Daily Briefing: Violence Flares in the Gaza Strip: Israel Moves to Restore its Lost Deterrence (May 6, 2019)

Burning factory in Sderot, which was hit by a rocket from Gaza (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Latest Round Of Gaza Violence Must Be Used To Restore Deterrence: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, May 5, 2019 — At the moment it seems as though both sides, Hamas and Israel, want to escalate the current flare-up rather than let it die down. Gaza militants launch non-stop rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population, while Israeli military continues striking targets in the enclave.
Egypt and Iran Vie for Influence in Gaza:  Yaacov Lappin, Israel Hayom, Apr. 24, 2019 — At the start of April, Hebrew media outlets quoted unnamed Israeli security officials as saying the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror faction, whose rocket arsenal is larger even than that of Hamas, was planning a significant attack on Israeli targets.
Handing Gaza to Abbas Will Solve Nothing: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, April 4, 2019 — When a single rocket launched from Gaza into central Israel forces the Israeli PM to cancel an important slate of meetings in Washington and return post haste to Jerusalem, it is clear that the Strip has become a major strategic threat rather than a containable terror problem.
It’s Okay. Don’t Cry for Us Israelis:  Naomi Ragen, Dr. Naomi on Israel, July 30, 2014 — I’m sitting here in Jerusalem after a week of heartbreak over three murdered teens, followed by two weeks of sirens, bomb blasts, and finally, the funerals of young IDF soldiers, of whom one-third are students who should be taking their final exams, instead of risking their lives. I’m reading on the internet about what a horrible person I am as an Israeli and as a Jew, and what a terrible, immoral country I live in.

ON TOPIC LINKS:
 
GroundBrief:  Palestinian Militant Attempts to Assassinate IDF Colonel At The Gaza Border On Friday: Curator: Joe Truzman, GroundBrief, May 2019 — On Friday afternoon, a Palestinian sniper fired at IDF soldiers stationed at the Gaza border during the weekly March of Return. Two soldiers were injured and were evacuated to Soroka hospital.
Ilhan Omar Defends Palestinians After Terrorists Rain Rockets on Israel:  John Cage, Washington Examiner, May 5, 2019 — Rep. Ilhan Omar appeared to take the side of Hamas and Islamic Jihad Sunday night after terrorists fired hundreds of rockets at civilian targets in Israel by Hamas this weekend.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Holly Fletcher, Council on Foreign Relations, Apr. 10, 2008 — The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is an Islamic, Palestinian nationalist organization that violently opposes the existence of Israel.
Fear of Isolation and Collapse Driving Hamas’s Violent Extortion Racket: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Mar. 29, 2019 — When it seized power in a 2007 violent coup, Hamas thought it would turn the Gaza Strip into a shining example of Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood rule, and a spearhead of the jihadist long-term war on Israel.
Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter* Unless Israel is to Blame:  Bret Stephens. New York Times, Mar. 21, 2019 — The people of the Gaza Strip are protesting again, and soldiers are shooting again, and civilians are being victimized again
 

LATEST ROUND OF GAZA VIOLENCE MUST BE USED TO RESTORE DETERRENCE
Ron Ben-Yishai
Ynet, May 5, 2019
 
At the moment it seems as though both sides, Hamas and Israel, want to escalate the current flare-up rather than let it die down. Gaza militants launch non-stop rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population, while Israeli military continues striking targets in the enclave. Overnight, Israel appeared to have rejected a ceasefire proposal by the Egyptian intelligence officials, who remain in constant contact with the leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – currently in Cairo.
 
 The Egyptians apparently offered a deal which involves an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence, something that Israel is not willing to accept. Furthermore, Israel said it intends to not only continue striking Gaza but also to intensify the scale of the attacks. A message which I’m sure was conveyed to the Palestinians by Egypt. Thus, it seems this round up of border violence will continue in the upcoming days.
 
The current flare-up, unlike many others in recent past, is characterized by new methods of warfare used by both sides. The Palestinians – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other smaller terror groups in the Strip – have introduced a new self-produced rocket, which can reach only a few kilometers into Israel but is tipped with a uniquely heavy warhead.
 
