May 24, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Four Iranian Kamikaze Drones from Gaza Downed by "Classified Means" - Thomas Harding (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    During the recent conflict, Israel's Iron Dome defense system was tested by a battery of drones designed and supplied by Iran, experts told The National.
    Israeli forces shot down at least six kamikaze drones launched from Gaza. At least one was shot down by an air-to-air missile from an F16, another intercepted by Iron Dome, while four were downed by "classified means." Israel also shot down an Iranian drone near the border with Jordan on Tuesday.
    It is understood that Iran will assess the attack methods to improve them for future conflict.
    Operatives from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps smuggled in components of their Ababil-2 unmanned aerial vehicle and taught Hamas to equip it with a 30 kg. warhead.
    It is programmed with GPS coordinates and satellite imagery to find its target. Alternatively, it can be guided visually to the target with a ground operator and camera.
    "With Iran's help, Hamas has developed quite a large number of not terribly expensive munitions, which can be sent to hit fixed targets at long range," said Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
    The Israelis are now "putting a lot of money" into developing lasers and other high-powered microwave weaponry to shoot down drones, said Douglas Barrie of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
    Barrie said it may be only a matter of time before a kamikaze drone gets through. "It's a bit like the old IRA (Irish Republican Army) saying that 'you've got to be lucky every day, we've only got to get lucky once'."

Report: Israel Sabotaged Hamas Rockets - Chris Hughes (Mirror-UK)
    A senior Western intelligence source said Sunday that Israeli Mossad operatives likely targeted rocket parts as they were smuggled from Iran to Gaza or inside Gaza itself.
    Some 16% of the 4,360 Palestinian rockets misfired in Gaza or fell short of the Israeli border.
    A source told the Mirror spies may have tampered with the guidance systems, motors, warheads or explosive material inside the missiles.
    "It is very likely a number of those rockets were intercepted and altered," the source claimed. The operation likely took place months ago.

Hamas Leader Thanks Iran for Supplying Weapons to Gaza - Tobias Siegal (Jerusalem Post)
    Ismail Haniyeh, a chief figure in Hamas, on Friday thanked "the Islamic Republic of Iran, who did not hold back with money, weapons and technical support."

The Phony War between Israel and Hamas - Prof. Edward Luttwak (UnHerd)
    Israel estimated it had killed at least 215 combatants in the recent fighting, but in the Hamas count they mysteriously become innocent civilians. Some 650 Hamas rockets fell inside Gaza and definitely caused civilian casualties.
    1,440 rockets were successfully engaged by Israel's Iron Dome batteries, while 160 fell inside Israeli residential areas, causing minimal casualties thanks to Israel's system of bomb shelters.

930 Palestinian Rockets Were Fired at Ashkelon - Bel Trew (Independent-UK)
    Nearly a quarter of the rockets fired at Israel from Gaza landed on the city of Ashkelon, 15 km. from the border, the closest heavily populated area.
    Sigal, whose house took a direct hit on Thursday, says they have 30 seconds to scramble to a shelter when the sirens go off. "That's if you have a shelter," she adds.
    Two women were killed in Ashkelon during this round of violence and two more are seriously injured, Mayor Tomer Glam said.
    "About a quarter of the 160,000 inhabitants of Ashkelon don't have bomb shelters," he adds.

Hamas Marks "Victory" with Military Parade in Gaza - Wafaa Shurafa (AP)
    Hundreds of masked Hamas fighters wearing military camouflage and brandishing assault rifles paraded in Gaza City on Saturday in a defiant show of strength after an 11-day war with Israel.
    On Friday, hours after the cease-fire took effect, thousands of Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem chanted against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his government.
    "Dogs of the Palestinian Authority, out, out," they shouted. "The people want the president to leave."

