May 8, 2018:
The Mossad operation in January that got half a ton of top-secret Iranian nuclear weapons program documents out of Iran and back to Israel in less than 24 hours has provided Iranian leaders with multiple aftershocks. For one thing, most Iranians don’t care about the document theft. No Iranians were injured in the operation, it was assumed to have been made possible by the widespread corruption in Iran and an Iranian religious dictatorship that seems to care more about destroying Israel than improving the lives of Iranians. When news of the Mossad operation were made public by the Israelis at the end of April the public opinion polls in Iran showed that most Iranians didn’t care and those that paid any attention to the matter felt it was just another example of how incompetent their government was and why change was needed. The Iranian government was justifiably concerned that publicizing these documents, as Israel was now doing, would lead to the cancellation of the 2015 treaty that lifted sanctions on Iran. The American president will announce the new U.S. position on May 12th and it does not look good for Iran. The stolen documents show that the nuclear program did exist and apparently is still underway disguised as many different scientific research projects.
Iran always insisted that it never had a nuclear weapons program even though the Israelis had uncovered much evidence that the program existed and the attitude of most Iranians was that the program existed and why not because Iran had long been the regional superpower. But since the 2015 treaty went into effect the promised economic improvements for most Iranians have not happened and at the end of 2017 that triggered widespread public protests against the religious dictatorship. The Shia clerics who run the government have been arguing openly about how to deal with these problems and now the hardline Shia clerics, who insist that destroying Israel be the main priority of Iran, are humiliated by the nuclear documents theft going public. Some of the hardliners want to do whatever it takes to strike back at Israel but most Iranians see Israel as an unofficial ally in the popular effort to get rid of the religious dictatorship in Iran. This is nothing new. In the wake of the American-British invasion of Iraq in 2003, and quick (three weeks) overthrow of the Saddam Hussein government, many Iranians openly called for the Americans to come invade Iran and get rid of the religious dictatorship that had been ruling Iran since the 1980s on the promise they would one day “get Saddam” for invading Iran in 1980 and starting a war that neither side was able to win. That counted as an Iranian defeat to most Iranians and to make matters worse the chaos of the war allowed Shia clerics to take, and keep, control of the government. Before that Israel and Iran were allies and a growing number of Iranians seeing that as a better arrangement than the current one. All this gives little comfort, and not many options, for the Iranian leadership.
The Realities Of The Iranian Threat
The Iranian government prefers to retaliate against Israel indirectly. Iran has long used foreign proxies (like Hezbollah or other non-Iranian Islamic terrorists) to attack Israel. Iran does not have modern weapons (because of decades of sanctions) and Iranian leaders are smart enough to realize that Iran itself trying to attack Israel would most likely result in another humiliating Iranian defeat. Israel has anti-missile defenses against Iranian ballistic missiles. Yet Iran has enough of these missiles to attempt a “saturation attack” on Israel using explosive or chemical warheads. Iran could also use a “dirty” warhead by adding radioactive material to a high explosive warhead. A few of these missiles landing in Israel, especially in a major urban area, would be a great propaganda victory. But Israel also has ballistic missiles (armed with nuclear warheads) and, worse, hundreds of modern fighter-bombers that could hit two key economic targets using smart bombs. These two targets are Kharg Island, in the Persian Gulf. This is the main export facility for 90 percent of oil and gas exports) Income from these exports pay for over a third of the government budget and these facilities cannot be rebuilt quickly. The other economic target is Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. This is the main container port handling some 90 percent of containers bringing in foreign goods, like items needed to repair damage to Kharg Island. Bandar Abbas is where all the modern tech and consumer goods arrive. Shutting down Bandar Abbas for months, or more would be quickly felt by most Iranians. With Arab states between Israel and Iran now allowing Israeli airstrikes free passage, the Israeli air strikes are certain to succeed and inflict major damage.
