Saturday, July 19, 2014

13 tunnels and 95 rocket launchers destroyed in Gaza

From Ynet News, 19 July 2014:
The IDF began mobilizing large forces near the Gaza border on Saturday afternoon, for a possible expansion of its ground operation inside the coastal Strip hours after unearthing a series of tunnels believed for suspected use in terror attacks.

Israel sent its ground troops into the area late Thursday night, after the aerial bombardment stage of what it calls Operation Protective Edge failed to halt rocket fire on its southern and central communities. Israel says it has encountered little resistance on the ground so far, and has killed about 20 militants in sporadic gunbattles...

One of the tunnel openings found near a mosque in the Gaza Strip (Photo: IDF Spokesman)
One of the tunnel openings found near a mosque in the Gaza Strip (Photo: IDF Spokesman)

Meanwhile, IDF soldiers in tanks and bulldozers dug in across a mile-wide strip of eastern Gaza on Saturday. The military said its engineers were concentrating on an effective buffer-zone 2.5 km (1.5 mile) wide and were looking to destroy the tunnels dug in secret by Hamas after the last major fighting there in 2012.

The IDF acknowledged that there was a de facto buffer zone in eastern Gaza, but said other military operations continued. IDF Spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz also signaled that the forces conducting the unearthing mission would not stay permanently.

IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said 13 tunnels, at least one of them 30 meters deep, and 95 rocket launchers were found and destroyed since the Gaza ground incursion began. The military also said it had thwarted a second infiltration attempt through such a tunnel, killing one militant and forcing the others to return to Gaza. On Saturday morning, a terrorist was killed in the Eshkol region of Israel after infiltating from Gaza.

"We have struck hard on the two main strategic assets of Hamas: the rockets and these tunnels," Lerner said. Searches were continuing in what he described as an open-ended mission that had "severely impeded Hamas capabilities".

"I can't promise that when we leave the territory we will have exposed all of the tunnels," he told Army Radio.

The IDF said Saturday that in 12 days of fighting, it has hit 2,350 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers. Three new entrances to tunnels were uncovered on Saturday, as a senior army source described the harsh blow the IDF has dealt Hamas' tunnels. 

"In less than 24 hours, Hamas lost 13 tunnels and the IDF has seized control of all 13," the source said, adding that some of the tunnel mouths were on the other side of the border inside Israel.

The army was still scanning the tunnels, and it was unclear whether these were 13 separate tunnels, or whether some were simply branches of others. It also remained unclear how many of these tunnels ended inside Israel.
"It's hard getting to the entrances to these tunnels, some are in greenhouses and others in houses. Intelligence is working on this," the source continued.

"We're cautiously speaking about taking away Hamas' ability to dig tunnels. These tunnels are just a part of Hamas' defenses, but it is the apple of their eye," he added. 

...Since the beginning of the ground offensive on Thursday night, the IDF has attacked 260 targets, among them weapons caches, launching sites, tunnels, houses of terror operatives that serve as command and control centers, and others.

In total, since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the army has struck 2350 targets, some 1100 on hidden rocket launchers and 215 of them command and control centers.

Flares light up the Gaza sky (Photo: AP)
Flares light up the Gaza sky (Photo: AP)

In addition, 21 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists have been arrested and taken for questioning by the Shin Bet and other security forces. At least 17 were killed in fire exchanges with the IDF.
Troops outside the Gaza Strip (Photo: Reuters)
Troops outside the Gaza Strip (Photo: Reuters)

At present, according to reports in the foreign press, IDF troops are not yet deep in urban areas. They are mostly operating in open areas about a kilometer and a half north, south and east of Gaza City.

The troops encountered armed Palestinians in several incidents and has been exchanging fire with them near Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.

The army has been shooting flares to light up the Gaza sky overnight, and continuing airstrikes across the Strip.

Friday, July 18, 2014

US public support for Israel at near record highs

From JPost, 17 July 2014, by HERB KEINON:

Poll finds massive US support for Israel; Blacks, Hispanics sympathize with Israel more than twice as much as with Palestinians.

The US public’s support for Israel is at near-record levels, according to a Pew Research Center poll, despite the current violence and images of the destruction in the Gaza Strip playing out nightly on television screens across America.

Furthermore, the poll – carried out from July 8 to July 14 – indicates that support for Israel among blacks and Hispanics – demographic groups to which Israeli advocacy groups are increasingly reaching out – is more than double what it is for the Palestinians.

White evangelicals are – with the possible exception of Jews, who were not a demographic studied in this survey – the most sympathetic for Israel, while those unaffiliated with any church are the least supportive.

While Republicans sympathize with Israel far more than Democrats, Democratic support is still strong and even among “liberal Democrats” support for Israel far outstrips that for the Palestinians.

According to the survey, 51 percent of Americans said that they sympathize more with Israel in the “dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.” Only 14% said their sympathies are more with the Palestinians. Another 15% said they sympathize with neither side, and 3% with both sides.

This figure of support for Israel is down from April, when the numbers were 53% and 11%.

Even as some critics of Israel claim that Israel’s support in the US is waning, the poll shows that the number of people expressing sympathy with Israel is at the second-highest level it has been since this particular question was first asked back in 1978.

The gap between the support for Israel as opposed to that for the Palestinians stands at 37%.

Though this is down from the 42% gap registered in April, it is much higher than in 1990, when the gap was at its lowest point in a generation, standing at “only” 20%.

