Friday, May 12, 2023

From Ian:

Col. Richard Kemp: 'A grave slur against IDF': UN plays right into Islamic Jihad's hands
Operation Shield and Arrow has been carried out to date with breathtaking effectiveness. The shield of Iron Dome and David’s Sling have prevented major loss of life among the civilian population, although so far one man has been tragically killed and some have been injured, despite a barrage of 547 deadly rockets fired at Israel at the time of writing.

The arrows of target intelligence, air strikes and missile attacks have decimated the Gaza terrorist leadership and destroyed many of their weapons. No other military is capable of defending its people with the ferocity and precision the IDF has been showing.

Unfortunately, some of Israel’s arrows have also killed uninvolved civilians. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said yesterday that the civilian deaths in Gaza are “unacceptable” and called on Israel to “abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law”.

This amounts to a grave slur against the IDF which is known by all Western military commanders to be more effective than any other force in the world in preventing the deaths of civilians in enemy territory. Instead, Guterres should have held the Gaza terrorists directly responsible for the killing of their civilians, for it is they who have a deliberate policy of using human shields — a war crime. Not least, Islamic Jihad commanders keep their wives and children close to them as proper military commanders would wear their body armor and helmet.

Guterres’s comments — and their echoes in the media and among human rights groups — also play directly into the hands of terrorists whose prime operational objective, short of its destruction, is international vilification of Israel. The UN Human Rights Council’s condemnation of the IDF that will follow this conflict as night follows day, flowing from thinking such as the Secretary General’s, will help ensure that Islamic Jihad and terrorists everywhere continue to use human shields and will cost many more lives.

Knowing the IDF as I do I can be confident that they are closely adhering to — and going beyond — international laws of war in this conflict. But there is another question as well. Should they have been given political direction to conduct offensive operations in Gaza, knowing that innocent civilian lives would be lost? Some argue, following Guterres’s line that civilian deaths are unacceptable, that Israel’s shield is sufficient to blunt the rockets and protect its population without the accompanying arrows.

Of course, the reality is that no defensive system can provide 100% protection, as we have seen from deaths, wounding, and property destruction in Israel during this conflict and previous rocket attacks; and no country can sit back and watch while its enemies lash out. On top of that the stakes in the current round of violence are much higher even than 547 rockets fired out of Gaza in two days.
Caroline Glick: Gaza’s ghosts
In a jaw-dropping display of irony, on Wednesday the Neve Dekalim Girl’s High School was forced to cancel a scheduled celebration to mark its 40th birthday.

Since 2005, the school has been located in Nitzan, around 30 kilometers outside Gaza. For its first 22 years, it was located in Neve Dekalim, the capital of the Gush Katif settlement bloc in southern Gaza. The school moved to Nitzan when the Sharon government ordered the IDF to expel all Jews from Gaza, destroy their communities and withdraw IDF forces to the 1949 armistice lines.

On Wednesday, Nitzan, like all the other communities in the western Negev, came under missile assault from the ruins of Neve Dekalim and the ruins of the other destroyed communities of Gaza. After Israel withdrew 18 years ago, Hamas and its fellow terror groups transformed what had been flourishing communities into terror bases and rocket launching sites.

Islamic Jihad, which is currently attacking Israel with rockets, missiles and mortars, is supposedly Hamas’ junior partner. But even as a junior terror master, the organization formed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in 1988 has become a formidable problem. With rockets and missiles capable of attacking Tel Aviv, Beersheva and their environs, the supposed little guy in Gaza managed to shoot off close to 600 missiles, mortars and rockets in two days and force more than two million Israelis to run to bomb shelters for cover. The wizened experts sitting in the TV studios all explain that Israel is right to try to keep Hamas out of things, because if we think Islamic Jihad is a problem, their capabilities are but a faint echo of Hamas’ amassed power.

It is considered impolite to discuss the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza these days. It’s old news. Time to move on, irritated anchors and editors insist. And anyway, no one wants to sound like a broken record. That’s why the story of Neve Dekalim Girl’s High School barely registered on Wednesday.

But from time to time, it’s imperative to bring up the 2005 operation. It stands as a glaring lesson that we ignore at our peril.

