Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 44

The cease-fire ended when over 100 rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday. This after Hamas violated a 24-hour cease-fire extension of a five-day cease-fire brokered in Cairo. Israel responded with over 80 air strikes, and recalled 2,000 reservist to the Gaza border. Tuesday night sirens were heard in Jerusalem at 11:53 p.m. and the Iron Dome was called into action, downing a rocket. Other rockets aimed at Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beer Sheva, were also downed by the Iron Dome. Two Israeli homes were damaged by mortars near the Gaza border, but no injuries were reported.
Aafter Hamas fired the first few rockets on Tuesday afternoon, Israeli planes struck at a home in Gaza that intelligence said contained the Hamas military leader Mohamed Def. The house was destroyed, and it is as yet unclear if Def was inside. This would have been the fifth time Israel has tried to assinate Def, a veteran terrorist who is wanted for organizing suicide bombers in Israel as far back as the 1990's.
According to reports, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, was told by his sponsors in Qatar, where he lives, that if he does not break the cease-fire with Israel he would be ejected from Qatar. Mashal not only lives in luxury in Qatar, but has banked nearly $2 billion in that country. Then at 9:30 p.m. Israel attacked the house where Def was to have been, dropping approximately seven bombs, totaling five tons of explosives on the house. Experts in Israel say that Def was probably injured, if not killed.
However, Hamas spokesmen say that Def is still alive. “Abu Khaled is a great leader,” said a spokesman on Arabic TV in Gaza, using Def's nickname.
Military commentators also pointed out that Def had built a very stable and highly functioning military and even if he were dead the army he built was still quite capable of carrying on without him.
Qatar reportedly is upset with the fact that the Qatar leadership had not been included in the ceasefire talks in Cairo. Egyptian leaders have little patience for Qatar's leadership, who they consider sponsors of attempts to overthrow the Egyptian government under General al-Sissi.
Another factor complicating the situation is the discovery by Israel of a Hamas plot in the West Bank to overthrow the Palestinian Authority's Abu Mazen and replace the PA with Hamas. The plot was hatched by Hamas operatives in both Turkey and Jordan. The same Hamas men also planned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers that ignited the current fighting. Pundits say that ,as would be expected, the PA was having a hard time sitting in Cairo and trying to broker a cease-fire with Israel, shuttling between Hamas and Israeli representatives.
Surprisingly, according to pundits, Israel is still expecting the ceasefire talks to continue in the next few days. However, analysts say that the option to send the Israeli army back into Gaza is also on the table. The Israeli cabinet met on Wednesday to discuss the situation. Israeli commentators say that Hamas is not interested in another month of fighting. Rather, one points out, Hamas takes the long view, that one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in a decade, or two, they would eventually drive out the Infidels.
Reportedly, an agreement had been reached in Cairo that would open some of the Gaza/Israel border crossings, allow Gaza fishermen to work up to a 12-kilometer limit off the coast, and even reached an agreement to discuss the distinct possibility of a Gaza seaport, under international control. The seaport would be stationed off-shore, in Greece or Cyprus, with cargo examined by Israeli officials for weapons and explosives, before the cargo was shipped to Gaza.
Gen. (ret) Giora Eiland told a panel on Channel 10 TV news that Israel had to start thinking of different strategies. He said that the traditional methods, using planes, bombs, artillery, tanks, and ground troops, was not working. He said that Hamas and Gaza were one in the same. The population supported Hamas, and anyone who thought the population was captive to Hamas was mistaken. Once the reality of Hamas as a governmental entity was accepted, then Israel could start using other methods to control Gaza. Eiland pointed out that Israel supplies Gaza with most of the water, electricity and communications used by the population. This conundrum could be used to Israel's advantage by simply stopping the flow of these services. Ironically, these services continued even during the fiercest fighting between Hamas and Israel.
Or Heller, Channel 10 TV's military correspondent, said that the possibility of Israel using ground forces is still possible but he said that this was something Hamas would relish. They have set booby-traps and ambushes in buildings and roads, primed for an Israeli invasion.
Hamas fought well during Tzuk Eytan, said Heller, not like the previous battles, then called Cast Lead, nearly two years ago when Hamas fighters ran from IDF forces. “This time they fought hard, defending every tunnel opening.” Heller pointed out that Israel lost 10 soldiers in the Cast Lead incursion in Gaza and of them four were friendly fire. “This time the IDF lost 64 soldiers. Showing that Hamas was a much better fighting force than it was before.”
In the Hollywood film “Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud” a young boy spends the entire film searching for the lock to a key his late father had hidden in a closet. The father, played by Tom Hanks, had perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in NYC.
One commentator made the connection to the current situation. The same terrorist ideology that brought down the World Trade Center, that is shared by ISIS, formally Al Qaeda in Iraq, by Hezbollah, and Hamas forms a tight web of belief binding the groups.
One observer pointed out that the sight of Hamas wounded in Gaza hospitals skews the reality in Hamas' favor.
In fact, Hamas followers, and their allies around the world, those that gather to hold anti-Israeli demonstrations, and organize boycotts of Israeli goods, are the same people, ideologically, who flew those 747's into the World Trade Center, who attacked the Pentagon, and tried to attack the White House. For good or bad, the observers say, Israel is the one facing this rising wave of Islamic fundamentalism on the ground, on a daily basis.
War is a bloody business. And the west should remember who would be stood up and shot, hung, or beheaded, if the Islamists take over.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 30

