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“We wanted to watch him grow up. He was a sweet smart sensitive boy”

Four-year old Daniel Tragerman z”l, the first Israeli child killed by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.

On Friday afternoon, 4-year old Daniel Tragerman died of shrapnel wounds from a Hamas mortar fired randomly at the Nahal Oz Kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region hard by the frontier with Gaza.  The IDF said the mortar round was fired near a school used by Gazans as a refuge landing outside the Tragerman home. The irony was that he was within minutes of leaving home with his parents and brothers to travel to safety at his grandparents in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv. The Times of Israel reported:

 Gila Tragerman said a shell had exploded in their kibbutz, Nahal Oz, some time earlier, convincing the family to leave for her parents’ house in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv.

“The suitcases were already packed,” she said. “A minute before the explosion I went out to take Uri’s baby carrier (her young son) from the clothesline and met the neighbor. I asked him if they were leaving and told him we were setting off now. I went inside and there was the Color Red siren.

“The children were playing in a tent inside the house, and from the moment of the siren to the explosion only three seconds passed. We didn’t have time to get the children and go into the protected room.”

Gila said her son Daniel was very disciplined when it came to rocket sirens.

“He always rushed to the protected room,” she said. “The moment the alarm sounded he knew what to do and where to go. When everyone reached the protected room Daniel would say ‘now we’re all safe.’”

Tragerman called her son a “beautiful, smart, sensitive boy. So sweet…We wanted to watch him grow up with his brothers and fulfill himself.”

Daniel Tragerman was the first Israeli child to die in the 48 day old Operation Protective Edge. That the total of casualties to 68, including 64 IDF service personnel.

The Times of Israel noted  the reaction of Israeli PM Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas would pay a “heavy price” for the killing. In a phone call to local Sha’ar Hanegev council head Alon Shuster, Netanyahu said the IDF and Shin Bet would intensify their operations against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups until sustained calm was guaranteed for Israel.

US Ambassador  to Israel Dan Shapiro  wrote on his Facebook page:

“I condemn in the strongest terms this outrageous terrorist attack and offer condolences to the boy’s family. Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself, which the United States supports”

But the rockets and mortar keep raining death on Israel from Hamas in Gaza. This weekend so far more than 250 rockets were fired. The barrages ranged across the country into central Israel, but were especially fierce in the south and as far east as Beersheba. . Besides the fatal mortar attack in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, rockets smashed into a synagogue in Ashdod injuring three, while, a house in Sderot was severely damaged.

Hamas has fired more than 3,600 rockets during the 48 days, 600 the IDF maintains from positions near schools, homes, Mosques and even hospitals.   IDFreported  an air attack taking out a major Hamas command center in a residential apartment building in Gaza City on Saturday evening.

The mortar that killed 4 year old Daniel Tragerman was likely supplied by Iran. Hamas fired the mortar from a position near the grounds of an UNWRA School that provided refuge for Gazan civilians.  We wonder what UNWRA spokesperson Chris Gunness   would say at this time? He who cried tears over Gazan civilian deaths falsely accusing the IDF of war crimes, while subsequently it was revealed those casualties were caused by misfired Hamas rockets.  Would he now protest the Hamas mortar men who fired   the rounds that killed young Dan Tragerman in Nahal Oz? Perhaps we should tweet him and ask. I am reminded of a poster toted around by a pro-Hamas protester at our Stand for Israel Rally here in Pensacola that said Israel murders children in Gaza.  When challenged he said that he was pro-humanity, not pro-Hamas. Some humanity!  Our deepest rachmonis goes out to the Tragerman family for the loss of their son, the late beloved Dan Tragerman z”l.   He will be laid to rest Sunday at the Hevel Shalom cemetery in the Eshkol Regional Council in the northern Negev.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Rabbi Shot Dead while Walking to Synagogue with family in North Miami

Yesterday, visiting 60 year old Brooklyn orthodox Rabbi Joseph Raksin was shot dead by two young assailants in full view of his son-in-law and grandsons while walking to Shabbat services at Bais Menachem synagogue in North Miami.  It is alleged by Miami Dade police that it may have been a botched robbery attempt.  The irony is that orthodox Jews carry no money on Shabbat. One of the assailants fled on a bicycle, while the other, on foot. Miami police are endeavoring to track down the alleged perpetrators.  Last week an Orthodox synagogue, in the same vicinity,  Torah V’Emunah,  was vandalized with red swastikas with the word “Hamas”.  After yesterday’s murder of Rabbi Raksin , that led a  Jewish community activist  to suggest  there may have been a connection to  the current Operation Protective Edge pitting  Israel  against renewed  rocketing by  terrorist groups Hamas  and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

miami synagogue hamas swastika

Swastika and Hams graffiti at North Miami-Dade Synagogue, Torah v’ emunah

The Miami Herald noted police and ADL comments about Rabbi Raksin’s murder as well as the shock of family and the Jewish community  in a report, “Two men sought in fatal shooting of Orthodox rabbi in Northeast Miami-Dade:

“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.

She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area on foot.

Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”

“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” said Holzhauer.

Said Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”

Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.

[…]

Late Saturday, members of Bais Menachem gathered outside the synagogue to talk to reporters about the shooting incident.

Raksin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.

“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.

Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish men do not carry any money or possessions on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.

“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.

“It definitely is an anomaly,” Perutz Pinhas, another community member said of the shooting

However, note the comments by a Jewish community activist placing Rabbi Raksin’s murder in the context of local vandalism:

Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 N.E. 174th St.

On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.

Said Siegal: “Our deepest condolences to the [Raksin] family for this tragic loss. We are confident the police will take the matter seriously and will give them time to investigate. Coming so soon and so close to the synagogue that was vandalized last week with swastikas and pro-Hamas graffiti, obviously we’re suspicious that it’s linked, but that remains to be seen.”

If the two assailants are apprehended and interrogated, we may find out what the motivation was for the shooting death of Rabbi Raksin.  Given the attire of observant Orthodox Jewish men, it would be hard to mistake them.

Rabbi Raksin’s death comes on a weekend when Stand for Israel rallies are taking place in the Southeast on Sunday August 10th in Northern Alabama, Pensacola in Northwest Florida and on Monday, August 11th in Orlando, raising heightened security concerns.  We add our deepest rachmonis (compassion in Hebrew) to the extended family of the late Rabbi Raksin z”l.

RELATED ARTICLE: Miami Jewish community offers $50K for info on rabbi killing

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photo is of members of Bais Menachem Synagogue. North Miami-Dade, August 9, 2014. Source:  Miami-Herald.

