Archive for the ‘Gaza’ category

Israel deploys 100 sharpshooters on Gaza border for Palestinian protests

March 28, 2018

By REUTERS March 28, 2018 14:30 via Jerusalem Post

Source Link: Israel deploys 100 sharpshooters on Gaza border for Palestinian protests

{Just in case things to asunder, add a little Israeli thunder. – LS}

“We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces.”

JERUSALEM/GAZA – The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 sharpshooters on the Gaza border ahead of a planned mass Palestinian demonstration near the frontier, Israel’s top general said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Organizers hope thousands in Gaza will answer their call to flock, starting on Friday, to tent cities in five locations along the sensitive border in a six-week protest for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.

Citing security concerns, the Israeli military enforces a “no go” zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza adjacent to Israel’s border fence.

Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, the military’s chief of staff, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that the military would not allow “mass infiltration” or tolerate damage to the barrier during the protests.

“We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces,” Eizenkot said in the interview. “If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire.”

Israeli soldiers are confronted by frequent violent Palestinian protests along the Gaza border and have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators whom the military said hurled rocks or petrol bombs at them.

Organizers said the protest is supported by several Palestinian factions, including Gaza’s dominant Islamist Hamas movement that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

RISING TENSION

Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking on Israel Radio, said Hamas had avoided direct conflict with Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza war.

But he said that pressure Hamas was now feeling from Israel’s destruction of some of its network of attack tunnels near the border, coupled with harsh economic conditions in Gaza, were “a formula for rising tension.”

The start of the demonstration was symbolically linked to what Palestinians call “Land Day,” which commemorates the six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces in demonstrations in 1976 over land confiscations. The week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, when Israel heightens security, also begins on Friday.

The protest is due to end on May 15, the day Palestinians call the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians have long demanded that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return. Israel rules this out, fearing an influx of Arabs that would eliminate its Jewish majority. Israel argues the refugees should resettle in a future state that the Palestinians seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli jets strike third Palestinian terror tunnel

January 14, 2018

Israeli jets strike third Palestinian terror tunnel, DEBKAfile, January 14, 2018

The Israel air strike Saturday night, Jan. 13, in the southern Gaza Strip was aimed at a terror tunnel running 180m into Israel that Hamas was building under the Kerem Shalom crossing through which convoys of goods pass from Israel to the Gaza Strip. It also ran into Egyptian territory under the Rafah border between Gaza and Sinai. This was disclosed early Sunday by the IDF spokesman. He noted that Israeli fighters hit the tunnel at the Gaza end. Work to finish its demolition continued Sunday. The new tunnel ran under the gas and heavy oil pipelines through which Israel supplies the Gaza Strip population with fuel.

This was the third Palestinian terror tunnel Israel had discovered and destroyed in the Gaza Strip in recent months. Hamas and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad were responsible for the first two.

DEBKAfile adds: Clearly the IDF has been able to develop the technology for detecting and destroying the terror tunnels, so robbing Palestinians of one of their prime weapons of terror against Israel. Hamas will also have understood that Israel gave Egypt prior warning of its air strike Saturday night. This prompted the night curfew Cairo imposed on northern Sinai including the Rafah region an hour earlier. The tunnel network is also Hamas’ main conduit for smuggling arms and combatants into and out of the Gaza Strip through Sinai. Now that the Gaza Strip is under total land blockade, the Palestinian terrorist group faces hard options: Accept Egyptian and Fatah terms for reconciliation, launch a massive rocket attack on Israel, or call on the help of its allies Iran and Hizballah for action to break the blockade and deliver funds and weapons that can overwhelm the IDF and its new anti-tunnel technology.

The end of an era

January 4, 2018

The end of an era, Israel Hayom, Dr. Reuven Berko, January 3, 2018

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

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In the late 1990s, author and political commentator Fouad Ajami published his book “The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey,” in which he laid out the failures in the worldviews of Arab leaders and their self-criticism as the reason for their lack of achievement.

Two decades later, as 2017 was drawing to a close, the Palestinians’ dream palace sustained three serious blows in quick succession. First, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This was followed by the Likud Central Committee’s decision to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley. Finally, the Knesset passed a law that removes the teeth from any future peace deal involving Jerusalem (by requiring a special majority of 80 MKs to vote in favor of handing any part of the city over to any foreign government).