For all the misery that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah terror forces in Gaza rain down on Israel—particularly on the western Negev communities—the fact is that Gaza is a sideshow. Lebanon, Judea, Samaria and even Syria are also sideshows. The main event remains Iran, its nuclear weapons program and its rising power in the region. Israel’s main effort has to be focused on Iran—not on its puppets. Without Iran, none of them would be anywhere near as dangerous as they are today.
Israel can use Iran's multi-theater strategy to its advantage
Israel must "exploit" the regional conflicts to frustrate Iran's entrenchment efforts at a much larger scale, especially by destroying the arsenals and its various capabilities to manufacture and convert munitions in order to prevent their use in the future. The main efforts should be vis-à-vis the warehouse and the PGMs capabilities in Lebanon, but also vis-à-vis Syria and Gaza.

At the same time, Israel must prevent Iran (economically and practically) from rearming its proxies after their weapons will be destroyed. To do it effectively, Israel must pressure Washington, in coordination with the Gulf states, to deal with all three components of the Iranian nuclear program – fissile material, weaponization (which should be now the main effort), and the means of delivery – and at the same time create maximum economic pressure and a credible military threat.

A partial and weak nuclear deal will send a false signal to Iran (and to the markets) that the West will agree to everything Iran did and will do. Israel will be left alone again, and it will be very difficult to take out the nuclear program under an agreement. In addition, any agreement will give Iran windfall revenues, allowing the regime to rehabilitate its economy, and continue arming its proxies around the region while reducing the effectiveness of Israeli operations to destroy their capabilities.

Israel should continue improving its military capabilities toward a broad future confrontation with Iran, alongside building other capabilities. It's time to change Israel's thinking and take the initiative, as has been the case in recent days in Gaza. A plan must be built to turn lemons into lemonade by having Iran's plan of a multi-front confrontation become a double-edged sword, and by severely undermining their efforts to entrench themselves in the region and arm their proxies. The paradigm shift will also strengthen Israel's standing in the region, including the efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, despite the agreement it recently signed with Iran, under the auspices of China.

Seth J. Frantzman: The road to Gaza: Israel's latest clash with Palestinian Islamic Jihad
WHEN THE rockets began on May 10, they represented Islamic Jihad’s initial response. It fired 100 rockets in an hour, first at Sderot and then Ashkelon and then points further away. The familiar sound of Iron Dome interceptors erupting skyward was audible.

In Ashkelon the city was deserted, and people were staying home. IDF Home Front Command and the municipality had done a good job anticipating what might come next. This sense of normality was palpable. War is normal, but the situation is abnormal. Talk of a ceasefire began almost immediately, but no one believes it will hold.

These short operations have become more frequent and shorter. No more monthlong conflicts or ground operations in Gaza. This isn’t like back in 2014 when the fields were festooned with tanks churning up the melons that otherwise would have been agricultural bounty. We’ve learned a lot since 2014. But we’ve also gotten to the point where we fight endless conflicts against groups like Jihad and may be losing sight of the forest for the trees.

We can fight the conflicts with relative ease, but millions still see their lives interrupted. People aren’t supposed to gather, kids miss out on birthday parties or other events. And even though rockets falling on civilian areas are rare, due to Iron Dome, it does happen, and everyone must be on their guard.

Is Islamic Jihad deterred? What has Hezbollah learned from this recent round? For those of us who have gotten too used to this choreographed way of conflict, it’s puzzling to look out and realize that millions of people tethered to their bomb shelters for several days is not normal.

Sometimes being out in the fields, watching rockets launched in front of you and Iron Dome interceptors screaming skyward behind you, is more reassuring than being under the undulating wail of sirens that cause one to jerk up with momentary fear. That should not be a norm. But it is.
Seth J. Frantzman: 'Iron Dome exploded over my head'
Even before the radio could sound the alarm, Iron Dome interceptors exploded from their battery, trailing white smoke above my head.

At the same time, salvos of rockets could be seen flying skyward, to the north, from the Strip. Each missile ended its flight path in a little burst of smoke above me. One, two, three, four, five, six, interceptions. After a few seconds, the sound travelled and the loud booms were heard.

The Israeli system to detect and intercept rockets is designed to give people a warning, wherever they are. Radio stations will break in with alarms where rockets are likely to land and sirens alert people in urban areas. The sirens stop. The radio goes back to normal programming.

I was on a rural road between Ashkelon and the communities along the Gaza border. That morning, before hostilities broke out, I had driven into the cauldron.

The landscape had become increasingly deserted as I got closer. In Ashkelon, a large coastal city north of the Strip, the malls were closed, with only pharmacies and some small shops still trading.