In January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the gap between support for Israel and the Palestinians stood at 38%, and in November 2012, following Operation Pillar of Defense, that number was 40%.

A further analysis of the numbers shows that both American blacks and Hispanics support Israel by a more than 2:1 ratio.

According to the poll, 43% of blacks sympathize more with Israel, as compared to 20% for the Palestinians. Among the Hispanics that number is 41% to 17%, and among whites it is 55% to 12%.

The older the Americans, the more likely they are to sympathize with the Jewish state. That figure reaches 60% for the 65+ age group, and goes down to 44% among those aged 18 to 29. The younger age group also has the most sympathy for the Palestinians at 22%.

Regarding party differences, some 73% of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared to 44% of Democrats and 45% of Independents.

And even among those who consider themselves “liberal Democrats,” there is almost twice as much support for Israel as for the Palestinians, with 39% saying they have more sympathy for Israel, and 21% more for the Palestinians.

Among the strongest supporters are white evangelicals, with the figures there standing at 70% to 5%. Those unaffiliated with any church, by comparison, support Israel over the Palestinians 36% to 20%, the lowest figure among any of the groups studied in the poll.

The survey was conducted from July 8 to 14 among a national sample of 1,805 adults. It a has a 2.7% margin of error.

World Condemns Hamas Rejection of Ceasefire

International pressure has been directed at Hamas, following its rejection of a ceasefire with Israel - raising the level of international criticism and condemnation of the terrorist organisation.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, backed by the Israeli Cabinet, accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Netanyahu, announced on Twitter that "the Cabinet has decided to accept the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire." At 9am on Tuesday Israel halted its fire, following which, between 9am and 3pm, Hamas fired 47 rockets at Israel from Gaza, prompting Israel to resume its military response.

Hamas rejected the deal... 
statement released by the al-Qassam Brigades said the group "totally and completely" rejected the terms of the ceasefire," saying it was "not worth the ink it was written with."

Hamas not only rejected the ceasefire proposal, which had the blessing of the Arab League, but spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri implied it was a "betrayal," saying, "We feel greatly betrayed by official Arab regimes; we have encountered no real official Arab position."
Other world powers had strongly endorsed the proposed ceasefire.
US Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed the planned ceasefire, saying, 
"The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm... We welcome the Israeli Cabinet's decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal."
UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, fresh to the job, commended Israel on accepting the ceasefire and called on Hamas to do the same: 
"I welcome Egypt's ceasefire initiative... I also welcome Israel's acceptance in principle of the terms of the proposed ceasefire agreement, and the Palestinian Authority's endorsement of the Egyptian initiative. I call on Hamas and all militant factions in Gaza to take this opportunity to cease hostilities."
Following the rejection by Hamas and the continued firing of rockets, denunciations of Hamas were sharp by diplomatic standards.
Kerry came out very strongly against Hamas's rejection: 
"I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to operate a cease-fire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports."
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said: 
"The Australian Government strongly condemns the decision of Hamas to reject a ceasefire to hostilities between Israel and extremist groups in Gaza. Hamas claims to represent Gaza, yet it has jeopardised the welfare of its own people by rejecting the proposal for a ceasefire."
...Also publicly critical of Hamas - his partners in a unity government - was Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called on both sides to stop firing and accept the ceasefire. 
Abbas called Hamas' conditions for accepting the ceasefire "exaggerated and unnecessary."
On Thursday, both Israel and Hamas did accept a temporary 5-hour ceasefire, termed a "humanitarian pause," to allow aid into Gaza. It was agreed the ceasefire would take place between 10am and 3pm local time on Thursday, beginning at 5pm EST. Yet, reportedly, Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel during the temporary ceasefire.
It now appears Israel has concluded that they have no choice but to launch the long-discussed ground offensive into Gaza in response to the rocket attacks - something reports indicate both the Israeli military and Prime Minister Netanyahu were extremely reluctant to do. It seems likely that Israel's actions will be met with some understanding in Western capitals - and even some Arab ones - in the wake of Hamas' intransigence over the past week.

IDF Begins Ground Operation in Gaza

From the IDF, July 17, 2014:

Following ten days of Hamas attacks against Israel by land, air, and sea – and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation – the Israel Defense Forces has started a new phase of Operation Protective Edge. A large IDF force of infantry, tanks, artillery, combat engineers, and field intelligence is entering the Gaza Strip.The force is supported by the Israel Air Force, Navy, and other Israeli security agencies.

Soldier Gaza Border
Their mission is to target Hamas’ tunnels that cross under the Israel-Gaza border and enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks. 
Such a goal requires intensive and precise operations inside Gaza. Hamas terrorists are operating underground, and that is where the IDF will meet them. The IDF intends to impair Hamas’ capability to attack Israel.
Hamas fires rockets at Israelis around the clock – 1,500 since July 8. The IDF is operating in order to counter this threat.

