In first three days of its offensive, Hamas fired 101 Qassams. Israeli helicopters hit Palestinian squad targeting Kfar Maimon
May 18: Thursday, 11 Palestinian gunmen were killed in five Israeli air force raids of Hamas and Jihad Islami installations and vehicles carrying missile squads and ordnance.
Overnight, the tempo of missile fire accelerated, targeting Israeli locations east and north of the Gaza Strip: Sderot’s Ohalei Sinai Synagogue took a direct hit, leaving 21 injured.
Hamas’ Abu Obeida has threatened to retaliate for Israeli reprisals with a return to suicide bombings in Israel. debkafile: The Hamas threat is serious. The Islamist group maintains a sleeper network of suicide bombers on the West Bank awaiting call-up.
Two Hamas hard-liners, Ahmed Jabari and Abu Obeida, are running the missile offensive against Israel and the war on Fatah in the Gaza Strip
The pair, Ahmad Jabari, commander of Hamas Executive Forces, and Abu Obeida, spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, are dictating a ruthless pace in the face of low resistance. Jabari has ousted Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh and refuses to defer even to Hamas supreme leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus. He has taken matters in his own hands, certain he can count on political, military and financial backing from Tehran and Damascus.
Israel is faced with its second decision in eleven months over whether or not to go to war against an implacable foe.
Israel is helping Abu Mazen’s Fatah in its battle with Hamas
19 May: debkafile‘s military sources report Israel is already giving Fatah arms, has been for the last six months and sent ammo this week to keep Mahmoud Abbas’ men supplied in the escalating Palestinian factional violence. The hardware goes to the Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigades which are fighting the Hamas Executive Force, but Israel is also aware that the Brigades are firing missiles against Israeli villages, though not Sderot.
According to our military sources, Israeli military aid to Abbas does not end there. Even more important are Israeli Air Force raids against Hamas troops massed to attack Abu Mazen’s men. The objective of one such strike Thursday, May 17, was to thwart a Hamas assault to dislodge the Palestinian Presidential Guard base at the Karni goods crossing between Gaza and Israel. debkafile‘s sources report that, to escape Israeli attacks, Hamas has emptied its bases across the Gaza Strip and moved fighting contingents into mosques and schools buildings.
Yet another Fatah-Hamas ceasefire folds although renewed clashes are not reported
20 May: Sunday, Day 2 of the truce, Hamas attempted to assassination the acting chief of General Intelligence in the Gaza Strip, Gen. Muhammad al Masri. Fatah retaliated by knifing to death a leading Hamas preacher, Sheik Namir Hamad.
Most of the 55 killed in four days of Palestinian factional violence were Fatah adherents or members of Mahmoud Abbas’ security services.
Hundreds of angry Sderot small business and factory owners head for Jerusalem
20 May: They are brandishing placards accusing the government, meeting Sunday on the Gaza missile crisis, of succumbing to Palestinian terror and abandoning them to physical danger and bankruptcy. They were infuriated by prime minister Ehud Olmert’s assurance to the cabinet that Hamas is paying a heavy price for its missile attacks on Israel!
In battered Sderot, commercial life has virtually ground to a halt. Thousands have fled the town of 23,000, leaving behind citizens who have nowhere else to go. The damage to property and cars is extensive. Schools and many workplaces are shut.
Hamas threatened Sunday the exodus from Sderot would be repeated in Ashkelon, the port city north of Gaza.
Sderot mayor Ellie Moyal announced Sunday the city had waited seven years for the government to provide the town with bomb shelters and fortify schools and workplaces against rocket attacks from Gaza. The schools would remain shut until they were safe for children. From now on, he said, the town council would freely approve any plans submitted by private home- or business-owners, be they funded from private sources or philanthropy. Sderot and the villages and kibbutzim around Gaza’s borders are in the mood for civic revolt.
Unorthodox tactics needed to rout Gaza-based Palestinian terror and halt Qassam offensive against Israel
20 May: As the Palestinian missile offensive enters its second week, military experts recommend dosing Hamas and its allies with their own medicine: harassment behind the lines by small undercover Israeli units on hit-and-run missions to blow up Palestinian infrastructure, weapons workshops and commands centers and around-the clock ambushes of their fighters and chiefs. Palestinian operatives must be kept on the run in fear of their lives.
They say the moment has passed for a conventional invasion, such as the 2002 Defense Wall operation that cleansed the West Bank of its effective suicide cell structures, as some opposition leaders and ministers propose. It would have been logical after Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip. But today, Gaza is swarming with a hodgepodge of Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, Popular Resistance Committees and al Qaeda terrorists and militias.
According to debkafile‘s intelligence sources, Iranian and Hizballah advisers are telling them how to combat a substantial Israeli ground-tank incursion with traps which Israel is strongly advised to avoid.
