Cruel siege on Gaza by neighboring state: Tunnels, flooded with raw sewage, now to be destroyed

The smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt are a security threat and must be destroyed, a Jerusalem Cairo court ruled on Tuesday, responding to a petition brought by a group of activists in the wake of rocket firing and cross border attacks on Israel a cross-border attack, by jihadist elements who infiltrated from Gaza through the tunnelsthat killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

A Palestinian smuggler moves refrigerators through a tunnel from Egypt to the Gaza Strip under the border in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: AP)

A Palestinian smuggler moves refrigerators through a tunnel from Egypt into Gaza under the border in Rafah. (Photo: AP)

The Israeli Egyptian court ruling makes it obligatory that the government destroy the tunnels, according to Reuters.

Israel Egypt cannot tolerate a porous border that will continue to destabilize the Sinai Peninsula, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s national security adviser reportedly said.

Gaza, home to roughly 1.7 million people, has lived with border restrictions since Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory in 2007. Smuggling under the 15-kilometer border has circumvented official crossings and bypassed restrictions for many years.

Restrictions on the influx of goods into the territory has prompted Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle in luxury goods, weapons and cash through the illegal tunnels. Hamas officials are known to collect fees from tunnel operators.

An estimated 30% of goods that reach Gaza come through the tunnels

An Israeli Egyptian lawyer, Wael Hamdy, instigated the case because he was “worried about the state of national security” in his country after terror attacks prompted by lawlessness in the Sinai desert region.

The lawyer also said that, in addition to recent efforts by Jerusalem the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Cairo to close some tunnels Israel Egypt has recently resorted to other draconian and inhumane measures such flooding some of the more than 2000 active tunnels with raw sewage.

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The systematic siege on Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world has been met with  fierce condemnation silence from pro-Palestinian groups, assorted “human rights” organizations and, even more strangely, the Guardian.

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Guardian Gaza page, Feb. 27, 2013

The death of Camp David? On the real world consequences of “Land for Peace”

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

Terrorist in Sinai with RPG

Does “land for peace” work?

Recent developments in the Sinai Peninsula, where the ‘Red Sea Riviera’ has spiraled into anarchy and violence, have put into sharp focus the serious consequences of Israel’s initial decision to embrace retreat as a guiding diplomatic philosophy.

The outbreak of hope that erupted following the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was palpable.

Based on 1978’s Camp David Accords, this first attempt at a comprehensive peace between Israel and one of its neighbors was a valiant attempt to end 30 years of relentless hostility and costly wars.

Did the Israelis truly desire peace?

Well, by withdrawing from Sinai, Israel gave up:

Furthermore, Israel relinquished Taba — a resort built by Israel in what had been a barren desert area near Eilat — to Egypt in 1988. Taba’s status had not been resolved by the Camp David Accords.

In return, what was Egypt’s contribution to peace? A promise to end belligerence and military aggression.

While the Jewish State sacrificed much for the sake of peace, including an opportunity to become energy independent, the Middle East’s most powerful Arab nation reciprocated with a cold, if non-belligerent, shoulder.

While this frigid yet tolerable status quo defined relations between Jerusalem and Cairo for three decades, the 18 months since the Egyptian revolution forced out President Hosni Mubarak – ushering in a Muslim Brotherhood-led government – has transformed the Sinai into a vortex of chaos and violence. And the deteriorating security situation across its southern border has shocked Israel into coherence.

With Egypt firing missiles in the Sinai Peninsula for the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur war, following an upsurge in Islamist attacks in the region, both Israel and Egypt must come to terms with the phantom peace of 1979 and consider seriously revising the terms of the treaty – for the sake of both countries.

It may well be time for Israel and Egypt to revisit the negotiating table with the aim of developing an action plan to confront and quell the Islamist insurgency that has swept over the Sinai Peninsula.

While Sinai’s spiraling out of control is due in part to such “imports” as global jihadist groups infiltrating the peninsula, the local population has also joined in on the festivities. In her latest Guardian report, Harriet Sherwood asserts that the vast desert peninsula is inhabited largely by Bedouin tribes, who for decades have been marginalised, neglected and impoverished.

