January 17, 2012: Israeli troops conducted raids in the West Bank and arrested five terrorist suspects. At the same time, Palestinian leaders continue peace talks with Israel, which were recently resumed after 15 months. As before, the talks are going nowhere. The reason for this lack of progress can be found in Palestinian media websites, where the destruction of Israel is discussed frequently as the only goal of Palestinian foreign policy. Israeli religious conservatives come right back with demands that Israel annex the West Bank and drive out any Arabs who resist. All this has caused more violence between the half million Israelis living in the West Bank (including parts that have already been annexed). Settlers are much more aggressive, rather than just relying on Israeli police and troops to protect them from Palestinian attacks.
Hamas gunmen are attacking Palestinian Shia in Gaza. This is part of an attempt to limit Iranian influence in Gaza and indicates the end of a decade long relationship between Iran and Hamas. Last June, Iran cut its funding of Hamas (and Hamas had to cut its payroll the next month) because Hamas would not support the Shia dictatorship in Syria that was under growing popular pressure from the Sunni Arab majority. Hamas criticism of Syrian violence against its people caused major friction between Iran and Hamas. Worse, a lot of the Iranian money was shifted to Hamas rivals (in Gaza) like Islamic Jihad (a terrorist group that still attacks Israel). Iran expected Hamas to allow local Shia to seek converts among the Sunni majority. Hamas has cracked down on that now, but Iran's new allies are pressured to encourage the conversions. Sunni Islamic conservatives believe such activity should be punished by death. Meanwhile, all this fuss in Gaza is also causing more friction between Hamas and rival Palestinian government Fatah. Both groups claim to be the sole leader of the Palestinian people. Last year reconciliation was arranged so as to allow peace talks to resume with Israel. But all this was mainly to keep foreign aid groups happy (and keep the cash coming) and both groups are still bitter rivals.
Iran was also unhappy that Hamas pulled its senior leadership out of Syria, where it has been for over a decade, and moved them to Jordan. Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, replaced much of the lost Iranian cash, but that meant Hamas could no longer restrain its Islamic conservatives (who consider Shia heretics). Sunni Islamic radical groups (like Hamas) are more comfortable tormenting, not tolerating, Shia among them. Iran's new allies in Gaza are willing to leave Shia alone in return for cash and weapons. But this is creating more tension with Hamas, which the pro-Iranian terror groups have always considered weak and a sell-out to Western demands that Palestinians make peace with Israel. Nearly all Palestinians believe that Israel must be destroyed and that everything else is secondary.
Israel is trying to restrain its many hackers from retaliating against pro-Arab hackers (who apparently don't live in the Middle East) who have been making low-level attacks (grabbing credit card info from poorly protected online merchants and staging denial of service attacks on prominent websites). Israel does not want to reveal its Cyber War prowess unless it's an emergency. It also does not want to see a lot of innocent third-parties suffer damage from a hacker war. The Israeli hackers can do a lot more damage, and garner a lot of bad publicity for Israel. Instead, Israeli officials are apparently seeking to track down the hacker (or hackers) behind that attacks and have them arrested. This is difficult, as it is easier to cover your tracks as an international hacker, than it is to track down such criminals (or pests, depending on who got hit). Israel is also reluctant to put too many of its Cyber War resources into this, as the hacker community will simply develop new methods to evade detection, once they have seen what the Israelis can do. Meanwhile, Israel is using the situation to encourage Israeli firms and government agencies to increase their Internet security.
In Egypt, Islamic political parties have generally agreed that they will not attempt to cancel the peace treaty with Israel. At the same time, Egypt has made it more difficult for Israeli tourists to visit Egypt.
Lebanon continues to arrest Lebanese and accuse them of being Israeli spies. Over a hundred arrests have taken place in the last few years and five of the accused have been prosecuted and sentenced to death. Most of those arrested are considered the victims of attacks by enemies, or organizations seeking a politically acceptable way to hurt someone. But many Israeli agents were caught, mainly because Iran supplied modern hardware and software for examining communications activity and records.
Meanwhile, the 12,000 UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon are thoroughly intimidated by heavily armed Hezbollah fighters. Hezbollah was supposed to remove its remaining weapons from the area after the 2006 Israeli invasion overran the area. But instead Hezbollah rearmed, and peacekeeper efforts to half this process are met with violence, or threats. Last year, there were three actual attacks on UN peacekeepers, just to remind everyone who runs the area along the Israeli border. The UN protests and demands that Hezbollah disarm, but otherwise does nothing.
January 13, 2012: Israel issued a severe travel warning for its citizens planning on going to Bangkok, Thailand. At the same time, the Israelis provided Thailand details of a planned Islamic terror operation in Thailand. Hezbollah was mentioned as the group behind the planned attack. The Thais found evidence that such a Hezbollah operation was underway in Bangkok. The last Islamic terror attack in Thailand was 40 years ago.
The Israeli government formally denied any responsibility for the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear weapons scientist. Israel is believed to be recruiting, training, and supporting dissident Iranians (especially Iranian Kurds) to carry out a number of recent attacks.
January 12, 2012: Israeli tanks opened fire on some Palestinians trying to plant a bomb along the Israeli border. Two Palestinians were wounded.
January 10, 2012: A small Islamic terror group fired several rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon. Israeli artillery fired back at the launch area.
January 9, 2012: The Jordanian has admitted that it is allowing Hamas leaders and their families to live (but not set up its headquarters) in Jordan. Hamas had been expelled in 1999, at the urging of the United States and Palestinian rivals. Since then, most Hamas leaders were in Syria, with a few also based in Qatar, where the new Hamas headquarters will likely move to.
January 8, 2012: Israeli police arrested a Palestinian man who was trying to smuggle weapons and bombs into Israel.