If the Palestinians were to look at them in a sober light, they would see that the U.N. resolutions that followed Trump’s announcement were meaningless. In light of the continuing historic drama that began with the landmark Balfour Declaration, the U.N. resolutions condemning Trump’s announcement carried no operative significance and merely served as a faint echo of the detached institution’s fading anti-Israelism.

The latest provocations from Hamas are not a lust for battle, but an expression of how desperate and lost – operatively, politically, and ideologically – the organization is. This beaten and battered group made an immense investment in missiles and attack tunnels, at a heavy cost to its people. These have become a pointless burden. Hamas is currently in a political situation in which the world is sick of Islamism, and the entities that aid and abet it (Qatar, Iran, and Turkey) are bogged down in their own domestic troubles.

The Palestinian Authority is at the end of an era. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is trying fruitlessly to use a diplomatic atmosphere that is hostile to Israel to wring concessions out of it, while simultaneously avoiding direct negotiations with Israel or recognizing it as a Jewish state. The PA is wasting time trying to paint Israel as an apartheid state through a South Africa-style boycott movement, while continuing to coordinate on security because it is afraid of Hamas.

The Israeli convoy is moving on while the PA is gritting its teeth over absurd demands (Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees), not realizing the effect the processes at work in the world are having on their delusional dreams. Indeed, Islamist terrorism, the Iranian threat, the breakdown of many countries in the region, the masses of Muslim refugees into sinking Europe, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East – these are the factors that have sidelined the Palestinian problem, which was never the cause of the regional unrest.

As these developments take place, Abbas is claiming that the U.S. is sponsoring an Israeli strategy to eradicate the Palestinians and their irrefutable right to kill off the peace process. A range of voices in Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas – responded to Trump’s declaration and Israel’s decision about Jerusalem and the settlements with the language of a declaration of war that demands that they revoke any recognition of Israel and the peace process and resume resistance (the armed struggle).

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

Palestinians: Where Have They Gone?

December 26, 2017

Palestinians: Where Have They Gone? Gatestone Institute, Shoshana Bryen, December 26, 2017

(Please see also, The night the UNRWA stole Xmas. — DM)

American funding for UNRWA is problematic itself because the organization is inextricably intertwined with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. This may be the right time to review the number of Palestinian “refugees” in the world and the world’s obligation to them.

Ten years ago, in a forum on Capitol Hill, then-Rep. Mark Kirk called for an international audit of UNRWA. Kirk admitted he was unsuccessful, despite such accounting anomalies as a $13 million entry for “un-earmarked expenses” in an audit conducted by UNRWA’s own board.

Palestinians are the only “refugee” group that hands the status down through generations, which is why they are governed by UNRWA; all other refugees are under the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has a mandate to settle refugees so they can become citizens of new countries.

Palestinian refugees are a slippery population — but when 285,535 of them go missing from a small country such as Lebanon, it should raise eyebrows.

UNRWA in Lebanon reports on its website that 449,957 refugees live under its protection in 12 camps, but a survey by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics, together with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, could only find 174,535. The Lebanese government said the others “left.” Okay, maybe they did — Lebanon constrained them viciously, so it would make some sense. What does NOT make sense, then, is the UN giving UNRWA a budget based on nearly half a million people when, in fact, there are far fewer than a quarter of a million. Who is paying and who is getting the money?

We are and they are.

The UNRWA website shows a budget of $2.41 billion combined for FY 2016 and 2017. The U.S. provides more than $300 million to UNRWA annually, about one-quarter of the total. In August 2017, UNRWA claimed a deficit of $126 million. A former State Department official said the budget shortfalls are chronic but that “the funds seemed eventually arrive” after pressing others for more money — some of that additional money is from the U.S.

American funding for UNRWA is problematic itself because the organization is inextricably intertwined with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon; see herehere and here. And specifically for Lebanon, the connection goes as far back as 2007. But stay with the “floating” population problem for a moment.

A July 2015 street celebration in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh camp, which is administered by UNRWA. (Image source: Geneva Call/Flickr)

The huge discrepancy in Lebanon suggests that UNRWA may have trouble counting refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, Gaza, and Syria as well. (We’ll give them a pass on Syria for now.) The problem is not new, but that Palestinian agencies were running the census may help the United States overcome its own long-term obstinacy when it comes to counting and paying.

