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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.

Iran Behind the Rocket Blitz on Israel?

Last night, both Ilana Freedman and I briefed the state coordinators of the National Security Communications Strike Team (NSCST) on the strategic development in the latest rocket war on Israel from Gaza.  We were referring to the launch of several Syrian made and Iran supplied Khaibar M-302 rockets with  a range of 150 to 160  kms. Freedman notified the group in the briefing that the rockets launched from Gaza had ranged as far north Zikron Ya’akov 12 miles north of Tel Aviv.  Today, a rocket struck Ma’aleh Adumim where cousins live. That meant that nearly two thirds of Israel’s population, approximately 5 million, were at risk of strikes in the current rocket war by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  (PIJ).  There are an estimated 10 to 12,000 rockets in possession of these terrorist groups in Gaza.

In March 2014, the Israeli Navy intercepted a Panamanian flagged vessel the Klos-C. The ship 40 of the M-302’s and a large quantity of 120mm mortar rounds and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition for AK-47 and Kalashnikov assault rifles.  They were displayed in the southern port city of Eilat on the Red Sea.  In the NSCST briefing, Lisa Benson noted that Eilat was very close to the Jordanian town of Ma’an where ISIS supporters have battled security forces.  Freedman and I noted that  40 of those M-302 rockets were shipped from Syria to Iran, put aboard the false-flagged  Klos-C, hidden underneath sacks of flour. The ship  sailed out  of a Persian Gulf port down  the Arabian sea to be off loaded at Port Sudan and trucked overland via Egypt and the Sinai into Gaza through smuggling tunnels.

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Rubin,  Israel ‘s missile defense architect, presented in an Israel Project interview the full capabilities of the Hamas/PIJ rocket inventory and capabilities.  Before its News had this summary drawn from the Yid with Lid blog:

General Rubin explained that Hamas has three families of weapons:

  • Home-made, short-range (10-12km) – mainly crude manufacture -in use for 13 years;
  • ·Factory-made Grad 122mm with 40 km range used to attack Beersheba and Ashdod;
  • Another is the 4-inch M-75 rocket probably designed for the Gaza factions with a range  from 75-80 kilometers. That is the one fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Also it seems the missile which landed near Hadera was a Syrian M-302 , with a potential range of  150 – 160 kilometers.

  • They also have tactical mortar bombs to distract  IDF troops  close to Gaza and to hit local villages;
  • After Pillar of Defense (Nov. 2012) it was easier for Hamas to smuggle in weapons via Sinai because Egypt was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. The materials and machinery for local rocket production was probably also smuggled in. It was an open route. A two-way route;
  • Rockets  were smuggled in from Iran and Syria. Remember the Klos C.  A Ship intercepted by the IDF which was carrying Iranian weapons meant for Gaza;
  • The locally-made rockets M-75s  are well made with components are smuggled in. These are almost factory like but they are not sophisticated. They have the range and the warhead but not the accuracy; and
  • Iron Dome is not the solution for everything. It only targets rockets that will hit populated areas.

Listen to The Israel Project interview with Dr. Rubin on this YouTube video:

The existence of the strategic M-302 rockets was the subject of a UN study released in May 2014 on the Klos-C weapons cargo.  The report proposed to the Security Council sanctions against Iran.  An NBC Report noted, “the Klos-C shipment traveled from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, and from there in the direction of Port Sudan.” Whether those sanctions might be seriously adopted in the midst of the final days of negotiations by the P5+1 with the Islamic Regime seeking to achieve a final agreement on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program is moot. That leaves Israel to ponder what to do on its own, as the Administration in Washington suggests the myopic view that both sides restrain themselves from further violence.

This is the third day of Operation Protective Edge.  Israel’s Air Force and Navy have undertaken in excess of 500 strikes in Gaza.  It intercepted Hamas commando teams on Zikim Beach near an IDF Base in Israel. Rockets targted Israel’s nuclear Facility at Dimona and an IAF air base.  No Israeli civilian casualties have been incurred, while 53 deaths and  500 injuries have been reported by Hamas spokespersons in Gaza. That umbrella of protection for Israelis is a product of the 90% interception rate for Iron Dome batteries taking down potential rocket strikes against major population centers. This is coupled with the relative inaccuracy of locally made rockets in the Hamas/PIJ inventory.  The low number of Iron Dome interceptions is purposeful, as Israel’s Home Command adopted a strategy learned during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 to let Hamas/PIJ rockets harmlessly strike unpopulated areas.

Nonetheless, there appears to be resolve in Israel that this time the rocket war and the people behind it must be crushed.   That objective is not without significant costs in both blood and treasure given the difficulty pinpointing targets often hidden in schools, hospitals, office buildings and even homes in Gaza. As reported by Israel Hayom, a senior IAF officer said that they were not in possession of complete target intelligence as rocket launchings have originated in underground or disguised office buildings and even homes.  A BBC  world servicreport gave evidence of that when a barrage of likely Grad rockets erupted adjacent to their offices in Gaza.

Rubin made the point on the Israel Project  interview  that current launches of rockets from Gaza are below that experienced during the eight day Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.  He commented that means that Israel could be in for a longer war than previously experienced. That led to the question of when might Israel launch ground operations in Gaza akin to that of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.  Freedman noted that the reserve call up of 40,000+  authorized by the Netanyahu security cabinet might be focused on reinforcing northern and Golan frontier borders and security in Judea and Samaria. Thus, freeing up regular IDF forces for actions in Gaza.  The necessity of ground operations to destroy the infrastructure of rocket inventory, launching sites and removal of Hamas and PIJ leadership was underscored in an Israel Hayom Op-ed by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Uzi DayanHe was  former IDF deputy chief of the general staff and former head of the National Security Council, “Ground operation necessary”. Dayan noted:

The purposes of Operation Protective Edge must be defined precisely: the toppling of the Hamas regime and the elimination of all rockets in Gaza.

Is it possible to defeat a terrorist group? Can these objectives be achieved using military force? The answer to both questions is yes. A terrorist group with a territorial base can be deterred by threatening its hold on that base. The destruction of Hamas governing infrastructure and the targeted killing or expulsion of Hamas leaders are attainable goals.

Will this require a ground operation? Will such an operation involve the loss of troops? Yes and yes. Every military commander knows the challenge is to fulfill the mission and protect soldiers, in that order. Our sensitivity regarding the lives of soldiers is an asset, but when it becomes the main consideration, this undermines the main mission of the IDF — providing security to the citizens of Israel.

[…]

Will we get stuck in the “Gaza mud”? No. But we will stay in the areas we capture to deal a lethal blow to terrorist groups, dismantle the rocket infrastructure and topple the Hamas government.

Hamas and the PIJ current rocket war is not the only threat facing Israel. There is the estimated 60,000 rockets/ missiles in fortified areas of Southern Lebanon held by Hezbollah.  Those fortified positions were designed by Iranian engineers with the aid of North Korean tunneling experts as Freedman has previously pointed out.  Further, the IDF Home Command has to be concerned about an even more formidable missile in Hezbollah’s inventory, the Syrian M-600. It has a range of 250 km sufficient to cover all of Israel and capable of carrying a full range of conventional and non-conventional warheads. That is not lost on Israel’s Home Command, they opened up shelters in the north.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photos is of Syrian-made M-302 missiles captured by Israeli Naval commandos on display in Eilat March 2014. Source:  Ariel Schalit/AP.