Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Gaza War Continues: Where Do We Go From Here?

The latest battle in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas (Operation Protective Edge) continued without any sign of letup. Israel's military continues ground operations inside Gaza, while Hamas has continued firing rockets and missiles at Israel. Israeli ground forces have taken casualties while Gazan casualties continue to grow.

Thus far, Palestinians living in Gaza have taken the brunt of the fighting. There have been hundreds of casualties and it is still unclear just how many of them are civilians and how many have been Hamas fighters. Media outlets are relying almost exclusively on Hamas and PA sources for casualty counts, and Hamas has been notorious with lying about who was killed and conflating their casualties with civilians.

It is indisputable that Israel has hit civilians, including children in the course of the fighting and trying to hit at Hamas terrorists who are entrenched in urban areas and firing at Israel from within civilian areas. Israel reports that they've killed at least 270 terrorists, while the UN indicates that 479 have been killed overall, including 364 civilians, 76 militants, and 39 who they can't classify. Gaza's Health Ministry puts the tally at 632 killed and nearly 3,800 wounded.

It is also indisputable that Hamas has no problem firing from civilian positions including schools and UN facilities. For the second time in a week, the UNRWA has found rocket caches in one of their facilities.


Hamas has become more brazen in where they're storing their weapons, all while their leaders cower in underground bunkers while Gazans who aren't connected with the leadership and don't have the means to protect themselves are taking the brunt of the damage with no where else to go.

It is also indisputable that but for Hamas firing rockets and missiles at Israel incessantly since even the last ceasefire in 2012 (all but one month had missile/mortar or rocket fire) that Israel would not have needed to invade Gaza once again after the latest rounds of barrages that have landed deep inside Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The FAA may have succeeded in doing what Hamas couldn't do directly. After firing missiles in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport, Delta Airlines and a quick succession of other airlines decided that they didn't want to put their planes in harms' way. The FAA then ordered US airlines to halt flights to and from Israel for 24 hours. Other airlines also followed suit.

The airlines rightfully don’t want to see their gear destroyed by the missiles or rockets, and that’ll be more than enough to keep them away though it is strange that they are not willing to fly into Israel but haven't had issues with flights to/from or over other war zones and conflict regions in recent years, including Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ukraine (prior to the shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17).

The FAA order and its effect on the conflict can play out in one of two ways. It could force Israel to a ceasefire while Israel has not achieved its goals militarily so as to get flights to resume. If the flights remain shut down, it would have the effect of imposing economic harms on Israel (lost tourism/commerce) and indirectly strengthens Hamas’ hand.

However, the concern for Israel's economy is just as likely to move Israel to mount an even larger military campaign into Gaza so as to eliminate the threat to Israel's only international airport and crush Hamas' capabilities once and for all. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu is likely to opt for the latter, knowing that his country needs the influx of tourists to keep the economy going and a prolonged shutdown would have dire consequences. Israeli public opinion isn't going to take this kind of existential threat to their livelihood and country; they're going to press ahead with rooting out Hamas if it means eliminating the threat to Israel's airport.

Until now, the primary justification for the Israeli ground assault has been to root out the tunnels and bunkers Hamas has used to bring weapons into Gaza from Sinai, store the weapons, and to infiltrate into Israel. The missile attacks near Ben Gurion are the kind of justification that Israel could make to continue its fight inside Gaza - to eliminate the threat to Israel's economy and transportation networks that fighting to clear the tunnels from Gaza didn't. It would potentially provide the open-ended invitation for Israel to remain in Gaza, a region Israel unilaterally withdrew from in 2005 as no nation would ever allow its key transit locations to be under constant threat from missiles and bombs.

Meanwhile, the diplomats are trying to formulate yet another cease fire proposal. It's actually a joke at this point. Everyone knows that the ceasefire agreement is going to end up being the same as all the prior deals between Israel and Hamas. Both sides will promise not to fire on the other beginning at X. Once X plus a given period Y has occurred, Israel will promise Z and Hamas will need to reciprocate with A. The ceasefire deals are essentially fill-in-the-blank and you can substitute the times, dates, and in the end, all that is left are the casualties on both sides to be buried and hospitalized.

It's nice that the diplomats and EU members are calling on Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza to be disarmed, but there's no indication of how or who would do what they propose. Hamas seems to have an answer to that question - they’ll keep firing their munitions until they’ve expended their stockpiles. Israel will continue taking that fire until they have forced Hamas to expend all of its weapons.

Gazans will continue to suffer from Hamas actions and Israeli responses and both Israelis and Gazans will mourn their losses and curse Hamas. And that, unfortunately, is the takeaway.

Cross posted at LGF

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Does Fatah Think It Gains From Renewed Violence?

Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorists in Gaza fired rockets into Israel in solidarity with protesters who have been raging against Israel after a Palestinian man died in Israeli custody. Palestinians claim he was tortured and killed, which Israel denies.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which says it is affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, took responsibility for the attack. The rocket fell on a road in southern Israel. No injuries were reported, according to Israeli Defense Forces radio.

Days of clashes between dozens of Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers have taken place since the death of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who died under unclear circumstances while in Israeli police custody.

Palestinian officials insist Jaradat was tortured to death during an interrogation. An Israeli autopsy conducted in the presence of a Palestinian physician showed bruises and a couple of broken ribs which, Israel says, could have occurred during resuscitation efforts.

Tensions were already high after several Palestinian demonstrations demanding the release of more than 4,000 prisoners held in Israeli prisons for everything from stone-throwing to terror attacks.
It's a flashpoint that Fatah thinks can it can exploit as President Obama is scheduled to come to Israel next month.

It makes no sense though.

The Palestinian Authority and Fatah have a level of autonomy that comes from an uneasy status quo where Fatah controls much of the West Bank with civil administrative control and regions are off limits to Israelis. All this was set forth in the Oslo Accords and follow on agreements.

Palestinians refused to even consider peace deals that included land swaps the two times that Israel proffered a comprehensive deal. In fact, in both instances the Palestinian response was more violence, not a counter proposal upon which further negotiations could occur.

Perhaps Fatah thinks that they need to remind Palestinians that they can resort to violence just as surely as Hamas has done since 2005. Yet, the end result of the violence would be further security clampdowns on Palestinian mobility through the West Bank and crossing points into Israel. That serves no one, least of all Palestinian businesses. The violence only ratchets up the tensions.

Perhaps Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas thinks that the violence will lead President Obama to come forth with a proposal that would impose a peace deal, but that's not going to happen. The US has already signaled that the President isn't coming with a peace proposal in hand, but instead is coming to hear what both sides have to say about the matter.

