2015: The Year of ISIS Expansion From Gaza to North Africa

March 2, 2015 / /

As the Obama administration continues to live in their fantasy world of the Islamic State (IS) being “defeated” by the “Coalition of the Reluctantly Willing” and a ill-conceived Twitter campaign, IS has been busy replenishing its ranks. They’ve been doing this and weakening their enemies by recruiting defectors from the other Syrian opposition factions (such as al-Nusra/Khorasan Group). A big driver for this is the directive Baghdadi put out for the terror organization to build local ties and form alliance in advance of future operations. One such example of al-Nusra/KG losing people to the other side is increased IS presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Other reports coming in describe entire opposition units in Halab, Hama, Homs, Idlib and dawr al-Zawr. The reasons for this are obvious:

– IS offers bigger cash incentives for joining its ranks. Money talks.

– The other factions view IS as being the strongest faction in the regional war that will ultimately “crush” all opposition and the best chance to seriously challenge the Asad regime. In other words, everybody wants to be part of a “winner.”

Indeed, IS – or anybody for that matter – will enjoy a huge surge in recruitment when they’re doing well on the battlefield, which gets amplified by an effective IO campaign. This is also a great gauge to see how well the Obama administration’s IS strategy has been working out thus far. So how are they doing? Well for starters we’re hearing that the Gaza-based Mujahidin Shura Council (MSC) has pretty much been “disbanded” and absorbed into IS’ North African affiliates such as the Egypt-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM). The MSC had been working to become a legitimate al-Qaida affiliate and had formed in 2012 (some reports will say as early as 2011) when three Gaza-based Salafi groups merged in response to guidance received from the al-Qaida (AQ) senior leadership. The MSC was very similar to the MSC that was set up in Iraq prior to the formation of the “Islamic State of Iraq” now known simply as the “Islamic State” (Long War Journal did a great piece on this in 2012 that remains applicable to the current situation).

Although primarily based in Gaza, the organization also had a presence in Egypt’s Sinai region and Libya. However, the effort fell through due to unknown reasons, but it may have to do with internal problems the entity had. In fact, by NOV 14 we had began to see elements of the MSC’s branch in Sinai had already defected to ABM. The terror group also made in-roads elsewhere by forming an alliance with its splinter group Ajnad Masr for increased joint-operations in the Cairo-area as discussed in our piece titled “Haftar-Sisi Alliance: The Roadblock to ISIS Bridge Into the Maghreb.” We assess that the addition of MSC personnel into ABM’s ranks will bolster the Sinai group’s capabilities with knowledge of alternative smuggling routes at the local-level coming into play to avoid the Sisi regime’s crackdown on IS affiliates.

Islamic State’s Presence in Gaza
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=293

ISIS in Gaza Update
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=510

Haftar-Sisi Alliance: The Roadblock to ISIS Bridge Into the Maghreb
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5033

Salafi-Jihadists in Gaza Continue to Efforts to Establish Islamic Emirate
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/10/salafi-jihadists_in.php

Terrorism: What Is The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem?
http://www.ibtimes.com/terrorism-what-mujahideen-shura-council-environs-jerusalem-1663036

Haifa man named as victim of terrorist attack on Egypt border
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/haifa-man-named-as-victim-of-terrorist-attack-on-egypt-border-1.437130

abu wahib_gaza

The infamous Abu Wahib (variant-Waheeb) shown in IS propaganda circulating throughout Gaza
Source: al-Battar Media Foundation

The act of absorbing one’s enemies is not a new phenomenon and is actually part of the long history of the Islamic religion itself. As we’ve seen throughout the Middle East’s extremely violent history of conquest after conquest, the 21st regrettably isn’t any different. ABM itself formed in 2011 as a by-product of the so-called “Arab Spring” that the Obama administration supported that led to installing the Muslim Brotherhood as the new regime in Egypt. The terror group mainly targeted the Jewish population in the Sinai and throughout Israel itself, although this all changed when GEN Sisi came to power and began systematically targeting all jihadist elements in the country that was allowed to flourish under the Morsi regime. Since aligning itself with IS, the group has adopted some – but not all – of Baghdadi’s ideology. The act of beheading enemies (especially those deemed to be “traitors”) is now a recurring theme for the organization after pledging allegiance to Baghdadi’s “Caliphate.”

Egypt attack: Profile of Sinai Province militant group
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-25882504

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis/Wilayat Sinai
http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/ansar-bayt-al-maqdis/

Gaza jihadist group praises Ansar Jerusalem fighters, calls for more attacks
http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/03/msc_in_jerusalem_praises_slain.php

The Resurgence of Militant Islamists in Egypt
http://www.mei.edu/content/resurgence-militant-islamists-egypt

Palestinian militants from Al-Ansar brigade take part in a training session in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip

ABM: The ISIS Cancer spreading throughout the body of North Africa and Gaza
Source: al-Arabiya

As of this writing ABM has been focused on expanding IS’ influence in Gaza, the Sinai and Libya in order to secure smuggling routes that are supporting the overall effort in Syria against the Assad regime. Central to this is ABM’s Sinai campaign to secure the gateway to Gaza and by extension Syria – the increased presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border is part of this greater strategic vision the senior IS leadership has for the region. A great deal of weapons and foreign fighters coming from Tunisia and Libya are going through Egypt, Gaza and Northern Lebanon to get to Syria (both straight into Syria or through Turkey). Of the Libyan weapons being sent to facilitate the anti-Assad war effort, the majority of them are coming from weapons depots in Misrata and Benghazi. On 29 AUG 14 we stated in “The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS” that the terror group had not yet firmly entrenched itself inside Egypt, but was getting close as the result of ABM aligning itself with Baghdadi. Today, we can say that ABM has made great strides since then despite being targeted by the Sisi regime – and they’re going to become a much greater threat with absorbing the MSC into its ranks.

The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1392

Egypt and UAE Launch Airstrikes in Libya: US Kept in the Dark
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1302

Is Egypt Planning Military Intervention in Libya?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=584

The borders of terror
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/7997/17/The-borders-of-terror.aspx

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.01.21 AM

Sisi regime declared “open season” for hunting down IS and its affiliates
Source: ISIS Study Group

Economic warfare against members of the “Coalition of the Reluctantly Willing” has also steadily increased in both Egypt and Libya, with oil pipelines being regular targets in IED attacks aiming to disrupt the economies of not just Egypt and Libya, but also that of Jordan and European nations such as Italy. Another reason is that they they can gain access to fuel sources to sell on the black market and supply their forces. This is indicative of the cross-border coordination one can expect from multiple groups that have united under a common umbrella – in this case the Black Flag of IS. Below are a few examples of alleged IEDs emplaced targeting Libyan oil pipeline between Sarir Field and Hergia Port that we received from our in-country sources:

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 4.21.57 PM

Source: The ISIS Study Group

libya_pipeline

Source: The ISIS Study Group

The alliance between the Sisi regime and Libyan GEN Khalifah Haftar may have struck IS strongholds inside Libya, but the jihadist organization has answered back with a series of bombings targeting the joint-Egyptian/Haftar faction command center in Quba. They didn’t stop there – they also launched an attack against the Iranian embassy in Tripoli last week. The attack served two purposes:

– To target a major hub for coordinating IRGC-Qods Force and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) intelligence operations in the country. The Iranian regime will typically coordinate intelligence operations inside of a target country from their embassies and consulates. In fact, cultural centers set up by Iranian diplomatic missions are staffed with MOIS and Qods Force personnel to provide cover.

