International Defense Experts Back IDF’s 2014 Gaza Campaign

Report by international High Level Military Group blasts UN commission, says Israel set a standard no other army could match

idf-troops-in-gaza-960x543Times of Israel (Dec 14) — Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during last summer’s Gaza campaign, a group of former military and defense leaders from nine countries claim in a new report released Friday.

  • Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during Israel’s 2014 Gaza campaign, a group of former military and defense leaders from nine countries said in a new report released Friday.
  • The High Level Military Group (HLMG) – made up of retired generals and defense officials from Germany, Colombia, India, Spain, Australia, the U.S., France, the UK and Italy – found that Israel not only abided by the laws of armed conflict, but far surpassed their requirements.
  • The report found that the UN accepted Hamas’ figures for combatant vs. civilian casualties, while the HLMG found Hamas’ numbers to be rife with inconsistencies, such as the “inclusion of duplicate names, incorrect ages, combat-related deaths caused by Hamas or its affiliate organizations, such as in the case of misfired rockets, and deaths not related to the hostilities but classified as such.”
  • Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said that commissions investigating the conflict should have looked to see that everything feasibly was done to avoid the deaths of non-combatants, and that the standard of zero civilian deaths is an impossible one.
  • The HLMG laid the blame for the vast majority of civilian casualties at the feet of Hamas, which instituted a deliberate policy to cause as many Palestinian civilian deaths as possible in order to wage a PR war against Israel. The report noted that Israel tried multiple times to end the conflict through diplomatic means, only to be rebuffed by Hamas at every turn.

See also Text: An Assessment of the 2014 Gaza Conflict – High Level Military Group (Friends of Israel Initiative)

See also The Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted – Hirsh Goodman and Dore Gold, eds. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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Hamas raiding Gaza woodworkers to rebuild tunnels

Facing a shortage of building supplies amid increased Israeli scrutiny, group resorts to confiscation of materials as it races to replace network

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

Times of Israel (Sep 1) — Israeli officials accused Hamas on Tuesday of confiscating building materials sent into the Gaza Strip and using them to rebuild its attack tunnel infrastructure.

Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the territories, accused the group of misappropriating supplies – particularly wood – for its terror activities.

“Members of Hamas took over warehouses of construction materials and confiscated (them) for the benefit of the group’s underground infrastructure,” Mordechai said in a statement.

In an unorthodox operation Monday night, members of Hamas’s military wing raided a large number of carpentry shops and woodworking factories throughout the Gaza Strip and confiscated enormous quantities of lumber, apparently to shore up tunnel building efforts, Palestinian sources said.

Hamas is suffering from a shortage of basic tunnel-building materials such as wood, which is used to line the inside of its tunnels. The seizure was apparently intended to replenish the organization’s supply.

The operation was not this first of its kind. Hamas has resorted to such action before, due to the increased Israeli scrutiny on wood and other building materials transferred into Gaza as the Palestinian enclave tries to rebuild following the devastation caused by 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

In recent months Hamas operatives have began taking various steps to replenish tunnel building materials. In addition to the raids, the group has also cut down dozens of trees to manufacture planks. These are increasingly used to reinforce the insides of tunnels in the place of the concrete used before Protective Edge.

The shortages faced by Hamas in materials and machinery may slow its progress in the reconstruction of its vast tunnel network, which serves for both attack and defensive purposes. This is despite its massive investment in the enterprise, with hundreds of men working 24 hours a day to rebuild the infrastructure, most of which was destroyed by Israel in 2014.

Mordechai noted that Israel has allowed 1.7 million tons of construction material into Gaza since the end of last year’s summer conflict. The misuse of the resources by Hamas, he said, did not only increase the terrorist threat from Gaza but was also delaying any efforts to rebuild the territory.

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If Hamas is allowed to wage warfare through international courts then Islamic State will be next

A masked member of Hamas carries a model of a rocket as others carry symbolic coffins with Israeli flags during a rally (Reuters)

A masked member of Hamas carries a model of a rocket as others carry symbolic coffins with Israeli flags during a rally
(Reuters)

International Business Times (July 14) — Islamic State’s brand of terrorism has recently shocked the world once again, with sickening videos showing the torture, drowning and shooting of prisoners, and an IS-inspired massacre of 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia for which the group proudly claimed responsibility.

No less horrendous is the IS strategy of purposefully blending its fighters within civilian populations, in Iraq and Syria, even using small children as human shields. It has been reported that in Raqqa, Syria, the group is encouraging all men to grow beards in order to make terrorists and civilians look the same.

These tactics create horrendous dilemmas for coalition forces, the UK among them, as they seek to target IS forces and jihadi leaders while trying to protect the lives of the civilians they are hiding behind. Having deliberately created these dilemmas IS has no compunction about accusing the coalition of waging war directly on the Iraqi people.

The allegations are of course ridiculous, but imagine for a moment that someone took them seriously. Imagine that IS hired lawyers to produce a report accusing the UK and the coalition of war crimes. Imagine that IS then presented such a report to the International Criminal Court (ICC), with encouragement from the UN.

This scenario would make a mockery of international institutions, turning them into weapons against democracies trying to defend themselves from terror. In an absurd pincer movement, a terrorist group could attack a state physically with bombs, while at the same time work to undermine its ability to defend itself by legal action in an international tribunal.

What seems like a ludicrous suggestion is actually happening with regard to Hamas and Israel.