Choosing a compelling narrative over facts on the ground, Ms Sherwood significantly downplays the Sinai Bedouins’ contribution to the reign of anarchy that has taken hold of the peninsula.

In truth, the Bedouins of the Sinai have rather cashed in on the lawless state of affairs. Tribesmen have been smuggling in Eritrean and Sudanese fortune seekers who are, along with drugs and weapons, smuggled into Israel.

And post-peace Sinai has inflicted a body blow to Israel’s security in another way. For it is through the peninsula that most of the weapons Hamas has succeeded in stockpiling in Gaza were smuggled in through the tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Sinai.

What a difference a peace makes, no? Israel’s original capitulation spawned many others. The pullout from Sinai set the stage for later expulsions and launched a three-decade long period rife with Israeli retreat.

And have all these retreats – Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, and Gush Katif- brought Israel one moment of peace? The grandchild of the 1978 Camp David Accords, the Oslo process, brought only a dramatic escalation in violence and bloodshed.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Israel must take a cold, hard look at the failed promises, dashed hopes and lives lost as the direct result of the strange calculus known as ‘land-for-peace’. Going forward, a new diplomatic paradigm, based on mutual respect, trade, tourism, investment and collaborative efforts in the fields of technology and medicine should be developed. In other words, scrap land-for-peace and replace it with peace-for-peace.

Until then, Israel and its neighbors are destined to wallow in a state of low-level bellicosity, with occasional flare ups as we’ve seen over the last several days in the Sinai Peninsula.

Harriet Sherwood’s tale of Bedouin terror, and the burden of bad ideas

“… the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never-ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.” – Albert Camus, The Plague

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report, ‘Sinai: a descent towards chaos’, represents a classic example of the political orientation which refuses to hold individuals responsible for the violence and terror they willfully commit.

Her tale, about increasing lawlessness and terror in the (post-Mubarak era) Sinai by, among other groups, Bedouin factions adhering to Salafi jihadist doctrines, falls squarely within her broader narrative about the “oppressed” Israeli Bedouin.  (See our posts on her reports here and here.)

Sherwood begins, thus:

“The Sinai has long been an area beyond the writ of Cairo. The vast desert peninsula is inhabited largely by Bedouin tribes, who for decades have been marginalised, neglected and impoverished.”

Sherwood later notes the following:

“Israel has urged the Egyptian government to take firm action against Bedouin militants and smugglers, and has enlisted the support of the US in its efforts. During a visit to Cairo last month, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, warned that Sinai could become an “operational base” for jihadists if security was not stepped up.”

Indeed, the Sinai Bedouin, who now number over 300,000, have been, since Mubarak’s fall, transforming the area into a semi-autonomous region with their own illegal economic enterprises.

The Bedouin have, for instance, guided massive numbers of African immigrants into Israel, mainly Sudanese and Eritrean Muslims, often subjecting the helpless migrants to torture and rape.

During the past two years, some Bedouins have also expanded this venture into harvesting human organs of some migrants to be sold abroad.

Later, Sherwood writes:

The region has suffered from chronic under-investment in education, health and transport. Its inhabitants are among the poorest in Egypt

In the south, massive investment since the 1990s in upscale resorts in the former Bedouin fishing village of Sharm el-Sheikh, and a programme to create a “Red Sea Riviera” along the coast, has further alienated the Bedouin. They are routinely excluded from employment in swanky resorts, and consequent resentment may have contributed to a spate of tourist kidnappings and armed robberies in the past year. [emphasis added]

However, whatever the economic disparities which Bedouin in the Sinai may indeed face, assigning their moral drift – towards fundamentalist Islamist ideology, terrorism, human trafficking, torture and organ harvesting – to social inequalities simply strains credulity.

Indeed, nearly half of the world’s population live in poverty (earning less than $2.50 per day), and the overwhelming majority of the poorest countries face little or no serious terrorist threats.  Indeed, the often assumed connection between poverty and terrorism has been repeatedly debunked, especially in studies conducted since the attacks on 9/11.