Israeli opposition leaders demand ground action to destroy Hamas and its stockpiles and retain hold of Philadelphi border route
Palestinian radical groups warn Israeli locations north of Sderot, including Ashkelon, to prepare for missile attacks
21 May: debkafile also reports: Hamas military chief Mohammed Jabari has instructed all West Bank cells to launch suicide attacks in Israeli towns forthwith. Sniper teams were directed to target roads on West Bank as well as Jerusalem and the Sharon district. Israeli army, police and security services are on top alert along the West Bank border as Israelis get ready for the Shavuot festival Tuesday night and Wednesday.
This directive was a decision at the war conference held by Jabari and his top commanders Sunday night to escalate and extend the radius of their missile offensive against southern Israel. Their upgraded Qassam (al Quds) missiles can reach as far as 19km and target towns like the strategic Ashkelon and the outskirts of Netivot and Ofakim.
One such missile reached its furthest point yet Monday, landing at Moshav Shokeda outside Netivot, 17 km from the Gaza Strip. Another missile a car in Sderot and killed a woman, the first fatality of the seven-day Hamas offensive.
US-Israeli Anti-Missile Programs to Be Fully Integrated by 2013
22 May: The US House of Representatives last week allocated another $25 for the Arrow’s joint production and integration; and $45 m for the US-Israeli short-range David’s Sling, which is under development for countering high trajectory projectiles, such as Hizballah’s Katyusha rockets.
US and Israeli anti-missile systems are scheduled to be fully integrated by the year 2013. A further American investment of $1 bn in the Israeli programs will top up the $2.8 bn already spent.
Israel’s defense minister Amir Peretz said on May 19 that he hopes David’s Sling will be ready in two years. Until 2010 therefore, Israel is unprotected against the Palestinian Qassam, Hizballah’s Katyusha and mortar attack.
debkafile‘s military sources report that had the development of David’s Sling not been interrupted three and a half years ago for lack of funds, the system might have been used against Hizballah’s Katyusha rocket blitz of Galilee last year and the Hamas Qassams now raining down on the Western Negev.
Israel will, however, be armed with the most superior shield available for fending off Iranian and Syrian ballistic missile threats: the Arrow for intercepting incoming missiles at high altitudes; the THAAD to screen broad areas such as cities, air fields, battle arenas or military installations; and the Patriots to snag the missiles which dodge the first two levels.
debkafile‘s military sources report that the integrated counter-missile units were given their first field test in the joint US-Israeli Juniper Cobra exercise held in the Negev in March, 2007.
At the same time, Israel must consider the cons for its strategic position of filling a front-line role in the American missile shield planned for the east European countries of Poland and the Czech Republic. Israel is seen to solidly side with America against Moscow
What Israel’s military planners fear most is the Russian Iskander E, which has a range of 200 km, pinpoint precision, and the ability to evade trackers. Its acquisition enables Syria to launch surprise attacks on Israel’s anti-missile positions and air force bases.
Israel took 18 Qassam missiles and several mortar rounds Tuesday as Sderot mourned first fatality – Shirel Friedman, 35, whose car was hit Monday night
23 May: One exploded outside a private home damaging property and vehicles. Fatah’s al Aqsa Brigades and Hamas claimed three Qassam missiles fired at Sderot Tuesday night, as the Palestinian missile offensive entered its second week. Overnight, two Israeli air raids struck Hamas missile production units in Jebaliya and Gaza City. The Palestinians report 7 casualties.
The IDF Homeland Command has begun circulating directives for emergency situations to dozens of civilian locations around the Gaza Strip, some places north of the strategic Mediterranean port and oil terminal of Ashkelon.
Radical Palestinian groups backed by Tehran and Damascus aid Islamists fighting Lebanese troops for fourth day
23 May: These reinforcements have prevented the Lebanese army from breaking down the resistance of the armed Fatah al-Islam fighters in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp outside Tripoli in northern Lebanon. More than 15,000 Palestinians have fled the embattled Nahr al-Bared camp. Some 80 people have been killed, more than half Lebanese soldiers and many civilians. The Lebanese troops continued pounding the camp Tuesday and Wednesday.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that among the groups streaming to the camp since Monday, May 21, are gunmen of Ahmed Jibril’s radical Poplar Front for the Liberation of Palestinian-General Command and Abu Mussa’s breakaway Fatah. Both maintain headquarters in Damascus, notwithstanding US demands to remove them. Jibril is known to draw funds from Tehran. Their armed men could not have crossed from Syria without Damascus’ approval, thus belying Syria’s denial of direct interference in the violence, which is posing an acute challenge to the Lebanese army.
Traditionally, Lebanese troops have stayed clear of the Palestinian refugee enclaves under a contract signed in 1969. However the army’s failure against the Palestinian extremists in Nahr al-Bared would detract from its authority in the whole of Lebanon. It would have grave repercussions for the stability of government of anti-Syrian Fouad Siniora and its ability to stand up to Hizballah and pro-Syrian forces.
The Siniora government has urgently asked friends for money and resources to help bring the confrontation to a speedy conclusion.