January 16, 2013: Although there have been no more rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza this year, Hamas has been continuing to improve its ability to build rockets in Gaza. Hamas recently tested a new version of a locally made rocket. Fired out into the Mediterranean from Gaza, this rocket appeared to have a range of over 30 kilometers. Iran is known to provide technical assistance to Hamas and that was believed to be the reason for this new rocket design. Hamas and other Islamic terror groups have fired over 9,300 rockets at Israel since 2005 (when Israeli troops left Gaza as a peace gesture that backfired). About 16 percent of those rockets were fired during an eight day “war” last November. Hamas makes no secret of its desire to launch another major rocket attack on Israel, when the opportunity (of succeeding) presents itself.
The U.S. and other Western nations continue to pressure Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This is popular in Israel and the foreign pressure to stop is unpopular. As a democracy Israel elects leaders who will do what the voters want. Israel is frustrated at the inability of Western nations to comprehend how opposed the Palestinians are to any peace deal. This is pretty obvious if you take a look at Palestinian media (especially outlets directly controlled by Fatah and Hamas) and opinion polls. The Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel, they want Israel destroyed. This stalemate is incomprehensible to many Western officials, but it makes perfect sense in the Middle East, where consistently acting against your own best interests is an ancient and still popular tradition.
Increased Palestinian media efforts to revise Middle Eastern history have led Israel to put tighter security on West Bank religious places that are important to Jews. Palestinian media has been increasingly declaring that Israel does not exist and that the Jewish presence in the region for over 3,000 years is a myth. This may sound absurd to Westerners but many Palestinians believe the propaganda and Israelis are not surprised. The next step is usually violence by Palestinians militants to defend this new reality from Israeli aggression. This has led to a lot more Palestinians getting too close to the border, ignoring warning, and getting themselves shot and killed.
While Fatah and Hamas agree on destroying Israel, they still cannot agree on who should represent all the Palestinians. Both the older, more moderate, and more corrupt Fatah and the more radical Hamas insist that only they can lead all Palestinians. This lack of unity and continuing corruption by both groups has led Western donors to largely withdraw support. Arab donors offered to replace the lost aid income but only if Fatah and Hamas united. That did not happen, and now the Arabs are withholding their aid as well. Fatah and Hamas accuse both Western and Arab aid donors of trying to interfere with how the Palestinians govern themselves. That’s not true, it’s mainly about aid money being stolen by Hamas and Fatah officials instead of being used to help all Palestinians.
As the Syrian rebels take control of more of the country, Israeli intelligence officials look forward to the shutdown of Iranian electronic monitoring stations. There are several of these in Iran, which listen in on electronic transmissions in Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
January 15, 2013: In the West Bank Israeli troops arrested two Hamas leaders in a series of raids on suspected terrorist hideouts.
January 14, 2013: Hamas has temporarily closed all the smuggling tunnels with Egypt so all tunnels can be inspected for safety. Over a dozen tunnels collapsed or partially collapsed after major storms last week. These were the worst Winter storms in decades, dumping a record amount of rain and snow on the ground. The tunnels are dug through compressed sand and the additional weight of all that water put unprecedented pressure on tunnel supports, causing many to collapse or visibly weaken. More rain adds more weight to the sand above the tunnels and it takes time for evaporation and gravity to reduce the water load in that sand. Since a lot more consumer and other goods are coming in by truck, the main thing the tunnels are for is contraband, like weapons, munitions, and explosives.
January 11, 2013: In Sinai an Egyptian Army pipeline patrol was fired on, wounding seven soldiers. The shooters fled. While the pipeline no longer supplies natural gas to Israel, it still sends gas to Jordan.
January 7, 2013: Egypt foiled an Islamic terrorist plot to use a car bomb against a Coptic (Christian) church near the Gaza border. It’s feared that the terrorists, who escaped arrest, were from Gaza, where Hamas provides sanctuary for a number of Sunni Islamic terror groups. These Islamic radicals believe Christians should not be allowed in Moslem countries, even if they have been there centuries longer than Moslems.
January 6, 2013: Egypt announced new appointments to lead ministries. The result is that Islamic conservatives control more of the government. Many Egyptian businessmen fear new regulations could cripple the tourism industry (because of restrictions on what female tourists can wear or do). Normally, tourism employs 12 percent of the population and is a major source of foreign currency. But since the 2011 revolution, tourism has declined by over a third and if the new government enacts tourist restrictions based on a new Islamic legal code, the decline could be even worse.
January 5, 2013: On the Egyptian border Egyptian police encountered two Bedouin smuggler vehicles, filled with Africans who paid to be smuggled into Israel. The Bedouins opened fire on the police, the police returned fire and the Bedouins fled back into Egypt with their illegal migrants.
In Jerusalem six Arab men were arrested for throwing firebombs at a building where Jews lived.