Israel’s “Long War”

Tom Jocelyn, the American counter terrorism expert and Senior Fellow at the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies is the editor of The Long War Journal. It is a chronicle of the global Islamic jihad in the 21st Century, now in its 13th year. The global jihad was sparked by what the US State Department has taken to calling “core Al Qaeda”, most dramatically with 9/11. Subsequently it has metatisized driven by the Salafist doctrine seeking to replicate the great barbarism of the first jihad that burst out of the Arabian peninsula 14 Centuries ago. In many instances it has been a long war against indigenous populations, both Muslim and not. In the later case, it has witnessed the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, confronting non-Muslims with the choice to convert, be subjugated, leave or be killed. It is sacralized barbarity emboldened with arms and advanced military technology abandoned by fleeing armies. It is financed by extortion and billions in booty, money seized in conquered territories and oil resources.

Mideast Israel Palestinians

Israeli Merkava tank leaving Gaza staging area August 5, 2014. Source: The Guardian.

Virtually alone and surrounded by these Jihadist forces is the Jewish nation of Israel. Israel has conducted a long war of its own over the 21 years since the conclusion of the 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Authority. An agreement orchestrated by former President Clinton between Israeli Prime Minister, the late Yitzhak Rabin and the late Yassir Arafat, first President of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat went on to ignite the Second Intifada in September 2000 using the excuse that the late Israeli PM Ariel Sharon had made an unauthorized visit to the Temple Mount. That intifada saw thousands of Israeli causalities, both dead and wounded,  that morphed into a seemingly unending series of military Operations. It began with Operation Defensive Shield following the bloody Park Hotel Passover suicide bombing in March 2002 that killed many Holocaust survivors. It culminated in the siege of Arafat in the Mukata in 2004 in Ramallah. A brief hiatus following the demise of Arafat saw Israel build a security barrier in the disputed territories that virtually brought to a close the Second Intifada. The late PM Sharon left Likud to found a new coalition party, Kadima, on the strength of a letter in 2004 with former President Bush giving Israel permission to defend itself with US assurances.

That led Sharon in 2005 to order the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza of 9000 settlers and 10,000 IDF personnel under the misguided pretext that it would make Israel more secure. The Bush Administration was preoccupied in the Long War in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It sought to foist the myopic view that the Islamist world could be transformed into budding western style democracies. This despite the rise of anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood elements in Gaza, Egypt and other adjacent Muslim countries. They had been kept in check by autocracies supplied with both US and Russian military assistance and aid. Thus, the Bush Administration thought it had a willing peace partner in Arafat’s successor, the long serving PA President, Mahmoud Abbas. The Bush Administration prevailed upon Israel to relinquish its control over the strategic Philadelphi corridor along the Egyptian Gaza frontier installing Fatah bureaucrats. 2006 saw the one vote, one time election in Gaza of a Hamas dominated Palestinian Legislative Council. That  lead to the June 2007 ejection and literal defenestration of Fatah from Gaza, leaving Hamas virtually in control. Israel was forced to engage in a series of air assaults that resulted in assassinations of Hamas leaders, co-founder Sheik Yassin and Dr. Rantisi. Hamas took over the Rafah border with Egypt through which arms, rockets and missiles were infiltrated along with huge infusions of cash from foreign Muslim charities and backers, Iran and Qatar.

In 2006 Israel was embroiled in the Second Lebanon War with Iran proxy Hezbollah supplied by the former with thousands of rockets. That conflict was triggered by a kidnapping of two IDF soldiers followed by massive  Hezbollah artillery rocket barrages. The 34 day War with Hezbollah saw more than 4,000 rockets rain on Israel setting a pattern that was copied by Hamas in Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014. In that first clash with Hezbollah saw Israel’s population in the north sweltered in crude shelters or displaced to the central Mediterranean shore. It also sparked the development of technical countermeasures to protect the both Israel’s population and IDF defense. Those developments included the now recognized Iron Dome system of batteries equipped with Tamir anti-rocket missiles, and the less well known, Trophy system, used effectively in the most recent 2014 Operation protecting armored vehicles against anti-tank rockets and missiles. Just prior to the Second Lebanon War, a cross border raid by Hamas operatives kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, holding him hostage until released in an October 2011 exchange for 1,027 Palestinian terrorist prisoners held by Israel.

In June 2009, President Obama made a dramatic speech at Cairo University extending outreach, many believed that emboldened Islamist elements in the Muslim ummah. In December,2011 the self-immolation of a fruit vendor in Tunisia sparked the so-called Arab Spring that erupted in North Africa and the Middle East. Autocracies in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt were overturned. The latter witnessed the ousting of strongman Mubarak with rise of the Muslim Brotherhood that saw the election of one if its prominent leaders, Mohammed Morsi as its President in June 2012. Morsi was backed by a National Assembly  composed of dominate Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties. They sought to impose Sharia law on women, secular elements and the country’s ancient minority Coptic Christian community. Virtually, a year later, Morsi and thousands of Muslim Brotherhood leaders were ousted, jailed and killed during a coup by his Defense Minister Gen.Abdel- Fattah El-Sisi. He was engaged in a counter terrorism campaign against Hamas linked Salafist terror groups in the Sinai.

The overthrow of the Libyan strongman Qadaffi, with aid from the US and NATO, spawned chaos with warring tribal and jihadist militias. That culminating in the Benghazi attack that killed the US Ambassador and three other Americans, a communications aide, and two CIA-contractors on 9/11/2012.

Meanwhile, Israel was concerned about security on its southern border with Egypt in the Sinai. Following cross border attacks near the Red Sea resort of Eilat it constructed a 200 mile security barrier seeking to prevent intrusion, only to be left exposed to rocket attacks. On Israel’s north eastern Golan frontier a raging civil war in Syria, now well into its third year, saw the Assad regime forces ranging across the Golan frontier fighting opposition rebel groups. These included al Qaeda affiliates the Al Nusrah front and the extremist Salafist spinoff, the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.

