November 16, 2012
Summary To begin to make sense of the escalating conflict in Gaza, we need to go back to the night of Oct. 23 in Khartoum. Around 11 p.m. that night, the Yarmouk weapons facility in the Sudanese capital was attacked, presumably by the Israeli air force. There were indications that Iran had been using this facility to stockpile and possibly assemble weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, guided anti-tank missiles and long-range Fajr-5 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from Gaza.
One of the major drivers behind Israel's latest air and assassination campaign is its belief that Hamas has a large cache of long-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets in its possession. Israel's primary intent in this military campaign is to deny Hamas the ability to use these rockets or keep them as a constant threat to Israel's population centers. This likely explains why in early October, when short-range rocket attacks from Gaza were still at a low level, Israeli officials began conditioning the public to the idea of an "inevitable" Israeli intervention in Gaza. Israel knew Hamas had these weapons in its possession and that it could require a war to eliminate the Fajr rocket threat. It began with the strike on the facility in Sudan, extended to the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari (the architect of the Fajr rocket program) and now has the potential to develop into an Israeli ground incursion in Gaza.
Oct. 23 was not the first time Israel allegedly attacked weapons caches in Sudanese territory that were destined for Gaza. In January 2009, Israel allegedly carried out an airstrike against a weapons convoy northwest of Port Sudan heading to Gaza. The convoy included Fajr-3 rockets and was unusually large, with more than 20 trucks traveling north toward Gaza. The rushed shipment was allegedly arranged by Iran to reinforce Hamas during Operation Cast Lead. Iran was also exposed trying to smuggle [....]
Egypt, Gaza And The Sinai Peninsula
November 16, 2012
Summary The conflict in Gaza comes at an interesting time in Egyptian-Israeli relations. Cairo recently saw the Muslim Brotherhood candidate assume the Egyptian presidency, while in the past two years Israel has approved two Egyptian military increases "in the Sinai Peninsula above levels set in the Camp David Accords. The disposition of the forces in Sinai coupled with the presence of the U.N.-mandated Multinational Force and Observers mean at present, Egyptian forces do not pose a significant threat to Israel. How Egypt will respond to the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip remains to be seen, but should the Morsi government or Egypt's military decide to support Gaza, such support would likely consist of turning a blind eye toward militant activities and smuggling in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt is one of Israel's most powerful neighbors. Initially hostile to Israel, the two countries have been at peace for nearly 40 years. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt established guidelines for what Egypt could do in the Sinai Peninsula in a bid to keep the peace. Strategically, the peace agreement made the peninsula a buffer between Israel and Egypt. It permitted only enough forces in Sinai to enforce security.
The agreement divided the Sinai Peninsula into four zones of increasing neutrality. Egypt is allowed an entire mechanized or infantry division in Zone A, which abuts the Suez Canal. In Zone B, its armed presence is limited to municipal police and border patrol. 1,600 international peacekeepers are spread out across 32 bases in the east of Zone C, and Israel is allowed a limited presence in Zone D.
Periodically, Israel allows Egypt to [....]
Update On The Israel-Gaza Conflict
November 17, 2012
New intelligence indicates forces in Gaza may be manufacturing long-range rockets locally. If this is the case, a significant ground force offers the Israelis the best chance of finding and neutralizing the factories making these weapons. Meanwhile, Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza, and Gaza continues its long-range rocket attacks on major Israeli population centers, though Israel claims its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted most of the rockets.
AnalysisIsrael appears to be positioning itself for a ground operation, perhaps as early as the night of Nov. 17. The Israeli Cabinet on Nov. 16 approved Defense Minister Ehud Barak's request to call up 75,000 reservists, significantly more than during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. The Israeli army meanwhile has also sought to strengthen its presence on the borders with Gaza. Primary roads leading to Gaza and running parallel to Sinai have been declared closed military zones. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery and troops continue to stream to the border, and many units already appear to be in position.
During Operation Cast Lead, the Israelis transitioned to the ground phase around 8:00 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2009. Going in during dark hours allows the IDF to take advantage of its superior night-fighting equipment and training, including the use of night vision goggles and thermal optics.
The Israeli air force remained active throughout the night of Nov. 16-17, striking at targets across the Gaza Strip including key Hamas ministries, police stations and tunnels near the border crossing with Egypt. The IAF reportedly carried out strikes in Rafah's al-Sulan and al-Zahour neighborhoods, as well as east of the al-Maghazi refugee camp. According to IDF reports, the air force carried out a rapid and coordinated military strike, targeting approximately 70 underground medium-range rocket-launching sites in the less than an hour. The IDF claims direct hits were confirmed. The IAF will increasingly target Hamas militant defenses ahead of any ground invasion. Already the IAF has bombed militant defensive positions, particularly in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza have been actively striking back at Israel. More than 80 rockets have been launched from Gaza over the past 24 hours. Of the rockets launched Nov. 17, approximately 57 landed in Israel. According to the IDF, a total of 640 rockets have been launched since Nov. 14, with 410 landing in Israel. A long-range rocket was fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv at approximately 4:45 p.m. local time Nov. 17 but was successfully intercepted by the recently deployed Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system in the area. Hamas continues to target areas around Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva, with the Iron Dome system intercepting five rockets over Ashkelon at 5:15 p.m. The majority of rockets launched from Gaza appear to be [....]