– Sending a message to Iran and the West that IS has firmly entrenched itself inside Libya. The Iranian Ambassador was not present at the compound when it was attacked, suggesting the target was symbolic in nature.

ISIL-linked group claims Iran embassy attack in Libya
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/iran-envoy-libyan-capital-targeted-bomb-attack-150222113314567.html

iranian tripoli embassy

The aftermath of the Iranian embassy attack
Source: Reuters

In addition to being an avenue from which to target Western economies, Libya is also a potential launching pad for jihadists looking to travel to Europe under the guise of “refugees” to facilitate the execution of attacks on the continent. This will also affect the US due to the naive policy of the Obama administration to admit thousands of refugees from places like Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Refugees who obtain citizenship to a European nation will also be able to circumvent the largely nonexistent enforcement of US border security laws to enter the country under the guise of “tourists” or “students” – with DHS completely oblivious of their usage of this status to further a much more insidious agenda.

Cultural Suicide: Why Allowing Syrian War Refugees to Enter Western Countries is a Pandora’s Box to More Attacks
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4987

The Jews: Europe’s Canary in the Mine on the Growing Jihadist Threat
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4939

Attack in Paris, France Kills 12
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4336

Islamic State: The French Connection
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3875

ISIS Attack Plot Thwarted in Belgium – A Sign of Things to Come?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1890

Jihadist Infestation: Terrorism Results in Copenhagen Chaos
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4831

As 2014 was the year that put IS on “the map,” 2015 will be the year that we see greater expansion into North Africa going into Gaza and the border-area with Lebanon. This will also be the year that we will see IS begin reaching out “to touch” Europe and the US with attacks conducted by well-organized cells with extensive experience in Syria and Iraq as opposed to the home-grown jihadist cells we’ve seen in Denmark, French and Belgium attacks. It will also become painfully obvious to those still in denial that the Obama administration has a strong strategy against IS – which it doesn’t. In a time where the world needs a Churchill, Patton and Montgomery we’re getting it – its just coming from GEN Sisi, GEN Haftar, King Abdullah and Bibi Netanyahu instead of the US government. However, these great men have limits in what they can do. They will need much greater US military assistance – far greater than what’s currently being given. The Libyan people have been taking to the streets demanding that GEN Haftar take command of the Army as they view him as the best shot they have at eradicating the IS threat. We should be supporting GEN Haftar and GEN Sisi in their efforts. Considering the fact that the Obama administration still thinks IS fighters are just bored young men looking for jobs while downplaying the significance of Islamic fundamentalism.

Libyan parliament proposes Haftar, a divisive figure, as head of army
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/02/25/uk-libya-security-idUKKBN0LT1EG20150225

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=456

The ISIS Expansion into North Africa
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3257

Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Failed Before it Started
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1730

Another Reason Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Already Failed
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1757

DoS

The Sad state of the US government’s IS strategy has become butt of frequent jokes on Twitter and Facebook
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Links to Other Related Articles:

Egyptian Army Hits Back at ISIS in Sinai

ISIS Efforts to Open up an Egyptian Front

Egyptian Army and IDF Take on ISIS Supporters in Sinai

US Embassy in Tripoli “Secured” by Islamist Militias of the Dawn of Libya

Denmark Update

World View: Reports Indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia Planning Military Action in Libya

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, March 1, 2015:

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya
  • Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization
  • Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

  • Italy considers the flood of migrants from Libya into Italy to be an existential threat to Italy itself, because there may be ISIS-trained terrorists smuggled in, along with the other migrants. Italy may be planning some kind of military action in Libya in conjunction with Egypt’s air strikes and other operations.
  • The GreenStream pipeline is a gas pipeline running underneath the Mediterranan Sea from Libya to Sicily. The pipeline is vital to economic relations between Italy and Libya. In recent months, there have been attacks by gunmen on oil installations in Libya, forcing some ports to shut down. The new show of naval force may be related to threats of attack or sabotage on the pipeline.
  • For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. In November, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it, but Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning. Italy’s new show of naval force may be an attempt to restore a portion of the Mare Nostrum program.
  • Related to the last point, on Saturday there were large demonstrations in Rome by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party for the government to do more to keep immigrants out. The naval show of force may help to mollify the protestors.

Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debkaand Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court’s decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization].

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday’s ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was “dangerous”:

History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. … This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It’s a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision.

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt’s Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah, who died last month.

It is not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan’s own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah’s policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization,” suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. It does n0t seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new “Sunni front” in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

UAE Strikes ISIS in Iraq – Jordan Masses Troops to Prevent Retaliatory Attacks

February 11, 2015 / /

As we’ve stated in yesterday’s article titled “IA Preps to Retake Mosul as King’s Rage Continues,” the UAE and Jordanian Air Forces had appeared to have initiated a series of airstrikes inside Iraq that was in support of the IA’s coming Mosul offensive. In yesterday’s piece we also stated that the Islamic State would probably try to launch a series of attacks in Baghdad and quite possibly attempt to target Jordan and Saudi Arabia in order to open up another front in response to Jordan’s air campaign. Apparently the Jordanian government seems to agree, since they’ve massed thousands of troops along the Jordan-Iraq border with POE Trebil being heavily reinforced. POE Trebil is important due to the fact that its the gateway to Jordan and the most direct route to Amman other than the highway leading from Deraa of Southern Syria. These troops are likely deployed to serve as a blocking force to keep IS fighters from entering the country to stage attacks. We assess that any Jordanian ground operation inside Iraq will be limited to Jordanian Special Operations Forces (JSOF) forces conducting search and rescue OPs in the event IS shoots down any of their aircraft.

Jordan masses ‘thousands’ of troops on Iraqi border to counter IS
http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Jordan-masses-thousands-of-troops-on-Iraqi-border-to-counter-IS-390619

IA Preps to Retake Mosul as King’s Rage Continues
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4699

JSOF

JSOF: Drawing the line in the sand against IS
Source: militaryphotos.net

The support hub that will likely have the most affect on IS’ ability stage operations into Jordan (or Saudi Arabia for that matter) is Ar Rutbah. The ISF’s border checkpoint at POE Trebil had already fallen to IS in JUN 14, which resulted in Jordan increasing security at the border checkpoint on the Jordanian side of the border. We assess that future Jordanian/UAE airstrikes will include targets in the Rutbah-area to degrade IS’ ability to send supplies and reinforcements to forward-deployed units. However, we will likely begin to start seeing the Jordanian Air Force decreasing their daily sorties in order to conserve ammo and not place their airframes under too much stress. However, they will eventually be forced to request more material support from the US government to sustain even a minimal strike capability. Without it, we don’t see the Jordanian’s effectiveness lasting beyond this month.

rutbah

The graphic above depicts how IS fighters stage from Rutbah to conduct attacks targeting IA border checkpoints along the Jordan and Saudi borders.
Source: Veoz

With that said, the Jordanian government is concerned that IS fighters from Rutbah will be dispatched to assist sleeper cells that are already operating inside Jordan to launch attacks – which is why the Army has massed troops along the border. The disrupted 2012 plot IS – still known at the time as AQI/ISI (as in the Islamic State of Iraq) – had planned to launched a Mumbai-style attack remains firmly lodged in the minds of all senior General Intelligence Directorate (GID) official’s minds. A big reason for their concern is the fact that the sleeper cell in question had received considerable support from IS fighters in Iraq’s Anbar Province. The attack planned called for an 11-man assault force executing diversionary attacks targeting two shopping malls with suicide bombers. While security forces were responding to the bombings, the main force would move on to their primary targets in the Aboun District, which is the home for many western diplomats and their families who were also on the target deck. The gunmen were to have engaged security forces and bystanders with small-arms while wearing SVESTs with the intent of fighting their way to the objective at which time they would detonate themselves. This attack was to have been culminated with mortars being fired into the district by a separate support element. By the way, this also happens to be one of the game plans IS sleeper cells inside the US may be planning. For more info on the Mumbai Attack model see the following article from our Target America series:

ISIS: Target America
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1196

Jordan ‘foils major al-Qaeda plot’
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/9624264/Jordan-foils-major-al-Qaeda-plot.html

jordan terror plot

The 11-man sleeper cell that Jordanian security forces arrested in 2012.
Source: The Daily Telegraph (UK)

JSOF and other Jordanian security forces will have their hands full in securing the border and disrupting IS sleeper cell attempts at executing attacks inside major population centers such as Amman. The 2012 plot was only a taste. In fact, the past year saw several security sweeps in the country targeted IS support nodes. Already we’re seeing indicators that JSOF units stationed near Amman are on full-alert, which suggests a series of counter-terror operations may be executed in the near-future. JSOF personnel are also operating along both the Syrian and Iraqi borders. We expect Jordan’s conventional ground forces and JSOF units to maintain a defensive posture along both borders and interdict infiltration attempts by jihadists. However, we’re not so sure they will be able to completely stop the cells already located inside Jordan’s major population centers – and there will be attempts by ISIS to launch attacks inside Jordan. They won’t try to “invade” Jordan as some have speculated since they have plenty of fighters already in the country. You can also expect for IS’ propaganda machine to increase videos and postings targeting Jordan’s refugee population to incite further unrest – and we’re not just talking about the refugees from Syria either. We may see IS make a direct appeal to Jordan’s Palestinian population (some of which are Syrian refugees themselves), which would likely be an extension of their Gaza IO operations. We assess the conditions at the refugee camps and treatment of the Palestinian community in the country – both real and perceived – will become recurring themes in IS’ IO messaging. Last summer’s riot at the Zaatari Camp is a possible indicator of what may be in store for Jordan. The next few months are going to get very, very interesting…

Jordanian escalation against ISIS may lead to surge in terror attacks in Kingdom
http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Jordanian-escalation-against-ISIS-may-lead-to-surge-in-terror-attacks-in-Kingdom-390175

Worried about terror attacks at home, Jordan steps up arrests of suspected Syria jihadists
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/worried-about-terror-attacks-at-home-jordan-steps-up-arrests-of-suspected-syria-jihadists/2014/04/25/6c18fa00-c96d-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html

Why Jordan Doesn’t Want More Palestinians
http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4615/jordan-palestinians

Jordan admits to barring entry of Palestinian refugees from Syria
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/jordan-palestinians-syria-refugees-unrwa-hrw.html

Jordan fears new wave of Palestinian refugees
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4591284,00.html

Syria crisis: Deadly clash in Jordan’s Zaatari camp
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26908587

For more info on how Jordan fits into the scheme of things, check out the following articles:

Jordan Steps Up Attacks Against ISIS, Egypt Launches New Sinai Offensive

Rage of the King: Jordan Strikes Back

The Islamic State Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive

The ISIS-Held Japanese and Jordanian Hostages: The Bergdahl Factor

Jordanian Fighter Jet Crashes in Syria – Pilot Taken Prisoner by ISIS

Trouble in Jordan and Jordanian ISIS Connections

Islamic State Using Social Media and Expanding Campaign to Jordan and Saudi Arabia

The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS

Additional info on IS’ Gaza efforts:

ISIS in Gaza Update

Islamic State’s Presence in Gaza

Egyptian Army Hits Back at ISIS in Sinai

ISIS Efforts to Open Up an Egyptian Front

Egyptian Army and the IDF Take on ISIS Supporters in the Sinai

“Palestine” and the ICC

by Reuven Berko
Special to IPT News
December 31, 2014

1108The Palestinian Authority’s latest unilateral attempt to gain recognition as a state without negotiating any concessions failed Tuesday. But other mischief remains in play, including Wednesday’s move to join the International Criminal Court(ICC).

Earlier this month, “Palestine” was upgraded from “observer entity” to “observer state” at the ICC. It was another milestone on the Palestinian Authority’s road to international recognition as a state without having to negotiate directly with Israel, make any concessions, or commit to a genuine dialogue for peace, a unilateral stem directly violating both the Oslo Accords and UN Resolution 242. Countries supporting the move know – but are apathetic to the fact – that their actions only reinforce the PA’s intransigence and destroy any motivation the Palestinians might have had to compromise on any issue that would bring about a just peace for both sides.

The Palestinian Authority’s dream to try Israel in the ICC for so-called “war crimes” in the Gaza Strip is the height of absurdity. The PLO won international recognition after it claimed to have abandoned terrorism against Israel. If its operational wing, the Palestinian Authority, manages to penetrate the international legal network, sign the Rome Convention and bring Israel to trial for its activities in the Gaza Strip, senior PLO and Palestinian Authority figures will immediately find themselves in the ICC accused of their own crimes.

The Palestinian national consensus government, with Rami Hamdallah as prime minister and Mahmoud Abbas as “president,” is a coalition with Hamas, whose suicide bombers blew themselves up in Israel on busy streets and in crowded public places and caused thousands of deaths and maimings, to say nothing of abducting and murdering three teen aged boys just six months ago. The Palestinian government is responsible for the war crimes committed by Hamas this past summer, including launching long-range rockets at densely populated cities, among them Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and sending its death squads to murder Israeli civilians indiscriminately.

Israel conducts military operations against Palestinian terrorism with pinpoint precision and in accordance with the best international legal and moral criteria. This past summer, as always, it warned the civilian population before it attacked terrorists, whose leaders had fled like rats into the basements of hospitals to wait out the war. In contrast, Palestinian terrorist organizations deliberately attacked the Israeli civilian population; they uttered no word of regret or sorrow, and certainly did not appoint a committee to investigate.

While Palestinians bemoan their failure to carry out a mass slaughter of Israeli civilians and destroy the country’s infrastructure, mainly thanks to the Iron Dome aerial defense system, Israel is undertaking a comprehensive examination of complaints lodged by Palestinians, Israelis and the international community regarding possible illegal actions taken by Israeli soldiers and officers during Operation Protective Edge.

No country comes close to Israel in following the letter of the laws of warfare. Arab countries, many of which are currently engaged in mutual slaughter, cannot even approximate Israel’s conduct when it comes to morality. Needless to say, no Palestinian or other terrorist organization has ever examined its own behavior the way Israel constantly does.

There are many Palestinians honest enough to admit – although not brave enough to do so publicly – that if they had the weapons Israel does, not one single Israeli would be left alive. Article 7 of the Hamas charter decrees the total annihilation of all the Jews in the world. Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ partner in the Palestinian national consensus government, had the unmitigated gall to stand before the UN General Assembly and accuse Israel of genocide.

Read more at IPT

Dr. Reuven Berko has a Ph.D. in Middle East studies, is a commentator on Israeli Arabic TV programs, writes for the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom and is considered one of Israel’s top experts on Arab affairs.

The Watchman Show: 2014 Year in Review

The Watchman, by Erick Stakelbeck, Dec. 30, 2014:

On this week’s edition of The Watchman, we take a look back at the major stories that shaped 2014: ISIS, Iran, Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, and much more. Plus, Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer joins us for a look ahead at what to expect in 2015.