These rockets – called Burkan – were first developed in Syria in the midst of a civil war and their warheads usually contain dozens of kilograms of explosives. The terror groups thought the rocket would surprise the residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border, but due to the rockets’ lack of precision, most of them landed in open spaces or failed to make it into Israeli territory altogether. This prompted Hamas to issue a statement, claiming Israel is hiding from the public the full extent of damage the rockets inflicted on the area.
 
So far both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have refrained from increasing the rocket range to over 40 km (25 miles) from the Gaza border. Although the Palestinian factions did make good on their promise to strike the cities of Beer-Sheva and Ashdod, the attacks didn’t bear fruit as most of the rockets had been intercepted by the Iron Dome. “The armies of terror,” as the IDF chief of staff calls them, have relatively few long-range rockets that can reach Tel Aviv as they are difficult to manufacture, and the terror groups don’t want to empty their precious stockpiles so easily.
 
The IDF for their part have decided in this round of violence to attack almost exclusively, what the military labeled as “the power targets.” These targets include multi-storey buildings with military installations, buildings serving as headquarters for the terror groups and even private homes of the factions’ leaders (something the IDF hasn’t done in years), leaving them without a roof over their heads on the eve of the Ramadan holiday. The IDF also doesn’t hesitate to strike terror cells launching rockets, and since Friday at least eight terror operatives had been killed in Israeli attacks.
 
The Palestinian factions might have believed this flare-up would be over within a few hours since they probably didn’t want to wage battles during the Ramadan, which starts on Monday. Ramadan is considered to be a family holiday and dragging Gazan population into a war at this time would only increase the resentment to the Hamas leadership, which has ruled the Strip since 2007. Senior officials say that Israel has no intention of agreeing to a ceasefire at this point, even if means that central Israel, including Tel Aviv, will be subjected to rocket attacks from Gaza. As far as Israel is concerned, the goal of the current round up of fighting – initiated by the Palestinians – is to restore its deterrence, which in recent months has been completely eroded. Although it means the residents of the communities bordering the Hamas-ruled enclave will endure some suffering, the fighting will prevent another round of escalation being initiated by the terror organizations in Gaza in the next few weeks or even days.
 
EGYPT AND IRAN VIE FOR INFLUENCE IN GAZA
Yaacov Lappin
Israel Hayom, Apr. 24, 2019
 
At the start of April, Hebrew media outlets quoted unnamed Israeli security officials as saying the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror faction, whose rocket arsenal is larger even than that of Hamas, was planning a significant attack on Israeli targets. The information appeared to achieve its goal of discouraging the perpetrators, and no attack transpired. But the fact that Islamic Jihad was reportedly planning an incident that could have hampered Egyptian attempts to restore calm to the Gaza Strip could hint at a wider struggle taking place within Gaza between Egypt and Iran.
 
Hamas, which rules over Gaza, has reportedly faced demands from Egypt in recent months to decide whether it “takes its orders from Tehran or continues to implement the understandings for calm” formulated by the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel.
 
The clash of interests between these two regional Middle Eastern powers seems clear; Egypt wishes to see Gaza calm, stable and cut off from Islamic State-affiliated terror networks in the Sinai Peninsula, which also threaten Egyptian security as a whole. Iran sees Gaza as one more base from which it can exercise its radical influence and encourage the growth of a terrorist army that threatens Israel and regional stability. Iran transfers $100 million a year to the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad collectively, according to Israeli estimates.
 
Boaz Ganor, executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, recalled that with the signing of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Cairo had no interest in retaking Gaza. Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat “understood the problematic nature of this territory, which is the most crowded in the world, and racked with poverty, fundamentalism and a lack of a sovereign ruler,” said Ganor. As a result, Sadat did not demand a return of Egyptian rule over Gaza, despite the fact that Egypt controlled the territory prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. “What Sadat understood, [current Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] el-Sissi also understands, although in a different manner,” Ganor told JNS. “El-Sissi understands that the Strip contains many risks to Egypt within it. Hamas, which controls Gaza, is tied by the umbilical cord to its mother movement—the Muslim Brotherhood—who are Sissi’s loathed and strategic enemies.”
 
El-Sissi has identified a process of Iranian infiltration into Gaza via its proxy, PIJ, “and is concerned by the growth of a forward Iranian post on the northern border of Egypt,” assessed Ganor.
 
