Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

April 24, 2016

 

Gaza’s tunnel war continues on all fronts – on Egypt-Gaza border, on Israel-Gaza border and on home front.  While Egyptian
army flooded again a Hamas tunnel, the Israel army discovered the first terror tunnel inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. 
terror tunnelsHamas says its smuggling and terror tunnel network is twice as large as the Viet Cong’s was at the height of the Vietnam War. On home front Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

 

The new tunnel flooded again by Egypt

Palestinian media reported Monday morning [18th Apr. 2016] that the Egyptian army flooded a Hamas tunnel in the southern part of Gaza Strip. Seven Hamas terrorists are missing. The tunnel flooded was a commercial tunnel, used by Hamas to smuggle commodities into Gaza Strip, and not a military tunnel. The collapse happened after the Egyptians performed another one of their routine flooding of the area with sea water – or some say with sewage.

Egypt, historically the Palestinians’ major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.  But Egypt has intensified a blockade of Gaza  by largely sealing the border since 2013. Egypt has destroyed and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel. Recently Egypt accused Hamas of involvement in last year’s assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.  (More in Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened )

 

New terror tunnel with sturdier construction methods

The tunnel flooded by Egypt appeared to have been a commercial tunnel used to smuggle people and goods in and out of the Strip, as opposed to the “terror tunnel” located in southern Israel, which could have been used to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

It is the first such tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During the Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. The tunnel was located approximately 100 feet (30 to 40 meters) below ground and extended “tens of meters into Israel,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. It was discovered close to the border fence, he added. Though the tunnel was found just over one week ago, news of its discovery was forbidden from publication by the military censor. [Source: The Times of Israel ]

The newer tunnels, as now discovered one, built after Operation Protective Edge benefit from sturdier construction methods, improving structural integrity, which make them less likely to collapse due to rainfall. The wall of the tunnels discovered during Operation Protective Edge consisted of pre-cast concrete slabs placed vertically, with reinforced concrete arches above them to prevent the tunnel from collapsing due to the weight of the soil above it. In this type of construction, the wide vertical slabs are the weak point, and that is why Hamas is now building its tunnels using long, narrow concrete slabs laid horizontally, one on top of the other, within a metal frame. This structure is much stronger and more durable. It can withstand not only the pressure from the soil overhead, but also explosions and fighting inside the tunnel. It also allows for safer working conditions on rainy days when water seeps into the work area. Too much rainfall could cause the soil above a tunnel built using the pre-Protective Edge method to collapse, as seen several times in recent months. The new structure makes it far less likely that the tunnel would collapse. [Source and more in Ynet ]

 

Israel’ anti-tunnel campaign

Israel has started testing a secret new weapon for defeating the tunnel systems which the Palestinian Hamas and Hizballah are busy digging for surprise attacks against Israel. Now, according to Foreign Policy magazine, it appears Israel has found that solution. Western sources reported on 11th March 2016, that the new weapon, dubbed the  “Underground Iron Dome,” can detect a tunnel, then send in a moving missile ton blow it up.

Beside ‘Underground Iron Dome’ part of Israel’s anti-tunnel campaign are military robots [e.g. Talon 4] and the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) built by Roboteam, to explore the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza. [More in Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ].

Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians. However, some Palestinian outlets claimed the true source of Israel’s tunnel discovery was not a technological breakthrough but rather one man: Mahmoud Jasser Awad Atawna who had been an active member of Hamas’s tunnel operations until he fell into the hands of Israeli forces a few weeks ago.

Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

 

Gaza’s tunnel war – a short history

Gazans have been using tunnels regularly since the mid-1990s, when they were dug under the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah for smuggling purposes. By 2001, and again in 2004-2005, Hamas terrorists used tunnels to plant explosives under IDF installations. In 2006, Hamas dug a tunnel into Israel near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, ambushed a tank unit, kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit—who would be held in captivity for five years—and killed two of his fellow soldiers. By 2009’s Operation Cast Lead, Hamas’ use of tunnels had evolved into a clear threat. In 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF targeted the tunnels as much as it did Hamas’ rocket capabilities. In 2013, a large tunnel was discovered that led to an Israeli town. It was clearly intended for a large-scale terrorist attack. An even bigger tunnel was discovered later that year.

