border, said the exercise improved both the offensive and defensive capabilities of his unit.

“We will continue to train and prepare to ensure the security of the residents of this region,” Liberty said.

During the tank brigade’s exercise, the troops simulated “a variety of scenarios, and were required to practice logistic and operational efficiency over a prolonged period of fighting,” the army said.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot meets with Col. Gal Shochami, head of the 188th Armored Brigade, during a large exercise in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon on February 20, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The commander of the 188th Brigade, Col. Gal Shochami, stressed the importance of the exercise as conflict could break out at any time.

“We must remember the meaning of the command, ‘War tomorrow,’ which tells us that any training situation may be the last before the real test of our abilities: the battlefield,” Shochami said.

“The 188th Brigade will be ready to fight on the battlefield, whenever, and wherever it will be required,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, visited the exercises in northern Israel, speaking with the commanders of the various participating units and assessing the brigade’s abilities, the army said.

The military faced deep criticism following the 2006 Second Lebanon War against the Hezbollah terrorist group over its failure to properly train soldiers for the types of fighting they encountered in the conflict, having instead focused on preparing troops for West Bank counter-terrorism operations.

In the interim 12 years, the army sought to address that issue, building special facilities that mimic southern Lebanese terrain and investing considerably more resources in training exercises for reservists.

In September, the military conducted its largest exercise in decades, aimed specifically at simulating a war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

This has all been to prepare for another bout with the terrorist group and its supporters — Iran and Syria — which many defense officials and analysts see as only a matter of time.

The prospects of such a clash between Israel and the Iranian-led axis of Tehran, Damascus and the Beirut-based Hezbollah were raised following a significant aerial exchange earlier this month.

Earlier this month, an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace near the Jordanian border before it was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the drone incursion, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said at the time.

During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft fire and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

In the aftermath of the exchange, officials from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah boasted that the downing of the F-16 marked the end of Israel’s ability to freely operate in the region. Meanwhile, Israeli officials said the fact that the air force destroyed a sizable portion of Syria’s air defenses after the F-16 was shot down proved that the Jewish state maintained its aerial superiority in the Middle East.


After F-16 Shot Dow, Israel Says This Is a Serious Iranian Attack on Our Territory — “Iran is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty”

February 10, 2018

Israeli army says prepared for all scenarios after Iranian drone shot down and Israeli strikes in Syria ■ Israeli F-16 downed, pilots safe

Missile contrails seen in Israel during overnight strike in Syria
Missile contrails seen in Israel during overnight strike in Syria

Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said Saturday morning that Iran has carried out “a dangerous attack on Israeli territory” after an Iranian drone was shot down over Israeli territory. According to Manelis, Israel struck deep in Syrian territory, targeting the trailer from which the drone was launched.

skip – strike

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According to the Israeli army, Syrian anti-aircraft missiles targeted an Israeli F-16, prompting the pilots to eject. The plane went down in northern Israel. The two pilots were taken to the hospital in stable condition.

Israeli F-16 crash site, today
Israeli F-16 crash site, today

Syrian anti-aircraft fire triggered rocket sirens in northern Israel, first in the northern Israeli town of Beit She’an and later in the surrounding areas and Golan Heights. “As part of the country’s defenses, sirens were activated but there was no danger for the residents of Beit She’an,” Manelis said.

The Syrian army and rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights are currently exchanging heavy fire.


Report: Russian Delegation Met With Netanyahu to Prevent Israeli Attack in Lebanon, Syria

February 3, 2018


After Netanyahu threatened an Israeli attack on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria and Lebanon, Russia sent over security council head Nikolai Patrushev

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow, Russia January 29, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow, Russia January 29, 2018.\ MAXIM SHEMETOV/ REUTERS

A delegation of Russian officials that arrived in Israel this week did so in an attempt to prevent a planned Israeli attack on Iranian missile factories in southern Lebanon and Syria, the Saudi daily ASharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday.

According to the report, the Russian delegation headed by the head of Russia’s security council, Nikolai Patrushev, met with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on Friday, and said that their visit came after talks with senior Israeli officials about the fear of Iranian influence in the region.

The report added that sources familiar with the subject said that Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the topic with Russian President Putin at the end of the month and threatened an Israeli attack on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria and Lebanon.