Meanwhile, Iran is portrayed as the evil (and ineffective) aggressor while Israel hits Iran where it hurts most. The Iranian religious dictatorship is under a lot of pressure to provide some relief for years of poverty and unemployment. The 2015 treaty that lifted sanctions was supposed to help but it didn’t. Instead, the government spends billions on the war in Syria. That effort has not yet improved Iranian capabilities when it comes to destroying Israel. That’s because the Assad government forces (including most of the 50,000 Iranian mercenaries in Syria) are still busy with the remaining rebels and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) fighters. In Lebanon, the Iranian financed Hezbollah is not very enthusiastic about going to war with Israel. That’s because the two million Lebanese Shia that are the main support for Hezbollah are unhappy with the thousands of Lebanese Shia who have been killed or crippled fighting in Syria. Iran insisted that Hezbollah send forces to Syria in 2012 and even though Iran was paying combat bonuses, death benefits and for extended medical care, the Lebanese Shia were, in general, unhappy about the losses suffered from fighting in an Iranian war. Israel has told Lebanon and Hezbollah that a repeat of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel would result in even heavier losses for Hezbollah and Lebanon. Hezbollah leaders pretend to be unafraid but the opinion polls in Lebanon say otherwise.
So as humiliated as the Iranian rulers are by the latest Israeli efforts (grabbing all those nuclear documents in February and regularly bombing weapons shipments to Syria) they understand Iranian options are not promising. Given the growing popular opposition the religious dictatorship is facing inside Iran, another major defeat inflicted by Israel is not an option. New ideas are being sought and retaliation is not yet ruled out but retaliation is seen as a move that would make things worse for Iran.
Russia is trying to dissuade Israel and its Western allies from attacking more Syrian targets, especially those that harm the many Iranians and Iranian mercenaries supporting the Syrian forces. Russia also does not want to put its high tech weapons to the test because so far these electronic and anti-aircraft systems have proved ineffective against Israeli attacks and probably won’t do much better against the Americans. This is bad for business, as Russia has been touting the combat experience in Syria to get more sales for their new stuff. It would also be disastrous for Russian diplomacy which has presented Russia as a powerful and technically advanced ally for Syria, Iran and Turkey. Although Russia talks tough against Israel and the Americans it does not want to take this any further, nor does it want to appear like Russia is backing off. Russia is in an embarrassing situation and not getting much sympathy from anyone, not even Russians.
The most often used combat edge the Russians demonstrate is their EW (Electronic Warfare) gear. This is an area where they feel they are competitive and have demonstrated that a few times. Problem is, the more you use EW the more you erode your opportunities to surprise your opponent in the future. The opportunity to test new EW gear and tactics was too great to pass up and, as the Russians have discovered, EW may be the only military edge they have in Syria (and the world). Moreover, Syria is the only place where Russia can confront their two most powerful potential EW opponents (the United States and Israel). Syria is second to Donbas as an area where Russia is honing its new EW hardware and how best to use it. Russia could still turn an EW edge into a more visible victory but at the moment EW is the only edge they have and these invisible battles continue largely out of sight and with little visible effect.
Hamas Has Another Plan
Since March 30, when weekly demonstrations in Gaza near the security fence began, 48 Palestinians have been killed. The demonstrations are all about the Palestinian demand that all Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 (as Arab troops from several countries sought to prevent the creation of Israel) and their descendants be allowed to return to Israel. Those returnees would outnumber the Jews and destroy Israel. The demonstrations are all about getting media attention for this “right of return” and trying to make Israel look bad in the media. This campaign will end on May 15th. At that point, Hamas will declare a victory and switch to another plan for destroying Israel. The demonstrations are actually a diversion for multiple Hamas attempts to get terrorists into Israel or inflict casualties on Israeli forces. That does not appear to have succeeded because the Israelis do not take personnel from other parts of the Gaza border to deal with the demonstrations but instead call up reservists and order all Gaza border guards to be alert for Hamas crossing attempts.
Earlier in 2018 Hamas quietly approached Israel about a long-term truce. Hamas has proposed this before but the problem remains that Hamas is not united and no one can guarantee there won’t be organized and persistent efforts in Gaza to carry out terrorist operations in Israel if the blockade is lifted (as part of a new truce deal). At the moment Hamas cannot even agree to restore cooperation with Fatah (which runs the West Bank) and establish a united Palestinian government. Israel is not going to try and make peace with a group that is not in control of its own territory and membership.
