Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

According to recent reports, Hamas negotiates with Gaza’s other armed factions to establish a unilateral cease-fire, after killing eight Israelis on August 18th – and more, via rocket attacks. While some might believe it suggests Hamas is scared and wants to prevent further destruction of its assets, it is likely that the scheme is more sophisticated than that.

Hamas understood in advance that attacking Israeli civilians would provoke Israeli response and no condemnation of the Arab league would defend the Strip. Realizing political winds around the world, though – UN in particular – Ismayil Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in Gaza believed he could terrorize Israelis, scoring points with his superiors and some neighbors, while suffering relatively little to no damage.

Haniyeh understands that leveraging international press – as well as bodies such as the United Nations and the Arab League – is a cinch; on all previous occasions, the international community was quick to call upon Israel to halt counter-operations in Gaza. The talk of a cease-fire is no more than a ruse to leave the scene unscathed, after achieving Hamas’ goals.

When Hamas declares another lull – which never is what Hamas claims it to be – Israel will have two options. Either abide by the newly set game rules, hence suffering political defeat vis-à-vis Gaza, or continue the armed campaign. The latter option is also split into two: either Israel keeps destroying Gazan targets from the air (mostly an ineffective tactic) or it moves into Gaza with armed forces, an operation similar to 2008-09 operation Cast Lead.

Haniyeh calculated that whatever path Israel chooses, Hamas wins. If Israel halts its attacks, Hamas claims it won the battle. If Israel keeps bombarding the area, each civilian casualty (real or invented by Palestinian press handlers) plays against the Jewish state. And, finally, if Israel moves into Gaza with ground forces, Gaza’s ruler is confident the Israelis will not cause significant damage to Hamas’ infrastructure, learning his lessons from past experiences.

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‘Free Gaza from Hamas’ – video

Posted: June 7, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in Gaza, Hamas, Palestinians, Terrorism

 

Hamas, the opponents of Arafat, the opponents of peace, urged a boycott of the election, and yet there was an 85 percent turnout where Hamas is supposed to be strong. Isn’t that really quite incredible?” — Warren Christopher.

They stepped out onto the deck and sat in a neat line. The captain escorted several men and told them to join the group. The boats were very close now. People on the deck felt calm, however, despite their adversaries’ olive-green uniforms and military gear. They knew that as long as they kept their hands to themselves, they will be spared any abuse.

Thus, passengers of infamous vessel Rachel Corrie offered no violent resistance to the IDF soldiers and – according to military sources – cooperated with the boarding troops. Soon enough, the soldiers – now in control of the boat – brought Corrie to the Ashdod port, where passengers, as well as the cargo, were offloaded. Israeli officials even praised the activists, hailing their non-violent protest. Sadly, the cargo will have to wait, as Hamas government bars entry of ‘Freedom Flotilla’s goods into the Gaza Strip – a curious occurrence in itself, as Hamas claims people literally die on Gaza streets. Where is the empathy?

The empathy is left down in the sea, with the propaganda. Hamas isn’t the only movement which denies Gazans’ access to aid – so is Free Gaza, the movement that allegedly champions Palestinian cause and risks own lives (or, should I say, lives of others) to promote radical agenda, as illustrated by IDF’s most recent audio clip. In it, Israeli Navy officers attempt to resolve Rachel Corrie standoff peacefully, without the need to border the ship. Moreover, the Israeli Defense Force offers transfer of the goods into Gaza by an independent NGOs – not the army – yet, Free Gaza activists decline the offer. I guess it’s better for the aid to rot at the border.

Expectedly, Free Gaza crowd receives support from some of the most radical elements around the world – from Hamas to Turkey to Iran. Some reports went as far as claim Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan might himself visit Gaza to personally break the blockade – a circus we’d all love to see (the report was later dismissed by Turkish officials). Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered (no political play here, of course) the Revolutionary Guards to escort future ‘Freedom Flotilla’ convoys – a spectacular view no doubt. Iran’s tactic at sea, you might remember from its recent exercises, is use of multiple very small rocket boats to swarm and attack its target. It is likely those could be easily destroyed by the Israeli Air Force.

Israeli authorities say they’ve uncovered terrorist support for the flotilla, as some ‘peace activists’ arrested on board Mavi Marmara were directly involved with terror activities, such as funding or training terror groups. And last – but not least – German Jewish group just announced they would support Free Gaza by organizing a ‘blockade-busting’ flotilla of their own. Well, ‘flotilla’ is too tough a word – scheduled for July, activists have a single boat, filled with 12 to 16 persons.