The latest IDF Operation Protective Edge that began on July 8th with barrages from Gaza from both homemade and Iranian supplied long range rockets covered fourth fifths of Israel. It was triggered by a botched kidnapping by Hamas operatives and that resulted in the murder of three Jewish yeshiva students, whose remains were discovered on June 30th. The Palestinian Authority in late April had announced a unity government with Hamas that scuppered any chances of a possible final stage agreement sought by US Secretary of State Kerry. Hamas is a foreign terrorist group so designated by the US, Canada and the EU. Its 1988 Charter, had sought not only the destruction of Israel but the killing of Jews globally. Israeli PM Netanyahu and his coalition cabinet had no choice but to call up what ultimately would be a massed IDF force of 80,000 elite brigades and reservists to conduct the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge. That culminated in the launch of ground operations in Gaza that ended with the seventh truce on August 5th that is holding for the moment. That truce occurred ironically on the Jewish Fast Day of Tish B’Av commemorating historic catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people over the millennia.

Jocelyn’s FDD Long War Journal had this entry:

Israel

Israel accepted a Gaza ceasefire plan that will start with a preliminary 72-hour truce beginning tomorrow morning. Israeli officials will work out further details of the ceasefire over the next few days in Egypt. As of Aug. 1, at least 2,909 rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza and 66 Israelis had been killed. In the first fatal attack in Jerusalem in three years, a Palestinian construction worker drove an earthmover into a bus, flipping it over and killing one Israeli and wounding five more. PM Netanyahu’s spokesman said Israel’s military campaign to destroy the Gaza tunnels is coming to a close, but that the overall operation will not cease until Israel experiences an extended period of quiet and security.

Jonathan Spyer, of the GLORIA Centre in Herzliya, published an assessment of Israel’s Long War in a PJ Media article, “Netanyahu’s Long War Doctrine.”  In it he paid tribute to Netanyahu’s cautious, but resolute position, overwhelmingly supported by Israelis, to bring to a conclusion the Hamas genocidal threat to the Jewish nation. A threat backed and financed by Qatar, a wealthy gas-rich emirate, a supporter of Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Salafist al Qaeda spinoffs. Qatar and the terrorist Salafist groups it funded and gave sanctuary to, including Hamas leaders, are viewed by Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia as a dire threat to their regimes. That created a coalition of interest with Israel tacitly condoning the latter’s war against Hamas. The Administration in Washington and the UN were desperate to end hostilities seeking to engage MB supporting regimes in Turkey and Qatar to convince Hamas to stand down. Newly elected Egyptian President El-Sisi, who had ousted MB President Morsi and closed Gazan smuggling tunnels, had endeavored to broker several cease fires during the 28 day Operation Protective Edge. It became evident that Hamas had been seriously degraded, nearly three dozen terror tunnels neutralized, sustaining an estimated $5 billion in destruction of buildings and infrastructure in the 25 mile square area of Gaza. All while the world media falsely portrayed Israel as perpetrating mounting civilian casualties most graphically at UNWRA- run schools and refuge centers where over 180,000 Gaza residents had sought shelter. These schools were reported to have held rocket caches, that enabled Hamas rocketeers to launch barrages some of which misfired resulting  in civilian casualties. This barbaric strategy was confirmed in a captured combat manual of Hamas uncovered by the IDF in Gaza City.

As to Israeli PM Netanyahu’s conduct of Operation Protective Edge Spyer observed:

Netanyahu, in stark contrast to his image in Europe and to a lesser extent in North America, is deeply cautious when it comes to the use of military force.

Indeed, the record shows that Israel elected to begin a ground campaign on July 18th only when it became clear from its actions and its statements that Hamas was not interested in a return to the status quo.

Netanyahu’s caution derives, rather, from his perception that what Israel calls “wars” or “operations” are really only episodes in a long war in which the country is engaged against those who seek its destruction. In the present phase, these forces are gathered largely under the banner of radical Islam.

Spyer concludes his assessment of Netanyahu:

Netanyahu’s vision is a chilly one, though it is not ultimately pessimistic. It aims to provide firm, durable walls for the house that the Jews of Israel have constructed. Within those walls the energies of Israeli Jews will ensure success — provided that the walls can be kept secure, thus believes the Israeli prime minister. It is from the point of view of this broader strategic picture that the current actions of Israel need to be understood. Operation Protective Edge — like Cast Lead and Orchard and Lebanon 2006 and the others — is intended as a single action in a long and unfinished war.

The Tish B’Av truce concluding Operation Protective Edge saw IDF forces leave Gaza, remaining ready if the truce is broken to return, if recalled. The current truce may still hold, but, will not last, unless and until Gaza is demilitarized and its leadership dispatched.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

Why Israel was Stunned by Discovery of the Tunnels in Gaza

The ground incursion by the IDF into Gaza that began on July 16th was triggered by the emergence of 13 Hamas commandos from a tunnel underneath the Gaza Israel frontier. They were detected by an armed IAF drone and quickly dispatched by a missile strike scattering both survivors and equipment near the opening of the tunnel. 17 days into the tough slog of the ground phase with 33 IDF soldiers fallen, including two Americans, more than 35 tunnels have been uncovered. A number of these were found to have entrances in homes, schools, apartment buildings and mosques. The Givati brigade has been assigned the dangerous tasks of inspecting these tunnels. After sending in small tactical robots detecting booby traps, the tunnels are destroyed.

However, the obvious question is why was the IDF caught flat footed by the enormity of the Hamas tunnel network when there were means available to map them? Despite their being excavated more than 25 meters below the surface.

Sheera Frenkel, Buzzfeed’s correspondent in Israel reported this comment:

Israeli military officers described an “underground city” in Shujayeh, made up of a labyrinth of tunnels in which Israeli soldiers clashed with Hamas fighters.

“Even with the intelligence the Israeli military keeps on Gaza, they were caught by surprise at the extent of what they found below ground,” said Amir Bohbot, a military affairs correspondent with Walla, a news site. “There were traps, explosives everywhere. There is no way for them to continue their operation without taking the risks of even heavier casualties.”

A source in Jerusalem told us this week that Tzahal was jarred  by the extent of the tunnels under the Gaza Israel frontier, and the purpose. Dan Diker, Executive Producer for the Voice of Israel sent my colleague Lisa Benson this chilling email message:

The news here is that Hamas was planning a doomsday mega attack for Rosh Hashanah, Sending hundreds , HUNDREDS OF Hamas Suicide commandoes via the underground terror tunnel networks to conquer Israeli towns and cities. This was planned to be  the equivalent of five 911’s .

That is the meaning of the tunnel threat. It is the most serious strategic threat Israel has faced since the 1973 war. The failed conception is also notable as there is a real question as to whether the intelligence echelons recognized the seriousness of the threat.

The Three Kidnapped and murdered teens saved Israel literally by mobilizing the IDF and public opinion to fight Hamas. We were saved by the skin of our teeth from strategic disaster.