During Protective Edge, a major tunnel infiltration aimed at the residents of a kibbutz near the Gaza border was thwarted just as terrorists were emerging on the Israeli side. Four more such attacks would be interdicted, some with the Hamas fighters having already crossed into Israel. One attack was successful; five Israeli soldiers were killed. During Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. Hamas even used a tunnel to try to kidnap a soldier after a ceasefire had come into effect. The tunnel extended for over a mile, some of it deep into Israeli territory

The original tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border were and still are used to smuggle arms and commercial goods from Egypt to Gaza. Hamas substantially expanded this infrastructure after 2007 and Israel’s imposition of a sc, blockade. At the time, it is estimated that there were as many as 2,500 such tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. There are estimates that as much as $3 billion in goods were moved annually from Sinai into Gaza.

A second type of tunnel is the tactical or “defensive” variety. These are meant to assist Hamas in its next war if Israel sends in ground troops. They form a subterranean web underneath Gaza, and give fighters and commanders freedom of movement, allowing them to evade capture, hide from aerial assault, and maintain the element of surprise. Rockets, launchers, and ammunition are also stored in these tunnels, so Hamas can continue firing even while under aerial attack. Hamas commanders are said to have personal tunnels for themselves and their families.

It is the third type of tunnel, however, which is most worrying—the terror tunnels. Given Israel’s security fence and buffer zone on the border, Hamas was left with essentially two options for launching attacks on Israel—going over the fence, via rockets and mortars, or going under it. And since Israel’s anti-missile capabilities have advanced to the point where the rocket threat is largely neutralized, Hamas shifted its investments underground.

The human intelligence capabilities and other covert efforts in Gaza are the key element to detect tunnel entrances. Hamas too is aware of this and reportedly executed dozens of tunnel diggers in the past to prevent them from leaking information to Israel.

There is one aspect with Hamas’ tunnel strategy related to Gazans daily life and wellbeing. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. According to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

[Source and good background article: Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels by Dan Feferman ]

tunnel-price-en

Bottom line

  • The flooded smuggling tunnel is the last example that Egypt is implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling via its border with Gaza causing also the collapse of Hamas’ financial base.
  • The first tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 proves that Hamas now has developed a much stronger tunnel structure than before.
  • Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians.
  • Besides technology there is indications that the IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over the past two years and that it is today well integrated with other IDF elements.
  • According Channel 2 report (March 2016) the Israeli security establishment estimates that Hamas is not presently seeking a military escalation with Israel. The report noted that the assessment stands despite the terrorist group’s continued digging and armament of underground tunnels. Also despite the newest find, IDF does not expect escalation in Gaza in near future.

 

More background in

Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ,

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared ,

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened ,

Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption and

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!


[This article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila ]


Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

April 19, 2016

 

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he IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over  the past two years, and the Southern Command’s war preparations have been enhanced as a result, a senior military source said on 14th April 2016 according Jerusalem Post.

In Gaza, the military wing is gradually growing in power at the expense of the political wing. Figures like Muhammad Deif, who leads the military wing, Yihye Sinwar, who was released in the Gilad Shalit exchange and Marwan Issa, are taking power away from Hamas’s political wing, as well as from overseas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Hamas military wing members receive military training also in Iran and earlier in Syria, in addition Hamas has military training camps for children who also receive hate indoctrination from public media and in schools and camps. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders from Hamas. Some cells have independent links with the external leadership, enabling them to bypass the hierarchical command chain and political leadership in Gaza and they do not tell their plans in advance to political wing.

Hamas’s military wing is helping terrorist operatives in West Bank as well the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province group, transferring it funds, and caring for its injured, as well as trying to smuggle weapons through the group. Hamas’s military wing is in charge of police appointments, a task that once belonged to the political wing.

04intellisouthThe Southern Command is carefully monitoring Hamas’s 25 regional battalions and has prepared detailed files on each one as part of preparations for ground forces that could, in the event of a future escalation, be sent in to Gaza to land “painful strikes” on Hamas, according to the source. “We did not have this level of knowledge in Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” the source said. “Our brigade, battalion, and company commanders are assigned regions, and will know many things that will assist them in destroying their targets,” the high-ranking officer added according Jerusalem Post .

The Southern Command has spent the past year and a half making intensive preparations for potential future conflicts. Plans include spreading out a “stronger defense” of southern communities, and a better layout of staging areas, that were targeted by Hamas in the previous conflict. All IDF battalion commanders have, in recent weeks, completed courses dedicated exclusively to the topic of “how to defeat Hamas, fighting in populated areas and the rapid build-up of forces.

Hamas’s military wing is busy with its own preparations, using the current quiet to build up its own offensive capabilities. This includes an intensified training for Hamas’s elite Nuhba forces, which make up a quarter of Hamas’s 20,000-strong armed members, and who are trained to launch cross-border raids into Israel. The Nuhba Force has increased its size and scope of activities, as well as its training, Hamas is also building up its naval commando unit and has begun assembling a drone unit. [Source: Jerusalem Post ].