Who ever said life was fair.
A French TV24 reporter, safe out of Gaza, showed footage of rocket tubes in the ground a few yards from an apartment building in a densely populated area only 100 yards from a five story UN building.
Pundits are now sitting in TV studios telling the viewers that Israel needs to think up more stuff like the Iron Dome, not rely on the old tanks, artillery, air force bombs.
Something wild, like Entebbe, to neutralizenot only Hamas, today, but Hezbollah, tomorrow, and ISIS, the day after tomorrow..Pundits now wonder if there are not other ways than pummeling Gaza into dust.
New methods are needed to battle these groups, said Nehemia Strassler, an Israeli professor, and Haaretz columnist. Not nice to hear comments like this, said the moderator on the Channel 2 news morning talk show.
Other pundits speculated that all the brainy, creative guys have opted out of joining and staying in the army, as smart guys did when the state was young, rather choosing  high tech jobs. Choosing Armani, an IPO, a Mercedes, and trips to Paris, over
khaki for thirty years and a small apartment. Now the smart guys who do reserve duty, put in their time and go home. Lucky for Israel a surprisingly high number still do reserve duty. Over 90 percent of those called up for this conflict showed up at their bases.
So, speculate the commentators,  who's left to think up the smart stuff?
They point out that Iron Dome was dreamed up by a guy who had to fight tooth and nail to get anyone to even think about this device, and then it was the then Defense Minister Amir Perez, who was part of the debacle of the second War in Lebanon, who approved it. One of the only things he ever did right, said one analyst.
Another commentator asked where were the Gatling guns, and lazer canons,  that were to take out the same mortars that killed over twenty soldiers, and sent the residents of the Gaza border scurrying to shelter, or taking their children and leaving for the north of Israel.
Still another asked where were the tunnel detectors that have been discussed for nearly a decade, reminding viewers that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped back in 2006 and dragged into a tunnel into Gaza.
A reporter for Channel 10 TV lives in a farm along the Gaza border. He reported on the situation in the south every day, how many rockets, how many injuries, how many killed. He worked every day, nearly all day and night. Hardly slept. The moderator of the TV show pointed out that this reporter had been a pilot in the Israeli air force until he finished his service.
The reporter, whose wife and children were with relatives in the north of the country,wondered what will happen after the first mortar lands in the Jewish areas along the border.
Will Israel rush troops in, as the commander of the southern command promised him?
Or do nothing, just absorb the mortars, as Israel has done after the last two wars with Hamas? If the latter than this Tzuk Eytan action only bought a few months or maybe two years.
Another analyst on Channel 2 TV news said that Israel has always been like that. Buying a chunk of time, stretching out the timeline of how long the Jews can last in this country. A few years here, a few years there, adding up to 66 years so far.
Israel's pundits say that the idea of Tzuk Eytan was to duplicate the results of Lebanon in 2006. Demolish enough buildings and shake the ground so much that that the population won't come back for a number of years to start another war.  So far the Israel/Lebanon border has been quiet for 8 years. Analaysts say that the present Israeli government expects the same results from the current Tzuk Eytan conflict.
A period of quiet.
Another patch on the timeline.
One commentator pointed out that in the 1,000 years that Israel held the land from the time of King Saul until the destruction of the
2nd Temple Israel only had about 7 years of peace.
So now what? ask the commentators. Will the PA be able to grab the reins in Gaza from Hamas? Will Egypt supervise what's going to go on there? Will the USA get involved? Or the EU, or Britain? Will the threatened boycotts of goods from the EU, Britain, Germany and others, actually take place?
Time will tell. Hamas was in dire financial trouble before this conflict.And politically isolated. Now billions of dollars will be poured into Gaza. And while Hamas claims they want a settlement, most pundits expect them to steal the cement sent by well-meaning countries to rebuild Gaza and use them to rebuild the tunnels.
