Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – Ramallah – Damascus – Beirut – El Arish – Gaza/Cairo – Jerusalem – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Hamas Planning Staged Assault on Rafah Terminal – Israel Connects to Ballistic Missile Early Warning System – Israel Successfully Tests Arrow Missile Defense – Israel Defense Force Tanks – Bulldozers Enter South Gaza
Night Watch: RAFAH – Supporters of Hamas have erected a protest tent outside the Egyptian controlled Rafah Terminal for a three day protest of the crossing point still being closed. It was forced open by Hamas in late January by explosives and remained open for twelve days as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza flooded into the Sinai Peninsula as Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations transported eighty tons of weapons and explosives from Iran and Syria. What makes this latest development so much of a threat to the administration of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak is the weapons traffic was openly assisted by Egypt’s main popular opposition organization the Muslim Brotherhood. And that is why the Islamic extremism, supported by Tehran, is more of a threat to Mubarak than it is to Israel which is why the responses from Cairo on this new threat by Hamas to force open the border again is so hateful. Xinhua reports the demonstrators, which include women, children and Hamas officials, have set up banners condemning Arab and Muslim nations for not doing more to lift Israel’s siege of Gaza and they have also set up a symbolic cemetery designated “the Arab silence graveyard.” Mubarak is the leader the demonstrators would love to first place in the cemetery. [XINHUA]
El Arish – Hamas-Tehran-Damascus are of course aware Cairo would never consent to open the terminal again not to mention permitting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to increase cooperation threatening the fortress security and control established by Mubarak. With that in mind the Jerusalem Post/AP are reporting Hamas has planned a staged assault on the Rafah Terminal with the intention of destroying the defensive positions set up by Egyptian security. The article quoted Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper which used “reliable Palestinian sources” who stated Hamas first plans to fire mortar shells at Egyptian forces during the first phase of the operation. The second stage would be direct fire on Egyptian troops then the destruction of the Egyptian battlements with explosives, some of them planted beneath the guard posts. The Palestinian population will then flood into the Sinai again as in January. [JPOST]
Explosives have already been placed along the 2.5 mile (4 km) Egypt/Gaza border and the Muslim Brotherhood will again be assisting Hamas. On Friday Muslim clerics approved the killing of Egyptian soldiers with live ammunition with a special fatwa by Hamas. Without question this is a more serious event than the eruption in January and I suspect President Mubarak will respond not only by declaring war on Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood but by also warning Damascus-Tehran to end their support of Palestinian militants.
Tel Aviv – Debka reports Israel, for the third time, has connected to the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) in preparation for possible ballistic missile attacks from Syria-Iran-Hezbollah. The first time was during the Gulf War in 1991 and then in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was overthrown. The warning system has bases in Greenland, Alaska and Britain and will be able to detect missile launchings before they are even airborne. It will enable Israel to ready its Arrow and Patriot interception missiles. [DEBKA]
Jerusalem- In a parallel development Israel has successfully tested its Arrow missile defense system designed to intercept ballistic missiles like Iran’s Shahab-3. The Jerusalem Post reports the Green Pine radar unit successfully tracked a Rafael-Blue Sparrow missile, which can reproduce the performance characteristics of an Iranian Shahab-3. It then relayed the information to the Citron Tree battle management center which then transmitted the data to the Arrow missile battery. [JPOST]
Kissufim Crossing – As these missile defense preparations are going on the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is continuing heavy ground operations into areas of Gaza where the militant activity is concentrated. Al Jazeera/AFP report an IDF force of twenty tanks, accompanied by bulldozers and with the support of helicopter gunships, entered south Gaza through the crossing at Kissufim. They penetrated more than a mile into Gaza and exchanged fire with Palestinian militants as they searched a school and buildings in El-Karara and Wadi al-Salka. This is why no one is discussing the peace process anymore. Cairo-Jerusalem are now probably discussing joint operations instead. It is not only because the action is daily and increasingly heavy but it is obvious Tehran has prepared Hamas-Hezbollah for even heavier fighting which Syria-Iran are going to join, targeting Egypt even more than they are targeting Israel. [ALJAZEERA]