Hamas’s International Triangle of Bases: Gaza, Turkey and Qatar

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
December 18, 2014

1104In recent years, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has developed into a truly international entity. Today, it enjoys three territorial bases of operation: Gaza, the seat of the Hamas regime, Turkey, and Qatar.

According to Israeli intelligence estimates, each base serves a different purpose. The three branches have worked, alternatively, in harmony and in discord, together and independently, in line with the various terrorist activities they pursue.

“These are not the same leaderships,” one security source said, speaking of the Hamas command structure in each base.

“Qatar is home to Hamas’s political branch, headed by Khaled Meshaal. In Turkey [in the city of Istanbul], Hamas maintains a military branch headquarters, which sets up terrorist infrastructure. This headquarters is comprised partly of former Hamas prisoners who were ejected from Israel during the [2011] Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. In Gaza, there are both military and political operatives.”

Each branch plays a unique role, and relations between them fluctuate.

Hamas’s headquarters in Istanbul is headed by Salah Al-Arouri, a senior figure in the military wing who is focused on rejuvenating Hamas terrorism cells in the West Bank, and using it as a springboard for orchestrating deadly attacks against Israel.

Gaza is home to the main military wing, the Ezzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, whose operatives focus on building up their offensive rocket capabilities, tunnel networks, and, like Arouri, they also seek to also set up West Bank terrorism cells.

On Thursday, Hamas held what is described as its largest military exercise since the summer war against Israel.

Gaza is also home to Hamas’s political wing, headed by Ismail Haniyeh.

“They all have their own interests. Those in Gaza have one point of view, those abroad have another. There have, in the past, been disagreements,” the source said.

One example of such internal conflict was the dispute between Khaled Meshaal and Hamas in Gaza over when to end the summer war with Israel. Meshaal pushed Hamas to continue the fighting, despite growing calls by Hamas in Gaza to agree to a ceasefire. The conflicting positions were partly the result of geography: Hamas in Gaza had a better real time understanding of the heavy costs Israel was inflicting on it during the fighting than the overseas Meshaal, who, from his luxurious Qatari surroundings, could afford the privilege of calling for more fighting.

Nevertheless, a basic level of cooperation and consent exists among all three branches. Saleh Al-Arouri in Turkey would not have embarked on a major mission to set up a large-scale Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, plan atrocities against Israel, and aim to topple the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, without approval from Khaled Meshaal and Hamas in Gaza.

Cooperation may not always be close, but it exists.

“There are connections,” the security source said. “Hamas in Gaza is connected to those trying to orchestrate terrorism in Judea and Samaria. There is a circle of cooperation.”

Arouri could seek and receive assistance from Gaza, as he has done, but he can also try to work independently. “There are no laws,” the source stressed.

In recent months, the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] uncovered two intricate Hamas terror plots to inflict mass-casualty attacks on Israelis, and to weaken Fatah in the West Bank. Both were tied to Arouri.

This discovery has led Israeli defense chiefs to become more vocal about the Hamas base in Turkey.

“Hamas’s terrorism headquarters are in Gaza and in Istanbul. It is unbelievable that a NATO member is hosting the headquarters of a terrorist organization in its territory,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told his Spanish counterpart earlier this month.

“We have stopped a coup planned by Hamas, which was organized in, among other places, its Turkish headquarters, against [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen in Judea and Samaria. We saved him from this revolution. Hence, there is much significance and importance in our having freedom to operate security-wise in Judea and Samaria,” Ya’alon stated.

Likewise, at the end of November, the Shin Bet and IDF announced that they had broken up a large-scale international Hamas terrorist infrastructure that was in the planning stages of multiple mass-casualty attacks, including an intended bombing of a soccer stadium in Jerusalem.

The plot included car bombings, bombing Jerusalem’s light rail system, and targeting Israelis overseas.

This case illustrates the growing centrality of Istanbul to Hamas terror activities in the West Bank. Hamas’s headquarters in Turkey has become a key command and planning center.

Earlier this year, the Shin Bet announced the thwarting of another large Hamas network in the West Bank, set up by Saleh Al-Arouri in Istanbul, and headed locally by a Hamas member in Ramallah.

Hamas funneled more than a million shekels [more than $250,000] to terror operatives to prepare a series of attacks, which were designed to allow it to shift attention away from Gaza, and ultimately lead to the fall of the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, according to Israeli investigation. This would be achieved by provoking Israel into harsh responses in the West Bank, destabilizing the area and leading to the toppling of the PA.

Hamas has come a long way since the days when its founders, Muslim Brotherhood operatives in the Palestinian territories, set up indoctrination and social support centers.

Today, it is an international terrorist organization, which continues to plot new ways to murder and maim Israelis from its various bases, while it dreams of setting up a second Islamist-jihadist regime in the West Bank, as it did in Gaza.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post’s military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.

Egypt’s War on Terrorism: World’s Double Standards

Gatrestone Institute, by Khaled Abu Toameh, November 3, 2014:

Egypt’s crackdown in Sinai once again exposes the double standards of the international community toward the war on terrorism. While it is fine for Egypt to demolish hundreds of houses and forcibly transfer thousands of people in the name of the war on terrorism, Israel is not allowed to fire back at those who launch rockets and missiles at its civilians.

The Egyptians have finally realized that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has become one of the region’s main exporters of terrorism.

What is perhaps more worrying is the fear that the security clampdown in Egypt will drive Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip to resume their attacks on Israel.

Needless to say, the international community will continue to ignore Egypt’s bulldozing hundreds of houses and the forcible eviction of hundreds of people in Sinai.

Three months after the military conformation between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptians are also waging their own war on terrorism in north Sinai.

But Egypt’s war, which began after Islamist terrorists butchered 33 Egyptian soldiers, does not seem to worry the international community and human rights organizations, at least not as much as Israel’s operation to stop rockets and missiles from being fired into it from the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian army’s security crackdown includes the demolition of hundreds of houses along the border with the Gaza Strip and the transfer of thousands of people to new locations.

A building is blown up by Egypt’s army as part of an operation to clear all buildings out of a “buffer zone,” along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip. (Image source: PressTV video screenshot)

Egypt’s goal is to establish a security buffer zone along its shared border with the Gaza Strip in order to prevent terrorists from using smuggling tunnels to launch attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians. In other words, the Egyptians are tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip and collectively punishing the Palestinians living there, not only Hamas.

All this is happening before eyes of the international community and media. Nonetheless, the UN Security Council has not been asked to hold an emergency meeting to condemn what some Egyptian human rights activists describe as the “transfer” and “displacement” of hundreds of families in Sinai.

Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist Gamal Eid said that the Egyptian security measures were “unconstitutional.” He noted that Article 63 of the Egyptian constitution prohibits the forcible and arbitrary transfer of citizens in all forms.

Egyptian security experts warned this week that the “displacement” of Sinai residents would not stop terrorist attacks on the Egyptian police and army.

Former General Safwat al-Zayyat said he expected the terrorists to intensify their attacks not only in Sinai but also in other parts of Egypt, including Cairo, to prove that the Egyptian army’s measures are ineffective. He also predicted that the transfer of thousands of families and the demolition of their homes would play into the hands of the terrorists.

Egyptian activist Massad Abu Fajr wrote on his Facebook page that the forcible eviction of families from their homes in Egypt was tantamount to a “declaration of war by the Egyptian authorities” on the three largest and powerful clans in Sinai. He too predicted that the security crackdown would boomerang and further strengthen the terrorists.

But what is perhaps more worrying is the fear that the unprecedented security clampdown in Egypt will drive Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip to resume their attacks on Israel.

