Overnight, Israeli aircraft fired missiles into northern Gaza, to disrupt terrorist rocket launching teams. Off the coast, gunboats turned back fishing boats trying to enter Israeli waters, and on the West Bank, five terrorism suspects were arrested.
The radical religious nationalists in Israel are making it impossible for the government to offer the entire West Bank to Palestinians for an independent Palestinian state. There have always been Israelis who considered that the West Bank, because it was once part of the ancient Jewish kingdom, should be part of modern Israel. Persistent Arab terrorism and calls for genocide against Jews, have made the Israeli radical groups stronger, and weakened popular support for creating an independent Palestinian state. Because Israel is a democracy, the radical religious groups wield increasing power in parliament. The extremist fringe are also getting more violent. It's feared that this will eventually lead to these Jewish radicals blowing things up and killing police and soldiers.
A month ago (January 19th), the head of the Hamas weapons smuggling operation (Mahmoud al Mabhouh) was murdered in Dubai. The local police soon blamed Israel's external intelligence organization (Mossad), but were not able to produce conclusive proof. Blaming Mossad is popular in the Arab world. Many Arabs (including highly educated ones) still believe that the September 11, 2001 attacks were staged by the Mossad, not carried out by Arab terrorists. Why is Dubai making such a big deal over who killed al Mabhouh? It would appear that they are using this as an opportunity to show that Dubai will even take on the powerful Mossad to protect visitors to Dubai. Especially visitors who are wanted for criminal activity. Dubai has long been a sanctuary for gangsters and terrorists, a neutral zone where the worst-of-the-worst could feel safe, and do some business. Al Mabhouh, for example, had police from Jordan, Egypt and Israel looking for him. Al Mabhouh supplied weapons to terrorists who killed Moslems, as well as Jews, but never did anything violent in Dubai. Al Mabhouh lived in Syria, and had often visited Dubai, to arrange arms shipments from Iran, and other countries, and spend lots of money at high end hotels.
The European and Middle Eastern media got on the indignation bandwagon, generally ignoring Dubai's and al Mabhouhs' background. Plus, there was the David and Goliath angle. Mossad, despite occasional failures, has an impressive track record of killing Arab terrorists (to prevent them from killing more Israelis, as well as revenge for past attacks). The police chief of Dubai, whose main job is protecting the many wealthy criminals that visit to party and parley, is making an entertaining, if thin, effort to prove Mossad did it. It's all theater, with a macabre background and tantalizing clues.
The Dubai have only arrested two people in the al Mabhouh case, both of them Palestinians, who are accused of belonging to Fatah (the main Palestinian rival to Hamas). Fatah is being accused (by Dubai and Hamas) of assisting Mossad in carrying out the assassination. After all, Fatah wanted al Mabhouh dead as well. Lots of people wanted al Mabhouh dead. But not Dubai, as al Mabhouh was a good customer, and his death is bad for business.
Meanwhile, Hamas is expanding its security forces (police and various other intelligence and investigative organizations) from 15,000 to 16,000. This is being paid for by Arab states, who contribute the cash and assist with the weapons smuggling necessary to arm the new personnel. Hamas needs all the help it can get, because popular support for Hamas in Gaza is declining, the longer Hamas refuses to back off from its public policy of continual war with Israel (and Israel responds with a blockade of Gaza).
February 20, 2010: Fatah has arrested another 13 Hamas activists in the West Bank. Hamas has done the same in Gaza. Both groups are worried about being usurped by the other.