We all, to be sure, possess our share of bad ideas. Most of the time, we discard them before acting on them, but when we do act on a bad idea (one based on specious logic or a faulty assumption), we usually realize quickly that it was erroneous and cease the behavior.

But sometimes, faulty, dangerous ideas weave their way into collective thought (and action) through the media, or the pronouncements of policy makers and other opinion leaders. When that happens, the injurious consequences are often not felt by those who conceived or implemented the bad ideas, but by others.

Those who suffer the burden of the assumed causation between inequality and terrorism are, in addition to those victimized by terrorist acts, societies which are morally neutered by the inversion of perpetrators from moral actors with little or no human empathy into the (immutably) oppressed and downtrodden.

Societies which seek to fiercely fight terrorism in all of its manifestations require confidence in the inherent righteousness of the cause, a belief which can be severely eroded by a culture of victimhood which posits systemic root causes for individual and group pathos – typically in the form of broad abstractions such as “alienation” or “economic injustice”.

Harriet Sherwood’s report is ostensibly about “lawlessness” in the Sinai, and the radicalization of the region’s Bedouin, but it represents much more: Western guilt which insists that we all equally share responsibility for all manner of destructive behavior.

The dangerous corollary of suggesting that we’re all, in some manner, responsible for cruel, malevolent acts, is that, in effect, none of us are.  

The pseudo-intellectualism of the Guardian which robs Israeli terror victims of their humanity

As usual, we have no idea who wrote the Guardian editorial of August 19th on the subject of the Sinai Peninsula and the still ongoing regional violence, but judging from the editorial’s content, it seems that not only is it doubtful that the writer would be capable of finding Dahab or Nuweiba on a map, but that he or she is intent upon tailoring situations and events in order to make them conform to the Guardian World View.

Consider the would-be axioms set out in the following paragraph:

“There were under-the-table arrangements between Israel and states with which it had correct but cool relations, like Egypt and Jordan, and even with those with which it had extremely bad relations, like Syria. But this system, always prone to breakdown, was obviously threatened by the events of the Arab spring. In particular, a distracted interim government in Egypt was not going to keep the lid on the Sinai and Gaza in the old way, while a government fighting for its life in Syria might conceivably lurch into actions it would have avoided in more stable times.”

The writer avoids mentioning numerous important facts, one being that the peace treaties signed between Israel and Egypt, and later Israel and Jordan, make very clear stipulations regarding border controls and internationally enforced security protocols: hardly “under-the-table arrangements”.

Secondly, “extremely bad relations” is a rather euphemistic description for two countries such as Israel and Syria still in a state of war, their mutual border being subject to the conditions of a UN monitored cease-fire. In other words, the writer has already attempted to take all the signed and binding agreements out of the equation, presumably in order to prepare the reader for his or her next step: the assertion that something is new about the situation in Sinai and that it can be explained away as a mere unfortunate glitch on the part of a “distracted interim government in Egypt”.

That, of course, is far from being the case. Even Mubarak’s Egypt had little control over Sinai, except for the relatively small area of the coastal tourist resorts.  For many years now the Egyptian authorities have confronted growing Islamist radicalisation among Bedouin and Palestinian residents of Sinai and have experienced numerous terror attacks – often targeting the vital tourism industry – on their own soil.

Whilst the situation may well have become even more volatile since Mubarak’s exit from the stage in January of this year, the explanation for that cannot be attributed to mere ‘distraction’ (particularly in light of the fact that less than a month ago the interim Egyptian government had no problem organising itself to deal with an attack on the police station in El Arish) and this editorial’s attempt to downplay the less attractive side effects of the ‘Arab Spring’ it has spent the last eight months lauding shows a disturbing unwillingness to face up to the ever more obvious facts.

The rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist factions in Egyptian society, the public calls for annulment of the peace treaty with Israel and even for war, the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic motifs seen on the streets of Egyptian cities and towns as part and parcel of the ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrations and the disturbing fact that the current Cairo regime is often untowardly influenced in its actions by the calls coming from the street have all been studiously ignored by Guardian columnists trapped in their own stereotypical concepts. 

In this editorial we therefore see an effort to explain away events and downplay the ever-growing Islamist influence, which was no doubt exacerbated by the escape or release of Salafists and other Hamas, Hizbollah and Al Qaida associated extremists from Egyptian prisons during the upheaval of the revolution.  

That the writer of the editorial is able to state that “[s]uggestions have been made that Iranian intelligence and Islamist groups like al-Qaida are probing the area” would be amusing if it did not reveal such a deplorable ignorance of the situation which has existed for some already considerable time. Equally ridiculous are the attempts to analyze the Sinai Bedouin in blatantly Western terms. Smuggling is but one Bedouin occupation – entirely respectable in that society – which will continue as it has done for centuries, regardless of whether or not there happens to be an embargo on Gaza or discontent with Egyptian law.

However, this editorial also has other aims besides defending the reputation of the ‘Arab Spring’ in which the Guardian is so heavily invested. The sterile description of last Thursday’s attacks in almost flippant terms indicates an effort to downplay both the scale and the gravity of the attacks. The terrorists (or in Guardian parlance, “gunmen”) did not merely “shoot up Israeli vehicles” as the writer claims: they used anti-tank weaponry, among other things, to indiscriminately murder Israeli civilians including two small children and two sisters – both kindergarten teachers – on their way to a holiday with their husbands.  The Guardian’s refusal to acknowledge the human aspect of this multiple terror attack; its careful avoidance of any phrase, sentence or information which might make those Israelis  murdered in cold blood come across as ordinary human beings deserving of the reader’s sympathy, is of course hardly novel, but it does serve a wider political purpose.

That dehumanization of Israelis, by which the victims of the attack become “vehicles” rather than real flesh and blood human beings, assists the writer when he or she goes on to opine that “the immediate problem is to prevent tit-for-tat exchanges between the Israelis and Gaza militants escalating into something worse”.  The use of the phrase “tit-for-tat exchanges” is interesting. Not only does it imply triviality, but also equivalence. In other words, the Guardian sees a moral parallel between the unprovoked and pre-planned attacks upon Israeli civilians either travelling on major transport routes or sitting in their own houses in Ofakim or Be’er Sheva and  the right (and indeed obligation) of a sovereign nation to defend its citizens as best it can. It equates the elimination of the Al Qaida influenced ‘Popular Resistance Committee’ terrorist militia leaders and operatives with random attacks upon non-military targets: attacks which are deliberately designed to murder as many innocent men, women and children as possible in acts of pure indiscriminate terror.

Yet again, one million Israelis (the equivalent of ten million Britons) in the south of the country will spend tonight sleeping – or trying to – in air raid shelters and safe rooms as rockets, missiles and mortars continue to be fired by a plethora of terrorist groups from Gaza. The fact that the Guardian’s editors continue to downplay terror attacks on Israelis, refusing to call the governing body in Gaza to account and whitewashing the Islamist elephant in Gaza, Sinai and the rest of Egypt with ridiculous fictional versions of facts and events in the process, indicates one very simple thing.

 The famous Guardian World View deprives its holders of the ability to recognize the humanity of an entire nation whilst at the same time making them blind as a lovesick youth when it comes to so-called analysis of their radical chic terror heroes and ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrators.  

Such attitudes may be tediously predictable in a students’ union rag written by immature youth, but they are far from appropriate for a news organization which purports to provide its readers with serious, informed, factual and objective analysis. 

Round-up and analysis of terrorist attacks near Eilat

This is cross posted by Marc Goldberg at Marc’s Words

Now that the dust has begun to settle more facts about this attack have come to light. So far there are 9 dead Israelis and 30 wounded.

A total of 7 of the perpetrators were killed by security services, 5 of them by Israelis and 2 by Egyptians.