But should Tzahal  have been surprised by this news?  A noted Israel geologist was cited in a Telegraph U.K. article complaining that the tunnel threat had been overlooked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense:

“For 10 years I’ve been crying and screaming to the highest possible levels – to the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff, the commanding officers of southern and northern command,” Dr Joseph Langotsky, an Israeli geologist who has long advocated greater attention to the issue of the tunnels, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“Although the tunnels are a low-tech option, they might be a strategic threat to our security,” said Dr Langotsky.

The heavily fortified areas of southern Lebanon that the IDF encountered in the 2006 Lebanon War should have raised alarm bells. Hezbollah with the alleged technical assistance of Iranian Quds Force engineers had prepared tunnels connecting command and control centers in villages, rocket launching areas, armories and firing positions.  Moreover, there were rumors that  Hezbollah with the aid of Iran and possibly North Korea had also dug tunnels underneath the northern frontier of Lebanon and Israel.

Ilana Freedman, veteran intelligence analys, raised the issue of the threat of tunnels crossing the Lebanon Israel frontier. The IDF was warned about the Hezbollah tunnels as early as April 2010, including a large tunnel which was being constructed from southern Lebanon to central Haifa. They were also informed of a number of small bore tunnels that were being built, to emerge in northern Israeli towns and kibbutzim. These were designed for Hezbollah’s child warriors who would be sent heavily armed and would be instructed to fire on anyone they see once they emerge in these towns. This information came from eye-witness sources in southern Lebanon.

When the Givati brigade went into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, they also encountered tunnels. The tunnels uncovered by Golani and Givati brigades in the current Operation Protective Edge were well prepared with concrete, steel reinforced with lighting and ventilation. A few were even large enough to accommodate trucks. The longest one discovered was over 2.5 kilometers in length. The average cost of the tunnels was estimated at $1 million each. It appears that the Hamas tunnel networks in Gaza may have expertly planned and executed using the Hezbollah playbook, possibly with both Hezbollah and Quds Force assistance.

When the eight day Operation Pillar of Defense ended on November 21, 2012, a cease fire was brokered by the former Egyptian President Morsi, a supporter of Hamas. The Obama Administration pressured the Netanyahu government to permit the delivery of cement and steel for the reconstruction of Gaza. Jerusalem had objected to the demands of Washington suspecting that the delivery of the materials to Gaza would be used for military purposes. Given what has been uncovered, those suspicions have been confirmed. Qatar put up more than $405 million for the alleged reconstruction of destroyed areas of Gaza. Those funds may have been substantially diverted for purchase of equipment and materials to construct the tunnel network.

The Telegraph U.K, article disclosed that the Israeli Ministry of Defense was working on the tunnel problem.  However, the means of detecting them would not be available until after the current conflict, “Israel tests hi-tech tunnel detection system to fight threat from underground.”  The report noted:

In a bid to find a solution, the IDF’s elite Talpiot unit has been working on developing a tunnel detection system which was tested in Tel Aviv. Its costs are estimated to be $59 million.

“The high-tech system, which uses special sensors and transmitters, is still in its R&D phase, and if all goes well, should be operational within a year”, notes a report on Israel’s I-24 news.

The most common type of technology for tracking down tunnels is focused on listening for sounds of digging, notes Inbal Orpaz in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Another Israeli company, Magna, already provides defense systems for the Israel-Egypt border. It proposed digging a 70-km tunnel along the Israel-Gaza border, equipped with a sensitive alert system.

This “will provide real-time alerts of any tunnel digging that crosses our tunnel, whether above or below it. The IDF will know exactly where the attack tunnel is and how many people are in it, and can monitor the progress of digging it in real time, and decide how to respond to the threat,” the company’s founder and CEO Haim Siboni told Israel’s Globes publication.

An interview with a Canadian expert in Start –Up Israel reveals that Israel may have already had the means of mapping the tunnels, IDF ‘didn’t follow up’ on MRI-style, below-surface technology to find tunnels”:

Paul Bauman, a Canadian who is one of the world’s foremost experts on discovering underground tunnels and voids, insists that the technology exists and has been used in the US, Canada, Korea, and other places. “We actually did some work with the IDF some years ago, showing them how the technology we’ve developed works,” Bauman told The Times of Israel in an interview. “They were interested, but there was no follow-up. Why, I couldn’t say.”

[…]

Had the army worked with Bauman, using the sophisticated methods he has developed and successfully employed over the past decade, things might have been different. While there is no foolproof, single tech solution to discovering tunnels, a combination of several techniques — radar, tomography, and seismic measuring — could give Israel a technological advantage over Hamas, creating a map of what is happening under the surface, and making it much easier to find tunnels and the terrorists who dig them.

Bauman noted  the off the shelf technology that might have been used for detection and mapping of the tunnels:

It was on one of his exploration trips to Israel that Bauman showed the IDF some of the techniques it could use to discover underground tunnels. At the time, after another Gaza flare-up, Operation Cast Lead in 2009, a Teknion team led by researchers Dr. Raphael Linker and Dr. Assaf Klar were developing a system that uses a fiber optic cable buried one or two meters beneath the surface to detect underground movement. The system builds what is essentially an underground fence using BOTDR (Brillouin optical time-domain reflectometry) technology, which measures the stress on the cable underground.

The amount of stress may be very small, the team said, and its research shows that even small levels of deformation can be detected, making the system perfect for keeping tabs on tunnel builders. The cable is cheap, and as much as 30 kilometers of the border can be monitored simultaneously using one device. It’s not clear if the IDF considered that system as well, and in an email this week, Linker said that the system is still under development.

Also considered was ground penetrating radar:

Much better, than an Israeli concept of building a moat around Gaza, polluting the ground aquifer,  Bauman said, would be a technique like underground radar to find tunnels. “Israel has been very interested in this, and Israeli companies are working on underground radar systems,” said Bauman. “In an underground radar system, you aim the wave down below the ground, and when you get back a signal that is an anomaly — indicating that there is something different about the area you just checked than other areas — you know you’ve found something worth investigating.”

There are limitations to the system, though. “Depending on the frequency of the radar wave, you can have a system that can ‘see’ as far down as 100 meters, but at low resolution, or just 10 meters at a better resolution,” Bauman said. Radar could be very useful in discovering larger concrete tunnels, which have metal rebar in them — concrete and metal being much denser than the gypsum and salt-rich soil around the Gaza border — but not for the simpler, smaller wood-reinforced tunnels.

