TERROR AND ROCKET REPORT
On Mar. 15, a 16-year-old Palestinian female attempted to ram a crowd waiting at a bus stop at the Gush Etzion Junction on the West Bank. On Mar. 13, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded two Israeli police officers, one of whom then shot him dead. On Mar. 6, a Palestinian terrorist in Ramallah was shot dead when he fired on Israeli security forces attempting to arrest him. Meanwhile there were, once more, numerous shooting, stabbing and rock-throwing attacks.
Between Feb. 28 and Mar. 16, three rockets fired from Gaza landed in open space in Israel. In response across that period, Israeli air force and tanks hit a total of nine Hamas targets. In early March, Palestinians placed four IEDs on the Gaza border.
Meanwhile, Nadav Argaman, chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, told a Knesset committee on Mar. 20, that in 2016, his organisation alone had thwarted 16 suicide bombings, 16 attempted kidnappings, 184 shootings and 84 other attacks, mainly stabbings and vehicle rammings. He added that the current relative calm is misleading because “Hamas and global jihadi infrastructure are working every day in attempting to conduct terrorist attacks in Israeli territory.”
ISRAEL CONFIRMS AIR STRIKES IN SYRIA
Israel has confirmed that it carried out multiple air strikes in Syria on Friday Mar. 17, targeting weapons bound for Hezbollah, according to government officials. Israel rarely comments on allegations of incursions in Syria, but acknowledged the airstrikes after Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards IAF planes – with one missile entering Israeli air-space before being destroyed by Israel’s Arrow air defence system. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “when we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah… we act to prevent it.”
Additional reported Israeli strikes in Syria occurred on Mar. 22.
HEZBOLLAH-LEBANESE ARMY COOPERATION
In mid-February, in advance of a trip to Cairo, Lebanese President Michel Aoun told Egyptian media outlets that, because the Lebanese army is “not strong enough to fight Israel”, Hezbollah is “necessary.” He added, “Hezbollah is a significant factor in protecting Lebanon.” Although a Christian, as Lebanese presidents must be under the country’s constitution, Aoun is a close ally of the Shi’ite terror group. His declaration for the first time gives Hezbollah the legal authority to operate as a legitimate military force. This could result in increased transfers of weapons from the Lebanese Army to Hezbollah, including those supplied by the US. Even before Aoun’s comments, Israel had reportedly noticed increased cooperation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah in the border area.
IRAN MANUFACTURING WEAPONS IN LEBANON
On Mar. 13, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported that an unnamed deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) had revealed to it that Iran has built three factories in Lebanon, 50 metres underground, for the manufacture of rockets and other weapons. Their staff are said to include advisers from the IRGC and Lebanese experts trained in Iran. The factories, which have reportedly been operating for three months, are said to be under the total control of Hezbollah, which has already used rockets produced there in Syria. The decision to build the factories was prompted by Israel’s bombing of arms shipments from, and weapons manufacturers in, Syria, it was claimed.
IRANIAN NETWORKS IN NIGERIA
The Nigerian Government this month declared the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) a security threat. The Nigerian network is similar to other welfare systems established by Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups. It boasts more than 300 schools, Islamic centres, a newspaper, guards and a “martyrs’ foundation”, and is said to be encouraging significant numbers of Nigerians to convert to Shi’ism.
In a statement carried by the Premium Times newspaper, the Nigerian Foreign Ministry compared the group with the Boko Haram insurgency.
Nigeria had few Shi’ites upon its independence in 1960. Currently, its population of 190 million splits roughly in half between Christians and Muslims, and estimates place the Shi’ite population at between 5 and 20 million.
IRAN HARASSES SHIPS AND TESTS MISSILES
A US Navy surveillance ship, the USNS Invincible, had a close encounter with an Iranian navy frigate in the Strait of Hormuz after Iran sent fast-attack vessels towards it. The boats approached to within 600 yards of the Invincible and then stopped. The Invincible was accompanied by three ships from the British Royal Navy and all four ships were forced to change course.
The Invincible has been monitoring Iranian theatre ballistic missile tests since 2012.
Meanwhile, on March 4, Iran’s official media reported that Iran had carried out a successful test of the sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft system which it had purchased from Russia, much to the consternation of Israel.
SAUDI FINANCING OF INTIFADA
Former Palestinian Foreign Minister and negotiator, Nabil Shaath has claimed the second intifada from 2000 to 2003 was financed by the Saudi royal family to the tune of US$1 billion dollars. Shaath made the astonishing admission during a televised interview on February 7th. Shaath claims that in October 2000, just after the violence had begun, then-Crown Prince Abdullah summoned him to his palace in Saudi Arabia and asked him how much the Palestinians required to maintain their violence against Israel. Shaath claims he asked for US$1 billion dollars, which was agreed to by Abdullah, and money that was transferred, allowing the “resistance” to continue for the three years of the Intifada.
ISIS CALLS FOR ATTACKS ON JEWS
As its territorial holdings continue to erode, Islamic State has issued a chilling call for followers in the West to attack Jews.
Using an online Jihadi chat room called “Lone Mujahid”, the terror group posted: “If you’re still in the west! Dress up like a (sic) Jews! Got to your nearest Jewish area! Make sure you have plenty of weapons under your coat! Unleash the pain of Muslims’ on the potential victims.”
Another message contained a list of British Jewish communities along with an image of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who killed four people at a Paris kosher supermarket in 2015, and the message “Take the brother’s example and terrorise the Yahood (Jew).”
Meanwhile, a video has surfaced of ethnic Uighur fighters from western China’s Xinjiang region training in Iraq with IS.
ISRAEL EXPEDITING GAZA BARRIER CONSTRUCTION
Israel has accelerated work on constructing the underground barrier encircling Gaza and will bring in up to 2000 foreign workers to assist. The announcement was made by Defence Ministry Director-General Udi Adam on Mar. 8 while meeting with leaders from Gaza border communities.
Two Israeli companies are due to begin technological work on the project shortly. Construction of the barrier – the purpose of which will be to stop Hamas building tunnels into Israel – is expected to take two years at a cost of NIS 3 billion (A$1.08 billion).
ISRAEL BEGINS GAS EXPORTS TO JORDAN
Discreet exports of natural gas from Israel to Jordan (using US intermediaries) have commenced after two Jordanian companies were connected to Israel’s pipeline network, the first time ever Israel has exported natural gas. This comes following the signing of a 15-year accord worth US$500 million to export gas from Israel’s Tamar field, with the US State Department acting as a mediator for the agreement.