Iran tossed the first sparks of its regional payback war against the US and Israel onto the inflammable Gaza Strip. Exceptional Palestinian turbulence there was timed for Monday, May 14, to unnerve the large White House and Republican congressional contingent attending the inauguration of the first US embassy in Jerusalem. In the first stage, Tehran will pit itself and allies in a clash of arms against the US and Israel, later spreading havoc across the region to the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Informed watchers in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo or Riyadh see the eight weeks of Hamas violence on the Gaza-Israeli border as the opening shot of a drawn-out war of attrition instigated by Iran to drain substantial IDF strength away from its northern fronts. Israel is believed short of patience for enduring a dragging conflict. Therefore, its troops could be goaded to snap on Monday and resort to extreme measures for stopping an inflamed Palestinian horde from breaking through the border fence and overrunning an Israel civilian location or army position. Those measures included orders to shoot to kill and the deployment of special operations units, tanks, fighter jets and drones, which generated the high Palestinian death toll of 60 dead and more than 2,000 injured.
That is how it looked from the outside.
The diplomatic and media backlash hurt, even though. Israel feels fully justified in defending its borders from a raging mob of hostile Palestinians, bent on “liberating” swathes of territory for terrorists to come in and attack civilians and soldiers. In the event, none of the rioters made it across. But it is realized that Monday’s deadly confrontation passed a point of no return on the road to war. Hamas can’t afford to step back without losing its grip on rule in the Gaza Strip. Having failed to wield a civilian mass as a blunderbuss, the terrorist group must move on to its next step – very likely a reversion to classical terror by means of small squads of infiltrators and/or rocket fire – this time aimed at Israel’s heartland.
Two small armed squads almost made it into Israel from Gaza this week under cover of the riots. They were liquidated by the IDF special forces airborne by helicopter along the border, who caught them in time. But it would take only one such team of terrorists to make it across and sow havoc.
Hamas holds another option in reserve, sending its 20,000-strong armed wing – Ezz e-din Al-Qassam – into battle supported by rocket fire. The decision to activate these measures must come from outside the Hamas regime in Gaza. It will be taken by Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Middle East forces, and Hassan Nasrallah, head of Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Hamas will do as it is told because it depends on these men for political and financial support. Its other “champions” – Turkey and Qatar – are good for verbal support but not much else in the way of military or financial aid.
There were moments this week when, faced with an immovable IDF wall around the Gaza Strip, that Hamas contemplated sending rockets flying into Israel once again, but was held back by Tehran and Beirut. In the meantime, the Gaza terrorists are turning cross-border machine gun fire on Israeli targets, using a weapon outside the range of Israel’s anti-rocket Iron Domes.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources note that a speech delivered by Nassrallah this week was a pointer to Tehran’s future intentions. He said that Israel would get its deserts – not by missile fire on the Golan this time, but on targets deep inside the country. Four entities
possess this capability: Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. According to new intelligence reaching Israel, Iranian military teams or associates are on standby in Syria for orders to start shooting Fatah 313 and Fajr 5 surface rockets into Israel.
Iran’s war strategy is closely tied in with its hard bargaining with the three European powers France, Britain and Germany for salvaging the 2015 nuclear accord. Tehran has slapped down ransom for its consent to negotiate a new deal, tripartite guarantees to pay Iran damages for the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Aragchi spelled this out in a speech to the Majlis on May 14: “The Europeans have between 45 and 60 days to give the necessary guarantees to safeguard Iranian interests and compensate for the damages caused by the US pullout [from the nuclear deal],” he stated.
Iran’s tactic has pricked French President Emmanuel Macron’s balloon. He claimed he could persuade the US president that a renegotiated deal was in hand for bringing the US back on board, although he knew as well as Aragchi that none of the Europeans could meet Iran’s demand.
On Tuesday, May 15, the Trump administration showed his contempt for the fruitless European maneuvers by clamping down a new round of sanctions. This round targeted the governor of Iran’s central bank, Valilollah Seif, and the assistant director of the bank’s international department Ali Tarzali, accusing them of “providing support for terrorist activities.” They were listed as “specially designated global terrorists” for allegedly helping the Revolutionary Guard Corps/Quds Force support Hizbollah. Ali Tarzali was also deemed to have helped funnel millions of Quds Force dollars to the terror organization.
Tehran is still trying to play for time until the ayatollahs come up with a plan for punishing America, our sources report. When they are ready, expect the rockets and missiles to start flying in Iran’s and its proxies’ war on Israel.