Commentators remind viewers that the last time Hamas and the PA vied for control of Gaza, Hamas pushed the PA out, sometimes shot them, sometimes tossed them off of rooftops. These commentators ask why would the PA be able to control Hamas now?
One analyst said that the PA is a partner with Israel in the West Bank, but the IDF is there in force to back up the PA. No one expects the IDF to take up positions in Gaza.
Polls in Israel's papers today say that 44 percent of the population thinks Israel didn't accomplish much in this war. 42 percent thinks they reached their goals. About 37 percent think that the problems aren't solved, 32 percent thought they were.
Only PM Netanyahu came out ahead, with a 72 percent approval rating.
A former general told Channel 1 TV that he'd warned in the past two engagements with Hamas that unless the leadership was taken out the rockets would start again in a short time. He reiterated his opinion for this engagement as well.
The political leadership in Israel is suddenly looking at Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the PA as possible partners for a new Middle East. The peace-talks are going on in Cairo. Hamas says they want to make a peace agreement. A 72-hour ceasefire has been declared, but most analysts expect the talks in Cairo to last a lot longer since so many difficult points have to be ironed out. And the analyst reminded the audience that the negotiations were not face to face. The USA doesn't talk to Hamas, neither does Egypt, or Israel. The PA representatives will be the go-betweens, shuttling from floor to floor, suite to suite, trying to get a lasting truce.
One former general pointed out that the irony was that Hamas, a puny, guerrilla,, although well-organized army divided into 6 divisions of good fighters, had Israelis kissing the asphalt in Tel Aviv when a siren sounded, kept millions of Israelis on edge, closed Ben Gurion Airport, and made a significant dent in Israel's economy.
Economists estimate that the war cost Israel an estimated 8 billion shekels (@$2 billion) and caused a loss of another 4 billion shekels (@ $1.3 billion) to Israeli businesses.
Hamas considers these major achievements.Their leadership sat out the war in bunkers, sacrificing the Gazans up to the Holy War. And when the war is over, Hamas is still around. Still alive. To the leadership that is a major victory.
64 Israeli soldiers fell in this war. Nearly 150 are in the hospital, 11 in serious conditions. Three civilians were killed. Over the last two days three terrorist attacks took place in Israel. A bus was toppled over by a tractor crushing a passerby. A soldier hitchhiking in Jerusalem,was shot and killed by a terroist who escaped on a motorscooter. A guard at the gates of the Israeli town of Maale Adumim, down the hill from Jerusalem, was stabbed by a terrorist who escaped in a taxi cab.
The Israeli police reported that on July 11 they'd arrested Hossam Kawasmeh, who admitted to leading cell which abducted and murdered Gil-Ad Schaer, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Frenkel; He said he'd received funds from Hamas.  Kawasmeh said that the two Palestinans, Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eish who carried out the attacks, were sheltered at his house, and then they went underground. The police are still searching for them.
According to Channel 10 TV news' Alon Ben David, Gaza lost approximately 2,000 citizens, among them women and children. 700 Hamas fighters were killed in the fighting.
One pundit thought that perhaps, just perhaps, when the Gazans return to their homes, and see the destruction, they'll pressure Hamas to change their ways, and seek a peaceful solution. According to Ynet on-line news, Palestinians in Gaza attacked Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri out of anger at Hamas for causing the latest round of violence with Israel.
An economist speculated that a truce could help implant a new direction in the region. One that allows Gazan construction workers to return to jobs they had in Israel before the borders were closed. Allow an industrial zone that opened, and then closed, on the Gaza/Israel border where businessmen from the two areas cooperated in trade. The future could be bright, said the analyst, if only....

