Behind the News – September 2022
Aug 31, 2022 | AIJAC staff
ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT
On Aug. 5, Israel launched a preemptive assault on Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) dubbed “Operation Breaking Dawn”, killing PIJ’s northern Gaza commander Taysir al-Jabari. The operation was prompted by PIJ threats to retaliate for Israel’s arrest of senior PIJ West Bank leader Bassam al-Saadi on Aug. 1, and solid Israeli intelligence that the terror group was about to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians using anti-tank missiles. Following a subsequent barrage of PIJ rockets, Israel assassinated several other senior PIJ military commanders in Gaza, attacked its military infrastructure and killed approximately two dozen terrorist operatives. PIJ and smaller Gaza-based groups launched more than 1,100 rockets at Israel, many of which fell inside Gaza and killed Palestinians, including children and a Hamas operative. There were only minor injuries and little damage in Israel, because about 96% of the rockets that were headed for populated parts of Israel were shot down by Iron Dome. A ceasefire was brokered by Egypt on Aug. 7.
On Aug. 15, the IDF announced it had destroyed a Hamas attack tunnel from Gaza into Israel.
On Aug. 14, a terrorist mass shooter wounded nine people, including a pregnant woman and four American Jews, right outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Other attempted shootings and stabbings by Palestinians resulted in no casualties.
Israeli counterterrorism raids continue to round up operatives and suspects in the West Bank, and killed wanted terrorist Ibrahim al-Nabulsi in a gun battle on Aug. 9.
On Aug. 18, Israeli forces raided and closed the Ramallah offices of seven Palestinian NGOs Israel had previously proscribed as terrorist groups for their links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
ISRAEL AIMS TO IMPROVE GAZA LIVING CONDITIONS
On Aug. 21, as part of its policy to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, Israel increased by 1,500 the number of work permits issued to Gazan Palestinians, bringing the total to 15,500. The Defence Ministry has already tentatively agreed to raise this further to 20,000.
Palestinian workers in Israel often earn more than six times the average daily wage in Gaza.
According to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), crossings by Gaza residents into Israel rose by 311% this year.
Other measures introduced by Israel include expanding exports of food and other products from Gaza to the West Bank and to Israel. COGAT expects the latter such exports from Gaza to rise by 93.8% this year.
Meanwhile, the Israel Airports Authority announced on Aug. 9 that in a pilot project, West Bank Palestinians will be able to fly internationally from Israel’s Ramon Airport in Eilat in the country’s south. The first such flight, on Aug. 22, carried 40 Palestinians to Cyprus. Previously, such travellers generally needed to depart from the Jordanian capital Amman.
PALESTINIAN SUMMER CAMPS TRAIN KIDS TO FIGHT ISRAEL
At annual summer camps run in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinian children received both ideological indoctrination and military training.
On July 23, 500 Hamas-led camps were launched in Gaza, attended by approximately 100,000 girls and boys. Terrorists were glorified at the opening ceremony, and photos of children handling rifles and “shooting soldiers” in a simulator were posted on the camps’ Facebook account.
Similar summer camps were also held in the West Bank. Palestinian social media carried videos of the children at a camp in Bayta near Nablus being given military training by masked operatives of the Palestinian security forces and Fatah.
ATTEMPTS TO KILL RUSHDIE, POMPEO AND BOLTON
Author Salman Rushdie, subject of a 1989 fatwa (religious edict) calling for his death from then Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was stabbed whilst on stage at an event in Chautauqua, NY, on Aug. 12. The renowned novelist was addressing an audience of thousands, when New Jersey resident Hadi Matar, 24, stormed the stage and stabbed him in the face, neck and abdomen. As a result of the stabbing, Rushdie was temporarily placed on a ventilator, sustained liver and arm damage, and may lose an eye. According to intelligence sources, Matar had been in contact with “people either directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force,” the external operations arms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), prior to the attack.
On Aug. 10, the US Department of Justice revealed that a member of the IRGC, Shahram Poursafi, had been charged with attempting to pay an individual, who turned out to be a US Government informer, to hire assassins to murder former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Trump Administration National Security Advisor John Bolton.