>> Israeli threats to strike Lebanon missile factory not intended to provoke war, but to distance it | Analysis <<

According to the same sources, Russia decided to send Patrushev to the region to assess the situation and understand Israel’s concerns, especially in view of Iran’s opposition to Russia’s request to withdraw fighters from southern Syria.

A senior Israeli official said that during the meeting it was “agreed to set up a working group for dealing with the treat of terror, especially ahead of the World Cup.” They also noted that “regional stability is important to those parties that want coordination on security issues to continue.”

Netanyahu and Putin met earlier this week in Moscow. After the meeting, the prime minister said that the question at hand was “whether Iran will be based in Syria or that this process will be halted.” According to him “We also talked abotu Lebanon, I told him that accurate ewapons are a serious threat that we are not prepared to accept, and if we have to act we will act.”

According to Netanyahu, Iranian missile factories are currently undre construction. “Israel is not trying to escalate, but its interests require readiness of the IDF and security forces, and we are ready for a political solution,” he added. “The Russians understand our position and the seriousness with which we relate to these threats.”

Israeli Army Considering Taking Control of Palestinian Areas in East Jerusalem

January 17, 2018

A sharp rise in the number of recent attacks in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Shaafat and Kafr Aqab have prompted defense officials to consider intervention

The refugee camp of Shoafat, East Jerusalem.
The refugee camp of Shoafat, East Jerusalem. Credit Olivier Fitouss

The Israeli military is examining the possibility of assuming responsibility for security in the Shoafat refugee camp and in Kafr Aqab, Palestinian areas that are in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem but physically cut off from the city since the construction of the separation barrier.

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Sources in the defense establishment have confirmed to Haaretz that the armys Central Command and the headquarters of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories are reviewing the matter. The armys exact duties in Shoafat and Kafr Aqab, whose inhabitants carry Israeli identity cards and have residency status in Israel, have not been determined, nor is it known whether the intention is to change the civil status of the communities. Also still to be worked out is the division of responsibilities between the army and the police. The Israel Police currently operate in these areas.

Kafr Aqab

Haaretz has learned that the Israel Defense Forces is looking into the possibility that the Samaria Brigade, which is responsible for the Nablus area, will assume responsibility for additional areas further south, and the Binyamin Brigade, which is in charge of the Ramallah area, would assume control over Shoafat and Kafr Aqab, in cooperation with COGAT.

Defense officials said the decision to examine these changes was taken at the outbreak of the last wave of violence in Jerusalem. The events in the area and the number of attacks in those tense days created a need for greater cooperation between the police and the army in areas just outside the city, especially in East Jerusalem neighborhoods that remained on the other side of the barrier, as well as in the Har Adar area, west of the city, the officials said.

The army is considering assuming responsibility up to the separation barrier in areas abutting Jerusalem, bringing the army into neighborhoods on the other side of the barrier. The implications for residents of Shoafat and Kafr Aqab are also being examined. Defense officials stressed that the review was not initiated out of a need to find solutions for these neighborhoods, but rather out of cooperation between the army and police and the recognition that the future of the neighborhoods depends on the decisions that are made.

The Shoafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab are inside Jerusalems borders but have been cut off from the city by the barrier. Precise population figures are unavailable, but estimates range between 100,000 and 150,000. Between one-half and two-thirds have blue Israeli ID cards and residency status. A recent survey by city water company Gihon put the population at 140,000.

Because these neighborhoods were severed from Jerusalem, the city and police provide few services and conditions have significantly deteriorated in recent years. Many of the terror attacks in 2015 were committed by people living beyond the separation barrier. Violence in these neighborhoods and environs have spiked, as have the incidence of drug trafficking and illegal weapons possession. The infrastructure is poor. In the absence of municipal oversight thousands of apartments have been built, overtaxing already-crumbling sewage, water and electricity systems.

Netanyahus settler government is continuing to take extreme steps aimed at preventing any possibility of a future peace plan, along with causing critical damage to the daily life of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem says MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List. This is a move designed to uproot 100,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem and to shatter East Jerusalem into small entities comprised of separate villages and neighborhoods.

Odeh believes that in addition to the political implications of such a move this will also hurt people who in any case are living in dire poverty and with unacceptable infrastructure, and for whom East Jerusalem is the center of their lives. Obviously after such a move their situation will worsen, families will be torn apart and tens of thousands of residents will be cut off from their sources of livelihood.

