Commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, security, and military and political affairs in the Middle East.
Cabinet members approved by phone Thursday the mobilization of another 10,000 IDF reservists for the Gaza war, the day after confirming the first batch of 2,000.
Israel has entered a new stage in its war on Hamas, called by Binyamin Netanyahu “hammering to halt attrition.” It started with the assassination attempt on Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, with unclear results, and was followed by the liquidation of Hamas’ three top southern Gaza commanders. The assassination campaign has the potential to expand and prolong the Gaza conflict, with a diplomatic resolution fading. Netanyahu faces a mutiny by a group of ministers who object to the way he and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are managing the war.
An Israeli man was seriously injured by a triple-rocket strike against a community center in Eshkol District Thursday. Buildings were heavily damaged.
The Pentagon reported that US military forces secretly raided Syria recently in an unsuccessful attempt to free American journalist James Foley before he was murdered by IS - in response to sharp criticism for not doing enough to save his lilfe. The raid involved dozens of special operations forces from all US military services, including the 160th special operations aviation regiment. They flew into Syria in defiance of air defense batteries in modified Black Hawk helicopters, with “armed fixed-wing aircraft and drones” providing cover for forces on the ground. Yet the operation failed after a firefight with IS forces when “the hostages were not present at the targeted location,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary.
The military wing of Hamas reported Thursday that Israel had overnight killed two of its high-ranking commanders: Raad al-Attar aka Abu Ayman, head of the Rafah Brigade, and Muhammed Abu Smaala aka Abu Khalil, head of the Southern Brigade.
After accusing Israel of a conspiracy, a senior Hamas official, Saleh Al-Arouri, admitted finally that his group had carried out the “heroic” act of kidnapping and murdering Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-Ad Shear in the Hebron area last June. This crime triggered a major IDF offensive against Hamas on the West Bank. The terrorists retaliated with blanket rocket attacks on the Israeli population – up until the present.
Friday, July 18
- Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, Herzliya, Nahal Brigade
Saturday, July 19
- Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, Holon, Paratroopers 101st Battalion
- Second Lt. Bar Rahav, 21, Ramat Yishai, Engineering Corps
- Maj. (Res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, Hod Hasharon
- Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, Nahariya, Armored Corps
Sunday, July 20
- Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, Los Angeles, Golani Brigade. Lone soldier who came to Israel without family to enlist in the IDF; 20,000 people turned out for his funeral Wednesday at Mt. Herzl.
- Staff Sgt. Shachar Tase, 20, Pardesiya, Golani Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, Kfar Azar, Golani Brigade
- Sgt. Shon Mondshine, 19, Tel Aviv, Golani Brigade
- Sgt. Ben Itzhak Oanounou, 19, Ashdod, Golani Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Oren Simcha Noach, 22, Hoshaya, Golani Brigade
- Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, 32, Rehovot, Golani Brigade
- Capt. Zvika Kaplan, 28, Kibbutz Merav, Golani Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Oz Mendelovich, 21, Talmon, Golani Brigade
- Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, Ra’anana, Golani Brigade, lone soldier from Texas, US. His funeral was attended by 30,000 Maccabi Soccer Club fans.
- Sgt. Gilad Yaakobi, 21, Kiryat Ono, Golani Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Moshe Malko, 20, Jerusalem, Golani Brigade
Monday, July 21
- Lt. Col. Dolev Keider, 38, Modi’in, OC Gefen Battalion of Bahad 1
- Sgt. Nadav Goldmacher, 23, Be’er Sheva, Bahad 1
- Warrant Officer Bayhesain Kasahun, 39, Netivot, Northern Brigade, Gaza Division
- Staff Sgt. Tal Ifrach, 21, Rishon Lezion, Golani Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, Kfar Sava, Golani Brigade
- First Lt. Yuval Heiman, 21, Efrat, Bahad 1
- Master Sgt. (res.) Ohad Shemesh, 27, Beit Elazari, Givati Brigade
- Sgt. First Class Oded Ben Sira, 22, Nir Etzion, Nahal Brigade
- Staff Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun, 22, Ashkelon, Golani Brigade. He was a French citizen and "lone soldier" who came from France to volunteer for this fighting unit of the Israeli army.
