Commentary and analyses on terrorism, intelligence, security, and military and political affairs in the Middle East.
Three mortars from Gaza landed in Eshkol, according to the IDF, two hours into a temporary “humanitarian” ceasefire. Streets in Gaza and southern Israeli towns are crowded with people stocking up on essentials during the short-term lull that is scheduled to last until 3 p.m.
A big Hamas commando team aiming for a large-scale terrorist attack in Israel early Thursday, July 17, was hit by the IDF as it came out of a secret tunnel from Gaza well inside Israel. Some were killed; the rest tried to escape through the tunnel. debkafile: The question is why, after 10 days of combat, the IDF has not destroyed the Hamas underground war room for waging the war on Israel and launching rockets. It now appears that an IDF ground operation is closer than ever before, as the only effective measure against tunnel warfare.
Israel Wednesday night acceded to a UN request for a six-hour ceasefire in attacks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.to allow the Gaza population to shop for food, visit hospitals and collect their pay checks. Hamas and other radical factions added their consent overnight. Jihad Islami has not sent in a reply to the UN. Israel warned that it will respond in kind to any Palestinians violations of the truce. The Palestinians directed heavy rocket fire at central Israel early Thursday. Heavy Israeli artillery and aerial fire pounhded Hamas and Jihad Islami in the southern Gaza towns of Rafah and Khan Younes.
The IDF stopped an estimated 13 Palestinian terrorists from reaching Kibbutz Sufa early Thursday for a spectacular attack. As they came out of a large secret tunnel from southern Gaza, some were shot; the rest tried to flee back through the tunnel. It was blown up by missiles dropped by helicopters. Military squads are searching the area in the unlikely event of escapees from the incident. Hamas is known to have dug more of these secret tunnels running into Israel for attacks and kidnaps under the space around the Gaza border.
The US and EU Wednesday strengthened sanctions on Moscow, accusing Russia of continued support for the Ukraine separatists. US sanctions for the first time directly hit Russia’s finance, military and energy sectors, barring from US capital markets two major Russian financial institutions, Gazprombank and VEB, and two giant Russian energy firms, OA Novatek and Rosneft.
Moscow threatened serious retaliation in the worst standoff between the West and Russia since the Cold War. Vladimir Putin, on a visit to Brasilia, warned that the biting sanctions would boomerang and hurt the national long-term interests of the US, the American people.
Preliminary results of the IDF investigation into the incident, in which four Palestinian children were said to have been killed by Israeli shellfire while playing on a Gaza beach, showed that the strike was aimed at “Hamas terrorist operatives.” It was “the tragic outcome of the cynical Palestinian practice of hiding military infrastructure behind civilians."
The army spokesman stated Wednesday night after it was announced that another 8,000 military reservists had been called up that “the forces were being prepared for a ground move.”
Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini pledged every effort to help resolve the Gaza crisis when she visits Cairo Thursday. After meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, they held a joint news conference in the Knesset. She urged Hamas to reverse its position on the Cairo ceasefire proposal after she toured rocket-blasted sites in Israel. Netanyahu said Israel sought international support for the demilitarization of Gaza and removal of Hamas rocket stocks. Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of EU.
By early evening Wednesday, Israel had conducted 105 air strikes over the Gaza Strip, Hamas had fired 70 rockets at Israel, of which 43 landed and 23 were intercepted by Iron Dome batteries.
As the Israeli Cabinet delayed a decision on the next stage of the Gaza operation, the Hamas Wednesday, July 16, launched its heaviest barrage yet against Tel Aviv and its outlying towns, using M-75 missiles, after a relatively quiet night. debkafile: Israel faces a new dilemma after the breakdown of the Gaza truce: Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s expects it to lead the way in a knockout blow against Hamas, the Palestinian branch of his archenemy the Muslim Brothers. He would then collect the rewards. Israel wants Egypt to go first.
