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July 21, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

More than 700 Killed in Syria in 48 Hours as ISIS Tightens Grip on East - Paula Astih (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)
    More than 700 people were killed in Syria over the course of Thursday and Friday, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdul Rahman, reported.
    270 people were killed in fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and ISIS, when it seized the Shaar gas field east of Homs on Friday.

Two American-Born Israeli Soldiers Killed in Gaza Fighting (Fox News)
    Two American-born soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces were killed in fighting in Gaza on Sunday. Max Steinberg, 24, whose family lives in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade who had moved to Israel in December 2012. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, from South Padre Island, Texas, had moved to Israel four years ago.
    Stuart Steinberg said of his son, "He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel. He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing."
    The Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement that its "deepest sympathies" were with the families of 18 Israeli soldiers killed over the last two days. "Along with all of Israel, and the entire Jewish People, we mourn their loss as if they were our own."

Israel Denies Hamas Claims of Kidnapped Soldier - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Israel has denied a claim by Hamas Sunday to have captured an IDF soldier during fighting in Gaza.
    During a press conference, Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades gave a name for the ostensible prisoner and even presented a military ID number. The name was very similar to that of one of the soldiers killed in the fighting in Sejaiya on Sunday.
    Regardless, the Hamas announcement led to elation across the West Bank, and fireworks and celebratory gunfire in Gaza.

Netanyahu to Gazans: Hamas Wants You to Die, We Want You to Be Safe - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told BBC's Arabic Service:
    "We regret every civilian casualty. We target only the sources of terror and this [Sejaiya] is a source of terror. We asked in every way for the civilian population to leave, Hamas told them not to so they could be used as human shields."
    "I call to the residents of Gaza - do not remain there [Sejaiya]. Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe. Hamas is responsible for the escalation, and Hamas is responsible for the casualties among civilians."

Defense Minister Ya'alon: We're Prepared to Continue Fighting until We Bring Quiet to Gaza - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    "We are prepared to continue the operation as long as necessary, and, if necessary, to enlist more combat forces from the reserves, until we bring quiet to the Gaza Strip," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday.
    Overnight Sunday, more forces entered Gaza to find terrorist tunnels in new areas of the Strip.

Video: Watch Israeli Special Forces Prevent a Gaza Rocket Launch (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF Soldier: "I have positive identification of a rocket launcher 350 meters ahead. The suspect is on the ground nearby. It looks like he's preparing to fire."
    IDF Commander: "Roger that. Are there civilians nearby?"
    Soldier: "The area is clear. Requesting permission to fire."

Video: Hamas - We Place Civilians in the Line of Fire (Israel Defense Forces)
    Hamas sends men, women and children directly into the line of fire to be used as human shields for terrorists.
    "We are leading our people to death," a Palestinian spokesman proclaims.