If the warnings and advices of Israeli geologist Dr. Langotsky and Canadian researcher Bauman had been heeded then could the surge in IDF casualties been avoided?  That is unfortunately past history. The issue before the IDF ground commanders is how most efficiently to destroy those tunnels that are encountered. Some experts have suggested use of Fuel Air Explosives (FAE). Russia’s Putin authorized used of FAE weapons against Chechen Islamists extremists when the provincial capital of Grozny (terrible in Russian) was virtually flattened in 2002.  Others recall napalm used to clear out tunnels on the Island of Iwo Jima from which suicide Imperial Japanese forces would sally forth to inflict heavy casualties on US Marines and soldiers. Perhaps this comment in the Buzzfeed article from an Israel Intelligence officer best sums up the military campaign that the IDF is waging against another group of fortified fanatics this time in Gaza:

‘“We are no longer looking at just dismantling the tunnel network [from Gaza to Israel]. The goals of Operation Defensive Edge are now to cripple Hamas so they will not be able to strike us again in a few years,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also told Buzzfeed that Israel’s military was now preparing a timeline for its offensive in Gaza that could go on for “several weeks” and see the Israeli military create a “buffer zone” up to a mile into Gaza.

“We may suffer heavy losses doing this, but their losses will be heavier, I can assure you,” said the officer.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photo is of an Israeli Givati Brigade Soldier at entrance of Hamas tunnel, July 23, 2014. Source: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90.

Americans Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli Among the IDF fallen in Gaza

This weekend the IDF released the names of 13 members of the elite Golani Brigade who fell while engaged in heavy fighting in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.  While supporters of Israel grieve for all of the IDF fallen and  those that were downed in mortal combat against the Jihadis of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, two were dual Israeli-American citizens.

Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli, z”l

Max Steinberg, 24, of Woodlands Hills, California was killed when the APC that he and several others were riding in was hit by an IED. The second was Sean Carmeli 21, who was born of Israeli parents and raised in South Padre Island, Texas before returning to spend his high school years in Ra’anana Israeli. Carmeli was killed like Steinberg during the intense fighting in Shejaiya, what Israel PM Netanyahu called a “terrorist bastion” laden with rocket launching sites.

We learned yesterday of the injuries sustained by another dual Israeli American Golani Brigade member Jordan Low of Pikesville, Maryland who was injured in a fire while clearing buildings in Gaza.  Like Steinberg and Carmeli, this young American –Israeli left for Israel after high school to enter military training with the IDF. He has been removed for treatment at a hospital in Tel Aviv and his family will be flying to Israel to visit him.

These young Israeli American Jews are indicative of the commitment of many young diaspora Jews who make aliyah to Israel to undergo training in elite and regular IDF combat units.

According to the Lone Soldier Center  in Memory of Michael Levin, more than 5,700 Jewish men and women of different nationalities volunteer for service in the IDF, Israel’s armed forces, who have no biological relatives in the Jewish state.  Two sons of my former rabbi at a synagogue in Fairfield, Connecticut volunteered to serve in elite combat units of the IDF.  During Operation Cast lead in 2009, we wrote about the experience of  Givati Brigade member Zachary Rowen –Taylor, another Californian ,  who, like fallen Golani Brigade member Steinberg,  was a Sgt. Commander and sniper.  Rowen-Taylor, we understand has been recalled to active duty  as a reservist to serve, once again, in Gaza.

Steinberg’s family in California was interviewed by the Jewish Journal, “A Fallen Soldier, found his purpose in Israel”.  His story is similar to that of these other soldiers who decide to make aliyah and become Israeli citizens.   Here are some excerpts from the Jewish Journal article:

Just over two years ago, two brothers and a sister – Max, Jake and Paige Steinberg – returned to Los Angeles from a whirlwind tour of Israel.

The trip, which was sponsored by Taglit-Birthright, impacted all three. But none more than Max, who was 22 at the time, and the trio’s oldest. Then a student at Pierce College, Steinberg wasn’t finding what he wanted in school and was unsure of his path. But he was sure of at least one thing—Israel was where he was meant to be.

So, only three months after returning to California in July 2012, Steinberg went back to Israel in September, but this time to become a soldier in the Golani infantry brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), one of the IDF’s most decorated units.

And early Sunday morning, as he and his unit made their way down a Gaza City street in the neighborhood of Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold, their armored personnel carrier (APC) struck what was likely an improvised explosive device (IED) or a mine. The explosion killed seven soldiers, including Steinberg. A source in Israel’s Los Angeles  consulate said that the attack occurred around 1:30 am,  Israel time .

As to what motivated Max to undergo rigorous Golani training:

At just five feet and three inches, he took on nicknames like “Mighty Max” and “Little Dynamo.”

Prospering in one of the IDF’s most elite units, his mother said, helped him “earn respect for himself.”

Additionally, added his father, he viewed military service as an obligation were he to ever make aliyah to Israel.

“If he ever ultimately decided this was going to be his new home, not serving was just not an option for him,” Stuart said. And if he was going to serve, he wanted to be a Golani infantryman. “Anything less than that would be not as meaningful for him.”

In Sean Carmeli’s case, his family had returned to Israel from South Padre, Texas. The Algemeiner reported the his circumstances in an article, “Small South Texan Jewish Community Mourns Death of IDF Sergeant Sean Carmeli, Killed in Gaza

The Jewish community of a south Texas beach town was in mourning on Sunday after it was informed that one of its sons was among the Israeli troops that fell in a bloody Gaza battle on Saturday night.

“The whole community feels like they lost their own son,” Rabbi Yonatan, the family’s rabbi told The Algemeiner on Sunday. “The family is completely devastated,” Rabbi Asher Hecht, another rabbi/friend said.

Sean was the youngest of three children, and with two older sisters, Gal and Or, was an only son.

The last time Sean’s father spoke to his son was on Wednesday when Sean shared that his army officer had quizzed him over an unrelated minor leg injury. Responding to the officer’s suggestion that he may not be fit for service, Sean had said, “Bruise or no bruise I am coming with you.”

“He was enthusiastic to go in and to fight for the Jewish people, and he gave his life for the Jewish people,” Rabbi Hecht said.

The rabbis said that the local Shoova Israel Synagogue on South Padre Island is dedicated and named in memory of Sean’s grandfather Nissim whom Sean was named after.

As to what you can do to support of IDF soldiers serving in the ground incursion in Gaza, you might consider contacting, the American Friends of LIBI that “provides for the educational, religious, medical and recreational needs of Israeli soldiers.”  Then there is the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin. My colleague Lisa Benson, presently on a tour of South Carolina, called with information on the program of No More Jewish Victims of the One Israel Fund that is raising funds for support equipment for IDF soldiers and residents of Judea and Samaria. Also there is Pizza IDF that delivers pizza, ice cream and other food to front-line units.

1000 Pizzas were delivered to an IDF reserve unit on the Israel Gaza frontier with contributions from both Christians and Jews around the world. That was the result of an international campaign by a couple in the community of Eli in Judea and Samaria.

Most importantly, please offer misheberachs (prayers) for those brave IDF service personnel in Israel’s fight to defeat the Jihadis of Hamas backed by Iran, Qatar and Turkey. They are the defenders of the Jewish nation of Israel, America’s only reliable ally facing extremist Islam threatening the West.

Watch this You Tube Video with a Misheberach for Tzahal:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

United Arab Emirates Secretly Offers Funding for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to Defeat Hamas

Ilana Freedman of The Freedman Report posted this from The Peninsula alleging the United Arab Emirates  (UAE) had met secretly with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offering to fund Operation Protective Edge to defeat Hamas.  The Peninsula report notes this about who might have facilitated this development:
clear

Former Fatah Security chief, Mohammad Dahlan circa 2006

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Former Palestinian Authority Security chief Dahlan had been cited by the Jerusalem Post at the start of Operation Protective Edge denouncing Hamas for “fostering  new terror groups,  threatening Egypt’s security, and laying siege to the Gaza Strip.”  Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense for Democracies chronicled the acrimonious split between Dahlan and PA President Abbas in his book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State.  Read our November 2013 NER review on The Failed State of Palestine  for more details about Dahlan’s split with Abbas.

The secret meeting between the UAE and Israel is in sharp contrast to Qatar that has gone on record yesterday in a The Gulf in the Media  report supporting the Palestinian people and Hamas in Gaza. Both developments in the Gulf come amidst the current Israeli ground incursion directed at destroying Hamas’ rocket inventory, launching facilities and extensive network of tunnels.  That appears to fit the Arab dictum “the enemy of my enemies is my friend”.  Despite supporting Hamas,  Qatar has a friend in the Obama Administration.  This is further evidence of a deep division among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council  (GCC) regarding the threats from affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.  PA President Abbas was in Ankara yesterday visiting Premier Erdogan, a Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas supporter.  Today, he was in Doha, Qatar seeking support for a cease fire in the current conflict, but without support from Egypt.  Today, 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade attack at a Libyan border checkpoint 300 miles West of Cairo, perhaps by Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist terrorists.  That may be a why Egyptian President el-Sisi’s government is blocking the Gaza- Egypt frontier  while blaming Hamas for the current conflict.

Here is the Freedman Report post:

UAE, Israel have secret meeting, UAE ‘offered to fund Israel’s Gaza offensive’

Posted on July 19, 2014 by the Peninsula – 19 July, 2014

The UAE knew in advance of Israel’s plans for an offensive in Gaza and even offered to fund the operation provided the militant Palestinian outfit Hamas was eliminated in the process. Israel’s Channel 2 claimed in a recent report, according to local Arabic daily Al Sharq. The daily says in a report published today that Israel’s leading national TV station (Channel 2 in Hebrew) disclosed details of secret parleys between the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Paris at the end of last month.

Both leaders met on the sly in Paris on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the GCC states and Jordan with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel’s foreign minister was also in the city.

The meeting was to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.

Al Sharq said the UAE was aware of Israeli’s planned military action in Gaza beforehand and Al Nahyan, at his meeting with Lieberman, expressed his country’s keenness to fund Israeli’s Gaza offensive provided the Hamas movement was annihilated since it had close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Al Sharq, Channel 2 reported that just a few days ago there was a meeting between Sheikh Abdullah and an Israeli minister in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Read the original article here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

The Tunnel Attack that Triggered Israel’s Ground Incursion in Gaza

In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, July 17th, prior to a five hour UN –negotiated Humanitarian Pause, the IAF intercepted 13 black clothed terrorists emerging from a tunnel near the Shalom Keren frontier with Gaza. Spotted by an armed IAF drone, they quickly scampered back into their tunnel and were promptly dispatched by missiles.  Calm returned with the onset of the Humanitarian Pause holding to 3PM Israel time when with a roar a barrage of more than 130 rockets rained down from Gaza on Southern and Central Israel signaling the end of the Pause.  At 4:52 PM local time, the IDF announced its limited ground incursion with the express purpose of destroying those Gaza tunnels and underground armories containing upwards of 12,000 rockets and missiles. Israel had flooded Gaza with hundreds of thousands of leaflets announcing that civilians should flee targeted areas.  The ground incursion opened with  strikes by IAF F-16s and both naval and IDF bombardment of targets in Gaza. 80 Percent of Gaza was plunged into darkness with the loss of power.

idf soldier with captured weapons in gaza

IDF Soldier with captured Tunnel attack weapons. Source: Times of Israel.

The New York Times reported:

“We will strike Hamas and we are determined to restore peace to the state of Israel,” the military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, told reporters in a conference call. “It will progress according to the situation assessment and according to our crafted and designed plan of action to enable us to carry out this mission.”

Israel began to draft 18,000 reservists, adding to 50,000 already mobilized in recent days; Colonel Lerner said the ground forces would include infantry and artillery units, armored and engineer corps, supported by Israel’s “vast intelligence capabilities,” air force and navy.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, called the invasion “a dangerous step.”

Israel’s ground incursion in Operation Protective Edge is eerily familiar.  It looks like the continuation of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 aborted on President Obama’s inauguration,  January 20, 2009. 22 days passed in that first operation endeavoring to root out Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets hidden in tunnels and underground launching sites by terrorist rocketeers.

Virtually on the heels of Hamas’ takeover following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from northern Gaza in August 2005, those terror rockets fell on the Eshkol region of the Western Negev using homemade Qassem rockets.  Then over the ensuing nine years the deadly barrages swelled to cover the heavily populated central and northern areas including  Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Rockets fell near hotels in the resort area of Eilat on the Red Sea.  Rockets were launched from Lebanon and from Syria on Israel’s North  and the Golan.  But the main threat was the Hamas arsenal in Gaza equipped with locally manufactured M-75, Iranian-supplied longer range Grad, Fajr-5 and Syrian made M-302 rockets with ranges from 10 kilometers to 160 kilometers.  Besides drone, F-16 and helicopter attacks, the only defense against the rain of death from Gaza was the Israeli-developed Iron Dome System.  That was deployed during the eight day Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 with batteries of Tamir anti-rocket missiles. Those Iron Dome batteries have achieved an impressive 90% interception success rate against rockets intended for populated areas in Israel.  The cease fires with Hamas  that Israel brokered  via Egypt in those previous episodes never achieved the complete destruction of the underground tunnels.   We note that IDF says the removal of Hamas leadership is nor an objective in the current ground incursion.