Will the World Again Fund Hamas' Charade? - Dror Eydar (Israel Hayom)
    Gazans are well aware of their situation. They are looking around and seeing what's missing and who is gone. Which is why they are not really celebrating victory - it's just for show.
    They are happy about the ceasefire for which they desperately begged because they had their fill of Israeli airstrikes.
    Now the world will shower them with money to start rebuilding, and yet again most of this money and materials will be stolen to reconstruct underground terror tunnels, rearm, and produce more rockets.
    The writer is Israel's ambassador to Italy.
    See also Gaza Residents Report No Shortage of Food - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden: Until the Region Acknowledges the Right of Israel to Exist as an Independent Jewish State, There Will Be No Peace
    President Joe Biden told a press conference on Friday: "There is no shift in my commitment...to the security of Israel, period. No shift. Not at all....I'm going to attempt to put together a major package, with other nations who share our view, to rebuild [in Gaza]...without providing Hamas the opportunity to rebuild their weapon systems."
        "My party still supports Israel. Let's get something straight here: Until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace."  (White House)
  • In Latest Israel-Hamas Conflict, White House Avoided Publicly Clashing with Israel - Vivian Salama
    The Biden administration made "a very conscious decision not to cross the Israelis in public" during the latest fighting, a U.S. official said, in part because it was believed that an antagonistic U.S. approach aggravated tensions during the last conflict in 2014. Instead, the administration tried to keep the U.S. out of public international and domestic debates and to give Israel the space to carry out its military objectives, while quietly working with Egypt, Qatar and Israel to end the conflict. President Biden, an ally of Israel throughout his career, backed the country's right to self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S.: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process - Not on the Immediate Agenda; Vienna Talks - We Don't Know If Iran Is Prepared to Return to the Nuclear Deal
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday: In Gaza, "We have to find a way to break the cycle, because if we don't, it will repeat itself at great cost and at great human suffering on all sides.... Palestinians and Israelis alike have to know in their day-in and day-out lives equal measures of opportunity, of security, of dignity....We'll be re-engaging with the Palestinians, of course, continuing our deep engagement with the Israelis, and trying to put in place conditions that allow us over time hopefully to advance a genuine peace process. But that is not the immediate order of business."
        Regarding Iran, "The outstanding question, the question that we don't have an answer to yet, is whether Iran, at the end of the day, is willing to do what is necessary to come back into compliance with the [nuclear] agreement. That's the proposition that we're testing. But it's getting, I think, through these rounds of discussions and talks, clearer and clearer what needs to happen. The question is: Is Iran prepared to do it?...We are fully prepared to go back to the original deal as it was....We donít know if the Iranians are."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also U.S. Will Continue to Give Israel "Means to Defend Itself"
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News on Sunday: "The fact of the matter is Hamas has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people: its gross mismanagement of Gaza while it's been in charge, and of course, these indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, which have elicited the response that they did because Israel has a right to defend itself."
        "When it comes to arms sales...we are committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself, especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians. Any country would respond to that, and we're committed to Israel's defense."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Gaza Building Used by Journalists Contained Vital Hamas Electronic Equipment - Ronen Bergman
    Israel knew the Al Jala tower in Gaza City housed offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, but the building also contained vital Hamas electronic equipment. The significance of that gear, and the knowledge that no one would be harmed, bolstered the argument in favor of the bombing, according to Israeli officials.
        A top military official said that if Israel had not taken action, Hamas would have realized that it could shield its resources from attack by placing them near media facilities. A senior Israeli military official said Hamas maintained a military intelligence facility in the building, and used it as a base for equipment used to try to jam Israeli communications and satellite navigation systems. (New York Times)
  • IDF: Iranian Intervention Is Behind Israel-Hamas Conflict - Talia Kaplan
    Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said Sunday, "When the most important countries around the world are thinking about negotiating with Iran, people need to remember [that] the Iranians are the number one exporters of instability and terror and death and destruction in the Middle East and they should be addressed and held accountable as such."
        "Iranian specialists, engineers and people who deal in rocketry and explosives have been educating and telling Hamas engineers how to produce rockets, how to manufacture their own weapons. Had it not been for that very specific and detailed Iranian intervention, we wouldn't have been in the situation now."
        "Do not reward Hamas with a prize. Do not get confused with what happened on the ground, who started this, and do not forget which country is a democracy, and which country is fighting against an evil jihadi terrorist organization. And don't forget who is firing deliberately at civilians. All of those bad things are done by Hamas."  (Fox News)
  • Spate of Anti-Jewish Attacks in the U.S. Draws Calls for More Forceful Response - Shane Harris
    A series of attacks on Jews in the U.S. in recent days, linked to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, has increased pressure on law enforcement officials, lawmakers and the Biden administration to take more steps to quell anti-Semitic violence. Since May 10, at least 26 instances of anti-Semitism have been reported from Los Angeles to New York, according to the Anti-Defamation League. There have been at least four instances of vandalism at synagogues and Jewish community centers. Joseph Borgen, 29, who was on his way to a pro-Israel rally in New York on Thursday, was wearing a yarmulke when he was assaulted by a violent mob.
        On Friday, several of the country's most prominent Jewish organizations sent a letter to the White House urging President Biden "to speak out forcefully against this dangerous trend and stand alongside the Jewish community in the face of this wave of hate before it gets any worse."  (Washington Post)
        See also Jewish American Groups Appeal to White House after String of Anti-Semitic Attacks Related to Israel - Michelle Boorstein (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Foiled Major Hamas Attack before Ceasefire