The Tunnel Threat

Earlier today, the IDF identified around 13 Palestinians who had infiltrated Israel through a tunnel dug from Gaza. The tunnel began in the southern Gaza Strip and its exit was near Kibbutz Sufa in Israel. The terrorists were heavily armed with RPGs and assault rifles and were prepared to carry out a massacre. The IDF foiled their attack, saving countless Israeli lives.
The tunnel uncovered this morning was one of many such tunnels that the IDF has discovered in recent years. In 2013, for example, the IDF uncovered a tunnel from Gaza to Israel that was 18 meters (59 feet) underground and extended for 1.7 km (1 mi). The tunnel was built with 500 tons of concrete and cement.
Hamas used a similar tunnel in 2006 in order to infiltrate Israel, kill two IDF soldiers, and kidnap Gilad Shalit. Hamas has repeatedly said that it wants to kidnap more Israelis in similar attacks.
Hamas has invested millions of dollars and other resources in order to operate its thriving tunnel network. There is evidence that construction materials that Israel transferred to Gaza for civilian projects has been used by Hamas for its tunnels.

An Intolerable Reality

Hamas has sworn itself to endless war against Israel. Its suicide bombers have targeted buses, schools, restaurants, malls, and more. Its rocket launching squads have fired more than thousands of rockets in the past decade, making life intolerable not only for Israeli communities near the Gaza border, but also in major cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Ashdod, and Ashkelon.
The Israel Defense Forces will operate wherever necessary in order to protect the people of Israel.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tunnel infiltration thwarted near Kibbutz Sufa

From Times of Israel, 17 July 2014, by Mitch Ginsburg:

The Israeli army thwarted a large-scale infiltration attempt along the Gaza border, during which 13 armed Palestinians emerged from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border at dawn Thursday, an army spokesperson said.

The spokesperson described the attack as in line with a series of other thwarted attacks over the past 10 days of warfare, including two infiltration attempts from the sea near Kibbutz Zikim, a tunnel near Kerem Shalom, and a drone attack earlier this week.

The IDF action that stopped the infiltration attempt before it was sprung “was obviously a huge success,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The gunmen, he said, emerged from the tunnel early Thursday some 250 meters inside Israel. Lying flat on the ground, in an open area two kilometers from Kibbutz Sufa in the Eshkol region, the 13 armed men were spotted by what Lerner termed “different sensors.”

Realizing that they had been discovered, they attempted to run back underground but were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said some had been hit but he could not state how many...

West Bank status quo can be model for Gaza reoccupation

From Times of Israel, 17 July, 2014, by Raphael Ahren:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks with the press before entering the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, June 1, 2014. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash 90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks with the press before entering the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, June 1, 2014. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash 90)

The PA would administer civilian areas, whereas Israel would have a ‘free hand’ to uproot terrorism, Liberman suggests

The status quo in the West Bank could serve as a model for Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday, urging the government not to rush toward a ceasefire with Hamas, but instead to send ground troops into the Strip to uproot terrorism there. 

Asked by American Jewish leaders to explain his demand that Operation Protective Edge end with the Israeli army taking control over the coastal enclave, he referenced the situation in the West Bank before and after Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.  
“As you remember, in Judea and Samaria, there was a real mess. Before we started Defensive Shield, the situation was a disaster,” he said, referring to a series of suicide bombings and bloody terrorist attacks emanating from the West Bank. At some point, Israel decided to send troops into Palestinian towns to root out terrorist cells there, and the security situation improved greatly, he said.
“After Defensive Shield, we destroyed the entire terrorist infrastructure. And we provided Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] with the ability to take the administration in his hands and to act in Judea and Samaria,” Liberman said. “Now we enjoy security in all of Judea and Samaria.”
As opposed to the status quo in Gaza, in the West Bank, no new terror cells are being created, there are no rockets and there are no tunnels, he said. Abbas understands that the coordination between IDF and his security forces helps him stay in power, the foreign minister added.

This “combination” — Abbas running administrative affairs for Palestinians and Israel having a “free hand” to uproot terrorism – is only one of several plans for a post-invasion Gaza discussed in the security cabinet, Liberman said. He refused to provide any details about the other options.

“From a military point of view, no doubt for us it is not a big challenge to take control of the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Briefing a solidarity mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Liberman rejected the idea of speedy ceasefire in Gaza.
“For me it was clear that Hamas would never accept any ceasefire, any truce,” he said, speaking in English. Of course the idea of an end to the hostilities sounds tempting, he added, but history has shown that Hamas uses such ceasefires only to rearm – with ever-improving weaponry.
“During the first [Gaza] operation, Cast Lead, they only had short-range missiles; only Sderot was under rocket fire. During the second operation, Pillar of Defense, missiles reached Rishon Letzion, and they had over 18 [long-range] rockets. Today, they reach Zichron Ya’akov and Hadera, and have more than 300 long-range missiles.”
All of these rockets are produced locally in Gaza, Liberman said. “They don’t anymore need to smuggle their weapons. I think if they achieve this ceasefire it is clear that they will use [the time] to produce more rockets, to dig more tunnels and to prepare themselves for the next clash with Israel.”
Jerusalem is interested in “peaceful coexistence” with the Palestinians, “but it’s clear to everybody that if the end of this operation will be very similar to Pillar of Defense, the next operation, the next clash is only just matter of time — maybe 10 months, maybe 15 months. And then they will have more rockets, more weapons, more drones,” he said. “It’s really for us a crucial time to take crucial decisions.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel, Liberman said that even if reports of Hamas offering a 10-year truce were true, Jerusalem had to make sure that the terrorist organization doesn’t use this time simply to rearm.
“We shouldn’t think about what will be in 10 years, but how we can prevent them from producing and developing their terror infrastructure,” he said. “If there is no way to prevent them from developing this infrastructure, if they will use these 10 years to build more and more missiles and drones, what will we have gained?”......