At the start of Operation Protective Edge it was estimated that Gaza held more than 10 to 12,000 rockets and missiles. As of the start of the ground incursion today, the IDF estimated that it hit more than 2,000 targets , while Hamas  had  launched more than 1,300 rockets at Israel.   Those retaliatory actions by the IDF have resulted in an estimated 250 deaths and 2,500 injuries of both terrorist cadres and civilians in Gaza.  Actions  about which the IDF  warned intended targets with cell phone text messages, leaflets and non-explosive missiles knocking on roofs sending occupants scampering.  However, Hamas security was accused of useing human shields, a war crime. As PM Netanyahu said on a Sunday FoxNews Report on July 13th, “Israel defends its people with missiles, while Hamas defends its missiles with its people.” The Israeli toll prior to the ground incursion was one man killed by a mortar attack at the Northern Erez crossing caught while delivering food to IDF troops. There were reported  elderly heart attack deaths  shrapnel and explosive injuries to both Jewish and Bedouin citizens.

Warnings  of incoming rockets was communicated to Israelis by a new means, a Red Alert app downloaded to iPhones and Android equipped cell phones that pinged every time an incoming rocket was detected heading to their intended targets. Several hundred thousand downloads of the Red Alert app signaled  the threat of incoming rocket and missile barrages that occurred over the 10 days preceding today’s ground incursion in Gaza.

This morning I was co-host with Lisa Benson in a recorded interview with both Jon Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center. That interview concerning the status and actors involved in Operation Protective Edge will air on Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 4PM EDT.  Schanzer drew attention to the IAF interception of terrorists caught emerging from a tunnel close by the Shalom Keren crossing.  When queried about whether Israel might unleash its long awaited ground incursion, Schanzer said “all bets were off” meaning that it was increasingly likely.  Bryen  noted that the  US Senate doubled an appropriation funding the Iron Dome System. She  cautioned that even with a high interception  rate there was no guarantee that the few rockets that got through would not result in casualties and damage; witness the fiery hits on factories and gas stations in Sderot and Ashkelon.   Hamas launched an Iran supplied Ababil drone promptly intercepted by a Patriot missile.

See the thwarted tunnel attack that occurred prior to the IDF ground incursion in Gaza:

The Jewish Week noted these comments from  a former IDF spokesperson about the significance of the tunnel attack:

Despite Israel’s aerial and sea assault against Hamas rocket launchers, command and control centers and other visible targets, Israel was unable to get at the network of tunnels that form a virtual underground city in the 25-mile long Gaza Strip.

That became most pronounced just hours before the cease-fire began when 13 Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip were spotted emerging from a tunnel inside Israel, according to Miri Eisen, the former Israeli government spokesperson during the Second Lebanon War.

“A woman observer saw them come out of the tunnel and when they heard the sound of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], they ran back into the tunnel and the tunnel was attacked,” she said.

“In the last 10 days we have seen Hamas as a paramilitary organization, now we have seen the transition to a full-scale military, firing rockets and trying to attack Israel from the land, sea and air — and underground,” Eisen said in a conference call organized by The Israel Project. “They are trying to attack Israeli communities that are located around the Gaza Strip.”

[…]

Eisen added: “At the end of the day we’re not sure we actually killed the terrorists, but they dropped all their weapons — 15 antitank missiles and personal Kalashnikovs and ammunition.”

She said they were planning to attack a kibbutz and kidnap an Israeli soldier.

Shades of  Galid Schalit , the former IDF soldier  kidnapped during the Second Lebanon War in 2006  and held in captivity by Hamas for five years until released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in October 2011.  One of the demands by Hamas for a cease fire in Operation Protective Edge was the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who participated in Schalit’s kidnapping.

Ms. Eisen’s comment about who was paying for construction of the tunnels and underground armories of Hamas was the subject of an op ed by Steve Emerson of  The Investigative Project just prior to the Israeli ground incursion,  “Hamas-Israel Cease Fire, its déjà vu all over Again”.

Emerson noted:

What happened to President Obama’s promises to Israel, as part of the November 2012 cease-fire agreement, to stop the flow of missiles to Gaza? In two words: Absolutely nothing. … The Obama administration focused its efforts on getting Israel to lift its blockade on steel and concrete, the two major building components of underground tunnels and storage facilities for munitions, on “humanitarian grounds.” Despite the administration’s much ballyhooed November 2012 “cease-fire” agreement that the Obama White House prided itself in bringing an end to the Israeli-Hamas war, somehow Hamas never got the message: From December 2012 to July 1, 2014, Hamas fired nearly 600 missiles into Israel.

Who funded the building of underground armories by Hamas that triggered the IDF current ground incursion? It is the gas rich wealthy emirate of Qatar who provided  over $400 million to ‘restore’ Gaza following the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.  A Qatar noteworthy by its hold on the Administration given its role in filtering arms to Libya to overthrow Qadaffi and into Syria.   Qatar provides a luxurious sanctuary for Hamas leaders and senior Taliban commanders including those released from Guantanamo in exchange for captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

There was scrambling in Cairo with separate meetings PA President Abbas, Israeli and Hamas delegations. The difference this time is Egyptian President el-Sisi overthrew former President Morsi who brokered the November 2012 cease fire to save his Muslim Brothers of Hamas in Gaza. This time Egypt blamed Hamas for perpetrating the current IDF operation which might have the potential of destroying those tunnels and sending Hamas leaders to exile in Qatar.

Pray for the save return of IDF service personnel and success of this phase of Operation Protective Edge destroying the terror rockets  and Tunnels of Hamas in Gaza.

Watch this You Tube video MiSheberach Zahal:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/LJEpLklULs0[/youtube]

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

A Saba answers his Granddaughter’s Concerns about the Threats to Israel

Earlier today, my granddaughter, Elana Lipkin, wrote me about her concerns about the media’s treatment and threats to Israel in this latest rocket war with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  ‘Lana, as we call her, won a scholarship last summer from her local Jewish Federation to spend five weeks visiting concentration and death camps in the Czech Republic and Poland before  spending a month in Israel on a National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) program.  ‘Lana is very active at her family temple frequently serving as a cantorial assistant during Friday evening services given her beautiful singing voice recognized in her high school and regional choral assemblies. She is also a talented dancer. We are very proud of her achievements, a credit to her parents and grandparents.