Surreally, we see Hamas representatives actively participating in and supporting legal proceedings in The Hague, calling for the prosecution of Israel for war crimes.

In a statement published last week, Hamas was handing out marks to the UN Human Rights Council for its report on Gaza, pointing to its deficiencies and criticising what it deemed as “lack of sufficient warning” prior to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strikes, as well as the targeting of schools and hospitals.

Hamas, it should be recalled, is recognised as a terror organisation by the European Union, the US and here in the UK, and like IS has a gruesome track record of murdering civilians and hiding among them.

It acts in contravention of every possible law of armed conflict, uses UN installations as arms depots, hospitals as sniper positions and schools as rocket launching sites, its HQ is even located in the basement of Gaza’s main hospital.

Yet it would like to play in all fields, to have its cake and eat it too: It acts like a terror group in Gaza, murdering its opponents and amassing arms instead of building homes, yet goes to great pains (including a new English website and twitter feed) to present a respectable face abroad, as if it were an NGO concerned with human rights and a peaceful solution to Gaza’s problems.

Make no mistake, Hamas’ interest in using the international bodies concerned with human rights and international law should set alarm bells ringing. Its motive for seeking to target Israel in these fora is clear: to gain a tactical advantage on the battlefield during the next fight, while placing Israel’s military and political leaders at the risk of legal action.

Last week the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a body with an alarming track record of discrimination against Israel (it has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all other countries combined) passed a resolution designed to put wind in the sails of this initiative.

Though directed against Israel, any democracy confronting the threat of terrorism should be wary of this campaign. When the instruments of law and justice become weapons in the hands of terrorist groups, the security of the family of nations is at stake.

If Israel is not protected from lawfare, then Britain and other Western democracies will fall victim to it soon after.

The author is spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London.

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Disregarding Reality, Yet Again: The Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry Report

Gaza City during an Israeli air strike, July 9, 2014. Photo: AFP

Gaza City during an Israeli air strike, July 9, 2014. Photo: AFP

Institute for National Security Studies (July 9)

  • The report by the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine the 2014 Gaza war concludes that Israel’s military operations violated the laws of armed conflict and expressed concern regarding the possible commission of war crimes. The report reflects a clear lack of consideration of the actual realities of warfare, drawing conclusions based on pronouncements that are factually and legally dubious.
  • During the war, the IDF fought against armed groups that employed an intentional strategy of systematic violation of the laws of armed conflict. Yet the report examines Israel’s actions in a detached and one-sided manner, without relating to the actions of its adversaries.
  • Numerous civilian casualties resulting from attacks on targets located in populated areas do not necessarily mean that the attack was disproportionate and therefore illegal. The commission’s analysis assumes the existence of some alternative course of action that was not followed. However, beyond the provision of warnings and the use of weapons that were as precise as possible, how could the extensive harm to civilians have been prevented, except by refraining from attack altogether?
  • But how – without these attacks – could Hamas have been prevented from continuing to fire at Israeli citizens? In the absence of answers to these questions, the commission’s assertions remain accusations with no basis in reality.
  • Based on Israel’s failure to issue significant indictments for acts of warfare, the commission concluded that “impunity prevails across the board” for violations of international law. This reflects a baseless assumption that the absence of indictments for war crimes is indicative of a cover-up, rather than indicative of the fact that war crimes were either not committed or could not be proven on a criminal level.

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What’s Israel supposed to do? Ask the UN for help?

Hirsh_Top_WEB-1024x719National Post — Hamas, the gang that controls the Gaza Strip and hopes to destroy Israel, makes war in its own peculiar way.

It conducts a terror campaign by randomly sending unguided missiles across the border, traumatizing the civilian population. Rather than using its payments from Iran to feed its own people, it spends a fortune digging tunnels under the border to Israel, infiltrating the country from beneath the ground. It places artillery on top of apartment buildings and beside schools, so that Israel’s attempts to destroy the artillery will kill as many Palestinians as possible. Hamas built a military command centre underneath Shifa hospital, which Israel built for the Gaza population.

Having counted the dead, Hamas announces the fatal casualties, attempting to shame Israel for mass killing. This is an original form of propaganda warfare, suicide-by-proxy.

If someone attempts to arrange a cease-fire between the combatants, Hamas at first refuses to co-operate, then finally signs on and accepts praise for its peace policy. Eventually, it breaks the cease-fire. Between wars Israel maintains a permanent one-sided cease-fire, having no reason to attack Gaza; in 2005 it closed its Gaza settlements and removed its military forces from the Strip. Hamas can always re-start the war, arousing the ire of their soldiers by complaining about Israel’s enforcement of Gaza’s borders. The borders are shut to keep Hamas from importing arms but Hamas depicts it as hard-hearted retaliation.

On Monday a UN committee passed judgement on last summer’s 50-day Hamas-Israel war with a document The New York Times described in a headline: “UN Report on Gaza Finds Evidence of War Crimes by Israel and by Palestinian Militants.”

That headline, and the story describing it, were true, in a way, and also not true. The report, from a committee headed by an American judge, Mary McGowan Davis, said that both sides made war in ways that could amount to war crimes. But there wasn’t much context to give that statement meaning. News stories on the Davis committee didn’t say much about who started the war (Hamas) and didn’t make any fuss about who turned civilians into shields by placing military establishments among families (Hamas).