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hamas and Al Jazeera have the same financier

From Times of Israel, 15 July 2014:

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, arrive for a cornerstone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, October 23, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Salem)

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, arrive for a cornerstone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, October 23, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Salem)

The United States has blocked the transfer of Qatari funds earmarked for the salaries of civil servants hired by Hamas in Gaza, The Times of Israel has learned.
A diplomatic source in the Gulf state, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Qatar had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to Arab Bank for the salaries of some 44,000 Hamas civil servants. Those civil servants — employed by Hamas in Gaza since its takeover of the Strip in 2007 – were rendered jobless by the unity agreement with Fatah last month.
But the money was never processed by Arab Bank and delivered to Hamas, the source told The Times of Israel, due to pressure from the Americans, who consider Hamas a terror organization.
“This is strange, since funds from Qatar have never been blocked in the past,” the source said, referring to the $400 million aid package pledged by Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa during his visit to Gaza in October 2012.
Hamas’s deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouk lambasted Arab Bank for neglecting to process the funds in comments posted on his Facebook page June 28.
...The US State Department and the Arab Bank did not respond to requests for comments on the matter.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, center, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, right, arrive to sign an agreement in Doha, Qatar. A rare public rift broke open Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in the usually tightly disciplined Islamic movement Hamas over a reconciliation deal that would require it to relinquish key areas of control in the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal, File)
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, center, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, right, arrive to sign an agreement in Doha, Qatar. (photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal, File)
...Shortly after the swearing in of the unity government in Ramallah on June 2, Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani pledged millions in aid to Hamas, responding to an appeal by Haniyeh. 
Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would cooperate with the technocrat government headed by Rami Hamdallah, while closely monitoring its compliance with the Quartet’s principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of the previous agreements [really????].
Qatar has long played the role of patron to Hamas, investing billions of dollars in reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip and hosting the movement’s chief Khaled Mashaal in Doha.
Speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, an Israeli security official said that the funds were not transferred to Hamas “due to international sanctions” imposed on the movement, but would not elaborate. He called Hamas’s decision to break a 20-month ceasefire last week by launching rockets at Israel “an internal Palestinian issue that has been thrust upon Israel.”

Muslims are turning away from Islamism but Palestinian Arabs are the most radicalized people of the Middle East

From Daniel Pipes, 15 July 2014:

The Pew Research Center, a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, has the means to sample opinion with unique frequency and on a major scale. It has used its funds to track Muslim attitudes toward Islamism in general, toward specific terrorist groups in particular, and also suicide bombing over the past decade . 

The most recent study, "Concerns about Islamic Extremism on the Rise in Middle East," released on July 1, conducted among 14,244 respondents in 14 countries between April 10 to May 25, 2014, holds much interest. Pew summarized the overall results:
As well-publicized bouts of violence, from civil war to suicide bombings, plague the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, concern about Islamic extremism is high among countries with substantial Muslim populations. … And in the Middle East, concern is growing. Lebanese, Tunisians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Turks are all more worried about the extremist threat than they were a year ago. Meanwhile, publics hold very negative opinions of well-known extremist groups, such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.
In my reading, the survey makes two major points and also offers some lesser tidbits of interest: :
(1) The better Muslims know Islamism, the more they reject it. This theme pervades the poll numbers when compared over time. As Islamism has surged over the past decade, Muslim support for it has decreased nearly across the board, with the last year showing a particularly dramatic reduction.
Graph 1, "Increasing Concerns about Extremism in the Middle East" shows an average increase of 9.4 percent in anti-Islamist feeling in a single year between 2013 and 2014:
Graph 2, excluding Lebanon, the outlier, "Unfavorable Views of Hezbollah on the Rise in the Middle East; Steady in Lebanon" finds an average 34 percent increase in disapproval of Hezbollah in the four countries surveyed since 2007.
Graph 3, "Palestinian Opinion of Hamas Declines" records a near-reversal from 2007 to the present, from 62 percent favorable and 33 percent unfavorable to 35 and 53 percent respectively.
Graph 4, "Levels of Support for Suicide Bombing over Time" shows uneven but clear decline in support for this hideous tactic.
Comment: Whether the issue be Islamism in general, views on Hezbollah, Hamas, or on suicide bombings, Muslim support is substantially reduced, confirming my thesis, first offered a year ago, that Islamism has peaked and is in decline.

(2) The three Palestinian populations of the West Bank, Gaza, and Israeli Arabs differ in many ways:
Of all Muslim groups polled, West Bankers and Gazans have the most favorable view of Al-Qaeda, at 26 percent; extrapolating from the incomplete data Pew offers, it appears that only about 6 percent of Israeli Arabs favor Al-Qaeda, a substantial difference.
Similarly, Palestinians support suicide bombing more than any other group in the Middle East, with Gazans oddly much higher (62 percent) than West Bankers (36 percent). Israeli Arabs again favor this tactic in much lower numbers (16 percent).
West Bankers and Gazans favor Hamas equally; but Gazans, who have experienced its rule first-hand, are far more negative toward the organization. Asked about Islamism in general, Gazans are again much more negative (79 percent) than are West Bankers (57 percent).
The Pew poll confirms that Palestinians are the most radicalized people of the Middle East, if not the world, ready to throw everything over and try any wild-eyed experiment. They have tried four over the past century: pan-Syrian nationalism, pan-Arab nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, or Islamism. One shudders to think what will come next. 

