. The prison is in northeast Israel, south of the Golan Heights and six kilometers from the West Bank border fence. The escaped prisoners had some outside help and a cell phone was found during the initial search for the prisoners. Cell phones are forbidden in the prison and a cell phone jamming system was installed. There were complaints that the jammer did not work in all areas of the prison but nothing was done. There was a similar escape effort in 2014, which was discovered before any prisoners got out. The current escape was accomplished by digging a 22 meter (70 foot) long tunnel from the six man cell to just outside prison. The escape took place shortly after one AM on the 6
. The final part of the plan was to complete the tunnel by digging an exit, which came up within full view of one of the manned guard towers, which was unmanned. Some of the guards on duty inside the prison were asleep and it was later discovered that guards dozing off after midnight was a known problem that was never tended to.
In the West Bank there was praise for six Palestinian terrorists who escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison on the 6
The six prisoners were first spotted at 1:30 AM by an Arab Israeli driver who saw six men running through a field near a town seven kilometers from the prison. He called in the incident and the local police logged it. The prison staff had not yet discovered the escape and did not do so until about 2 AM. Meanwhile the prisoners reached the nearest town which, like most of northern Israel, had a majority Israeli Arab population. There the prisoners discovered that their cellphone connection did not know how Israeli Arabs regarded Islamic terrorists, and had improvised, telling the prisoners that the Israeli Arabs in the area supported the Palestinian cause.
This misunderstanding was a surprise to Palestinians and soon led to criticism of Israeli Arabs who refused to help the escapees get to the West Bank. Four of the six were recaptured within six days because Israeli Arabs reported the activities of the escaped terrorists and refused escapee requests for assistance. That lack of support was a major disappointment to the Palestinian government and Islamic terror groups that long insisted that Arab citizens of Israel supported the destruction of Israel. Some of the Israeli Arab informants were identified and sent death threats by their disappointed Palestinian and Islamic terrorist critics. The only aid the escapees apparently received was at a local mosque in a town seven kilometers from the prison. At the mosque they spent an hour getting cleaned up, changing clothes and decided to split up into three pairs and seek separate routes out of Israel. One of the prisoners is believed to have reached the West Bank; his partner was thought to still be on the Israeli side of the border.
The Syrian Shuffle
If Islamic terrorists remain in northwest Syria (Idlib province), while ISIL is active in eastern Syria and Iranians near the Israeli border, the Syrian civil war will not be over. The only ones who cannot walk away from this are the Assads, Turkey and Israel. Syria has been at war with Israel from the beginning. Modern Syria was created in 1946 and Israel in 1948. Israel would like to make peace with Syria but will settle for a quiet border. Russia depicts itself as an old (since the 1950s) Syrian ally and interested only in peace and prosperity for Syria. That leaves Iran as the real interloper and troublemaker. Dealing with Iran has been a headache for Turkey and Russia for centuries, while the Arabs have several thousand years of bad memories created by Iran’s predecessor state of Persia. In other words, Iran is difficult to deal with, something everyone can agree on. That is a common problem, not an incentive to violently gang up on Iran. Yet there is an unofficial anti-Iran coalition in Syria, with Israel, Russia, Turkey and the Assad Syrian government as active members. Israel is doing most of the fighting and hurting Iran in a major way. Russia, Turkey and Syria sympathize with Iran but do little beyond that and Iran does not like this sort of thing because it is straight out of the ancient Iranian playbook.
September 13, 2021: The Israeli and Egyptian leaders met in at an Egyptian tourist resort in southern Sinai to discuss what could be done to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and other issues of mutual interest.
September 12, 2021: In the south (Gaza) Israel carried out air strikes against Hamas targets for the second time in 24 hours. Targets included underground weapon storage sites, a training camp and one of the growing number of new tunnels. This was retaliation for two Hamas rocket attacks. Iron Dome intercepted one rocket that was headed for a populated area while the other unguided rockets did not threaten any populated area and were ignored. Israel no longer accepts the Hamas excuse that such attacks are often from smaller Islamic terror groups in Gaza that Hamas cannot control. There is lots of evidence that the Hamas security forces regularly crack down on any other Islamic terror group that fires on Israel without permission. Even groups like Islamic Jihad, which often have independent sources of income, must obey Hamas or be destroyed.