Hamas continues to feud with Fatah, the Palestinian group that runs the West Bank and is a bit less open about its desire to destroy Israel rather than make peace. Meanwhile, one the oldest and most powerful Palestinian backers, Saudi Arabia, has told the Palestinians to make peace, taking whatever they can get. Fatah might go for this but current Hamas leaders would not. Worse, Hamas is running out of options. Sending terrorists into Israel didn’t work (the high-tech security fence ended that). The mass rocket attacks didn’t work (Israelis would shoot back and send in troops). The occasional rocket attacks didn’t work (Iron Dome and firing back). The tunnels into Israel didn’t work (Israel extended their security fence and sensors deep underground). Offering financial incentives to get large crowds of demonstrators to border crossings is nothing new. Doing it for six weeks straight didn’t succeed either. What next? Well now the main sponsor Hamas sponsor is Iran and the Iranians have lots of new ideas, especially when it is Arabs who are going to do most of the dying. Most of the current Hamas leadership is opposed to backing an Iranian attack on Israel, but a minority faction of Hamas is all for any offensive operations against Israel.
This minority is at a disadvantage because even the Arab nations that long supported Hamas and Fatah are fed up with the corruption and inept leadership Hamas and Fatah provide. It has become fashionable for publications in Arab nations, especially the Gulf oil states and Egypt, to allow writers to dwell on the obvious; that Israel is the most prosperous and powerful nation in the region and a lot of that has to do with the democracy and judicial system Israel maintains. Corrupt Israeli politicians can be voted out of office and the judicial system allows prosecutions of corrupt politicians and sending convicted ones to jail. That does not happen with any regularity, and often not at all, in Arab countries. The leader of Saudi Arabia is openly pointing this out and trying to implement some of those Israeli features (like an efficient and honest justice system) in Saudi Arabia. This new attitude in Arab nations has made possible improved economic, military and diplomatic links with Israel.
Victory Comes At A Cost
The Israelis also suffer casualties, just fewer of them. In the past year 71 security forces personnel have died, as well as twelve civilian victims of terror attacks. Many of the security forces deaths were accidents, the result of handling dangerous equipment (like tanks and aircraft) on a regular basis.
Egypt Has Prospects
Egypt is predicted to be the third fastest growing economy in the world with average annual GDP growth of 6.6 percent over the next eight years. India is first with 7.8 percent and Uganda is second with 7.4 percent. For all three of these countries, the main threat to actually achieving those growth rates is Islamic terrorism. Egypt is the most vulnerable with ISIL still active in Sinai and the Western Desert (near the Libyan border). In the Nile River Valley, radical factions of the Moslem Brotherhood again threaten the economy, as they did in the 1990s. The Brotherhood was defeated but not destroyed in the 1990s. One faction went on to establish itself in Gaza as Hamas and take control of Gaza after the Israeli troops left in 2005 (as a peace gesture that did not work). The Brotherhood sought to take advantage of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and turn Egypt into a religious dictatorship but that attempt failed and now the Brotherhood radicals are back to violent efforts to cripple the economy. That is very unpopular in Egypt.
While most Egyptians are not happy with the return of corrupt rule by another former general (Sisi, as opposed to Mubarak), they know that if there is peace the Egyptian economy can grow and bring a measure of prosperity to most Egyptians. This is the most important goal for most Egyptians and a major asset in the government counter-terrorism campaign. Tips from civilians play a major role in limiting the strength and attack capabilities of Islamic terror groups. But the Islamic radical minority of Egyptians have been a constant in Egyptian culture for over a thousand years and remain a threat to living standards of most Egyptians and the lives of the civilians who tend be most frequent victims of Islamic terrorist violence. Thus it is no surprise the Egyptian opinion polls show “stability” is the main concern for most Egyptians. So much so that they will tolerate a lot of corruption if it means more stability. Economists tell the government leaders that less corruption and less bureaucracy would lead to even more economic growth and prosperity. That is the lesson Israel demonstrates and it has become fashionable in most major Arab nations to openly admit that and to urge Arabs to try the Israeli approach (which is also the “Western” approach). This sort of thing runs into a lot of popular resistance because for many centuries Jews, and now (since 1948) Israel have been depicted as deadly enemies of Islam and Arabs and a foe that must be destroyed. Arabs and Moslems who have spent any time in the West (especially in Israel) have an easier time appreciating this new attitude, but most people have not experienced these seemingly magical solutions to their problems. This sort of change takes time and Islamic radicals take advantage of that as much as they can.
