SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 2011
I have learned that the Shin Bet had picked up information days ago about an attack initiated from the Sinai that was being planned by the Popular Resistance Committees. Thus, troops -- from the Counter-Terrorism YAMAM Unit and the elite Golani Brigade -- had already been deployed along the Israel-Sinai border.
The expectation had been that PRC was planning abduction of one or more Israelis, possibly soldiers, in a stealth operation under cover of night. What happened, then, according to reports, diverged from what had been anticipated not only in terms of time of day, but also locale, as the terrorists entered Israel at a point not far from an Egyptian military installation.
The prior intelligence explains how Barak was able to announce so quickly that the source of the attack was Gaza, and why the air strike aimed first for the PRC headquarters.
Without question, the toll of dead and wounded would have been far worse, had the military not already had a presence on the scene. They were able to engage the terrorists almost immediately.
* * * *
But there are anguished questions that linger in the air with regard to whether the Israeli response was sufficient. Should there have been a far larger deployment along that border, with, perhaps, constant air surveillance?
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amatzia Chen, a former commander of commando units, says, in an article running in Arutz Sheva:
"In the sixties we were able to seal the western border with Egypt such that even a mouse would have thought twice before going too far; it is hard to believe what is happening today."
Arutz 7 - Brigadier-General Chen: Terror Attack was Predictable
Terror in southern Israel Arutz Sheva photo
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amatzia Chen (‘Patzi’), who has a long and highly esteemed history as a commander of commando units and larger-scale forces, said Thursday that the combined terror attack in southern Israel is an incident that was predictable.
“The Egyptian army has long ago lost control of the area of El Arish,” Chen told Arutz Sheva. “The southern border is also breached and is used daily by infiltrators disguised as refugees who enter through the Sinai Peninsula to Eilat. So when 300 infiltrators enter Israel every day, what’s there to be surprised about?
“This is an event that even a kindergarten teacher could have predicted,” he added. “In the sixties we were able to seal the western border with Egypt such that even a mouse would have thought twice before going too far; it is hard to believe what is happening today.”
Chen placed the blame on Israeli leaders who he said do not take responsibility and make do with the establishment of inquiry commissions.
“This is the biggest problem, the lack of personal responsibility,” he said. “People take personal responsibility only after an inquiry commission blames them, but then no personal responsibility is taken until the next disaster.”
Chen argued that Israel’s defense system behaves as if it is Switzerland.
“Even if you talk about peace, you must first be prepared warn your enemies against violation of agreements. Unfortunately, according to the Oslo framework, once the late Rabin signed the agreements they served as a pretext for the IDF’s senior command to act as if it was a peaceful time, and that has failed time after time. That’s why what happened in Eilat does not surprise me.
“Instead of responding after the attack, the military system had to act beforehand, against the intentions to attack, which unfortunately are stated day and night by the terror leaders in the region,” Chen concluded.
* * * *
Are there other actions that should have been taken? The major charge in this regard, and the most serious, involves failure to be pro-active rather than re-active.
General Chen, cited above, says:
"Unfortunately, according to the Oslo framework, once the late Rabin signed the agreements they served as a pretext for the IDF’s senior command to act as if it was a peaceful time, and that has failed time after time. That’s why what happened in Eilat does not surprise me.
“Instead of responding after the attack, the military system had to act beforehand, against the intentions to attack..."
While Caroline Glick, in her column today, says:
"Israeli military preparedness follows a depressing pattern. The IDF does not change its assessments of the strategic environment until Israeli blood runs in the streets."
* * * *
So what are we talking about here?
If the IDF had intelligence that the PRC was planning a terrorist act, and knew where the PRC headquarters was located, why wasn't it hit before the act took place?
Ideally, that perhaps should have happened -- it's something that many fervently wish would have happened.
And yet, the larger context may have mitigated against this in the minds of Israeli decision-makers. Putting aside issues of compromising valuable sources of intelligence, we are looking at a very involved diplomatic environment. With the UN vote on a Palestinian state pending and the Israeli government expending major effort on lobbying for support within the international community, I can imagine unease about appearing to be an aggressor -- which is how we would have been painted.