 

'Flotilla 13' soldier held at knifepoint by 'Mavi Marmara' crew Far from politics, various sources released more information about the mess on board Mavi Marmara. First reports by Israeli sites claimed several IDF soldiers were kidnapped by Marmara crew after being beaten by ‘peace activists’. While at first critics doubted such allegations, later in the day Turkish newspaper released pictures of injured IDF soldiers, held at knifepoint by the ‘Freedom Flotilla’. The pictures further enraged Israelis and shifted somewhat opinion in the international press towards Israel’s point of view. The intent of Turkish Hurriyet was to humiliate the injured soldiers, headlining the article “Tears of a Commando”.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to diminish the conflict between Israel and Turkey, by diverting attention from sail’s organizers to the extremists themselves. In a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu claimed the few dozen activists who attacked the IDF soldiers on board Mavi Marmara organized and boarded the ship separately from the IHH and Free Gaza activists, thus exploiting the sail for own purposes. Turkish behavior, however, seems to counter those claims.

 

Despite fiery speeches and unequivocal support of local media, Turkey faced harsh criticism from some famed quarters around the world. The New York Times’ editorial, for example, snubbed Thanksgiving country’s government for going radical, saying that while extremist rhetoric might score few points for Erdogan among his people, he will find it much harder to convert his coarse language into reality:

Mr. Erdogan may find it hard to walk things back when he needs to — and he will.

(Ynet)

Erdogan, however, might already be in trouble, according to some experts, who say Erdogan’s passionate rhetoric is the result of predictions his party will lose upcoming elections next year. The analysts say Erdogan sees support for his Islamic Movement diminish, thus he attempts to restore some faith in his policies and influence the vox populi.

Erdogan and Free Gaza movement find themselves in deeper trouble, as their claims of ‘illegal blockade’ and ‘illegal raid in international waters’ is being crushed to pieces by legal experts around the world. In an interview to BBC, Douglas Guilfoyle, a maritime lawyer and a lecturer at University College London, claimed that while the issue is complex and requires thorough investigation, Israel’s actions might be within parameters set by the international law. In a Reuters Q&A, several experts claim that Israel is allowed to board vessels declaring they are about to breach an imposed blockade – even if it means boarding the ships in international waters. Moreover, Reuters says Israel’s interception of Gaza-bound ships could be applied globally, as long as ship’s declared goal is to breach Israeli-imposed blockade. The only areas where Israel cannot uphold its blockade is waters of a neutral, third-party state.

Most importantly, Turkish violence, vile allegations and demands enraged the Israelis – from IDF supporters to satirists. Several demonstrations in support of the IDF were held in Israel throughout past few days. While handful radical Left-wing activists – supported by Israeli Palestinians – marched through Tel Aviv, calling upon the government to lift blockade on Gaza, most Israelis offered explicit support for the troops and the government. With feelings of persecution rising among Israeli Jewish population, Benjamin Netanyahu managed to keep nation’s spirit strong.

Some pro-Israel NGOs and blogs take on the job to counter anti-Israel claims and press. In one post, Little Green Footballs – a blog that revealed a ‘doctored’ photo in Reuters’ report during Second Lebanon War, again encountered dubious practice by the wire service, where picture released to subscribers excluded a knife held by an ‘activist’. A slew of others stood up for Israel, such as Elder of Ziyon, CAMERA, News That Matters, Augean Stables, and many others. These blogs identified and collected much information on legal issues, as well as inaccuracies reported by Free Gaza and the likes.

To contribute to national pride, a satirical group Latmah released a video clip, based on famous song ‘We are the World’. The Israeli version – named ‘We Con the World’, has already seen over 1,100,000 views – and still rising. The video – posted four days after first report on the incident by Al Jazeera English – still surpassed the latter by 400,000 views. Turkish expressions of outrage over the clip produced no damage to its popularity.

On the other side of the activist aisle, some Israeli students set off to organize own flotilla into Turkish territory, with supplies to nations oppressed by Erdogan’s radical regime – the Armenians and the Kurds. The organizers are yet to set a date for the humanitarian mission, but claim their goal is to set sail by the end of the week.

