The war in Gaza is getting
bloodier. Last year, ten Israelis were killed (civilians from Kassam rockets
and soldiers in raids, or while guarding the security fence). So far this year,
eight Israelis have died. Palestinians also suffer losses (5-10 for each
Israeli lost), but they are on the offensive, in their campaign to destroy
Israel. Hamas is encouraged at the moment, because their rocket and mortar
attacks on southern Israel have killed three Israeli civilians in three weeks. Israelis
have gotten better at locating and destroying rockets before they can be fired.
That does not stop the attacks, because Hamas is offering pay and goods to
those who will work on the dangerous job of emplacing and firing the rockets.
High bonuses are paid for those who carry out suicidal attacks on the security
fence around Gaza, or the Israeli troops guarding it. Iran pays for most of this,
and Iranian subsidized violence has become a major part of the Gaza economy.
A year ago
Hamas took control of Gaza, and its 1.5 million inmates, after a week of
fighting that caused over 500 casualties (including 160 dead). Fatah was
defeated, and today keeps a low profile. Hamas has cracked down on the clan
based gangs, demanding payoffs to allow some illegal activity (especially
smuggling) to continue. Hamas takes control of most of the foreign aid entering
Gaza, and enforces its control by deciding who gets the food, medicine, fuel
and other scarce supplies. Emulating its sponsor Iran, Hamas runs a religious
police state, which mainly benefits the leadership, and makes criticism a
2008: The rising price of oil is forcing
Syria to make peace with Israel. Despite financial support from Iran, the Syrians
have been forced to cut subsidies (to keep the price of fuel low). That has led
to higher prices for everything. Several decades of cronyism and corruption
have done lots of damage to the economy, and the ruling gang (the Alawite religious
minority) sense growing unrest among the Sunni Arab majority. Peace with Israel
would encourage foreign investment and economic growth. But such a peace deal
would anger Iran, and likely cut off aid from them. But maybe not. So for there
to be peace with Israel, the open negotiations with Israel must succeed, as
well as the backroom talks with the Iranian puppet masters.
2008: The U.S. has criticized Israel for
building 1,300 new apartments in East Jerusalem (which Palestinians claim as
the capital of Palestine). Israel, being a democracy, has to placate the
religious parties, and this is done by allowing construction of housing on land the Jewish
religious groups have bought in East Jerusalem.
2008: Negotiations to free the Israeli
soldier held by Hamas are stalled because Hamas demands the release of dozens
of Islamic terrorists who have killed Israelis. Hamas demands a total of 450
Palestinians to be released in return for the Israeli soldier. Hamas also offers
a truce, but Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will uphold its end. Israel
does not trust Hamas, which has openly said that any tactic is legitimate in
the campaign to destroy Israel. Meanwhile, negotiations with Hizbollah, for the
release of two soldiers captured in 2006, are said to be near completion.
2008: In Gaza, a two story house
exploded, killing six and wounding 25. Hamas claimed it was a missile attack on
one of their best bomb makers. Israel said they had not made an attack, and
that it was obvious, from pictures of the ruins, that the explosion was
internal (from a bomb building accident). However, in "retaliation", Hamas
fired over three dozen rockets and mortar shells into Israel over the next 24
hours. Hamas likes to play down how dangerous it is to be a bomb maker, especially
since Israel has killed many of the more experienced ones, and the replacements
are less skilled and more likely to blow themselves up.
2008: The U.S. is supplying Egypt with
detection equipment for finding smuggling tunnels (between Egypt and Gaza). This
is part of a $23 million project that was authorized by Congress six months
ago. Egyptian troops have been sent to the United States to receive training,
from U.S. Army engineers, on how to operate the new gear.