Israel quarrelled with the report’s conclusions but Hamas said that it could be used as evidence in a prosecution of Israel at the International Criminal Court. Hamas had no complaints about the Davis charges. The recriminations against Israel were duly delivered, and that made the process a success. All over the world, those disposed to dislike Israel no doubt found this one more reason to justify their feelings and their demand that the West boycott Israeli products, scholars and artists.

Davis acknowledged that Hamas fired rockets at civilians from within civilian areas but concluded that Israel should have been more careful about harming non-combatants. Israel resented the criticism — “flawed and biased,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — because it takes pride in the attempt of its soldiers to avoid civilian casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces have a strict code of ethics dealing with the protection of civilians in combat zones. In Gaza the IDF dropped leaflets and made phone calls asking civilians to leave the battlefield. Judge Davis said in an interview that she wanted to make a strong statement against “the use of explosive weapons in densely populated neighbourhoods. It is not OK to drop a one-ton bomb in the middle of a neighbourhood.”

She didn’t say what Israel should do the next time unguided missiles fired from a housing complex begin falling on Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Call the UN?

Few of us understand the unique role of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Every time the Committee meets, the agenda lists Israel as an item, in case it has committed some infraction not otherwise covered in the meeting. No other country appears on every agenda. Israel is also unique in having its own UN-assigned Special Rapporteur to investigate alleged violations. In the Committee’s nine-year life, it has condemned Israel’s actions on 61 occasions, more than all other countries combined. The non-Israel condemnations listed by UN Watch as “Rest of World Combined” total 55. Syria occupies second place, with 15. Countries not so far condemned by the Human Rights Committee include China, Cuba, Iraq, Russia and Yemen.

The name “Human Rights Committee” provides a smokescreen of bogus good intentions, declaring to the innocent that the UN is helping protect all of us. Millions of people who are unaware of its record have no doubt gathered from the latest report that Israel is as worthy of rebuke as Hamas. In treating Hamas and Israel as equivalent, Judge Davis has blackened the name of the UN and its many offshoots. This one might more accurately call itself the United Nations Committee on Defaming Israel.

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The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous

Afghan_082By Richard Kemp, a retired British Army colonel, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

The New York Times (July 1) — As a British officer who had more than his share of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, it pains me greatly to see words and actions from the United Nations that can only provoke further violence and loss of life. The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza, prepared by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, and published on Monday, will do just that.

The report starts by attributing responsibility for the conflict to Israel’s “protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” as well as the blockade of Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. In 2007 it imposed a selective blockade only in response to attacks by Hamas and the import of munitions and military matériel from Iran. The conflict last summer, which began with a dramatic escalation in rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, was a continuation of Hamas’s war of aggression.

In an unusual concession, the report suggests that Hamas may have been guilty of war crimes, but it still legitimizes Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks and even sympathizes with the geographical challenges in launching rockets at Israeli civilians: “Gaza’s small size and its population density make it particularly difficult for armed groups always to comply” with the requirement not to launch attacks from civilian areas.

There is no such sympathy for Israel. Judge Davis accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Yet no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal.

Referring to cases in which Israeli attacks killed civilians in residential areas, Judge Davis says that in the absence of contrary information available to her commission, there are strong indications that the attacks were disproportionate, and therefore war crimes. But all we get is speculation and the presumption of guilt.

The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: “None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.”

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the “knock on the roof” — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies.

The I.D.F. is not perfect. In the heat of battle and under stress its commanders and soldiers undoubtedly made mistakes. Weapons malfunctioned, intelligence was sometimes wrong and, as with all armies, it has some bad soldiers. Unnecessary deaths resulted, and these should be investigated and the individuals brought to trial if criminal culpability is suspected.

The reason so many civilians died in Gaza last summer was not Israeli tactics or policy. It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result. Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.

Judge Davis’s report is rife with contradictions. She acknowledges that Israeli military precautions saved lives, yet without foundation accuses “decision makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel” of a policy of deliberately killing civilians. Incredibly, she “regrets” that her commission was unable to verify the use of civilian buildings by “Palestinian armed groups,” yet elsewhere acknowledges Hamas’s widespread use of protected locations, including United Nations schools.

Most worrying, Judge Davis claims to be “fully aware of the need for Israel to address its security concerns” while demanding that it “lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.” Along with the report’s endorsement of Hamas’s anti-Israel narrative, this dangerous recommendation would undoubtedly lead to further bloodshed in both Israel and Gaza.

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Israel says war in Gaza was moral and deaths are the fault of Hamas

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The Washington Post (June 19) — Israeli officials issued a broad defense Sunday over how their country waged the war in the Gaza Strip last summer, making a case that Israel sought to minimize civilian casualties as the Islamist movement Hamas put its people in the line of fire and cynically used the ensuing death and destruction to stoke anti-Israel propaganda.

The Israeli report is timed to preempt what officials here assume is the imminent release of a critical report by the U.N. Human Rights Council on possible criminal acts by Israel and Hamas in the Gaza war.

Israel has declined to cooperate with the U.N. fact-finding mission, citing what it calls prejudicial resolutions by the U.N. council and its experience with a previous U.N. investigation into Israel’s military during the 2008-2009 Gaza war. That report was chaired by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who in 2011 withdrew a sensational charge contained in his report — that it was Israel’s policy to intentionally target civilians.