Or, perhaps Abbas thinks that they need this violence so as to engage in a rapproachment with Hamas, but I don't think Abbas is so cynical as to believe that that's possible given how Abbas and Fatah have generally worked out a coexistence with Israel on civil administrative and security matters that allows many in the West Bank to attend to the business of business. Hamas considers Fatah to be sell-outs of Palestinian freedom by merely accepting Israel's existence.

Reflexively, Palestinian leaders revert to violence when the needs suit them because they simply haven't accepted that a peace deal could be reached after all the promises that they've given Palestinians for generations that they would wipe Israel from the map and/or overwhelm them demographically with a right of return.

For its part, Israel has no reason to inflame tensions or ratchet up the violence. There's enough instability on Israel's borders to keep its security officials up at night. With the Syrian civil war raging and the situation in Egypt uncertain while the porous Sinai border with Gaza allowing an ongoing influx of weapons and material to Hamas, Israel's neighbors are all dealing with internal issues (though Assad and others may try to cause conflict with Israel so as to deflect attention from their own problems).

The US policy has been that a peace deal will come only when both Israelis and Palestinians sit down and hash out a deal. That's the right strategy as an imposed deal will not carry as much weight as one that the two sides manage to hash out. I'm quite pessimistic that any such deal could be worked out when Hamas still refuses to accept Israel's existence and that they view ceasefires as a hudna in which they're able to regroup and rearm for the next armed phase of their conflict with Israel.

In other words, Israel faces not a united Palestinian front, but one that for all intents and purposes has created three "states" - Israel, Fatah-controlled West Bank, and Hamas-controlled Gaza. A 3-state solution reflects the situation on the ground, but isn't a sustainable concept diplomatically when Hamas and Fatah are both nominally representing the Palestinian people. The 2-state solution is on life support, but it's been that way ever since the Palestinian civil war split control of Gaza and the West Bank between Fatah and Hamas, not because Israel wants to see an end to the dialogue.

Thus, the latest outbreak of violence will end as it usually does - lots more people injured, property damage, inflamed passions, and neither side budging on core issues.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Barak Disengagement Plan

Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak has come out with a new plan that is spurring a new debate about Israel's role in the West Bank. Ehud Barak is part of the government coalition under Binyamin Netanyahu, but he's also the leader of his own political party and has aspirations to once again be Prime Minister of Israel.

That means that his comments need to be framed both as an internal political issue within the Israeli electorate and as a wider Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Barak's plan? A disengagement from large portions of the West Bank, including uprooting settlements and using financial incentives to get Israel's to move back inside the Green Line. However, the Etzion and Ariel settlement blocs would not be included in the disengagement:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is urging the government to examine a plan for unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Under the plan, secluded settlements and outposts in Judea and Samaria would be evacuated by the state, and any Jews wishing to remain in the region would be permitted to live there under Palestinian rule.

In a special interview with Israel Hayom, to be published in full on Tuesday, Barak outlined the details of his plan and explained the logic behind it. Under Barak's plan, the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel would remain intact. These blocs house some 90 percent of Judea and Samaria's Jewish population. Strategic areas (such as the Samarian hills overlooking Ben-Gurion International Airport) would similarly remain under Israeli control, and an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley would be ensured. The remainder of the territory would be handed over to the Palestinians to establish a state. Dozens of small Jewish communities would have to be evacuated.

Barak's plan elicited a harsh response from the right on Monday, with Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein saying that "this is not a disengagement plan we are talking about. This is our survival. Ehud Barak is continuing to make rookie mistakes. After supporting the disastrous Oslo Accords, orchestrating the escape from Lebanon and advancing the withdrawal from Gaza, which put a million Israelis in bomb shelters, Barak is now willing to put millions more in harms way just to get more votes."
There has been no visible movement on the peace process in the past couple of years as Hamas has solidified its hold on Gaza while Fatah continues running the show in the West Bank autonomous areas where Palestinians have civil administrative control. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority has full civil administrative control over certain portions, shared security arrangements in other areas, and Israel controls the remaining areas. The ultimate disposition of the West Bank would be determined in an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But since Hamas has remained steadfast in its refusal to recognize Israel's very right to exist and has no interest in holding to already signed deals between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, there's been no movement. Israel can't work on a peace deal when it doesn't have a partner in peace.

Elections are likely in the next year, and Barak thinks he's got a shot at winning the opportunity to forge a coalition government rather than Netenyahu. Disengagement isn't likely to sit well with many Israelis after the Gaza experiment, though there are significant differences between the two scenarios. For one, Hamas had a greater presence in Gaza than in the West Bank, and Fatah has been more willing to coordinate security with Israel. That isn't to say that disengagement is without risk to Israel's security.

So, this is where Barak's proposal comes into play. It would seem to be a version of Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan. It would take into account the demographic problems that face Israel with a growing Palestinian population that would threaten the very character of Israel's Jewishness.

Critics of Barak's plan in Israel point to the problems resulting from the Gaza disengagement. Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor notes that the disengagement from Gaza allowed Hamas to overrun and take control of the area and turned Gaza into a rocket and terrorist haven. Thousands of terror attacks have been launched against Israel - in the form of mortars, kassams, and grad rocket/missile attacks against Israel from Ashkelon and Ashdod through Sderot. Meridor points out that something similar would likely occur if Israel unilaterally withdraws from areas in the West Bank.
"We saw what happened in Gaza," Meridor told Israel Radio, expressing his belief that unilateral withdrawal from settlements is "not a good idea."

"We all want to reach an agreement," he said, "but since Olmert's proposal (in 2006) we haven't had real negotiations, and they [the Palestinians] don't seem to want it."

Meridor stressed that Israel should make an effort to reach an agreement and that the current situation must not continue, but he added that the army must remain in the West Bank for the time being.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom all but dismissed the proposal, predicting that Barak will not have sway on government action in the settlements, following elections scheduled for 2013.
The view that Israelis are the ones blocking a path to a peace deal ignore the reality on the ground unless the goal is to establish not a two-state solution, but a three state solution. One for Hamas in Gaza, one for Fatah in the West Bank territories, and Israel. If that's the path to take, then we need to eliminate the fiction that the Palestinian Authority has any actual authority, that the votes the Palestinians took, and their civil war that led to the current situation but that would also mean that Palestinian self-determination in those elections wasn't determinative.

The problem with the three-state solution is that the Palestinians themselves don't appear to want that - they still hold fast to 2-state solution that ultimately leads to a 1-state solution in overruning Israel.