'Free Gaza' activists on board 'Rachel Corrie'. Peaceful or more attempted murder? As was predicted by some – me included, although it isn’t tough a prediction to make – the crew of ‘Rachel Corrie’ – an Irish vessel bound for Israel late, refused Israel’s offer to dock in Israeli port of Ashdod, to have its cargo examined and then transferred to Gaza. Not unlike the crews of six ships led by IHH’s Mavi Marmara – who suggested Israeli Navy soldiers should go back to Auschwitz – ‘Rachel Corrie’ told the IDF and Irish government it would proceed to Gaza:

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs announced Friday that it had reached an agreement with the Israeli government on the ‘Rachel Corrie’, by which it would dock at Ashdod and submit the aid it was carrying to inspection, but that the ship’s crew had refused.

According to the agreement reached between the two states, the Rachel Corrie would dock at Ashdod port, where its cargo would be inspected under the supervision of UN officials.

Then the supplies, which reportedly include 550 tons of cement, would be transported to Gaza through the Erez crossing. Two crew members would accompany the transport until that point.

(Ynet)

THE ACTIVISTS ON board ‘Rachel Corrie’ said their intentions were ‘peaceful’ and said they would not resist IDF troops boarding their vessel. Hm, that reminds me of those Free Gaza activists on the six boats ‘Flotilla 13’ boarded recently – didn’t they say they were peaceful as well? And then proceeded to do this:

That looks like some real peaceful activism to me, up close and personal…

Anyway, the Israeli authorities warned the ‘Corrie’ – again – saying they were not interested in confrontation. While one could understand the move – Israel does not want to look harsh – it is likely to spark even more resentment among the ‘peaceful activists’, whose objective – among others – is to murder or injure Israelis. Seeing signs of weakness, Free Gaza crew would continue to push forward, with estimated arrival time being Saturday.

From previous statements by Free Gaza organizers, it is clear the objective is to break the blockade, not necessarily deliver the aid. And hey – Hamas are in no hurry to receive the aid themselves, as recently it was reported they declared Gaza would not permit entry of Free Gaza aid as long as group’s activists are held in Israel. If everything Free Gaza says is indeed true and people are starving on Gazan streets, what is Hamas doing, allowing its people to simply die out? I mean – what about the lack of food, lack of medicine? How cruel is that?

Well, not everything’s as simple as it looks. Danish reporter Steffen Jensen visited Gaza on Tuesday (June 1st, 2010) and discovered that while Gaza has some problems – grave problems indeed – there are no dying people on the streets, no Africa-like, hungered children. What a surprise that is…

 

Update 05062010 0727GMT: You can follow live updates on the ‘Rachel Corrie’ from IDF’s Twitter reporting. Most recently, the vessel ignored IDF’s second request to dock at Ashdod port.

Hamas' murder of hundreds does not worry me. Erdogan

In the past decade, the Thanksgiving country made an effort to join the European Union. For Turkey, such accession would mean additional boost for the economy, better relations with mostly prosperous Europe and an opportunity to further its influence into Europe. The European Union, in its turn, would acquire further influence in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, as well as opening own markets to 71 million consumers. The EU required Turkey to comply with quite a few conditions to join, such as enacting liberal market policies and improving Turkey’s competition policies.

Well, today it all went down the drain, when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan aligned his country with Hamas, stating that the latter was not a terror group, but in fact a democratically-elected movement:

Speaking at a ceremony in Konya, the prime minister announced that Hamas was not a terror organization. "They won an election. You always speak of democracy, but you will not let Hamas rule. What kind of democracy is that?" he asked.

"Hamas’s resistance fighters were meant to defend their land. They won an election. I’ve told American officials before that I do not consider Hamas a terror organization, and I still don’t. They are defending their land," he was quoted by Turkish media as saying.

(Ynet)

UNSURPRISINGLY, ERDOGAN FAILED to tell his people that after Hamas indeed won elections (garnering about 40% of the vote), it proceeded to round up its opposition – Mahmoud Abbas-led Fatah faction – execute and expel them from Gaza. At the time evil Israelis opened the checkpoints to allow thousands of Fatah members and their families to run to the West Bank. After forcibly exterminating its opposition – which led to an immense rift between the two groups – Hamas progressed to imposing a strict Islamist regime in the Gaza Strip, under which music, alcohol and public express of affection is barred and punishable by jail.

Moreover, ‘democratic’ friends of Erdogan still execute people on the streets for ‘collaboration’ with Israel – a sentence where the accused has no lawyer or a right to defend self – closes NGOs and steals large sums of money from Gaza’s banks, using unpublished ‘court orders’ as pretense.

