Tuesday, February 26, 2013

26-Feb-13: What might be behind this morning's Grad rocket attack on Ashkelon

Iranian RGC test-fire an Iranian missile. The image comes from a Guardian report from July 2012, headlined "Iran tests missiles capable of hitting Israel" 
Far too many people claim to understand the daily events of this part of the world. The generalizing and pontificating leave us - as people who watch closely, live in the area and have experienced terrorism far too closely - unconvinced and skeptical. It would be better if the experts were more open to distinguishing facts from press releases and owned up to the frequently mutually-contradictory reports that characterize the terrorists' side of the narrative.

Here's what can be said today with utter confidence: at least one serious rocket - a GRAD - exploded in Ashkelon this morning, as we reported this morning ["26-Feb-13: A Gazan rocket attack on southern Israel this morning"]. That's fact, backed up with photographs and eye-witness reports. 

Now to the who, the why and the sometimes mischievous speculation.

Hamas says if there was a rocket attack today, it could not possibly have originated in their territory:
"This is only a lie. None of the Gaza Strip factions claimed responsibility for firing that missile, and the government is checking all the details," Ehab al-Ghussein said in a statement. Israel is attempting to divert attention from its crimes against the Palestinian people, most recently, the death of Arafat Jadarat after being allegedly tortured in an Israeli jail, the statement added. [Source: Maan News, a Palestinian news syndication agency based in Bethlehem, funded by European money and generally not sympathetic to Hamas]
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades which owes its allegiance to the "moderate" president of the "State of Palestine" organization and admits to being affiliated with Fatah, claims its men did it, according to CNN which says it has an email letter to prove it. The Washington Post agrees, and Maan supports them:
"We must resist our enemy by all available means," the group said in a statement emailed to reporters. "We stress our commitment to armed struggle against the Zionist enemy." [Source: Maan News]
Is their claim of 'credit' true? Probably not. The rocket certainly came from a Gazan source, and almost nothing ever flies out of there without the local bully boys from Hamas being fully aware and on top. Hamas has no current desire to give its bitter rivals Fatah any credit for any of the things (terror, in one word) that Hamas claims to be doing better and more often. We think the Washington Post, CNN and Maan are being disingenuous or were fooled.

Mahmoud Abbas, who controls Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and who prefers that people call the Palestinian Authority, which he heads, the "State of Palestine" these days, implies that if there's trouble, it's probably Israel that is causing it:
A statement from Abbas’s office said that at a meeting Monday night with his security chiefs, he instructed them “to protect the security and safety” of Palestinians, noting that “the policy of the occupation is to aggravate the situation and drag the area into chaos.” Abbas sent a similar message at a meeting Tuesday of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Accusing Israel of escalating tensions, Abbas said: “We don’t want tension and escalation. We want to reach a peaceful solution...” [Source: Washington Post in the past hour]
Does Abbas really want to avoid tension and escalation and a peaceful solution? Certainly, if the question comes from the Washington Post who will then publish his answer. And maybe not so much when he's speaking to his own people in their native language.

But what if it were someone completely else, like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? That's what Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, until recently, at Haaretz; now at The Tower, the new blog of The Israel Project, wrote earlier today (and some of what he writes is echoed in reports today published by the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, as well as in earlier reports of Iran providing rocket technology to Hamas):
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps are currently in the Gaza Strip, high-level Palestinian security sources tell The Tower . The Iranians, according to our security sources, are experts in missile production, and are in Gaza to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad develop long-range missiles. Israeli security and political officials declined to elaborate, telling The Tower only that this isn’t the first time delegates from Tehran had entered the Hamas-controlled territory... This morning’s rocket attack was apparently not carried out by Hamas, but by its rival Islamic Jihad, a smaller organization believed to be largely to fully under Iran’s control. Two weeks ago one of Islamic Jihad’s leaders in the West Bank, Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi, told me his group enjoys “warm and positive” ties with the Islamic republic [Source: The Tower]
Though he sounds confident about this Iranian Revolutionary Guard report, Issacharoff touches on a number of other dimensions more tentatively:
  • Was today's attack intended to show solidarity with the fiery protests erupting across Judea and Samaria in the past weeks? He says maybe.
  • Related to the months of simmering violence? To the Palestinian Arab prisoner hunger strikes? To the death of Arafat Jaradat? He says maybe.
  • Will it affect relations between Israel and Hamas? Between Hamas and Islamic Jihad? He says maybe.
  • Will there be an Israeli reaction? He says maybe.
We think he's right (maybe) about all the maybes; candidly, we tend to be more impressed with journalists who own up to not knowing everything about what's happening than with those who claim to have all the answers. 

We wonder about those Middle East experts (Jon Donnison of the BBC for instance) whose published reports declare with what seems to be unshakable confidence - even though based entirely on non-facts at this stage - that a Palestinian Arab security prisoner died because of bad treatment in an Israeli prison. Yet how many of them will even comment on the horrifying news released today that 
At least 141 people, half of them children, were killed when the Syrian military fired at least four missiles into the northern province of Aleppo, Syria... A Human Rights Watch researcher, who visited Aleppo last week to inspect the targeted sites, said up to 20 buildings were destroyed in each area hit by a missile. There were no signs of any military targets in the residential districts. [Source]
As we said at the top, too many people claim to understand daily events in this part of the world. For us, looking at how the explanations get fashioned and manipulated, simplified and generalized, then packaged into confident-sounding reports for radio, television, newspapers, websites and social networks by people who clearly know as much or less as we do, we remain mostly baffled.

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