Meet Israel’s New Partner In The Battle Against The Islamic State

Analysis

The rising threat of the Islamic State across the Middle East has resulted in unlikely cooperation between sworn enemies.

Yesterday, for example, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq had launched airstrikes on ISIS positions during a battle between the Islamic State and the Islamist coalition that is led by Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. This appears to be one of the changes in U.S. strategy against the Islamic State after the group seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi, close to Baghdad, and the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

But there’s more.

After last week’s surge in rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza – on Saturday, Islamic State supporters in Gaza launched another rocket on southern Israel – Israel suddenly appeared to realize that it should not do ISIS’ bidding and weaken Hamas by launching a major operation to stop the renewed rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israeli commentators have pointed out that the goal of the Islamic State’s actions in Gaza is to destabilize the situation to the point that the Hamas regime collapses. So when Israel was attacked again on Saturday evening, the Israeli Air Force uncharacteristically responded by bombing empty buildings in the Gaza strip.

A high ranking IDF official explained why “the purpose of the recent rocket launches from the Gaza Strip was to inflame matters between Hamas and Israel.” He added that the Islamic State expected that “Israel would attack Hamas and do its work for it.”

From the words of this anonymous official, it becomes clear that for Israel, Hamas is no longer the number one threat emanating from Gaza. The government in Jerusalem seems to prefer Hamas’ rule in Gaza to a possible coup by the Salafist groups that have sworn alliance to the Islamic State.

Bringing down Hamas in Gaza would not serve Israel’s strategic interests at this point. Although Hamas is the same Hamas that has vowed to destroy Israel, it is at least the devil Israel knows. The Islamic State is fighting according to its own set of rules that are quite unique in the history of warfare. The organization does all sorts of things that have nothing to do with conventional warfare, or even with terrorism as we knew it thus far.

So Israel is now working to keep Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the time being. Times of Israel analyst Avi Issacharoff pointed out that Israel is currently working with Hamas’ allies, Turkey and Qatar, to restore calm in the Gaza Strip and allow mediation between it and Hamas.

There have been reports for months now about secret talks between Hamas and Israel via foreign mediators about a long term truce in Gaza.

“Israel is allowing Qatar a foothold in the Gaza Strip through Mohammed Al-Emadi, the Qatari ambassador to Gaza, and allowing Turkey to be involved in the Palestinian issue as well. A little more than three weeks ago, Israel let Turkish religious affairs minister Mehmet Görmez visit Gaza with a high-ranking delegation. (The group also went to the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and received a warm reception. When Jordanian Chief Justice Sheikh Ahmed Halil visited there, worshipers threw shoes at him.),” Issacharoff wrote.

He asked why Israel is not trying – via the Americans – to bring back the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. This question is best answered by Italian foreign policy analyst Benedetti Berti. She wrote that the Salafist movement in Gaza is on the rise and is influenced by the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Iraq last year.

“This has created a number of challenges for Hamas, which is already struggling to address severe economic issues in Gaza. The much-hoped-for relief that was supposed to arrive following the announcement of the unity government in spring 2014 has not materialized, and the pre-existing economic crisis has been further exacerbated by the damage inflicted on Gaza by the summer 2014 war with Israel and the glacial pace of reconstruction. Hamas has been largely unable to pay for the salaries of its more than 40,000 employees, leading to growing dissatisfaction within Gaza and recurring and more extended strikes,” Berti wrote.

All this plays into the hands of the supporters of the Islamic State and will contribute to the rise of the organization in Gaza, where the tide has been turning ever since Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

The rise of Hamas in Gaza was a sign of the times. Palestinian society has been influenced by Islamism for a long time now, and the only reason the Palestinian Authority is still in charge of the so called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is the presence of the IDF. That’s why the PA always threatens to end security cooperation with Israel but never carries out these threats. The Palestinian Authority exists by the grace of outside players, the donors in the West and the Arab world, and by the presence of the Israeli army. If free elections were to be held tomorrow, Hamas would win and take over the West Bank.

