Monday, February 18, 2008

Mugniyah and the Snow

Mugniyah and the snow all in one week. The headrest of the Mitsubishi Pajero Jeep that the no.2 man in Hezbollah was driving exploded, obliterating one of Israel’s arch-enemies. Who did it? Like the attack on the alleged Syrian nuclear facility a few months ago, no one is claiming responsibility.

However Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly made a victory walk through the Knesset’s cafeteria in what observers say was a very rare appearance in that lunchroom of the elite. Reportedly he paraded through with a smirk on his face shortly after the news of the Mugniyah assassination was made public.

Much has been written about the assassination and the aftermath. Israel is girding for attacks by Hezbollah in Africa, S. America and Europe. Warnings have gone out to Israeli Embassy’s and Jewish organizations to be on the alert for any type of Hezbollah reprisals. Israel’s military intelligence organizations expect some reprisal. Where and when are the big questions?

It is also possible that Hezbollah will launch killer pilot-less drones from Lebanon aimed at Israel’s cities and dense population centers. Hezbollah may also launch missile attacks. On Monday evening the Haaretz newspaper announced that Israel had deployed Patriot missile batteries to defend against such attacks.

Some wonder if perhaps Hezbollah will wait until May when Israel is about to celebrate her 60th birthday, then let off a reign of terror that will kill the celebrations, and anyone nearby.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah has sworn to take revenge for the killing. In a brilliant example of double-speak Nasrallah said that the assassination of Mugniyah outside of Lebanon meant Hezbollah was now free to attack Israeli and Jewish targets anywhere in the world. Observers wondered at Nasrallah’s ‘chutzpah’ in that statement, since the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 was only one of a string of attacks outside of Lebanon or even Israel for which Hezbollah is allegedly responsible.

Mugniyah was killed in Damascus, where he’d been living for years. The U.S claimed that it was Damascus who killed Mugniyah, or Iran. Of course this type of rhetoric sends Hezbollah climbing the walls. Outrageous disinformation has been the hallmark of the terrorist movements since their inception. Giving them back some of their mind-twisting games has been long overdue.

The rumor mill has it that Mugniyah was killed by Arab agents of some government, either Israel, the US, or who knows, maybe Iran and/or Syria. Some pundits speculate that perhaps Mugniyah fell afoul of the powers that be for some infraction of their rules. Maybe he embezzled Hafaz Assad’s cash, or sold a nuclear bomb to the wrong criminals. Anything is possible. Unless one is involved in the planning and execution of such an event, everything said is commentary and speculation.

As part of the assassination speculation, the lives, or deaths, of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, reportedly at the behest of Mugniyah, that started the War in Lebanon II are now in the news. According to the German Der Speigel newspaper both soldiers are no longer alive. Some analysts believe that once this news reached the Israeli government they felt free to attack Hezbollah’s leadership without fear of the reprisal murders of Regev and Goldwasser. Again, this is pure speculation. Officially the Israeli government has said that until they see proof the two soldiers are dead they are considered alive, and the hunt for them, and negotiations for their release carries on.

But in the shady world of espionage and international intrigue who knows what the truth is? Only those privy to the closed door conversations.

Four Kassam rockets plowed into the Negev on Monday. Two fell near the first aid station of a kibbutz, causing some damage. Two other rockets fell in open fields. Earlier in the week Sderot residents were treated for shock when rockets fell near them.

These rocket attacks are going on in the face of a blistering engagement by Israeli special forces in Gaza. Raids and attacks are taking place using the best units Israel has at its disposal. On Sunday a commander of the Sayet HaMatkal, Israel’s most elite commando unit, was seriously injured in an operation in Gaza. As of Monday afternoon he was reportedly out of danger, but still badly injured by shrapnel and debris. The injuries were mainly in the chest area. Navy Seals, Paratroopers, and other units were all involved in the raids aimed at neutralizing the rocket fire.

A top Hamas official was killed on Saturday when an explosion leveled his home. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Iran has not given up its murderous rhetoric. Mohammad Ali Jafari the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned that Hezbollah will destroy Israel. According to the Fars News Agency, Ali Jafri said, “In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is reportedly providing military support to Hezbollah, although Tehran denies this. And Iranian leader Achmanijad said yesterday, according to the International Herald Tribune, that giving up the goal of nuclear weapons would be against Allah’s wishes. One wonders how the Iranian’s leaders gets his orders from Allah.

In Jerusalem the new suspension bridge at the entrance to the city is expected to be completed by the 60th anniversary celebrations. The spire that will support a spider-web like net of fine wires attached to a bridge over the entrance to the city costs a reported $65 million. According to the Kol Ha Ir local Jerusalem newspaper, the bridge was the folly of one of the cities leaders who wanted to exert his ‘ego.’ In a city strapped for cash, with a diminishing tax base and increasing poverty, one wonders how effective a $65 million bridge will be when according to informed sources in the newspaper, an effective bridge could have been built for $5 million.

In that same vein, the city of Jerusalem passed a resolution allowing the construction of 1,700 apartments, reportedly meant for the ultra-orthodox population, who usually pay little or no state of city taxes. This is because of their large families, and their tax-exempt status as students in religious institutions. While the new constructionmight have brought in more city tax if aimed at a different market, this development will only be another drain on an already nearly bankrupt city.

The new construction will take place in the Jerusalem Forest just beneath the Ramot neighorhood. Residents groups have been fighting to keep the forest a green area, sort of like New York’s central park, and have been waging a pitched battle in the courts.

Israel’s supreme court was to have ruled on the subject, but no notice of their ruling had been published. The municipality gave the builders permission to put up signs in the forest notifying the public of the impending construction. Local groups are planning to petition the lower courts to review the case. As of now the forest is home to herds of gazelle, wild life from foxes to rare birds, and a plethora of flora and fauna. However cynics say that when builders and politicians sit down to discuss things in the quiet of dark restaurants the good of the public frequently takes a back seat to the monetary benefits of the interested parties.

One can only hope that the Supreme Court will hear the petition and grant a reprieve to the last green area in northern Jerusalem. As one city planner warned, Jerusalem, in fact all of Israel, is in danger of the ‘Singapore Syndrome’ where roads and more roads eradicate any semblance of nature and open areas, replacing them with a network of highways and streets that choke the atmosphere and the imagination.

Snow is falling in Jerusalem for the second time this winter. But the storm is expected to abate by Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday and Thursday the temperatures are expected to be back in the sixties.

One wonders if the snow storm and the assassination of Mugniyah are both rare occurrences; or if they’re both symptoms of changing times: snow as part of the global warming, and Mugniyah as part of a new pro-active stance the west is taking to fend off radical Islam.