Fatah's Abbas isn't willing to make concessions on right of return or other critical issues that would lead to a new peace deal. And housing and settlements are a non-factor since Israel has repeatedly shown that Israel is willing to uproot settlers from housing to have an opportunity for peace.

They did it in Sinai.

They did it in Gaza.

And they'd do so in the West Bank if there was a peace deal to be had. Without a partner in peace though, the Israelis aren't going to warm up to another unilateral disengagement plan.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Egypt Carries Out Airstrikes Against Terrorists Responsible For Sinai Attacks

The Egyptian air force carried out airstrikes against terrorists responsible for the attacks that left 16 Egyptian security forces dead as part of a larger plot to attack Israel in order to kill and/or capture Israelis for ransom.

The airstrikes along the Israeli-Egyptian border came after several Egyptian military checkpoints in the region were attacked overnight and three days after unknown gunmen attacked Egyptian border guards. The incidents have left Egypt lurching to contain the Sinai's growing lawlessness, which has been fostered by the upheaval of post-revolution Egypt and poses an important challenge for the country's new leadership.

An unnamed Egyptian senior military official told Agence France-Presse that “20 terrorists were killed” in the village of Tumah, near the Gaza border, by Apache helicopter strikes. The military source said the operation was ongoing and other airstrikes have been reported in neighboring villages.
It's the first airstrikes carried out by Egypt on Sinai since 1973. Such airstrikes need to be coordinated with Israel as part of the Israel-Egypt peace accord (Camp David). That means that Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will claim that the Egyptian government is colluding with Israel.
Witnesses in Sheikh Zouaid, about 10 km (six miles) from Gaza, said they saw two military jets and heard sounds of explosions. Other witnesses in a nearby area said they saw three cars hit.

The strikes follow clashes between armed men and security forces at several security checkpoints in the Sinai region.

Armed men opened fire on several checkpoints in Arish and in the nearby town of Rafah on the border with Israel, according to a Reuters reporter and state media.

A Reuters reporter said one policeman and one resident had been confirmed wounded in these attacks.

Lawlessness in the rugged desert region bordering Israel has spread since the fall of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak in an uprising 18 months ago and the election of an Islamist successor whose commitment to security cooperation with the Jewish state has yet to be tested.
Sinai has quickly fallen into a lawless region that the Egyptian government can barely control. That bodes poorly for Egypt, which needs tourists to feel safe across the country in order to reap the economic benefits. Terrorists have continued to infiltrate into Sinai from Gaza, despite a security cordon by Egyptian forces. Smuggling continues to do tremendous business on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border.

Yet, the airstrikes show that the Egyptian government is willing to work with Israel on security arrangements and indicates that the Egyptians are more than willing to use force - though it appears that they're willing to do so only when their own security forces are killed. They have a long way to go on securing the Gaza border and the Hamas and other Islamic terror group agitators.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Ceasefire? Hamas Continues Terrorizing Southern Israel With Rocket Barrages

Dozens of rockets have been fired in the past several hours alone by Hamas from Gaza. Israel responds with airstrikes against those responsible and the BBC turns the situation around by putting the Israeli reprisal before the initiating act - the rocket fire.

But for the Hamas terror attacks, Israel would have no need to respond with force.

As it is, the Hamas terrorists responsible think little of their fellow Palestinians as most of the rockets fired at Israel didn't actually make it into Israel; they landed within Gaza.

Hamas targets included a school and public spaces in Israel and one Israeli was injured and two others were treated for shock. Because this is Saturday, the school was closed. That's the only saving grace from that particular attack. Yet, the ongoing attacks mean that Israelis within range of Gaza have to be under constant watch for sirens and rocket/missile alerts so that they can duck for cover at a moment's notice. The ranges mean that someone would have less than a minute from the time the rockets, missiles, or mortars are fired.

The Iron Dome system intercepted five of the incoming rockets.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Truce Isn't Holding As Rockets Continue Slamming Into Israel

Egypt has been trying to broker a ceasefire deal between Israel and the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, but with little effect. The terrorists continue firing their rockets, including two fired towards Ashkelon. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. That brings the total fired on Israel during Wednesday to more than 70:

At approximately 1:30 pm a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in open territory in th Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. No one was wounded and no damaged was caused.

Earlier, at around 7:30 am, five rockets landed in the Negev's Eshkol Regional Council, but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

No less than 70 rockets hit Israel's southern region on Wednesday.

Following the attack on Ashkelon, Mayor Benny Vaknin ordered local elementary schools to remain closed Thursday. The mayor reached the decision following consultations with security establishment officials and parent committee representatives.

"The parents' committee representatives told me their children barely slept last night because of the sirens, and some of them suffer from anxiety. After consulting with security officials I decided to keep the schools closed," the mayor said.
No country would ever allow an enemy regime or entity to engage in such actions for any duration of time without suffering serious repercussions, and yet Israel is expected to do just that. Israeli airstrikes are extremely limited in scope, and it appears that Israel's government is willing to accept a certain level of violence in order to maintain the status quo.

The terrorists know this as well. They can attack up to a certain level of carnage before Israel will respond and retaliate for the damage wrought on Israeli lives and property.

What we're seeing now is the usual dance - Israel's retaliations for the attacks that left one Israeli Arab dead and several others injured result in still more mortar and missile/rocket barrages, and the escalation results in more Israeli airstrikes against terrorist infrastructure. Once the Israelis hit enough critical targets, the terrorists claim that Israel has gone too far and cry for a ceasefire, which they promptly break by blaming Israel for defending itself.

15 Terrorists Released In Shalit Swap Rearrested On Terror Charges

Israel secured the release of Gilad Shalit in October of last year by handing over more than 1,000 Palestinians who it had detained, arrested, and or convicted of various crimes, including terrorism and murder charges.

Now, it turns out that Israel has rearrested at 15 of those released on terror-related charges.

Eight of the Palestinians were from the first batch of prisoners released, many of whom were serving life sentences for a variety of deadly terrorist attacks.

The remaining seven were from the second batch of prisoners who were serving lighter sentences. Three of the prisoners have been released since they were rearrested.

The first stage of the exchange took place in October, when 477 Palestinians were freed, and the second stage in December, when 550 were released.

A senior IDF officer from the Central Command said on Wednesday that it was still too early to measure the impact the released prisoners were having on the West Bank.

“People need to acclimate back to their homes and work to retrieve their former status in their respective organizations from the younger generation that took over while they were away,” the officer said.

