Israel: The West Bank is Burning


July 11, 2023: Israel fears that combat operations in the West Bank since 2021 may be the start of a new Palestinian offensive or “intifada”. This would be the third one. The first lasted from 1987 to 1993 while the second one was from 2000 to 2005.

Israel defeated the 2000 “Intifada” terror campaign by 2005. But as long as Palestinians had free access to Israel, Palestinian government (Fatah) urged and encouraged Palestinians to attempt attacks inside Israel. The Israelis responded with tighter border controls and that kept the terrorist threat low in Israel. Fatah insisted they had a right to keep trying to kill Israelis and for over a decade Arab and Western nations kept providing aid to the West Bank and Gaza despite the fact that more and more of it was used to support and encourage more terrorism against Israel. Gradually more donor states, Moslem and non-Moslem, admitted the Fatah misuse of aid money and cut their aid, often to nothing. It was not just the Fatah support of terrorism but the growing Fatah corruption which meant a lot of the aid was stolen to enrich Fatah leaders. Palestinians also opposed the Fatah policy and Fatah was forced to tolerate more and more Palestinians renouncing terror to pass the background check and work in Israel. West Bank Palestinian jobs in Israel have become a crucial part of the West Bank economy even more so than they were back in 2000.

The post-2000 ban on Palestinian workers was unpopular with many Israeli employers, but the threat was so great that Israeli employers had to pay more to import and hire non-Moslem foreigners for as long as there was a threat that Palestinian workers were likely to try and kill Israelis. Both Israel and the former or potential Palestinian workers knew that a growing number of those Palestinian workers could be trusted to work in Israel. Those who violated that trust faced prison or worse if they played any part in an attack. Anyone associated with these untrustworthy Palestinians had a more difficult time getting permits to work in Israel. The growth of these trustworthy Palestinian workers was something neither Israel nor Fatah wanted to publicize lest the Islamic radicals declare war on Palestinians working or seeking to work in Israel. This might trigger a civil war in the West Bank, something Fatah did not want but the radicals were divided about.

Hamas does not care about any form of collateral damage from forcing Palestinians working in Israel to cooperate with terrorists. Most Palestinians recognize that Hamas is hard-core about attacking Israel, which is why Hamas has had a hard time gaining political traction in the West Bank. Palestinians know that Hamas policies produce more poverty and casualties for Palestinians. The only thing that got Hamas control of Gaza during the last Palestinian elections in 2007 was the belief that Hamas would be less corrupt than Fatah. That was true in 2007 but became less so ever since. Hamas forbids working in Israel and punishes anyone who protests about Hamas corruption.

West Bank violence between Palestinians and Israelis living in the many Jewish settlements has been on the increase for over a decade. The upsurge in violence is the result of the Palestinian leadership calling for another intifada (uprising) in 2013. This was a side-effect of the rebellion in Syria and the “Arab Spring” in general. While some Palestinian leaders call for another uprising (intifada), most Palestinians, especially the older ones (over 30), fear the economic consequences of that and warn the pro-intifada radicals that there is not a lot of popular support for another round of violence. Israel has shown they know how to handle this at little cost to themselves and great cost to the Palestinians.

All this is complicated by persistent American efforts to achieve a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian peace talks never made much progress. The talks were held at the insistence of the U.S., which threatened to cut aid if the talks did not happen. American leaders are aware of Palestinian attitudes on peace with Israel but the U.S. still assumes that a peace deal is possible. For years Palestinian leaders have agreed with that when speaking to Western leaders and reporters but they then turn around and tell their followers that, of course, Israel must be destroyed and that there is no other solution. For most Western leaders the disunity, corruption and general chaos within the Palestinian community is seen as a larger problem than a peace deal. That may be true, but without a positive attitude towards a peace deal, there won’t be any peace. Despite all this, for over a decade many Palestinians have been talking about a “Third Intifada” as if more civil disorder will change anything. Peace is not on the agenda. Most Israelis and Americans agree. Even without a new intifada, casual violence in the West Bank kept increasing. This usually takes the form of young men throwing stones at Israeli soldiers or civilians. Israeli women and children are the preferred targets because they are the least likely to shoot back if the rocks begin to inflict injuries. Palestinian propaganda praises those who kill children just as much as those who killed soldiers or police. All are heroes of the Palestinian struggle to destroy Israel. This is becoming embarrassing for some Western nations when it was pointed out that their aid money was being used directly for some of this propaganda.