Hamas Guidelines to Social Media Activists (MEMRI)
    The Hamas Interior Ministry has issued guidelines to Gaza social media users for reporting events and discussing them with outsiders:
    "Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian....Don't forget to always add 'innocent civilian' or 'innocent citizen' in your description of those killed."
    "Begin news of resistance actions with the phrase 'In response to the cruel Israeli attack.'"
    "Avoid publishing pictures of rockets fired into Israel from [Gaza] city centers."
    "Avoid entering into a political argument with a Westerner aimed at convincing him that the Holocaust is a lie and deceit; instead, equate it with Israel's crimes against Palestinian civilians."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Ramps Up Gaza Offensive After 13 IDF Soldiers Killed - Ben Plesser, James Novogrod and Elisha Fieldstadt
    13 Israeli troops were killed on Sunday in Gaza, according to the Israeli Army. An armored troop carrier in Sejaiya took a direct hit from a shoulder-launched anti-tank missile, leaving seven Israeli soldiers dead, an Israeli security source said. Six more Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting that followed. 53 Israeli soldiers were injured during the ground offensive on Sunday, five seriously. (NBC News)
        See also More than 100 Palestinians Killed in Gaza on Sunday - William Booth, Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash
    More than 100 Palestinians were killed in heavy bombardment and street battles in Gaza on Sunday. Hamas health officials did not say whether the dead were civilians or fighters. Many civilians had remained in the enclave after being warned by Israel to evacuate, because Hamas fighters had ordered them not to leave, effectively employing them as human shields, an Israeli official said.
        Israel said it went in to the Sejaiya neighborhood in east Gaza because it was the site of frequent rocket launches and concealed a network of tunnels dug by Hamas. When the soldiers entered, Hamas militants were prepared to ambush them, a senior Israeli military official said. Since the Israeli military had warned residents a few days earlier of the impending push, the militants used that information to their advantage. "They knew exactly when and where to wait for us," said the official. The Hamas militants were "highly trained" and "very well equipped," accurately firing light and heavy weapons, including mortars, at the Israeli forces while "setting up a lot of booby traps," he said. (Washington Post)
  • Obama, Netanyahu Discuss Gaza
    President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke again on Sunday to discuss the situation in Gaza. The President reiterated the U.S.' condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel, and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself. The President also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers.
        President Obama said that Secretary of State John Kerry will soon travel to Cairo to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President underscored that the U.S. will work closely with Israel and regional partners on implementing an immediate ceasefire, and stressed the need to protect civilians - in Gaza and in Israel. (White House)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: Imagine that 75 Percent of the U.S. Population Is Under Rocket Fire; You Can't Live Like That - Wolf Blitzer (CNN)
  • Kerry: "Hamas Uses Civilians as Shields; We Want a Cease-Fire without any Rewards for Terrorist Behavior" - Candy Crowley
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday: "Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization that has seen fit to dig tunnels and come through those tunnels with handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs, prepared to try to capture Israeli citizens and take them back to hold them hostage. No country could sit by and not take steps to try to deal with people who are sending thousands of rockets your way, literally in the middle of a conversation both with the president and with me. While we were talking to the prime minister, sirens went off, the prime minister of Israel had to interrupt a conversation with the president of the United States, to go to a shelter. People can't live that way. And Hamas needs to understand. We are supporting the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire."
        "No country, no human being is comfortable with children being killed, with people being killed. But we're not comfortable with Israeli soldiers being killed either, or with people being rocketed in Israel....The fact is that we've asked Israel, and Israel has said we will try to reduce whatever we can with respect to civilian involvement, and civilians have been warned to move well ahead of time. The fact is that Hamas uses civilians as shields, and they fire from a home and draw the fire into the home."
        "Hamas began rocketing in response to Israel's legitimate efforts to try to find people who killed and kidnapped three young Israeli boys, and people need to keep the focus on the factual trend here of what happens when and what leads to what. Yes, we want the fighting to stop, and we want to see a cease-fire, but it's got to be a cease-fire without any rewards for terrorist behavior."  (CNN)
        See also David Cameron and Barack Obama Discuss Deepening Gaza Crisis - Scott D'Arcy
    British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the worsening situation in Gaza during a phone conversation on Saturday. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Both leaders reiterated their support for Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself from the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza."  (London Evening Standard)
  • Israel: Extension of Iran Nuclear Talks No Cause for Optimism - Dan Williams
    Israel responded skeptically to the extension of Iranian nuclear talks with world powers on Saturday, saying it saw no cause for the optimism voiced by some Western diplomats about prospects for an accord. International negotiators agreed to allow four more months for talks and let Iran access $2.8 billion of its cash frozen abroad during that period.
        "We are not enthusiastic about an extension would be better than a bad deal or a deal that is incomplete," said Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister for strategic affairs. "We don't see any significant progress in the Iranian position nor real readiness by Iran to give up on the core issues, the uranium enrichment and centrifuges," Steinitz said, describing Tehran as having made concessions on "secondary issues" only.
        He voiced disapproval at the release of the $2.8 billion to Iran. "We think that they should not have been given this, though it is not such a dramatic thing. We think the direction should be the opposite, and hope that in the coming months the world will show resolve and manage to exert pressure on the Iranians."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Forces Kill 10 Terrorists Infiltrating into Israel - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said two terror cells infiltrated into Israeli territory Monday through a tunnel from northern Gaza. Observation units identified the terrorists. Israeli Air Force planes attacked and hit the first cell. An IDF force deployed to the area between Kibbutz Erez and Kibbutz Nir Am killed 10 terrorists from the second cell.
