The Palestinians are united again, at least on paper. The problem is that Hamas refuses to recognize the existence of Israel and has a well-publicized goal of destroying Israel. Hamas made it clear that by forming a unified Palestinian government with Fatah they are not giving up any of their goals regarding Israel. Moreover there are few Israelis or Palestinians who believe a Fatah-Hamas alliance will last. Hamas is doing it because they are broke and desperate. The new government in Egypt has cut off Hamas, shutting down legal and illegal trade links with Egypt. Iran cut its contributions to Hamas because so many Gaza residents supported the anti-Iran rebels in Syria and Iran is short of cash because of sanctions. The Arab states that financed Hamas were cutting aid because of the Hamas refusal to settle its differences with Fatah and form a united Palestinian government. The Fatah deal with Hamas calls for elections (for parliament and president) within six months to determine who will run the new PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) government. In the meantime a temporary unified government will be formed. Hamas and Fatah split seven years ago when Hamas won elections in Gaza and refused to allow any more elections and basically turned Gaza into a religious dictatorship that refused to recognize the authority of Fatah, which still controlled the West Bank and considered itself the leader of all Palestinians.
In response to the 2007 Hamas-Fatah split Israel decided it preferred the corrupt to the fanatic. Thus Israel backed Fatah in the 2007 civil war with Hamas. Both of these organizations supported terrorism against Israel, and the destruction of Israel. But Hamas was more open about it and, worse yet, a closer ally of Iran and al Qaeda. As bad as Fatah was for Israel, Hamas made Fatah look good by comparison. Until 2006 Hamas appeared to be a growing menace in Gaza, where 1.4 Palestinians lived in an area of 363 square kilometers, but not much of a threat in the West Bank where 2.4 million Palestinians lived in 5,500 square kilometers and Fatah still was in firm control. Then came the 2006 elections and Fatah found out that many West Bankers were fed up and many voted for Hamas. This gave Hamas a majority in parliament and the right to form a new government. Fatah still controlled the presidency and most of the civil servants (most of whom where in a dozen different security forces). Because Hamas openly supported the destruction of Israel (something Fatah only said in Arabic, while Hamas would say it in Hebrew and English) financial support from Western countries was cut off. The civil servants could not be paid, and that ensured that most of them remained loyal to Fatah, or at least not favorably disposed towards Hamas. This caused Hamas financial and military problems. Gaza and the West Bank were physically separated by Israeli territory. Gaza was surrounded by a very effective security fence (no terrorists have ever gotten out of Gaza and into Israel, which is why a similar fence was later built between the West Bank and Israel.) Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 Palestinians were able to carry weapons freely, and they did. Most of the 4,000 Palestinian casualties during that period were in Gaza. In the West Bank, the Israelis still controlled security, and Hamas supporters rarely carried weapons. When they did, they risked prompt and effective attack by Israeli troops. The Fatah controlled West Bank security forces can carry weapons and they use them against Hamas. Fatah planned to try and wipe out Hamas in the West Bank and weaken it in Gaza. The Fatah edge in the West Bank forced Hamas to restrain itself in Gaza. When Hamas gunmen hurt a Fatah supporter in Gaza, Fatah responded by doing the same to a Hamas supporter in the West Bank. All this violence was not popular, and Fatah believed that if new elections were held Fatah would win back control of parliament. Hamas seemed to agree and refused to go along with new elections until the 2014 agreement. A 2007 civil war between Fatah and Hamas left Gaza firmly under the control of Hamas and the West Bank largely free of Hamas supporters and controlled by Fatah. While many Palestinians continued to support the less corrupt Hamas, they also recognized that, while Hamas might be more honest, they were less effective in dealing with the Israelis, and the Western aid donors. Hamas also turned out to be intent on changing how Palestinians lived their lives. Hamas (which began as a branch of the Moslem Brotherhood) established a religious police who tried to enforce strict and unpopular lifestyle rules and Palestinians. Some Hamas leaders may believe that Hamas will win another round of elections, but most do not. Most Palestinians prefer the corrupt to the fanatic.