The recent West Bank violence in Jenin was the result of Israeli security forces shutting down a major Palestinian effort to recruit, train and arm hundreds of Palestinians to carry out attacks against Israelis living in the West Bank as well as in Jerusalem and Israel in general. The Palestinian terrorism operation was real as Israeli troops encountered armed resistance as they approached the location where weapons and munitions were stored, and newly recruited Palestinians were trained and armed. After a brief battle the Jenin operation was shut down. Twelve armed Palestinians were killed and about 150 suspects were arrested. Weapons and munitions were disposed of and the Israeli troops withdrew, having lost one Israeli soldier killed. This sort of thing had not been seen in the West Bank since 2002. The current growth of terrorist activity in the West Bank can be attributed to Gaza-based and Iran-supported terror group Hamas. There have been increasing Hamas efforts to establish operations in the West Bank. Most West Bank Palestinians want no part of this because similar activity in Gaza has brought nothing but poverty and trouble to the Palestinians living there.

The disruptive impact of small groups of radicals is a long tradition in the Middle East, especially after Islam was introduced over a thousand years ago. Islam is the only major religion whose scripture mandates continuous violence against infidels (non-believers). The Islamic scriptures make it clear that the mere existence of infidels is a threat to Islam and must be attacked, no matter what the cost. Most Moslems ignore this aspect of their religion, at the risk of being declared a heretic if conservative Moslems near them decide to get violent and go jihad (war on) against any Infidels within reach. Many Moslems, including Gulf oil state Arab governments are openly seeking a way to reform Islam and eliminate this flaw which has been crippling Islam and killing Moslems for over a thousand years. This is a serious effort and one reason for making peace with Israel. The Islamic militants in Gaza and the West Bank oppose efforts to give peace a chance.

July 7, 2023: In the West Bank (Nablus) two Palestinian men suspected of involvement in earlier shootings, were killed during a gun battle with soldiers. Two more were wounded and three others arrested.

July 6, 2023: In the West Bank an Israeli resident of a settlement was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman. The shooter drove away and was later stopped at a checkpoint for a routine check. The shooter opened fire on the soldiers and ran off on foot. He was pursued by soldiers who caught up with him and during a brief gun battle the Palestinian gunman was killed. All this occurred a few hours after the last Israeli soldiers had left Jenin.

In the north, on the Lebanese border, an unidentified group in Lebanon launched two rockets towards Israel. One landed inside Lebanon and the other near a village located on the Lebanon/Syria border. Israel believed the rockets were meant to hit Israel and fired some artillery shells at the location where the rockets were launched. Recently rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon and Gaza have been very inaccurate.

July 5, 2023: Israeli troops withdrew from the West Bank town of Jenin after two days of efforts to dismantle a large Hamas operation that was accumulating weapons, explosives and Palestinians, especially residents of Jenin, willing to carry out attacks against Israel or Israelis in the West bank. Technically Jenin is a refugee camp but in reality it is a West Bank community with a history of supporting violence against Israelis. The counterterrorism operation in Jenin was planned and carried out by the Mossad (Israeli intelligence) and the army. As expected the Palestinian terrorists refused to surrender once surrounded and that led to a gun battle that left 12 Palestinian fighters and one Israeli soldier dead. Another armed Palestinian was wounded and captured. The Israelis warned Jenin residents that an attack was about to take place and to keep everyone inside. Most Jenin residents do not support the Palestinian militants and terrorists, but to speak of that openly risks being attacked as pro-Israeli. The day after the operation, the families of those killed refused to allow local Palestinian leaders to attend the funerals. These leaders from Fatah and Palestinian National Authority are known more for their corruption than maintaining order in Jenin or elsewhere in the West Bank. As the Israelis left some Jenin residents came out and protested the Hamas operations in Jenin. Jenin residents see Hamas as reckless outsiders who don’t care what harm comes to Jenin residents because of Hamas preparations to attack Israelis.

Up north on the Syrian border, there has been three days of violence in Syria's Daraa province. This was largely internal disputes and not directed towards Israel. This often occurs near the Israeli border, where there has been a lot of random violence for the last decade. Daraa is the most violent province but similar violence continues in many parts of Syria.

July 4, 2023: Israel carried out airstrikes against two Hamas targets in Gaza. This was in response to Hamas firing five rockets at Israel a few hours earlier. Iron Dome intercepted all five rockets.