Israel predicts the new report from the United Nations will be a hatchet job. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that anyone who wants to read “the truth” should download the Israeli report. “Whoever wants to automatically — and without foundation — blame Israel, let them waste their time with the U.N. Human Rights Council report,” he said.

The U.N. report could be an important document for the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, who is conducting a preliminary examination to decide whether war crimes were likely committed in Gaza and whether the court has jurisdiction.

Netanyahu and his new cabinet have been arguing that the greatest threat facing Israel comes not from Hamas rockets in Gaza, but from Palestinians and their supporters in Europe and America who want to isolate, embarrass and press Israel. Their goal is to force an end to the 48-year military occupation of the West Bank and allow for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

“Israel is under an unprecedented attack of delegitimization. This attack is not substantive, it is political,” Netanyahu said upon receiving the new report at a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “This is our response.”

The Israeli report is an attempt to indict Hamas for its behavior during the war and to show that Israel’s military was a moral force.

“We’re not ashamed of the facts,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said at a press briefing conducted in English. “Israel is following international law,” she said, even when fighting “the most cruel, cynical and violent terrorists.”

The United Nations has reported that more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the conflict and that the majority were civilians, including more than 500 children.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday produced a different count of the Palestinian dead: 936 (44 percent) militants; 761 (36 percent) civilians; and 428 (20 percent) “yet to be categorized,” all males ages 16 to 50.

Dore Gold, the new general director of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the war against Hamas was forced upon Israel by Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilian centers, which he called an obvious war crime.

The 4,500 mortars and rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza had a range that could reach 70 percent of the Israeli public and caused widespread terror as was intended, with 10,000 Israelis along the Gaza border fleeing their homes, according to the report.

The discovery of 32 “attack tunnels” dug by Hamas (14 crossed the border into Israel, 18 were headed that way) lengthened the war, the report stated, because the Israeli military had to enter Gaza to destroy them.

In the immediate area near the Gaza border, where air raid sirens rang day and night, the Israelis say 38 percent of children were diagnosed as suffering from full or partial symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The war cost Israel almost a billion dollars in lost gross domestic product and almost $40 million in direct damages, according to the Israel Tax Authority. Six civilians in Israel and 67 Israeli soldiers were killed in the conflict.

For all this — and the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians — the Israelis blame Hamas, mostly for embedding its forces among civilians.

The report includes documents recovered by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip that extol the advantages of fighting the enemy — that is, Israel — in a dense urban environment filled with civilians.

Other Hamas texts in the report advise the populace to declare to the media that all dead Palestinians were “innocent civilians.” Internet postings from Hamas also show that the group urged civilians not to flee their homes because the leaflets being dropped by Israeli forces urging them to do so amounted to “psychological warfare.”

Israel says 550 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel and its forces from “sensitive sites” such as schools, U.N. facilities, hospitals, mosques and churches.

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Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted

Hirsh_Top_WEB-1024x719Report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Executive summary:

  • The Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted is a researched and documented narrative that relates the truth as it happened. Israel was the target of thousands of rockets and mortar attacks against its civilian population, with some Israeli areas targeted that had three times the population density of Gaza. Israel clearly acted out of self-defense.
  • Though the images of the moment may have reflected massive damage in Gaza, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced on November 6, 2014, that Israel had gone to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.” A team of senior U.S. officers was sent to learn from Israel’s tactics. An analysis of UN satellite photos taken during the war shows that 72 percent of all damaged areas in Gaza were “within two miles of the Israeli border.”
  • While this was a war Israel did not want, it was a war that inadvertently preempted a terrorist massacre inside Israel’s heartland, principally through a network of sophisticated tunnels built deep under the border, and intended to stream hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated terrorists, many on suicide missions, in the quiet of night, to destinations where they could kill as many innocent people as possible and leave Israel mauled as never before. This was potentially Hamas’ terrorist version of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli forces in Sinai and the Golan Heights.
  • Israel suffered 74 dead in the war. Had the Iron Dome system not intercepted 735 rockets fired from Gaza, the Israeli casualty count would have been incalculably higher. Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15, as did Israel, Palestinian wartime fatalities would have numbered less than 200, as opposed to more than 2,100 who died by the time Hamas agreed to a final ceasefire on August 27. Thus, Hamas was fully responsible for more than 1,800 Palestinian deaths.
  • Moreover, while UN and Palestinian sources claimed that 72 to 84 percent of Palestinians in Gaza killed during the war were civilians, there are strong reasons to argue that the percentage of civilian casualties was less than 50 percent, a low one-to-one combatant-to-civilian ratio that is unprecedented in modern-day warfare. In addition, we don’t know how many Palestinians in Gaza died as human shields or of natural causes during the 50 days of war, or how many were casualties of the 875 Palestinian rockets known to have landed inside Gaza.
  • Yet many in the international community uncritically accepted the narrative about the war advanced by Hamas and its allies. A discerning look at the facts of what happened, however, would lead to the conclusion that it is Hamas, not Israel, which should be in the dock for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Click here to read the full report.

Israel ‘exceeded legal standards’ in Gaza conflict, military group tells UN

Ex-generals, chiefs of staff, say IDF’s ‘scrupulous adherence’ to laws of war cost Israeli lives, army took ‘extensive measures’ to protect Gazan civilians

Infantry soldiers operating on the ground during Operation Protective Edge, July 20, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit / Flickr)

Infantry soldiers operating on the ground during Operation Protective Edge, July 20, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit / Flickr)

The Times of Israel (June 14) –A multinational military group comprised of former chiefs of staff, generals and politicians submitted a report to the United Nations on Friday indicating that Israel went to great lengths to adhere to the laws of war and to protect Palestinian civilians during last summer’s 50-day war with Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip.