One of those rearrested was Ayman Salama, 36, who had been serving a 38-year sentence for his involvement in a 2002 bomb attack in Beersheba that wounded 18 people, as well as for a series of shooting attacks during the second intifada. He was supposed to be released in 2040.
While some may argue that this amounts to less than 1% of those arrested, these terrorists are looking to carry out mass casualty attacks and to capture other Israelis to secure the release of still more Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israel's Shin Bet had been warning that those released in the Shalit deal were being reintegrated into terror operations by Fatah and Hamas, and it once again highlights all that could go wrong with any such swap.

The terrorists released are more than capable of rejoining their fellow terrorists and their plans to kill or capture as many Israelis as possible, all while Israel has conceded that it will release prisoners in exchange for Israelis captured by the terror groups.

So, while the Israeli government has reaffirmed its commitment to make sure that no Israeli would be left behind and that it would do what it takes to secure the release of Israelis captured by the terror groups, it also highlights the dangers of releasing terrorists with blood on their hands. These aren't rehabilitated individuals. They are unrepentant terrorists who are glorified by the terror groups and honored for their commitment to murder Israelis.

Israel gave up far more than Hamas or the PRCs ever did to secure the swap. Israel had to undermine its security situation by releasing terrorists. All Hamas and the PRCs had to do was release Shalit.

Israel may have shown that they value the life of one Israeli far more than the Palestinians value their fellow Palestinian lives, but that's cold comfort to those who may succumb to terror plots carried out by those Israel releases down the road.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Palestinian Terrorists Continue Missile Attacks On Israel

Israel continues to take fire from Gaza for a third consecutive day. More than 55 rockets slammed into Israel after Israel carried out airstrikes following a terror attack where an Israeli Arab was killed while working on the security fence between Israel and Egypt (the Sinai fence). The Israeli airstrikes have targeted Hamas and other terror groups, including Islamic Jihad and their offshoots:

In the third day of violence, the Israel Air Force struck a motorbike in southern Gaza, seriously injuring Mohammed Rashdan who the IDF said was a member of a Gaza-based Global Jihad group and one of the planners of the deadly attack along the Egyptian border on Monday.

Aleb Armilat, who assisted Rashdan in planning the attack, was killed in the strike. In the evening, the IAF struck two more targets in Gaza, which it said were Hamas training camps. The Palestinians said that two teenagers were injured in the strikes.

In another strike, a 14-year-old was reportedly killed as the IAF bombed what it said was a rocket launching cell in the northern Gaza Strip.

The dead teenager was identified as Momen al-Adam. Two other people were reported injured in the attack. The airstrikes on Wednesday followed eight bombings late Tuesday night throughout the Gaza Strip.

IDF sources said that Rashuan was in the midst of planning another attack against Israel from the Sinai and that he was one of the key architects of Monday’s attack. One officer said that the involvement of Global Jihad operatives in attacks against Israel was not surprising but was concerning since the groups did not heed Hamas’s authority and would be difficult to rein in to abide by a new ceasefire.

Some of the groups are made up of former Islamic Jihad and Hamas members. Others, the officer said, come from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
One of the rockets hit an Israeli home in Sdot Negev, but no injuries were reported. The Iron Dome missile defense system apparently intercepted an inbound attack on Netivot.

Since the border attack, Israel has been hit by more than 100 rockets and mortars.

Once again, it appears that the terror groups in Gaza are coordinating and hoping to lure Israel into a larger conflict (as well as potentially destabilizing the Camp David Accords with Egypt). The terrorists have no problem directing or taking fire on civilian areas since maximizing casualties is part of the propaganda war with Israel. At the same time, they show that Israel lacks a partner for peace in Gaza; Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and sees the conflict as a way to maintain its own power.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Israel Under Fire From Hamas Day After Sinai-Based Terror Attack

Within hours of the terror attack that left one Israeli Arab dead and several other Israelis injured, the Israeli military carried out airstrikes against targets inside Gaza.

Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets against Israel. At least 11 were fired into Israel, including kassams and Grad rockets along with mortar rounds.

Seven rockets exploded in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council on Tuesday afternoon, after four rockets were fired at Hof Ashkelon and Sha'ar Hanegev regional councils overnight Monday.

There were no reported casualties or damage.

Hamas took responsibility for the rocket fire overnight Monday, and announced on Tuesday afternoon that its military wing had fired 10 Grad rockets toward Israel.

The rocket fire marks an unusual move for the group, which has been avoiding launching rockets toward Israel for many months now.

Following the attack, communities near the Gaza border were put on heightened alert. The residents were given instructions to remain at a close distance to a bomb shelter.

In the past 24 hours, the Israel Air Force carried out several air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Overnight Sunday, Israel attacked a military compound in southern Gaza.

On Sunday morning, a terrorist cell crossed the border from Egypt into Israel and detonated an explosive device which ended up killing an Israeli citizen who was working on the construction of the Israel-Egypt border fence.
While things have been relatively quiet in Gaza, Hamas has not stopped its plans for conflict with Israel. One cannot discount the possibility that Hamas is coordinating with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood over ways to force Israel to attack Gaza and/or Sinai in a way that would allow the Egyptian government to abrogate the Israel-Egypt peace deal (Camp David Accords).

That's one of the reasons why the Israeli military was quick to remove their responding tanks to the Sinai terror attack as quickly as they did. They understand what the terrorists may have been hoping for and didn't want to fall into that trap.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Egypt's Military Moves To Block Impact of Islamist Elected President

Egyptians faced a choice between bad and worse when they had to choose from an Islamist aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the former foreign minister from Hosni Mubarak's old regime. Turnout was anything but strong, but the Islamist, Mohamed Morsi, won the election.

The military, however, has a different plan. They're now acting to minimize the impact of the election, and are once again acting in their own interests rather than allowing the popular will to decide.

In a two-hour news conference, members of the ruling military council made no reference to the election results that by early morning showed Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood had defeated Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, in the runoff to choose Egypt’s first democratically elected president. The ballots were counted in front of television cameras and party observers in polling places around the country to preclude fraud, and independent observers concluded that Mr. Morsi had won by a margin of about 4 percentage points, or about a million votes.

The election officials will not formally confirm the results until later in the week, however, and Ahmed Sarhan, a spokesman for Mr. Shafik, insisted on Monday that the general was the true winner and the Brotherhood had “terrorized” voters. He offered no evidence, and both the state-run and unofficial media reported that Mr. Morsi had a decisive lead in the vote count.

The ruling generals had stunned Egyptians on the eve of the vote by dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated parliament and claiming all legislative power for themselves in an apparent attempt to foreclose the possibility that Islamists control both the presidency and the legislature.

