Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups Jihad Islami and Hamas are conducting a heated war of words over the Gaza Strip. But both keep mum on the real situation on the ground.
In the two weeks since the IDF blew up a Jihad Islami tunnel running up to the Israeli village of Kissufim, killing a dozen Jihad operatives, significant security-related events have taken place. Neither side is shouting information about these events from the rooftops, so as not to force the Iranian-backed Jihad’s hand into a response.
A fire at a pipeline run jointly by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has been called a terrorist attack sponsored by Iran by the Bahrainian interior minister. In response, Saudi Arabia immediately increased security at its own oil facilities. The pipeline attack follows a missile attack on the Riyadh International Airport that was foiled by Saudi defenses.
The plan to step up security was reported by Al-Arabiya television Saturday, citing the Saudi energy ministry. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said recent terrorist activities in Bahrain were directed by Iran, and security forces determined that the fire was intentional. The pipeline later in the day resumed pumping oil after a brief halt, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported, citing a statement by Bahrain Petroleum Co.
The "attempt to bomb the Saudi-Bahraini oil pipeline is a dangerous Iranian escalation that aims to scare citizens and hurt the global oil industry," Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Khalifa said on Twitter. Iran responded by saying the Bahrainis “need to know that the era for lies and childish finger-pointing is over," official Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Sunday, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi.
Tensions have been rising in the region after Saudi Arabia blamed Shiite-ruled Iran for an attempted missile attack on Riyadh’s international airport last week, saying it could be considered an act of war. Saudi Arabia said the thwarted missile launched by Yemeni rebels had Iranian markings, a charge Iran has denied.
The missile attack, the attack on the pipeline, and the forced resignation of Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri are only the latest in a series of events that have caused tensions to skyrocket in the region and make war between Saudi Arabia and Iran more likely.
By forcing Hariri to resign, the Saudis may be deliberately trying to start a civil war in Lebanon. The ostensible reason for pulling support from Hariri was that he wasn't tough enough with Hezb'allah. Hariri tried to argue - in vain - that his position in Lebanon was extremely delicate and that trying to stand up to Hezb'allah would destabilize the country. That the Saudis ignored this warning was not lost on Lebanese factions. Sunni, Shiite, and Christians in Lebanon are preparing for the unthinkable - a repeat of the civil war that devastated the country for 20 years.
At this point, it wouldn't take much to ignite a shooting war between the Saudis and Iran. The Kingdom has already warned Iran that missiles from Yemen will be considered an attack by Iran and a push by Hezb'allah to engineer a complete takeover of Lebanon might also be seen as an act of war.
Can the two sides pull back from the brink? Not with the stakes as high as they are and the belief by both sides that their enemy represents and existential threat to their existence.
According to reports, the deal includes Iranian proxies fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, which would be required to leave the border area and eventually Syria.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told The Associated Press the agreement is a positive development. But he stressed that Israel is not a party to the agreement and will defend its interests.
While the agreement seeks to remove Iranian-backed militias from near the border, a key Israeli demand, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said it did not go far enough.
The pact “does not meet Israel’s unequivocal demand that there will not be developments that bring the forces of Hezbollah or Iran to the Israel-Syria border in the north,” Hanegbi told reporters Sunday, according to a Reuters report.
“There’s reflection here of the understanding that Israel has set red lines, and will stand firm on this,” Hanegbi said.
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the deal, he and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have long said Israel will not tolerate an Iranian presence along the Golan nor allow Iran to entrench itself military in Syria.
Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas's political bureau who is one of the most senior members of the organization, said on Sunday that the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 are long dead and that all existing arrangements have nothing to do with those accords.
In an interview with the Arab21 website, Abu Marzouk rejected the claims against Hamas that under the reconciliation initiative with Fatah, the movement relinquished its basic principles.
"The claim that we agreed to a Palestinian state as a step towards national consensus, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the (West Bank) and the (Gaza) Strip with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, the return of the Palestinian refugees and the removal of the settlements from the West Bank – we agreed to all these things as a gradual program with a national consensus," he said.
Abu Marzouk rejected the demand of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas that the armed militias in Gaza disarm, saying, "The resistance is the right of the Palestinian people and the right of all the resistance organizations, and on this basis we say that the weapon of the resistance will not be included in the issues (in the framework of the reconciliation talks with Fatah)."
Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, previously declared that the weapons held by the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's “military wing”, will continue to serve as the spearhead in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.