So well done, Mr. President. You have officially aligned yourself with murderers and genocidal maniacs. What does that say about your ‘Freedom Flotilla’?

There are no supermen in the Israeli Defense Forces. These are regular men, well-trained and well-prepared, for the situations they were taught to deal with. It seems ‘Flotilla 13’ troops acted appropriately when in danger of life, although we are yet to get all the information on what happened aboard the ship. Few things are clear, though:

  • Despite claims by the radicals inhabiting the boat that IDF troops fired shots before touching down on the boat, none of them could produce evidence of such, despite Al-Jazeera’s journalists’ presence on board, recording throughout the night.
  • It is clear soldiers could not have shot their weapons as soon as they touched the top decks, as they were immediately grabbed, beaten, had their weapons stolen and some thrown overboard – despite claims to contrary by the radical Left-wing activists on board.
  • ‘Peace activists’ were armed by pipes, rods, chains, knives, ready to attack the incoming troops. Injuries sustained by the ‘Flotilla 13’ troops – and by some of the attackers – point to extensive use of sharp attack objects.

As the international community attacks Israel over the nine fatalities on board the Mavi Marmara, no one seems to ask if any of the deaths occurred due to Turks’ use of IDF’s firearms. Two ‘F13’ soldiers were wounded by gunshots from handguns taken off the soldiers by the rioters, yet each firearms contains at the very least six bullets. It is possible some of the shots taken at the servicemen hit the rioters.

 

ISRAEL COULD NOT have won the ordeal. Consider the situation: militarily-speaking, there are few ways to stop six ships at sea, besides using infantry in a takeover. You can ram them, you can shoot them, you can block their way and let them ram you. In any of those cases, the protesters and the press would accuse Israel of interfering with a humanitarian mission.

The IDF could attempt a takeover in Gaza’s blockaded territorial waters. The move would be unnecessary, as Israel did have the right to act in international waters in this instance, but would silence a few critics. The option, however, would put the IDF in further danger, within reach of Hamas’ anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as small boats with armed Hamas fighters onboard. Such a blockade-imposing mission could turn into an armed confrontation with many more casualties to both sides. This would turn out to be much worse a nightmare than what Israel already has on its hands.

Then Israel could allow the ships into Gaza. The move – while sparing immediate negative press – would be hailed as a victory for the radical flotilla organizers, as well as their Hamas patrons. Feeling their victory, notorious Free Gaza movement would organize additional blockade-busting flotillas – many more, with many more ships and activists on board. This would allow Hamas and its supporters to smuggle dozens of tons of weaponry, such as rockets, mortars and other ammunition. For Israel, blocking such stream of weapons among dozens of ships would be all but impossible. Future raids could include armed firefights with Hamas men on such vessels, resulting in severe losses.

So Israel couldn’t win. Whatever path the Jewish state would take, critics would find a way to severely criticize it. Taking above scenarios into consideration, IDF’s command decided to go for a proven tactic, used last year – board the ships with ‘Flotilla 13’ fighters, equipped with pacifying, non-lethal arms.

The decision was made to lower the soldiers off helicopters onto the ships as an intimidation technique – soldiers rappelling off helicopters would keep potential rioters away, went the logic.

The plan was presented to the political echelon, which approved it. And this is where it went wrong.

The commanders on the ground had nowhere to hurry – with 70 more miles to go to reach Gaza, the officers had hours to gather intelligence and reconsider the situation. Helicopters approaching Mavi Marmara noticed dozens of civilians on the top deck and had the opportunity to bug out and return later – or stay and gather intelligence. Snipers could be located on the helicopters and the rubber boats, to observe the ships using night vision and thermal equipment. Those would notice the ‘peace activists’ preparing gas masks, vests, metal rods, chains, knives and other assault equipment.

On one hand, the IDF commanders on the ground – or water – desired to keep the element of surprise. The helicopters delivering troops were not turned back when it was revealed top deck is not free, as to not give up the element of surprise and aggressiveness. The soldiers did not deploy tear gas and stun grenades prior to landing, as to not anger the protesters. However, the IDF forgot the main feature of such a tactic – surprise itself. Hostile elements cannot be taken by surprise if they see IDF boats cruising alongside for long minutes – if not hours. If the IDF command wanted to make the assault a surprise – the helicopters should have appeared out of the black, with no prior notice. Only then would the soldiers stand a chance, have the opportunity to regroup, work methodically and clear the boat of hostiles. Yet, the high-ranking officers were too cocky to imagine soldiers’ lives could be in jeopardy. Whoever sat at that planning table, and on the other side of the screens forgot the army spirit and brought disgrace upon his uniform.