Collapsed “tunnel economy”

Hamas remains in a state of distress and economic crisis, unable to pay members in time, and failing to smuggle many weapons from Sinai. Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt.

The tunnels were first constructed immediately after Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai Peninsula, as part of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. But digging got more intense after Israel declared a blockade on Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas’s government started to flourish on what economists called the booming “tunnel economy” until current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Israel in trying to destroy it.

Tunnel war infograph by Ari RusilaEgypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling. Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza.

The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, luxury items, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities. [More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! ]

Since beginning of March 2016, Hamas has been forced to slash by two-thirds the wages paid to members of its military wing: each fighter now takes home $200 instead of $600 per month, and officers used to earning $1,000 must be satisfied with $350. DEBKA’s military and intelligence sources claims that the terrorist group has moreover halted recruitment for lack of funds to pay, accommodate or train new fighters. The cash crunch has also hit the Hamas government. Most of Gaza’s municipal services are suspended because city officials have not been paid. Iran’s boycott on military and financial assistance to the Gaza Strip was clamped down in mid-2015 over Hamas’ refusal to line up behind Iran’s unqualified endorsement of its allies, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Hamas doesn’t currently have a patron in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood is weak in the region: Jordan recently shut down their branches; they’re being chased out of Egypt; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have outlawed them. Egypt has strengthened its grip on Gaza and won’t tolerate any violence on Hamas’s part in the near future.

Bottom line

According Channel 2 report (March 2016) the Israeli security establishment estimates that Hamas is not presently seeking a military escalation with Israel. The report noted that the assessment stands despite the terrorist group’s continued digging and armament of underground tunnels in the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Israel-Palestine roadmap to peace

Over one year Hamas has been negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled state in the West Bank. With “official” 2-State Solution there is other 2-State options such as Gaza and Palestine option. Related to possible deal between Hamas and Israel there is a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. (more e.g. in Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander, Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict , Sinai Option again and Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal).

Hamas wings by Ari Rusila


Israel-Greece-Cyprus Alliance as New Mideast/EastMed Game Changer

April 12, 2016

Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance aims to “promote a trilateral partnership in different fields of common interest and to work together towards promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Mediterranean and the wider region.” (Cyprus – Israel – Greece Trilateral Summit Declaration )

Israel-Cyprus-Greece allianceThe signing of an agreement of cooperation between Israel, Greece and Cyprus in Nicosia in February has tremendous implications for the future of this strategic region and for Israel. The trilateral Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance is a potential game changer at a juncture when new regional alignments are forging in the Middle East after the lifting of sanctions against Iran. The new alliance gives Israel much-needed strategic depth.

Publicly all three countries say that this alliance is not against any other country, meaning specifically Turkey. However the reality probably is the opposite. Of these countries, Israel is the only major military power. Both Greece and Cyprus have major economic problems, and although members of the EU, are not in any significant way protected by their EU-NATO alliance. Although EU and US are very concerned about the fake “occupation” by Israel of the Palestinians , the northern third of Cyprus is still occupied by Turkey after 30 years, and the EU and US are doing nothing about this.

The context of latest geopolitical developments in Mideast is based to dramatic events in 2015 which have brought into focus following aspects turning the Eastern Mediterranean into one of the key areas for global security:

  • The refugee crisis due to chaotic conditions in Syria, Libya and beyond;
  • The growing hold, upon Mediterranean shores, of totalitarian Islamism in its various forms – Iran’s camp; Daesh aka Islamic State; and the Muslim Brotherhood (with Turkey and Qatar as allies).
  • The prospects for cooperation in the field of energy.
  • Russia replacing US as key outside player (related to Israel sure there is influential Jewish diaspora in US but same time there is one million immigrants from ex-USSR living in Israel)

Mideast trends by Ari Rusila 

EastMed Bloc

The improvement in relations between Greece and Israel started in 2010 with socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, continued in 2012 with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and is being followed today by the leftist Tsipras. The Greek-Israeli relationship, which has flourished under a remarkable variety of political regimes, also enjoys broad support among the Greek public. Israel has a strong defense and military relationship with Cyprus as well that started (surprisingly) during the tenure of Communist President Demetris Christofias, and that continues at full speed under current conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades.

From an Israeli perspective, the recent strengthening of alliance ties with Greece and Cyprus constitutes a win-win situation. A new geopolitical bloc is emerging that has military and political significance, and stands as a counterweight to Turkish ambitions. The past months have been characterized by an unprecedented and noteworthy flurry of diplomatic activity between Jerusalem, Athens and Nicosia that suggests the emergence of a new geopolitical bloc in the region.

