Hamas Fires Rockets After IDF Raids in Gaza
Israeli operations in both Gaza and the West Bank have increased as the number of attacks against Israel have increased as well. Two Gaza raids are distinctly notable for their significance. In southern Gaza Strip along the Egyptian border, IDF ground forces supported by airpower conducted a pre-dawn raid in an area known to be home to the Gaza-side of numerous cross-border tunnels into Egypt. The tunnels are believed to be primarily used for arms smuggling. After one of the houses was cleared of its inhabitants, the residents, now outside the home, apparently opened fire on the Israeli troops. Supporting gunships responded by firing into the crowd, protecting the IDF soldiers in and around the house. Six Palestinians were reported killed, all from the same family, including a fourteen year old. Four of the six were confirmed members of Hamas. Hamas responded by firing Qassam rockets into Israel from the northern Gaza coast. No damage was reported in Israel from those reprisals.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out an airstrike Wednesday that destroyed a weapons storage facility in Gaza City that had been closely monitored by Israeli intelligence. Symbolic of the divide between Hamas and Israel, the weapons depot was also the home of elected Hamas Minister of Parliament Mariam Farhat. Farhat is better known in Gaza as Umm Nidal (mother of Nidal). Farhat is highly regarded in Gaza for having three ‘martyred’ sons. She has appeared in a video helping one of her sons, Muhammad Farhat, embark on his mission in which he carried out an attack that killed five Israeli civilians before being shot and killed by Israeli forces in March 2002.
In the West Bank, 19 suspected terrorists were arrested by IDF troops overnight from Ramallah to Jenin. Attacks against Israeli civilians – particularly Molotov cocktail attacks on drivers – have become frequent recently, in large part prompting increased sweeps in the West Bank. Additionally, Arutz Sheva reports that two more shoulder-fired anti-tank rockets were used in Gaza attacks on the IDF, resulting in a damaged armored personnel carrier but no injuries.
While the conflict continues, Syria rejected an Israeli invitation to President Assad to visit Jerusalem for talks. In a Syrian newspaper, the ruling Ba’ath Party wrote that former Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ offer was “proof of the Israeli government’s weakness and failure to face recent changes stemming from the victory of the Lebanese resistance.”
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be meeting with the leaders of Israel’s various security services to discuss the potential Iranian threat and its nuclear development efforts in particular. This after the P-5+1 group (US, Russia, China, France, and Britain + Germany) failed once again to come to any form of consensus regarding sanctions on Iran for ignoring the UNSC’s demands that it halt its enrichment activities. The group has sent the Iran dossier back to the UN Security Council which is headed up by five of the six in the P5+1 Group. Believing that such delays are working in Iran’s favor, Israel’s concern is that similar indecision will be found at the UNSC.