        The intense fighting in Sejaiya continued into Monday. Overnight, IDF forces killed 10 terrorists in a series of incidents. At least one terror tunnel was uncovered as IDF forces have continued to push into the neighborhood despite heavy short-range gunfire. (Ynet News)
  • Southern Israel Bombarded by Rockets from Gaza on Monday
    The south of Israel came under heavy rocket fire from Gaza on Monday morning. Hardest hit was Sderot, which was targeted every few minutes. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire 87 Rockets at Israel on Sunday
    More than 87 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel on Sunday. At least 70 rockets hit Israel. 16 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. 13 terror tunnels have been uncovered by IDF forces since July 17. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • The Hamas Fortress of Sejaiya
    The Sejaiya neighborhood in Gaza is home to extensive Hamas infrastructure. In 13 days, Hamas fired over 140 rockets from Sejaiya into Israel. IDF soldiers have found 10 openings to terror tunnels in Sejaiya for infiltrating Israel. The IDF warned civilians in Sejaiya to evacuate the area many days before striking the terror infrastructure within it - dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages. Hamas ordered the residents of Sejaiya to ignore the IDF's warning and stay in the neighborhood, thereby putting them in the line of fire. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Hamas' Use of Human Shields Is a War Crime (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also The Battle of Sejaiya - Amos Harel
    Hamas is currently busy trying to portray the battle of Sejaiya as an epic event of legendary proportions, depicting its courageous fighters as having stopped the most powerful army in the Middle East, which sustained casualties. According to directives issued by Hamas' Interior Ministry, every effort is being made to disseminate horrific pictures of women and children who were inadvertently killed by the IDF.
        On Sunday a large force from the Golani Brigade was sent to the most densely populated area of Gaza the IDF had reached. Hamas, which fled a similar confrontation in 2009, held its ground this time and fought back. Dozens of its fighters opened fire at advancing Golani units, firing anti-tank missiles and detonating explosive charges.
        Characteristically, Golani soldiers fought bravely and with determination. Under difficult circumstances they struggled to extricate their fallen and wounded comrades. Furthermore, part of the operation was postponed for 24 hours, since too many residents had ignored the IDF's requests to evacuate. Very few armies operate this way when fighting an armed guerilla group in dense urban areas. It is doubtful whether the IDF will continue to do so as the fighting continues.
        One is encouraged by the fighting spirit of the units involved and by the efficient operations on many fronts, as well as by the fact that for every commander who was injured in Gaza there were three officers who volunteered to replace him. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran's Fingerprints All Over Hamas-Israel Conflict - Sayeh Hassan
    Many of the more than 1,000 missiles fired at Israelis in the past month were manufactured in Iran, transferred by Iran or built in Gaza with Iranian technology. This includes the Iranian-built Fajr 5 and the made-in-Gaza M-75, both of which have a range of 75 km. In 2012, Iran openly admitted to having given Hamas the technology to manufacture the M-75. These weapons have allowed Hamas to attack Israel's two largest cities: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The longer-range M-302, which enabled Hamas to hit cities in northern Israel, was imported from Syria via Iran. Many Hamas operatives were trained in Iran.
        Former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp told AFP: "Hamas were very badly damaged by the Israeli Defense Forces back in 2012, but since that time they have been re-equipped significantly by Iran and also by weapons from Syria."  (Toronto Star-Canada)
  • Hamas' Handiwork - Editorial
    When Israel ended its occupation and removed its settlements in Gaza in 2005, the territory might have become the focus of an emerging Palestinian state. Instead, it has been a base for rocket attacks against Israeli towns across the border. Having lost patience, Israel launched a military offensive on Gaza a fortnight ago.
        Israel has not only the right but the obligation to protect its civilians from remorseless rocket attacks. Hamas has been the instrument of that terror. The deaths of Palestinians, many of them children, are the direct and predictable outcome of Hamas' tactics and its use of civilians as, in effect, human shields.
        Israel has a just cause. Hamas has a purely destructive one and has disastrously urged Palestinian civilians to stay put. Far from preventing militants from firing rockets into Israeli towns, Hamas has enthusiastically joined in. Rejecting proposals for cease-fires, it continues to target anywhere in Israel that is within reach.
        Critics of Israel point to the relative lack of Israeli casualties compared with Palestinian ones. That is not a sign that Israel is using disproportionate force, however. It is a reflection of the effectiveness of Israel's missile defense system. (The Times-UK)
  • All the News Hamas Sees Fit to Print - Noah Pollak
    The New York Times appears to be complying with a Hamas demand that the only pictures from Gaza are of civilians and never of fighters. The most influential news organization in the world is manufacturing an utterly false portrait of the battle - precisely the portrait that Hamas finds most helpful: embattled, victimized Gaza civilians under attack by a cruel Israeli military. Nearly every picture from Israel depicts tanks, soldiers, or attack helicopters. And every picture of Gaza depicts either bloodied civilians, destroyed buildings, overflowing hospitals, or other images of civilian anguish. It is as one-sided and misleading a depiction of the Gaza battle as one can imagine.
        There are no images of Israelis under rocket attack, no images of grieving Israeli families and damaged Israeli buildings, no images of Hamas fighters or rocket attacks on Israel, no images of the RPGs and machine guns recovered from attempted Hamas tunnel infiltrations into Israel. (Weekly Standard)
  • Palestinians Find Show of Support Lacking from Arab Leaders Amid Offensive - Kareem Fahim
    A few hours before Israel launched its ground assault of Gaza on Thursday, Egypt's official state news agency quoted the country's foreign minister as blaming Hamas for the deaths of at least 40 Palestinians. The statement, which also criticized Qatar and Turkey, said the deaths would have been prevented if Hamas had signed an Egyptian cease-fire initiative. Egyptian television hosts continued to thunder against Hamas, while the Egyptian army turned back an aid convey for Gaza. (New York Times)