Monday, August 04, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 28

Almost all of the soldiers have been pulled out of Gaza.
Hamas is still sending in rockets, about 60 today.
And two terrorist attacks inside Israel, both in Jerusalem.
The driver of a huge tractor with a massive shovel attached to it swung the arm at a city bus and toppled it over crushing a passerby and injuring
several passengers. Luckily the bus was on its first stop and was nearly empty.
Policemen passing by rushed the driver and killed him before he could do any more damage.
An hour later a terrorist approached a soldiers' hitching station and opened fire, seriously wounding a soldier in the stomach. He was rushed to hospital, and the terrorist escaped.
A terrorist alert was just issued for Tel Aviv.
Hamas seems to be reverting to old ways. As you recall back in the 90's Hamas' favorite weapon was suicide bombs.
Meanwhile the world community is about to pounce on Israel for massive inhumane destruction of areas of Gaza.
New investigations seem to show that it was Hamas that exploded a bomb in the UN school, dragged in bodies, and then allowed in the press.
But even if true, and it probably is, that doesn't mean that the public will ever get the scene of the original carnage associated with and probably not even perpetrated by Israel out of their minds.
The soldier who rushed into the Gaza tunnel two days ago chasing after the terrorists ran nearly two kilometers before he turned back. He found enough evidence on the way to determine that 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was dead. He was buried yesterday.
So much for day 28, so far.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 27

"22 Gazans were killed for ever Israeli. Don't you feel guilty about that?” asked the host of a BBC talk-show. He was speaking to Israel government spokesman Mark Regev, who replied, “Hamas shot 2,700 rockets at Israel. If someone shot rockets at Britain you'd react the same way.”

"But you have the Iron Dome that effectively neutralized the threat,” the host said. Regev responded Israel was lucky to have the Iron Dome or more Israeli lives would have been lost. He said Hamas was trying to kill Israelis, just wasn't succeeding. One viewer watching the interview said, “What, now we're to feel guilty that we have the Iron Dome?”

Regev also pointed out that Hamas was managing the news, prohibiting reporters from showing anything but the destruction caused by the Israeli attacks, or bodies in Gazan hospitals. “Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist,” Regev told the BBC host, who appeared to brush off any Israeli response to what seemed a pre-disposition to find Israel guilty no matter what the facts. The moderator also asked how Israel could bomb a marketplace when a ceasefire had been declared. Regev seemed put off by the blatant one-sidedness of the questions, but kept his cool. He reminded the moderator that Hamas had broken the ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel so no ceasefire was in place when Israel went after terrorists firing rockets from the marketplace.

Earlier the program discussed the conflict in Gaza with five participants. One the former head of the pro-Arab Al Jazeera TV news station, based in and paid for by Qatar; an Egyptian novelist who thought Egyptians would live to regret unseating Moslem Brotherhood's Morsi as president; and a professor from the London school of Economics who had an Arab name. Two others were former Mossad head Ephraim HaLevi, and a US diplomat.

HaLevi was given a couple of minutes to speak, in which he pointed out that Hamas and Hezbollah were non-state terrorist groups, with Hezbollah members fighting for Assad in Syria, with Iran supplying boots on the ground both in Syria and Gaza, and Russia and Iran supplying the weapons used both in Syria and Gaza. Then he was cut off towards the end of the sentence as the moderator shifted the topic and interviewee.

This was the beginning of a revolution similar to the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, said the London School of Economics professor. The Israeli humanitarian carnage in Gaza would only fuel this revolution. His words were supported by the Al-Jazerra man, who said that the entire Arab world would now be mobilized against Israel and the west, all because of what Israel was doing in Gaza.

The BBC also ran a special report by chief international correspondent Lyce Doucet on the plight of children in UN schools in Gaza. One observer watching the report commented that Doucet has long been a harsh critic of Israel going back to the time she first began reporting for the BBC. The report on the children was another of her harsh criticisms of Israel. Another report on the BBC gave a balanced background to the conflict, “Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and only pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005. Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza's borders, waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza's southern border.”

Other stations ran anti-Israeli pro-Palestinian protests around Europe and in Washington. Rarely did the reporters note that the mass of protesters were themselves Palestinians.