Ten years ago, a forum on Capitol Hill, then-Rep. Mark Kirk called for an international audit of UNRWA. Kirk admitted he was unsuccessful in generating demand among his colleagues despite such accounting anomalies as a $13 million entry for “un-earmarked expenses” in an audit conducted by UNRWA’s own board. An amendment to the 2006 Foreign Assistance Act had called for $2 million in additional funds for UNRWA, specifically for an investigation of finances, but the amendment was withdrawn at the request of the State Department.

As a Senator, Kirk offered an amendment calling for the State Department to provide two numbers to Congress: the number of Palestinians physically displaced from their homes in what became Israel in 1948, and the number of their descendants administered by the UNRWA. The State Department denounced the amendment, saying:

“This proposed amendment would be viewed around the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the outcome of this sensitive issue.”

Far from prejudging the outcome, a review of the number of Palestinian “refugees” in the world and the world’s obligation to them would provide an honest basis from which to make policy.

In 1950, the UN defined Palestinian “refugees” as people displaced from territory that had become Israel after having lived there for two years or more — this is distinct from every other population of refugees that must be displaced from their long-term homes. Furthermore, Palestinians are the only “refugee” group that hands the status down through generations, until there is a resolution of the status of the original group — which is why they are governed by UNRWA; all other refugees are under the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has a mandate to settle refugees so they can become citizens of new countries. UNRWA, naturally, produces the only population of refugees that grows geometrically over time rather than declining as the original refugees die and their children are no longer stateless. (See Vietnamese refugee resettlement for an example of how this works for others.)

The original population of refugees was estimated at 711,000 in 1950. Today, there appear to be 30-50,000 original refugees remaining, and UNRWA claims to care for 4,950,000 of their descendants. But 285,000 of them appear to have disappeared from Lebanon.

It has long been understood that there is an undercount of deaths in UNRWA refugee camps — to admit a death means UNRWA loses that member in the accounting for the international community. It also wreaks havoc with Palestinian insistence that there are 6 million refugees (not UNRWA’s 5 million) and that a million people are not registered, but should still have a “right of return” to homes their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents claim to have had inside the borders of Israel.

The numbers game also exists with people who do not live in refugee camps. The Palestinian Authority counts as residents 400,000 Palestinians who have lived abroad for over a year, and according to Deputy Palestinian Interior Minister Hassan Illwi, more than 100,000 babies born abroad are registered as West Bank residents — both in contravention of population-counting norms. Jerusalem Palestinians are double-counted – once as Palestinian Authority residents and once as Israeli Palestinians. The PA, furthermore, claims zero net out-migration; Israeli government statistics differ.

How many Palestinians would there be in these territories if a proper census was taken? How many “refugees” would disappear from UNRWA rolls as they did in Lebanon? How might that affect the budget?

Can we please find out?

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection

November 8, 2017

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection, Gatestone InstituteKhaled Abu Toameh, November 8, 2017

Hamas has already stated repeatedly that it has absolutely no intention of laying down its weapons as promised for the “reconciliation” agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

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Now that the Iranians have sole control over Lebanon, their eyes are set on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas, for its part, is thirsting for Iranian resources. Hamas knows that it will have to pay a price.

Iran and Hezbollah are working with Hamas to establish a “joint front” against Israel.

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough. Last week, Iran finalized its takeover of Lebanon when Hariri resigned, and reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia.

Hariri, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, said he feared for his life. Hariri has good reason to be afraid of Hezbollah, the powerful Shia terror group and Iranian proxy that effectively controls Lebanon.

Indications show that Iran and Hezbollah are also planning to extend their control to the Gaza Strip. Iran already provides Hamas with financial and military aid. It is precisely the support of Iran that has enabled Hamas to hold in power in the Gaza Strip for the past 10 years. It is also thanks to Iran that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another major terror group in the Gaza Strip, are in possession of thousands of missiles and rockets. It is Iranian money that allows Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to continue digging terror tunnels under the border with Israel.

Relations between Iran and Hamas have grown stronger in the past few weeks. Last month, a senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to attend the funeral of the father of the senior Iranian security official, Qasem Soleimani. A few weeks earlier, another senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to brief Iranian leaders on the latest developments surrounding the “reconciliation” agreement reached between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA).

It was the first time senior Hamas officials visited Iran since relations between the two sides became strained in 2011. That year, Iran suspended its ties with Hamas over the latter’s refusal to support Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad, against his opponents in its civil war. The sudden rapprochement between Hamas and Iran has raised concerns among Abbas and his Palestinian Authority officials regarding Hamas’s sincerity in implementing the “reconciliation” agreement. President Abbas and his officials wonder why Hamas rushed into arms of Iran immediately after reaching the “reconciliation” accord under the auspices of the Egyptian authorities.

