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Day Two of the New War in Israel

Here’s a quick update, some more detail about the events of yesterday, and an insta-analysis.

New violence since yesterday’s carnage: Palestinians in Gaza shot ten Grad and Qassam rockets into Israel this morning, aiming at Ashkelon, Beersheva, Ashdod, and Kiryat Gat. One hit a building in an industrial area in Ashkelon, injuring six, one seriously. Another landed in the courtyard of a yeshiva in Ashdod, leaving two in serious condition and eight lightly injured.

According to the Jerusalem Post, responsibility for this morning’s attack has been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which the paper identifies as an “extremist Islamic group.” Yesterday’s extremely well-coordinated series of attacks is believed to have been planned and executed by a group called the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an Islamist gang that has set up residence in Gaza (probably much to Hamas’s displeasure, not that they’ll admit it) and which is theorized in some quarters to be an Al Qaeda offshoot. One of their senior figures was killed in the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last night.

Also last night, three Qassams were shot from Gaza into Israeli communities in the Western Negev; no injuries were reported.  Israeli residents of the area have been advised to stay close to bomb shelters.

The IDF believes that 15 to 20 terrorists took part in yesterday’s attack. Five were killed in battle with Israeli soldiers or by self-detonation and another two (so Egypt claims) by Egyptian soldiers, so most of them got away.

According to Haaretz, the terrorists entered the Sinai from Gaza through the smuggling tunnels, then drove about 200 kilometers south to reach a spot on the border with Israel “protected only by a tattered wire fence, about 15 kilometers north of Eilat”. The IDF had received intelligence, I believe from Jordan, that an attack was imminent, but was under the impression that the enemy’s object was to kidnap a soldier. I’m reading reports that the IDF had beefed up its forces to prevent this, but the terrorists don’t seem to have had any trouble infiltrating Israel.

After crossing into Israel at around noon (this appears to have been another surprise for the IDF, which thought a dead-of-night infiltration more likely), the terrorists took up positions at 200 meter intervals along Route 12, the road to Eilat, and waited. About a half-hour later, Egged Bus 392 drove by. They opened fire, injuring seven passengers (mostly soldiers).

Another bus, this one empty, and a few cars then approached on Route 12. The terrorists opened fire again, killing four occupants of one car — two sisters and their husbands who were on their way from Kfar Saba (the next town over from where I live) to Eilat for a holiday — and the driver of another. The empty bus stopped. A terrorist ran up to it and detonated himself, killing himself and the driver.

At this point, two Israeli army vehicles showed up. One chased a terrorist and ran him down, killing him. Soldiers in the second vehicle engaged another terrorist, and in the ensuing gun battle, Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali of Ofra was killed. He was buried this morning.

Police, more army and IAF helicopters arrived at this point. Israeli soldiers killed the terrorist who had killed Naftali. One terrorist attempted to down an Israeli assault helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, but missed.

Haaretz reports that “two terrorists [waiting] in Sinai were killed after policemen from Yamam, the special anti-terror unit, pursued them a short distance into Egyptian territory.” Other terrorists, meanwhile, were firing mortars at a civilian work crew that was working on the border fence. (No one was injured.)

IDF sappers then found and dismantled bombs that had been planted along the side of the road.

At 6:45 pm, terrorists opened fire yet again, this time at a Yamam force patrolling the border. One policeman was killed – his funeral is taking place as I write this — and another was wounded.

Insta-analysis:

  1. These events confirm everyone’s worst fears about the Egyptian revolution. Sinai is apparently a free-for-all now. Note that one of yesterday’s gang didn’t bother to infiltrate Israel; he blew himself up next to a group of Egyptian soldiers on the Egyptian side of the border. This ever-more-confident, blood-hungry freakshow represents as much of a problem for normal, sane Egyptians as it does for us, but the Egyptian army is either unable or unwilling to take them on in a serious way.
  2. The roadside bomb ambush that was set up to kill the Israeli soldiers who arrived on the scene suggests a level of sophistication that might mean Al Qaeda is directly involved. Al Qaeda is known to be in Gaza now. They are not taking direct credit for yesterday’s events, but are being liberal in their praise, and are instructing us to expect more violence.
  3. As Barry Rubin notes, not only Hamas but Fatah too is openly pleased with the turn of events. He offers these quotes from a Fatah website: ““Our Lord is with the heroes”; “[I] call for resistance in Gaza with rocket fire and suicide bombings and the Glory of God and His Messenger”; “Tribute to the Heroes of each attack no matter what their affiliation”; “God is great and victory is coming.” I suggest we tack this response up next to the reconciliation with Hamas and the unilateral end-run around Israel regarding Palestinian statehood and face the blitheringly obvious reality that Fatah has set fire to the Oslo Accords, stomped on their ashes, and tossed them into a pit of lime. Stop shoving us at Abbas et al. and pretending they want anything less than the death of Israel. For us to be subjected to pressure on this score, let alone guilt tactics, is obscene. Oslo is dead. Enough already.
  4. I understand Israel is thinking of building a wall on the Israel-Sinai border. Swell. I look forward to someone reassuring me that that is not our idea of an ultimate solution. We can’t ghettoize ourselves out of the mess we’re in in this neighborhood. You’ll surely ask me what I’d suggest as an alternative, but some of my ideas can’t be expressed in so decorous a forum and others are simply not workable on a practical level. As Israel is not permitted to respond the way any other country on earth would when its territory is invaded by terrorists and its citizens and soldiers murdered, our options might be limited to the point of suicidal.