In late January, the Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon paid an official visit to Athens, hosted by his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos. (This was the second official visit of an Israeli Minister of Defense to Greece. In late 2012, Ehud Barak visited Athens.) Ya’alon’s visit to Greece serves to illustrate the intensive security and military relationship between Israel and Greece that began several years ago. This involves frequent joint air force exercises (with other countries occasionally participating), as well as joint maneuvers of the two navies. Israeli military planes have been forbidden from flying over Turkey ever since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, so they use Greek airspace on their flights to Europe and the United States instead. An Israeli military attaché has been stationed in Athens since the summer of 2014, and he is also accredited to Cyprus. Strikingly, Ya’alon did not hesitate while in Athens to publicly accuse Turkey of supporting terror rather than fighting it, specifically alleging that Turkey buys oil from ISIS.

Also in late January, a government-to-government conference was held in Jerusalem between the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras arrived with a large delegation of ten ministers. This was the second government-to-government meeting of the two countries (the first was held in October 2013 with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras), and the second visit of Tsipras to Israel within two months. . (One should note, that Greece is only the second country other than the US with which Israel has signed a ‘status of forces agreement’.)

game changer logoThe following day, 28th January 2016, a trilateral summit was held in Nicosia with Netanyahu, Tsipras, and President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. The summit was followed by a significant joint declaration. The joint statement published in Nicosia following the summit describes seven areas of cooperation: energy, tourism, research and technology, environment, water, immigration and the fight against terror.

(Source and more:   A New Geopolitical Bloc is Born in the Eastern Mediterranean: Israel, Greece and Cyprus by Ambassador Arye Mekel, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, also as PDF )

 

EastMed Pipeline

The core of this new alliance is the EastMed Pipeline project from Israel and Cyprus via Greece that would export the Eastern Mediterranean gas to the European market. Israel now has very major finds of natural gas in the Mediterranean off Haifa, and Cyprus has some wells too nearby. Israel is far better positioned to exploit these finds and Cyprus is being helped by Israel in developing their finds. Also, such wells need security from attack and Israel has established a military command purely for this.   Greece in its dire economic situation, also with the addition of tens of thousands of Muslim migrants invading the country, needs help. Israel is prepared to supply natural gas to Greece at discounted prices. This is good for both countries. Other countries might later be included in this alliance (possibly Egypt, Jordan, Italy and Bulgaria).

EastMed pipelineNew technologies used to explore and produce oil and gas lying under Mediterranean waters have led to the discovery of hydrocarbons in volumes that, once commercially available, will reshape the energy map of the Middle East and perhaps, of the Europe too. A changed energy panorama will inevitably alter the geopolitical landscape, thus creating new opportunities. The US Geological Survey estimates that some 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could eventually be found in the Levantine basin, in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, a volume that would make the region an important player in the world of energy. The costs of developing these resources will be high, as a typical development well drilled in that basin will cost between $80-90 million and a gas pipeline to Europe is expected to cost as much as $15-20 billion.

Related to hydrocarbons, Israel and Russia are about to agree cooperation in the East Mediterranean. Israel would agree to end talks with Turkey’s erratic Erdogan on sale of Israeli Leviathan natural gas to Turkey to displace Russian Gazprom gas which still supplies 60% of Turkish gas despite sanctions. According to unnamed diplomatic sources, Putin envisions an investment between $7 billion to $10 billion to develop Israeli offshore gas fields. In addition the Israeli military establishment “prefers maintaining military cooperation with Russia over potential Israeli gas sales to Turkey if they hurt Russian interests and anger Putin.” (Some background in Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean )

Turkey down Kurdistan up

Ankara has been at a standoff with Moscow in recent months, ever since Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border last November, and Russia responded with crippling sanctions and Turkey began normalization talks with Israel. These talks were largely motivated by Turkey’s desire to buy gas from Israel. However the Turkish authorities have yet to close the Hamas terror headquarters in Istanbul, and according to reports the country continues to purchase oil from Islamic State (ISIS) despite global criticism. In light of these reasons, as well as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic comments by senior Turkish officials, the sources estimate that the negotiations are destined to fail. (Source Arutz Sheva )

kurdistanWhile Turkey as well Iran see the growth in strength of the Kurds in the region as a threat to its internal stability – around three million Kurds live in Iranian territory – Russia supports Kurdish independence, since they have been the most effective and trustworthy fighters against ISIS.

