Israel: More Fatal Distractions

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June 7, 2022: Israel continues to block the sale or donation of any Israeli weapons to Ukraine by NATO countries that have bought or built under license Israeli weapons. Ukraine has been particularly eager to get some Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles. Refusing to send weapons does encourage Israel to donate more non-lethal aid like protective vests and helmets as well as medical supplies, including a mobile hospital staffed by volunteer Israeli medical personnel. Israel cannot afford to have any Russians getting killed by Israeli weapons. This is all about Israel’s need to remain on good terms with Russia. Israel has always had good relations with Russia, which was one of the first nations to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948. This played a role in Russian Jews being allowed to migrate to Israel starting in the 1970s. Currently about 15 percent of the Israeli population are either those who migrated from Russia or their descendants. Many of these Russian Jews came from Ukraine, where the current leader is Jewish and since he was elected president in 2019, he backed more economic and security connections with NATO and the West. Despite that Russia worked hard to maintain its good relations with Israel and in 2016 Russian leader Vladimir Putin described Russia and Israel as “unconditional allies' '.

Thousands of Russian Israelis have demonstrated in support of Ukraine since the February invasion. The Israeli government refused to openly criticize the Russian invasion and tried to use its good relationship with Russia to help negotiate an end to the fighting and the war. That has not gone as well as expected but it has provided Russian and Ukrainian leaders with a reliable, discreet and quick way to communicate with each other and NATO leaders, especially the Americans by going through Israel.

Israel reacted to the more limited 2014 Russian attacks on Ukraine by halting cooperation with Russian efforts to develop modern UAVs. Because of its even closer relationship with the United States, Israel has never provided Russia with lethal weapons or weapons technology. At the same time Israel has sold over a billion dollars’ worth of weapons to Moslem majority Azerbaijan, another former part of the Soviet Union that borders Iran and Russian backed Armenia. In late 2020 there was a brief war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that the Azeris won, in part because of the Israeli weapons.

Selling weapons to Ukraine was another matter and Russia apparently told Israel that such sales could reduce Russian cooperation in Syria against Iran. Most Israelis support Ukraine, but the Iranian threat is very real and next door, so Israeli politicians cannot ignore it unless they want to lose their next election. Russia has already suffered major economic losses from the additional economic sanctions imposed after the 2022 invasion and may end up a much-reduced military power. This could include the withdrawal of their forces in Syria. Even with that, Russia remains a major nuclear power with a large enough arsenal to trigger the nuclear apocalypse that became a reality in the 1960s and has kept the peace between the nuclear powers ever since. Vladimir Putin openly threatens to use nukes to keep NATO nations from supporting Ukraine militarily. NATO is sending in lots of weapons anyway, but not NATO forces. Israel wants to stay off the Russian nuclear targets list.

June 6, 2022: In southern Syria (outside Damascus) an Israeli airstrike used ten missiles against Hezbollah and Iranian facilities outside the city. There was a lot of damage but no reports of casualties. These attacks are usually carried out at night, to reduce the possibility of civilians in or passing near the target area being injured. This is the 14th Israeli attack in Syria for 2022.

June 2, 2022: In Vietnam, the Israeli Defense Minister visited for the second time to discuss increased cooperation in defense matters, including intelligence and cyber security as well as technology transfer and similar matters. Intel on terrorist threats, especially to Vietnamese and Israeli overseas is of particular interests and usefulness. For example, in late 2018 Egypt suffered an Islamic terrorist attack near the pyramids, Islamic terrorists. This involved a bomb detonated on a tourist bus which killed three foreign (from Vietnam) tourists and an Egyptian guide. There were twelve wounded. This was the first such attack on tourists since 2017. This attack caused foreign tourists to cancel visits to Egypt, or at least to the pyramids. Israel shares Islamic terrorists’ information with Egypt and many other countries including some in the Middle East. Israel and Vietnam share many warnings of attacks that do not take place and other terrorist activity that does continue. Similar information sharing agreements have been arranged with many other nations in the region and they work often enough to justify maintaining them. While the Israeli visits to India and Vietnam were taking place, Thailand foiled an Iranian effort to carry out attacks on Israelis and Israelis businesses in Thailand. The last time this happened was in 2014 and the diplomatic damage Iran suffered has not been forgotten by Thais.