Iran and Hezbollah are no fans of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is terrified that Hamas is trying to bring Iran and its Hezbollah proxy into the Gaza Strip.

Abbas and his PA are eager to return to the Gaza Strip, but the presence of Iran there creates a serious problem. Like Hariri, Abbas would have good reason to fear for his life if Hamas brings the Iranians and Hezbollah into the Gaza Strip.

Abbas’s fear is also not unjustified. Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, disclosed that his movement and Hezbollah were working towards strengthening their relations. “Relations between Hamas and Hezbollah were never cut off,” Abu Marzouk stated.

“We have ongoing contacts and understandings. But we preferred to keep them away from the spotlight. Hamas and Hezbollah are in one line in the fight against Israel, and we coordinate our positions regarding the Palestinian cause. Hamas will continue to cooperate with resistance groups that support the Palestinian resistance.”

The alliance between Hamas and Hezbollah is a direct result of the renewed relations between Iran and Hamas. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran has managed to take control of large parts of Syria. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran already controls Lebanon. Now that the Iranians have sole control over Lebanon, their eyes are set on the Gaza Strip. They know that the only way to access the Gaza Strip is through the Hamas door. Iran wants to see Hezbollah inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, is thirsting for Iranian resources. Hamas knows that it will have to pay a price: allowing Iran and Hezbollah to set foot in the Gaza Strip. Judging from the remarks of Abu Marzouk, Hamas appears to be happy to pay the price.

Hariri, Abbas and many Sunni Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, felt betrayed by the Obama Administration’s policy of détente towards Iran — a policy that emboldened the Iranians and gave them a green light to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries to try to establish, as they seem to have done, a “Shiite Crescent” from Persia through Yemen and now Lebanon, clear to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Sunni Arabs are apparently particularly worried about the nuclear deal signed between the Obama Administration and Iran. They feel that the Obama Administration’s attempt to appease the Iranians has emboldened the country that is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Iran has since taken advantage of the nuclear deal to threaten and try to terrorize America, its friends and its Arab allies.

Abbas has multiple reasons to be worried about the Hamas-Hezbollah alliance. Here is another one: a recent meeting in Beirut between Hamas leader Saleh Arouri and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was yet another sign of Hamas’s effort to pave the way for Iran and Hezbollah to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and meddle in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.

A recent meeting in Beirut between Hamas leader Saleh Arouri (left) and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (right) was another sign of Hamas’s effort to pave the way for Iran and Hezbollah to infiltrate the Gaza Strip. (Image source: Hezbollah via Al Manar)

Hamas has already stated repeatedly that it has absolutely no intention of laying down its weapons as promised for the “reconciliation” agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is prepared to cede to PA President Mahmoud Abbas limited civilian control of the Gaza Strip, but has been clear that it will never dismantle its security apparatus or military wing. Hamas wants to bring the Iranians and Hezbollah into the Gaza Strip to counterbalance pressure from Abbas and Egypt and other countries to disarm and hand control over to Abbas. If Abbas ever returns to the Gaza Strip, he will find himself sitting not only with Hamas, but also with Iran and Hezbollah, who consider him a traitor and puppet in the hands of Israel and the US.

Alarmed by the rapprochement between Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran, Saudi Arabia earlier this week summoned Abbas for urgent talks in Riyadh. The Saudis have been following with concern the visits by Hamas leaders to Iran and Hezbollah, and are worried that Abbas may face the same fate as Hariri.

Abbas may well wish to steer clear of the Gaza Strip: Iran and Hezbollah are working with Hamas to establish a “joint front” against Israel. Hamas’s decision to tilt towards Iran and Hezbollah discloses the truth: it is not headed towards moderation and pragmatism, but the very opposite. This does not bode well for the current Trump Administration’s efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Without stopping Iran and Hezbollah from spreading their influence and control to the Gaza Strip and Arab countries, the prospects of peace seem rather dim. In fact, the prospects of war seem pretty close, as Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad meet in the middle to discuss their plans for war against Israel. Failing to stop Iran and Hezbollah would mean that Abbas may soon find themselves hiding with Hariri in Saudi Arabia.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies

September 15, 2017

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, September 15, 2017

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

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Time may be running out for one of Hamas’s main weapons against Israel: Its cross-border terror tunnels.