The Egyptians, of course, are entitled to wage a ruthless war on the various terror groups that have long been operating in Sinai. However, by tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians are also giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad an excuse to resume their attacks on Israel.

The two Palestinian terror groups are not going to retaliate by attacking Egypt. They know that Egypt’s response to such an attack would be more severe than Israel’s military response. That explains why Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been cautious in their response to Egypt’s measures — no condemnations or protests thus far.

In fact, Hamas is already in a state of panic in the wake of allegations by some Egyptians that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were involved in the killing of the soldiers in Sinai.

Once again, Egyptian journalists are calling on their president to go after Hamas in response to the Sinai attack. A previous attack on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai earlier this year prompted similar calls.

Reham Noaman, a prominent Egyptian journalist, called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to “crush” Hamas and its armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam. “Israel is not better than us,” she said. “When Israel wants to hit Hamas because of a rocket that is not worth a penny, it does not seek permission from the Security Council.”

The Egyptians have finally realized that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has become one of the region’s main exporters of terrorism. Israel reached this conclusion several years ago, when Hamas and other terror groups began firing rockets and missiles at Israeli communities.

The Egyptians have also come to learn that the smuggling tunnels along their shared border with the Gaza Strip work in both directions. In the past, the Egyptians believed that the tunnels were being used only to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Now, however, they are convinced that these tunnels are also being used to smuggle weapons and terrorists out of the Gaza Strip.

Now that the Egyptians have chosen completely to seal off their border with the Gaza Strip, the chances of another military confrontation between Hamas and Israel have increased. Hamas will undoubtedly try to break out of its increased isolation by initiating another war with Israel.

The Egyptians, for their part, are not going to mind if another war breaks out between the Palestinians and Israel — as long as the military confrontation is taking place on the other side of the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

And of course, the international community will once again rush to accuse Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Needless to say, the international community will continue to ignore Egypt’s bulldozing hundreds of homes and the forcible eviction of thousands of people in Sinai.

If anything, the Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai has once again exposed the double standards of the international community toward the war on terrorism. While it is fine for Egypt to demolish hundreds of houses and forcibly transfer thousands of people in the name of the war on terrorism, Israel is not allowed to fire back at those who launch rockets and missiles at its civilians.

Also see:

Caroline Glick: President Sisi’s Gift

Egyptian Minister of Defense Abdel-Fattah al-SissiBy Caroline Glick:

Something extraordinary has happened.

On August 31, PLO chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told an audience of Fatah members that Egypt had offered to give the PA some 1,600 kilometers of land in Sinai adjacent to Gaza, thus quintupling the size of the Gaza Strip. Egypt even offered to allow all the so-called “Palestinian refugees” to settle in the expanded Gaza Strip.

Then Abbas told his Fatah followers that he rejected the Egyptian offer.

On Monday Army Radio substantiated Abbas’s claim.

According to Army Radio, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi proposed that the Palestinians establish their state in the expanded Gaza Strip and accept limited autonomy over parts of Judea and Samaria.

In exchange for this state, the Palestinians would give up their demand that Israel shrink into the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, surrendering Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Sisi argued that the land Egypt is offering in Sinai would more than compensate for the territory that Abbas would concede.

In his speech to Fatah members, Abbas said, “They [the Egyptians] are prepared to receive all the refugees, [and are saying] ‘Let’s end the refugee story.’” “But,” he insisted, “It’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it.”

In other words, Sisi offered Abbas a way to end the Palestinians’ suffering and grant them political independence. And Abbas said, “No, forget statehood. Let them suffer.”

Generations of Israeli leaders and strategists have insisted that Israel does not have the ability to satisfy the Palestinian demands by itself without signing its own death warrant. To satisfy the Palestinian demand for statehood, Israel’s neighbors in Egypt and Jordan would have to get involved.

Until Sisi made his proposal, no Arab leader ever seriously considered actually doing what must be done. Indeed, the rejection of this self-evident Israeli claim has been so overwhelming that in recent years, every Israeli suggestion to this effect was met with raised eyebrows and dismissal by Israelis and foreigners alike.

So what is driving Sisi? How do we account for this dramatic shift? In offering the Palestinians a large swathe of the Sinai, Sisi is not acting out of altruism. He is acting out of necessity. From his perspective, and from the perspective of his non-jihadist Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian campaign against Israel is dangerous.

Facing the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the rise of jihadist forces from al-Qaida to the Islamic State to the Muslim Brotherhood, the non-jihadist Sunnis no longer believe that the prolongation of the Palestinian jihad against Israel is in their interest.

Egypt and Jordan have already experienced the spillover of the Palestinian jihad. Hamas has carried out attacks in Egypt. The Palestinian jihad nearly destroyed Lebanon and Jordan. Egypt and Saudi Arabia now view Israel as a vital ally in their war against the Sunni jihadists and their struggle against Iran and its hegemonic ambitions. They recognize that Israeli action against Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists in Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran serves the interests of non-jihadi Sunnis. And, especially after the recent conflict in Gaza, they realize that the incessant Palestinian campaign against Israel ultimately strengthens the jihadist enemies of Egypt and Saudi Arabia like Hamas.

Apparently, Sisi’s offer to Abbas is an attempt to help the Palestinian people and take the Palestinian issue out of the hands of Palestinian jihadists.

Unfortunately for Sisi and his fellow non-jihadist Sunnis, Abbas is having none of this.

In rejecting Sisi’s offer Abbas stood true to his own record, to the legacies of every Palestinian leader since Nazi agent Haj Amin el-Husseini, and to the declared strategic goal of his own Fatah party and his coalition partners in Hamas. Since Husseini invented the Palestinians in the late 1920s, their leaders’ primary goals have never been the establishment of a Palestinian state or improving the lives of Palestinians. Their singular goal has always been the destruction of the Jewish state, (or state-in-themaking before 1948).

Sisi offered to end Palestinian suffering and provide the Palestinians with the land they require to establish a demilitarized state. Abbas rejected it because he is only interested hurting Israel. If Israel is not weakened by their good fortune, then the Palestinians should continue to suffer.

For Israel, Sisi’s proposal is a windfall.

Read more at Front Page

Also see:

Egypt Strikes Jihadis After Decapitation Video

ansar-bayt-al-maqdis-israel-mossad-beheadingjpg (1)Breitbart, By KATIE GORKA, Sep. 1, 2014:

Within just days of a video surfacing showing the decapitation of four Egyptian nationals, the Cairo government took decisive military action and killed the leader of the Jihadist group alleged to have been responsible

Several sources have reported that on Sunday, August 30, Egyptian forces carried out two successful operations against Islamist militants in Sinai. In Al Arish, a city on the northern coast of Sinai, members of a joint police-military action killed Fayez Abdallah Hamdan Abu-Sheta, believed to be a leader of the terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM), thought responsible for the May 2013 kidnapping of 7 police officers and a border guard.