The Israeli Defense Minister also visited India on this trip for similar discussions. Israel has exported over billion dollars’ worth of weapons and defense-related items to Vietnam in the last decade. This is exceeded only by exports to India (Israel’s largest customer) and Moslem-majority Azerbaijan. In terms of annual defense exports, Israel is now in tenth place.

May 30, 2022: Israel warned its citizens in Turkey, or those planning to visit, that there was credible evidence that Iran was planning to attack Israelis in Turkey as retaliation for the assassination last week of IRGC colonel Hassan Khodaei in the Iranian capital. Iran always blames Israel for attacks like this. Turkish officials pointed out that while Iran often threatens to carry out attacks on Israelis in Turkey, they rarely do so. Aside from the fact that Turkish counterterrorism efforts against such attacks is quite good and that such an Iranian attack would damage cooperation between Turkey and Iran in Syria. The Turks believe Iran made the threat mainly for propaganda purposes.

May 25, 2022: Israeli military planners see the most dangerous threat to Israel is an attack from Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. Since 2021 the growing anti-Hezbollah attitudes in Lebanon make it easier for Israel to obtain information about Hezbollah military preparations for another war. The last war was in 2006 and lasted a month. Israel suffered 165 dead, including 46 civilians. Lebanon suffered 1,800 dead, about two-thirds of them civilians and Lebanese security forces caught in the crossfire. Most of the casualties were suffered during the first ten days of fighting. Since 2006 both Israel and Hezbollah have been preparing for another war, which would include some participation by Hamas in Gaza.

Israel estimates that another war would be shorter and there would be more fatalities, with at least 3,000 Lebanese and 300 Israelis killed during the first nine days. Hezbollah is expected to fire as many as 1,600 rockets a day into Israel, despite improved Israeli air defenses and use of artillery and airstrikes against rocket launching and storage sites. Another war is more likely now because Hezbollah has lost much of its influence over the Lebanese government and popularity with Lebanese in general. Another war would improve Hezbollah popularity among some Lebanese, even if the organization suffered far more damage. Israel seeks to minimize Lebanese civilian casualties in a future war, a task made more difficult by Hezbollah placing many of the rocket storage and launch sites in residential neighborhoods. The civilians are increasingly active in opposing this policy but all Hezbollah does is offer excuses and insist that all must join the fighting against Israeli aggression. The Israeli war plan involves most effective warnings to civilians near Hezbollah targets and more attacks on Hezbollah leaders, who expect to protect themselves using a new system of underground bunkers in southern Lebanon. Israel knows where most of these hideouts are and plans to use ground, airmobile and amphibious attacks to go after the largest number of key Hezbollah facilities, especially leaders. The amphibious operations will be more extensive as Israel is buying two amphibious ships from the United States.

Israeli aerial and satellite surveillance makes it possible to gain a greater understanding of how much training and construction Hezbollah and Hamas carry out. Israel keeps telling Lebanon that if Hezbollah attacks Israel again, like they did in 2006, Israeli attacks on Hezbollah would damage a lot of non-Hezbollah property and kill or injure a lot of Lebanese who do not belong to Hezbollah or their Iranian backers. Hezbollah has built a lot of its military facilities, especially tunnels, in residential areas. This was an effort to use their civilians as involuntary human shields against airstrikes. That does not work and most Lebanese are angry at Hezbollah, not Israel, for this situation. A similar situation is developing in Gaza.

Israel admits that their military intelligence operations inside Lebanon have been continuous during mid-2021 and unpublicized. Hezbollah will only talk about “Israel aggression” without revealing any details. There have been daily airstrikes and use of artillery as well as more intense intelligence gathering operations, including some Israeli forces operating inside Lebanon.