Elana and a friend donned IDF fatigues and got a taste of what it’s like to train for the IDF at the Gadna training center.

Elana and a friend donned IDF fatigues and got a taste of what it’s like to train for the IDF at the Gadna training center, July 2013.

Last summer, we posted on her prize winning essay and poetry after climbing up the snake path to the top of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea.  (See thisConnecticut Jewish Ledger article “KOLOT-Passing the Torch”). While in Israel, ‘Lana put in a brief training stint in a GADNA (youth battalion) where she learned firsthand what para-military training Israeli youths go through before entering the IDF.  That stint included her familiarization of weapons on a firing range.

The following is an exchange of email between ‘Lana and her Saba (grandfather in Hebrew) that might be used by other concerned supporters of Israel, when their children or grandchildren ask them to explain why this rocket war is happening?   Further, it also illustrates what they can do to support Israeli civilians and IDF service personnel, as well as, keep informed of developments in Operation Preventive Edge.

What follows is the exchange of emails between 17 year old ‘Lana and her Saba.

Lana’s email to Saba:

Hi Saba!

I know it’s fairly early there, but I’m sure you’re up already. The situation in Israel these past few days has really been worrying me. I care about Israel so deeply and it pains me to see it in danger. I am also bothered by the lies the media spreads and the ignorance of those around me regarding what’s actually occurring. I was wondering if you could do two things for me, first of all, I’d love any information you could give to me on the Operation going on right now. Second of all, do you know of anything I could possibly do to help Israel right now?
Thank you so much!

I love you very much and miss you lots, I hope you’re doing well.

-Lana

shabat shalom terrorism will not stop usMy Email to Lana:

Like you I am pained by the bias shown in the media towards the plight of Israel under the daily onslaught of literally hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). These are foreign terrorists groups designated by our State Department and Israel whose charters seek the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.  Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. The PIJ is backed by Iran.

As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said:  “No other country lives under such a threat. Israel will not tolerate the firing of rockets on our cities and towns,” Prime Minister Benjamin Neyanyahu. We have therefore significantly expanded our operations against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza.”

The IDF conducts daily air, naval and artillery attacks against hundreds of target in Gaza to destroy Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets and launching sites while endeavoring to avoid civilian casualties.  Yesterday, cousins of mine and friends in Jerusalem were shocked by one of the longer range rockets that fell nearby in Ma’ale Adumim. Most disturbing were the two rockets fired from Lebanon by terrorist group Hezbollah that landed in northern Israel. That event may have caused Israelis in the north to seek safety in bomb shelters as they did during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.  Much of the Hamas and Hezbollah rockets used against Israel are supplied by Iran or manufactured locally. Your cousin’s United Synagogue Youth (USY) tour group may be prevented from traveling on to Israel from Europe as rockets are ranging on Ben Gurion Airport.

Yesterday, I posted an article on Operation Protective Edge– Is Iran Behind Rocket Blitz on Israel?– and will do more in the coming days. Israel may have to make the momentous decision to go into Gaza to destroy the rocket inventories, launching sites and command infrastructure.  This is a dangerous phase which could result in significant casualties to both civilians and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, as well as IDF forces and even Israeli civilians.
During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, we wrote extensively about the experience of Zach Rowen – Taylor, a young American lonesome soldier who hailed from California and was among the elite Givati Brigade units that entered urban areas in northern Gaza.  We wrote him in a January 4, 2009, Iconoclast post, “A Proud American Mother of an IDF Soldier”.  I know as a former US Army officer that fighting in urban areas is grueling, dangerous and unfortunate casualties may mount.  But, Israel may have no choice but to do what Zach Rowen-Taylor and his mates in the Givati Brigade had to do in Operation Cast Lead.  Perhaps if Israel had stayed in Gaza in 2009, notwithstanding the inauguration of President Obama, it might have achieved victory against these terrorist groups with their arsenal of rockets. However, the reality was that arsenal was replenished by Iran and terrorist groups in the Sinai using smuggling tunnels below the Egyptian Gaza frontier.

Those smuggling tunnels were only closed off when Egypt’s military overthrew its former President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and Hamas supporter, last year. He was replaced by former Defense Minister and now President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.  He plugged up those smuggling tunnels preventing more weapons from Iran reaching Hamas and the PIJ and possibly stopping the flight of terrorist leaders from Gaza in the current Israeli Operation Preventive Edge.

Still Hamas and the PIJ have an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Rockets including longer range rockets supplied by Iran before those tunnels were destroyed by Egypt. That means that this could be Israel’s longest war in Gaza, possibly exceeding the 22 days of Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, just 20 months ago. Hamas and the PIJ have positioned launching sites in schools, office buildings, and even residences using its civilians including children as human shields. Israel goes to great limits to avoid civilian causalities sent text message warnings on cells and even aerial missile “knocks” on roofs of suspected targets warning people to flee.  Fortunately, those dramatic Israel Iron Dome anti-rocket missile interceptions heading to strikes in population centers knock out terror rockets before they reach their targets. They have a 90% success rate.

Remember, Israel is America’s only reliable and democratic ally in the troubled Middle East. The vast majority of Americans support Israel because we share the same Judeo-Christian values.

For information on groups in Israel treating civilians, you might consult the website of American Friends of Magen David Adom.  One of the groups that provide social and other support for IDF soldiers is American Friends of LIBI. You might check out its Facebook page.   To keep abreast of developments in Operation Protective Edge, you might look at the Live blog at The Jerusalem Post.

Your commitment to Israel as a young Zionist is both heartfelt and refreshing among your generation of young American Jews.  You can act as a spokesperson in your community to provide the EMET- the truth about what Israel is facing.  Tonight at Kabbalat Shabbat services pray for the safety of Israel and its defenders the young men and women of the IDF on the frontlines defending this Jewish nation. You met them during your GADNA training last summer in Israel.

I thought the attached graphic sent to me by a colleague and intelligence expert, Ilana Freedman, whose son served in the IDF, might express the feelings of you and countless other Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who are supporters of Israel -The Eagle and the Flag.  Israel. It is the most ancient of Hebrew Prayers, the priestly benediction, as you know it.

Kol Hakavod (Outstanding), Ahava (Much Love) v Shabbat shalom (peaceful sabbath).  Am Yisrael Chai! (The People Israel Lives!)

Saba

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.