Palestinians report that Tuesday night, the Israeli Air Force bombed the homes of Hamas political leader Mahmoud a-Zahar in Gaza City and Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, as well as three Hamas lawmakers. None of them were in residence. The IDF also warned the civilians of the northern Gaza districts of Beit Lahiya, Sejaiya and Zeiton to leave their homes in the coming hours for their own safety.
Eight rockets were fired at Ashkelon early Wednesday, four intercepted by Iron Dome. They were quickly followed by heavy fire on Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi. Tuesday, the Palestinians fired more than 140 rockets at dozens of locations as far east as the Jordan Valley. Thirty were intercepted. Israel suffered its first fatality in the current campaign: Dror Khanin, 37, from Beit Aryeh, who was handing out food and candy to soldiers posted on the Gaza border when he was fatally wounded by a mortar shell..
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the Israeli Air Force to resume strikes over Gaza Tuesday afternoon, six hours after a ceasefire proposed by Egypt, accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas, was due to go into effect. During those hours, dozens of Hamas rockets raked town after town and village after village. debkafile: The White House called off US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Cairo visit upon finding Tehran’s hand behind the rockets. Netanyahu goes on the air at 8 p.m. to explain what went wrong.
As Israel’s Operation Defensive Edge ended its first week on July 14, military and intelligence experts were finding it hard to believe that Hamas had fired 1,000 rockets against Israel at random. They now conclude that Hamas was collecting operational data for itself, Iran and Hizballah to use in future conflicts – both about the weak points of Iron Dome and for guidance systems to lend their future rockets and mortars greater accuracy. Those experts advise Israel to send a small undercover special force into Gaza for intelligence missions to tip the scales in its favor.
Nahariya, a small resort town near the Lebanese border, Sunday, July 13, had the unwanted distinction of becoming the northernmost Israeli town to be hit by a Hamas rocket 172 km away from Gaza, after taking Hizballah Katyushas in past conflicts. debkafile minimizes the prospect of a truce for now, due to the factors in play. Resuscitating the 2012 is not on because the lead players are departed or have lost their clout. Israel will stop bombing only when Hamas stops shooting. And Hamas believes it is on a roll.
The Hamas-IDF contest spiraled to its highest level in three frantic hours Saturday night, July 12: Hamas hurled 10 rockets at the broader Tel Aviv area after one-hour’s notice, and for the first time targeted the Modiin-Maccabim-Reut cluster of central Israel. The Israeli air force reacted with heavy carpet bombardment the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip, followed by a IDF notice to Palestinian residents of northern Gaza to evacuate their homes for their own safety, as the area would be hit with great force in the next 24 hours.
As Palestinian-Israeli rancor exploded in a military duel with Hamas in Gaza, the tit-for-tat murders of kidnapped teens and firebomb-rock-wielding riots by Israeli Arabs, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented a calm front as though everything was under control. That front is about to be severely tested. The latest DEBKA Weekly out last Friday detailed how Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) behind his peace mask is secretly stirring his people up for a fateful war on Israel. He is plotting an all-encompassing “Third Intifada” - more lethal than the first two, to place Israel in extreme peril.
Another half a million Israelis came under rocket attack before dawn Friday, July 11, as Hamas again expanded its rocket radius up to Haifa, 150 km north of the Gaza Strip. A woman of 70 collapsed and died running for shelter after the Haifa siren. Two Katyusha rockets from Lebanon alerted Metullah, Israel’s northernmost town, early Friday. One landed between the Galilee town and Kfar Yuval. There were no casualties. debkafile: It came from a Beqaa village under Hizballah rule. IDF artillery returned the fire. Hamas rocket attacks resumed against southern Israel.
Israel’s reliance on air strikes and intelligence mean Hamas’ underground bunkers and infrastructure remain untouched, and ground troops are the only way to take them out.
Abbas orders the Tanzim militia reformed, in preparation for battles with Israel in the West Bank.
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