May 5, 2018: In Gaza, an explosion in a residential area of Zawayda left six members of Hamas dead and three wounded. Hamas blamed Israel but the cause was probably sloppy handling of explosives. This is a common problem among Islamic terror groups. In some respects, this is related to Israel, which has found that targeting Hamas leadership at all levels as well as technical experts makes the Islamic terrorist organization much less effective and more prone to losses from accidents. Hamas later said the explosion occurred while Hamas men were trying to dismantle an Israeli missile that did not explode when used against a Gaza target. Hamas still has some of these missiles and bombs from the 2014 war but there are still occasional dud bombs or missiles from recent Israeli retaliation (for attacks on Israel) strikes.
Elsewhere in Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit, for the first time, the area where Hamas prepared incendiary kites to launch against Israel when the wind is right. These kites have caused some property damage but, so far, no injuries.
Elsewhere in the Sinai Peninsula the Egyptian Air Force carried out several airstrikes against Islamic terrorist targets and claimed at least fifteen enemy dead.
May 4, 2018: In Gaza Hamas again mustered about 7,000 Palestinians to try and push through the security fence into Israel. These regular Friday demonstrations usually get some of the more aggressive Palestinians killed but today there were no fatalities although 150 Palestinians were wounded. Two Israeli commercial UAVs, taking video of the demonstration, crashed inside Gaza. Palestinians celebrated this as a great victory.
May 3, 2018: In the south, a fire kite from Gaza caused a forest fire in Israel. Earlier in the week, another kite set fire to a wheat field. Civilians in southern Israel have been warned not to touch any large Gaza kites they found as some of them may be rigged with explosives.
May 1, 2018: An Arab-Israeli journalist had an article published in the last few days that once more pointed out how most of the international media pays more attention to the weekly casualties Gaza Palestinians suffer while trying to force their way into Israel. At the same time, these same media outlets are ignoring the larger number of Palestinians being killed in Syria as the Syrian army once more attacks Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus. In 2011, when the Syrian rebellion began Yarmouk (population 160,000) was the largest Palestinian community in Syria, holding about 30 percent of the Palestinians in Syria. Hamas got involved in the fighting between Palestinians loyal to the camp leadership (a Palestinian terrorist organization, which has long enjoyed the support of the Assads) and Palestinians who support the Syrian rebels. Hamas realized that if the rebels won, and during the first two years of the rebellion it looked like they would, Hamas would be driven out unless pro-rebel Palestinians take control of Palestinian refugee camps (which are actually separate towns or neighborhoods occupied and run by Palestinians.) Hamas had long received support from the Assads. But under pressure from major donors (oil-rich Sunni Arabs), Hamas turned on the Iran-backed Assads. In early 2012 Hamas moved its headquarters out of Syria and openly denounced the Assaads. Hamas apparently also told the Syrian Palestinians to oppose Assad if they wanted Hamas and other Arab states to persuade the new rebel government to allow “loyal” Palestinians to remain and avoid retribution. The 600,000 Palestinians in Syria were 1.7 percent of the Syrian population back then. By 2018 Yarmouk was largely empty of Palestinians, most having fled the constant air, artillery and ground attacks by the Assads. Far more Palestinians have been killed by the Assads in Syria since 2011 than died in Israel (including Gaza and West Bank). Most of the Palestinians killed in Israel were trying to kill Israelis. Arab journalists who are not Israeli citizens generally do not report the Palestinian situation in Syria unless they want to risk considerable backlash and risk of jail or worse.
