Showing posts with label Islamic Jihad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islamic Jihad. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

May 18 2021: Israel-Gaza War Update and Other Updates

Irone Dome System
We are in day 9 of Israel's "Guardian of the Walls" Operation.  It is unclear whether this operation is going to end any time soon - or whether it is going to spread like a brush fire.  There are many different sources for news of these events - and once again, I have to say that I am not about to provide comprehensive news coverage.  For that, I would have to work 24/7 these days - just on publishing blogs.  But I wanted to cover a few things that are making news here.

Gaza Operation

As  you know, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both recognized terrorist groups, have been firing rockets, aimed at civilians, towards Israel since last Sunday.  Fortunately for Israel, there are Iron Dome stations set up around the country which have been able to shoot down a high percentage of these rockets.  But Hamas has fired thousands of them - and quite a number have scored direct hits which have injured and killed civilians.  Two were killed today as a result of a rocket attack.  They were foreign workers from Thailand working in a factory.  These attacks are all aimed at killing civilians  That is the primary purpose of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket fire.

The IDF has responded with a massive aerial bombardment.  It has targeted the Hamas underground tunnels that encircle Gaza and provide sanctuary for Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters.  It has also targeted the homes of Hamas and  Islamic Jihad military leaders and a range of other targets.  Israel's army has made extensive efforts to avoid civilian casualties, including warning residents of attacks in certain places.  But despite those efforts a number of civilians have been killed along with a  much higher number of militants.   I should add that many of those who have been killed in Gaza have been killed by errant Hamas rockets.  Apparently, a sizeable number of the fired rockets don't make it out of the strip and explode or land in Gaza with often catastrophic results.

According to various news reports, Egypt is leading the efforts with Qatar, to negotiate with Hamas and Israel and try to bring about a cease fire.  According to some recent reports, the Egyptians told Hamas that if they were to stop firing rockets, Egypt would take the responsibility of ensuring that Israel  agreed.  Moreover, Netanyahu announced earlier today that we have "attained significant accomplishments," which some have interpreted as indicating that Israel is ready for a cease-fire.  But Hamas apparently refused the request and has continued to fire hundreds of rockets.   They are trying to get a major "achievement" - whether a significant hit on a civilian target, a military target, an economic target or some other type of "gain."  As long as Hamas continues to fire rockets, Israel will continue going after a wide range of  Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

Internal Problems

Unlike in the case of some of the past Gaza wars and operations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have managed to stir widespread sympathy and  participation in the form of rioting within Israel itself.  Last week, there were protests and riots in Lod, Akko, Nazareth, Haifa, all Israelis cities  with sizeable  Arab  populations.  I wrote  about this in an earlier blog.  In response, some extremist Jewish groups - including the Kahanist Religious Zionist party and its members reciprocated with comparable and equally deplorable attacks on Arab Israelis, under the auspices of "protecting" Israelis in the absence of the police.  There have been many arrests but it is unclear how extensive this problem will become.

In the desert - south of Beer Sheva, Bedouins knocked down highway lights and began throwing rocks and shooting at some passing cars.  Some roads were closed and Israel has had to step up security operations in the  South.  These are all considered "internal" problems but they have  stretched and taxed the Israeli police greatly.

North and East

A few rockets have been fired from Israel's northern border - from inside of Lebanon.  Last week, some of these landed in the water.  This week, some landed within Lebanon itself.  As of now, there are no significant signs that this war will expand to include Lebanon.  But the Middle East is somewhat of a tinder box and things could change at any time.

To our east, the Palestinian Authority called for a "Day of Protest" today.  Now, fortunately, this is apparently different from a "Day of Rage."  But nevertheless, there were at least  two incidents where Palestinians in the disputed territories fired live ammunition at Israeli troops.  The IDF fired back, of course.  The Palestinian leader Mahmood Abbas is very weak politically right now.  He has delayed elections in an effort to avoid suffering an embarrassing loss to Hamas and it is unclear that he can keep a lid on these  protests. 

Palestinians in these territories are heavily armed now as a result of various accords with Israel.  If the rioting and unrest spreads to include armed Palestinians in these territories, this could become a  full scale "Intifada" - this time with both sides using extensive live ammunition.  Great efforts are being made by both sides to  keep this from happening, but they will require a fairly early end to this war.