Another source of concern for El-Sissi is the fact that IS in Sinai is linked to fellow Salafi-jihadist elements in Gaza. These security and political factors, as well as Egyptian concerns over the prospect of a new armed conflict erupting between Israel and Hamas on Egypt’s border, have all led to “massive Egyptian intervention and a will to be active in what is taking place in the Strip,” said Ganor. Israel, for its part, is in favor of this intervention and has even requested it over the years.
 
Yet Iran is trying to neutralize Egyptian influence in Gaza, Ganor noted, while looking to tighten its links with its Gazan proxies. Tehran is trying to transfer funds and weapons into Gaza. “It also seeks to instruct its proxies to disrupt every process that can lead to calm,” said Ganor. Tehran’s relationship with Hamas is somewhat more complicated. Ganor said that “Iran’s influence on Hamas is significant, but much smaller than its influence on Hezbollah. Hamas zealously safeguards its independence and does not view itself as being obligated to Iranian interests.”
 
The Iranian branch in Gaza
 
Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, described Islamic Jihad as a “kind of Iranian branch inside the Gaza Strip.”
 
Former Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Salah, as well its current chief, Ziad Nakhalah, are both frequent visitors to Iran, where they are “familiar guests,” stated Segall, a former head of the Iran Branch at the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate.
 
With Iran training Islamic Jihad fighters in the Islamic Republic, the organization is an “explicit proxy of Iran, in contrast to Hamas, which is under Iranian influence but has its own agenda and is more independent,” he said… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
 
HANDING GAZA TO ABBAS WILL SOLVE NOTHING 
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
BESA, April 4, 2019
 
When a single rocket launched from Gaza into central Israel forces the Israeli PM to cancel an important slate of meetings in Washington and return post haste to Jerusalem, it is clear that the Strip has become a major strategic threat rather than a containable terror problem. Yet while public discourse on the latest conflagration revolved around the desirable IDF response to Hamas’s growing brazenness, with the customary recommendations ranging from dealing a harsh blow that would “restore lost deterrence” to a campaign to vanquish Hamas, it is worth taking a broader look at how the Gaza problem came to pass in the first place.
 
A city in a cul-de-sac
 
The current tendency is to see the Gaza problem as originating in the refugee population that burgeoned there after the 1948 War of Independence. It would make more sense, though, to go back a few steps further and consider the city’s millenarian geographic location as an intermediate station on the ancient highway – between Asia and Africa, between Mesopotamia and Egypt.
 
Without that main route as its wellspring, Gaza cannot go back to being what it was. Even after the 1906 drawing of the international border by Britain (which had controlled Egypt since 1882) and the Ottoman Empire, traffic through Gaza did not stop. It was the establishment of the State of Israel that blocked this ancient route, severed Egypt from the Arab east (mashriq), and turned Gaza into a cul-de-sac at the edge of Egyptian territory.
 
The March 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty considerably exacerbated the Gaza problem. In a shrewd move, President Anwar Sadat shifted the Gaza problem exclusively to Israel’s purview. After the Israeli town of Yamit and neighboring villages had been razed and the Sinai in its entirety had been restored to Egyptian sovereignty all the way to the 1906 international border, Gaza could no longer develop westward into the potential open space between Rafah and El-Arish. The Strip was thus closed in the Egyptian direction and deposited on Israel’s doorstep as an urban pressure cooker on the verge of explosion.
 
Sadat thus set in train the transformation of Gaza and the West Bank into a single entity and made Israel solely responsible for solving the Palestinian problem in the territories it held. As Ezer Weizmann, defense minister at the time of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations, put it on the tenth anniversary of the peace treaty: “I have a feeling that [PM Menachem] Begin is sitting at home not because of the commonly assumed reasons [i.e., 1982 Lebanon war] but because he has realized that with the signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords he put the future of ‘Greater Israel’ in a delicate situation, if not in jeopardy.”
 
The 1993 Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority further marginalized Gaza in comparison to the governmental and economic center in Ramallah. Discussion of a strategic solution to the Gaza problem must, therefore, begin with the geographic background that spawned the Strip’s distress as a territory with no egress. Even if the IDF removes Hamas from power, Gaza’s plight will continue, and it will require a solution that cannot be found solely in the domain of Israel’s responsibility.
 
And what happens after the takeover?
 
Over the years, the issue of the objective of a ground operation in Gaza has become a complex dilemma. One can see how much things have changed simply by reading the IDF’s definition of the offensive’s goal in its basic combat doctrine: “An offensive seeks to impose a change in the existing political-strategic reality by applying the conquering state’s sovereignty to the conquered territory.”
 
