Grimace and bear it

The incredible number of 130 missiles were fired into Israel last week. Over the weekend another 23 were fired, and five were intercepted by the Iron-dome anti-missile system. Many were fired by Hamas and by other groups, including Islamic Jihad and another smaller pro-Al Qaeda group. So far miraculously noone was killed, but there was much property damage and several people were injured or shocked. As Ron Prosor the Israeli UN Ambassador said when he lodged a formal complaint with the UN, these rockets are making life impossible for over a million Israelis. What is the reason for this sudden upsurge? Some think it was because Hamas was celebrating the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate in the Egyptian presidential election. But, so far the election result has not been announced and anything can happen there. Meanwhile, as if to show the nature of their attack, Hamas announced that they are ready to restore the ceasefire with Israel under Egyptian sponsorship.

The IDF went into readiness mode and although they launched some counter-attacks that killed five active rocket firers in Gaza, there is no expectation that Israel will seek to expand the response. This is because of the delicate situation in Egypt. Even though Israel is also being attacked from Sinai, Israel does not want to retaliate in strength because of the delicate balance in Egypt. It appears as if the military are finessing the election results in order to retain ultimate power. Israel does not want to do anything that might be seen as strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood, such as a large miltiary reaction in Gaza that might result in an upsurge of anti-Israel feelings in Egypt. So Israel must grimace and bear it for the time being. IDF Chief Benny Gantz met with his staff and discussed the situation, but very likely his military response will be determined by the political situation. The general Israeli policy is violence will be met with vioence but quiet with quiet.

Meanwhile a Turkish fighter jet was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire over the Mediterranean sea. Both Turkey and Syria confirm this incident, but so far the Turkish Government has been non-commital about their response. They want to investigate the circumstances of what happened, where the plane was located when it was downed, before they make an irrevocable dangerous decision. They could decide to counter-attack and/or declare war of Syria or they could just admit that their plane was in the wrong place and should not have been there. But, national pride being what it is, they take a dim view of this incident, particularly because they have very hostile relations with the Assad regime in Syria, that until now has killed ca. 15,000 civilians in over a year. Perhaps Bashar Assad is going for the record to beat his father, Hafez Assad’s total of over 20,000 killed in Homs in 1985. Like father, like son. All the killing has angered Turkey that now has an estimated 500,000 Syrian refugees along its 500 mile border with Syria, as well as a further 150,000 in Jordan. Turkey may take into account the fact that that the UN initiative under Ban ki-Moon to monitor the situation has totally floundered. If Turkey were to undertake military action it might try to bring in NATO, of which it is a member, but it also would take the risk of angering its bigger neighbor Russia that is an ally of the Syrian dictator. Together with the Iranian situation, the Middle East teeters once again on the cusp of a complex unpredictable mess.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.