That said, Israeli Arabs differ substantially from their non-Israeli counterparts.
Other revealing tidbits:
Boko Haram's persistent targeting of fellow Muslims in Nigeria leads to the anomalous finding that Muslims in that country outnumber Christians (76 to 69 percent) in expressing high levels of concern about Islamism.
Even more aberrant, 31 percent of Christians in Lebanon favor Hezbollah, compared to only 9 percent of Sunni Muslims. (Shi'i Muslims favor it by an overwhelming 86 percent.)
Comment: In a twist that may be a harbinger of thing to come, Muslims are sometimes more anti-Islamist than Christians.

Finally, few surveys find 100 percent agreement on anything, but Jewish Israelis unanimously oppose both Hezbollah and Hamas. That even a polling sample reveals total agreement on any topic comes as a mild surprise to anyone who knows the Jews of Israel. (July 14, 2014)


A recent, credible poll shows that most Gazans oppose Hamas policies and leaders alike, and favor a ceasefire with Israel.

Today's headlines are that Hamas has just rejected Egypt's offer of a ceasefire with Israel and instead continues to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities. Less known is a crucial fact: the people of Gaza are solidly against these Hamas policies. Indeed, by a very large majority, they oppose Hamas rule altogether.

These findings are based on a June 15-17 survey by a highly respected Palestinian pollster, who conducted face-to-face interviews throughout Gaza using standard random geographical probability sampling. The poll included 450 Gazans, yielding a margin of error of approximately 4 percent. This is the only credible Palestinian poll taken since the mid-June West Bank kidnapping incident, Israel's subsequent searches and arrests, and the start of the current crisis (for more on the survey, see PolicyWatch 2276, "New Palestinian Poll Shows Hardline Views, But Some Pragmatism Too,"

As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire last month, the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire -- 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank." This attitude is corroborated by the 73 percent of Gazans who said Palestinians should adopt "proposals for (nonviolent) popular resistance against the occupation." Similarly, when asked if Hamas should accept Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas's position that the new unity government renounce violence against Israel, a clear majority (57 percent) answered in the affirmative. The responses to all three questions clearly indicate that most Gazans reject military escalation. Attitudes may have shifted since the poll due to anger at Israeli airstrikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the Gazan public still supports a ceasefire.

The poll also demonstrates that Gazans are unhappy with Hamas governance -- on multiple levels. A large majority (71 percent) considered crime to be a "significant" problem. Two-thirds said that another significant problem was official corruption. Moreover, a large majority (78 percent) found the "presence of Palestinian militias that are not organized under the formal security structure" to be at least a "moderate" problem.

In light of this dissatisfaction with Hamas security forces and administration, most respondents favored the prospect of the PA taking over Gaza. A remarkable 88 percent agreed with the statement "The PA should send officials and security officers to Gaza to take over administration there" -- including two-thirds who "strongly" agreed.

Also very striking, and contrary to common misperception, is the fact that Hamas did not gain politically from the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers that sparked the current crisis last month. Asked who should be the president of Palestine in the next two years, a solid majority in Gaza named either Abbas or other leaders affiliated with the Fatah Party. In stark contrast, Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal rated a combined total of just 15 percent support.

The Gazan economy has receded over the past year as unemployment climbed to around 40 percent. Egypt's closure of multiple smuggling tunnels and the Fatah-Hamas dispute over post-reconciliation salaries have only exacerbated this dire economic situation. The results of the June poll go even further than these indicators, showing that Gazans would be willing to look to Israel for their livelihood. Respondents overwhelmingly (82 percent) said they "would like to see Israel allow more Palestinians to work in Israel." Still more poignantly, a majority (56 percent) said they "would be personally willing to work in Israel if there was a good, high-paying job." Thus, Gazans actually favored some form of normalization with Israel in order to find work.

The June survey demonstrates the sharp contrast between what most Gazans want and what their Hamas government continually does. The group's popularity was at a low point as the current crisis began, and there is no evidence that it has rebounded. The poll results show that the people of that hard-pressed territory want a ceasefire and even economic opportunity in Israel -- and that they overwhelmingly reject Hamas policies and leaders alike. These fundamental facts should help guide the U.S. government and its regional allies as they search not just for a ceasefire, but also for longer-term economic and political prescriptions for Gaza's fate.

Israel suffers first death as Hamas rejects ceasefire

From The Australian, 15 July 2014, by AP:

ISRAEL has resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza and warned that Hamas “would pay the price” after the Islamic militant group rejected an Egyptian truce plan and instead unleashed more rocket barrages at the Jewish state, causing the first Israeli death in eight days of fighting.

In Gaza, 194 people were killed and more than 1400 wounded so far, Palestinian health officials said, making it the deadliest confrontation between Israel and Hamas in just over five years.
The Egyptian proposal, initially accepted by Israel, had been the first attempt to end the fighting.
It unravelled in less than a day, a sign that it will be harder than before to reach a truce. Hamas does not consider Egypt’s current rulers — who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago — to be fair brokers.

Violence is bound to escalate in coming days.