Therein lies the basic unanswered question: Is it desirable for Israel to conquer Gaza and reimpose its rule, as in pre-Oslo days? If not, then Hamas’s military defeat requires an answer to the question of who should be given control of the Strip. Should Israel sacrifice its sons to serve Gaza on a silver platter to Mahmoud Abbas? It was, after all, Yasser Arafat, Abbas’s predecessor as PLO leader, who transformed Gaza into an ineradicable terrorist hotbed in flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords that he had signed… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
 
IT’S OK. DON’T CRY FOR US ISRAELIS
Naomi Ragen

Dr. Naomi on Israel, July 30, 2014
 
I’m sitting here in Jerusalem after a week of heartbreak over three murdered teens, followed by two weeks of sirens, bomb blasts, and finally, the funerals of young IDF soldiers, of whom one-third are students who should be taking their final exams, instead of risking their lives. I’m reading on the internet about what a horrible person I am as an Israeli and as a Jew, and what a terrible, immoral country I live in.
 
All this criticism comes mainly from the European press: The Guardian, the BBC, papers in Italy, Norway, France, and don’t forget America: The New York Times, CNN. And I’m thinking: Gee, the British should understand. After all, they lived through the blitz, Nazis raining bombs indiscriminately down on them, the way Hamas is raining bombs down on us. And when the brave pilots of the RAF aimed their bombs at Dresden killing 300,000 men, women and children, they didn’t throw down leaflets telling people to politely evacuate; didn’t send their soldiers to knock on doors to see if they’d followed the instructions of the leaflet (as CNN complained Israel failed to do at a UNRWA school, which was probably hit by a Hamas bomb anyway.)
 
And I think of the rest of Europe, who rounded up our grandparents and great-grandparents, and relatives –men, women, and children—and sent them off to be gassed, no questions asked. And I think: They are now the moral arbiters of the free world? They are telling the descendants of the people they murdered how to behave when other antisemites want to kill them?
 
As for Americans, represented by the New York Times, that bastion of high-minded hypocrisy and mediocre journalism parading as the “newspaper of record,” one has only to read the article by Professor Auerbach in the New York Observer (Two Weeks of Shallow, Facile Moral Equivalency From the New York Times) to see how Jodi Rudoren and other Times apparatchiks have learned to close their minds and love Hamas. After all, there are CHILDREN DYING. It doesn’t matter that the Palestinians have educated an entire generation to be little Nazi-wannabes, who worship death and hate Jews, murdering their souls, and are now callously putting their bodies in harm’s way to use for touching photo ops. We shouldn’t be shocked by this omission by the Times. After all, The New York Times was one of the last news outlets to bring to the attention of the reading public the Nazi atrocities in Europe. Read the Times during the nightmare years and see if you can’t find a pattern here.
 
 And so, as an Israeli, brought up with Jewish values, and an American, taught to love freedom, justice, democracy, and fair play, I have to tell all of you- Europeans, Americans, and last of all Muslim terrorist sympathizers and barbarians, that what you are saying no longer moves anyone of good moral judgment and intelligence. The current crisis in Gaza is so morally clear-cut, so absolutely a case of self-defense, that I must say to you, as someone finally said to Senator McCarthy: “Sir, have you no shame?”
 
I prefer that you – writers of these lies and libels– hate me and my country, if it means that you can save your tears for other peoples dead. We aren’t greedy for sympathy. After all, we got so much after the Holocaust, we prefer other people to have their share now. These days, we prefer to live, rather than have people cry over us and the injustices done to us.
 
So, by all means, cry for the Palestinian people – men women and children- whose duly elected leadership has callously left them without protection from just retribution for their terrorist crimes. Who took their aid money and are living in Qatar in five-star hotels building shopping centers for themselves. Who built terrorist tunnels under their homes, mosques, hospitals, and schools, and recruited their sons to die for Allah, while they sit in bunkers waiting for the U.N. to rescue them.
 
Don’t cry for us, or our families, or our children, or grandchildren. Not this time. Not ever. Not if we can help it. Because this time, thank God, we have a country. We are armed. This time, with God’s help, we know how to protect ourselves from Nazis and their high-minded media cheerleaders.