Children were off school due to the security threat and most people appeared to be staying at home, as if there was another pandemic.

As I drove around areas near the Gaza Strip, more than 100 rockets were fired at southern Israel.

The terrorists began by targeting Sderot, a border town that has seen thousands of missiles launched in its direction since Israel left Gaza in 2005. Then Islamic Jihad aimed for Ashkelon. Then further north, toward Tel Aviv.
Israel kills another top Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City airstrike
An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad member, the sixth since the latest round of hostilities began earlier this week.

The strike near Gaza City that killed Iyad al-Hassani, along with another man the military said was his assistant, dealt yet another blow to the terror group and further dampened hopes for a ceasefire.

In a joint statement, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security agency said al-Hassani was a top official in the group’s military council, in charge of its operations department. In recent days, he had also replaced the head of Islamic Jihad in northern Gaza, Khalil Bahtini, who was killed in an Israeli strike on Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for Islamic Jihad confirmed al-Hassani’s death to AFP and other outlets.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, another five people were wounded in the airstrike targeting the top floor of an apartment building.

“He was involved in all the decisions concerning the rocket fire and rocket barrages carried out by the group toward Israel,” the IDF said.

Speaking to reporters after the strike, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the military had identified al-Hassani traveling in several vehicles over the past day. “Our ability to track using aircraft has improved in the operation, giving us the ability to track [commanders] between apartments,” he said.
65 Hour Recap: Operation “Shield and Arrow” Continues.

Incase you missed it, here are the FACTS:

Israeli military operation in Gaza: Day 4

Iron Dome malfunction allowed direct hit on Rehovot home - IDF
The Iron Dome air defense system suffered a technical malfunction on Thursday evening, allowing a Gaza rocket to inflict a direct hit on a Rehovot building killing one person, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari revealed on Friday morning.

While the air defense system fired as intended, it failed to intercept the Islamic Jihad missile that directly hit the apartment building in Rehovot.

Further, Hagari noted that the rocket launched by Gaza landed on the building at a "complex angle," causing the death of one and injuring eight more.

The Israeli was killed after he was trapped under the rubble of the damaged building. Eight others were lightly injured and received medical treatment on the scene.

Two homes in Sderot were also directly hit by the wave of rockets, although no injuries were reported. In a second wave of rockets an hour later, a third home sustained direct hits.

Some 860 rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Shield and Arrow on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands attend Tel Aviv outdoor rock concert despite threat of rockets
Despite looming threats of rocket fire from Gaza, an estimated 40,000 people attended a concert of Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening.

The Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command green-lit the concert at HaYarkon Park to go ahead as planned, but ticket holders received precautionary text messages instructing them on behavior should rocket sirens sound. Participants were warned not to run (as this would be dangerous in a large crowd) but to drop to the ground and protect their heads with their hands for a period of 10 minutes.

Amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, a sense of apprehension gripped many ticket holders. Geffen, in an Instagram post, told those who decided no to attend to contact the ticketing company on Sunday to ask for a refund.

The singer celebrated his 50th birthday on Wednesday, and the performance was scheduled to coincide with the event. It was his first performance ever at HaYarkon Park.

“Never has so much effort been put into a show of mine,” he said before the concert.

Some commentators criticized the singer and authorities for moving forward with the concert despite the danger.

Rocking out under the Iron Dome - reporter's notebook
Then, I wondered if it was wise to hold the show. After all, the headlines just told Islamic Jihad where tens of thousands of Israelis were going to gather outdoors.

Later, concert-goers received another message saying we should lie down on the ground for 10 minutes if there’s a rocket alert siren.

It felt a bit reckless to go out like that, while insisting my three children sleep in the safe room of our house, with my oldest’s mattress on the floor between her brothers’ beds.

But the odds of something happening seemed very slim, and I had been looking forward to this for months. So I gave the babysitter extra emergency contact numbers and left.

On the train ride into Tel Aviv, I sent the Post quotes from a diplomatic source saying there definitely won’t be a ceasefire tonight.

Yet even that didn’t prepare me for the surreality of dancing under the Iron Dome.

Tel Aviv is often maligned as a bubble
In fact, Tel Aviv has been the site of some of the worst terrorist attacks in the past decade, and the same was true in the Second Intifada, the 1990s bus bombings and others.