May 23, 2022: During the last two months Palestinian leaders have managed to revive their terror campaign against Israel with several successful (dead Israelis) attacks. This began in late March when four Israeli Jews were killed by a local Bedouin who was an ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) supporter. The killer was also an Israeli citizen and used a knife to attack people before armed civilians shot him dead. Most of these attacks on Israelis, usually with knives or vehicles, take place in the West Bank and began in 2015 when Palestinian leaders called for suicidal “knife terrorism” attacks. These attacks soon lost their popularity despite Fatah still pushing them energetically in all the Palestinian media. This can be seen in the number of Palestinian terror attacks disrupted each year. It was 217 in 2014, 187 in 2013, 112 in 2012 and 88 in 2011. In the last decade knife attacks are less common and almost always occur in the West Bank or Jerusalem. Since 1948 some 2,600 Israelis have died from terror attacks inside Israel. Nearly five percent of those dead were foreigners. Palestinian terrorism efforts have never recovered from the defeat they suffered, when Israel adopted new tactics that largely shut down the terror campaign the Palestinians began in 2000. Fatah and Hamas have been trying to revive that effort ever since and have largely failed. The 2022 Israeli deaths are hailed as a great victory while the 70 Palestinians killed during these attacks, especially the many that failed. Are described as Israeli oppression of peaceful Palestinians.

May 22, 2022: In Tehran, assassins killed IRGC colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, who was responsible for recruiting locals in foreign countries to carry out attacks on Israelis there. His work was detected over a decade ago when he set up an attack in India that wounded an Israeli diplomat and his wife. Khodaei rarely wore his uniform and maintained a low profile, even while he was in Iran. For that reason, he was not assigned a security detail inside Iran. IRGC announced that they would take revenge for the death of Khodaei. An internal investigation of the assassination concluded that colonel Ali Esmailzadeh, one of Khodaei’s associates apparently leaked information that made it possible for the assassins to track their target and carrying out the attack. On June 2nd Esmailzadeh died after he jumped or was pushed off the roof of his home in the Tehran suburbs. Israel denied any involvement with this and not many Iranians believe the official cause as suicide. Israel was indeed responsible for the death of Khodaei.

May 20, 2022: In southern Syria (outside Damascus) an Israeli airstrike on Iranian military facilities also left at least three dead.

May 13, 2022: In northwestern Syria (Hama province) an Israeli air-strike against Iranian targets left five dead and seven wounded. Most of the casualties belonged to Iran-backed militias or the Syrian army. These men are used to guard Iranian facilities in Syria. One civilian was killed and another wounded. Many of the Iranian SAM (surface to air) and anti-ship missiles and other weapons destroyed are headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon, for use against Israel. Another target of these airstrikes was the underground Syrian chemical weapons research center at Masyaf. Israel has been monitoring and occasionally attacking Masyaf for years. Since 2017 Iran has been actively assisting Syria in expanding the Masyaf operation, resuming the manufacture of chemical weapons and moving more of that to underground bunkers that are resistant to airstrikes. The recent attacks destroyed all the entrances to the underground facilities and apparently collapsed some or all of the underground spaces. Israel makes it clear that such attacks will continue as long as Syria and its patron Iran try to attack Israel and openly call for the destruction of Israel.

It was later revealed that the defense of Masyaf included at least one S300 Russian air defense missile being fired at the Israeli aircraft. The S300 missile was ineffective. The Russians noted this in Ukraine, despite the fact that Ukrainians, with some help from NATO nations, turned the S300 into an effective weapon against Russian aircraft. Syrians and Iranians noted this as well.

May 11, 2022: In southern Syria (Quneitra province) an Israeli airstrike and artillery fire hit Iranian forces preparing to fire on Israel. When Iran-backed forces move too close to the Israeli border they are attacked.

 

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