In Gaza, the situation is different; the population has been living under the rule of an Islamist organization for years, and society has become more Islamist as a result. Under these circumstances, it would be unrealistic to expect that the unpopular Palestinian Authority could reverse this process and lead Gaza to prosperity and moderation. After all, Palestinians voted Hamas into power in 2006 because of rampant corruption in the PA; and since then, the situation has not changed for the better.

So for now, Israel and Hamas share an interest. Both parties don’t want the Islamic State to take over Gaza and turn it into a province of the Caliphate.

In light of this, it is interesting to note that the Egyptians too have suddenly changed their approach to Hamas. On Saturday, an Egyptian court ruled that Hamas should be taken off the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s list of terrorist organizations. Another Egyptian court had labeled Hamas a terrorist group in February, one month after a similar ruling against its military wing, Izz ad-Din al Qassam. The ruling was welcomed by Hamas and will ease Egyptian pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in Gaza.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

What ISIS Just Did To Israel Could Be A TOTAL Game Changer For The Entire Region (Scary)

A new terrorist group in Gaza that claims to be part of the Islamic State launched three short-range rockets at southern Israel on Wednesday evening. The group, named “Sheikh Amir Hadad Brigades,” issued a statement after the attack in which it said it would continue to attack the Jews and jihad against Israel – whether or not Hamas approved – and that the next attack would come within hours.

That attack didn’t happen, perhaps because of the retaliation by the Israeli Air Force, which responded by bombing three military targets in Gaza in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The ISIS-affiliated group said the jihad against the Jews is a religious obligation, because they are the “enemies of Allah,” and that no one could stop them. The attack on Israel was an act of revenge for the killing of an Islamic State member in Gaza by Hamas, the group said.

As Western Journalism reported yesterday, the group had issued a 48-hour ultimatum demanding that Hamas stop its crackdown on the Islamic State and allow the group to attack Israel from Gaza. The same group claimed responsibility for last week’s rocket attack on the Israeli city of Gan Yavne, east of Ashdod.

Hamas, however, ignored the ultimatum and killed Younis al-Honnor, a local ISIS leader, in a shootout in Sheikh Radwan in the northern part of Gaza City yesterday. The man had booby trapped his house and Hamas later found suicide belts in the building.

Al-Honnor was later buried in the black flag of the Islamic State.

Hamas started its crackdown on Islamic State terrorist cells in Gaza after the assassination of top Hamas commander Saber Siam on Sunday by another ISIS-affiliated group named the “Army of the Islamic State.”

Siam was killed, the group said, because he was “a partner in a declared war against religion and against Muslims, working for the heretical government in Gaza.”

ISIS in Gaza says Hamas is waging a war on religion in Gaza and must change its ways or face the consequences. The group also sent text messages warning Gaza residents to stay away from Hamas buildings and offices lest they die in new attacks against Hamas.

Shortly after the three rockets landed in open fields in Sdot Negev in southern Israel, IAF warplanes struck three targets affiliated with Hamas.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office issued a statement in which it said it “views the incident gravely” and that the responsibility for the attack falls on Hamas.

The limited retaliation by the IDF shows that Israel is not interested in another war in Gaza. The same goes for Hamas, which is still reeling from the war in the summer of 2014 and needs time to build up its military capacity. However, the presence of Islamic State-affiliated groups in Gaza could shatter the fragile truce between Hamas and Israel, and continuing attacks will almost certainly push both sides down the slippery slope to war. Islamic State is now threatening Israel from three fronts.

As Western Journalism reported yesterday, ISIS’s forces are advancing in the direction of the Israeli border on the Syrian Golan Heights. In the south, the Islamist terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which swore allegiance to the Islamic State in December last year, has set up camp in the Sinai desert and threatened last week to fire missiles on the Israeli resort town of Eilat. In Gaza, the Islamic State is winning support and has now attacked Israel for the second time in one week.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Israeli TV: Islamic State Is Approaching Israeli Border On Golan Heights

Today, Israeli TV Channel 2 reported that Islamic State is approaching the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. ISIS forces are now only 40 miles from Kuneitra, Channel 2 News reported at 12.00 PM local time. ISIS is advancing in the direction of Israel from the Druze Mountains along the Jordanian border.