Hamas believes it has little to lose by continuing to fight, while a truce on unfavourable terms could further weaken its grip on the Gaza strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Underscoring that position, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday, during what Egypt had hoped would be a period of de-escalation.
A particularly heavy barrage came around dusk, with more than 40 rockets hitting Israel in just a few minutes, including one that fell on an empty school. TV footage showed children cowering behind a wall in Tel Aviv’s main square as sirens went off. An Israeli man in his 30s was killed near the Gaza border when he was delivering food to soldiers — the first Israeli death.

Hamas’ defiance prompted Israeli warnings. In an evening address aired live on TV, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that after Hamas’ rejection of the truce, Israel had “no choice” but to respond more forcefully.
“Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision,” he said. “When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire.”
After holding its fire for six hours, the Israeli air force resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza, launching 33 strikes from midafternoon, the military said. In all, Israeli aircraft struck close to 1700 times since July 8, while Gaza militants fired more than 1200 rockets at Israel.

Netanyahu said Israel would have liked to see a diplomatic solution, but would keep attacking until rocket fire stops and Hamas’ military capabilities are diminished. The Israeli leader said he would “widen and increase” the campaign against Hamas, but it remains unclear if that will include a ground offensive.

Israel has warned it might send troops into Gaza and has massed thousands of soldiers on the border. However, entering Gaza would likely drive up casualties on both sides. Israel has hesitated in the past to embark on ground operations for fear of getting entangled in the densely populated territory of 1.7 million.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israel has the right to defend itself...

....The current round has been the deadliest since a major Israeli military offensive in the winter of 2008-09. The previous outbreak of cross-border violence, in 2012, eventually ended with the help of Egypt, at the time seen as a trusted broker by Hamas.

Hamas officials Tuesday rejected the current Egyptian plan ...

Dismantle Hamas-PA "Unity"

From JPost, 14 July 2014, by Marvin Hier:

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Photo: REUTERS

Now is the time for President Barack Obama to make that inconvenient call to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and finally deliver the news to him that the United States can no longer support a Palestinian government that includes ministers affiliated with Hamas, the terrorist group now firing hundreds of Iranian missiles at Israel’s major population centers.

... this fantasy idea that Abbas sold to the State Department and White House is absolutely dead even though it has not yet officially been buried.

That the Obama national security team could sign off on an idea that makes the distinction between active Hamas operatives and so-called independently minded “technocrats” is just mind boggling.

Where were these so-called nonpartisan bureaucrats in the new Palestinian unity government when it came to preventing their leaders from again inflicting untold tragedy and suffering upon the citizens of Gaza? This was their opportunity to show the Israelis that the White House was right to support the idea that there are, in fact, non-political voices in Gaza who think differently from the old guard.

But these “technocrats” remained silent. Not one of them seized the moment to part company with the past, and chart a new course by, for example, publicly expressing regret over what happened to the innocent three boys on their way home from yeshiva in Gush Etzion. To take the opportunity to write an editorial or send a brief letter of condolence to each of the parents of the Israeli teenagers so brutally murdered by Hamas, the organization they represent.

Over six hundred Israelis personally visited the tent of the bereaved Palestinian Khdeir family whose 16-year-old son Mohammed Abu was burned alive by Jewish terrorists. Why was there no similar outpouring from Palestinians in the West Bank or letters of sympathy from Gaza residents to the families of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel? If it’s because these “technocrats” are fearful of even making such a symbolic gesture to the Hamas leadership, then how are they ever going to muster the courage to tell their leaders that they must engage in peace talks with Israel? It seems that the only one who has told the truth about Abbas’ unity government was Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza who told the world that “we are leaving the chairs but not leaving the role.”

Now is the time for President Obama and the leadership of EU to recognize there are no real technocrats in Gaza, only “terrorcrats” who either fully support Hamas or are too fearful to ever speak out against them; they are nothing more than impotent enablers, helping to prop up one of the world’s most destructive terrorist groups.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is absolutely right in drawing the conclusion from all this that Israel can never leave the Jordan Valley and place the security of millions of Israeli citizens in the hands of electronic surveillance.

As for the people of Gaza, who overwhelmingly voted to put their fate in the hands of Hamas, they have two choices: either vote Hamas out or forever remain hostage to Hamas’ insanity until the messianic era.

Hamas has shown its hand; it must be cut off.

From PJ Media, 14 July 2014, by David Solway:

What could be worse than Hamas? Seriously?

There has been considerable controversy among observers and commentators sympathetic to Israel in its latest round of hostilities with the terrorist belligerents of Hamas, the Gazan wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One school of thought, whose tenets I share, advocates the total destruction of the terrorist infrastructure, thus eliminating the depressing spectre of sporadic and then continuing outbursts of rocket attacks, followed with metronomic regularity by the inevitable armed conflict and faux hudna  every couple of years.

It is clear that Hamas will not relent in its purpose of terrorizing Israel’s civilian population and ultimately, as per its charter, of annihilating the Jewish State root and branch. The perpetuation of this status quo is not only tedious and wearily predictable, but finally unsustainable, for no responsible nation can permit its citizens to spend a portion of their lives hunkering down in bomb shelters.
An alternative thesis — or interpretation of Israel’s best interests — has been gaining momentum of late, and indeed appears to have superseded and eclipsed the more “hawkish” perspective. It seems to have become the prevalent meme governing current thinking on the Israeli dilemma, namely, that  in destroying a known entity like Hamas, one creates a vacuum into which far more lethal and barbarous groups can step in and pick up where their predecessor left off—only to greater noxious effect.