As Israel begins to pull forces out of Gaza the questions now begin, did the IDF accomplish the goal of quelling the Hamas attacks? Were the Israeli farms and villages safer after the Israeli incursion into Gaza than before? Would Israel be held to a harsh standard because of the human life lost in Gaza?

Israel's PM Netanyahu told a news conference Saturday night that Israel would continue to do what was necessary to protect Israel's citizens. This even as protesters took to the streets calling on the IDF not to withdraw from Gaza until Hamas was destroyed. Gen (res.) Giora Eiland, former Israeli National Security Advisor, said that Hamas was Gaza. You couldn't separate the two. You couldn't destroy Gaza. The only way to change the situation was to do something that throws Hamas off-balance. So far, Eiland said, nothing like this has been achieved.

Military analysts say that Israel has destroyed 35 tunnels, and will withdraw forces from those areas where the tunnels were located, but keep other troops in place to protect the southern settlements.

Most observers say that a full-scale invasion of Gaza was indeed possible since is a relatively small area, and could be overrun by Israel. The question pundits ask is at what cost to Israeli lives, and Gazan lives. And what comes next? The common thread heard by most experts is that the solution is to have the PA's Abu Mazan take control of Gaza, protected by perhaps Egypt or other outside forces.

2nd Lt. Hadar Golden, believed to have been kidnapped during a Hamas attack, was pronounced deceased on Saturday night. His family was visited by Israel's chief rabbi who gave them the news. Later Moshe Yaalon, Israel's Minister of Defense, visited the family. Golden's death brings the number of soldiers killed to 65. Nearly 140 soldiers are still in the hospital, 11 in grave condition.
The Palestinians claim that approximately 1,700 Gazans have died in the fighting and about 9,000 injured.

Some analysts remind TV viewers of the fact that Hamas kidnapped three Israeli teenagers, then began firing rockets into Israel, and these facts go nearly unnoticed in the foreign press. On Saturday Hamas fired 90 rockets into Israel. One mortar round landed in a farm along the border fence seriously wounding a 70-year old farmer. The Hamas rocket fire continued on Sunday. The fact that Hamas can still fire rockets underlines that Hamas still has the ability to fire weapons into Israel even after 27 days of Israeli counter-attacks.

Where is the fairness in this coverage, asked one concerned Jewish American. A Sky News reporter in Gaza quoted residents who stated that Israel was bombing Mosques simply because they were Moslem structures and that the mosques had no missiles or terrorists in them. He also said that Hamas was demanding and end to the economic boycott of Gaza. One analyst said that had this reporter criticized Hamas in any way he would have at least lost his privilege of reporting from Gaza. In the past Hamas has been known to kidnap reporters and hold them for ransom.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal admitted to CNN that Hamas had indeed broken the ceasefire on Friday, but only because Israel was occupying Gaza and digging up tunnels. The fact Hamas broke the ceasefire was lost in a previous news cycle replaced by scenes of destroyed buildings in Gaza.

Hamas representatives, along with their partner Islamic Jihad, as well as representatives of Qatar, Turkey, and the PA arrived in Cairo to continue the process of reaching a formal ceasefire. Israel has said it will not attend at this time. Experts say that Cairo will take a tough line against Hamas, not wanting them to achieve any significant goals as a result of this conflict. These pundits point out that Egyptian president Al-Sissi has more than 35,000 prisoners in jail, including many members of the Moslem Brotherhood, a Hamas brother organization.

Critics of PM Netanyahu say that the war against Hamas is ending with muddled results. Tunnels destroyed can be rebuilt. The farms along the border will still be hit with mortars, and long range rockets will still lobbed into Israel when Hamas felt like doing so.

Israeli residents on the Israel/Lebanon border in the north of Israel have reported that they hear tunneling beneath their homes. The terrain in Lebanon is much different than Gaza with hard thick bedrock and basalt rather than soft sand. Drilling equipment and explosives are needed to tunnel. Experts said that once Israel withdraws from Gaza and the south they will focus on the very real tunnel threat along the northern border.

Pundits say that as long as this rise of Islamic Fundamentalism continues, Israel will be on the front line of confronting these groups, functioning as proxies of the west, all the while criticized for the damage incurred in the fighting by the countries they are representing.

As author William Goldman wrote in “The Princess Bride” who ever said life was fair.