Renewed violence from Gaza was no surprise because a month ago Iran-backed Hamas told Egypt, the mediator of ceasefire talks with Israel, that peace with Israel was no longer possible and another offensive will soon begin. Hamas is trying to get some sympathy and outside access from Egypt. That has not worked since Iran is at war with Egypt because it is an ally of Saudi Arabia. Hamas had demanded free access to the outside world and that means the ability to bring in dual-use materials that can be used for military purposes. Egypt reported back to Hamas that the Israelis were not backing off and would continue escalating their attacks. Egypt is not intimidated by Iranian threats either, which is a big disappointment to Iran.
September 10, 2021: In the West Bank a Palestinian man attempted to stab a policeman but was shot and wounded before he could do so. He was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment but died a short time later. The entire incident was recorded by a nearby security camera.
September 9, 2021: Turkey and Egypt announced they intend to restore diplomatic ties before the end of 2021. However, a major issue remains unresolved. Egypt adamantly opposes Turkey’s involvement in Libya. The two nations broke formal relations in 2013. Turkey and Egypt began discussing normalizing diplomatic relations in May. Egypt is demanding that Turkey drop its support for the Moslem Brotherhood, which the Turks are seriously considering if that is the price of making peace with Egypt.
The Moslem Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a political movement stressing clean government and the use of Islamic law. That has not worked out. In mid-2012 Egyptian election officials declared Islamic Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi the new president. Before president Mursi could do much, the Moslem Brotherhood radicals got violent in their demands that Egypt be ruled with Sharia (Islamic) law. That was what Saudi Arabia has used for decades but Sharia was very unpopular with most Egyptian voters. By 2014 angry voters had forced Mursi out and new elections put a former general (Sisi) into power. The Moslem Brotherhood once more became the enemy, except in Turkey, where a Moslem Brotherhood-like government had ruled Turkey since 2000 and had not had any problems with radicals. But Turkish voters were getting tired of their increasingly corrupt and inept Islamic government that seems to have declared just about everyone an enemy of Turkey.
Every time a moderate Moslem Brotherhood government gains power it fails because the radicals, there is always a radical faction, demand that an Islamic religious dictatorship be installed and this always triggers popular resistance. Some of those Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood radicals went rogue in 1987 and eventually established themselves in Gaza as Hamas. In 2005 Hamas took over Gaza and turned it into a sanctuary for all many of Islamic terror groups including, by 2014, ISIL. That led to Egypt treating Hamas as an enemy, not oppressed Palestinian freedom fighters. The Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood hurt its reputation in the early 1990s when radical factions, frustrated at their inability to achieve peaceful reforms in Egypt, turned to terrorism and were defeated after a bloody terrorism campaign aimed at the economy and especially foreign tourists, failed. Tourism accounts for 11 percent of the GDP and provides jobs (directly or indirectly) for 12 percent of the Egyptian workforce. Turkey could use the need for better relations with Egypt as an excuse to declare the Moslem Brotherhood an enemy, on paper at least. Turkish and Egyptian diplomatic officials are trying to find mutually acceptable lies to make this work for everyone. The Egyptian economy is growing again, after the 2020 covid19 recession slowed things down. Since early 2021 GDP has been growing at a rate of over seven percent. Turkey has to keep this in mind.
September 6, 2021: In the northeast (south of Golan Heights and six kilometers from the West Bank) six convicted Palestinian terrorists escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison. Built in 2004 as part of national prison system, it was soon converted to high-security prison for the most dangerous Palestinian terrorists serving long sentences after being convicted of major crimes, often multiple murders. Many of the inmates had skills and some were leaders of terrorist groups.
September 4, 2021: In Egypt a court case resulted in 31 more Egyptians being identified as supporters of the outlawed, since 2014, Moslem Brotherhood. This court ruling puts the 31 at risk of arrest and prosecution if they are identified as involved in violence against the government. If the 31 keep the peace for five years, they can be removed from the list of active Moslem Brotherhood supporters.
September 2, 2021: In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike on a weapons-development and modification facility used by Syria was destroyed. Israeli warplanes over Lebanon fired several air-to-ground missiles that Syrian SAMs (Surface to Air) sought to intercept. The interception efforts largely fail and in this case one of the Syrian SAMs kept going until it self-destructed off the Israeli coast near Tel Aviv. Israeli radars did not detect this wayward SAM but civilians in central Israel reported hearing the SAM exploding in the air. Some of the debris was found in or near Tel Aviv.