But Tel Aviv is also intensely vibrant. It is the throbbing nerve center of Israeli culture. It is a city that looks for any excuse to have a big party.

No terrorists are going to stop that.

While some were critical of people partying in the Tel Aviv bubble while the South was hiding in shelters, the truth is more complex than that.

Those of us in a safe enough place to leave the house and party must do it, within reason. Because if you cancel your parties and you stop singing and dancing, you’re giving in to the terrorists.

It’s much better to give them a big, rock and roll middle finger with 40,000 people in Park Hayarkon.
Backstreet Boys show in Israel canceled over security concerns
A performance by the Backstreet Boys, scheduled to take place Friday night in Rishon Lezion, was canceled earlier in the day amid concerns over security.

The decision, made between the IDF's Home Front Command and the Rishon Lezion municipality, comes amid the ongoing exchange of fire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip in an operation the IDF has called Operation Shield and Arrow. Backstreet Boys Israel show would have been part of DNA World Tour

The 1990s boy band superstars announced in February they were planning to return to Israel for the third time, on May 13 at Rishon Lezion’s Live Park. The group last performed here in 2018, celebrating their 25th anniversary before a sold-out crowd of 16,000 at the same venue.

The five-member group, made up of AJ McLean, Howie D, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, has sold over 130 million records worldwide since forming in 1993 and is regarded as one of the world’s best-selling boy bands. They’re best known for hits like “I Want It That Way,” “As Long As You Love Me” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”

The Post’s Noa Amouyal wrote of their 2018 show: “The entire performance seemed plucked out of their Las Vegas residency, where less physical exertion is a necessity to sustain performing several shows a week. They even wore shiny black tuxedo jackets which seemed far more appropriate for a Vegas stage than a Rishon one.”

Palestinian Rockets Fired Towards Jerusalem, Israel Keeps Up Strikes on Gaza
Palestinian militants on Friday fired rockets towards Jerusalem for the first time since fighting across the Israel–Gaza border intensified this week while Israel kept up air strikes on Gaza amid Egyptian efforts to forge a ceasefire.

Rocket sirens sounded in the town of Beit Shemesh and elsewhere in the hills outside Jerusalem, ending a 12-hour lull in fighting. Brief explosions could be heard in Jerusalem, possibly from Israeli missile defences intercepting the rockets.

The Israeli military did not immediately confirm any interceptions near Jerusalem. Local media reported Israeli air defences shot down two longer-range rockets.

Israeli towns near the Gaza border also came under renewed rocket fire.

Shortly afterwards, Israel renewed air strikes against the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip.

No injuries were reported in Friday’s violence, the latest setback in Egyptian attempts at engineering a truce.

Israeli forces launched an air strike campaign against the Islamic Jihad leadership in the early hours on Tuesday, accusing them of planning attacks on Israel. Islamic Jihad, the second largest armed group in Gaza after the ruling Islamist Hamas, has since fired almost 1,000 rockets, some deep into Israel.

"Watch: Terrorists’ Live Video Tweet Captures their Death"
An astonishing video from a live feed on Twitter showing two terrorists removing rifles from a stash before they are hit, most likely by an explosive drone.

Disquiet Among Tunisian Jews Over President’s Response to Deadly Synagogue Attack
Despite an outward show of unity with the Tunisian authorities, there is significant disquiet within the North African country’s Jewish community over the government’s response to Tuesday’s deadly gun attack upon worshipers at a historic synagogue on the island of Djerba, The Algemeiner has learned.

A member of the Tunisian Jewish community expressed serious concern regarding the remarks delivered by President Kais Saied to Tunisia’s National Security Council on Wednesday, pointing to the absence of any condemnation of antisemitism or condolences specifically directed to the Jewish community.

“I heard his entire speech, and I realized that it is probably very difficult for him to mention the word ‘Jews’,” the Jewish community member — who spoke on condition of strict anonymity for fear of reprisals — told The Algemeiner during a telephone interview on Thursday.

“Without a doubt, [Saied] is not only a hater of Israel but also antisemitic,” the person added emphatically.

Two worshipers — Benjamin Haddad, a French citizen, and his cousin Aviel Haddad, a joint French-Israeli citizen — were murdered alongside two police officers during the attack on the El Ghriba synagogue carried out by a naval officer who was serving on the island. Thousands of pilgrims visit the synagogue annually to celebrate the Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer. The authorities announced on Wednesday that a “preliminary criminal investigation” had been opened.