In a separate operation 32 miles away, in the town of Rafah, which borders Gaza, Egyptian forces killed 6 and arrested 10 others, Daily News Egypt reported. It has not yet been revealed whether those killed or arrested are members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, but this raid occurred three days after the Jihadi group released a very graphic video of the beheading of four Egyptians in Sinai for allegedly spying on behalf of Israel. The video is similar to that of U.S. journalist James Foley, whose beheading by ISIS on August 19, 2014, was also posted online.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and their aggressive sweep across Iraq and Syria, Egypt has been waging its own battle against violent jihadists, particularly in the Sinai.  This is a conflict kindled under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership of Mohamed Morsi and which exploded with his ouster in July 2013. When the Muslim Brotherhood announced at a rally on May 1, 2012 that their candidate for president would be Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi declared the following in his impassioned speech to the crowd of thousands (broadcast on Al-Nas television and translated by MEMRI TV):

We can see how the dream of the Islamic Caliphate is being realized, Allah willing, by Dr. Muhammad Mursi, and his brothers, his supporters, and his political party.  We can see how the great dream—shared by us all—that of the United States of the Arabs…the United States of the Arabs will be restored, Allah willing.  The United States of the Arabs will be restored by this man and his supporters. The capital of the Caliphate—the capital of the United States of the Arabs—will be Jerusalem, Allah willing.  Mursi will liberate Gaza tomorrow….Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca or Medina.  It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.’  Banish the sleep from the eyes of all Jews. Come on, you lovers of martyrdom, you are all Hamas. Forget about the whole world, forget about all the conferences. Brandish your weapons…Say your prayers….And pray to the Lord.

 

 

As Thomas Joscelyn, senior editor of the Long War Journal, testified before Congress in February 2014, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt in January 2011, Al Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups saw an opportunity for proselytizing and rebuilding the ummah, or Muslim community of believers. Not only was the new government of Mohamed Morsi not going to crack down on jihadists, but he greatly aided their cause by releasing many of them from prison, including members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and Gamaa Islamiyya (IG). Egypt became fertile ground for their activities, and the Sinai took on a particular importance because it was the perfect launching ground for renewed attacks on Israel. This suggests that there is also a strong correlation between the terrorism in the Sinai and the fighting in Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood promised to free Gaza and to rebuild the Caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which translates to “Champions of Jerusalem,” began operations in January 2011 with the uprisings that led to the overthrow of the Egyptian government. Initially, they targeted Israel. In July 2012, they blew up a pipeline that served Israel, calling it treason to send Egyptian resources to Israel, according to an article in Egypt News Daily. But following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government on July 3, 2013, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis stepped up their attacks and directed the majority of them against the Egyptian police and military. Their near-daily attacks included the execution of 24 unarmed policemen on August 19, 2013, the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim in September 2013, an attack on South Sinai’s Security Directorate, and an attack on the military intelligence building in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya in October 2013.

The attacks by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as well as other terrorist groups operating in the Sinai are explicitly carried out in retaliation for the Egyptian military’s role in helping to oust Mohammed Morsi and for their subsequent crackdown by military and police on groups engaging in violence. Indeed, the relationship between groups such as the violent Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the “non-violent” Muslim Brotherhood may be more than ancillary. According to the BBC, some have identified Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Several different sources, including Nabil Naeem, founder of the Islamic Jihad, allege that Khairat al-Shater, the deputy supreme guide of the Brotherhood, directly supports Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

Katie Gorka is the president of the Council on Global Security. Follow her on Twitter@katharinegorka.

 

Man Threatens to Murder Children Due to Israel-Hamas Conflict

A Palestinian girl looks at masked militants of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, celebrate at a victory rally at the debris of destroyed houses in Shijaiyah, neighborhood of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday / AP

A Palestinian girl looks at masked militants of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, celebrate at a victory rally at the debris of destroyed houses in Shijaiyah, neighborhood of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday / AP

Washington Free Beacon, By Adam Kredo:

An Ohio school was placed on lockdown Wednesday after a man with a “heavy accent” phoned the school and threatened to murder children with an AK-47 due to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to local police.

All schools in Pickerington, Ohio, were placed on lockdown after an unknown man made a threatening call to the Pickerington North High School, Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The man, who claimed to have an AK-47, said he planned to launch an attack on the school and kill students over his apparent anger at the Middle East conflict, Phalen said.

“The school received a call [at around 11:15 a.m.] from a male with a heavy accent and he indicated that he was going to attack Pickerington North due to attacks on Israel and was going to kill the kids and that he had an AK-47 gun,” Phalen recounted.

“He identified himself as ‘Mohammed Shehad,’” or something similar to that, and claimed to live in the area, Phalen said, explaining that those who fielded the call were unsure precisely what last name the man provided.

“My sense is that due to the way he identified himself it sounds like he was upset at Israel,” though the individual’s exact motivations remain unclear, Phalen said. At this point, authorities “really don’t know what his frame of mind was or what he was thinking.”

All area schools were placed on “exterior lockdown” as a precautionary measure, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

School will resume on Thursday and an officer will be assigned to Pickerington North. Additional deputies will also be in the area, Phalen said.

Fairfield County detectives also are beginning to investigate the matter to determine the individual’s identity.

“We have detectives assigned to that; they’re working on trying to trace the phone number and identify the suspect,” Phalen said.

Patrick Poole, a terrorism analyst who lives in the area, said he believed the threat was made by a person upset with Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip.

“We have had a growing problem here in the Columbus area for years that local law enforcement and the media want to continue to sweep under the carpet,” Poole said. “Not only has Central Ohio been the home of the largest known al-Qaeda cell since 9/11—with several members currently in prison on terrorism charges and at least two deported—we’ve had a number of cases of homegrown jihadists come through town, including al-Shabaab rapper Omar al-Hammami and Little Rock Army recruiting station killer Carlos Bledsoe.”

“An al-Shabaab recruiter and fundraiser from the area was killed in a firefight in Mogadishu in 2010, and we know of several cases of young men who have left from Columbus to join the Somali terrorist group,” Poole said. “One of the original online jihadist forum operators, Sarfaraz Jamal, grew up in the area and initially ran his operation from his Worthington home.”

Additionally, “we just had a pro-Hamas rally at the statehouse a week and a half ago, a regular feature here in central Ohio whenever there is conflict in that part of the world,” Poole noted. “In fact, two of our local Hamas activists are currently in prison in Egypt. Now that the threat is targeting area school children, hopefully it will begin to wake people up to the scope of the problem.”

Report Details Hamas’ Responsibility for Destruction of Gaza Strip

Free Beacon, By Adam Kredo:

A declassified intelligence report released by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) this week showed Hamas terrorists have been firing rockets at Israel from heavily populated civilian areas, including churches, United Nations facilities, Red Cross stations, hospitals, schools, children’s playgrounds, and a number of other areas.

The report, which was declassified by the IDF earlier this week, includes previously unreleased statistics and military surveillance videos showing Hamas launching missiles from many of these civilian locations, which constitutes a war crime.

New evidence is presented that Hamas used several United Nations schools run by the Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) as a base from which to fire rockets and mortars.

The revelation is likely to prompt further scrutiny of UNRWA’s activities during the most recent conflict, including the discovery of multiple rocket stashes that were later returned by UNRWA to Hamas.

At least 1,600 of the 3,600 rockets fired since July 8 at Israel by Hamas originated from civilian strongholds, according to the declassified report.

This included: Three rockets fired from churches, four from Red Cross stations, 10 from amusement parks, 20 from first aid stations, 30 from U.N. facilities, 41 from hospitals, 50 from children’s playgrounds, 85 from medial clinics, 248 from schools, 331 from mosques, and 818 from areas such as graveyards and power plants.

new-declassified-report-exposes-hamas-human-shield-policy-3-638

The IDF maintained that Hamas is chiefly responsible for the destruction of civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas’ tactics flagrantly violate international law and the most basic moral precepts,” the IDF stated in the report. “Given these tactics, the ultimate responsibility for the damage done to civilians as well as the civilian infrastructure of Gaza lies with Hamas.”

The report included video footage and surveillance photos of Hamas erecting rocket launchers at a U.N. facility and hotel where journalists were residing. Militants can be seen in the footage building the rocket launcher beneath a blue tent outside of the hotel.

