March 20, 2017:
Israel considers Iran its primary security concern, accounting for about 80 percent of Israeli planning and preparation for future conflict. It’s not just Iran itself but also the foreign operations Iran undertakes against Israel, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Assad government in Syria and a network of smaller terrorist operations worldwide. An example of this is the Iranian efforts to get Hezbollah large quantities of more effective rockets and ballistic missiles as well as building a Syrian branch of Hezbollah. Israel has bombed most of these shipments as trucks sought to get the weapons from Syria into Lebanon. Seeking a safer alternative Iran has instead provided Hezbollah with the cash and technical assistance to build factories in Lebanon. The tech can be emailed and nearly all the components are dual use (have military and non-military uses). But the location of these factories has to be concealed, either as a factory that effectively pretends to be non-military (like one that produces civilian goods some of the time and high-tech rockets or missiles some of the time.) Such dual use factories could be used as a media deception if they were bombed and Hezbollah denied that weapons were being made there. Hezbollah controls most of the media in Lebanon (via threats or bribes) and that includes foreign news organizations. The same technique is used in Gaza. That makes it easier to carry out a deception like this.
While Russia is in Syria to defeat ISIL (officially) and keep the Assads in power (semi-officially) they also want to maintain good relations with Israel. But Israel has made it clear that there can never be peace in Syria if Iran tries to establish a permanent presence there. The Iranians say they will and the Russians (so far) have said they oppose that. Iran wants to stay in Syria as part of its decades old effort to destroy Israel. Meanwhile Israel says it can live with the Assads as long as Iran is no maintaining a military presence in Syria. Many Turks agree with Israel on that point.
Most Israelis back the rebels and because of that many Syrians have come to see Israel as a friend rather than a threat. For example Israel continues to quietly provide medical care for badly hurt Syrians who show up (usually at night) on the Israeli border. Since 2011 nearly 3,000 Syrians have been treated, most of them in the last two years. Israeli border guards regularly allowed badly wounded Syrians in and sent them to Israeli hospitals for medical care. Until mid-2015 Israel would transport badly wounded Syrians to Israeli hospitals outside the Golan Heights. After 2015 treatment was provided at the border, using a temporary hospital set up there. By 2015 over a thousand Syrians had received such treatment. In 2013 Israel set up a military field hospital on the Golan Heights to deal with the growing number of wounded Syrians. Israel lets some of these in for treatment but considers doing this long-term a security risk. So a heavily guarded field hospital right near the Syrian border is now used to treat all the injured. No Syrians will be moved to the interior because of fears that Islamic terror groups are seeking to infiltrate their people into Israel via the hospital care program.
The current government has much in common with the military dictators that have run Egypt since the 1950s. As did the pre-2011 Mubarak dictatorship the current government has largely eliminated large-scale anti-government demonstrations and is concentrating on Islamic terrorist groups, which the Mubarak government fought and defeated in the 1990s. The economy is now in worse shape than it was under Mubarak and at least the current government is paying more attention to that. The 1990s Islamic terrorist uprising has returned in a smaller, more extreme version featuring the Egyptian branch of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) as well as some al Qaeda (which is now run by Egyptian survivors of the 1990s defeat). The more extreme members of al Qaeda went on to found ISIL in 2012.
The problem was that ousting Mubarak in 2011 did nothing (or very little) to the thousands of wealthy families that actually run Egypt and long benefitted from Mubarak rule (in return for loyalty and support). When the Moslem Brotherhood got elected after 2011 to form a government they made the mistake of giving into their radical faction and trying to impose Islamic law on all Egyptians. This was very unpopular and the Moslem Brotherhood was overthrown by another popular uprising in 2013. Then another (like Mubarak) military man was elected president and it was back to business as usual. One side effect of that was a court recently dismissing most of the charges against Mubarak who is now apparently going to escape any real punishment, as are his sons. Court decisions like that bring out more protestors but not enough to overthrow the new government run by a former general elected to the job. Most Egyptians was to see if the new general-in-charge can get the economy going and restore order. The new government probably will, but at the cost of any real efforts to curb corruption or enact other needed reforms.
The current government comes from the same wealthy and military families that supported the decades old Mubarak dictatorship and they are apparently trying to figure out how to get a compliant (or at least not too troublesome) parliament without too obviously rigging the vote (and creating an embarrassing worldwide media mess.) Also worrying is the inability of the courts to convict any of the Mubarak era officials of corruption and to reverse convictions obtained before the military coup in 2012. At the same time courts have been sentencing pro-democracy activists to jail for holding demonstrations or simply backing such activities with Internet posts.
General Abdel Fattah al Sisi got elected president in 2014 mainly because he was seen as responsible for forcibly removing the ineffective (in reviving the economy) and unpopular Moslem Brotherhood from control of the government in July 2013 via a military coup. Making that removal stick has led to over 2,000 dead since then, mostly Moslem Brotherhood supporters and Islamic terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Some 20,000 (or more) Moslem Brotherhood members are in jail. About 3o percent of the dead have been soldiers and police, which has made the counter-terrorism effort into a quest for vengeance by the security forces.