Perhaps the work being done these days at Central Command attests to the fact that the plan promoted by Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin for the division of the city is still alive and well. In an interview with Haaretz in Elkin said the situation in Shoafat and Kafr Aqab could not be worse.

The current arrangement has totally failed; it was a mistake to erect the barrier where they did. There are now two municipal areas, Jerusalem and the neighborhoods, with very loose links between them. Formally, the IDF cant operate there and the police only go in for special operations, and the area has gradually become a no-mans land.

Elkin continued, arguing that such an amount of tall buildings, with such density, you dont have even in Tel Aviv, and the planning implications are grave. There are dangers of collapsing buildings in case of an earthquake.

The municipality cannot provide any services there; any attempt to do so has become a great risk. Lately, there have been attempts to find a solution, but even when these are found they are pinpoint solutions, not systemic ones. Its a great challenge — a security and an operational one.

The defense establishment says the staff work has not been completed yet and that this is a lengthy process in which several alternatives are being examined, such as the army and COGAT assuming responsibility for neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier.

The IDF spokesman responded by stating that the IDF is constantly examining the optimal way of deploying its forces in different sectors, including in the Central Command area. Different alternatives are currently under review but so far no changes or decisions have been made.

Israeli Air Force Attacks ‘Terror Targets’ Along Gaza Border: ‘Hamas Is Responsible’

January 13, 2018

Kerem Shalom border crossing, linking Gaza to Israel, to close Sunday morning, Israeli army informs Palestinians

By Amos Harel and Yaniv Kubovich Jan 13, 2018 11:10 PM

The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip

The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel army planes have attacked what military described as “terror targets” along the border with Gaza, the army announced late Saturday. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said that it views Hamas as responsible for what happens in Gaza.

Palestinian sources say that a tunnel was the target of the attack.

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Earlier, the IDF informed the Palestinians on Saturday evening that it was decided to temporarily close for all traffic the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, starting Sunday morning. The army said the decision, which is unusual, was reached “in accordance with current assessments.”

The crossing is the Gaza Strip’s main line of supplies. Every day roughly 500 trucks, carrying goods from the West Bank and Israel, pass through it and into the coastal enclave. Recently, tensions have run high along the border, where Israel continues to build an anti-tunnel wall and where three offensive tunnels were recently unearthed, as well as a recent surge in rocket fire.

Israel attributes the rocket fire to Salafist groups in Gaza, and in one case has attributed fire to Islamic Jihad. Since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, more than 40 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, only half of which landed in Israeli territory. No Israelis were hurt by rocket fire.

Israeli officials, and among them the prime minister, the defense minister and the military’s chief of staff, have recently warned Hamas and Islamic Jihad on several occasions against continuing to dig tunnels and announced that Israel would act to locate and destroy them. Last week the IDF’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, oversaw a drill of an elite IDF unit which centered on a scenario of a large terror cell infiltrating an Israeli community along the border with the Gaza Strip through a tunnel.

Over the weekend, Palestinian demonstrations continued close to the security barrier along the Strip, focusing on protest against Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, published a statement in which he accused Hamas of handing out hand grenades to youngsters who participated in the protests. The latter then hurled the hand grenades toward IDF troops close to the security barrier.

In the West Bank, security forces are continuing to hunt after the Palestinian cell whose members shot to death last week Rabbi Raziel Shevach near the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad, west of Nablus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that he expects to see progress soon in the cracking of the case that led to the terror attack.

The Israeli military and the Shin Bet are both disturbed by acts of violence carried out by extreme right-wing activist in reaction to the murder of Shevach. Since the attack at least eight cases have been recorded of the destruction of Palestinian property by Israelis in the Nablus area, such as the smashing of car windows and the destruction of Palestinian olive trees.

Amos Harel
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No One Wants a War in Gaza, but the First Israeli Casualty Could Change Everything

January 5, 2018

With deterrence measures used since the 2014 Gaza war appearing less effective, Israel is operating on borrowed time

By Amos Harel Jan 05, 2018 11:27 AM

A Palestinian demonstrator reacts during clashes with Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel, December 29, 2017.