By 2019, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessments, Israel will complete an underground wall that stretches along the 60-kilometer (37 mile) border with Gaza. The wall is the product of several years of research and development, and is designed to eliminate the tunnel threat to Israeli communities located near Gaza.

During the past three years, since the end of its last conflict with Israel, Hamas has invested big resources into its tunnel maze. One of its top goals is to rehabilitate an ability to inject murder squads into Israeli territory through the tunnels.

Once inside Israel, they could target IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians for murder or kidnapping, whenever the next conflict breaks out.

But Israel has invested far more than Hamas to try stopping that threat. It is paying 150 million shekels ($42.5 million) for each kilometer of the new wall.

Work began on the subterranean project in areas where Israeli communities were very close to the border. Then, gradually, other areas began receiving protection.

During a conference call held with reporters in August, the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, said the wall will prevent “the digging of tunnels into our territory,” adding that work is “advancing according to plan. In the coming months, this project is going to significantly accelerate. We will see an expansion in the scope of the works. Within two years, we will be able to complete work.”

Many details about the wall remain classified. But IDF sources have previously indicated that the wall will come with electronic sensors. The sensors will issue alerts to military control centers, sounding the alarm about suspicious tunnel digging activity.

The control rooms, would, in turn, be able to order action if necessary.

Similar military control rooms are popping up along the Gaza border to handle intelligence coming in from Israel’s above-ground border fence. Sensors installed on the barrier, together with units from the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, are joined by drones, spy balloons, and radars, all feed the control centers with a flow of data, and alert them to suspicious activity.

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

“We very much hope we will not be challenged as this [work] continues,” said Zamir. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but continue to prepare. We are on high alert.”

Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement earlier this month saying that the underground wall “will not limit the ability of the resistance,” and vowing to “find the solutions needed to overcome it.”

But Hamas is unlikely to launch attacks in response to Israel’s wall, Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“They cannot initiate a military maneuver now. The timing is bad for them,” he said, citing Hamas’s financial woes, made worse by the fact that Qatar, under U.S. pressure, is cutting off the cash flow to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas wants to engage Egypt to improve its isolation and find a way out of its financial crisis. It just opened an office in Cairo. It cannot depend on friends like Turkey, which has a limited ability to provide assistance, Karmon said. “Beyond that, Hamas is under pressure from the Palestinian Authority. A new military clash with Israel will harm them,” he said.

During his remarks, Zamir said that the “Gaza arena is stable,” adding, “We have identified that Hamas remains deterred, and that it is restraining many attacks [by smaller Palestinian armed factions].”

At the same time, he said, Hamas is encouraging the flames of terrorism to spread in the West Bank, and is orchestrating terror cells remotely, as it prepares itself for future war in Gaza.

That’s an assessment that was echoed by Karmon, who said Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

“The Iranians understood that Hamas is deterred in Gaza, and limited in what it can do,” Karmon said.

As a result, Hamas likely will remain focused on igniting the West Bank, and using it as a launchpad for terrorist attacks on Israel, he said.

Karmon cited information unveiled by the chief of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, in recent days, which told the government that about 200 terror attacks had been thwarted in 2017.

“Most of the big attacks [that were stopped by the Shin Bet] were organized by Hamas, not Fatah,” Karmon said. “Hamas’s whole campaign is focused on the West Bank, and includes using clans that support Hamas, and distributing propaganda for violent incitement. They are neutralized in Gaza, and are trying to heat up the West Bank.”

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Hamas continues neglecting the basic needs of the 2 million Palestinians it rules over, as it remains focused on its quiet military build-up, according to the chief of the IDF’s Southern Command.

“Many resources in Gaza are going to the Hamas military wing. They could be used instead to improve the humanitarian situation,” Zamir said. “We continue to prepare. Reality is explosive. It could deteriorate into a conflict at any time.”

In addition to offensive tunnels, Hamas has built a maze of tunnels that crisscross Gaza City. Zamir described them as “an underground metro network,” designed to move Hamas armed members, weapons, and logistics out of Israel’s sight.

Yet Israel’s Southern Command is watching these activities closely, and preparing a range of solutions designed to enable Israel to turn Hamas’s underground city into a large death trap if a new conflict begins.

The IDF’s Southern Command recently sent out images of civilian facilities in Gaza that Hamas uses as a cover for its military-terrorist activities.