The report was submitted to the official UN probe into Operation Protective Edge, the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, which is expected to issue its own report in the coming days. The findings are set to be discussed at the end of the month before the council.

The High-Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict in 2014 held a fact-finding mission to Israel between May 18-22. It was sponsored by a pro-Israel group, was reportedly given unprecedented access to senior officials, and investigated allegations of war crimes and disproportionality.

The group found that “during Operation Protective Edge last summer… Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

They wrote that “in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.”

The mission specified that, according to its findings, the summer conflict was “not a war Israel wanted,” and it exercised great restraint in the months preceding the war when its civilian centers, especially in the south, were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza.

“The war that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists was a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens and its territory against sustained attack from beyond its borders,” the group wrote, adding that even in that time of war, Israel took extraordinary measures to protect the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians.

“Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances,” the report read.

The 50-day war is said to have killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip; and 73 Israelis, including 66 soldiers.

While acknowledging that some Palestinian deaths were caused by some errors and misjudgements during the war, the panel said Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups “as the aggressors and the users of human shields” were responsible for “the overwhelming majority of deaths in Gaza this summer.”

Israel said about half of those killed in Gaza were combatants and blamed Hamas for all civilian casualties, since it placed military infrastructure in residential areas.

The mission, sponsored by the Friends of Israel Initiative, was headed by the former chief of staff of the Bundeswehr and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann, and included 10 other generals, chiefs of staff, politicians and officials from Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia, Colombia, the US and the UK.

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Israeli Security Policy in Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Syrian President Bashar Assad meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

  • The attempted Hizbullah attack thwarted on the Golan Heights and the air strikes attributed the Israeli Air Force on against military targets in Syria join a series of similar incidents over the past three years.
  • Iran and Hizbullah are trying to exploit the control of parts of the Golan and to improve the military capabilities of Hizbullah which is seen as the military arm of Iran. Iran seeks to bring Hizbullah’s threat to Israel to a new level. Hizbullah is reportedly trying to acquire more precise missiles, with longer ranges and heavier warheads, along with anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems. Iran and Hizbullah are seeking to establish an anti-Israel terror infrastructure in the northern Golan.
  • Israel purportedly bombed weapons stockpiles in Syria before they were shipped to Lebanon and attacked a convoy of senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hizbullah officials on the Golan who were seeking to activate an anti-Israel terror network there.
  • Israel does not support either of the two main sides in the Syrian civil war – neither the Iranian-led radical axis, nor the radical Sunni axis led separately by Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.
  • Israel provides the Syrian people with humanitarian aid, with an emphasis on medical assistance to the many injured people in the border region.

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Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

Setting the Facts Straight on the Israeli Security Fence

The security fence serves one purpose and one purpose only: to prevent terrorists from carrying out deadly attacks on Israeli civilians. Since the construction of the fence began, there has been a significant decrease in the number of attacks originating in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank).

IDF blog (May 5) — During the Second Intifada (2000-2005), terrorists from Judea and Samaria executed horrific attacks including shootings, suicide attacks, and bombings. The violence proved to be most fatal between 2001 and 2004, when 984 Israelis were murdered. As a direct response to the attacks, the IDF began construction of the security fence.

factsonthesecurityfence-486x1024The security fence proved to be a highly effective measure for reducing terror attacks. The graphs below demonstrate how terror has decreased since its construction.

1.  The security fence has reduced suicide attacks to zero.

image-10-12.  Just 5% of the security fence is made of concrete. The concrete areas, which are built near roads to prevent shooting attacks, have proven very effective.

image-12-1

3.  Overall Israeli casualties from Palestinian terror have significantly declined since the early 2000s:

image-11-1

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16 Things That Give Israel a Bad Name But Aren’t Really True

From Israel Video Network:

2. “Zionism is Racism. Israel by Definition is Undemocratic.”

idf101Jews, both secular and religious, are a people who have the right to self-determination. What is racist is denying Jews a right granted to all other peoples bound together by shared identity and heritage. The Jewish people established a democratic government for their state in 1948. When the UN recommended establishing a Jewish state in 1947 and admitted Israel as a member in 1949, it saw no contradiction between Israel’s Jewish and Democratic identity. Israel grants people of jewish heritage a fast track to citizenship, just like Poland, Finland, Greece, and other nations grant citizenship based on ethnic ancestry. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is one of the world’s most diverse and progressive countries. Non-jewish Israelis, who make up 24 percent of the population, have equal rights under the law. Over 15 religions are officially recognized, women and the LGBT community are legally protected from discrimination, and affirmative action programs exist to help minorities overcome the disadvantages they face.

3.  “Israel is an Apartheid State.”