According to this line of thought, having to deal with even more pathological cadres like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Al-Quds Brigade, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ansar Al Sunnah, and possibly ISIS as well, would result in a collective feeling of nostalgia for the good old days when Hamas would be allowed to declare victory after being pummeled into semi-oblivion.

Thus, as National Post columnist Michael Higgins writes, “One of the biggest dangers Israel faces as it cracks down [on Hamas] is that it could be too successful.” Similarly, former chief of staff at Israel’s Ministry of Defense Michael Herzog argues that Hamas at least “provides an address — you don’t have that with the Jihadi factions.”

The belief that Israel should pull its punches, deliver a resounding though tolerable  spanking to a mischievous and impertinent Hamas, and then let it live to kill, mutilate, and terrorize another day — business as usual — may to some seem realistic in the boiling cauldron that is the Middle East. The trouble is that political realism often founders on the reefs of actual reality. Such adiabatic thinking would be merely quaint or pixilated were it not potentially calamitous.

When one reflects that Hamas has not only fired missiles at Israeli population centers but has deliberately targeted the Dimona nuclear site in the Negev, we are experiencing what is called a “game changer,” rendering all presumably rational temporizing null and void.

Hamas is not trying to prevent or preempt an Israeli nuclear strike, which it knows is not going to happen; it is, rather, hoping to create mass civilian casualties via the diffusion of nuclear waste materials. A red line has been crossed — and it is not an Obama red line the world has learned to safely disregard. In the words of Michael Snyder, editor of The Economic Collapse Blog (ECB), “The fact that Hamas is attempting to create a nuclear holocaust is essentially an act of genocide”; indeed, it is an act of nuclear terrorism as defined by the United Nations.  As reported in Breitbart, “Article 2 (1) of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism states:
Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person unlawfully and intentionally…(b)…uses or damages a nuclear facility in a manner which releases or risks the release of radioactive material: (i) With the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury; or (ii) With the intent to cause substantial damage to property or to the environment; or (iii) With the intent to compel a natural or legal person, an international organization or a State to do or refrain from doing an act.”

In light of the above, I submit that Hamas is not the more manageable of several malignant options, i.e., one that should be spared in order not to exacerbate a deteriorating situation. The future, by definition,  is a volatile quantity and should not be recruited as a reason or an excuse to avoid acting decisively in a demonstrably incendiary present. Such deferral is all too often the expression of a natural reluctance to defray expenditures of risk, effort, exposure and security — when not to do so is manifestly counterproductive.

There are times when putting things off to tomorrow may work against that tomorrow ever coming. An avowed enemy that aims its rockets at your nuclear installations will persist in doing so until it acquires yet more sophisticated ordnance and eventually scores a direct hit. The very prospect is enough to demolish all arguments for comparative leniency and the preservation of ostensibly less toxic alternatives to the current imbroglio.

Hamas has shown its hand; as Koranic Sura 5:33 stipulates, it must be cut off.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We choose life!

From PJ Media, 15 July 2014, by David Goldman:

...Civilizations for the most part die because they no longer want to live. ... They cease to believe in their own future and distract themselves from the prospect of extinction as best they can. Hellenistic Greece was the first universal demographic disaster; it gave us prototypes of the steam engine and the computer (via Hero of Alexandria) as well as the modern literary forms. But even wealthy men exposed their daughters and the population imploded. When Aristotle taught that men naturally seek the good, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence had already turned against him. Most men seek nothingness. Soon the last surviving remnants of the classical world will disappear. In another generation, more people will speak Hebrew than Greek.

Hamas wants to die, obviously and visibly. That thought horrifies Westerners. As a number of Israeli commentators observe, Hamas doesn’t particularly care about having a Palestinian State. It wants to destroy the Jewish State and is willing to die in the process. It wants to die in such a way that Israel will die, too. There is something utterly surreal to Hamas crowding civilians around military targets, and Israeli pilots declining to attack them....

Hamas, to be sure, proposes to die in an accelerated time frame and a particularly disgusting fashion, but it should be kept in mind that self-willed extinction is the norm. West of the Indus, Israel is the only survivor among the thousands of little nations that flourished between 10,000 B.C.E. and 600 C.E. To be sure, there have been plenty of small tribes that wanted to live but were trampled by conquering hordes. The rule, however, is that civilizations die of their own disgust with life. Most of the industrial nations are dying, some very quickly. Most of the Muslim world would rather die than accommodate modernity (although some of it may choose to cease to be Islamic).

I do not mean to sound cruel, but the best thing you can do for victims of a dying culture is: Don’t be one of them. Individuals who want to live have the option of changing cultures. I do not mean that Israel (or anyone else) should go about killing off enemies in order to satisfy their death wish. God forbid: life is still sacred to us even if it is repugnant to them.

Neither do we have to commit suicide in order to accommodate our crazy neighbor’s death-wish. We might try to talk him down from the roof, but we are entitled to step aside when he jumps. It is not in our power to persuade suicidal civilizations to carry on living.

Ultimately it is our job to contain the damage to ourselves. We cannot help but accept some civilian deaths while engaging an enemy that seeks the maximum number of civilian casualties.

All of this is anathema to liberals, whose premise is that human agency can fix all problems. Enlightenment materialism posited a natural man who either sought self-preservation (Hobbes) or naturally pursued his own best interests (Locke) or was inherently good before corrupted by civilization (Rousseau). Satanic laughter from around the Levant drowns out the squeaky, thin voices of the Enlightenment. One no longer needs to read about it in books.

