July 24, 2016:
Despite continued media promotion, Palestinian group Fatah (which runs the West Bank) has failed to keep its “knife terrorism” campaign going. Attacks are down over 80 percent since the violence began back in late 2015. Israel has managed to cope with the mayhem, which only angers the Palestinian leadership even more. Since October 2015 there have been 300 “knife terrorism” attacks and these have left 36 Israelis or foreigners dead and nearly 500 wounded. Israeli security forces detected and prevented another 250 attacks. The knife terrorism attacks and supporting violence (rock and fire bomb throwing and violent protests in general) have left 220 Palestinians dead, over 15,000 injured and nearly 2,500 under arrest. This made the attackers angrier but not more effective. Israel fears that Fatah or Hamas will come up with another form of desperate violence and convince many Palestinians that it is a solution to the problems largely created by generations of corrupt Palestinian leaders.
Many more of the attacks are by organized (often informally) groups of young Palestinians in the West Bank. Thus there have been nearly 900 reported attacks involving stone throwing, over 340 using fire bombs and hundreds of other potentially fatal attacks that went unreported because no one was seriously hurt. Meanwhile poverty and corruption in Gaza and the West Bank, areas where Palestinians are in charge, continues to flourish. This suits Fatah, which proudly and publicly pays the families of dead attackers a reward while imprisoned attackers receive regular payments to their families. Some Western aid donors have cut or eliminated their contributions to Fatah over this financing of terrorists while most Western donors ignore the practice or insist it is not done with the money they contribute.
Islamic terrorist activity is also lower in Egypt but it is still happening, especially in Sinai. Egypt also continues having problems with the economy and high unemployment. Islamic conservatives continue persecuting Egyptian Christians and the government is less eager to crack down on this than Islamic terrorism that threatens the economy or government control of territory (like parts of northern Sinai).
July 19, 2016: In Gaza Hamas ordered three more Gazans to be executed for being Israeli informants. Three more people were sentenced to prison for the same offense but avoided execution by cooperating with the investigation. Those who don’t cooperate often cannot because they are innocent. These prosecutions have become more common since 2010, when there were two of them. Back then over a dozen Palestinians were being sent to prison for spying each year, apparently avoiding execution by collaborating with the investigation. Israel has always had a large network of informants in Gaza, who provide data on military, economic and political events, as well as targeting information for air attacks. There are three death penalty crimes in Gaza; murder, drug trafficking and collaborating with Israel. Most of the actual executions are for collaborating. In 2013 Hamas announced a new campaign to find and arrest people providing information to Israel. Gazans who oppose Hamas (especially members of rival Fatah) saw this as directed at them. The informants provide details of the problems Hamas is having in Gaza, like the impact of most Gaza government employees not being paid regularly, if at all since 2014 because of disagreements with the West Bank Fatah government. Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014, on paper, to form a united Palestinian government. That merger was never carried out and Fatah refused to pay government employees in Gaza. Hamas has been hustling to make partial payments ever since but even Arab donors were reluctant to help out with this.
July 18, 2016: In Gaza another Palestinian died while working on a tunnel. This death was unusual because the victim was a member of Islamic Jihad, one of the smaller Islamic terror groups in Gaza. This is the second such death for Islamic Jihad so far this month. The rest of the fifteen tunnel deaths so far this year have been Hamas men. Tunnel collapses and accidents have been common in Gaza since 2007, when Hamas backed the construction of more smuggling and “combat” tunnels. In that time it is believed that at least 400 Gazans have died in tunnel accidents. Hamas usually blames such collapses on natural causes (like heavy rain storms) but Israel believes Israel and Egypt efforts to limit lumber and cement shipments entering Gaza has played a role because many of these recent accidents seem to be the result of poor tunnel construction compared to earlier, safer, tunnels. As a result of all these accidents, which began to accelerate in late 2015, a growing number of Hamas men are refusing to work in the tunnels because there is a widely believed (among Gazans) rumor that the real cause of all these tunnel collapses (including the unreported ones that didn’t kill anyone) were the result of new Israeli anti-tunnel weapons. This sort of thing has been mentioned in the Israeli media, but mainly in terms of new detection sensors not devices that could remotely trigger a tunnel collapse. Hamas denies Israel has any such weapon and Israel won’t discuss classified military matters like new tunnel detection sensors. Hamas also does not like to openly discuss the energetic Egyptian anti-tunnel methods which include digging a canal along the Gaza border and flooding it with sea water to collapse tunnels and make it more difficult (because of the unstable wet sand) to build new ones. Hamas also adds to the mystery by refusing to release any details of their tunneling activities. That is because a lot of the underground work is on rebuilding “combat tunnels” destroyed by Israel during the mid-2014 “50 Day War”.
