Thursday, July 04, 2013

4-Jul-13: With spotlight on Cairo and Tahrir, Hamas remains an Israeli concern

Al Monitor at this hour
It's too early of course for anyone to know how the drama in Egypt will play out other than to say - which is sadly obvious - there will be blood. The headlines this morning at the Times of Israel, to give just one example, bear this out:
At least 9 killed in clashes following Morsi’s ouster | Deposed Egyptian president placed under house arrest; troops surround Islamist rallies, where Muslim Brotherhood supporters vow to fight to the end [Times of Israel]
But far from the screaming headlines and the real-time televised coverage of fireworks and mass rallies, there remains plenty of scope for the terrorism-addicted Hamas to continue causing serious trouble. For instance this just in:
4 Hamas operatives arrested in Cairo | ’Explosives, fake uniforms found in raid on apartment | TOI | July 4, 2013, 4:46 am | Four Hamas operatives were arrested at their home in a Cairo suburb on suspicion of planning a terror attack, Egypt’s el-Ahram reported.
Security forces found explosives in the apartment, as well as military and police uniforms.
The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi Wednesday struck a blow to the Gaza-based terror organization. The Muslim Brotherhood is considered Hamas’s parent movement and its fall from power will likely weaken Hamas’s regional standing as well.
Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian Arab journalist writing on the Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse site yesterday, says
Hamas stands to be the major loser in the latest popular revolt in Egypt, which pits millions of Egyptians against now deposed President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood... Reports that some 7,000 Hamas militants were in Egypt to support the Brotherhood circulated in the media despite persistent denials by Egyptian as well as Hamas spokesmen. Like Hezbollah, Hamas is accused in Egyptian courts of engineering the jailbreak of several senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, in 2011. Egyptians also believe that Hamas members have been the key source of instability in Sinai. In April, Egyptian soldiers and officers were abducted there, and Hamas was accused of involvement. Although Hamas denies the allegations, they persist, putting Hamas officials on the defensive.
There's a basis for seeking a Hamas hand at work: Hamas is essentially identical in its ideology and operational philosophy to the just-deposed Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, though there is no formal organizational link between them.

Echoing widespread Israeli nervousness, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post both give prominence this morning to a constant concern that now has potentially news significance:
Hamas manufacturing rockets capable of reaching central Israel | Hamas has significantly increased efforts to manufacture rockets capable of reaching Israel's Dan region since Operation Pillar of Defense in November. Since the eight-day operation in Gaza, Hamas has produced M-75 rockets, the Gaza version of the Iranian Fajr-5. Several M-75s were fired at Israel during Pillar of Defense, leaving Hamas with only one or two remaining in its arsenal, according to estimates. Sources say Hamas was focusing on rehabilitating its army after Pillar of Defense, and that in light of the rockets that reached Israel's Dan region and Jerusalem in November, it was trying to base its arsenal on medium-range rockets. Hamas is also testing its rockets much more often... Hamas attempted such volleys during Pillar of Defense, culminating with the simultaneous firing of 14 rockets at Be'er Sheva. Twelve of those were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. In February, two rockets were fired at Israel, one of which hit Ashkelon. Israel Defense Forces officials have maintained they will not accept even the occasional salvo, even if the rockets are fired as part of a test and not aimed at specific targets. According to Southern Command statistics, there have been 19 incidents in which rockets were fired at Israel since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense – totaling 40 rockets and artillery shells... [Haaretz]
The Jerusalem Post notes that
Hamas’s rocket arsenal places 70 percent of Israelis within range... Gaza today has some 25,000 armed fighters. Of those, 16,000 belong to Hamas divisions. Islamic Jihad has 5,000 fighters, split into five divisions, and is armed with more than 2,000 rockets... [Jerusalem Post]
Likely to be a hot summer ahead.

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