In his comments to the National Security Council, Saeid stressed that Tunisia remained safe as a destination, “no matter how much these criminals try to destabilize it.”
Tunisia names synagogue gunman, says attack was premeditated and targeted shrine
A Tunisian national guardsman behind an attack that killed five people intentionally targeted the ancient synagogue on the Mediterranean island of Djerba in a premeditated act, Tunisia’s interior minister said Thursday, as authorities also revealed the assailant’s name.

The mass shooting on Tuesday sparked panic during an annual Jewish pilgrimage at the historic Ghriba synagogue on the resort island, believed to be one of the world’s oldest Jewish shrines.

Authorities were investigating the motive of the gunman, who was shot dead after killing three police officers and two visitors, a French-Tunisian and an Israeli-Tunisian man, both of whom were Jewish. A dozen others were wounded.

Tunisian authorities revealed the gunman’s name — Wissam Khazri, a member of the Tunisian National Guard affiliated with the naval center in the island’s port town of Aghir — and said he planned the attack, but they gave no explanation of why. It was yet unknown if the Khazri specifically targeted Jews in the attack.

Interior Minister Kamel Fekih pledged to “spare no effort to ensure the stability of the country” and to protect foreigners following the attack.

Fekih said security forces killed the gunman within 120 seconds of arriving outside the synagogue complex. The minister described the shooting as a “cowardly criminal attack” but refrained from calling it a terrorist act.
On anniversary, IDF spokesman apologizes for Shireen Abu Akleh’s death for 1st time
Exactly a year after prominent Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, the IDF spokesperson for the first time issued an apology Wednesday for the incident, which caused widespread international condemnation.

The 51-year-old Abu Akleh, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11, 2022, during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering a military operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, amid a wider anti-terror crackdown, according to the official account provided by the IDF.

While the Israeli army has conducted its own investigation and acknowledged the bullet that killed her was “in very high likelihood” shot from an IDF gun, it has firmly rejected allegations that the veteran journalist was deliberately targeted.

During an interview with CNN Wednesday, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said when asked about the matter: “I think it’s an opportunity for me to say here that we are very sorry [for] the death of the late Shireen Abu Akleh.

“She was a journalist, a very established journalist,” he added. “In Israel, we are a democracy, and in a democracy we see high value in journalism and in free press. We want journalists to feel safe in Israel, especially in wartime, and even if they criticize us, we want them to feel safe. It’s all about democracy, and we are a liberal democracy.”

US authorities seize Hezbollah-linked website domains in counterterrorism effort
US authorities have seized over a dozen website domains used by sanctioned associates, businesses and charities of Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Washington has listed the Iran-backed group as a terrorist organization, and has slapped sanctions on its members, associates and affiliated businesses and charities over the years.

The 13 seized website domains include multiple domains for the group’s al-Manar television, as well as URLs for top officials, deputy secretary-general Naim Kassem, senior officials Ibrahim al-Sayed and Ali Damush, as well as affiliated charities the Martyrs’ Foundation and the Emdad Committee for Islamic Charity.

The websites are no longer accessible, and only an image from American authorities announcing that they have taken the domain name appears. Al-Manar’s main web address, a Lebanese domain, is still operating.

“This seizure demonstrates the FBI’s persistence in using all of our tools to hold accountable terrorists and their affiliates when they violate US laws,” Assistant Director Robert R. Wells of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division said in the statement.

“The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to seek out those individuals who contribute to the advancement of Lebanese Hezbollah’s malign activities and ensure they are brought to justice, regardless of where, or how, they attempt to hide.”

German-Iranian charged over Tehran-directed plans to burn down synagogue
German prosecutors on Thursday charged a German-Iranian dual national for an attempted arson attack near a synagogue on the orders of the government in Tehran.

Babak J. was instructed by an intermediary “acting on behalf of unknown Iranian state agencies” in November 2022 to carry out an arson attack on a synagogue in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Subsequently, the accused is said to have sought to convince an acquaintance to set fire to a synagogue in Dortmund using a Molotov cocktail but was refused.

Babak J.’s handler later named another synagogue — in the city of Bochum rather than in Dortmund — as a target, prosecutors said.

“The accused refrained from attacking the well-monitored synagogue in Bochum itself for fear of discovery,” they said.

Instead, the suspect tried to set fire to a school building adjoining the synagogue in the western German city, according to prosecutors.

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