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Israel is the opposite of an apartheid state. It is a multicultural democracy and the only free country in the Middle East. Labeling Israel as practicing “apartheid” justifiably offends Israelis and many victims of real apartheid regimes. Israeli law enshrines equal rights for all citizens, and minorities participate fully in public life. While Israel, like other multi-ethnic democracies, struggles with minority disadvantages, its laws try to eradicate inequality. Nor does Israel practice apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. ‘Palestinians’ are not citizens of the jewish state, and the vast majority do not want to be. They are governed by their own leaders — Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

13.  “Israel is Responsible for The Plight of the Arab Refugees”

The Arabs left their homes in 1947–49 for a variety of reasons. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war, thousands more responded to Arab leaders’ calls to get out of the way of the advancing armies, a handful were expelled, but most simply fled to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a battle. Many Arabs claim that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians arabs became refugees in 1947–49. The last census taken by the British in 1945 found approximately 1.2 million permanent Arab residents in all of British Palestine. A 1949 census conducted by the government of Israel counted 160,000 Arabs living in the new state after the war. In 1947, a total of 809,100 Arabs lived in the same area. This meant no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees. A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine arrived at an even lower refugee figure—472,000.

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Although much is heard about the plight of the Palestinian refugees, little is said about the Jews who fled from Arab states. Their situation had long been precarious. During the 1947 UN debates, Arab leaders threatened them. For example, Egypt’s delegate told the General Assembly: “The lives of one million Jews in Muslim countries would be jeopardized by partition.” The number of Jews fleeing Arab countries for Israel in the years following Israel’s independence was nearly double the number of Arabs leaving it. Many Jews were allowed to take little more than the shirts on their backs. These refugees had no desire to be repatriated. Little is heard about them because they did not remain refugees for long. Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees between 1948 and 1972, 586,000 were resettled in Israel at great expense, and without any offer of compensation from the Arab governments who confiscated their possessions.  Israel has consequently maintained that any agreement to compensate the Palestinian refugees must also include Arab reparations for Jewish refugees. To this day, the Arab states have refused to pay anything to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to abandon their property before fleeing those countries. Through 2014, at least 173 of the almost 1,000 UN General Assembly resolutions on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian refugees. Even in 2014, the Jewish refugees from Arab countries have not been mentioned in any significant UN resolution.

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New Israeli attacks show blurring of Lebanese, Syrian fronts

By Avi Issacharoff for the Times of Israel (April 27):

Less than 48 hours after the Israeli army reportedly attacked targets in Syria on Friday-Saturday, a Syrian cell on Sunday tried to mount a terror attack against targets inside Israeli territory.

Israel fired on the cell, which was composed of Druze gunmen, scoring a direct hit as its members attempted to plant a large explosive device intended for future use against Israeli army troops or civilians moving near the border.

Contrary to initial reports, the cell was not part of Hezbollah, which has not been operating in this fashion recently. Except for a rocket attack on the Givati troops in late January, Hezbollah has been trying to avoid leaving fingerprints that would draw an Israeli response.

The fact is, however, that most of the Druze on the Syrian Golan Heights remain loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad and to the Hezbollah troops who fight for him. No distinction can be made any longer between the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, or between the Syrian army and the Druze on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other.

Hezbollah has been using Druze, Palestinians and, of course, Assad’s own troops to strike at Israeli targets. For more than a year, this has been one front where Hezbollah has been trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in the Syrian area in order to create a deterrent balance against Israel.

Even after the reported Israeli weekend attack on targets in the Qalamun Mountains, it seemed that Hezbollah would try to mount a limited response, not one that might lead to a large-scale, violent confrontation. Hezbollah has no interest in a conflict of that kind, but it wants to make it clear to Israel that there is a price to pay for what it views as crossing red lines.

Media outlets identified with Hezbollah, such as Al Mayadeen, claimed there was a further Israeli attack on Sunday night. But it seems that the source of those explosions in the hot Qalamun sector was the intensifying battles between Hezbollah and the Syrian army against Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. While Hezbollah and the Syrian army had succeeded in cleansing the mountain strip of the radical Sunni troops in the past, Islamic State forces has managed to retake various territories in the area.

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WATCH: Israel comes to a halt during Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars

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At 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning, Israel stood in silence for two minutes as sirens wailed on Remembrance Day. This uniquely-Israel style of commemoration was done to pay respect to Israel’s 23,320 soldiers and civilian victims of war and terrorism.

During the siren, which also sounds on Holocaust Memorial Day and the eve of Remembrance Day, all activity comes to a dramatic stop. All vehicles, whether public or private, stop in the middle of the street while drivers and passengers stand next to their cars; pedestrians on the street stop in their place, arms at their sides; businesses also momentarily stop whatever they are doing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the central memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery Wednesday, recognizing the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the State of Israel and urging Israelis to appreciate the meaning of that loss.

“Our enemies must know they will not break us,” the prime minister said, quoting a widow who spoke Tuesday in the Knesset’s memorial ceremony.

Netanyahu stressed the importance of unity on Memorial Day. “We are one family: Jews and our non-Jewish brothers — Druze, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians, Circassians,” he said.

The prime minister also spoke out against war. “Anyone who has experienced the anguish of bereavement is not eager to go to battle,” he said, mirroring comments the previous day made by President Reuven Rivlin.

“Our sons did not go to battle thirsty for blood,” Rivlin said at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Tuesday night. “Not this past summer, not those before, not in those that, God forbid, are still to come. We are forced to fight.”

“We express our gratitude for everything we have earned,” the prime minister said Wednesday, “for the wonder of our sovereignty, the gift of freedom, the miracle of our renewal.”