Additional aerial satellite imagery released in the report shows that at least one rocket launcher was erected in a U.N.-operated elementary school for girls in Beit Lahiya.

Other rocket launchers were shown to have been set-up at UNRWA’s Shahada Al-Manar elementary school for boys, from which at least 11 mortars were fired on Aug. 2, according to satellite imagery.

Another rocket launching site was discovered at an UNRWA distribution center and health center in Gaza, according to video showing Hamas terrorists firing the rockets form the facility, which is located in a residential neighborhood.

Multiple other images show scores of rocket launchers and combat posts placed in densely populated areas throughout Gaza in what the IDF refers to as a “terror fortress.”

Hamas also has been discovered to have fired rockets from inside the El’ Ahzar Islamic College in Gaza, as well as the Abu Nur School, according to IDF military footage included in the report

“Another one, another one from the school, launching from the school,” an IDF soldier can be heard saying in the footage. “I see the rocket launcher. Three more rocket[s] launched.”

“It looks like the rocket launchers are inside the school,” adds another soldier.

Hamas additionally stored rocket stockpiles and established military headquarters at mosques.

Several of these mosques and civilian homes located nearby were used to conceal the entrances to Hamas’ sophisticated network of underground tunnels, many of which have been destroyed by the IDF in the past weeks.

On July 30, Hamas began firing rockets from a Red Cross ambulance station, according to the report.

Rocket launchers also were found to have been strategically placed around the Wafa Hospital in Gaza.

IDF footage also shows Hamas militants using an ambulance as a getaway vehicle after firing rockets from a house.

Also see:

Understanding the Israeli-Egyptian-Saudi alliance

partners-300x191By Caroline Glick:

Hamas’s war with Israel is not a stand-alone event. It is happening in the context of the vast changes that are casting asunder old patterns of behavior and strategic understandings as actors in the region begin to reassess the threats they face.

Hamas was once funded by Saudi Arabia and enabled by Egypt. Now the regimes of these countries view it as part of a larger axis of Sunni jihad that threatens not only Israel, but them.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and its state sponsors Qatar and Turkey, are the key members of this alliance structure. Without their support Hamas would have gone down with the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt last summer. As it stands, all view Hamas’s war with Israel as a means of reinstating the Brotherhood to power in that country.

To achieve a Hamas victory, Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood are using Western support for Hamas against Israel. If the US and the EU are able to coerce Egypt and Israel to open their borders with Gaza, then the Western powers will hand the jihadist axis a strategic victory.

The implications of such a victory would be dire.

Hamas is ideologically indistinguishable from Islamic State. Like Islamic State, Hamas has developed mass slaughter and psychological terrorization as the primary tools in its military doctrine. If the US and the EU force Israel and Egypt to open Gaza’s borders, they will enable Hamas to achieve strategic and political stability in Gaza. As a consequence, a post-war Gaza will quickly become a local version of Islamic State-controlled Mosul.

In the first instance, such a development will render life in southern Israel too imperiled to sustain. The Western Negev, and perhaps Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod, will become uninhabitable.

Then there is Judea and Samaria. If, as the US demands, Israel allows Gaza to reconnect with Judea and Samaria, in short order Hamas will dominate the areas. Militarily, the transfer of even a few of the thousands of rocket-propelled grenades Hamas has in Gaza will imperil military forces and civilians alike.

IDF armored vehicles and armored civilian buses will be blown to smithereens.

Whereas operating from Gaza, Hamas needed the assistance of the Obama administration and the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down Ben-Gurion Airport, from Judea and Samaria, all Hamas would require are a couple of hand-held mortars.

Jordan will also be directly threatened.

From Egypt’s perspective, a Hamas victory in the war with Israel that connects Gaza to Sinai will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamic State and other allies. Such a development represents a critical threat to the regime.

And this brings us to Islamic State itself. It couldn’t have grown to its current monstrous proportions without the support of Qatar and Turkey.

Read more

IDF Scores Hits on Hamas Military Leaders in Gaza

Muhammad Abu Smalla, 39 and Ra'ad Atar, 39

Muhammad Abu Smalla, 39 and Ra’ad Atar, 39
Source: General Security Service of Israel

By Jerry Gordon:

The Hamas breach of the 12th cease fire unleashed a new phase by the IDF in Operation Protective Edge to take down Hamas military leaders. By going after Hamas military commanders via air assaults based on intelligence gathered by Shin Bet, it has scored some important hits, including operatives involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Schalit was held in captivity for five years by Hamas until his release in October 2011 in exchange for 1037 Palestinian prisoners. The IDF announced the killing of Muhammad Abu Smalla, 39 and Ra’ad Atar, 39 and a third operative in an IAF air assault on a Rafah location in southern Gaza. The significance of the killing of both Smalla and Atar was their involvement in several operations, notably the 2004 tunnel attack in the Philadelphi corridor that sparked IDF tunnel detection developments and the recent cross border tunnel attacks in Operation Protective Edge. See our recent Iconoclast post, “How Israel’s Military Bureaucracy Bungled the Terror Tunnel Threat”.

Further, there are conflicting reports that the IAF may have taken down the head of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Deif. However, Hamas only acknowledges that Deif’s wife and infant child were killed in the attack on their home in Gaza. Hamas is now concentrating its rocket barrages on Southern Israel and strategic launches against the Tel Aviv area in central Israel seeking to score another hit near Ben Gurion Airport. An earlier rocket hit in late July on a residence near Ben Gurion Airport brought about an order from the US FAA resulting in temporary suspension of flights to Israel by US and international carriers.

Read more at New English Review

Also see:

War Leaves Hamas Battered as Israel Gives Diplomacy a Chance

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
August 19, 2014

1049The summer war that has raged between Hamas in Gaza and Israel has left the Islamist terrorist organization battered and bruised. Its offensive tunnel capabilities lie in ruins, while its rocket arsenal near depletion.

The war began when Hamas launched heavy rocket salvos at Israeli cities in July, and then rejected multiple Egyptian-media truce offers. Hamas’s decision to go to war proved to be very costly, and it is now attempting to salvage some gains through a round of indirect negotiations with Israel in Cairo.

Israeli intelligence agencies heard chatter in Gaza about an impending conflict several months before it began. The Israel Defense Force’s Southern Command quietly prepared for the clash, and senior army sources say the fruit of these diligent preparations are apparent today.

Despite its bravado, claims of victory, and public rhetoric, and irrespective of its long list of demands, many of which are unrealistic and will not be met – like Hamas’s demand for a seaport in Gaza – Hamas is negotiating from a position of weakness. Its posturing is aimed at domestic consumption, and is also an attempt to convince the Israeli public that the mere fact Hamas survived the war, and continued shooting projectiles, represents a defeat for Israel.

In fact, Israel deliberately refrained from seeking to destroy Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades. The defense establishment believes that it is in Israel’s interest to have a weakened, single address in Gaza, responsible for governing the Strip, and capable of enforcing a truce. Most importantly, any entity ruling Gaza must be responsive to Israeli deterrence.

If Hamas is toppled, the reasoning in the Israeli defense establishment goes, it may be replaced by an assortment of jihadist militias, creating an even more chaotic situation in which deterrence becomes impossible, and where Gaza would resemble Somalia.

The first two stages of the Israeli operation against Hamas – air strikes and a limited ground offensive – test the idea that Hamas can still be deterred. Should Hamas resume hostilities and prove that it is immune to deterrence, despite the wide-scale damage it has brought on itself and to the people of Gaza, the IDF has prepared operational plans for a full-scale ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, aimed at the destruction of Hamas’s military wing.