After the fact, it is easy to point out the mistakes. At the time, the command did what it thought was right, and it seems soldiers did no wrong while defending their lives. Yet, as grave mistakes were made, here are some future tips for the ‘cocky officers’ planning further takeovers of such vessels:

  • Do not assume. Assumptions is what will cost you a battle and a war.
  • If you want to surprise – do so. If you want a surprise attack – come out of the blue, fast, and finish the mission in record time. Speed is essential.
  • Every person could carry a knife on his belt and a metal rod in his hand. In order to ensure safe deployment of soldiers in highly-populated areas, it is essential to deploy smoke or CS gas in order to prevent direct attack on the soldiers.
  • Sending soldiers poor-equipped would bring disaster. Each soldiers must have stun grenades, CS grenades or Stinger grenades on his body to deploy those in case of danger.
  • Armed units should be on stand-by within three minutes of arrival to the scene. It is enough time to get quick, yet far enough to keep the soldiers from using lethal force unnecessary.
  • Snipers are essential during intelligence-gathering phase and operational phase. Two snipers in a small rubber boat located at a distance of under a mile could provide necessary observation and should intervene in extreme cases of use of lethal force against the troops.
  • It is about time soldiers deployed would carry an on-helmet or an on-weapon cameras. Feeds from those could be received directly by the command, giving it a full picture. Those could also be used to fight off media-lynching of the troops.
  • Having IDF cameramen is crucial: each helicopter delivering troops should have an IDF cameraman joining in. Another option: mount cameras on the bottom of the deploying aircraft, allowing recording of the deployment process.

There is little left to say about the failed operation. The soldiers fought brave, facing mob doing their best to murder them. Yet, they were the casualty of poor planning, poor intelligence and poor execution. While the decision to block the flotilla was a correct one, the approval process lacked on every step of the way – military and political. One thing is clear: with another ship – Rachel Corrie – soon to arrive in the region, the IDF would have to rethink its tactics. Let’s hope they will make the correct decisions this time.

Facing tough mission. Egypt's Special Forces Egyptian military engages Sinai Bedouin tribes, who profit from smuggling arms, supplies and gunmen into Gaza. Egypt -  set on shutting the smuggling as means to fight Hamas – stepped up efforts in past year to halt Hamas’ supply lines, by first constructing an underground separation barrier and now openly fighting with Hamas’ suppliers:

The tribesmen have developed a lucrative trade as Al Qaeda’s main clandestine pipeline for moving weapons and fighters out of the Red Sea countries of Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and over to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The Bedouin also run a regular supply line of arms and goods to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip through the Sinai tunnels.

Saturday, May 29, the Egyptians were forced to retire to El Arish in northern Sinai to recuperate, replenish depleted ammo stocks and collect reinforcements for the next round.
Most of the combat is raging around Wadi Omar, a dry valley in central Sinai bounded by 4,800-ft peaks.

The Egyptian units battering his mountain strongholds were thrown back by massive heavy machine fire on the few narrow paths climbing up the steep slopes and anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade fire on their APCs. The Bedouin fighters are also using their heavy machine guns to hit Egyptian helicopters.

(DebkaFile)

THE ASSAULT – IN part – explains Egypt’s sudden willingness to confront the smuggling business, after ignoring the deeds for years. If the tribesmen indeed managed to amass arms capable of defending against Egyptian army – not the strongest, by any means – Egyptian Armed Forces indeed have a problem on their hands.

Hosni Mubarak likely understands the urgent need to engage and destroy the terror infrastructure in his backyard. Not only does it support Hamas and local terror groups, but could enhance ability of other movements, such as the radical Muslim Brotherhood, to occupy parts of the country or overthrow Mubarak’s regime. Obviously, Egypt’s job would be far easier if it would not allow the establishment of such infrastructure in the first place. Mubarak believed supplying Hamas with arms and cash could pressure Israel into concessions and eventually bring on the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict within years. He was wrong, however. Israel did not give up and indeed maintained its blockade on Gaza. Frustrated, Hamas – and Gazans – turned to Egypt, at one point confronting Egyptian border guards and destroying parts of the security fence in Rafah.

Now Mubarak would have to turn back the clock. He is about to see it is not easy at all.