Since 2016 Israeli forces, mainly the air force, have used over 5,000 missiles to hit about a thousand targets in Syria. During this period Syria fired about 900 SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) at Israeli aircraft or missiles. Only one of these missiles damaged an Israeli F-16 and that was in 2018 because the pilot did not, as he was trained to do, carry out evasive maneuvers when his missile warning system alerted him to the threat. The pilot tried to complete his mission first and then evade. The F-16 was damaged and crashed in northern Israel. The pilot safely ejected. This incident demonstrated that the Syrian Air Defense systems could be dangerous if a pilot did not pay attention. As a result, more attacks (firing long range missiles) were carried out from Israel, Lebanon or Jordan, with missiles launched near the border. With new air-to-ground missiles Israeli aircraft were still able to hit anywhere in Syria. The Syrian SAMs did shoot down a Russian surveillance aircraft off the coast that year. The Syrians were aiming for Israeli warplanes but the Israeli countermeasures worked and the Syrian SAM turned to the next available target, which was the Russian aircraft off the coast.
Syrian air defenses use the SA-5/S-200 SAM (Surface to Air Missile) system as their primary weapon against Israeli attacks. The SA-5 is a 1960s Russian design that has been updated and Syria received the latest S-200 version of the missile in 2010. Each seven-ton S-200 missile has a range of 300 kilometers but Israel has apparently developed effective countermeasures. Sometimes S-200s fail and do not self-destruct when it has not found a target. Most of these targetless missiles would land in Syria or Lebanon if they did not self-destruct. A few have come across the Israeli border. Most were spotted and shot down by Israeli missile defense systems.
In Egypt the army discovered another smuggling tunnel from Gaza. Soldiers pumped noxious gas into the tunnel to drive out any Gazans still in it before troops went in and used explosives to destroy the tunnel. In this case three people in the tunnel did not leave and died from the fumes. Since Egypt banned the tunnels in 2015, as part of the campaign to keep Gaza-based Islamic terror groups out of Egypt, over 3,000 tunnels have been destroyed. This was a major blow to Islamic terror groups in Gaza as well as the Gaza economy in general.
September 1, 2021: Citing Iranian attacks on shipping in or near the Persian Gulf, International shipowners’ associations agreed to reduce and redraw the HRA (High Risk Area) off Somalia from most of the East African coast and deep into the Indian Ocean to a smaller area encompassing the EEZs (Exclusive Economic Zones) off Somalia and Yemen and the approaches to the Persian Gulf. EEZs extend 380 kilometers off the coast and the new HRA found that this is where the piracy risk remains, closer to Yemen than to Somalia. The international piracy patrol already had more ships watching the Yemeni Coast and Persian Gulf entrance, where Islamic terrorist groups have turned to piracy but have so far been more of a threat than successful. The threat near the Persian Gulf entrance has been increased by Iran, which tried using some of its commandos to seize a ship, but the crew carried out their anti-piracy safety drill before the Iranians could board. The crew reached their fortified safe space and disabled the engines. The Iranians tried to get the engines going but failed and fled before help arrived and killed or captured any of them. The crew heard the pirates speaking and realized they were Iranians. As usual, Iran denied any involvement. The recent missile and mine attacks were disproportionately directed at Israeli-owned ships. Groups staging an attack to make it appear like someone else did it is an ancient practice referred to as “false flag” attacks. Like many other criminal activities, rapid technology developments have made it more difficult to make these successfully.
August 24, 2021: In the north (Golan Heights) across the border in Syria (Daraa province) weeks of attacks on a rebel enclave ended when the rebels agreed to leave the area and be moved north to Idlib province. At least that’s the plan Russia is trying to make happen. The rebels don’t trust the Assad forces but the Russians have Syrian mercenaries and Moslem Russian troops to assist negotiations and reassure the rebels. Russian troops will also supervise the surrender and movement of rebels and civilian supporters to another area, apparently Idlib province in the northwest. The alternative was more artillery and airstrikes and the deaths of civilian supporters as well as armed rebels. The Syrians and Russians have been working to gain the support of the largely Sunni and Druze civilian population along the border in (from west to east); Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda provinces. This is a joint effort to block Iranian efforts to gain the support of the border population. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Queneitra and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Queneitra province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major, desperate and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts.
August 20, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) and further south near the capital (Damascus) Israeli airstrikes hit several Iranian targets. At least four Iranian mercenaries were killed in Damascus. There were a lot of people in the Damascus region, including foreign reporters, who got out their cell phones and took videos of action. This involved Israeli air-to-ground missiles hitting their targets while Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were launched but not hitting anything. Russia later reported the air defense systems they provided to Syria had again destroyed most of the Israeli missiles.