March 19, 2017: Israeli aircraft hit another Hezbollah convoy inside Syria during the night in an operation the Israelis would not take credit for. The Israelis did warn the Syrian government that, if necessary, they would destroy the Syrian air defense systems (bases, radars and missile launchers around Damascus and in other areas the government has retained control of since 2011) if the Syrians tried to again use their antiquated anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli aircraft. Syrian ally Russia felt compelled to publicly chastise Israel and ordered the Israeli ambassador to explain this bad behavior. Israel and Russia are also allies and do not want to fight each other. That would be expensive for Israel and probably embarrassing for Russia. Despite this public demonstration of anger Russia understands that Israel has a legitimate need to protect itself from Iranian attack via Hezbollah or similar Assad forces.
In Egypt (northern Sinai) troops arrested 37 locals suspected of belonging to Islamic terrorist groups. The troops also found and destroyed two smuggling tunnels because they were being used to move Islamic terrorists between Gaza and Egypt. The security forces often arrest anyone in the vicinity of recent criminal or Islamic terrorist activity and hold them without charges. Some are murdered in an effort to obtain information and simply disappear from police records. In Sinai the victims are usually Bedouin tribesmen, who are easier for a soldier or policeman from the Nile River region to spot when ordered to round up the usual suspects. For thousands of years the Sinai tribes (usually Bedouin) have been unruly subjects of Egyptian governments.
March 18, 2017: In Egypt (northern Sinai) a roadside bomb hit an armored vehicle and killed five soldiers. The military said it would retaliate and shortly thereafter the air force bombed suspected Islamic terrorist locations in remote areas.
March 17, 2017: Israel used an Arrow 3 anti-missile missile to shoot down a Syrian SA-5 anti-aircraft missile that had been fired at four Israeli jets bombing a target (new weapons for Hezbollah) in eastern Syria near Palmyra. Apparently the SA-5s missed the Israeli jets and were headed into Israeli air space and Arrow 3 was fired just in case it was a ballistic missile. This was the first time the Arrow 3 has been used in a combat situation. The SA-5 is a 1960s design that Russia has updated and Syria received the latest S-200 version of the missile in 2010. This seven ton missile has a range of 300 kilometers but Israel has apparently developed effective countermeasures.
In the West Bank a Palestinian man was shot dead while he was throwing firebombs at Israeli cars on the road.
March 16, 2017: Israeli warplanes hit two Hamas targets in Gaza in retaliation for yesterday’s rocket attack (that hit an uninhabited area.)
In Egypt police arrested a local man and accused him of recruiting young Egyptians for ISIL. While ISIL is a problem mainly in Sinai, Egypt is aware that ISIL is competing with radical Moslem Brotherhood factions to create more Islamic terrorist groups willing to operate in the densely populated Nile River Delta area, where most Egyptians live and where many of the best terrorist targets are.
March 15, 2017: An Israeli UAV crashed in northern Gaza. The 4.6 kg (10 pound) Skylark UAV is used by infantry units for reconnaissance. The battery powered UAV can stay aloft 90 minutes at a time and came down because of component failure. Skylarks have gone down at least twice before in Gaza. Skylarks are one of the most frequently used UAVs over Gaza and counter-terror operations in general.
March 13, 2017: In Jerusalem a Palestinian man was shot dead at 4 AM after wounding two police with a knife.
In Egypt former dictator Hosni Mubarak, under arrest since his overthrow in 2011, was ordered released by the prosecutor after an appeals court overturned the last of the murder and corruption charges against him. The current president Sisi, also a former general, refused to approve the release of Mubarak because of some murky dispute involving the Sisi clan (who are now getting rich) and the Mubarak clan (that wants to hold onto most of their pre-2011 loot). Local and foreign courts have been freezing or seizing millions of dollars of cash and property the Mubarak clan had stolen over the years.
March 12, 2017: Saudi Arabia agreed to resume oil shipments to Egypt and the first one arrived a week later. This ends a feud between Saudi Arabia and Egypt that halted shipments of oil since October 2016. This was all because Egypt refused to vote against a Russian peace proposal in the UN that was favored by Iran and the Iran backed Syrian government. All other Arab states opposed backed the Saudis, in large part because the Gulf Arabs and Iran are at war with each other. The Saudis expect Moslem states they support financially (Egypt has received about $5 billion a year since 2011) to reciprocate by backing Saudi diplomacy and, in effect, recognize Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab world. Egypt traditionally held that position because of its long history of regional leadership, even before Islam appeared in the 7th century. But Egypt is now broke and still dealing with Islamic terrorist violence. The Saudis are rich and have far fewer problems internally with Islamic terrorism. But for many Egyptians it is humiliating to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile one thing that the Egyptians and Saudis do agree on is better relationships with Israel. Along those lines a growing number of Egyptians openly support more economic cooperation with Israel. Apparently a deal, or at least a truce, was worked out with the Saudis over the latest dispute. The Egyptians won’t be getting free oil this time, but will have five years to pay for each shipment and those payments may be forgiven for good behavior.