Until now, Islamic State has not launched the expected massive assault on the Druze villages, but seems to be heading for the Syrian Golan Heights instead. Israeli commentators pointed out today that both Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State launched attacks on the Druze villages in southern Syria, and some of them are already under the control of the Islamists.

Or Heller of Channel 10 News reported that Druze on the Israeli Golan Heights requested a meeting with IDF officials yesterday to discuss the extremely difficult situation of the Druze on the other side of the border in Syria. Many Druze in the villages on the Golan Heights have relatives in Syria.

The meeting between Druze leaders and IDF officials was held today. The Druze requested to open the border to let Syrian Druze flee from Syria if Islamic State decides to capture the Druze village of El Khader on the Syrian Golan Heights. IDF officials responded by saying that the Israeli army would not allow Islamic State to commit a massacre among the Druze on the Syrian Golan Heights, but declined to promise opening the border for Druze refugees at this stage.

A Druze man from the village of Magdel Shams on the Israeli Golan Heights told Western Journalism that the Druze in Israel fear for the lives of their relatives in Syria and that contacting those relatives has become virtually impossible. Many Syrian Druze do not want to be in contact with their family in Israel anymore out of fear that Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra will take reprisal measures, the man reported, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The report about the ISIS advance in southern Syria came after Channel Two News’ veteran Middle East commentator Ehud Yaari predicted that the end of the Assad regime in Syria is now near. Yaari is regarded as one of the best informed Middle East experts of the Israeli media.

The Syrian rebels and the ISIS forces have enjoyed a series of accomplishments lately, Yaari said; and Assad has not been in worse shape since the cruel civil war began four years ago. The forces opposing him have made advances in the north, south, and east; his military force is dwindling; and his ability to deal with the challenges facing him is “very limited, he added.

Assad has lost the ability to move his forces from one front to another and has sustained heavy losses, according to the expert. “Iran has sent Shi’ite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan to assist the Syria army, but these have not shown a meaningful fighting ability. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has not been able to make meaningful advances in the Kalamoun Mountain area, despite heavy fighting,” Yaari claimed. Hezbollah had earlier announced that it is in full control of the Qalamoun Mountains east of the Lebanese border.

The Syrian army is fighting on five fronts, according to Yaari:

  • Haska: ISIS is attacking the northeastern provincial city and is only five kilometers away from it.
  • Aleppo: the largest Syrian city is under attack by both ISIS and the rebels. ISIS has taken control of the supply route that leads to Turkey, in the northwestern part of Syria.
  • Homs: rebels are attacking the city that has been dubbed ‘the Capital of the Revolution.’
  • Druze Mountain: ISIS is at the outskirts of the plateau next to the border with Jordan.
  • Daraa: the ‘capital of the South,’ next to the Jordanian border, is coming under heavy rebel attack.

Assad will soon have to make “a difficult decision that will determine how the rest of the fighting will proceed,” Yaari claimed. According to some reports, the Syrian top command is preparing a plan for digging itself in at several holdouts in the west of the country.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, declared Wednesday that his country “will stand by the nation and government in Syria until the end of the road.”

Yesterday, Western Journalism reported that the Iranian commander of the Al-Quds Brigades of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had announced a surprise move by Iran in Syria to take place in the coming days. His comments came after a Shiite militia that is close to the regime in Tehran released a report on the Iranian war effort in Syria in which the group demanded that Iran deploy 50,000 Iranian soldiers in Syria to rescue the regime of President Assad.

Meanwhile, Islamic State in Gaza issued a warning today it would attack Israel with rockets if Hamas would not halt its crackdown on ISIS supporters. The group released a video that supposedly shows the launch of the rocket that hit Israel last week.