Israel, on its part, was the first state to declare its support for an ‘independent’ Kurdistan. In 2014, Netanyahu said: “We should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. Kurds are a nation of fighters [who] have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence.” This January, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called for an independent Kurdistan between Iran and Turkey, and an enhanced policy of cooperation between Israelis and the Kurds. When Iraqi Kurds defied Baghdad in 2015 and began direct sale of the oil in their region, Israel became the major buyer. The oil revenues allowed the Iraqi Kurds to finance their fight against Islamic State (ISIS). A Financial Times report estimated that Israel had purchased 19 million barrels of Iraqi Kurdish oil worth roughly $1 billion between May and August last year [2015].

Turkey has been opposing the establishment of an ‘independent’ Kurdish state, has been supporting Hamas which, in turn, aims at ‘destroying’ Israel and has also at least indirectly assisted Daesh. These actions have instrumental in bringing Israel and Russia closer. Despite Turkey’s attempts at normalizing its relations with Israel, Jerusalem continues to prefer Russia.

The declaration of an autonomous Kurdish-dominated territory along the Turkish border backed by Moscow is a major geopolitical shift in the Syrian situation. On March 17 delegates representing different ethnicities and nationalities–Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians and Chechen–along with representatives from the Syrian People’s Defense Units or YPG, and the YPJ womens’ defense   units declared a formal Federation of Northern Syria which would incorporate 250 miles of mostly Kurdish-held territory along the Syria-Turkey border. On February 7 of this year a curious event took place little noticed by western media. The Syrian Kurds, represented by the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), the main political organization, were welcomed by Russia to open their first foreign office in Moscow.

Russia replaced US

On 15th March 2016, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Moscow to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on Syria and the circumstances that led to Russian pull-out. According to Israeli media, the two leaders also discussed continued military coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow in Syria. Rivlin later held talks with Prime Minister Medvedevin in which Russian government sought more imports of agriculture products from Israel to replace Turkish products blocked following sanctions on Ankara. An Israeli official told local media that “over the last few months, we had regular contact with the Russians at the highest level, and that will continue.”

Israel, for its part, risked a diplomatic crisis with Australia last month by abruptly canceling an official visit by President Reuven Rivlin, who instead headed to Moscow for an urgent meeting with Putin. And this occurred just after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled a planned meeting with Obama in Washington, without even bothering to communicate that officially to the White House. Russia’s smart use of hard power to achieve specific, achievable objectives in Syria has made Russia a focal point for the major actors in the Middle East – creating a serious geopolitical challenge for the US.

Several weeks ago, Putin said he plans to meet with Netanyahu in the nearest future, noting that Russia and Israel have “many issues” to discuss. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu plans to travel to Moscow later in the month, allegedly on April 21, to meet with Putin. (Source e.g: Asia Times )

 

Totalitarian Islamism – Iran’s camp; Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood

The problems facing the Mediterranean security architecture are more acute than ever not only because of the chaotic conditions and criminal conspiracies discussed above, but also due totalitarian Islamism. In general, they can be categorized as belonging to three variants on the theme of Islamism, bitterly hostile to each other: Iran’s camp; Daesh (ISIS) and the Muslim Brotherhood with two influential allies, Turkey and Qatar. These can be described as enemies to many post-modern European, acting brutally and in open defiance of the laws of war and the most elementary norms of human conduct. These forces are by now gaining ground on Mediterranean shores.

islam-anti-free-speech-death-threats-montageThe presence of several common threats, emanating from political and social chaos and from the rise of Islamist forces, is not the only reason for like-minded nations in the Mediterranean region to enhance their cooperation with each other, this is driven to some extent by growing doubts about the willingness and ability of the United States to provide a stable security environment, in the face of the mounting challenges and threats. Also of great importance in shaping the agenda for national policies and regional alliances is the range of serious economic challenges many of them face, and the equally significant opportunities which are bound to arise if trade relations are allowed to develop in a relatively stable environment. Of particular importance is the potential for cooperation in the field of energy, once it can be fully realized.

The relations between Egypt and Hamas are one core question in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides planned Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again ) will go further as partial solution to conflict. Also even without these kind progress Egypt’s actions with Rafah crossing have great importance for welfare of Gaza population. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! ) Egypt has officially accused Hamas of training the terror operatives who assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last year. Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Daesh’ (Islamic State movement’s) branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals.

(Source and background analysis: The BESA (Begin-Sadat) Center at Bar Ilan University has issued a report written by Col. Dr. Eran Lerman on the Eastern Mediterranean and Israel’s role in the development of a new strategic alliance, also as PDF ).

islam violent and political islam

Conclusion

According New Eastern Outlook the fast approaching prospects of an economically stronger Iran seem to have pushed the Israeli policy makers to strike an ‘energy deal’ with Greece and Cyprus—a deal that is supposed to have strong economic as well as politico-strategic underpinnings at various levels of polity. Israel’s agreement with Greece and Cyprus regarding the development of the vast hydrocarbon reserves that have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean, the January 28 declaration has some special significance.

In principle, EastMed Pipeline could also help connect Syria and the Kurdish regions with the European market. To be sure, the EastMed Pipeline project is getting a head start over any definite plans by Iran yet to access Europe’s gas market.

From an Israeli perspective, the recent developments with Greece and Cyprus constitute a win-win situation. The strengthening of ties with these countries creates a new geopolitical bloc that could, to some extent, stand up to Turkey. This bloc has both military and political significance. Greece is ready right now to assist Israel within the European Union, as it proved recently when it led the opposition to labeling settlement products. This represents a sharp change in Greek policy within the European Union. Cyprus almost automatically supports the Greek position, which gives the Greeks a double vote within EU institutions.

Turkey from its side is sliding to isolation and losing ground as regional superpower while Russia is back at the center of the Middle East geostrategic game. As the Americans created a vacuum in their withdrawal Russia replaced it fast. Related to Syria one possible option, which Russia has championed, would be a federal system: Assad’s Alawites could control territory in the West, running from Latakia in the north to Damascus in the south, and an autonomous Syrian-Kurdish region could be established in the northeast, with the rest of the country being left to the Sunni opposition.

Israel-Cyprus-Greece allaince

 


Israel varautunut ydinterroriin

April 9, 2016

YDINASE terroristien käsissä on uhkakuva jota käsiteltiin sekä Tel Avivissa että Washingtonissa huhtikuussa 2016. Ydinturva huippukokouksessa puhuessaan presidentti Obama totesi IS’n jo käyttäneen …

Source: Israel varautunut ydinterroriin


Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

March 30, 2016

david starIsrael will have five policy options regarding Judea and Samaria when Mahmoud Abbas departs from his post as leader of the Palestinian Authority and none of these options is ideal. This is the conclusion of analysis by Professor Hillel Frisch, professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

Prof. Frisch is trying to craft a coherent Israeli policy toward a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA). The task is challenging as the situation is constantly buffeted by tremors and underground currents. These include a wave of terrorist violence against Israelis, albeit declining; a growing rift within Fatah between Abbas and his detractors that is very much linked to the battle over his succession; and the possibility that linkage between those two developments could degenerate into civil war (another arena in the proxy war waged between Iran and Saudi Arabia and their respective allies).

The five approaches are

  • conflict management option,
  • creative friction,
  • constructive chaos,
  • unilateral withdrawal, and
  • unilateral annexation.

In every case, however, Israel will have to maintain a military presence in Judea and Samaria.

BESA CenterThe article Israel’s Five Policy Options Regarding Judea and Samaria by Prof. Hillel Frisch is BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 336, March 29, 2016 and it can be found as PDF from here ; a resume of it is represented below:

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas [Source: Prof. Hillel Frisch/BESA Center]

According Prof. Frisch the Conflict Management Option is probably the most feasible, and the unilateral withdrawal option the least and according him the Unilateral withdrawal would in any case probably prove to be domestically impossible. The chaos option is not entirely in Israel’s hands, contingent as it is on developments within the PA.

Unlike in an excellent article by Prof. Frisch I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually. Sure this option is promoted by Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, but I understand that the proposal has support in addition to center-left also from center and center-right in Israeli’s political sphere. I would like to emphasize also one aspect namely separate truce with Gaza/Hamas and in best case implementation sc Sinai option which could solve refugee question with positive outcome to some of problems in West Bank too.

clinton parameters

The components of Two-State solution have been roughly clear last two decades – see ‘Parameters of the Israel-Palestine Conflict’ above – but the final agreement is still missing. The international pressure might lead to talks or negotiations again, with or without outside facilitators, but probably with the same outcome than earlier. So from my perspective unilateral actions are steps forward and in my opinion also to the right direction.

If peace negotiations don’t start, they fail again or regional solutions can’t be realized this time so from my viewpoint Israel could independently implement what I have called a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, where Israel would annex main settlements from West-bank inside the security fence and return to negotiations about other than so solved border issue when both parties feel need to make a long term deal. This solution in my opinion is the best way forward and it even might be possible to implement. If unilateral solutions are made in the framework of constructive unilateralism so this approach might be the right roadmap towards more permanent two-state solution.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


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Biased ICTY Sentenced Karadzig 40 Years Based On Srebrenica [Hoax]

March 25, 2016

imagesA former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of genocide and other charges for his role during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, including the massacres of 8,000 Muslim men and boys outside the Srebrenica enclave.

An international tribunal announced a long-awaited reckoning in Europe’s bloodiest chapter since World War II on 24th March 2016. Karadzic, 70, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

In my post “Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre?”  I tried to highlight the other side of Srebrenica story which differs from the picture of (western) mainstream media. I have never denied that brutalities happened in Srebrenica, but would like to get more information

a) About the context of Srebrenica events

b) Who was massacred (civilians/soldiers/members of different ethnic groups)

c) How many died in Srebrenica July 1995

d) What was the role of media as part of political game

What I claimed then and now is that the reality is much more complex than the existing myth. To have wider picture about events I have picked some alternative versions about Srebrenica case and mostly from western sources because many readers would see Serbian versions too biased.

Some alternative views:

From The Globe and Mail (Canada), July 14, 2005 “The real story behind Srebrenica” by the former UNPROFOR commander, Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, The Globe and Mail, 14 July 2005:

Evidence given at The Hague war crimes tribunal casts serious doubt on the figure of “up to” 8,000 Bosnian Muslims massacred. That figure includes “up to” 5,000 who have been classified as missing. More than 2,000 bodies have been recovered in and around Srebrenica, and they include victims of the three years of intense fighting in the area. The math just doesn’t support the scale of 8,000 killed.

 

Former chief NSA analyst: Most of killed in Srebrenica were soldiers who refused to surrender:

The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre” -article argues that only some Bosniaks were executed, most died in battle, and some of the bodies in mass graves are actually Serbs, by Edward S. Herman, 7 July 2005

There have been a great many bodies gathered at Tuzla, some 7,500 or more, many in poor condition or parts only, their collection and handling incompatible with professional forensic standards, their provenance unclear and link to the July 1995 events in Srebrenica unproven and often unlikely, (The web site of the International Commission on Missing Persons in the Former Yugoslavia acknowledges that the bodies “have been exhumed from various gravesites in northeast HiH,” not just in the Srebrenica region; quoted in a 2003 Statement by ICMP Chief of Staff Concerning Persons Reported Missing from Srebrenica in July 1995, Gordon Bacon.) and the manner of their death usually uncertain. Interestingly, although the Serbs were regularly accused of trying to hide bodies, there has never been any suggestion that the Bosnian Muslims, long in charge of the body search, might shift bodies around and otherwise manipulate evidence, despite their substantial record of dissembling. A systematic attempt to use DNA to trace connections to Srebrenica is underway, but entails many problems, apart from that of the integrity of the material studied and process of investigation, and will not resolve the question of differentiating executions from deaths in combat. There are also lists of missing, but these lists are badly flawed, with duplications, individuals listed who had died before July 1995, who fled to avoid BSA service, or who registered to vote in 1997, and they include individuals who died in battle or reached safety or were captured and assumed a new existence elsewhere.

Report of International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) says that the “alleged casualty number of 7,000 victims is vastly inflated and unsupported by evidence”

Phillip Corwin, former UN Civilian Affairs Coordinator in Bosnia during the 1990s, said: “What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three year period which reached a crescendo in July of 1995.”

Former BBC journalist Jonathan Rooper, who has researched the events in Srebrenica since 1995, says that the region was a graveyard for Serbs as well as Muslims and that a monument to inflated casualties on one side “serves neither truth nor the goal of reconciliation”. Around 3,000 names on a list of Srebrenica victims compiled by the Red Cross matched voters in the Bosnian election in 1996. “I pointed out to the OSCE that there had either been massive election fraud or almost half the people on the ICRC missing list were still alive,” says Rooper. “The OSCE finally responded that the voting lists had been locked away in warehouses and it would not be possible for them to investigate.”

Report of Srebrenica Research Group concludes that “the contention that as many as 8,000 Muslims were killed has no basis in available evidence and is essentially a political construct.

The ICMP now (June 2005) states on its website: “One month before the 10th anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has completed identifications of more than 2,000 of the Srebrenica victims.”