The official state ceremony commemorating victims of terror attacks began at 1 p.m. at the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Mount Herzl. Rivlin, Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot were in attendance.

There the prime minister lamented what he called the celebration of terrorist acts.

“Many of our neighbors glorify murderers and carry them on their shoulders,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “The more they murder, the more they glorify them.”

But, Netanyahu said, “The memory of those killed in terror attacks will be with us forever.”

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IDF Diversity Week: The True Face of Israel

Every year, thousands of minority recruits join the IDF. Israel’s military makes tremendous efforts to integrate minorities into the army and society in general, resulting in a vast diversity of soldiers among the IDF’s ranks.

coverM-1IDFblog.com (Feb 23) — Israel is a country known as “a nation of immigrants.” Soldiers come from all over the world to live in Israel and serve in the IDF, bringing their unique culture and traditions from their countries of origin. Other soldiers come from racial, national, cultural and religious groups that have lived in Israel for generations, including Bedouin, Circassians, Druze, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. The IDF acts to unite members of Israeli society, providing them all with equal opportunity to serve their country.

Did you know? Here are some facts about minorities and diversity in the IDF:

1. At military swearing-in ceremonies, soldiers may pledge an oath of allegiance on the Tanakh (Old Testament), Christian Bible or Koran.

2. The many minorities that join the IDF are given special privileges since their differences in religion and culture are accepted. For instance, additional vacation time is allotted to soldiers of all faiths and religious backgrounds. An example is Bedouin and Druze soldiers who are granted time off from the army to celebrate the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha with friends and family.

3. Israel is one of few countries that allow gay individuals to openly serve in the military. Sexual orientation does not stand as a barrier to receiving promotions or joining elite units. Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers.

4. The Druze are an ethnoreligious monotheistic community who live primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Over 133,000 live in Israel, mostly in the north. They have the highest draft rate in Israel, with 88% of Druze males joining the IDF.

5. Since 1948, women have served side-by-side with male soldiers in the IDF. The Equality Amendment to the Military Service Law states that “the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” Each year, over 1,500 female combat soldiers are drafted into the IDF and 92 percent of all positions are open to women.

6. In 2001, the Women’s Affairs Advisor to the Chief of Staff was created in an effort to empower women and maximize the capabilities and opportunities of women serving in the IDF.

7. Despite being exempt from their mandatory military service due to mental or physical difficulties, many still choose to enlist in the IDF as volunteers. The Shiluv Menatzeach program helps over 150 mentally challenged and Down’s syndrome volunteers complete 1-2 years of military service, where they are integrated in roles with the general soldier population.

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Don’t trust the AP’s report on civilian deaths in Gaza

The APTN Building in London. Photo: Benjamin Holler.

The APTN Building in London. Photo: Benjamin Holler.

Algemeiner (Feb 15) — AP and other major media outlets (including the New York Times and Reuters) simply parroted the Hamas claim that most of the war dead were civilians. Sometimes they attributed it to the UN, which received its figures from Hamas. Why did this matter? Because every time a major media outlet reported that “a majority” or “a vast majority” or the “overwhelming number” of casualties were civilians, it reverberated around the globe like a missile—fueling anti-Israel and general anti-Semitic sentiment (and violence against Jews in Europe and elsewhere).

… 2. Last month, the highly-regarded Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center released its latest report on the subject of civilian casualties. Their experts are taking the time to go through the deaths, one by one, and their final tally won’t be available for months—if not years. Indeed, after Operation Cast Lead [2008-9], as I’d reported, “nearly two years passed before a Palestinian minister inadvertently let slip that the IDF figures then were correct,” according to Eado Hecht, an independent defense analyst who has taught military theory and history at the IDF Command and General Staff College. (Hecht currently works with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, one of Israel’s leading think tanks.)

However, in the Meir Amit center’s January report, they announced that 1,600 of the 2,140 Gazans who were killed have been identified as such: 55% are combatants, and 45% non-combatants. For the other 540 people, they do not yet know which category to put them in. The center also says that Hamas is obfuscating the actual lists and affiliations, partly because of objective technical difficulties (poor paperwork and a lack of access to some of the bodies), and partly deliberately as part of its propaganda campaign against Israel.

The article in AP is focused on “a particular subset of the fatalities—those killed while inside houses ostensibly targeted by the Israelis,” defense analyst Hecht told me on Friday. “I write ‘ostensibly’ targeted by Israelis because something in the order of 2,600(+) Palestinian rockets and mortar bombs were fired deliberately (most of them) or by mistake into Palestinian residential areas. The deliberate fire being against Israeli soldiers in that area—but without warning local civilians to move out. So of the 247 houses struck, how many were clearly struck by Israel and how many by Palestinian fire.”

… 3. AP then credits “preliminary” UN figures that at least 66% of the total dead were civilians. Really? And where did the UN get that number? We know the answer [from Hamas]. And why didn’t AP do their readers a service by at least including the 45% figure from the Meir Amit center that contradicts the UN/Hamas?

… 5. One other thing I noted in my article last summer (which I’m delighted that more than 114,000 people felt worthy of viewing—thus supporting this kind of media criticism): A groundbreaking study ignored by my colleagues came out in June of 2014, a month before the Israel-Hamas war started. A prominent group of American public health experts found that civilian casualties constituted 85% to 90% of the 248 armed conflicts in the world since the end of World War II. While even one civilian casualty in Gaza is a tragedy, given the complexities and civilian-shielding in Gaza, what the IDF has accomplished there will be a model for future warfare. Might not AP consider such statistics when they write articles such as Friday’s? Given the rise in anti-Semitism around the world just since the summer’s war, such stats might give some historical context that might even lessen the Jew-hatred—or at least not expand it.