The video, with an ISIS flag in the upper left corner, shows a rocket and a launcher burrowed in the sand. The next scene contains footage of the rocket being launched, followed by Arabic news reports about the attack.

The video was produced under the banner of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which represents ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula and now has a foothold in Gaza. The Gaza branch calls itself the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade. This group was responsible for assassinating a senior Hamas commander on Sunday.

A leader of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Gaza said if Hamas does not cease its crackdown, the group will not only continue to target Hamas; it will also break the Israel-Gaza truce with more attacks launched against the Jewish state.

WND News was the first medium that published the video and apparently believed Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis’ claim that this was the missile fired at the Israeli city of Gan Yavne, some 45 miles north of Gaza. The rocket in the video, however, is smaller than a Hamas-made Qassam rocket that has a range of 20 miles

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Breaking: Iran Announces Surprise Move In Syria After New Setbacks For Assad Regime

Israeli and Lebanese media reported on Tuesday that the U.S. embassy in Damascus had sent Twitter messages to President Bashar al-Assad accusing the regime of aiding the Islamic State advance toward Aleppo, Syria’s second city that lies close to the border with Turkey.

“Reports indicate that the regime is making air strikes in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo, aiding extremists against the Syrian population,” a post on the U.S. Embassy Syria Twitter account said on Monday. (ISIL is an acronym used for Islamic State or ISIS)

The United States suspended operations in its embassy in Damascus in 2012 but still publishes messages on the embassy Twitter feed.

The U.S. action seems odd because Aleppo is an extremely important city for the Syrian regime and has been the scene of fierce fighting between government forces and rebels since July 2012. Just today, Assad’s troops shot surface-to-surface missiles at the neighborhood of Bostan al-Qaser in the city of Aleppo.

Islamic State terrorists pushed back rival insurgents north of Aleppo on Sunday near the Turkish border, threatening their supply route to the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  Fighters from Levant Front, a northern alliance which includes Western-backed rebels and Islamist fighters, said they feared Islamic State was heading for the Bab al-Salam crossing between Aleppo and the Turkish province of Kilis, the Israeli paper Ha’aretz reported.

Throughout the Aleppo provinces, clashes reported between IS militants and a coalition of Islamist rebels are still taking place near the Kafra area and the village of al- Wahsheyyi, north of Aleppo. Other clashes broke out between Jabhat al- Nusra, Jabhat Ansra al Din, Islamic battalions, and the regime forces supported by the al-Quds al Filastini Brigade, Hezbollah and Shia fighters from Iran and Afghanistan in the al-Breij area at the northeastern entrance of Aleppo. Clashes also erupted between regime forces, backed by Hezbollah militiamen, against the Islamist rebel coalition on the outskirts of the neighborhood of al- Rashidin, west of Aleppo.

The Daily Star in Lebanon reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIS to coordinate their air raids with the Syrian government, warning that ISIS could go “very far” if not stopped.

“It is absolutely clear to me it was a mistake – still is – not to coordinate the air strikes with the activities of the Syrian army. That’s what we believe must be done,” Lavrov told Bloomberg Television in an interview.

“And that is what, unfortunately, our American colleagues cannot accept for ideological considerations.”

Lavrov spoke as the Western Coalition gathered in Paris for crunch talks to discuss the advance of  ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He warned that ISIS could go “very far, very far” if not stopped. Russia is one of the main backers of the Assad regime. “They already make a lot of progress in Iraq, in Syria. They just took the Idlib province,” he said, noting that the militants were expanding into Libya.

Islamic State has also started operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported today.

Islamic State in Gaza gave the ruling Hamas movement a 48-hour deadline to halt a crackdown on its members in Gaza.