A Palestinian demonstrator reacts during clashes with Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel, December 29, 2017. IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

There is a growing sense that Israel may find itself sliding toward another military confrontation in the Gaza Strip, despite the still-valid assumption that it has no interest in one, and the highly likely belief that Hamas doesn’t, either. Sporadic rocket and mortar fire from Gaza has been going on for a month, ever since U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in early December. The fact that there have been no casualties from the 45 rockets and shells launched from the Strip, half of which fell inside Israel, is the main reason that the country’s leaders can refrain from taking harsher retaliatory measures.

However, with respect to Gaza, Israel is operating on borrowed time. Heads of local councils along the border and in the Negev are patient, as long as there are no casualties and the cycle of sirens and people running to shelters is not exacting a psychological toll on the residents. The army has managed to fine-tune the mechanism that alerts residents of an area likely to be hit by a rocket, which excludes many communities from being notified each time another one is launched.

Until this week the fire was attributed to Salafists, the smaller and more extreme groups operating in Gaza, with claims that Hamas was trying to restrain them. The rockets indeed stopped for a few days but was renewed this week with a barrage of mortar shells, which landed near Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where a memorial ceremony was being held for Sgt. Oron Shaul. The Israel Defense Forces admitted belatedly that the Islamic Jihad, a much larger organization than the Salafists, which is not always willing to obey Hamas directives, was responsible for the incident. Since then the Salafists have also resumed their fire, which now comes every two or three days. What seems like a routine journalistic chronicle from Tel Aviv may again make life intolerable in places like Sderot and Kibbutz Nirim.

Late on Wednesday night the Israel Air Force attacked a different type of target for the first time in this round of escalation. It was defined somewhat mysteriously as a “key terrorist infrastructure target”; the Palestinians also kept silent about it. However, reports of attacks on open agricultural fields in unpopulated areas, along with a statement by a spokesman that the army will continue taking all measures “above and underground,” suggest the logical hunch that the target was a tunnel.

If this is true, this would be the third tunnel struck by the IDF in the last two and a half months. In late October Israel destroyed an attack tunnel built by Islamic Jihad; 14 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members died with its collapse. Last month an attack tunnel built by Hamas was destroyed, without loss of life. It is patently obvious that the army’s construction of an underground barrier against tunnels, new technology and a change in the operation of intelligence teams are gradually depriving the Palestinians of their main offensive weapon, which they have pinned their hopes on in recent years.

These are noteworthy operational achievements. One can understand the IDF’s position that it would be best to continue building the barrier – which will take a year to complete, with another year to install the complementary components – rather than getting embroiled in another war with no strategic goal. With Israel finding it difficult to decide whether it wants to topple the Hamas government or just show the public that it’s not afraid of the enemy, it’s no wonder that senior military personnel prefer caution. In the background, Egypt is continuing its efforts to reconcile Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The Netanyahu government, although not comfortable with the (slim for now) chances for renewed Palestinian unity, does not want to be blamed for foiling it. It wants a conflict with its close allies in Cairo even less.

The trouble is that Israel’s room for maneuvering is decreasing. Its methods of deterrence, such as limited strikes against Hamas so that it restrains the Salafists, which served it well for over three years since the 2014 Gaza war, no longer seem effective. A possible alternative is direct strikes against Islamic Jihad targets such as camps and offices, rocket launching squads or even senior commanders. In the absence of any other exit strategy from the tensions, this may be the option that is chosen. However, intelligence agencies cannot guarantee political leaders that this will necessarily restrain Islamic Jihad, particularly if its Iranian patrons view an escalation in Gaza favorably at this point in time.

In the meantime, with the advent of winter and the continuing deterioration of living conditions in the Strip, Israel has taken a step to ease the situation. Palestinian Authority leaders were persuaded to renew payments for supplying electricity to Gaza and Israel is expected to increase the amount it delivers in the coming days. The fact that the right flank of the coalition is silent on this matter and – as compared to the opposition parties – is not urging Netanyahu to take harsher military measures in Gaza attests to the fact that cabinet members are getting a full picture of the complexity of the situation in the enclave. They, too, are aware of the limited means at Israel’s disposal, given that it doesn’t want to slide toward a war at this point in time.

Amos Harel
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Israel Strikes ‘Central Terrorist Infrastructure’ in Gaza in Response to Rocket Fire

January 4, 2018

Three rockets were fired earlier at Israeli communities ■ Army says will operate ‘below and above ground’ to thwart attacks

Yaniv Kubovich Jan 04, 2018 6:29 AM

Israeli planes strike targets in Gaza following rocket fire on Israeli border communities, December 30, 2017.

Israeli planes strike targets in Gaza following rocket fire on Israeli border communities, December 30, 2017. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel Air Forces struck “central terrorist infrastructure” targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday, said the Israeli army spokesperson in a statement.

“The IDF will continue to employ all tactics available to it below and above ground to thwart attempted attacks on Israeli citizens,” the mili tary said in an unusual statement. “We are prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios, and we will work to face every attempt to breach Israeli sovereignty.”

After previous rocket fire from Gaza the Israeli miltiary said it attacked Hamas positions in Gaza.

Earlier on Wednesday, three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli communities near the border, the Israeli army confirmed. All the rockets exploded in open areas, causing no injuries or damage, the army said. In the first two cases, sirens did not sound, while a siren sounded for the third one.

The army also said on Wednesday morning that Islamic Jihad was behind Friday’s rocket attack, in which militants in Gaza fired a rocket toward Israel that disrupted a ceremony for a fallen IDF soldier.

The Israel Air Force hit a Hamas military compound in the Strip early Tuesday morning. The rocket was in retaliation to an earlier rocket fired from Gaza, which struck an open area in southern Israel on Monday. There were no casualties or damage in the incident.

Yaniv Kubovich
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Israel is surrounded by dangerous enemies, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot says — Sees two Shi’ite crescents

December 26, 2017

Israel is surrounded by dangerous enemies that require the military to act judiciously and creatively, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said.

“The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are clearly superior to its enemies, but we are aware of the real danger of proliferation on several fronts which are explosive and require us to act judiciously and creatively, to initiate and to dare,” Eisenkot said during the annual Chief of Staff Award ceremony honoring outstanding units at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Monday night.


 DECEMBER 26, 2017 17:05
The Jerusalem Post
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at the annual awards for outstanding IDF units. (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at the annual awards for outstanding IDF units. (IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Eisenkot was addressing commanders and soldiers at the ceremony, in which certificates of excellence were awarded to outstanding troops in regular and territorial brigades, battalions, reserve units, training units, combat support units and technology units.

“You know more than anybody that we are in the midst of a complex security period in which you are required to take command and have a clear impact on the operational results,” he continued. “This evening is the most tangible expression of the operational and human strength of the Israel Defense Forces today.

 “All of you together contribute to the moral and operational strength of the IDF and serve as an important element in the IDF’s ability to realize its mission while maintaining its character as a professional and responsible army whose role is to safeguard the security of the State of Israel,” the chief of staff continued.

“I trust you that at this time you will serve as an example of professional and responsible action, that we will continue to maintain a good security reality over time, and if we are required to use the power of the IDF, we will use our full strength and defeat every enemy.”

The IDF has been kept on high alert along the borders, with an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing wave of violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Following the US recognition on December 6 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, dozens of rockets were fired from the Hamas-run enclave and thousands of Palestinians took to the streets, with some attacking IDF troops, leaving several Palestinians dead.

In the south, Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate is believed to be the jihadist group’s strongest branch. Israeli intelligence officials have warned that ISIS fighters from Iraq and Syria might join the branch in the restive Sinai Peninsula which, despite consisting of fewer than 1,000 operatives, has been responsible for numerous deadly attacks, mostly against Egyptian security personnel and civilians.

The war in Syria has also been a focus of Eisenkot’s, especially in terms of keeping advanced Iranian weapons from the hands of Hezbollah. Speaking to the London-based, Saudi-owned online newspaper Elaph in a rare interview in November, Eisenkot warned of the expansion of Iranian influence across the Middle East as a major concern to Israel and to the Sunni kingdom.

“The Iranian plan is to control the Middle East by means of two Shi’ite crescents,” he told Elaph. “The first being from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and the second across the Gulf from Bahrain to Yemen to the Red Sea. We must stop that from happening.”

During his two years as chief of staff, Eisenkot has focused on preparing Israel and its military for a sudden outbreak of conflict on the borders, and has restocked the IDF’s arsenal and increased training for reserve soldiers from five days a year to two weeks.

In March, during one of the army’s largest planned drills where 2,000 reserve soldiers were called up to simulate war in the Gaza Strip, Eisenkot said: “We have put preparedness at the top of the IDF’s list of priorities. This is evident from the increased training program.”