Lebanon And Syria
Hezbollah leaders have painted themselves into a corner. They pretend they are doing something good for Lebanon by supporting the Assads. While that pleases Iran and Hezbollah hardliners it angers most Lebanese. Cash won’t placate the non-Shia who now see Hezbollah as traitors. But the Hezbollah leadership has to continue proclaiming their willingness to keep fighters in Syria to support the Assads or admit that Hezbollah has been the spineless lackey of Iran all along. Then there is Israel, which has always been enemy number one to Hezbollah. Israeli aircraft have been attacking Hezbollah trucks trying to move Syrian missiles into Lebanon. There have been five of these attacks since early 2013 and Israel promises more. Hezbollah has been threatening another massive rocket attack on Israel, larger than the last one in 2006. But the need to send men to fight in Syria has made Hezbollah vulnerable in southern Lebanon. There over 40,000 rockets have been hidden in basements of homes and public buildings (schools, hospitals and the like) and the threat of an Israeli military advance into southern Lebanon to find and destroy those rockets is giving Hezbollah nightmares. That would have fighting a three-front war and, in effect, fighting for survival.
Although Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian war, the Syrian government continues to accuse Israel of sending agents to aid the rebels while some rebel factions accuse Israel of helping the Assad government.
Egypt Declares Victory
In Egypt the military leadership said it had achieved complete control over the Sinai peninsula.
The July 2013 removal of Moslem Brotherhood backed president Morsi unleashed Islamic terrorist violence against Egyptian security forces and government officials in the Sinai Peninsula. This has resulted in over 500 deaths so far. Egypt responded by sending more troops, armored vehicles and helicopters into Sinai, where most of the Islamic terrorists were, and these forces have been making raids all over the area ever since. The 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel included provisions for using Sinai as a neutral zone, with limitations on how many troops and weapons Egypt could place there. Israel looked the other way as Egypt violated that clause. It’s more likely that Egypt and Israel have another, less formal and secret agreement to not only allow more Egyptian troops into Sinai but also to coordinate intelligence and counter-terror operations by both countries. The Egyptian operations greatly reduced the number of Islamic terrorists and attacks in Sinai. But according to recent media investigations there are still several hundred Islamic terrorists active in the Sinai and these survivors have been resourceful in avoiding the constant patrols and raids. The Islamic terrorists have murdered some 40 known police informers in Sinai in the last six months and the security forces have had problems recruiting replacements. But the generals are correct in that their troops have control over the Sinai, but there are still Islamic terrorists in the area and while these men may be staying out of sight they can still launch attacks.
April 24, 2014: Israel quit the U.S. peace talks with the Palestinians because Fatah has finally entered into an alliance with Hamas and Israel notes that Hamas still supports terrorism against Israel and denies that Israel has any right to exist.
On the Gaza border Israeli troops detected and disposed of two bombs planted on the Gaza side of the security fence (with the intention of hurting passing Israeli patrols.)
April 23, 2014: Fatah announced that Hamas had agreed to new elections and to cooperate with Fatah in forming a unity government.
Israeli warplanes attacked a group of Palestinians in Gaza who were preparing to launch rockets into Israel. Four Palestinians were wounded.
In Egypt (Alexandria) a police raid left an Islamic terrorist dead. Outside Cairo a terrorist bomb killed a policeman. In Sinai Egyptian air raids left seven Islamic terrorists dead and over twenty wounded. Troops followed up and captured some of the wounded along with weapons and documents.
April 22, 2014: Israel began a campaign to encourage Israeli Christian Arabs (about two percent of the population) to volunteer for military service. All Israeli Moslems (about 20 percent of the population) have been exempt from conscription but could volunteer. Israel is trying to take advantage of the centuries old Middle Eastern trend of growing hostility towards the local Christians. Hamas, for example, has been accused of threatening, and sometimes killing Palestinian Christians for not being Moslem. As a result of this sort of thing Arab Christians keep leaving the Middle East. Islam is hostile to other religions and tolerant to corruption and despotism. Arab Christians see better opportunities, personally and economically, in the West. Those who remain try to work with their Arab neighbors, but are increasingly seen as “outsiders” despite the fact that Arab Christians have been around for nearly 2,000 years.
