Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – JERICHO WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – Beirut – Damascus – El Arish – Gaza – Jericho/Amman – Cairo – Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Hamas Threatens to Mass Palestinians in West Bank at Israel – Jordan Border Crossings – IAF Attacks Four Palestinian Rocket Sites in N. Gaza – Twenty Per Cent of Sderot Population Has Evacuated City – 600 Islamic Militants from Pakistan Infiltrated into India from Kashmir in 2007
Night Watch: JERICHO – Less than three weeks after Tehran-Hamas exploded the opening in the Rafah Terminal Hamas is threatening to expand the crisis not only against Egypt but also at Israel and Jordan through the Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Haaretz/AP report senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk based in Damascus, stated in a Saturday interview with a Qatari newspaper, “all options are open. There is a need for a pronounced sense that the Palestinian people are able to express honestly any policy that will serve them and remove the blockade imposed on them.” Tehran is using Hamas as its latest, most current vehicle to spread Islamic extremism and its ability to hit targets in the region as a way of galvanizing the entire Islamic community in West Asia. The current crisis has increased the status of Hamas in the Islamic world just as the war in Lebanon in 2006 did for Hezbollah. But when Tehran has Hamas go through with this threat it will alienate one of the governments in the region that support Palestinian people, the Jordanian government in Amman. [HAARETZ]
It is quite possible Tehran believes Jordan King Abdullah II, though he supports Palestinian people and is opposed to Israel, that His Majesty still has relations to close with the West for Iran’s liking. But King Abdullah has a lot of popular support since he has not been a corrupt leader so I doubt if Palestinian demonstrations at the Allenby bridge, less than five miles from Jericho, will provide much of a vehicle for Islamic extremists to stage attacks inside Jordan. Hamas and the political forces they represent are much more of a threat to Egypt President Hosni Mubarak than they are to King Abdullah. Israel, however, could be faced with serious mass demonstrations of Palestinians from the West Bank cities on Israel’s border, Tulkarm and Qalquilya.
Sderot – “I found a battered town where some 20 per cent of residents have simply upped and left.” That was the sad assessment by head of Israel’s Public Security Ministry Avi Dichter as he visited Sderot Saturday morning. He should not have been surprised. Palestinians fired as many as forty Qassam rockets Friday in addition to mortar barrages. Sderot has been under fire since 2000 being just a few miles from northern Gaza. Its population is now only 16,000 down from its peak of 20,000. The Jerusalem Post reports Saturday night two brothers in the city were wounded as the military wing of Islamic Jihad fired more Qassams the Al Quds Brigades. [JPOST]
Beit Hanoun – During Dichter’s visit and the Qassam-mortar fire the Israel Air Force (IAF) was in the process of conducting two air raids against Palestinian rocket squads. Haaretz/AP report one air attack hit four rocket squads in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, which seems to be the center of the Qassam rocket firings. Beit Hanoun is less than five miles from Sderot and less than ten miles from Israel’s oil terminal at Ashkelon on the Mediterranean. The other IAF strike hit a rocket squad from the Palestinian Resistance Committees. But the air strikes and limited ground operations have had virtually no impact on the rocket-mortar barrages. [HAARETZ]
Diyala – Washington’s program of working with armed Sunni groups against extremists may be facing a serious setback due to an incident last week. Al Jazeera reports two girls in Diyala province were kidnapped by men wearing the uniforms of Iraqi security and their bodies were then found dead and stripped naked. In protest the Sunni groups in Diyala, the Awakening Council are refusing to patrol towns and villages until the police chief in the province is forced to resign. Abu Abdullah, spokesperson for the Council in Diyala stated, “We hereby declare suspension of all co-operation with both US military, Iraqi security forces, and the local governments.” There are nearly 100,000 members of the Awakening Councils around Iraq, and they are one of the main hopes of Washington to leave the country with some degree of stability. It would be devastating if this dispute spreads to other provinces and undermines completely the Awakening Council role. [ALJAZEERA]
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Iraq, Hoda Abdel-Hamid observed, “As US forces push into Diyala as part of a massive operation to clear up the province, and they need these people. And once you have one Awakening Council who is going to retract it might be more difficult to convince others anywhere else to be part of the Awakening Councils.” It is now being reported other Councils in Falluja, Ramadi and certain neighborhoods in Baghdad are complaining badly due to lack of support from Iraq’s government.
Srinagar – India’s Police Chief of Kashmir Kuldip Khuda has informed NewsBlaze nearly 600 Islamic militants from Pakistan were able to infiltrate into India through Kashmir in 2007. “The figure is almost equal to the number of militants who managed to sneak into Kashmir from Pakistani territory in 2006.” Khuda added this proves Islamic militant bases and infrastructure in Pakistan is still effective and if the Islamic government in Pakistan does not take serious measures to reduce the influence of militant beliefs then infiltration attempts will increase after Pakistan’s elections on the eighteenth of this month. Of course, Islamabad does not intend to reduce its support of Islamic groups obsessed with attacking India’s occupation of the province that has a Muslim majority population and Pakistan has never had a head of state so capable militarily as President General Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf is a veteran of two of the three wars between Pakistan/India and it was said, when he became head of state in 1999, he is willing to take a risk even if there is only a twenty per cent chance of success. Musharraf planned the Kargil probe of 1999 that nearly turned the current fourth war from a low intensity conflict into full-scale war. [NEWSBLAZE]
There is an added dimension to this since both Iran and China are prepared to enter the war increasing Pakistan’s chances of success and during the mid-1980s; the House of Saud purchased 50-60 CSS-2 ballistic missiles from Beijing. The missile has a 2,500 mile (4,000 km) range able to reach all of India. Khuda stated India will continue to conduct “surgical” attacks against militants based on intelligence information they receive but I suspect when the infiltration becomes more frequent Delhi will be forced to go one-step further and use its “hot pursuit” policy and attack the infrastructure inside Pakistan. Islamabad has said if that ever happens, they will be forced to respond.