In the West Bank a Palestinian man drove his car onto a sidewalk and bike lane and injured nine people, including a pregnant woman who lost her unborn child. The Palestinian driver then got out of his vehicle and armed with a knife went after more Israeli civilians. One of the Israelis armed and shot the Palestinian attacker dead.

July 3, 2023: In the coastal city of Bnei Brak a 16 year Palestinian boy stabbed an Israeli man, but was only wounded. The Palestinian ran away but police caught up with and arrested him. The Palestinian boy said he was from a town near Jenin. Israeli police went there and questioned family members and later arrested the boy’s father and 31 year-old brother.

July 2, 2023: In central Syria (Homs) an Israeli airstrike against Iranian targets in Syria, One Iranian was killed and four others wounded. These men were near the warehouses that the Israelis concentrated on. The warehouses contained something explosive because as the warehouses caught fire and burned, items inside continued to explode for hours. Syrian air defense units from Homs to the Israeli borders opened fire on the incoming Israeli missiles. Israel uses high-speed air-to-surface launched from Israeli aircraft across the border in Israel, Lebanon or Jordan. One of those Syrian anti-aircraft missiles missed a target and crossed the Israeli border and exploded in the air. This caused no damage or casualties on the ground. Israeli air defense units located where the S-200 missile that crossed the border came from and attacked the launch site.

This is the 19th Israeli airstrike this year against Iranian targets in Syria.

In the West Bank Hamas launched two rockets from Jenin towards Israel. Both rockets were defective and hit the ground less than a hundred meters from the launch site. This was the first such rocket attack from the West Bank in 18 years.

July 1, 2023: An Israeli airstrike in central Syria (Homs) killed Hussein Suhani, an Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) general.

In Gaza, Hamas led its first public display of its weapons and photography was allowed. The Hamas Islamic terrorists present were masked. June 29, 2023: Israeli media release reports of Israeli and Iranian operations in the Island of Cyprus. Israel believed Iranian operatives were planning to kill an Israeli businessman in Cyprus. Israel found out about this operation because of a recent Mossad operation inside Iran that found, seized and got a planner of the Cyprus attack out of Iran.

June 24, 2023: In the West Bank a Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli checkpoint. Soldiers fired back and killed the Palestinian man. Elsewhere in the West Bank fifty Israeli settlers armed with rifles and fire bombs attacked the Palestinian village of Umm Safaset fire to five Palestinian homes. Some Palestinians were shot at and an ambulance medic was wounded. Another two Palestinian medics were injured when the Israelis threw a large rock through a window of their vehicle. Israeli soldiers arrived and dispersed the settlers. The government plans to station more soldiers in the area to prevent more similar settler violence. So far this year 137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At the same time 24 Israelis have been killed, twelve of them civilians.

June 15, 2023: Israeli airstrikes against targets near Damascus resulted in the destruction of many imported Iranian weapons and munitions as well wounding several Iran-backed Syrian militiamen. This was the 18th Israeli operation inside Syria so far this year. Fourteen have been airstrikes while four were carried out by Israeli troops crossing into Syria. Most of this activity has to do with the increased presence of Iran-backed militants near the Israeli border. Iran has long been obsessed with carrying out attacks inside Israel.

June 12, 2023: Syrians blame outsiders for the length and severity of the 12- year-long civil war. Iran and Russia came to the aid of the Syrian government while Israel continued to attack Iranian forces in Syria, and Turkish forces crossed the border to deal with Islamic terrorists threatening Turkey and Syrian Kurds control most of the northern border with Turkey. In the northwest there is Idlib province, which remains under the control of Islamic terrorists who don’t belong to ISIL. For years the Assads made deals with Islamic terror groups that controlled areas throughout Syria for them to move to Idlib rather than fight to the death with the Assad troops. The Assads did this to maintain morale among their own troops, who had been fighting for years and were liable to desert rather than face a death-match with Islamic terrorists. For the last few years there has been fighting in Idlib involving the Islamic terrorists attacked by Assad, Turkish and Kurdish forces, with air support from Russia and Turkey. The fighting is slow, methodical and relentless in killing Islamic terrorists and shrinking the terrorist controlled area. Although there are fewer than a thousand American military personnel in Syria, they are constantly attacked by Iran-backed militias and harassed by Russian warplanes. The Iranian violence has been going on for a long time but the harassment of American aircraft by Russian fighters is recent. Both countries long had an agreement to avoid such interference by each other’s aircraft. Both nations were using their warplanes mainly to seek out and attack ISIL forces. Apparently in response to Western economic sanctions on Russia because of the Ukraine War, the Russian fighters are now engaging in dangerous maneuvers around American aircraft.