    The Israel Defense Forces foiled a major attack by Hamas just before the ceasefire went into effect, Channel 12 reported Friday. A Hamas cell made its way through an underground tunnel, intent on emerging close to the Israeli border and attacking soldiers. The air force carried out a precision strike on the tunnel, killing the gunmen. With Israel's newly completed underground barrier, the cell would not have been able to get into Israel, but would have emerged near the border fence.
        Channel 12 also reported that the ceasefire had been delayed by up to 48 hours to allow the IDF to carry out a final mission. Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a press conference Friday that not everything regarding the outcome and impact of the Israeli strikes is yet known to the public, or even to Hamas. "We did daring and innovative things," he said. He added that electronic sensors in Israel's subterranean barrier detected terrorists and enabled the IDF to "destroy" them. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Navy Targets Hamas' Naval Commando Forces - Noam Amir
    After Hamas understood that Israel's new border barrier weakened its ability to attack Israel using underground tunnels, it built a strong naval commando force. To neutralize these forces, in the first six days of the war, the Israeli navy attacked 100 Hamas targets in Gaza, based on prior intelligence. All of its bases and warehouses were attacked, as were many of its officers and fighters, destroying the military capabilities of the Hamas naval commando force that had been built up to surprise Israel. (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 21May2021)
  • Israel to Lift Most Covid Restrictions as Active Cases Fall to 500 - Rossella Tercatin
    Israel will lift most remaining coronavirus restrictions on June 1, the Health Ministry announced Sunday, as the number of active cases in Israel dropped to 500, compared with 88,000 at the peak of the pandemic. As of Monday morning, 59 people were in serious condition. Restrictions regarding airports and traveling will remain. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Winning the Gaza Ceasefire: "Reconstruction or Rockets" - Robert Satloff
    In the post-conflict period, the U.S. should frame the next phase as "reconstruction or rockets." Given the swell of global sympathy for the people of Gaza, urgent humanitarian relief should proceed immediately. But reconstruction is a different story. This time, rebuilding Gaza should be conditioned on intrusive monitoring measures that deny the group the ability to rearm and reconstruct its tunnel network - lessons learned from the failed oversight efforts that followed the 2014 conflict.
        Financial support for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank should be paired so that the PA's policy of restraint and cooperation is rewarded, not Hamas' policy of violence and confrontation. For every dollar of reconstruction assistance to Gaza, a dollar of development aid (not PA budgetary support) should flow to the West Bank to help bolster Abbas.
        The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hamas' Forever War Against Israel - Haviv Rettig Gur
    Hamas has spent a decade building major new warfighting capabilities meant to challenge Israel on new and unexpected fronts. All proved ineffective or outright useless. It just spent 11 days watching as Israel systematically demolished much of its military infrastructure. Its crack naval commando force failed to produce a single significant attack. Its anti-tank missile crews were identified and destroyed so quickly that Hamas ordered them withdrawn from the battlefield. Strike drones were intercepted with efficiency. Israel also targeted a long list of mid-level commanders.
        In the mid-1990s, two IDF major generals, Meir Dagan and Yossi Ben Hanan, traveled together to Vietnam where they met Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who spent decades as his country's defense minister. He told them: "The Palestinians are always coming here and saying to me, 'You expelled the French and the Americans. How do we expel the Jews?' I told them that the French went back to France and the Americans to America. But the Jews have nowhere to go. You will not expel them."
        Israeli Jews do not see themselves as an artificial colonialist entity. They believe they are a people with nowhere to go and facing an unappeasable foe. Israeli Jews are unified and mobilized by Palestinian pressure and believe they are defending their home. Hamas is constantly clarifying to Israelis the dire consequences of their acquiescence to international demands. (Times of Israel)
  • The "Hamas Caucus" in Congress Supports a Designated Terrorist Group - Jonathan Schanzer and David May
    If it was not for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, Hamas rockets could have killed hundreds or even thousands of innocents. Yet, somehow, the group has found a small gaggle of congressional apologists in Washington, which is odd given how much terrorism is reviled by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Hamas, now a full-fledged proxy of Tehran, was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in 1997, as it has been in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere around the world.
        It's also odd for American lawmakers to ignore Hamas' crimes against their own countrymen. Hamas has killed at least 25 Americans in Israel since 1993. Some were drive-by shootings on teenagers; others were suicide bombers who detonated their explosives in crowded buses and cafes. One was a car-ramming of a 3-month-old in Jerusalem in 2014.
        President Biden understood the deadly nature of Hamas when he was a senator and helped spearhead the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which prohibits American assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it is "effectively controlled by Hamas."
        Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where David May is a research analyst. (Washington Examiner)
  • Back to Iran's Nuclear Future - Editorial
    Israeli agents pilfered a massive collection of technical documents from an Iranian warehouse in 2018. The Institute for Science and International Security's David Albright and Sarah Burkhard, who have received extensive access to this nuclear archive, provide new details about Iran's covert nuclear weapons program in their book Iran's Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons.
        The authors say there are as many as two dozen sites in Iran "highly relevant to the IAEA in determining...whether nuclear weapons efforts have ended or in fact are ongoing." Inspectors have visited only three of these sites and found traces of processed uranium.
        Arms-control agreements are only as good as the verification allowed. If international inspectors don't have instant and comprehensive access to declared or undeclared nuclear sites, there's no way to know whether they are complying.
        The Administration seems eager to accept even a flawed deal as a way to liberate the U.S. from its entanglements in the Middle East. But this will empower Iran and its proxies and make it more likely America is dragged back in. (Wall Street Journal)