Another underreported aspect of the Gaza demonstrations is that most (over 70 percent) of the Palestinians killed are known member of Hamas or other Gaza based Islamic terror groups. These men realize that the largely civilian crowds that Hamas has encouraged to attend these demonstrations are largely unemployed young men and teenage boys. With the proper encouragement and leadership, many of these civilians can be persuaded to charge at the security fence and closed crossing points. Islamic terrorists are equipped with wire cutters and other tools while the civilian followers are armed with rocks, firebombs, sling shots and so on. The Israelis know who the leaders are as for as long as Hamas has been in Gaza Israel has been collecting information on Hamas membership and activities. Same goes for the other Islamic terror groups in Gaza. So Israel knows most of the crowd leaders by name (and rank in what group). The goal of the Islamic terrorists is to get civilians killed or wounded and thus make it easier to blame Israel for the situation. A more ambitious (and less likely to accomplish) goal is to get close enough to the fence to plant bombs. The Israelis have managed to spot these efforts so far and disable the bombs. The ultimate goal of the attacks is to mix it up with Israeli riot control forces and actually grab an Israeli and haul him back to Gaza and hold him, or his dead body, for ransom. When the risk of this increases so does the firepower used by the Israelis to prevent it. At this point, the Israeli snipers kill known leaders and prepare to disable or kill any members of a civilian crowd that is too close to Israeli security personnel. By now most Gazans have figured out how this works and are less eager to follow some Hamas guy into a dangerous situation.
April 30, 2018: The Israeli prime minister went on TV to show the huge number (over 110,000) of documents Mossad (Israeli intel) agents had taken from a warehouse in Iran. Mossad used Iranian smugglers to get it across the border to Azerbaijan and then to Israel all in less than 24 hours. The Mossad operation, which involved moving half a ton of documents, took place in at the end of January and the Iranian effort to send a bomb laden UAV into Israel on February 10th is seen as a response to the Mossad operation. Since the documents arrived in Israel American, Israeli and other foreign experts (on intelligence, nuclear weapons and Iranian technical capabilities) translated and scrutinized the huge haul of information and concluded that the documents were authentic and proved that Iran does have a nuclear weapons program, something they have always denied. Opinion polls conducted in Israel after the prime minister’s revelations showed that 58 percent of Israeli Jews support how the government is handling the Iranian threat.
In Iran, the government had to respond to this Israeli revelation and did so by ordering the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for guarding the stolen documents.
In Egypt another week of counter-terror operations in northern Sinai resulted in 30 Islamic terrorists dead (including four known leaders), 173 suspects arrested and hundreds of hideouts and hidden stockpiles of weapons and equipment found. The government insisted that the anti-terror campaign would end soon and that would allow promised economic development projects for Sinai to happen. Like the rest of Egypt, the major source of anti-government sentiment is unemployment and poor economic opportunities. The government has done some construction but this sort of activity is something local Islamic terrorists go after because a stronger economy means less support for Islamic terrorists.
April 29, 2018: Israeli warplanes attacked a Syrian base near Aleppo containing a large number of Iranian missiles that had recently been flown in from Iran to the Hama airport. The presence of these missiles was obvious because of the intensity of the secondary explosions as the Israel missiles detonated some of the Iranian missiles which set off a chain reaction and a series of explosions so large that it registered as a mild (2.6 on the Richter scale) earthquake on sensors as far away as Europe. All these explosions killed 40 people, including 18 Iranians and 22 Iranian mercenaries. Another 60 people were wounded. At least 13 buildings, including some large warehouses, were destroyed or heavily damaged. The next day satellite photos were released showing the extent (considerable) of the damage (massive). In response of the attack, the Israeli parliament voted to give the prime minister to declare war because it was obvious Iran was supporting preparations for another attack on Israel by Hezbollah and Iranian mercenaries in Syria.
Egypt and France confirmed that they are working together to assist Libya in holding elections by the end of 2018 and thus making possible a united government.
April 28, 2018: In the north (Golan Heights) Hezbollah forces again fought with Syrian rebels just across the border. Hezbollah and the Syrian army have been pushing Syrian rebels away from the border for over a year now. The fighting today continued over the weekend and on the 30th resulted in a stray mortar shell landing in Israel. There was return fire, as is often the case, especially when Hezbollah is involved.