June 7, 2023: Iran openly opposes any peace with the West because of Western insistence that Iran first cease its support for violence in Iraq and Syria as well its nuclear-weapons program. Iranian forces in Iraq seek to dominate the Iraqi government and its forces in Syria continue to try to establish bases for attacking Israel, while Iran officially insists it has no nuclear weapons program despite growing evidence that the nuclear weapons efforts continue. Iran is open about its plans to eventually destroy Israel with ballistic missiles carrying “powerful” warheads. Israel says it will carry out airstrikes against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities if it appears Iran is close to having such weapons. There is ample evidence that the nuclear program exists and much of the work is done at the Natanz underground facility 225 kilometers south of Tehran. Israel has successfully attacked Natanz several times in the last few years. Iran responds by repairing the damage and expanding the nuclear facilities deeper underground. In early 2021 there was an explosion at the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility. The government first denied this but later admitted the attack took place and did major damage to their new high-performance nuclear enrichment (turning uranium into weapons grade material) equipment. There was massive equipment failure and damage on a scale similar to the 2010 attack carried out with software designed to get into the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment compound, which was well guarded. Later analysis indicated that the deep-underground (about 50 meters, or 155 feet) plant was effectively destroyed. The target was the thousands of centrifuges that turn uranium ore into nuclear fuel or, with more effort, nuclear material suitable for a nuclear explosive. Israeli hackers got to the centrifuges in 2010 via a computer worm hack called Stuxnet.

In 2021 the Israelis obtained technical details of the Natanz electrical system as well as details of the new generation of centrifuges Iran installed there. The Israeli plan was to use explosives placed and detonated where it would shut down the primary and back-up power systems when the maximum number of new centrifuges were powered up and vulnerable to severe damage if both the main power and backup power systems failed. The explosives were placed correctly and went off on time. The result was Natanz again suffered major centrifuge loss that delayed resumption of production and over a year to completely repair. Now the Americans have developed a 14 ton MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) bomb designed to destroy or disable such underground facilities. MOP has a guidance system so that it lands where it will do the most damage, MOP also has a void sensor that will detonate the bomb when it enters an underground facility after smashing through earth and concrete. For this reason, Iran has expanded the Natanz facility deeper underground. That does not prevent Natanz from being attacked by several MOPs that destroy the four access tunnels needed to enable personnel and material to get in and out of the underground facility. Iranian support for Russia in Ukraine, especially supplying Russia with weapons, has made it easier for Israel to justify attacks on Iran, including air strikes.

June 3, 2023: The continuing Israeli airstrikes in Syria are apparently concentrating on Iranian Unit 18340, which maintains several workshops for producing guided rockets using components smuggled in from Iran. Israeli airstrikes often destroy Iranian convoys bringing in these components. Because of this many of the components are flown in on cargo transports. Some of these have been damaged on the ground when Israel attacks Syrian air bases.

June 2, 2023: During 2022 Israel did not make any additions to its nuclear weapons inventory of 90 warheads. In contrast, China increased its nuclear warhead inventory by 15 percent. At 410 warheads, China now has the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, behind Russia’s 4,489 warheads (including 12 added in 2022) and America's 3,708. The remaining nuclear powers have smaller warhead inventories. France has 290, Britain 225, Pakistan 170 (five added in 2022), India 164 (four added in 2022) Israel 90 and North Korea 30 (five added in 2022).

May 31, 2023: Israeli media reported that recent Israeli airstrikes on targets near Damascus hit the Hezbollah “Golan Unit”. This unit organizes, arms and trains Hezbollah for attacks on Israel. This has not resulted in any successful Hezbollah attacks on Israel but has Hezbollah personnel seeking to carry out such attacks. The main obstacle is Israeli surveillance along their Syrian border, which detects attempted attack efforts and disrupts them with artillery and air strikes. Hezbollah is also using some men trained by the Golan Unit to attack American forces in Syria. The Americans, like their Israeli counterparts, are trained and equipped to defend themselves.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close