Though they acted under the veneer of a court ruling rushed out last week by a panel of Mubarak-appointed judges, their power grab erased their promise to turn over all power to elected civilians by the end of this month, and both liberals and Islamists denounced the move as a military coup. The court ruling dispirited Brotherhood supporters, energized Mr. Shafik’s backers, and led many Egyptians to expect that either the psychological effect of the takeover or more direct intervention would push Mr. Shafik to the presidency.

In the aftermath of Mr. Morsi’s victory — - considered an upset by many, despite the Brotherhood’s proven popularity and political clout — - the generals sought Monday to reassure the public that they had no intention to re-establish another military-backed autocracy, although they did not back away from their effective seizure of legislative power.

“Trust the armed forces,” two representatives of the military council, General Mandouh Shahin and General Mohamed el Assar, repeated many times over the course of the news conference. “We don’t want power,” both also said repeatedly, citing the presidential election as proof of their good intentions.

Despite their seizure of the parliament, they promised a grand celebration at the end of the month to mark their formal handover to the new president.

They insisted that the legislative authority they had claimed for themselves was “restricted.” Although they acknowledged that they would have a monopoly on all lawmaking powers and control of the national budget, they said that the new president — presumably Mr. Morsi — would retain a veto over any new laws. The president will also name the prime minister and other cabinet officials.

The generals insisted they regretted shutting down the elected parliament, which they described as one of their proudest achievements since they took power at the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. They were forced to close the legislature because of the court’s ruling, the generals said.
It's a situation that Egypt has seen before. It's how Gamel Nasser came to power and it's how power was retained under both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

Popular election of the government simply isn't tolerated. The military will allow a veneer of democratic institutions, put the ruling junta is seeing to it that power will remain in the hands of the military.

I can understand the apprehension of allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to hold power considering their interests in expanding Islamic law and revisiting social and political decisions ranging from the rights of women to the Egypt-Israel peace accords.

However, the military should be subordinate to the civilian control. As it stands, Egypt's military is acting just as any other junta would do. They're acting to preserve their own power and that actually increases the chances of another round of violence.

The military is doing itself and the Egyptian country a tremendous disservice, even as it acts to minimize the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. The actions to limit the Brotherhood's power will backfire and lend the group legitimacy it is undeserving. It would be far better to allow the group power in the interim, with civilian governmental institutions to protect the rights of all Egyptians than to try and block the group's impact.

At the same time, the military needs to do more to stabilize the security situation in Sinai, from which another deadly attack on Israel was launched. One Israeli Arab who was working on a security fence were killed and several others were injured. Israeli military forces then responded to the attack and engaged terrorists in a gunfight.
A force from Golani immediately arrived at the scene, a gun fight ensued and a bomb carried by one of the terrorists exploded. Two terrorists were killed in the gunfight and the IDF believed that a third terrorist was also involved in the clash, who they believed to be in Sinai.

Following the attack and fearing additional attacks, the IDF moved a number of Merkava tanks up to the border to help protect against additional infiltrations. The tanks were removed immediately after the IDF confirmed that all of the terrorists had been accounted for and none remained inside Israeli territory.

The decision to move the tanks up along the border was done in consideration of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt which forbids the deployment of Israeli tanks in the area. IDF sources said that the deployment was done as the attack was still unfolding and that it was part of a defensive posture.
The deploymnet of tanks to the border is a technical violation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which prohibits tanks in the border zone without consultation, and that was just as likely the goal of the terror attack as the deaths of as many Israelis as possible.

The disintegrating security situation in Sinai is yet another threat to Israel's security as much as it harms Egypt's economy by reducing the tourism dollars that flow to Egypt's coffers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Arab League Suspends Syria Mission Over Increasing Violence

You know things are really bad in Syria when Hamas leaders no longer consider it safe for them to stick around in Damascus despite the cordial relations between Bashar al-Assad and the terror group.

Now, the Arab League's observer mission to try and reduce the level of violence is suspending its operations because the situation is too violent for them to contend with. Once again, Assad's regime blames terrorists and external forces for the violence and attacks, even as his own regime continues targeting civilians throughout the country:

The move comes just days after President Bashar al-Assad's government agreed to a one-month extension of the mission, which began December 26.

The mission is part of a peace initiative in Syria. The 22-member group has called on al-Assad's regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders -- including the international news media -- to travel freely in Syria.

The mission has been monitoring government activities in various hotspots. In the last two days, opposition activists reported scores of deaths, with one group, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported 135 deaths Thursday and Friday.

Violence continued to rage on Saturday as an "armed terrorist group" killed seven soldiers in an attack Saturday, state-run media reported.

The Syrian Arab News Agency said the attackers fired at a bus in the Damascus countryside and killed the soldiers, one of whom was a first lieutenant. They were traveling between the towns of Douma and Adra.

Terrorists were also blamed for an explosion on an oil pipeline in northeastern Deir Ezzor province, SANA said, quoting a source at the country's oil ministry.

The SANA report said production wasn't affected by the attack but that 2,000 barrels of oil were lost. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and crews began repair work. It said the pipeline had been attacked before.

The LCC confirmed a pipeline explosion and said 12 people were killed Saturday, eight of them were killed in the restive city of Homs.
Consider also that security forces opened fire on mourners during a funeral procession with live ammo. That's not something that can go unnoticed by Syrians throughout the country; that's why the regime is increasingly under pressure from within the country. Assad has no regard for the lives of his own countrymen; he's only concerned about continuing the regime at any costs and crushing the opposition according to the Hama rules set in place by his father. Crush the opposition and hear the lamentations of those whose lives he's crushed.

The Arab League has little leverage in trying to prod Assad to accept reforms. Assad continues claiming that he's engaged in reforms, but his regime is under ongoing attack from terrorists and external elements (an excuse frequently given by other Arab League regimes in their own crackdowns against protesters during the Arab Spring). Thus, there's no way that the Arab League plan will get accepted by Assad. Assad simply wont give up power, even if it's on paper only.

Assad has repeatedly claimed to have given amnesty to those who have protested against the regime, released prisoners, etc., but the murderous attacks continue and the indefinite detentions and deprivations of rights continue throughout Syria at the hands of Assad's loyalists. If Assad's security forces are taking casualties, its increasingly at the hands of those security forces who have defected to the opposition and are no longer willing to murder fellow Syrians for Assad to remain in power.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Human Rights Groups Warn of Horrifying Slaughter of Civilians In Syria

While the videos could not be independently verified because Bashar al-Assad's iron-fisted grip on media and propaganda, human rights groups inside the country are claiming that Assad's loyalists murdered dozens of people, including women and children in the city of Homs.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists, both said the death toll in Homs was at least 35, but the reports could not be confirmed. The groups cited a network of activists on the ground in Syria.
The Observatory said 29 people were killed in the religiously mixed Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs on Thursday, including eight children, most of them when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gunfire.