IDF ground forces continue to be positioned along the Gaza border, and await instructions from the security cabinet after completing preparations for the possibility of renewed fighting.

A damage assessment of Hamas’s military capabilities thus far reveals the true extent of the price it has paid for its aggression against Israeli civilians. During the war, the IDF destroyed nearly 5,000 targets, most of which were planted by Hamas deep inside Gaza civilian areas. The targets included 1,700 rocket launchers and sites used to store the projectiles. Hamas lost around 1,000 command and control centers – most of which were based in the homes of Hamas field commanders. Another 1,000 targets that threatened advancing IDF units on the ground were destroyed. Israel also struck 240 Hamas regime buildings that were used by its military wing in terrorist-guerilla operations, 200 rocket factories, and a myriad of additional targets.

Gaza terror factions began the war with an arsenal of about 9,000 rockets. Today, under a third of that arsenal remains, due to depletion or destruction by Israel Air Force strikes.

Rocket attacks proved highly ineffective in Hamas’s goal of sowing death and destruction in Israeli cities. Nevertheless, daily rocket attacks on millions of Israelis paralyzed ordinary life and spread fear among the public.

It was the performance of the Iron Dome air defense system that prevented mass casualties and large-scale wreckage in Israel. Nine Iron Dome batteries deployed across Israel intercepted 90 percent of all targeted rockets heading towards populated Israeli regions, while the remainder of rockets mostly fell in uninhabited areas.

Some 3,400 rockets were fired into Israel, and Israeli civilians were forced to deal with the psychological terror and daily disruption of air raid sirens, and the need to quickly take cover. In physical terms, however, Hamas’s rocket arsenal was rendered largely useless by Iron Dome. All of the rockets fired by Hamas were produced in Gaza’s flourishing arms industry, which rose up after Egypt blocked smuggling tunnels linking the Strip to the Sinai Peninsula. Previously, those tunnels were used by Iran to export weapons to Hamas.

Israeli villages and agricultural regions bordering the Gaza Strip fared worse than the rest of the country. These areas were exposed to constant mortar shells fired from Gaza and the threat of cross-border tunnels. Residents abandoned much of the area, becoming internally displaced persons during the war.

Hamas’s second disappointment came when its elaborate network of underground attack tunnels it dug from Gaza into Israel were destroyed before they could be used in grand terrorist attacks against Israeli border villages and army bases. Hamas spent tens of millions of dollars building the heavily fortified tunnels, which were supposed to be used to launch indiscriminate killing sprees and kidnap soldiers.

Although a few of the tunnels were used by Hamas cells to launch deadly raids on Israeli army units that protected villages in the south of the country, the majority of the tunnels had been mapped out by military intelligence, and were destroyed during the course of the ground offensive. During this stage of the fighting, Israeli infantry, armored, and combat engineering units reached tunnel shafts, and proceeded to destroy the underground structures using liquid explosive. Hamas’s regional battalions mounted a stiff defense of the tunnels, firing a very large number of RPGs, mortar shells, sniper rounds, and automatic fire from Palestinian civilian areas at the army. Hamas guerillas used an internal Gaza tunnel network to launch hit-and-run attacks. They also booby-trapped large numbers of Palestinian residential buildings.

Nevertheless, the IDF destroyed all of the attack tunnels – 32 it knew about – taking two weeks to complete the mission. It took Hamas five years and a great deal of treasure to build up its underground warfare capability, but this was ruined by the Israeli army in little time.

The tunnels, complete with telephone lines, electricity, and rail cars, were built with cement sent into Gaza for the purpose of civilian construction projects, such as schools and medical clinics.

Sixty four IDF soldiers and officers were killed in the battle to destroy the tunnels, and three Israeli civilians were killed by projectiles. But Hamas, and to a smaller extent, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, lost several hundred terrorists in combat with soldiers. Between 900 and 1,000 terrorists were killed by the army in Gaza clashes, according to Israeli intelligence evaluations. According to Hamas medical sources, nearly 2,000 Gazans were killed in the conflict. That would put the civilian/combatant casualty ratio at roughly 1:1, a rate IDF sources say is one of the lowest in recent wars by a Western military against an asymmetrical foe. By comparison, NATO’s operations in Afghanistan have resulted, according to reports, in a 3:1 civilian/combatant casualty ratio.

Hamas also spent years developing its own drone program, but when it tried to send these into Israel during the war, the IAF detected the threat and shot them down. Additionally, a Hamas naval commando unit attempted to infiltrate the country via a southern Israeli beach, but it too was detected by the military, and its members were swiftly killed.

Israel’s operations in Gaza included, for the first time, a fully integrated joint forces command and control network. This system allowed infantry units, navy missile ships, tanks, fighter jets, artillery units and drones to share real-time intelligence on targets, and to synchronize their firepower. All of these forces were also linked up to military intelligence, allowing for new and critical information on threats in the sectors of units in combat to be transmitted in seconds.

For example, when the army obtained vital information from Hamas detainees on booby- trapped homes in the vicinity of an infantry unit, information was immediately sent to the infantry commanders, enabling them to take evasive action.

The big question now is whether Israel’s military success will convince Hamas to end its belligerent course.

Tuesday afternoon brought reason for doubt. Three medium-range rockets were fired at the Negev city of Beersheba, prompting swift Israeli air strikes on targets in northern Gaza. Israel recalled its negotiators from Cairo in response, and the coming hours will be crucial in charting the course of future developments.

If Hamas chooses to resume attacks on Israel, it is likely that the IDF will be ordered to target the remaining components of Hamas’s terrorist-guerilla army. This time around, the goal will be to defeat Hamas, rather than deter it.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post’s military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.

Did a Hamas Plot to Seize the West Bank Really Cause the Gaza War?

fatah-hamas-450x252Front Page, By Daniel Greenfield:

If some of this information holds up, then the picture of the Gaza War changes significantly.

A large-scale Hamas terrorist formation in the West Bank and Jerusalem planned to destabilize the region through a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel and then topple the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority, the Shin Bet said Monday.

The Turkey-based Hamas overseas headquarters orchestrated the plot which centered on a string of mass casualty terror attacks on Israeli targets, the Shin Bet added.

The end goal was to destabilize the Palestinian territories and use the instability to carry out a military coup, overthrowing the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Hamas infrastructure relied on support from cells in neighboring Jordan, and on couriers who delivered terrorist finances, totaling at least two million shekels, which were used to purchase weapons and homes that were used as hideouts, according to the investigation.

Ninety three Hamas members are in Israeli custody, and the Shin Bet has questioned 46 so far. Security forces plan to indict some 70 suspects. The investigation began in May, and is ongoing, security sources said.

The earliest timeline of the arrests appears to predate the official onset of the fighting. Also the operation was orchestrated from Turkey, much like the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens.

What that may really mean is that Israel was caught in the middle of a power play between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If Turkey’s tyrant Erdogan seemed even more hysterical during the war than usual, it was because he had helped set it off. And if Saudi Arabia seemed a bit suspiciously supportive, that was because it was using Israel in its proxy war with Qatar and Turkey.

Once it was clear that the operation was exposed, Hamas decided to go all in while counting on Turkey and Qatar to bring Obama to the rescue. The results have been mixed, but if Israel ends up making concessions then all the bad guys on both sides will get what they want.

The war as we saw it, was actually a semi-accidental result of a larger Hamas operation going off prematurely as part of an internal civil war within the Muslim world.

The twist in all this is that the Unity Government of Fatah and Hamas was only a prelude to Hamas stabbing Fatah in the back.