March 10, 2017: Israeli artillery hit several Hamas targets in Gaza, apparently in retaliation for rockets fired towards Israel (but landed on the Gaza side of the border) the day before.
March 9, 2017: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested several Hamas members as suspects in a terrorism investigation. This was part of an operation that continued for several days and turned out to be the culmination of an investigation that began in late 2016 and has now shut down several Hamas and Fatah terror cells that were all planning attacks against Israel or Israelis in the West Bank.
March 8, 2017: In Iraq one of the many Iran backed (recruited, equipped, trained and sometimes led) Shia militias has declared itself “Golan Liberation Brigade” and announced plans to go fight Israel to regain the Golan Heights for Syria. The Iraqi government has forbidden Iraqi Shia militia from entering Syria and so far that order has been followed. But in the recent past Iraq has announced similar prohibitions for Iranian activities in Iraq and those prohibitions were ignored. This includes American requested bans on Iranian use of Iraqi air space or roads to move weapons or military personnel into Syria.
March 7, 2017: Israel fired artillery into northern Gaza while some Israeli troops were disabling a bomb found planted at the Gaza security fence.
March 6, 2017: In the West Bank a Palestinian man suspected (by Israel and the Palestinian government) of terrorist activity died in a gun battle with Israeli police who had come to arrest him. The dead man turned out to be the leader of a group planning attacks on Israel and had two firearms and ammo with him when he was killed.
In Egypt riots began in response to a 40 percent cuts in the amount of low cost (subsidized) bread provided to most Egyptians. The unrest was not unexpected. The same thing happened in 2012 when the government pointed out that it was running out of money mainly because of fuel and food price subsidies and the subsidies had to go. If for no other reason that the fact that foreign loans were only available if the subsidies were cut. Most of the losses were because of the fuel subsidies and these were eliminated first. At the time Egyptians paid 36 cents a liter for petrol (gasoline), while Israelis paid six times more (about two dollars a liter, or nearly eight dollars a gallon). Israeli petrol is not subsidized and is common heavily taxed. Egypt long used the subsidized fuel as a benefit for the people. Trying to take that away caused widespread anger, but not a mass uprising. The government literally lacked sufficient cash to buy and import all the fuel (at about 70 cents a liter) Egyptians were currently using. The fuel subsidy elimination began in November 2016 and caused some unrest. But the bread subsidy has an impact on just about everyone not just those who drive or whose jobs are heavily dependent on vehicle fuel prices.
March 4, 2017: In Egypt (north Sinai) two civilians died when they stepped on a landmine secretly placed in a field near their village. Elsewhere in the area three policemen and twelve soldiers were wounded in two Islamic terrorism clashes.
March 3, 2017: In Egypt (outside Cairo) police raided a house and arrested four Islamic terrorists (apparently al Qaeda) who were planning a major attack in the city.
March 1, 2017: In the West Bank a Palestinian man was shot dead when he entered an Israeli home armed with a knife.
February 27, 2017: Israeli artillery and air strikes hit several Hamas targets in Gaza, apparently in retaliation for rockets fired towards Israel earlier in the day and to remind Hamas that they have not put a halt to these violations of the ceasefire. Hamas says they are running Gaza but then say they cannot control radical groups that defy them and fire rockets into Israel.
The South Sudan government denied accusation by Sudan that it has received weapons and ammunition from Egypt (which for thousands of years has been heavily involved in Sudanese affairs).
February 24, 2017: Russia has sent a small (about 22 men) group of special operations troops to western Egypt, near the Libyan border. Some of the Russians appear to have crossed the border into eastern Libya. Most of the Egyptian border and eastern Libya is controlled by former Libyan general by Khalifa Hiftar, who is an ally of Russia and Egypt and seeking to gain the support of all factions in Libya and unite the country. Russia and many Arab nations believe Hiftar can do it and particularly admire his effectiveness at defeating Islamic terror groups. Egypt also backs Hiftar because he is able to control the Libyan side of the border and keep Islamic terrorists (and a lot of black market weapons) out of Egypt. The Russians have long pretended they were not involved in Libya or with Hiftar but the physical evidence (and video) says otherwise.
February 22, 2017: Lebanese media reported that Israeli warplanes attacked Hezbollah efforts to move weapons from Damascus to Lebanon. Syrian army targets were hit as well. The Israeli jets apparently flew into Lebanon and fired their missiles into Syria (Damascus) and hit vehicles carrying Hezbollah personnel and weapons.