The Israeli military continues to fear a scenario in which Palestinians break through the Gaza border fence into Israel.
Israeli soldiers shoot tear gas from the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border as Palestinians protest in Gaza, March 30, 2018.
The March 30 Great March of Return to the Gaza border fence was nothing more than Act 1 of an unfolding drama, a dress rehearsal or possibly a pilot for what one can expect to see in the very near future. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are now preparing for April 17, Palestinian Prisoners Day, also the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, and for May 15, Nakba Day, also the day after the United States is expected to open its new embassy in Jerusalem. Further complicating matters, the latter event coincides with the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The Great March of Return was initiated and orchestrated by Hamas in an attempt to change the rules of the game, create a new balance of power and send a message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people is far from over. Hamas is alive and kicking, and it is marching as well.
Hamas is in the process of losing its tunnels as a weapon. The IDF and Egypt have also successfully prevented the group from smuggling into Gaza rockets, missiles and other arms that could break the balance of power. Facing the most threatening dead end ever, Hamas found a way to reinvent itself: a popular, mass march by tens of thousands of people, all heading to the Israeli border at the Erez checkpoint, where they would trample the fence, break the Israeli siege and move on toward Jerusalem or at least to the southern town of Ashkelon. Images of IDF tanks and helicopters firing at civilians marching for their freedom would be Israel’s worst imaginable nightmare. That is why the IDF has decided not to let that happen.
The IDF prepared for 100,000 marchers on March 30. That Hamas only managed to rally 35,000, according to the official Israeli estimate, is seen as a failure by the movement, already in a daunting state of crisis. It was thought that women and children would be at the forefront of the demonstrations, shielding others who would attempt to break through the fence and hide explosive devices or otherwise attack IDF troops. As the event neared, official Israeli spokespeople, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot issued a stern warning to Hamas’ leaders. The IDF stationed more than 100 snipers along the fence, with strict rules of engagement. The objectives were to conclude the event with a minimum number of casualties, make every effort to avoid shooting women and children and prevent any damage to the fence.
“Just imagine what could have happened,” one senior Israeli defense official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Picture the outcome if they would have burst through the fence, even at a single point, and begun marching into Israel. It would have ended in a bloodbath. We don’t have the privilege of allowing masses of Palestinians to march to Jerusalem, Ashkelon or any of the kibbutzim along the fence. We would have no choice but to employ enormous force, and that would have resulted in dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties. The images would have been a huge victory for the Palestinians. As far as we’re concerned, the fact that the recent event ended with 16 casualties, 12 of whom have already been identified as Hamas terrorists, but without any casualties among the women and children, is a very significant achievement on our part. It should not be taken for granted.”
The IDF believes that it was able to let the air out of Hamas’ balloon and keep the group from claiming an achievement before they continue with the current strategy. “Next time,” Liberman said, “we have the capacity to respond more forcibly. We will not hesitate to use any means at our disposal.” His statement was meant to emphasize that when it comes to violations of Israel’s sovereignty along the border fence, Israel has no plans to blink.
One senior military official told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity, “Understand, this fence is a border in every sense of the term. No country in the world would allow terrorists to break through its borders. All anyone has to do is to listen to the leaders of Hamas. They did not call this event a demonstration against the occupation but a March of Return. They announced that they would be marching to Jerusalem. They declare again and again that they do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. That is why they leave us no choice but to block them by force, no matter what the cost.”
The cost is the essential issue that makes Israel’s achievement on Friday problematic. The far left was critical of what transpired, while the leaders of the center-left Zionist Campexpressed their support for the IDF and the measures taken by the government. That aside, the security establishment is well aware that the high number of casualties helps Hamas keep its fires burning. It may even be fanning the flames. Israel has a clear interest in minimizing the number of casualties, since this would help lower the flames and restore calm. While the IDF considers that it contained the number of fatalities to 16, that is still a high number. It is more than either side has suffered in a day, with the exception of when actually fighting.
On April 1, the IDF began to speed up its construction and engineering projects involving Gaza. Obstacles and additional barriers are being installed to delay and even prevent Palestinians from quickly breaking through the fence into Israeli territory. Work continues at a fast pace and with vast sums to complete the underground barrier to deny Palestinians the ability to tunnel into Israel.
Eizenkot, in Passover interviews, estimated that the underground barrier would be completed this year. With the identification and destruction of any existing tunnels, apparently in the single digits, Hamas will no longer have a significant strategic weapon to use against Israel. Given this, Israel realizes that the only weapon Hamas has left is mass marches.
The working assumption in Israel is that going forward, Hamas activists will not be satisfied with trying to plant explosive devices along the border fence or otherwise ignite the area. “It is possible that the next time, they will try to shoot at IDF troops,” a senior Israeli military figure told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity. “They will try to incite the area and cause us to make a mistake, which would send tens of thousands of people to the fence.”
The IDF will try not to make that mistake. A 7-year-old girl brought to the fence on March 30 was returned to her parents by the IDF. The question is whether the next time, Israel will avoid making any major mistakes and creating a new Mohammed al-Dura, the Palestinian boy killed while huddling from gunfire with his father at the Kisufim checkpoint at the start of the last intifada, in 2000. A mistake of that magnitude would reshuffle the deck, putting Hamas back on center stage and the Palestinian issue back on the international agenda. Could that happen? Anything is possible.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
Spurred by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s resignation and the realization that elections will likely be moved to early 2019, the leaders of the Druze community are determined to fight against the Nationality Law.
Leaders from the Druze minority and others take part in a rally to protest the Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 4, 2018
It certainly seems like Israel is headed toward early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned Nov. 14, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett were both part of the current right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, competing over which of them was its most right-wing member
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)