There is fast-paced activity in all directions surrounding Israel, as conflict brews in cauldrons on the northern, eastern and southern fronts. Potentially, the most concerning going forward comes from the northern front with developments in the recent rocket attacks launched on Israeli towns from across the Lebanese border.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq has announced that they are the ones who executed the Wednesday katyusha rocket attacks on the Israeli towns in a statement posted on a jihahdi website that has been used in the past for al-Zarqawi statements. Israel initially blamed Hezbollah for the eastern-most attacks and the Damascus-headquartered PFLP-GC (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command) for the western coastal attacks.
While the al-Qaeda claim is unconfirmed, it is indeed possible that Zarqawi has operatives in Lebanon that executed the attacks. From a strategic perspective, whether they did or not pales in comparison to the clear statement of intent of al-Qaeda going forward to directly engage Israel. This intent should not be lost or discounted.
Within this context, it should also be noted that, while Hezbollah may have denied that it launched the attacks, nothing happens in southern Lebanon without their foreknowledge and precious little occurs without their tacit approval. To a much lesser degree, the same could be said of the smaller areas where the PFLP operates. If al-Qaeda in Iraq indeed carried out the attacks, both groups are still complicit.
Taking heed to Israel’s demands that the Lebanese government take control and responsibility of their southern territory, the Lebanese Army found two katyusha rockets in a southern Lebanon grove prepared for fire on Israel and dismantled them. Though not entirely clear from the article, ‘south of Beirut’ likely indicates that it is from the coastal region near where the IDF attacked the PFLP tunnel systems and where the Tuesday barrage on the western Israeli towns also originated. This is a very positive step by Lebanon, though only a beginning. It should be noted that this did not occur in Hezbollah-controlled areas, where the government has essentially ceded security to Hezbollah rather than face a bloody internal confrontation to assert control.
To the east in the West Bank, a suicide bomber attack was thwarted as a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist sought to cross into Israel from the West Bank town of Tulkarem. Israeli intelligence got wind of the coming attack and set up impromptu roadblocks around the town. The bomber was travelling by taxi. When the taxi was stopped and the passengers ordered out of the cab, he detonated his explosive vest, killing the two other Palestinians in the cab, likely accomplices, and the IDF soldier attempting to get him out of the vehicle. After the suicide bombing attempt that failed to reach Israel, IDF forces conducted nearby raids and arrested 10 PIJ terrorists, though Israel said the arrests were not related to this bombing.
Also in the West Bank, Israel dismantled newly constructed Israeli outposts, keeping with their commitment to the ‘Road Map’ not to establish new settlements. The Israeli settlers who built them say they will rebuild them. Of course, they will be destroyed again in the cycle. The key Palestinian commitment agreed to in the ‘Road Map’, disarming terrorist groups within it, has yet to see constructive progress.
To the south in Gaza, Palestinian police stormed the Rafah border crossing in apparent protest over the killing of one of their officers in the ongoing lawlessness in Gaza.
Two things in this incident are striking. First, that al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades was part of the protest, lending armed assistance to the police officers. Members of Al-Aqsa are themselves responsible for the storming of buildings throughout Gaza in recent weeks, active participants in the lawlessness they now seem to be decrying. They have demanded that Abbas, now on tour along the Persian Gulf, fire key security officials. This is akin to a union sitting down on the job, only then to go on official strike complaining of lack of productivity. Second, it is notable that the EU border observers not only fled the scene, but fled to Israel for protection (also astutely noted here). The EU rarely has anything positive to say of Israel, but it appears they know who to seek for cover when violence erupts. They are expected to return to man the crossing points again today.
Israel is seeing movement on all fronts at an increasing clip. And while they may have support from the United States, they literally stand alone in defense of their nation, as they generally have.
Especially considering the coming (or, as claimed, current) active participation of al-Qaeda, the Arab-Israeli conflict may soon be on the verge of erupting.