Syrian rebels who recently took 21 Filipino peacekeepers (part of the UN force monitoring the Syrian-Israeli border in the wake of the 1973 war) captive refused, as promised, to release them today. The Syrian rebels had demanded that the UN persuade Syria to move troops away from a pro-rebel village in the area. The UN thought it had convinced the rebels that the UN could not do that. Apparently some rebel factions believe the UN is lying and has persuaded most of the local rebels to go along with holding on to the peacekeepers. The larger Syrian rebel command (the Free Syrian Army) to which most rebel groups belong, has not been able to force the release of the UN peacekeepers. It’s also believed that the peacekeepers are being used as human shields against possible Syrian use of artillery or air attack.
Apparently Iran has sent more rocket experts to Gaza to help Hamas with its large stockpile of rockets. If handled more skillfully, these unguided rockets can be more accurate, especially when aimed at large targets like towns, villages, or military bases.
March 7, 2013: Syria published photos of what were described as Israeli espionage equipment found on the Syrian coast. The devices, some disguised as rocks, appeared to be day/night cameras and a satellite dish for transmitting the photos taken of activity along the coastline. Israel does have naval commandos (like the U.S. SEALs) who are trained to secretly emplace this sort of spy gear. Recently it was revealed that Israeli spy satellites were monitoring port activity in Iran, seeking to identify clandestine arms shipments headed for Sudan and other ports where such stuff can be smuggled in. Sudan allows these weapons shipments and permits trucks to take them to the Egyptian border or any other border where customers for Iranian arms are. The shipments getting through Egypt (via bribes) are intended for Gaza.
Hamas is trying, with some success, to repair the self-inflicted damage from its recent cancellation of the first Gaza marathon run. This was to be a propaganda event, especially for Western leftist groups that have become strong backers of Hamas. But when women (both Arab and Western) sought to enter the marathon, Hamas declared that women would not be allowed to run. Hamas had to choose between playing nice to Western supporters and continuing its imposition of Islamic lifestyle rules on the Gazan population. In this case, Islamic repression (as most Gazans see it) won out. Rather than endure an embarrassing debate over this move, Hamas simply cancelled the marathon.
March 6, 2013: On the Syrian border Syrian rebels kidnapped 21 UN peacekeepers, who were escorting a supply convoy to one of the border observation posts. This happened less than a thousand meters from the Israeli border.
March 3, 2013: In Gaza Hamas announced a new campaign to find and arrest people providing information to Israel. Gazans who oppose Hamas (especially members of Fatah, which rules the West Bank) see this as directed at them. Israel has always had a large network of informants in Gaza, who provide data on military, economic, and political events, as well as targeting information for Israeli air attacks.
Israel announced that it had shut down another Hamas terrorist operation in the West Bank. Details about when and how many people were involved were not given. Hamas is desperate to make terror attacks inside Israel because, despite all the Hamas rhetoric about what a bad ass terrorist outfit they are, they have been remarkably ineffective in actually carrying out any attacks inside Israel. This has become embarrassing.
March 2, 2013: Hamas blocked movement (via tunnels from Egypt to Gaza) of 28 rockets, smuggled into Egypt from Libya, because Iranian trained Hamas intelligence agents found trackers on missiles, apparently placed there by Israeli agents somewhere between the Libyan military bases the missiles came from and the entrance to the Gaza smuggling tunnel.
Three mortar shells fired from Syria landed in Israel, 800 meters from the border. There were no casualties or damage.
March 1, 2013: Hamas accuses Israeli tanks of firing shells into Gaza and wounding three Palestinian farm workers near the Israeli border. Israel says there was no fire from Israeli forces, although an explosion was heard by Israeli troops. They assumed it was a Palestinian looking for scrap metal and picking up an unexploded shell or bomb that went off when disturbed. Or it might have been a Palestinian terrorist device that went off before it could be planted near the border fence. Hamas tends to blame Israel when there is any kind of explosion on the Hamas side of the border fence.
Elsewhere on the Gaza border, there were some shots fired from inside Gaza that hit an Israeli military vehicle. There was no return fire.
February 28, 2013: Hamas has imposed more restrictions on Gaza residents seeking to travel to Israel. Exit visas are now required. Typically about 5,000 Gazans travel to Israel each month and a hundred or so Gazan businessmen are given special permits that allow them to travel back and forth daily. Hamas keeps adding new restrictions to Gaza residents, adding to the perception that they are trying to establish a religious dictatorship as strict as Iran.
The rocket fired from Gaza two days ago is now believed to have been aimed at the Ashkelon power plant. The rocket missed, but its intended trajectory could be figured out.