Srebrenica-suicide-1995

An article “Using War as an Excuse for More War: Srebrenica Revisited” by Diana Johnstone describes e.g. following

In short, Srebrenica, whose Serb population had been chased out by Muslim troops at the start of the civil war in 1992, was both a gathering point for civilian Muslim refugees and a Muslim army base. The enclave lived from international humanitarian aid. The Muslim military did not allow civilians to leave, since their presence was what ensured the arrival of humanitarian aid provisions which the military controlled…

srebrenicaMuch has been made of the fact that Serb forces separated the population, providing buses for women, children and the infirm to take them to Tuzla, while detaining the men. In light of all that preceded, the reason for this separation is obvious: the Bosnian Serbs were looking for the perpetrators of raids on Serb villages, in order to take revenge…

When the Serb forces entered the town from the south, thousands of Muslim soldiers, in disarray because of the absence of commanding officers, fled northwards, through wild wooded hills toward Tuzla. It is clear enough that they fled because they feared exactly what everyone aware of the situation dreaded: that Serb soldiers would take vengeance on the men they considered guilty of murdering Serb civilians and prisoners. Thousands of those men did in fact reach Tuzla, and were quietly redeployed. This was confirmed by international observers. However, Muslim authorities never provided information about these men, preferring to let them be counted among the missing, that is, among the massacred. Another large, unspecified number of these men were ambushed and killed as they fled in scenes of terrible panic. This was, then, a “massacre”, such as occurs in war when fleeing troops are ambushed by superior forces.

Who Gets Justice From ICTY?

Finnish leading daily newspaper – Helsingin Sanomat – published on 14th Apr. 2013 an investigative feature story Winners Justice related to recent release of Croatian war criminal Ante Gotovina. Gotovina was responsible about biggest ethnic cleansing during Balkan wars. The article clearly proves the political and biased nature of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

 

Bosniacs have got most justice from Hague, Albanians and Serbs least Lines from top to bottom: Croats, Bosniacs, Serbs, Albanians, Other Column 1: Civilian deaths, Column 2: Refugees, Column 3: ICTY sentences (years) about crimes against nations on line, Column 4: ICTY sentences against nations on line/days/civilian death Column 5: ICTY sentences against nations on line/ratio of deaths + 50% of refugee amount Free translation AR///Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Bosniacs have got most justice from Hague, Albanians and Serbs least
Lines from top to bottom: Croats, Bosniacs, Serbs, Albanians, Other
Column 1: Civilian deaths, Column 2: Refugees, Column 3: ICTY sentences (years) about crimes against nations on line, Column 4: ICTY sentences against nations on line/days/civilian death
Column 5: ICTY sentences against nations on line/ratio of deaths + 50% of refugee amount
Free translation AR///Source: Helsingin Sanomat

 

My conclusion: Selective Justice

In my earlier article I asked: Srebrenica – a hoax or massacre? and summarized following:

Srebrenica – a hoax or massacre?I would say both; a hoax due the well planned and implemented PR maneuver , a massacre when the Serbs went to trap and used brutal force also against civilians. When the Serbs got a tactical win in warfare the Muslims got US as their strategic ally with Serb demonization. In addition to human sacrifice – victims from all ethnic groups, civilians and soldiers/mercenaries – one loser was the investigative journalism and media on the whole by accepting one-sided truth in Bosnia and since then also in future conflicts.

The Al-Quada-linked 'El-Mujahedeen' brigade of the Bosnian Muslim Army parading in downtown Zenica in central Bosnia in 1995, carrying the black flag of Islamic jihad

The Al-Quada-linked ‘El-Mujahedeen’ brigade of the Bosnian Muslim Army parading in downtown Zenica in central Bosnia in 1995, carrying the black flag of Islamic jihad

In Wilson Center publication 191. Biased Justice: “Humanrightsism” and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Robert M. Hayden gives from my piint of view an excellent description about ICTY – a quote:

The ICTY, however, delivers a “justice” that is biased, with prosecutorial decisions based on the personal and national characteristics of the accused rather than on what available evidence indicates that he has done. This bias is seen in the failure to prosecute NATO personnel for acts that are comparable to those of people already indicted, and in the failure to prosecute NATO personnel for prima facie war crimes. This pattern of politically driven prosecution is accompanied by the use of the Tribunal as a tool for those Western countries that support it, and especially the United States, to pursue political goals in the Balkans. Further, the Tribunal’s rules (some of which resemble those of the Spanish Inquisition) and procedural decisions make it difficult for defendants to receive a fair trial.

From its part international tribunal whitewashes the activities of Western powers and their Muslim allies during Bosnian war as well during Kosovo conflict [1999]. While focusing to Karadzic and later Karadzic’s military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic [still awaiting trial] ICTY ignores ethnic-cleansing policies and atrocities made by Croatian and Bosnian nationalists as well Kosovo Albanian crime clans because they all were US allies.

In my opinion the decision of ICTY reflects more old realpolitik than justice. Hopefully, the Mladić trial will seriously examine the entire context that led to the massacre of Srebrenica and how a vulgar “tit-for-tat” between two armies was transformed by rhetoric into genocide.

Figting-ISIL-_-Ratko-Mladic

[Article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila]


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