Tuesday, July 22
- First Lt. Natan Cohen, 23, Modi’in, Armored Corps
- Staff Sgt. Avitar Torjaman, 20, Beit Sha’an, Paratroopers
- Capt. Dmitry Levitas, 26, Jerusalem and Kibbutz Geshur, Armored Corps
Wednesday, July 23
- Lt. Paz Eliahu, 22, Evron
- First Sgt. Shachar Dover, 20, Ginegar
- Lee Matt, 19, Eilat.
Friday, July 25
- 1st Sgt. Yair Ashkenazi, 36, from Rehovot.
A lawyer, he served in the reserves of Bahad 1.
- 1st Sgt. Guy Levi, 21, from Kfar Veradim, of the armored corps.
- 1st Sgt Oron Shaul, 21 of the Golan Brigade, from Poria Elit, first reported missing, now confirmed fallen in action.
- Staff Sgt. Guy Boyland, 21, from Ginosar, a combat engineer.
- 1st Sgt. Amit Yeori, 20 from Jerusalem, combat engineer.
- Lt. Roy Peles, 21, from Tel Aviv; Avraham Greenzweig, 21, from Petah Tikva, of the Nahal Brigade.
- 1st Sgt. Gal Bason, 21, from Holon, an IDF combat engineer.
Saturday, July 26
- Capt. Liad Lavi, 22, from Sde Nitzan, paratrooper, died of his wounds.
- Master Sgt. Rami Kachlon, 39, from Hadera, paratrooper, died of his wounds.
Sunday, July 27
- Master Sgt. Barak Rafael Degorker, 27, from Gan Yavneh, was killed on the Israeli-Gaza border by a mortar shell.
Monday, July 28
- 1st Sgt. Eliav Eliahu Haim Kachlon, 22, from Safed.
- Master Sgt. Meidan Maimon Biton, 20, from Netivot
- Master Sgt. Niran Cohen, 20, from Tiberias
- Master Sgt. Adi Bariga, 23, from Bet Hashikma
- 1st Sgt. Moshe Danino, 20, from Jerusalem
- Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, 18, from Tsofim
- Sgt. Narkai Yishai Shor, 21, from Jerusalem
- Sgt. Sagi Erez, 19, from Kiryat Ata
- Sgt. David Deri, 18, from Jerusalem
- Sgt. Nadav Raymond, 19, from Shdamot Devora.
Wednesday, July 30
- 1st Sgt. Matan Gottlieb, 21, from Rishon Lezion
- 1st Sgt. Omer Hai, 21, from Savion
- 1st Sgt, Guy Algranati, 20, from Tel Aviv.
Friday, August 01
- Sgt. Maj. (res) Daniel Marash, 22, from Rishon Lezion
- Capt. Omri Tal, 22, from Yahud;
- 1st Sgt. Shay Kushnir, 20, from Kiryat Motzkin.
- St.-Sgt. Noam Rosenthal, 20, from Meitar.
- Capt. (res.) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, from Ezuz.
- Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba, Givaty Brigade
- St.-Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem, Givaty Brigade.
- Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba, Givaty Brigade (who was first reported captured)
Asked at a televised conference Wednesday whether Israel had targeted Hamas military chief Muhammed Deif, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu avoided a direct reply, saying only: "All terrorist chiefs are legitimate targets; none are immune."
Other points he made:
- No let-up in campaign to overthrow Hamas rule; it will take time and endurance and is part of the world struggle against Islamist terror. But behind its bragging, Hamas has been cruelly impaired.
- If Hamas tries to launch a war of attrition, it will be pulverized.
- The dramatic events in the Mid East present Israel with a new political horizon, with a role for Mahmoud Abbas if he accepts the end of terror.
DEBKAfile: He was referring to the Israeli alignment taking shape with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.
- There is no crisis with the US. Relations are excellent. Obama administration backup for Israel in its fight against Hamas is worthy of praise and includes support for Gaza’s demilitarization.
A masked Hamas spokesman Wednesday denied the Fox News claim that the group’s military chief Muhammed Deif had died in an Israeli air strike in Gaza Tuesday night, asserting Israel had failed. “Just as Deif brought rockets against Israeli towns, he would bring Hamas to the courtyards of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. “The Hamas spokesman advised Israelis and international airlines not to reach Ben Gurion airport at 6 a.m. Thursday. Soccer fans should stay away from matches over the weekend, he said, and people living near the Gaza Strip had better not stay home. The negotiating track is dead, he said.
