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Did Iran Order the Rocket Attack from Syria on Northern Israel?

Yesterday, four rockets fired from the Syrian side of the Golan frontier hit near Kfar Sold in Northern Israel causing fires in the area. In response the IAF dispatched aircraft and attacked 14 positions inside Syria, while the IDF on the Golan opened up artillery fire on suspected targets. According to aTimes of Israel  (TOI) report six civilians were killed, seven wounded in an IAF  attack on a vehicle 10 kilometers from the Syrian Israel frontier  in the Quneitra region of  Southern Syria.  That Israeli attack may have targeted members of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell. However, Daud Shihab a spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad continued claiming no responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, he suggested that they knew were to attack saying:

We’ll know when to respond to an Israeli attack — and that will be where the Iron Dome was installed yesterday,” he said, referring to Israeli missile defense systems deployed the southern cities of Ashdod and Beersheba on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London suggested five of the casualties may have been members of the National Defense Force.  Early Friday morning, August 21, 2015, the Syrian military fired a missile at an Israeli aircraft.

An IDF senior officer contend that the group behind these attacks the Palestinian Islamic Jihad based in Gaza, with headquarters in Damascus, was ordered by Iran to execute the attacks. The TOI cited an Israel source who said:

We were monitoring this cell and it was attacked some 10-15 kilometers from the border, on territory firmly in the control of the Syrian military. This is an Islamic Jihad cell directed by Iran.

The Iran-controlled Al-Mayadeen TV in Damascus reported that three of those killed were Palestinian.

The pretext for these attacks may have been the hunger strike, just ended, by an Israeli held prisoner, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammed Allan. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it would undertake reprisal attacks of its own choosing in response to those killed and wounded in the Israel drone attack.  Israel PM Netanyahu cautioned that he didn’t want this incident to escalate into a wider conflict saying:

We have no intention of ratcheting up this confrontation, but our policy [of retaliating for attacks against Israeli civilians] remains as it was.

Notwithstanding Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:

The strike against the cell was proof that Israel will not tolerate efforts to harm the security of its citizens.

“We have no intention of compromising on this issue, and I suggest no one test our resolve on this matter,” he said in a brief statement after the attack.

i24News reported  an IDF officer commenting:

It’s clear that Iran is behind all of the terror attacks here [in the Golan] in the past two years. The Iranians are using the border – they establish units – whether it’s [Imad] Mughniyeh, [Samir] Kuntar, and more – to carry out [the attacks].

The officer added that the Iranian regime was transferring funds, providing training and sending advisers to Syria to help the Islamist group Hezbollah.

Remember the IAF attack in January 2015 on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier that took out a senior Iran IRGC general and Hezbollah officers including Jihad, the son of the late master terrorist Imad Mughniyah? That led to an abrupt series of clashes with Hezbollah in the disputed Shebaa Farms area on the Lebanese border.  Today’s rocket attacks in Israel’s north  and immediate IAF air attacks and IDF artillery fire demonstrates both resolve and concern by Israeli PM Netanyahu and his security cabinet to stifle a possible rocket war in the country’s North. Given the huge arsenal  of rockets and missiles  held by Hezbollah, Israel wants to  avoid a much larger onslaught than  the Hezbollah rocket attacks during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 that displaced over a million Israelis during the 34 day war.

We have argued that Israel may have to undertake incursions across the UNDOF demilitarized zone to clear out Iranian Quds force supported Palestinian Jihad fighters. As my colleague Ilana Freedman and  this  writer noted in a  January 2015, NER article the IDF also needs to address detection and destruction of  possible cross border tunneling  in Israel’s north by Hezbollah. Given Tehran ” success” with the P5+1 nuclear deal and this week’s sale of S300 Russian advanced air defense systems to Iran’s Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani feels emboldened to foment more proxy conflicts destabilizing the Middle East region. Clearly with this week’s attacks in the country’s north Israel is in the Quds Force gun sights. Ayatollah Khamenei’s playbook called “Palestine” suggests that Israel will be routed not with nuclear weapons but low intensity warfare.

Back in January we noted this comment from Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Armidror and former National Security Advisor:

Yaakov Armidror, former IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) and National Security Advisor in a recent strategic evaluation of  Terrorist  threats  facing Israel, published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies , reported by the Jerusalem Post, noted Hezbollah capabilities:

Looking ahead to 2015, Israel faces threats posed mainly by non-state entities motivated by Islamic ideology.

“The strongest of them is Hezbollah, which was formed with a dual purpose in mind.  It represents Iran’s long reach in the area and against Israel, while at the same time it aims to control Lebanon, where the Shi’ites are the largest ethnic group,” Amidror added.

Hezbollah most closely resembles an army, and its arsenal totals some 150,000 missiles and rockets, several thousand of which can target any area in Israel.

“This rare and substantial firepower apparently even exceeded the firepower possessed by most of the European states combined,” Amidror said in the report.

Additionally, Hezbollah is armed with surface-to-sea missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, drones and modern anti-tank missiles.

“It is well organized into a military-style hierarchy and appears to possess command and control systems of high quality. It was established by Iranian leaders, but its leadership has always consisted of Lebanese people who were closely linked to Iran’s interests,” the report continued. “Hezbollah assisted the Shi’ites by providing for their needs in the civilian sphere as a base for building its military power.”