Hamas Doesn't Want a Palestinian State - Efraim Karsh (Spectator-UK)
  • Hamas is no liberation movement in search of a Palestinian nation. Instead, it seeks the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic empire on its ruins.
  • How do we know? Because senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar has said so: "Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state....Our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic."
  • The most recent bout of fighting - in which thousands of rockets have been fired - is inspired by the idea of freeing the Holy Land from Israel.
  • On 10 May, Hamas bombed the Holy City as Israelis were celebrating Jerusalem Day. This armed attack on the nation's capital left Israel's government little choice but to respond robustly. After all, what else can be done when terrorists try to kill your citizens?
  • There is no difference between Hamas' commitment to Israel's destruction and the Islamists' plans for the West. To imagine that Hamas can be appeased or deflected is to make a big mistake.
  • What has made this latest conflagration particularly traumatic for Israeli Jews is the tidal wave of violence unleashed by some of Hamas' Arab compatriots. Cities once considered showcases of Arab-Jewish co-existence have been rocked by mass violence and vandalism. Jewish residents were attacked in their homes by Arab neighbors with whom they had co-existed peacefully for decades.
  • Some attribute this uptick in violence to supposed longstanding discrimination, but that idea couldn't be further from the truth. Why? Because the riots came after a decade of unprecedented government investment in Arab neighborhoods and businesses, including a $4.6 billion socioeconomic aid program.

    The writer is emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.