Israel tends to be fairly isolated internationally in these situations and has historically relied heavily on the United States, particularly at the UN and the UN security council.  There are only about 15 million Jews in the world and more than 1.8 billion Muslims.  So it is not surprising that Israel does not receive widespread support - irrespective of the specifics of any particular war or operation.  

To this point, most Israelis have been pleased to see that President Biden has held his ground in the face of significant international pressure - as well as significant pressure from many members of his own Democratic party.   These "progressive Democrats" and  some others have urged Biden to put  all of the pressure on Israel to stop the  operation but without corresponding calls for Hamas to end its rocket fire - or even a  recognition that the Hamas rocket fire was the source of this war in the first place.

For Israel, some of the statements from a handful of vocal Democrats, led by Bernie Sanders, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and others, have been outright frightening - and would lead to a significant U.S.-Israel rift if such sentiments were to become  policy.  On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi and others have bolstered President  Biden and refrained from taking the bait and turning  support for  Israel into a partisan issue.   

Ultimately, I certainly believe that the U.S. should  make meaningful efforts to bring this operation to a close and prevent it from spreading more broadly.  But that does not mean creating an equivalency between the actions of Hamas and the actions of Israel - or placing all of the onus squarely on Israel to end this war.  To this point, it seems to me that President  Biden has been dealing with this appropriately.  I would imagine that his actions now will also play into his future credibility with Israel and others in negotiating more long term solutions, which are desparately needed.  

At the same time, it seems clear that President Biden will only be able to hold out so long and that within a few days, the U.S. will begin to exert greater pressure on both sides to end the fighting  if the Egyptian efforts are not successful.  Prime Minister Netanyahu also seems to have begun to recognize that it is time to push harder for a cease fire even if, politically, he might prefer to stretch things out a bit longer.

A Bit of Israeli Politics

Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, has 15 days left to try and  form a government. But his putative partner, Naftali Bennett has officially abandoned him - and his potential Arab coalition partners have become politically averse to joining this type of coalition with corresponding aversion among some of Lapid's intended partners.  As a result, it seems highly unlikely that there will be a "Change Coalition" forming a new government in Israel over the next two weeks.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has circulated rumours that he is now negotiating with Gideon Saar, had of the New Hope Party (who was firmly in Lapid's camp before the war  started) and even with Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party.  It is,  of course, unclear whether there is any truth to these rumours or whether they are Bibi's way of trying to "divide and conquer" the  opposition.  Ultimately, a fifth consecutive election in Israel is becoming an increasingly likely event.  There may also be some chance that Prime Minister Netanyahu will succeed after all in forming an "all right wing government"  at the last minute to avoid another election.


Tonight is the semi-finals of the annual super-hokey "Eurovision" song contest. It was cancelled last year as  result of Covid.   Israelis love to watch it and pick the Israeli contestant by  running  a season-long reality show - "Rising Star."  The easy winner in 2019-2020 was the super -talented Eden Alene.  She has a powerful, wide-ranging, yet incredibly precise voice.  The judges were so impressed by  her first appearance in 2019's first episode, that it was instantly clear that she would win - even at the start of the three-month season.  Probably reminiscent of the year in which Kelly Clarkson won American Idol - 2002, I believe.   There too, it was instantly clear that there was a contestant that  no other singer could beat. 

Alene's entry in 2020, was the highly acclaimed "Feker Libi" which included a wide range of musical influences.  Many Israelis thought she had a very good chance of winning the contest.  But alas, Covid arrived and Eurovision 2020 was  one  of its casualties.

Since the 2020 event was cancelled, Alene was given another chance.  But the Israeli production team put together a new song called "Set Me Free."  The song is somewhat less compelling.  Now Ms Alene not only has an inferior song to work with - she is also facing the political fallout of the Gaza war.  Eurovision is a notoriously political event.  Given the events that are currently taking place - it is very unlikely that Alene will have a chance of winning - even though she is incredibly talented.  As cheesy as the contest is, we will probably try to watch some of it to support her but she is facing quite an uphill battle.  Even if she loses, I would predict that she will still become a superstar in Israel and perhaps, internationally as well.


Shavuot has come and gone here in Israel (it is only one day long whereas it is two days long everywhere outside of Israel).  I couldn't pass up on an opportunity to  include a small photo of my promised cheese blintzes which we were able to enjoy  over an outside evening dinner  on Sunday night - even despite the difficulties taking  place across the country.  There are still a few left so if you are planning a visit - just ask and we will save a few.