The Middle East has become “How Civilizations Die: The Reality Show.”

Israel is the only developed nation (with a fertility rate of three) that loves life sufficiently to bring more children into the world than are required to replace the existing population. Even the US has fallen below replacement as Hispanics assimilate into Western culture and younger evangelicals behave more like their secular peers.

Israel today, as at the time prophets, remains a unique and irreplaceable light unto the world, the paragon of a nation, the hope of all humanity. Today it is the proof that modern men and women can embrace life and raise themselves above the tragic fate of the peoples since the dawn of man.

Anti-semitism is the vicious grudge that death harbors against life. We are tired of refuting the clumsy calumnies that are thrown at Israel each day in the liberal media. Our response is in the imperative: “Choose life!”

IDF resumes strikes in Gaza after Hamas rejects ceasefire, launches dozens of rockets

From JPost, 15 July 2014, by HERB KEINON, YAAKOV LAPPIN:               

Netanyahu and Ya'alon authorize resumption of Operation Protective Edge after Israel briefly agreed to Egyptian ceasefire initiative; IDF says it will strike all "elements that are behind terrorist attacks on Israel."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon ordered a restart of the attacks on the Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon after Israel's acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was met with a morning and afternoon of Hamas rockets fired at Israel.

Diplomatic officials said that the IDF actions, which came at 3:00 pm, six hours after Israel held its fire and responded positively to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, were the result of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejecting the cease fire.
IAF aircraft began striking targets on Tuesday afternoon following the decision. The IDF stated that it would strike all "elements that are behind terrorist attacks on Israel."

Netanyahu had earlier warned that Israel would widen its offensive in Gaza if the rocket attacks continued.

Netanyahu, speaking at the beginning of a meeting in Tel Aviv with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that Israel “agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the Strip - from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels - through diplomatic means."

The prime minister said that the purpose of Operation Protective Edge was and remains to return quiet to Israel's citizens while delivering a severe blow to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. He said that Israel succeeded in hitting the terrorist organizations in Gaza very hard, and prevented their efforts to attack Israeli citizens.

US Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Hamas for powering through the ceasefire.

"I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports," Kerry told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday morning.

Egyptian ceasefire proposal leaves Hamas cornered

From Times of Israel, 15 July 2014, by Avi Issacharoff:

Either the Islamists accept near-humiliating terms, or they risk isolation and a stepped-up Israeli military assault

It’s not yet completely clear how Hamas and Israel will respond to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire to to be announced on Tuesday morning. But one thing is certain: This is the darkest hour for the Hamas leadership in Gaza and abroad.

If they accept the Egyptian proposal, they will be perceived as having been heavily defeated in the latest round of conflict with Israel; a defeat that is close to a humiliation.

That’s because the conditions in the Egyptian proposal do not include any of the demands that Hamas has been repeating day and night in the last few days. As reported in the Egyptian media, there is no mention in the proposal of Hamas’s oft-repeated demand for the release of the dozens of its operatives, freed in the 2011 Shalit deal, who were rearrested in recent weeks by Israeli forces in the West Bank in the wake of the murders of the three Israeli teenagers. There is also no concrete commitment regarding the opening of the Rafah border crossing or the payments of the salaries of Hamas’s 40,000 clerks in Gaza. And there is no mention whatsoever of the situation in the West Bank. All these demands were raised by the Hamas military wing two days after Israel began Operation Protective Edge, and repeated interminably ever since.

Yes, there is some language providing for the opening of the border crossings, and an easing of movement of people and goods via those crossings as permitted by the security situation. But that language is almost a direct repetition of the November 2012 ceasefire terms that brought Operation Pillar of Defense to a close. Time and again, Hamas’s leaders have been stressing in recent days that “there will be no return to the 2012 ceasefire terms.”

As late as Monday night, Arabic TV stations were broadcasting a recorded speech by former Hamas Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, in which he repeatedly praised the heroism of the Hamas military wing, which had “restored Palestinian pride.” He heaped praise on its courage and achievements… and also repeated those familiar demands — the prisoners, the salaries, the border crossings, the blockade.

And then came the Egyptian proposal, ignoring those demands almost completely.

Hamas’s problem is that if it rejects the Egyptian proposal it will find itself unprecedentedly isolated in the international community and the Arab world. Cairo will accuse it of torpedoing the opportunity for calm, and Jerusalem will have the legitimacy to mount a ground offensive into Gaza.

Thus the options open to Haniyeh, the military wing in Gaza, and political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Qatar range from bad to worse.

Soon after the Egyptian proposal was published, one Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, announced “there will be no truce unless the demands of the military wing, and of the Palestinian people, are met.”

...sources in the Strip told this reporter late Monday that the military wing has decided not even to discuss the Egyptian proposal.

...It seems obvious that there’ll be few tears shed in Cairo if Hamas is perceived as weakened by a ceasefire deal, or, alternately, is hit hard by the Israel militarily. This much is clear from the discussions between Israeli and Egyptian officials, and in recent days, from the tone of the Egyptian media, which is taking great delight in criticizing and denigrating Hamas.

And what of the Netanyahu government? It would seem that most members of the security cabinet recognize that the Egyptian proposal represents a fair achievement for Israel, and a significant failure for Hamas.