Hezbollah Remains Wary amid Israeli Operations in Gaza
November 17, 212
While Hamas is preparing for an Israeli ground assault into Gaza, Hezbollah's movements on Israel's northern frontier bear close watching. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Nov. 17 called on the Muslim world to retaliate against Israeli actions in Gaza. Naturally, many are looking in the direction of Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran's most capable militant proxy, could open a second front against Israel.
Though Iran would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the spectrum of its militant proxy strength, especially after supplying Hamas with the long-range Fajr-5 rockets that have been targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hezbollah will likely be extremely cautious in deciding whether to participate in this war. The group's fate is linked to that of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad; should Syria fracture along sectarian lines, Lebanon is likely to descend into civil war, and Hezbollah will have to conserve its strength and resources for a battle at home against its sectarian rivals. Indeed, Hezbollah has already been preparing for such a scenario by seizing control of villages along the Orontes River Basin in order to [....]
A Pause for Negotiations in the Israeli-Hamas Conflict
by George Friedman,
November 18, 2012
The Israeli-Hamas conflict has entered into a negotiation phase. Both sides want talks. Hamas wants them because any outcome that prevents an Israeli ground assault gives it the opportunity to retain some of its arsenal of Fajr-5 rockets; the Israelis want them because the cost of an invasion could be high, and they recall the political fallout of Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which alienated many European and other governments.
No matter how much either side might want to avoid ground warfare, negotiations are unlikely to forestall an Israeli assault because Hamas' and Israel's goals leave little middle ground.
One of Hamas' main goals in this current round of fighting is to retain enough Fajr-5 rockets to allow it to threaten the Israeli heartland, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor. If they succeed, Hamas will have gained a significant lever in its relations with the Israelis. The Israeli goal is to deny Hamas these rockets. The problem for the Israelis is that this requires a [....]
A Pause for Negotiations in the Israeli-Hamas Conflict | Stratfor
Rumors On A Gaza Cease-Fire
November 18, 2012
Contradictory rumors regarding the outcome of cease-fire negotiations between Hamas and Israel have increased dramatically in recent hours. A Hamas spokesman told Al Jazeera that Israel and Hamas have agreed to 90 percent of the terms of a new cease-fire. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is reportedly meeting the evening of Nov. 18 with a delegation led by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and another delegation led by Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. While Israeli officials have told news outlets that the government is in talks with Cairo on a cease-fire, Israeli officials are now denying reports that an Israeli envoy actually traveled to Cairo Nov. 18 for cease-fire talks. Meanwhile, Turkey appears to be trying to integrate itself into the cease-fire talks with reported plans for Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to travel to Gaza on Nov. 20.
There are many good reasons for cease-fire negotiations to be taking place right now. First, [....]
The Gaza Conflict Reverberates In The West Bank And Jordan
November 19, 2012
A Palestinian who was wounded Nov. 17 during protests in the West Bank against Israel's ongoing operations in the Gaza Strip has died from his injuries, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported Nov. 19. The West Bank has been calm in recent years, but significant protests have been taking place across the eastern Palestinian territory -- which is ruled by Hamas' secular rival, Fatah -- in response to Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense. The protester's death could widen that unrest.
The ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel has generated a significant amount of sympathy for Hamas in the West Bank. In some parts of the territory, anti-Israeli youth protesters have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at [....]
A Potential Cease-Fire And he New Regional Dynamic
November 20, 2012
The proliferation of players in the current Israeli-Hamas cease-fire negotiations highlight the major shift in the regional strategic environment since the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, calling into question the sustainability of any potential truce.
Analysis U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Israel overnight Nov. 20 and rumors are rapidly spreading of an imminent cease-fire agreement. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has also confidently claimed Nov. 20 that "the war will end today," but statements out of Israel have been far more reserved. The Times of Israel, citing Egyptian intelligence officials, reported that Israel has rejected the [....]
Gaza Crisis: U.S. Should Press Egypt to Rein in Hamas
by James Phillips,
November 21, 2012
Although the current Gaza crisis is in many ways reminiscent of the last flare-up in December 2008–January 2009, there are important differences this time around. Hamas’s terrorist reach now includes Israel’s heartland cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv due to long-range Iranian rockets. However, Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system has mitigated this threat. The “Arab Spring” uprisings have also significantly altered the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East by resetting Egypt’s foreign policy, which may have emboldened Hamas to trigger the current crisis.
To broker a stable cease-fire that doesn’t harm Israel, the United States should work closely with Egypt, which has strong influence with Hamas and seeks to prevent the fighting from threatening its economy. This will be a litmus test for Egypt’s new Islamist leadership. The U.S. must be clear about what is required to build an acceptable and sustainable cease-fire. Washington must leverage its aid to Cairo to ensure an outcome that halts rocket attacks, protects civilians on both sides of the border, limits Hamas’s ability to rearm, reduces Iranian influence, and enhances regional security.
Egypt’s Diplomatic Tightrope Act
Hamas seeks to galvanize Arab and Muslim public opinion, delegitimize Israel, outflank the rival Palestinian Authority, and gain greater support from Arab states to tilt the balance against Israel.
Hamas recognizes that it cannot [....]
by Howard LaFranchi,
November 21, 2012
After two days of Middle East shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stood in Cairo Wednesday evening as Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammmed Kamel Amr announced a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinians in Hamas-governed Gaza designed to end eight days of deadly fighting.
The cease-fire, set to take effect later in the evening local time (2 PM EST), would, most urgently, end the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, in which more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed, most of them civilians. But at another level, Secretary Clinton’s role in securing the cease-fire demonstrates how the United States, despite its weakened influence in a region of [....]