April 27, 2018: In Gaza, Israeli warplanes attacked six Hamas targets associated with Hamas maritime operations.
The Israeli army released video showing hundreds of Palestinians trying to force their way into Israel by using explosives, fire bombs cutting the border fence while relying on numbers to enable some Palestinians to get past Israeli troops. The effort shown in the video failed but three Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded.
April 26, 2018: An Israeli commercial satellite photo company released recent photos showing renewed activity at the underground Iranian Fordo uranium enrichment plant. As part of the 2015 treaty to lift sanctions Iran agreed to use Fordo for something non-nuclear. But now major changes are taking place at Fordo.
April 24, 2018: Israeli leaders again publicly warned Russia not use their air defense systems against Israel because if that happened Israel would retaliate (go after those air defense systems). The Israelis have developed SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) techniques for the latest Russian air defense systems (S-400) but would rather not use them because that would reveal surprises that the Russians could develop countermeasures for. That would be a consolation prize because if the Israel SEAD worked it would make the S-400 a difficult export sale. Israel makes these threats to make sure potential export customers are reminded of what is at stake here.
April 23, 2018: Israeli defense officials have repeated warnings to Russia about delivering S-300 anti-aircraft systems to the Syrian government. Israeli opposition is something the Russians have to take seriously. The Israelis recognize that the S-300 is a modern system that has capabilities. What is not said is that Israel can defeat the S-300 but would prefer not to do so in Syria. That would expose some of the techniques Israel has developed to deal with the S-300 and enable Russia to create and install S-300 upgrades that would force Israel to develop new countermeasures. That would take time and meanwhile, S-300 systems in Iran would be more dangerous to Israeli warplanes. But in the midst of all this Russian would be taking a hit as well because if the Israelis demonstrated in Syria that the S-300 could be defeated it would be much more difficult for Russia to sell these systems to export customers.
April 22, 2018: For the first time since October 2017 ISIL issued an official statement via the Internet. This one informed members and supporters about the new ISIL strategy. No surprises in that as the message repeated the call for ISIL members to return home, if possible, and organize terror attacks there. The primary ISIL targets are the “apostate” governments of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Gaza (Hamas) and the West Bank (Fatah). In addition, the Taliban of Afghanistan is the main target in Afghanistan because the local ISIL branch competes with the Taliban to control drug smuggling routes that provide large amounts of cash that ISIL in Afghanistan needs to survive. For Israel, the main ISIL message is that ISIL will not bother with Israel until it has overthrown the current apostate Moslem governments in the Middle East. So for the moment, ISIL is admitting that Israel is not worth the effort (without saying carrying out attacks in Israel has proved to be nearly impossible).
Sudan and Ethiopia have refused an Egyptian request to resume discussions about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project. Egypt fears the dam will reduce the amount of Nile River water it receives.
April 21, 2018: A fire kite from Gaza set fire to a warehouse in southern Israel.
In Malaysia, the killing (by gunmen on a motorcycle) of a Palestinian engineer (Fadi al Batsh) known to work for Hamas (designing locally made rockets armed UAVs) was attributed to Israel. No one took credit for the killing and Mossad seemed the likely culprit given the reputation of Batsh (who taught at a Malaysian university). But Mossad explicitly denied responsibility for this killing and given the current state (ugly) of internal Hamas politics the killer could have been another Palestinian faction.