I think I will end this for  now by noting that I am quite excited, as a distraction to see the Toronto Maple Leafs playing against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs (that's Ice Hockey in case you weren't sure).  While in Israel, that means watching games that start at 2:30 a.m.  Perhaps I will be in Toronto for some of the games though it doesn't look  like there will be any fans in the stands in Canada any time soon (unlike the U.S. where hockey arenas are being filled up thousands of fans as if the virus had ended).  Usually, the Toronto Maple Leafs find a way to  disappoint their fans.  After all, they have not won a championship since 1967.  I'm not optimistic that this year will be any different but I always enjoy watching hockey playoffs.

Hopefully things will calm down here in Israel very soon - and will stay calm in the rest of the world as well (I have seen some very disturbing reports of demonstrations and  violence aimed at the Jewish community in London and other cities around the world - including Toronto and Montreal).  

Wishing everyone the best of health and hoping to see some of you soon in Toronto - or, of course, here in Israel.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Operation Pillar of Cloud: Wrapped Up - For Now?

It has been a relatively quiet day so far in Israel, with the sound of thunder replacing the sounds of airplanes and rockets.  A rain storm is expected in parts of Israel and that certainly beats a missile storm.  A cease fire, sponsored primarily by Egypt, was put into place last night at approximately 9 p.m..  Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions continued to fire rockets at Israel for about another 2 hours after that time, but Israel did not respond to these provocations and the cease fire took hold.

It was a particularly bitter day of fighting for both sides yesterday.  A terrorist bombed a passenger bus in central Tel-Aviv, injuring a large number of people, and many rockets were fired at Israeli cities and towns in the south.  Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force responded by stepping up its campaign and bombing numerous targets in the Gaza Strip.

Many Israelis, particularly in the south, opposed the cease fire and were urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the decision to launch a full scale ground invasion of Gaza in an effort to make it less likely that Hamas would launch another barrage of rockets at Israel any time soon.  However, Netanyahu faced enormous world pressure from numerous quarters, including, most significantly, the U.S. and chose not to proceed with the ground assault.   There were also many in Israel who viewed a cease fire as a possible opportunity to work on some sort of longer lasting arrangement with Hamas and the Palestinians.

Although many Palestinians in Gaza are reportedly celebrating - and Hamas has declared November 22 to be a "national holiday," it is really hard to believe that this was a victory of any sort for Palestinians.  More than 100 Palestinians were killed, hundreds more were injured, and Gaza suffered major damage as a result of Israeli attacks.  Although Hamas succeeded in hitting Israeli targets and causing damage, it sustained very major damage to its military infrastructure and weapons caches and other types of damage as well.

This was also not a victory for Israel.  Although Operation Pillar of Cloud caused significant damage to Gaza's military capabilities and its leadership, Israel also suffered from several missile attacks that hit its cities and killed and injured its residents.

YNet News has reported the following statistics:

More than 1500 rockets and missiles were fired at Israel by Hamas and its cohorts;
875 exploded in open areas in Israel;
421 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, which only intercepts projectiles that are likely to cause damage;
152 rockets and misssiles landed in the Palestinian territories;
More than 500 people were treated in Israeli hospitals for war-related innjuries over the 8 day operation.

Al-Jazeera reports that an estimated 162 Palestinians in Gaza were killed during Operation Pillar of Cloud but it is unclear how  many of these people were civilians.  It is also unclear whether this number is even accurate.  Various sources report that the IDF attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza over the course of the 8 day operation.

Haaretz printed an excellent post-mortem article, written by Chemi Shalev called Gaza Requiem which provides a fairly balanced picture of things, in my view.

It is unclear how long this "truce" will last.  It could be days, weeks or even months.  Hopefully both sides, and other international players interested in a peaceful resolution, will make a push to broaden the cease fire and make efforts to reach a wider and longer lasting peace deal.  Failing to do so will simply usher in another round of violence and the fighting in the region will continue.  While many pessimists insist that this is bound to be the case, we can only hope that the pessimists can eventually be proven wrong.

On a personal note, I was at a wedding in central Israel last night.  Invited guests included more than 100 military personnel, many of whom were close friends of the groom.  With the current military situation, the groom had been advised that very view of his friends would be able to attend.  As the cease fire was announced, just in time, a large number of these invited guests were able to come straight from their posts to the wedding - dressed in full military gear and fully armed.  But it was a bit of joyous timing for the bride and groom who were able to celebrate with many of their friends and were also able to enjoy their wedding with the knowledge that a truce had been reached.