Crossfire War – Egypt Warns Hamas Against Further Provocations-Reinforces Border


West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Amman – Baghdad – Beirut – Damascus – Nablus – Gaza – El Arish/Cairo – Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Egypt Warns Hamas Against Further Provocations – Sends Reinforcements to Border – Katyusha Rockets Fired at Ashkelon – Rocket Attacks Continue Wednesday – Russia Expresses Serious Concern over Iran Satellite-Long Range Ballistic Missile Test

Night Watch: RAFAH – “It is important that the Hamas leadership in Gaza adopts wisdom so as to discourage Palestinian masses from going close to the border with Egypt.” This is a warning from Egypt Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit in a desperate attempt to remain diplomatic, calm, in view of the increasingly serious dispute between Cairo and Hamas-Tehran over control of the Rafah Terminal on the Egypt/Gaza-Sinai border. Iran wants the border controlled by Hamas since it is essential for the movement of massive amounts of weapons from Egypt through Sinai into Gaza for attacks against Israel. But the Foreign Minister and Cairo realize it increases instability and the chances of Hamas working more closely with the Muslim Brotherhood, the leading opposition group to President Hosni Mubarak and the Brotherhood created Hamas. Abul-Gheit continued by saying, “Egypt is generous and patient but its patience has limits.” At the same time Haaretz reports, Egypt has reinforced its Central Security Force by sending 200 reinforcements to the border, increasing the number to 1,500. The Hamas Interior Ministry has responded by insisting an arrangement must be found “quickly” for the formal re-opening of the border. However, according to the Arab daily based in London, al-Hayat, the Egyptian government is not about to accept any arrangement with Hamas because they only recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas, based in Ramallah-West Bank, as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian community. [HAARETZ]

And here you have a classic, heavily armed impasse that is only going to lead to further provocations “quickly” since both sides have taken entrenched, non-negotiable positions. I assume Cairo is aware Hamas’ “wisdom” is controlled, armed and financed by Tehran-Damascus and they will never accept a PA presence in Rafah or international observers from the European Union. The reason Hamas said “quickly” is because they know Tehran’s timetable for (f)allout war in this theatre-immediately-this year, therefore any obstacle to the flow of weapons and explosives through Sinai must be dealt with quickly. Therefore, while Hamas and other Palestinian militant units increase rocket attacks against Israel, larger provocations-attacks against Cairo’s control of Rafah will be increased knowing it means war with Egyptian forces still loyal to President Mubarak. Hamas and the militants can also be sent reinforcements, perhaps even in the form of Iran’s brigade size Rapid Deployment Force. There is an airport at El Arish. Tehran may not send the entire brigade, perhaps just a regiment or even a battalion-Operation Sinai. There may be some chance for Cairo-Jerusalem to coordinate joint military operations.

Ashkelon – In an indication, the scale of the war is about to increase Debka reports three Katyusha (Grad) rockets were fired Tuesday at Ashkelon as part of a 20-rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip. Ashkelon, population of 110,000, is the site of Israel’s oil terminal. The rockets caused no damage but any hit on the terminal would cause Israel to respond with more than its daily pinpoint attacks. The other 17 rockets, Qassams, were fired at Israeli communities in the Negev causing shock, light injuries and property damage. [DEBKA]

Kibbutz Be’eri – Reports from the Jerusalem Post mention the rocket fire has continued all day Wednesday with the most effective Qassam attack on the Israeli Kibbutz Be’eri in the western Negev that slightly injured two sisters in a playground. At least six more Qassams were fired at Sderot and other communities in the area but fell into open areas. In response, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked a rocket launching team in Gaza wounding four. Israel’s government spokesperson Mark Regev explained Israel’s official position, “These rockets are being fired indiscriminately into civilian population centers. We are obliged as a government to take the necessary steps to protect our people and we will continue to do so.” [JPOST]

Regev then mentioned Israel conducting what he described as surgical strikes against “hardcore terrorist cells” but Israel has been doing that ever since the Qassams began firing eight years ago and in 2007 Palestinians fired more than 2,000 rockets. Regular readers of know Tehran-Damascus have put Palestinians in a position to fire not only more Qassams but now the longer range, more accurate and more powerful Katyusha with three fired yesterday, therefore Israel will be forced to stage its planned large scale invasion-occupation of the Gaza Strip. That will set the stage for Hezbollah-Damascus-Tehran to enter the war in the name of supporting the Palestinian community, the most popular issue in the Islamic world.

The Kremlin – The response from Moscow to Iran’s launch yesterday of a test rocket for satellites indicates the Kremlin sees it as mainly a continuation of Iran’s program to develop long-range ballistic missiles to carry not a satellite but a nuclear warhead. RIA quoted Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, “Any progress in the development of this long-range ballistic missile weaponry certainly worries us and others.” The Kremlin realizes what Iran is testing is not meant to target Israel. The economic objectives of Tehran’s foreign policy reach far beyond the salt in the Dead Sea. Iran is more interested in controlling the oil and gas in the Caspian Sea and the crossroads of energy pipelines in the Caucasus. A strong Russia supplying energy to the West is an obstacle to that. And here you have the basis for the Strategic Working Group co-chaired by former U. S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger and former Russia Premier Yevgeny Primakov. reported Dr. Kissinger’s arrival in Russia in April last year. [RIA]

Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov continued by saying the test demonstrated the advances the Islamic Republic has made in ballistic missile technology that “raise suspicion towards Iran about its possible desire to create a nuclear weapon. Long-range missiles are one of the components of such a weapons system. Naturally this raises concern.” Long-range missiles have operational ranges from between 1,600-3,100 miles and Iran already possesses at least one that nearly falls into that category the Shahab-3 with its range of 1,200 miles. A couple of years ago an Iranian official in the Defense Ministry stated once you get into ballistic missiles it is easy to add more stages, in other words increase the range. More than three years ago, Reuters reported Iran was working on a Shahab-4 -5 and even on an ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) the Kosar (Crossfire War-Persian Journal Sept. 30, 2005). Though the accuracy of any missile is highly questionable, given the uncertainty of the fragile, intricate technology involved with the guidance systems, not to mention the very real possibility of a dud warhead, nuclear or conventional, Tehran has now placed itself in a position to launch a variety of missiles en masse, either at targets in West Asia (Middle East) and beyond.

Iran revived its nuclear program in 1986 with massive assistance from China and cooperation Beijing could arrange through North Korea, which began selling the ballistic Scud missile to Iran during the Iran/Iraq war 1980-88. A few years ago, an Iranian exile told me he last visited Iran in 2001 and in the hotel where he was staying there were a lot of Chinese technicians he assumed were working on weapons of mass destruction. This is why Iran has had nuclear weapons for quite some time especially with additional assistance from Pakistan, which first exploded a nuclear weapon in 1987. The reason for Beijing’s support for Tehran’s nuclear-ballistic missile programs is because they know Iran has the potential of weakening three of China’s international rivals, the West-India-Russia.

Willard Payne
Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.