For example, Hamas is monitoring pro-Fatah families of recently killed demonstrators after they have erected a mourning tent. These tents are traditional but since 2017 Hamas has, in some cases, forbidden families of men who joined ISIL in Egypt and were killed there from openly mourning their loss. For one thing, these events are often used to recruit more Gaza residents to join ISIL for operations in Egypt. Many of the recruits are from elite Hamas units and these men are technically deserters. Such desertions continue and these former Hamas men continued to get killed in Egypt, where ISIL continues to be a problem for Egyptian security forces. As part of the existing peace deal with Egypt Hamas has to crack down on ISIL activity in Gaza. With fewer ISIL related mourning tents to monitor Hamas can pay attention to pro-Fatah families who use these mourning tent situations to denounce Hamas for getting their son killed for nothing. This sort of talk is why Fatah support has been growing in Gaza and why Hamas shuts down mourning tents where they find such treasonous talk taking place. The big problem for Hamas is that such treasonous talk is common even without the fence demonstration casualties or Fatah partisans. Most Gazans are fed up with Hamas and all the other Islamic terror groups (which, these days, includes Fatah as well) and the fact that these groups bring nothing but poverty and misery to most Gazans and take most of the cash (mostly foreign aid) and keep it for themselves. This cash pays for thousands of armed followers who will use violence to suppress any opposition in Gaza. Because of this situation, it should come as no surprise why the Israeli informant network survives. The Israelis pay well in cash and favors. They also provide useful advice on how to remain undetected. As it is most of those accused of spying for Israel are not and just caught up in some other dispute. Most of the Arab foreign aid contributors have come to understand how unpopular, and ineffective, Hamas is and either cut off aid or cut back on aid and told Hamas to make peace with the Israelis or face the loss of all aid. Similar pressure is being put on Fatah. Even the Western aid suppliers are losing faith in Hamas and Fatah. Iran is becoming the major supplier of foreign aid in Gaza, which is not good for most Gazans and a growing number of Gazans are so desperate that they will openly protest to Hamas about the situation.
April 19, 2018: After more than a year (since early 2017) of negotiations between Hamas and Egypt over a deal to trade the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 and two Israeli civilians “detained” in Gaza, an agreement was reached. But, as many expected, Israel did not agree to the terms. Israel warned Egypt that major killers and those released in earlier agreements and rearrested for new offenses were not eligible for exchange. The Israelis can afford to be hardline here because this time around Hamas is not holding live soldiers or kidnapped civilians. The two Israelis held by Hamas are mentally ill civilians who got into Gaza and were seized by Hamas. One of these Israelis is a Jewish migrant from Ethiopia and the other is a Bedouin (and Moslem). Hamas was hoping to get a deal like they did in 2011. Back then, for the first time since 1985, Israel exchanged imprisoned Palestinians for a captured Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit). Hundreds of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal returned to terrorism and dozens of Israelis have since been killed or wounded because of that violence. During the 2014 Gaza War, many of those 1,027 were rearrested on terrorism charges and put back in prison. Others were known to have died fighting for Hamas in Gaza. So Egypt has an agreement that is only acceptable to Hamas and Hamas has said they will not accept anything less. Egypt has had similar success in trying to get Hamas and Fatah to form a unified Palestinian government.
April 18, 2018: Israel (quietly) and Saudi Arabia (openly) are trying to persuade the Americans to keep their troops in Syria. The U.S. recently announced that withdrawing American troops was a possibility although it appears all this has more to do with negotiations with Turkey over a number of issues, like membership in NATO and relations with the EU and America. There is also little enthusiasm in the United States for continued American troop presence in Syria. The popular attitude is that Syria and Iraq are regional problems. The U.S. helped to destroy ISIL and that effort continues around the world. The U.S. remains committed to the defense of Israel and any Arab states who agree with that, but permanently stationing troops in the Middle East is very unpopular with Americans.
In Egypt airstrikes in northern Sinai left at least 15 Islamic terrorists dead. Ground operations, which lasted more than a week left over a hundred Islamic terrorists dead, including the ISIL leader for Sinai. At least 30 soldiers died as well.
April 17, 2018: Syrian media announced two more airstrikes on Syrian air bases (one in the north near Homs and the other outside Damascus). No one took credit for these attacks, there were no photos of any after-effects and Syria claims to have shot down some of the attack missiles. Syria has to be careful with false claims because Israel has its own photo satellites passing over Syria several times a day. This has made it difficult for Syria to stage faked events. The Israelis have also made it clear they keep a tab on who has what where and that is causing problems for Iran and Russia as well.
