Monday, August 2, 2010

Violence increases in the Middle East

It looks like things are beginning to heat up in the Middle East as we now have another day of violence erupting:

"Gaza: Blast in Hamas house wounds 24 Palestinians"

An explosion in the house of a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip has wounded 24 people, a Hamas official and medical workers in the Palestinian territory said on Monday.

Hamas blamed Israel for the explosion, which it said targeted field commander Alaa al-Danaf. The Israeli military, through an army spokeswoman, denied any involvement.

Medical workers said the blast had wounded 24 people inside and outside al-Danaf's house. It was unclear if he was killed in the blast, which occurred at a time of renewed cross-border violence between militants and the Israeli army.

The Jerusalem Post also has the story:

"Explosion in Gaza Strip wounds 24"

There was another rocket attack as well. This one is atypical and interesting because it hit the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba, Jordan - and there were actually five such rocket attacks. The rockets appear to be Iranian, and most likely launched by "Islamic Jihad", but the reasons are unclear:

"Jordanian man dies of wounds from southern rocket attack"

A Jordanian taxi driver who was one of five injured in a rocket strike at the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba, Jordan, died of his wounds Monday. The rocket was one of five which struck the area, including a second rocket in Jordan, one near Eilat, and two in the Red Sea.

The rockets were almost definitely fired from the Sinai Peninsula, according to sources in the defense establishment quoted by Israel Radio. The rockets were suspected to have been launched from the Sinai Peninsula by Islamic Jihad, however Egyptian officials denied the assessment.

Eilat Police sappers said that the Grad-type Katyushas were Iranian-made, with a range of some 20 kilometers. The rockets reportedly weighed 6 kilograms each.

According to an IDF statement, soldiers were scouring the area to determine the source of the attacks, which was unclear. The IDF was in contact with the Jordanian and Egyptian armies regarding the incident.

In addition to the above, because "direct peace talks" are on the horizon, more violence may ensue, as the terrorist groups do not want to see any peace talks (they only want Israel destroyed):

"Hamas violent message"

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received the Arab League’s blessing to resume direct negotiations with Israel. On Friday, Hamas launched an Iranian Grad rocket from Gaza that struck southern Ashkelon, causing shell shock to several residents and damage to a building and cars. On Saturday, Hamas lobbed an upgraded Kassam rocket at Sderot, destroying a children’s hydrotherapy rehabilitation center at Sapir College.

Mortars were also fired.

The attacks are evidently Hamas’s reaction to new hopes, no matter how slim, for peace and stability between Palestinians and Israelis. Thankfully, there were no casualties.

Due to the unconventional nature of warfare in Gaza, where Hamas operatives regularly dress in civilian clothing and use non-combatants as humans shields, innocent bystanders might well have been killed unintentionally. And Abbas, already reluctant to enter direct talks, would have found an easy way out of negotiations with Israel.

with Hamas running the show in Gaza, the chances of success in any peace endeavor may well be slimmer than they used to be. This has been the situation since June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s PA in a violent coup.

Now we get to the future - and what we may have just on the horizon:

Apparently, Hamas, with adamant Iranian backing, now feels it is ready for another round of confrontation with Israel. Despite the destruction wreaked on the Hamas’s rocket production facilities during Cast Lead, and despite the blockade – which has been relaxed under international pressure in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident – Hamas has managed to manufacture rockets as well as smuggle in thousands more through underground tunnels.

IT IS blatantly clear that the Hamas leadership and its Iranian patron do not want stability. They do not want the PA and Israel to revive hopes among Palestinians that a readiness for reconciliation and a renewed commitment to negotiations might pay off. Rather, they are advancing the position that the only path to Palestinian self-determination is through armed struggle.

And there is more on Eilat:

"Eilat Under Two-Pronged Attack"

The southern port city of Eilat, once thought to be practically extra-territorial in terms of security and demographic dangers, now finds itself under a two-pronged attack from foreign infiltrators and terrorist rockets.

This morning's rockets are believed to have been fired from the Sinai, though Egypt has denied this. It has been learned that of the four people wounded in Aqaba, one has died. No one was hurt by the rockets that landed in Israel.

And once again, we see Syria referencing imminent war in the region:

"War risk 'on rise'"

Syria's president warned yesterday that the prospects for war in the region were on the rise as chances for peace dwindled amid increased tensions.

Bashar Assad's comments come after Israel accused Syria of smuggling Scuds and other missiles to Lebanon's Hizbollah group. Syria has denied the charge.

"Chances to achieve real peace are dwindling and war prospects are mounting," he said in comments marking Army Day, carried by state-run news agency SANA.

He said his country is still willing to achieve "a just peace and consolidate security and stability the region," adding this will only be realised after Israel fully pulls out from the Golan Heights it captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

He stressed that "anyone who thinks that Syria might negotiate over its occupied land will be deluding himself."

The Golan Heights have been the central point of disagreement between both countries for years and Assad said: "The liberation of the Golan is a deeply ingrained right. Peace requires restoring all the occupied soil until the line of June 4, 1967."

Things in the region are most definitely heating up. Hamas (as led by Iran) simply will not allow direct peace talks. Their plan seems to be the same as it always is - to launch rockets into civilian areas and hope for warfare to divert any peace plans. This has been highly successful in the past. However, the threat of significant escalation always looms, and the current situation is more volatile than we have ever seen in the past. We'll see where this episode leads - and whenever we see escalating violence in the region, it is always time to ponder if this will be the episode which ignites the region into full scale war.

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