Residents spoke of another massacre that took place when shabiha — armed regime loyalists — stormed the district, slaughtering residents in an apartment, including children.

"It's racial cleansing," said one resident of Karm el-Zaytoun, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. "They are killing people because of their sect," he said.
The casualties apparently occurred when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire.

That comes just days after the head of the Muslim Red Crescent was killed (that's the Muslim humanitarian group equivalent to the Red Cross).

Meanwhile, there are indications that Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal has left Syria and is staying elsewhere as the terror group assesses the situation and is considering leaving the country for safer locales (Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar being the alternatives):
Analysts say Meshaal was also embarrassed by Assad's violent crackdown, with more than 5,000 people reported killed. Many victims of the security forces have been Sunni Muslims allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose support Meshaal relies on.

Assad is backed mainly by his minority Alawite sect and other minorities.

The sources said Meshaal would not publicly shut down the political headquarters of Hamas in Syria, where it has long been hosted by Assad and by his father before him.

"In the past month he may have only stayed five days in Syria and the rest he spent in Qatar, Turkey and Egypt," said the diplomat. "But he did not close the headquarters in Syria in full and there are some Hamas officials still there."

"Our belief is that Hamas will not announce a departure from Syria even if it happened," the diplomat added.
Elsewhere in Syria, the Free Syrian Army (the opposition militia) is claiming that they've captured a group of Iranian soldiers that have been operating at the behest of Assad. That conflicts with the Iranian account, which claims that these individuals are engineers who were kidnapped by unknown assailants. Separately, several other groups of Iranians have been taken by unknown groups inside Syria - some purportedly making their way through the country on pilgrimages.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Palestinians Threatening To Abrogate Oslo Accords and Other Arrangements With Israel

The Palestinians, particularly Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas, is once again threatening to abrogate the Oslo Accords and the successor security arragements made with Israel so as to curry favor with Hamas as Fatah and Hamas try to reconcile their longstanding differences.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, member of the Fatah Central Committee and one of the Palestinian Authority negotiators with Israel, was quoted Sunday as saying that the Palestinians may cancel the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.

Meanwhile, some PLO and Fatah leaders have privately criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for agreeing to incorporate Hamas into the PLO.

At least three senior officials in Ramallah have voiced strong reservations over the decision, a Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post. He said that those who were opposed to the move were worried that Hamas would replace Fatah as the dominant party in the PLO.

One official was quoted as saying that Abbas was paving the way for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take control not only over the PLO, but the entire West Bank as well.

Shtayyeh's comments were published by the London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper.

This was not the first time that a senior PA official had talked about the possibility of abrogating the Oslo Accords.

The comments came less than 48 hours after Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to join a temporary leadership of the PLO that would prepare for new elections for the organization's two key bodies - the Palestine National Council and Executive Committee.

In response to a question about Israeli settlements, Shtayyeh said: "If Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insists that there is no difference between the settlement of Abu Ghneim [Har Homa] and Tel Aviv, we won't distinguish between Ramallah and Jaffa."
The Palestinian Authority hasn't held elections since 2005, when Hamas and Fatah split the vote and ending up fighting a civil war that left Hamas in full control over Gaza while Fatah maintained civil administrative control over the West Bank. The Palestinians continue their attempts to revise history by claiming that Oslo didn't recognize Palestinian rights to territories, but they continue to avoid recognizing Israel's rights to territories, including historic claims to Jerusalem that extend back hundreds and thousands of years.

Hamas is not ruling out running in elections that may be held in 2012. They think that they might win in a landslide. That may be wishful thinking on their part considering that Hamas has shown an inability to do anything other than carry out attacks against Israel and find reason to blame Israel for all that ails the Palestinians. It can't do anything constructive. While Fatah remains open to concerns about corruption, Palestinians living in areas controlled by Fatah are able to move about more freely and have far more economic opportunities than those in Gaza. It doesn't seem likely that people living in the West Bank would consider voting for Hamas, unless they're looking for a more violent confrontation with Israel and an end to the peace process.

Yet, Hamas must think that they've got support to make such claims. Indeed, looking back at the 2006 election results, and one sees that Fatah maintained support only in a few select West Bank cities, while Hamas generated support elsewhere. That dynamic isn't likely to change even though the economic situation is worse now in Gaza than before the elections.

Despite the worsened economic conditions, Hamas wears that with a badge of pride - all in the cause of fighting Israel's existence and undermining Israel's right to exist at every opportunity. They portray the fight and the lack of economic opportunity as sacrifices that must be made in the fight against the Zionists.

Hamas celebrates a 3-year anniversary since the start of Operation Cast Lead, when Israel went after the Palestinian terror group after hundreds of rockets and mortars slammed into Israeli cities and towns. They refer to Israeli war crimes and genocide, even though by Hamas' own admission the vast majority of those killed were Hamas terrorists. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of civilians killed were not purposefully attacked by Israel, but were rather used by Hamas as human shields so as to inflate the body count and inflame Palestinian passions against Israel. At the same time, Palestinians look the other way as those Hamas rocket and mortar attacks were themselves war crimes as they purposefully targeted civilians so as to maximize the body count. To Hamas, there are no Israeli civilians - all are worthy targets.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Skirmishes Erupt As Gazan Terrorists Attack Israeli Security Forces Along Fence

Gazan terrorists carried out a sustained attack against an Israeli security force working on the security fence between Israel and Gaza. It was a sustained skirmish, and no Israelis were injured in the attack on the Israelis who were fixing the security barrier between Israel and Gaza.

Armed Palestinians on Thursday opened fire on IDF forces that were working on the security fence near Kibbutz Zikim, north of the Gaza Strip.

The force was positioned near the fence when suddenly shots and mortar shells were fired at them from the Gaza Strip. The force responded with fire, hitting several members of the terrorist cell. No injuries reported among the IDF forces, but a military vehicle sustained light damage.
This may have been an attempt to capture an Israeli a la Shalit but were thwarted by a concerted effort by the Israelis to pin down and kill the terror cell attacking them.

A Hamas operative was among the Palestinian terrorists killed.

Israel has suspended transfer payments to the Palestinian Authority following the UNESCO vote to grant the PA membership. The Israelis have also stopped their $2 million payment to UNESCO over the vote.