By Wednesday evening, Hamas had fired 130 rockets into Israel, ranging from locations close to the Gaza Strip to Greater Tel Aviv, where a missile, claimed by Hamas to have been an M75, was knocked out of the sky by Iron Dome. Altogether 15 rockets were intercepted. There were no casualties. Israel has carried out more than 60 air strikes over the Gaza Strip since midnight in a continuous bombardment.
Islamic State terrorists released a video online Tuesday night, Aug. 19, showing the beheading of American photo-journalist James Wright Foley, 40, abducted in Syria 22 months ago, after threatening to punish the US and Britain for air strikes in Iraq. debkafile: IS forces are gearing up for a counter-offensive against the Peshmerga and Iraqi army, as another deterrent to further US or foreign intervention in the Iraq war. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has taken some of Saddam Hussein’s most professional and experienced army officers as advisers.
Direct hit to Hof Ashkelon home in the ongoing rocket blitz from Gaza blanketing dozens of Israeli towns and communities Wednesday. The house happened to be empty. Heavy damage caused to property in the Eshkol District. No casualties. Iron Dome intercepted four rockets in the past hour. The army is standing by for orders from the security cabinet, which is due to convene and determine Israel’s reaction to Hamas ceasefire violations.
Wednesday morning, the IDF interrupted the process of demobilizing reservists called up to serve in the first month of Operation Defensive Edge against Hamas terrorists. Notices went out to 2,000 reservists waiting to go home that their special military service has been extended.
debkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Egyptian-brokered draft deal Israeli and Hamas delegates inked in Cairo Monday night, Aug. 18, said to contain, in return for a Hamas commitment to withhold rocket fire on the Israeli population, a number of major Israeli waivers. The draft is subject to endorsement by the Israeli security cabinet, which does not convene until Tuesday. They may entail lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip by permission to establish deep sea and air ports - before Hamas is made to disarm, and also talks on releasing prisoners.
Israelis were stunned Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19, when rocket fire suddenly erupted from the Gaza Strip against Beersheba and Netivot, after they had been lulled into a sense of false security by the suspension of Hamas attacks for 135 hours. debkafile: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s stubborn belief that Hamas really, really wants to end hostilities prevented Israel from inflicting a final defeat on the Palestinian fundamentalists and opened the way to a war of attrition. The Israeli public is losing patience with the uncertainty and showing signs of defiance.
A narrow, or partial, accord between Israel and Hamas was initialed in Cairo Monday, Aug. 18, say Palestinian sources. Israel does not confirm this. Hamas reportedly agreed not to resume rocket fire when the latest ceasefire ran out at midnight, while Egypt and Israel said to have consented to reopen their border crossings for the delivery to the Gaza Strip of humanitarian assistance. The issue of demilitarization was left till later. Thursday, Mahmoud Abbas is due to discuss with Khaled Meshaal in Qatar the start of Palestinian Authority operations in Gaza.
After a month of fighting in Gaza and the onset of another surreal ceasefire, debkafile’s sources clue in those readers who are understandably a bit baffled about the war and where Israel stands: Although a five-day ceasefire was announced in Cairo Wednesday night, neither Israel nor Hamas had by Friday, Aug. 15, officially acknowledged a truce is in place. Obama and Netanyahu continue to lock horns as Jerusalem runs the war without Washington’s input. As for the conflict's end, every effort at diplomacy with the Hamas terrorists has so far fallen flat.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Saudi Arabia are pushing Netanyahu to go for the full-scale ground incursion against Hamas in Gaza that he doesn’t want, while the Israeli prime minister continues to keep the US out of his decisions.
Obama’s plan to use Iran to push IS out of Iraq is hitting a rough patch as the Islamists are undeterred and continue their onslaught in Kurdistan, which the US has all but abandoned.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi tries to convince Putin to join the Israel-Saudi-Egypt alliance against US policy in the Mid East and bolster Assad as an anti Al Qaeda force.
The newly elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan, bolstered by a US arms deal, has Israel’s leaders preparing for a potential Turkish air or sea attack.
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