What has also become clear is that Israel actually got off lightly considering the number of terrorists involved (claimed to be 15-20). Their objective may have been to kidnap a soldier or civilian and spirit him/her back to Gaza.

Israel had received intelligence that a major attack was about to be launched by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a group affiliated to, but not a part of Hamas. Acting on this intelligence Special Forces units Yahsar Golani and the police’s SWAT team YAMAM were already in the area, accounting for their speedy response. Fighters from the YAMAM actually crossed into Egypt briefly after being attacked from the Egyptian side of the border. They killed 2 terrorists and quickly returned.

There is a timeline of the attacks here.

The attacks began with a terrorist squad opening fire on a bus injuring 10 people. They then opened fire on a car killing four people, one of the squad opened fire on an empty bus and detonated his suicide belt killing both himself and the driver. Then a squad from the Golani infantry Brigade arrived on the scene killing one of the two remaining terrorists only to be hit by gunfire from the lone remaining terrorist who then fled the scene.

At 13:30 local time 2 more gunmen opened fire on Israeli forces in the same area as the first attack. They are reported to have been firing from the Egyptian side of the border and were killed by fire from the assembled Israeli security services. Egyptian security forces are reported to have killed another two terrorists in the area.

At 19:00 local time there is more shooting from the Egyptian border with one fighter from the YAMAM reportedly seriously wounded and transported to hospital.

Today’s terror attacks in Israel show a worrying level of proficiency on the part of the perpetrators.

Not only did they carry out their initial attack successfully but, as this report of events shows, had correctly assessed Israeli counter measures and eliminated them also. Though in all probability the quicker than usual response of beefed up Israeli combat units thwarted the attackers in achieving their goal of a more prolonged operation and a kidnapping.

According to Y-net:

“Later a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt, and another terrorist opened fire at IDF forces that arrived on the scene. According to [GOC Southern Command Major-General] Russo, two operatives were shot and killed over the border fence, and it appears that Egyptian forces killed two others on their territory.”

So first the attack and then an ambush of responding IDF forces. There are a number of details the terrorists would need to have in order to plan such an operation. First the bus times and route, the IDF response to an attack, including where the nearest military base was and the likely size of the force that would be sent to investigate. They also would have needed to know the border patrol operations on both sides of the fence in order to overcome them to get the force consisting of a suicide bomber(s) as well as at least one other person to set up the explosives that were later found and diffused by the IDF.

The second attack, which rescue services said was on a passenger car, happened close to the site of the earlier ambush.” 

This kind of attack hasn’t been seen in Israel for a long time, it serves as a reminder to the 1950’s before UN peacekeepers were sitting on the border. It can’t help but be viewed in context of the changed reality along the Egyptian Gaza border now that the new regime has made it easier for Palestinians to cross over into Sinai from Gaza.

There are ways that this could go from bad to worse and really it depends on the Egyptian response. Should the Sinai descend into a terrorist playground there will be more attacks and a high likelihood that at some point the IDF will cross into sovereign Egyptian territory to intervene. In a more substantial way than happened during the attack yesterday.

The Israeli response was swift and effective, a base used by the PRC was bombed killing (according to Ha’aretz):

“several high-ranking members including: Kamel Nirab, the head of the PRC; Imad Hamed, the person responsible for its military activity in Gaza; Khaled Shaath, a leading member of the PRC’s military wing who was involved in rocket attacks on Israel; and Khaled Masri, who was involved in kidnapping soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. The Shin Bet security service suspects that Hamed is the one who planned yesterday’s attack near Eilat.”

The Egyptians have poured large numbers of forces into the Sinai in an effort to wrest control of the area away from various militant groups. The number of forces is unclear at the moment though it is thought to be over 1,000 soldiers and includes armoured vehicles.

The additional forces were sent in there before the attack yet clearly have not, as yet, been able to pacify the area completely. The number of Egyptian military units currently in the area is actually higher than that agreed upon in the Camp David peace talks of 1978 though Israel has consented to the higher numbers of Egyptian security personnel in the area.

Emergency crews treating the injured