All this follows over 40 mortars and rockets fired at Israel over the weekend.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saudi Prince Posts Bounty For Capturing Israeli

The Saudis continue playing games and boosting terror groups with their actions. Their latest? A Saudi prince has gone and posted a $1 million bounty for a Palestinian terror group to go and capture an Israeli to be used as a pawn in another prisoner swap.

Prince Khaled bin Talal, brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told the kingdom's al-Daleel TV station by telephone Saturday that he was raising a previous offer made by Sheik Awadh al-Qarani, a prominent Saudi cleric who promised $100,000 for capturing an Israeli soldier.

"I tell Sheik al-Qarani that I support you and I will pay $900,000 to make it one million dollars to capture an Israeli soldier to release other prisoners," said a voice identified as Prince Khaled, who holds no official position in the government.

The Saudi offers follow in the wake of the release of Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was held by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years. Israel has agreed to free over 1,000 prisoners in exchange.

Prince Khaled said he made the offer in response to what he said were Israeli threats against Qarani's life. He did not provide any further details.

In Israel, extremists have offered two rewards of $100,000 to anyone who kills a Palestinian released in the Schalit deal if the Palestinian killed Israelis.
There's a difference between Israeli extremists who Israel itself arrests and castigates for such actions, and a Saudi prince who is putting up $1 million to entice Palestinian terror groups to carry out terror attacks.

This isn't just moral equivalence, but the Saudi regime playing games and putting up money so as to continue the Arab Israeli conflict. Throwing money around is what the Saudis do best, and they're hoping to curry favor among the Palestinians after they took a back seat to the Egyptians who helped negotiate a deal to release Shalit for over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli jails.

It's also another reason that there is no peace between Israel and its neighbors - the Arab regimes still refuse to recognize Israel's rights to exist and they use the Palestinians as cannon fodder and a diversion for domestic consumption. They have no interest in peaceful relations because it gets in the way of the hate.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Opposition Renews Protests In Syria; 13 Killed By Assad's Goons

In the wake of the death of Libyan despot Mumar Khadafi, Syrians have renewed calls for the removal of Bashar al Assad. Assad's security forces would not tolerate protests, and have once again murdered the protesters. 13 more people were added to the butcher's bill.

Homs, the city of one million has been scene of extensive military operations to suppress regular protests and a nascent armed insurgency that has emerged after a relentless crackdown on persistent demonstrations calling for more political freedoms.

"Gaddafi is finished. It is your turn now Bashar!" shouted demonstrators in the town of Maaret al-Numaan in the northwestern province of Idlib, according to one witness.

"Prepare yourself Assad!" chanted protesters in the town of Tayyana in the tribal province of Deir al-Zor, on the border with Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland.

Assad, an ophthalmologist who inherited power from his late father in 2000, strengthened ties with Gaddafi months before the Arab Spring wave of popular unrest against repressive ruling elites erupted in Tunisia in December.

The two countries struck a series of cooperation deals and Assad later allowing a Syrian-based satellite station to broadcast messages from Gaddafi while he was on the run. He was killed in unclear circumstances after his capture on Thursday.

In the town of Houla northwest of Homs, a crowd of several thousands held shoulders and waved old Syrian flags dating to before Assad's Baath party took power in a coup 48 years ago.

"Doctor, you are next!" read banners carried by the villagers, according to live video footage.

Demonstrations also broke out in Homs, the provincial capital 140 km (85 miles) north of Damascus, where three members of same family were also shot dead at an army road block in Bab Sbaa district on their way to prayers, local activists said.
With the NATO operations winding down in Libya in support of the Libyan Transitional Council efforts to wrest control of the country from Khadafi and his loyalists, they may now be more attuned to the plight of the Syrian opposition. The Syrian opposition has grown more cohesive and formed an actual council akin to the Libyan effort. That is key to generating support among international diplomats and leveraging defectors among the Syrian elites to encourage NATO to consider action.

There are key differences though. For starters, Assad has largely kept his attacks against protesters to ground operations and he has significant support from terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, both of which have major operations and key leaders encamped in Damascus. More importantly, Assad has the support of Iran, which backs his regime and is likely to counter any Western efforts in a much more direct manner.

So, for now, the Syrian opposition has an uphill battle to counter Assad's built-in advantages.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PRC Claim They Treated Shalit Well; Warn of More Kidnappings

The PRC, which is a splinter group of Hamas, claims that they didn't torture Gilad Shalit and that they treated him better than Israel treats Palestinian prisoners. Don't buy that nonsense for a moment considering that the PRC never allowed the ICRC or other human rights groups access to Shalit, something that Israel does for Palestinian prisoners. This is a terrorist group we're talking about, so of course they also state that they intend to take more Israelis hostage to ransom for the release of other Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit Back Home After More Than Five Years of Hamas Captivity

It's been more than five years since Hamas captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in an infiltration attack that killed two other Israelis. Shalit is now back home with his family. They were reunited at an Israeli airbase in Central Israel after being transferred to Egyptian authorities who then coordinated with Israel in bringing him home. He was held for 1,941 days.

Meanwhile, the Israelis are in the process of releasing 477 Palestinian terrorists. That is the first of two batches of terrorists to be released, with the total number of terrorists Israel is releasing coming to 1,027.

Those terrorists are being given a heroes welcome and Hamas isn't being shy about who they thought won this years' long battle. They did.

And I'd tend to agree.

Israel gave up far more to bring home its soldier than Hamas did. Hamas isn't changing its stated and public position that it seeks Israel's destruction. It isn't giving up its right to attack Israel and seek to kidnap other Israelis to force similar ransom swaps. Hamas gets Israel to release hundreds upon hundreds of terrorists for the price of a solitary Israeli soldier.

For Shalit's family, this was an excruciating saga, but it showed Israel's resolve to make sure that no Israeli would be left behind.

Someone who has a different point of view is Miki Goldwasser. If that last name rings a bell, it's because her Ehud son was one of two Israeli soldiers who was captured by Hizbullah and killed (along with Eldad Regev). His remains were eventually repatriated to Israel in exchange for several terrorists. She thinks that the Palestinians may crow about this lopsided exchange, but that the Palestinians really envy what Israel and Shalit has.

Make no mistake about it. They realize and feel this humiliation. They realize that they are not worth much if they are willing to exchange 1,000 of their own for one Israeli soldier. Do you really think that Gaza residents are not jealous of us, Israelis, for being so united around one soldier? It’s impossible not to envy us. Look at the global reactions – everyone is stunned.