A statement sent to Middle East reporters on Monday from a group called “Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem” did not say what Islamic State would do if the crackdown continued. It included a claim of responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza last week. This attack was previously attributed to Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The crackdown resulted in the arrest of dozens of Salafi-jihadists who are affiliated with the Islamic State group. Hamas also destroyed a mosque belonging to “Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem.” The group said Hamas had demolished the mosque “in a manner that even the Jewish and American occupation has not done,” the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Hamas also killed an Islamic State member in his home after a shootout.

Meanwhile, the Ansar e-Hezbollah militia, a group close to the Iranian regime, has called for the deployment of 50,000 Iranian infantry soldiers in Syria to save the Assad regime.

“Iran must send 50,000 soldiers from the infantry force to Syria to manage the war there and prevent the fall of the Assad regime, which has begun to collapse recently,” Al-Arabiya reported, citing a study on Iran’s management of the war in Syria conducted by Ansar e-Hezbollah.

According to the cited study, the mission of the 50,000 soldiers would be to ensure Syria’s coastal region is not cut off from Damascus.

Iran must preserve the vital corridor (connecting) Damascus to Latakia, Tartous and the Lebanese border. (Any)delay by Iran in (implementing) this preemptive action will cause the fall of Damascus airport, which in turn (means) the severing of the essential communication and supply line Iran (uses) to assist the Syrian regime.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani could have had Ansar e-Hezbollah’s advice in mind when he told the London-based paper al-Quds al-Arabiya that upcoming developments in Syria would soon “surprise” the world.

“The world will be surprised by what we and the Syrian military leadership are preparing for the coming days,” the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) quoted him as saying, according to the London-based daily.

Suleimani is organizing the counter-attack against Islamic State by Shiite militias in Iraq and helped re-organize the Syrian regime’s war effort.  He made a surprise trip to the front lines in western Syria over the weekend.

Meanwhile, a defected National Defense Force militiaman told Al-Quds al-Arabiya that Soleimani’s trip aimed to formalize the “entry of Iranian officers to supervise and aid the battles in coastal Syria for the first time since the outbreak of Syrian uprising.”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

IDF Bombs Targets In Gaza After Missile Attack On Southern Israel

Image for representational purposes only.

The Israeli Air Force bombed four “terror infrastructure” sites in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, an IDF statement said.

The targets included training camps belonging to the Islamic Jihad in Rafah, Khan Yunis, and Gaza City, witnesses in the Strip said. There were no reports of casualties after the Israeli airstrikes.

The air attacks were a response to a missile attack by Islamic Jihad in Gaza on the Israeli city Gan Yavne on Tuesday evening. Many residents in southern Israel reported hearing multiple blasts indicating that more than one missile exploded in the area.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon delivered a stern warning to Hamas today. He said Hamas must rein in any attempts by factions in Gaza to attack Israel, or “pay a heavy price.”

“Israel has no intention of ignoring attacks on its citizens like the one carried out last night by Islamic Jihad forces,” Ya’alon said.

“We will not abide any threat on the residents of the south. If it isn’t quiet in Israel, the Gaza Strip will pay a heavy price. I would not advise anyone to test us we see Hamas as responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip. It would be better for Hamas to rein in all attempts to fire at Israel and provocations. Otherwise we will have no choice but to respond with even greater force,” Ya’alon warned.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh seemed to be unfazed by Ya’alon’s threat.

The enemy’s threats do not scare the Gaza Strip and do not scare the children of Gaza. Gaza is able to build deterrence. A million people (across the border) panicked over one rocket. I believe they live under terror, rather than (the people of) Gaza.

Earlier today, Hamas arrested three Islamic Jihad members suspected of launching the missiles on southern Israel yesterday.

A Hamas spokesman reported there were mediation efforts underway between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to de-escalate the situation as soon as possible. While refusing to elaborate on who the mediators were, he said Egypt was not involved.

Meanwhile, the Ma’an News Agency in Bethelem quoted Egyptian sources as saying that Cairo has asked Jerusalem to halt its “aggression” in the Gaza Strip and show restraint following the Israeli counter strike.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth