by: Ilse Strauss
Thursday, 10 January 2019 | 2018 was marked by the worst violence on the Israel–Gaza border in recent years. The past 12 months saw near constant violent riots on the border, regular infiltration attempts, incendiary kites and balloons setting thousands of acres of southern Israel ablaze, barrages of rockets fired by Gaza-based terrorists, air-raid sirens wailing with chilling frequency and countless Israeli civilians spending their days and nights in bomb shelters. Yet the situation could have been far worse.
According to outgoing Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Israel has prevented hundreds of rockets from falling into the hands of Hamas, the terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip. “We have foiled the smuggling of 15,000–20,000 rockets,” he said on Tuesday during a farewell visit to the Eshkol Regional Council, the region in Israel that shares the largest border with the coastal enclave.
A series of clashes throughout 2018—the most serious since Israel and Hamas officially faced one another on the battlefield during Operation Protective Edge in 2014—had many concerned that a fourth war might be imminent. According to the IDF, Gaza-based terrorists fired some 1,000 rockets into southern Israel throughout the course of the year. For its part, Israel retaliated by striking Gaza 865 times, targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, including headquarters, terror tunnels, military positions, training camps, weapons caches and Hamas’s budding naval arm, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Following two days of particularly intense fighting in November last year, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, after which the skies over southern Israel remained quiet for nearly two months. Over the weekend, the fragile calm teetered on the edge of erupting into yet another flare-up, when Gaza-based terrorists launched a rocket attack on the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. The Iron Dome intercepted the rocket and Israel retaliated with a number of strikes on Hamas military positions in the coastal enclave.
Eisenkot’s farewell visit to troubled region comes two days after the latest exchange of fire. The outgoing army chief, who steps down this month after serving in the position for four years, expressed his hope that terror groups in Gaza would opt for peace—at least until Israel could finalize the means of protecting its citizens. “I hope for a cease-fire that holds until the end of 2019,” he said, “when we complete the barrier,” referring to the underground barrier Israel is constructing on its border with Gaza to prevent Hamas from digging terror tunnels into Israel, the Algemeiner reported.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s attempts to prevent Hamas from building up its weapons caches with smuggled rockets included operations outside the Israeli borders.
On Sunday CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired an interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in which he confirmed Cairo is cooperating with Jerusalem to combat the Islamic State terrorist organization in the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian president confirmed this is the closest military cooperation between the two nations. “We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” he admitted.
Apart from being a hotbed for Islamic extremism, the Sinai Peninsula also serves as the door through which Hamas receives the majority of its smuggled weapons from Iran. The primary smuggling route Tehran uses is from the Islamic Republic to Sudan, then to Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, and finally into the waiting hands of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In November last year, the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula intercepted a weapons shipment en route from Iran to Hamas. At the time, the shipment was described as the “largest seized by IS” and included a number of Kornet missiles, a state-of-the-art Russian-made anti-tank laser-guided weapon system and other advanced GPS-guided weaponry, the Times of Israel reported.
Posted on January 10, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 10, 2019)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr
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