One image is of a six-story residential building, which Hamas used to build an underground facility nearby, according to the military. The second photo is a of a home containing a family with five children, which is linked to a tunnel that leads to a mosque, enabling Hamas terrorists to move underground and use human shields as they do.

This type of activity “endangers the civilians of Gaza,” Zamir cautioned. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but we are continuing to prepare, and are on high alert.”

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

Iran/Hizballah noose tightens around Israel

September 1, 2017

Iran/Hizballah noose tightens around Israel, DEBKAfile, September 1, 2017

Seen from the strategic-military angle, Israel can be said to have regressed 11 years to 2006, when two foes were poised menacingly on its northern and southern borders. Israel was then compelled to fight a war against Hizballah in Lebanon. This time, the conflict could potentially flare up simultaneously on three fronts – Lebanon, Gaza and Syria.

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Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, challenged the international community to hold Iran to account on Thursday, Aug. 31, after the Islamic Republic showed its “true colors” by restoring its ties with the Palestinian extremist Hamas. In her statement, she described as “stunning” the Hamas leader’s boast that Tehran is again the biggest provider of money and arms. The breach between them followed the terrorist group’s refusal to side with Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.

“Iran must decide whether it wants to be a member of the community of nations that can be expected to take its international obligations seriously, or whether it wants to be the leader of a jihadist terrorist movement. It cannot be both,” Haley said in her statement.

Islamic Iran has long made that decision, as the ambassador knows very well from the intelligence reports she sees. But her brave words were meant as a wakeup call for the rapid advances made by Iran and Hizballah during August to impose their will on the Middle East, often with great stealth.

Haley will have learned about the Aug. 2 meeting in Beirut between Hamas’s military chief Salah al-Arouri and Iranian officials, following which Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the Palestinian rulers of the Gaza Strip were worthy of restored military and financial aid.

That deal was clinched at the highest level in Tehran, after Arouri and a delegation from Gaza were received by top Iranian officials, including Revolutionary Guards General Qassem Soleimani. He is not only commander of Iran’s Middle East warfronts, but also head of Al Qods, which runs Iran’s intelligence, subversion and terror networks.

These events and their ramifications were itemized in the latest issue of DEBKA Weekly, out Friday, Sept. 1.

It was Soleimani who assigned Hamas and its military arm with its next tasks. Since both parties are dedicated to violent tactics (terror) to achieve their ends, one of which is the destruction of the State of Israel, all that remains to be seen is the precise form the Iranian-backed Hamas-Hizballah partnership will take – and where. Those practicalities were aired at the secret sessions between Hamas and Al Qods in Tehran

Present at some of those sessions were also Soleimani’s secret agents and heads of the terrorist networks he runs across the Middle East and in the Gulf emirates.

The inauguration ceremony for Hassan Rouhani’s second term as Iran’s president on Aug. 5 provided a convenient cover for these get-togethers.

Nikki Haley’s warning to the international community was prompted by these dangerous events. Although her words were powerful, telling and timely, it is hard to see any sign of their being followed up by other parts of the Trump administration.

With the southern front against Israel in the bag, Iran and Hizballah this week put together its northern front, just two or three kilometers from Israel’s Golan border with Syria. This could not have happened without the Trump administration submitting to Russia’s demand to revise their de-escalation zone project for the Syrian Golan, so that Iranian and Hizballah forces are no longer required to distance themselves 40-50km from the zone, but only 8km.

Iran and Hizballah in Syria have in consequence been quietly shortening their distance from the Israeli border. But this week, they made a major leap forward, when the Russian monitors brought a group of Iranian and Hizballah officers all the way to Quneitra. There, they were given a base under Russian protection within sight of the Israeli Golan.

Tehran and its pawn therefore used the month of August to climb into position for drawing a noose around Israel and tightening it at will.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week boasted that his tenure was marked by relative calm. Israel, he said, had successfully avoided getting embroiled in any major war.

That is correct. However, his policy of preserving the calm and maintaining a purely defensive stance has carried a price. That price was totted up on Sept. 1. By then, Iran and Iran had been able to move unopposed into position on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon in the north and had crept up to the Gaza border in the south.

Seen from the strategic-military angle, Israel can be said to have regressed 11 years to 2006, when two foes were poised menacingly on its northern and southern borders. Israel was then compelled to fight a war against Hizballah in Lebanon. This time, the conflict could potentially flare up simultaneously on three fronts – Lebanon, Gaza and Syria.