Netanyahu: Imagine that 75 Percent of the U.S. Population Is Under Rocket Fire; You Can't Live Like That - Wolf Blitzer (CNN)

  • Blitzer: Your exit strategy from Gaza, what is it?
    Netanyahu: Sustainable quiet. I mean we didn't seek this escalation, Hamas forced it on us. They started rocketing our cities, steadily increasing the fire. I called for de-escalation, they refused. I accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal backed up by the Arab League and the UN, they refused. I accepted a humanitarian lull proposed by the UN, they refused. We'll stop our operations when we can bring back quiet to our people.
  • I support taking whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation. Just imagine what Israel is going through. Imagine that 75% of the U.S. population is under rocket fire, and they have to be in bomb shelters within 60 to 90 seconds. That's impossible, you can't live like that. So we have to restore reasonable, sustained quiet and security, and we'll take whatever action is necessary to achieve that.
  • They've already fired 2,000 rockets on our cities in the past few days. They've wanted to kill as many Israelis as they could. They haven't succeeded, not for lack of trying. In addition to the rockets, they've now got terror tunnels that they build in Palestinian homes in Gaza, they penetrate underground into Israeli territory, terrorists pop up there, try to murder civilians, kidnap Israelis, as they did with Gilad Shalit, so we're taking action right now to neutralize those tunnels.
  • We're sad for every civilian casualty. They're not intended. This is the difference between us. Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians. They fire on us from civilian areas. What choice do we have? We have to protect ourselves. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can, because they use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.

        See also Netanyahu to the Families of the Fallen: "We Bow Our Head to Your Sons Who Fell So that We Can Continue Living Here" (Prime Minister's Office)

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