We concluded:

Hezbollah’s possible invasion threat would be costly to the Shi’ite terrorist army.  Especially in view of both Israeli intelligence penetration of the Iranian proxy. Nonetheless, the Israel’s military command must be on alert for possible retaliation by Hezbollah in the Shebaa Farms area adjacent to the Golan and in the Galilee.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on a tour of the northern border, August 18, 2015. Source: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

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.

Iranian Rockets Bound for Gaza Terrorists Seized

Credit the Israeli Naval Commandos of Sayeret 13 and missile boats with another coup seizing the Panamanian flagged vessel, the KLOS-C packed with clearly marked Iranian M302 Rockets bound ultimately for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  You may recall the Sayeret 13 boarded the Turkish ferry the Mavi Mamara in the May 2010 Free Gaza Flotilla.  This time Iran has used Syria for transshipment of a consignment of M302 rockets via Iraq in the Persian Gulf.  The raid on the KLOS-C occurred in the Red Sea  off Port Sudan just before off loading for shipment  to Gaza via  Salafist Jihadist helpers in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula .  The M302 rockets have a range of  200 KM threatening all of the populous central Israel.

Watch this IDF video of the KLOS-C seizure of Iranian M302 rockets:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ob6X07EzuX8[/youtube]

The Jerusalem  and Washington  Post accounts note this most recent episode in a more than 14 year history of IDF seizures, a credit to diligent naval intelligence as well as Israel’s special operations prowess.  Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post report :

The ship, the KLOS C, was carrying Syrian-made M-302 rockets and was intercepted more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Israel off the coasts of Sudan and Eritrea, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told reporters.

[…]

Previously, Gaza militants have only been able to reach about 50 miles (80 kilometers) into Israel with their homegrown M-75 missiles.  Hezbollah used M-302s in a 2006 war against Israel, the military said.

The operation, codenamed “Full Disclosure,” followed months of intelligence gathering. Lerner said the shipment originated in Syria. From there the weapons were flown to Iran and departed from the Bandar Abbas port. Lerner said the Iranians tried to “obscure their tracks” by shipping first via Iraq and then out to sea. The shipment was destined for Sudan, from where it was to be moved overland through Egypt to Gaza.

Lerner said the 17 crew members of the ship, flying under a Panama flag, were not suspects and were probably unaware of the content of their cargo. The vessel was being brought to the port of Eilat, Israel’s most southerly point, where the crew would be released and the cache unloaded. It was expected to arrive later this week.

The Washington Post chronicled the more than decade history of Israeli Naval seizures and air strikes against  Iranian weapons shipments to Gaza:

Three years ago, Israel seized the cargo ship Victoria loaded with weapons allegedly sent by Iran to Gaza , including land-to-sea missiles.

In November 2009, Israel took over the Iranian Francop vessel off the coast of Cyprus and captured hundreds of tons of rockets, missiles, mortars, grenades and anti-tank weapons on board that it said were headed to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Israel is also suspected of carrying out airstrikes in Sudan on arms shipments believed to be bound for Gaza. Israel has never confirmed carrying out the strikes.

In January 2002, Israeli forces stormed the Karine A freighter on the Red Sea, and confiscated what the military said was 50 tons of missiles, mortars, rifles and ammunition headed for the Gaza Strip.

In May 2001, Israel captured the vessel Santorini off its coastline, packed with explosives Israel said were being sent from Hezbollah to Palestinian militant groups.

The Jerusalem Post report drew attention to Iran’s use of Syria for transshipment of rockets and others strategic weapons to terrorist proxies in the Middle East:

The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said that the operation was made possible by inter-agency intelligence cooperation and the IDF’s enhanced capabilities. “This prevented the arrival of a shipment of deadly and advanced weapons, which was aimed at harming Israeli civilians, and intended to reach the terrorist organizations of the Gaza Strip who are waging confrontation against Israel.”

The spokesman added that special commando navy teams acted in accordance with international law during the raid and boarded the ship for armed searches before uncovering the rockets.

Iran flew the rockets to an Iranian air field, trucked them to a sea port, and shipped them to Iraq, where they were hidden in cement sacks.

The ship then set sail from Iraq to Port Sudan, near the Sudanese-Eritrean border, on a journey expected to last some ten days.

Had the shipment of rockets not been intercepted the rockets would likely have been unloaded in Egypt and taken by land over Sinai to smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

One day before reaching its destination, the Israel Navy pounced, raiding the vessel and bringing it under its full control. There were no injuries in the incident.

“We have certain proof that Iran was behind this,” a senior military source said.

“The final destination was the Gaza Strip, where Iran hoped to unload the rockets and transfer them to terrorist organizations,” he added.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and smaller groups are constantly working to build up their rocket arsenal, and are believed to have several thousand short range rockets that threaten southern cities and dozens of medium-range rockets that can reach greater Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

By the end of 2013, Hamas was estimated by Israeli intelligence to possess 5000 short-range rockets and dozens of medium-range rockets, placing 70 percent of Israeli civilians in its range.

Gaza today has some 25,000 armed fighters. Of those, 16,000 belong to Hamas divisions. The Islamic Jihad has 5,000 fighters, split up into five divisions, and is armed with more than 2,000 rockets. Smaller terror groups have over 4,000 terrorists among their ranks, and are armed with dozens of rockets, as well as a large quantity of light arms.

In addition to replenishing its rocket arsenal, Hamas is trying to create capabilities to launch terror attacks, and possesses anti-aircraft missiles as well.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured composite photographic image is courtesy of CrownHeights.info.