IRAN EMPLOYING YET MORE ADVANCED CENTRIFUGES
In early August, Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it had installed and started running more cascades of advanced IR-6 uranium enrichment centrifuges at the Natanz plant. Teheran also announced that it will be installing six more IR-2m centrifuge cascades. Experts now estimate that Teheran will have more than 1,500 advanced centrifuges set up in various locations, which enrich uranium much more quickly than older models and are not allowed to be used under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. This is 70% more than in May.
RUSSIA-IRAN COOPERATION ON SATELLITES AND DRONES
On Aug. 9, Russia launched a Russian-built Kanopus-V satellite into space for Iran, which will dramatically increase Iran’s capabilities to monitor targets and sensitive facilities across the Middle East. Iran claims it will have immediate use of the satellite, though other reports suggest Russia initially wants to use it to monitor Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russian plans to begin deploying Iranian drones in the Ukraine war are reportedly advancing rapidly. Since June, Russian officials have been travelling to Iran for demonstrations of Iranian armed drones, and training in their use has already begun, according to intelligence reports. According to an unverified claim by Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, Iran has already handed over 46 of these drones to Russia and they are being deployed on the battlefield.
UN OFFICIAL SACKED FOR CONDEMNING PIJ ROCKET FIRE
In the wake of the recent escalation in Gaza, Sarah Muscroft, UN Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (Occupied Palestinian Territory), was removed from her post after she tweeted support for the ceasefire. The tweet stated in part, “Such indiscriminate rocket fire of Islamic Jihad provoking Israeli retaliation is condemned. The safety of all civilians is paramount.” The tweet was swiftly deleted, but not before being met with criticism from pro-Palestinian activists, who claimed Muscroft had put the blame on Palestinians whilst failing to hold Israel accountable, and she was stood down.
Meanwhile, another UN official, Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory Francesca Albanese, took to Twitter to label Israel’s “Operation Breaking Dawn” a “flagrant act of aggression” and “a violation of International Law.” She was not sanctioned.
AL-QAEDA LEADER ZAWAHIRI KILLED
On July 31, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike while standing on the balcony of his home in an exclusive neighbourhood of Afghan capital Kabul. Zawahiri had provided the intellectual strategy for al-Qaeda, and had planned the September 11 and numerous other terror attacks alongside its original leader, Osama bin Laden. He took over as al-Qaeda leader when bin Laden was killed in a US raid in 2011.
Stranger Than Fiction
Another Glorious Victory
The latest skirmish between Israel and the Iranian proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was on almost every level an unmitigated disaster for the terror group. It lost its entire senior military echelon in Gaza, numerous other fighters, and considerable military infrastructure; it failed to inflict any casualties or even significant damage on Israel; its reputation suffered a hammering as a result of approximately 200 of the 1,100 plus rockets it fired landing in Gaza, killing more civilians, including children, than Israel’s strikes did; Hamas, the terror organisation in charge of the Strip, stayed on the sidelines, and PIJ had to quickly agree to a ceasefire (see page 21).
However, that did not stop Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad Nakhaleh, who happened to be in Teheran during the fighting, exchanging triumphant letters about PIJ’s great victory.
According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, the Aug. 11 letter from Khamenei stated, “The recent event has added to the honours of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and elevated the status of Islamic Jihad in the magnificent resistance movement of the Palestinian nation. You have proven that each section of the resistance is able to crush the enemy.”
In his letter, Nakhaleh claimed, “This battle frustrated the Zionist regime’s estimates to such a large extent that after just three days they were forced to ask for a ceasefire and to accept the terms set by the resistance.” Israel accepted a ceasefire suggested by Egypt because it had achieved its aims, but did not accept any of PIJ’s demands, such as releasing PIJ’s recently arrested West Bank commander, or giving immunity to him and other PIJ fighters there.
If this was a victory worth lauding, it’s hard to imagine what a defeat for the group would look like.