April 16, 2018: Iran has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the latest attack on Iranian facilities at the T4 base in Syria. These threats were not unexpected but so far Iran has not been able to carry out an attack on Israel itself. Iran has been supporting efforts from its allies in Gaza but there have been nothing but failures so far. Israel recently revealed that the Iranian UAV shot down on February 10th as it entered Israeli airspace was armed with explosives. The UAV incident prompted the attack on Iranian UAV bases in Syria. Another reason for the T4 attack was also revealed; Iran had just set up a new air-defense system that might have made a later attack less successful. Meanwhile, the Iranian inability to strike a blow against Israel is making the Iranian radicals (IRGC, Quds) back in Iran look bad at a time when they are under attack for corruption and brutally suppressing widespread protests by Iranians against the misrule of the Iranian radicals and the religious dictatorship the radicals serve. To make matters even worse the radicals campaign against Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states has resulted in the Saudis openly siding with Israel and reveling in the apparent Iranian ability to hurt Israel. All this makes for a dangerous situation as the Iranians are notoriously sore losers and far more adept with technology than the Arabs.
April 15, 2018: In the south (Gaza) four Islamic Jihad Islamic terrorists died when the vehicle they were in exploded near the Israeli border. This was apparently an accidental explosion.
In Egypt, the parliament extended the state of emergency (martial law) for three more months. This gives the government nearly unlimited power to investigate anyone anyway they can, arrest and hold people without warrants or obligation to bring charges and basically run the country like a dictatorship. The three decades of Mubarak rule, which ended in 2011, was made possible by a permanent state of emergency and getting rid of that was one of the main demands of the 2011 rebels. The current state of emergency began in April 2017 because of increased Islamic terrorist activity, especially efforts to attack Israel from Egyptian territory. So far Egypt has continued to uncover and attack or arrest Islamic terrorists all over Sinai and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the country. There has been more Islamic terrorist activity coming out of Libya apparently because of recent defeats ISIL and other Islamic terror groups have suffered there. But the martial law is generally unpopular and the government is under growing popular pressure to end it.
Israel has told Russia that the proposed sale of S-300 systems to Syria was unacceptable for Israel and would not be allowed.
April 14, 2018: The United States, Britain and France launched 105 missiles at three Syrian facilities that developed, produced and stored Syrian chemical weapons. Satellite photos later showed that all of the missiles apparently hit their targets. This was backed up by cell phone photos that got out of Syria showing the damage in great detail. Russia had immediately announced that the Russian supplied Syrian air defense system had performed as designed and shot down 71 of the missiles. This was an attempt to protect the reputation of the Russian air defense systems and even though there will be no wreckage of the 71 missiles Russian insists their systems shot down they will continue with the invented story. The Americans revealed that the Syrian air defense system went into action after the missiles hit and the coordinated attack had all the missiles hitting their targets with a few minutes of each other. French, British and American aircraft delivered some of the missiles and they all returned safely. There was no response from Russian naval forces against the American and British warships that launched most of the missiles.
The only one to keep believing the Russian version are many Russians who depend on state controlled media for all their news. There Russians are also told that the Syrian use of chemical weapons in Douma was a hoax perpetrated by the British, as was the earlier incident in Britain where someone (apparently a Russian agent) tried and nearly succeeded in killing a former Russian intelligence agent who had defected to the British. The failure of Russian air defense systems in Syria is going to cost Russia export sales as well as much embarrassment. All Russian claims about the success of their new weapons in Syria will be devalued. This is something Russia can’t even discuss publicly because the official Russian position is that none of their systems have failed. Iran has been a big customer for Russian air defense systems and Turkey has indicated interest in buying the S-400 system. Turkey and Iran have to reconsider in light of recent experience.
Later today there were reports of explosions at an Iranian base outside Aleppo. Iran denied that this was the result of another Israeli air strike and insisted the explosions were part of rebuilding the base.
American and Israeli officials revealed that Israel was given over 12 hours advance warning of the joint missile attack on Syrian chemical warfare targets. This advance warning was to ensure that the missile strike did not conflict with any Israeli operations over Syria.
In Egypt (central Sinai) Islamic terrorists attacked a large army checkpoint leaving at least twenty soldiers dead. The attack force of fourteen (including four wearing explosive vests) was wiped out but not before doing some damage to the base. Troops kept the attackers from overrunning the entire facility.