July 17, 2016: In the north, near the Syrian border, a Hezbollah UAV crossed into Israel briefly. Israeli radar had been watching this UAV before that and in rapid succession two Patriot anti-aircraft missiles were fired, unsuccessfully, at the UAV. Then an F-16 got close enough to fire an air-to-air missile, which also missed. At the this point the UAV was headed back for Syria. It is unclear if this was a Russian or Iranian UAV as Hezbollah uses both. What was even more important was why three anti-aircraft weapons which had previously succeeded in destroying these UAVs failed this time. Israel has upgraded its air defense systems several times in the last decade to deal with the growing use of UAVs by Hezbollah. In August 2014 an Israeli Patriot anti-aircraft missile shot down what appeared to be a Syrian Army UAV that was probably checking out rebel (al Nusra) activity along the border and strayed into Israel. Since this could have been an Iranian made UAV used by Hezbollah (who have threatened to equip some of these UAVs with explosives for attacks in Israel) the Israelis have orders to shoot first and investigate later.
July 12, 2016: In the south (the Gaza border) A 19 year old Arab-Israeli climbed the security fence and got into Gaza before Israeli border guards could arrive. Sensors and vidcams detect this sort of thing but in remote areas of the border the system is designed to detect and track people trying to get into Israel. This is the third time since 2014 that an Israeli civilian has done this. Two of them are Arab-Israelis and the third is an Ethiopian Jewish migrant. All three are described by their families as mentally ill. Hamas has not demanded a huge ransom for these three and is apparently unsure what to do with them.
July 11, 2016: In Egypt the head of the Libyan Army, Khalifa Hiftar, flew in from Tobruk on one of his regular visits to consult with his Egyptian supporters. Hiftar has managed to keep Egypt and Russia providing support for the HoR (House of Representatives) faction Hiftar belongs to in Libya. For Hiftar Egypt allows banned goods (like weapons and ammo) to cross the border unhindered. Russia is known to have printed new currency for HoR earlier this year and has provided unspecified military support. Russia also provides HoR with some support inside the UN. This is important because Russia is one of the few countries that can veto proposed UN resolutions. Hiftar visits Egypt regularly and visited Russia in late June. General Hiftar is very capable and demonstrated this early on. He managed to create a coalition of tribal militias and army units in late 2013. This coalition proved to be very effective fighting the Islamic terrorists in eastern Libya. By 2015 Hiftar had managed to get most of the post-Kaddafi armed forces under his control and the HoR government appointed him head of the Libyan armed forces. Hiftar backed HoR pleas for foreign assistance in obtaining more weapons and other military supplies. Hiftar was popular because he was competent (having been a career military man) and took good care of his troops. This is rare in Arab armies but Hiftar deliberately uses tactics that minimize casualties among his followers. This made it easier to attract new factions (usually tribal militias). Although there is a UN arms embargo on all factions in Libya the UAE (and some other Arab states) have always backed the more secular Libyan rebels and recognized (along with Egypt and the UN) the HoR government. But these Arab states also back the UN approved Libyan GNA government that was created in early 2016. The GNA is trying to replace Hiftar. Many Arab states believe Hiftar is too important to dismiss and is the one best suited to continue as military commander. Hiftar is believed to receive some unofficial military support from Western nations, in part because he is the most competent and reliable local commander in Libya.
July 10, 2016: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested four Palestinian government employees (intelligence specialists) who had set up a workshop to make illegal weapons. The Palestinian intel officers used work contacts in Israel to buy and smuggle in some components. Several of the weapons were seized along with ammo and metal working tools.
July 8, 2016: In the east (the Jordanian border) police shot dead a Jordanian man who had illegally crossed the border and was trying to steal a vehicle (and also throwing rocks at cars). He refused to surrender and was shot dead. Incidents like this are rare along the Jordan border. Security is tighter in Jordan and bribes are not as effective for those trying to get across the border illegally. Jordan is particularly hostile to Islamic terrorist groups, which is why their border with Israel has never been an easy way for Islamic terrorists to get into or closer to Israel. Moreover part of the Jordan border only gives access to the West Bank, and another high-tech security fence blocks access to Israel. Most of the Jordanian border is in southern Israel. This is the Negev Desert which is sparsely inhabited and largely free of natural cover. A few extra UAVs patrolling this areas makes it very difficult for smugglers.