6. I’ll close with more from my communication today with defense expert Hecht. “UN figures are not really UN figures,” he says, which I also reported back in August. “They are Hamas-controlled figures passed on to the UN.”

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Security Challenges Facing Israel in 2015

Israeli soldier looks through binoculars into Lebanon, near the northern Israeli town of MetulaFrontPage Mag (Feb 4) — The latest incident in the Golan’s Quneitra border illustrates the security challenges Israel faces in the year ahead. Last week six Hezbollah operatives were killed, including an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), General Muhammad Ali Allah-Dadi. The presence of an Iranian IRG general and top Hezbollah operatives on the Golan points to an Iranian attempt to build a missile base on the border of Israel.

The al-Manar website (Hezbollah’s mouthpiece) acknowledged that six Hezbollah operatives were killed in Sunday’s (January 18, 2015) Israeli air strike, among whom was senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of former Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

Israel’s northern border is expected to heat up in the coming months and years, both in the Golan Heights facing Syria, and on the Lebanese border where Hezbollah is in control. The real existential challenge to Israel however remains Iran. The question of whether to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is bound to rise again, especially around July, 2015, when P5+1 negotiations with Iran are expected to end following two extensions. Iran can be counted on violating the interim agreement which called on the Iranians to freeze their nuclear project in exchange for western powers easing sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration is eager for further extensions despite Iranian history of cheating in its nuclear program.

… “The interim agreement enabled Iran to dangerously move forward on R&D, into more advanced generations of centrifuges, which offset the significance of the dilution and oxidization of Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, the centerpiece of the interim deal. Both activities relate to the speed in which Iran could breakout with weapons-grade uranium – one route was stopped by the deal, but a second route was enabled and granted legitimacy.”

Landau and Stein asserted that “The terms of the deal did not touch upon Iran’s vast stockpile of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), already enough for six or seven nuclear devices if enriched to weapons-grade, or its work on long-range-ballistic-missile delivery systems, which continue unhindered.” Iran has protected its breakout ability while the P5+1 continue to grant Iran economic relief to the tune of $700 million a month. Iran’s weaponization work, under investigation by the IAEA for cheating, has not paid a price either by the UN or the P5+1…

Another war with Hezbollah may be inevitable, albeit, not desired by Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, vowed not to bring another war onto Lebanese soil, but he also announced that he will avenge Israel’s elimination of Hezbollah’s top military leaders, and the Israeli attacks on the weapons convoys from Syria to Lebanon.

Since the second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah has built a huge arsenal of long, medium and short range rockets with a GPS guidance system that could hit all strategic points in Israel, including the Hedera power station, and Tel Aviv. Israel’s Iron-Dome will be able to intercept and destroy most of the Hezbollah rockets, but not all. It is more than likely that Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and the seaports of Haifa and Ashdod would be out of action for several days. Hezbollah will also seek to infiltrate through underground tunnels, into Israeli towns and villages. Hezbollah is not however, an existential threat to Israel, although it is a definite strategic threat.

The growing presence of al-Qaeda (al-Nusra Front) and other jihadist forces, including the Islamic State in the Golan area, guarantees that a serious confrontation with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will occur. At the moment these forces are preoccupied with combatting the Assad regime and battling each other. But, as soon as they can stabilize their hold on territory, one can be sure of their terror attacks against Israel.

Tel Aviv has now become the arena for a Palestinian stabbing campaign, following numerous stabbing incidents last year in Jerusalem. NPR reported (January 21, 2015) “A Palestinian man is accused of stabbing 11 people (Jews) on a bus in central Tel Aviv today, wounding three seriously, before he was shot in the leg by Israeli police, who took him in for questioning.”

The Palestinian Authority is seen as encouraging individual acts of terror against Israelis in order to stir the situation in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) following the Palestinian failed attempt to secure membership at the UN late last year. Hamas received a heavy blow in last year’s Gaza war, and is activating its west Bank terror cells to act against Israelis. Stabbing and vehicular homicide against Israeli-Jews has become the new form of terror…

A rational analysis would rule out another Hamas war with Israel. Hamas’ infrastructure was severely damaged, and it will take a while to rebuild. The same rationale however, would have prevented Hamas from launching last year’s war. The blockade imposed on Gaza by Egypt and Israel, and the conclusion that “they have nothing to lose,” might compel Hamas to try another round of hostilities with Israel.

Lastly, there is always a possibility of a cyber-attack against Israel. In 2009, in what has become known as Stuxnet, the U.S. and Israeli scientists crippled Iran’s nuclear program by sabotaging industrial equipment, and destroying Iranian centrifuges that enriched uranium. Iran has been hard at work trying to retaliate. The Internet can now be a weapon that can damage Israel’s water and electricity systems, as well as its financial and military system. 2015 will likely witness unremitting attacks on Israel.

In the final analysis, Israel is well prepared to defend itself against the tactical threat from Hamas and the Jihadi groups, and even from the strategic threat Hezbollah presents. The one scary threat to the Israelis remains a nuclear Iran, run by fanatical Ayatollahs.

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