I am not claiming that these should necessarily have been the determining factors in a decision. But I will say it is complex enough so that seconding guessing this is not simple.
Of course, we're being painted as aggressors anyway -- see below -- as we respond to the terror attack, but the world knows it's a response. Is the difference substantial enough to matter?
* * * *
A more clear cut opportunity to act, it has longed seemed to me, is with regard to the retaking of the Philadelphi Corridor, the border area between Gaza and the Sinai where the weapons smuggling tunnels are located. Such an action would be clearly and demonstrably defensive in nature.
On Israel radio today, former chief of the Southern Command Zvi Fogel called for just this.
* * * *
But then there is another issue involving the Sinai, and the fact that it's a terrorist playground today that is not adequately controlled by the Egyptian military.
General (res.) Uzi Dayan, who headed the Israeli National Security between 2003 and 2005, is a man for whom I have considerable respect. In another article up on Arutz Sheva he discusses this issue:
"... from a military perspective we need to prepare for a new reality [in Southern Israel].”
The peace treaty with Egypt does not permit Israeli troops in the Sinai. But Israel, which is eager to preserve that peace treaty, must also maintain its fundamental right to protect its citizens.
“We do not want to heat up the region but we also do not want this border to become a terror border. Therefore it is important to react and go after terrorists. We must ask the Egyptians to have the possibility of intervening militarily in the Sinai if it is required.
Glick addresses this issue as well.
Elsewhere, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has explained that there has been a reluctance to build up forces in the south out of concern that it would unsettle the Egyptians at a time when they may be vacillating with regard to the peace treaty.
Come on! If we need to reinforce our southern forces? (Shouldn't they have been reinforced before yesterday's attack?) The Egyptians -- if they're not on the side of the jidhadists -- know perfectly well what we're dealing with. And if it turns out that they are on the side of the jihadists, we darn well better have reinforced the Southern Command.
See a YNet op-ed on this issue here:
* * * *
Yesterday I reported that there were seven Israeli dead, including one IDF soldier. This was Moshe Naftali, 22, of Ofra, in Judea. A member of the Golani Brigade, he was rushing to help people in the bus that had been fired upon when he was killed.
He was buried today in the Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
* * * *
Also buried today on Har Herzl was Paskal Avrahami, a senior member of the YAMAM Counter-Terrorism Unit and a legendary sharpshooter, who was hit after I had reported yesterday. A brave and dedicated veteran fighter who trained many others, he was deeply mourned by his unit.
His commander eulogized him thus:
“We’re standing here, unable to fathom the loss of YAMAM’s number one officer… You did not hesitate yesterday, didn’t falter for one moment and your heroic actions saved many lives.
“You were the pillar of fire showing us the way. We promise to carry on with your work.”
Photo: Noam MoskowitzHe leaves a wife and three children.
* * * *
At least 12 Kassam rockets and Grad katyusha rockets were launched into Israel over the night. Grads were aimed at Beersheva and Ashdod; some were stopped by the Iron Dome system. Ten people were injured, two seriously, when a Grad hit a yeshiva in Ashdod. In one instance a rocket hit a synagogue but failed to explode.
During the night Israel continued to act in Gaza in response to this. There were seven sites targeted with direct hits confirmed -- against weapons manufacturing sites in the north, smuggling tunnels in the south, and more.
* * * *
Meanwhile Nabil Sha'ath, a senior PA (PA, not Hamas) official said that what Israel is doing constitutes "war crimes."
"The Israeli insanity will not hold back the Palestinian leadership from going to the UN; on the contrary it will give us a stronger motivation to continue our move,” he told the PA news agency WAFA.
Such criticism as was leveled against the original terror attack was based not on a moral perspective. Rather, it was said that it "gives Israel an excuse to attack," and thus is counterproductive. This is the standard Palestinian Arab stance.
TERROR IN THE SOUTH
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.