April 21, 2014: Seven rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza but there were no casualties. In retaliation Israeli warplanes hit terrorist targets in Gaza later in the day. Meanwhile someone on the Gaza side of the security fence fired an RPG rocket at an Israeli patrol.
Hamas freed ten Fatah supporters from jail as a goodwill gesture before beginning another round of unification negotiations with Fatah.
April 20, 2014: On the Gaza border Israeli troops were attacked by a bomb planted on the Gaza side of the security fence (with the intention of hurting passing Israeli patrols.) There were no casualties.
In Egypt (Suez City) police arrested 18 Islamic terrorist suspects and Moslem Brotherhood leaders. Some weapons were also seized. The Islamic terrorists were accused to planning attacks while the Moslem Brotherhood men were accused of organizing illegal demonstrations. Outside Cairo Islamic terrorists fired on a patrol, killing a policeman and a soldier.
April 19, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) police arrested eleven Islamic terrorist suspects.
April 18, 2014: In Egypt police disrupted illegal Moslem Brotherhood demonstrations in several cities. In Cairo a bomb went off killing a policeman and wounding another.
April 16, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) police killed two Islamic terrorists and arrested 37 men suspected of Islamic terrorism.
April 15, 2014: In Egypt (Cairo) two policemen were wounded by a roadside bomb.
In Thailand police, acting on a tip from Israeli intelligence police arrested two Lebanese Moslem men (one had a French passport the other a Filipino one) who had flown in as tourists but were actually there to kill Israeli tourists. Israel provided details of where the attack was to take place and attributed it to Lebanese Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah. The two suspects will be deported because they had not done anything illegal yet in Thailand. It’s unclear where the two will be deported to. Meanwhile there are indications that police are still searching for a third man who was part of this plot. Thailand has had problems with Hezbollah before. In 2013 a Thai court sentenced a Lebanese man (Atris Hussein) to 32 months in prison for illegal possession of explosives. This all began in late 2011 when Israeli and American intelligence warned their Thai counterparts that Islamic terrorists were in Thailand planning a bombing there in early 2012. Subsequently Thai police arrested a Lebanese man, associated with Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, who was traveling on a Swedish passport. The man had moved to Sweden in 1991, but returned to Lebanon in 2003 for three years. A second man was identified, but he had already left the country. Police then found four tons of explosives owned by the Hezbollah man they had in custody. Atris Hussein admitted that an attack was planned in Thailand, but was aborted when the Thai government began hunting for the two Hezbollah men. He later insisted he was being framed by Israeli agents.
Hamas praised whoever was responsible for yesterday’s shooting in the West Bank that left an Israeli man dead and his wife and child wounded. The family was driving to a religious event when they were fired on. No one has taken responsibility for the shooting.
April 14, 2014: In Gaza someone fired several mortar shells at Israeli troops patrolling the border fence. There were no casualties.
April 13, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) three Islamic terrorists died when they attacked a police checkpoint. Starting today Egypt is using armored trucks to move troops into Sinai. This gives the new troops protection from roadside bombs and Islamic terrorist gunfire which, while rare now, do occasionally still happen.
April 12, 2014: In Gaza someone fired a mortar shell into Israel. There were no casualties.
April 11, 2014: In Egypt (Nile Delta) police clashed with armed Moslem Brotherhood men and killed two of them. In Alexandria another Moslem Brotherhood man was killed and in the Sinai an Islamic terrorists leader was cornered and killed.
April 10, 2014: In Gaza someone fired several mortar shells at Israeli troops patrolling the border fence. There were no casualties.
Fatah carried out its threat to seek more recognition from the UN and in response Israel retaliated with economic sanctions. In response to that the Arab League stepped up and promised up to $100 million a month in aid to make up for any funds (mainly taxes collected by Israel and passed on to the Palestinian Authority) the Israelis are now holding back.