In Israel, the mood of the people tends to fluctuate from one extreme to another. This time around, listen to the voice of reason and do not be deceived by the images from Gaza. The joy there is artificial. With the exception of the celebrating families, I don’t think most other Gaza residents are happy to see the release of thugs and criminals who killed Palestinians and their children mercilessly.

The released prisoners are mostly hooligans who took the liberty to rob and kill even their own people. Do you recall the images of the Gaza wedding where the celebrating family was murdered by a Hamas gang only because it dared to rejoice? I’m certain that Gaza residents are starting to fear what’s to come.
Israel paid a dear price to secure Shalit's release, but Hamas demanded a thousand prisoners in exchange. That lopsided swap cuts both ways. It does show that Hamas cares little for the lives of its own people and it shows how much weight a single Israeli life counts for.

Over the years, Israel has released 13,509 prisoners in exchange for 16 Israelis - that is nearly 800 to 1 ratio. I'm not even sure if that counts the prisoners released in order to secure a video showing proof that Shalit was still alive. In that instance, Israel released Palestinian prisoners just to get a video showing that Shalit alive. It wasn't even a prisoner swap for Shalit himself. Mind you that many of those released were non-violent offenders or those released somewhat earlier than their scheduled release dates, but the principle remains; Israel was more than willing to release large numbers of convicted prisoners to secure the release of its own people.

That's worth pondering, but I doubt the Palestinians will dwell on it as their leadership considers further attacks to capture still more Israelis to demand similar swaps. The only numbers they see are that if they can capture a single Israeli, they can force Israel to release hundreds, or thousands of convicted Palestinians held in Israeli jails on even the most serious of terror charges.

Even those who sought Shalit's release are taken back by the scale of what Israel was required to do to make the swap happen. More than 1,000 terrorists released. That's quite the price to pay.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Deal Details Continue Leaking In Shalit Swap

We already know that Israel is paying a steep price to secure the release of Gilad Shalit. 1,027 Palestinians currently held by Israel are scheduled to be released in upcoming months. The first batch of 450+ would include terrorists responsible for over 500 Israeli deaths including terrorists involved in the deadly Sbarro pizzeria bombing.

Now, we learn that the second batch of terrorists would be from Fatah - about 550 in total.

A total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be released in the deal, in two stages. In the first stage, 450 prisoners will be released. Schalit will then be sent to Israel, and another 550 prisoners will be released two months later.

AFP quoted the diplomat as saying Egypt persuaded Israel that the second batch of prisoners to be released in two months time will all be from Fatah.
That is in addition to the terrorists being released in the first batch including those apprehended in connection with plots to bomb hotels are also expected to get released along with other terrorists involved in major attacks.
They are part of the first phase of 450 prisoners set to be freed out of the 1,027 names in total.

They include Nasser Batima, convicted of planning the 2002 Passover Seder suicide-bomb attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya, in which 30 civilians were killed and 140 were wounded.
All will be welcomed by their fellow Palestinians as national heroes and resumed calls for jihad to bring about Israel's eventual destruction.

Such has been the case with prior swaps and that certainly wont change here. Hamas and to a lesser extent Fatah are beneficiaries of this swap.

Abbas is hoping that all prisoners will one day be freed. Perhaps Abbas would like to be reminded that but for Palestinian terror attacks, attempts, and thwarted plots, those Palestinians sitting in Israeli prisons convicted for such crimes would not be there. In other words - don't incite your population to carry out terrorism and delegitimize Israel's right to exist and Israel wouldn't have to imprison terrorists who delight in the murder and mayhem they cause with their attacks.

Some Israelis are filing suit to block the deal, noting the disproportionate release of noted admitted and convicted terrorists involved in numerous mass casualty attacks in exchange for a single Israeli. They include families of those killed or injured in some of those attacks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Details Emerge On Pending Swap For Shalit

New details are emerging about the pending deal to swap more than 1,000 Palestinians for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been Hamas clutches for more than five years since he was captured in a terror attack inside Israel that killed two other Israeli soldiers and wounded several others.

Hamas claims that the deal would swap 1,027 Palestinians, including 315 serving life sentences, for Shalit. The first batch of 450 prisoners would be swapped for Shalit, with the rest coming in short order. That swap may occur within a week and Shalit would be transferred to Israel via Egypt.

Most troublesome is the fact that Hamas bigwig Khalid Meshaal says that this is not only a huge accomplishment, but the first step in cleansing the region of Israel:

In Damascus, Syria, Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, said in a televised address that the negotiations had been “very, very difficult” and called the deal “a national accomplishment” that augured well for the Palestinians, who he said hoped to “cleanse the land, and liberate Jerusalem, and unite the Palestinian ranks.”
There's no other way to interpret that statement than to see that the Palestinians continue to refuse acceptance of a 2-state solution and a peace process.

So, why is Israel going along with this? The Times points out that some key figures in the Israeli defense and intelligence community have been replaced and the previous objections to large-scale releases of terrorists have been overcome. Moreover, the Israelis aren't expected to transfer these prisoners to the West Bank, where they were seen as being more of a risk. In other words, adding 200 more terrorists to the ranks of the 20,000 strong Hamas ranks would not change the strategic calculus. Then again, I have no doubt that some of those released will attempt to carry out attacks at the first possible opportunity, and that bodes poorly for Israel's long term security.

Indeed, among those being released in the first batch are Palestinian terrorists responsible for the deaths of 599 Israelis. As I've warned, Hamas will welcome them with open arms and jubilant celebrations - making heroes of murdering terrorists who think nothing of murdering Israelis - including children.

It has done nothing to moderate Hamas or Palestinian views of Israel, and while it means that the Shalit family will be able to welcome home their son Gilad, it puts Israelis at risk across the board.

It's little wonder then that Hamas sees this as a huge tactical and strategic victory. The names of those being released will be announced on Sunday, which suggests that there is some last-minute discussion on who exactly is being handed over.

CNN has still more details and it looks like Marwan Barghouti isn't among those getting released.
"The deal will happen in two stages -- the first stage the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, including 315 Palestinian prisoners that have one or many life sentences and the ones who are with high sentences. The second stage will include 550 Palestinian prisoners," he said.

Of the 450 Palestinian prisoners to be freed during the first stage, 110 will go to the West Bank while 40 will go abroad, according to Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman. The 550 prisoners scheduled to be released during the second stage will be freed two months later, he said.

According to Regev, jailed Palestinian lawmaker Marwan Barghouti is not among the prisoners Israel has agreed to release.


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