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.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.