Iran and Russia are becoming closer allies. This includes Russian plans to provide Iran with S400 air defense systems and cooperating with Iran in Syria, where Israeli air strikes have prevented Iran from launching attacks into Israel. At the same time Israel is improving its relationship with Ukraine. This is influenced by its worsening relationship with Russia because of Russia’s closer relationship with Iran. Israel has been sending economic aid to Ukraine but not weapons. So far.
Russia is obsessed with conquering Ukraine and losing. At the same time, Iran remains obsessed with destroying Israel and losing too. Iran’s presence in Syria is Israel’s chief threat, so Israeli efforts to make a peace deal with the Syrian Assad government depend on convincing the Assads that with Israeli help they can survive declaring their independence from Iranian domination. Israel has long recognized this opportunity and in mid-2022 sent Basher Assad an ultimatum that, if he did not cease cooperating with the Iranians (especially the movement and storage of Iranian missiles to Syria), Israeli airstrikes would go after Assad and family members by bombing the many luxury residences (“palaces'') used by the Syrian family in and around Damascus. The Assads had earlier denied this degree of cooperation but this time Israel pointed out it was sharing intel with Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies and that means it is a lot more difficult for Assad to get away with lying to the Israelis. Arab nations and Israel were trying to get the Assads to switch sides and the Assads made a decision to stick with Iran without telling the wealthy Gulf Arab states he was hoping would invest in rebuilding the Syrian economy once the war was finally over. The Israelis did not follow through on their threat and it was believed that the Iranian threat to kill Assad and his family was a more compelling offer. The Assads are survivors and apparently continuing their negotiations with Arab nations and Israel. The Iranians are increasingly preoccupied with problems inside Iran as well as their new military alliance with Russia. This makes Iran a participant in the Ukraine war on the Russian side. That makes Iran even more unpopular internationally. Despite that, Iran is determined to hold onto its current power in Syria.
Israel treats Iran as a major threat, especially because of the Iranian presence in Syria though Iran’s nuclear program is starting to rival that. Israel has been at war with Iran in Syria for nearly a decade, during which Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes and a few commando operations against Iranian operations in Syria. This cost Iran a lot of lives and money, and is one of the things restive Iranians want to halt by pulling Iranian forces out of Syria and Lebanon. But first the Iranians have to shut down the Iranian religious dictatorship, which, as expected, resists efforts to shut down operations in Syria.
Iran controls irregular forces in Syria along with the more organized Hezbollah in Lebanon and the inept Hamas in Gaza. Iran also has short-range ballistic missiles that can reach Israel and keeps trying to smuggle guided rockets and short-range ballistic missiles into Syria and Lebanon. Hundreds of Israeli air strikes have prevented the guided weapons buildup and formidable Israeli BMD (ballistic missiles defense) systems neutralize the use of missiles launched from Iran. So far the defenses have worked. Israel has now offered to sell its BMD systems to their new Arab allies, and help them use whatever BMD systems they do obtain to keep the Iranian missiles out.
March 7, 2023: In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers raided a house where a suspected Hamas terrorist lived. The suspect was believed responsible for two Israelis last month. The suspect opened fire and was killed in a brief battle, along with five other Palestinians who attacked the soldiers. Another twelve Palestinians were wounded as well as three Israeli soldiers. Palestinian leaders complained about the high Palestinian casualties that occurred when Palestinians in the area attacked the soldiers. As expected, the Palestinians in the south (Gaza) later launched a rocket towards southern Israel. Israeli radar detected the launch but the rocket malfunctioned and landed inside Gaza.
In northern Syria (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike put the Aleppo airport out of service. This was apparently part of the effort to disrupt shipments of weapons to Syria and Lebanon.
March 5, 2023: In the north (Lebanese border) an Israeli army patrol crossed the border and was confronted by Lebanese troops who physically attacked the Israelis. Before this could escalate, UN peacekeepers arrived and resolved the situation.
March 4, 2023: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Britain called on Israel to curb the activities and presence of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. For a decade now the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has been increasing. This is partly in reaction to the “Israel does not exist” strategy of the Palestinians. This backfired by 2013 when an opinion survey showed that 83 percent of Israelis did not believe that returning to the 1967 borders (in a peace deal with the Palestinians) would end the Palestinian terrorism. This is a big shift from 2000, when Israel offered the Palestinians a peace deal that most Palestinians would accept in 2013. But back then the Palestinian leader (Yasser Arafat), facing pressure from Palestinian leaders instead launched a terror campaign against Israel. This was defeated by the Israelis by 2005 but is still sputtering along. After 2005 the Palestinians split into Fatah (more corrupt, less Islamic) and Hamas (less corrupt, more Islamic) factions. Both groups continue to spew “death to the Jews” messages via their media outlets (with a more moderate tone in non-Arabic pronouncements). In response to the death threats from the Palestinians, many Israelis have backed Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Originally these were efforts by extremist groups to begin the process of annexing the West Bank to Israel. The most extreme of these groups want the Arabs expelled from this territory which, thousands of years ago was part of ancient Israel. The Israeli government has never backed the expulsion idea, but does support the settlements, if only because it makes the West Bank less of a threat to Israel. Israelis are well aware of these Palestinian media messages and have given up hope of making a real and lasting peace deal with the Palestinians. The Israeli goes through the motions to placate foreign allies who disregard Palestinian attitudes towards Israel and insist on a peace deal. Palestinian attitudes since 2013 have been consistently anti- peace. Arafat’s widow later confirmed that her husband deliberately began the 2000 terror campaign in order to coerce Israel into sweetening the peace deal. Israel would not submit to coercion and fought back. Arafat had long claimed that the 2000 terror campaign was a spontaneous Palestinian response to the Israeli peace offer. At the time, most Palestinians were willing to accept it. But the Palestinian radicals wanted Israel destroyed and nothing less would do. As long as the Palestinians insist that Israel must be destroyed, most Israelis support the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
March 3, 2023: The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) revealed that it had arrested four members if a Hamas terrorist cell (group) that had received training in Syria and Turkey before returning to the West Bank, where they were arrested.
March 2, 2023: In the West Bank one Palestinian was killed and another wounded during an attack on Israeli soldiers. Since these attacks often involve fire bombs or large rocks, If Israeli troops feel their lives are in danger, they can fire at their attackers and not just into the air.
March 1, 2023: In the north, across the Syrian border in Quneitra and Daraa provinces, Israeli aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets warning Syrians to not cooperate with Hezbollah members who operate intelligence networks and seek to recruit Syrians to work with Hezbollah to network of pro-Iran operatives who would help Iran establish a military presence on the border and attack Israel. The leaflets pointed out that Israeli air and artillery strikes often hit Hezbollah operations near the border. For several years Israel has been increasingly active in attacking their hostile operatives near the border. Since the 1980s the Lebanese Hezbollah Shia militia has been supported financially and with weapons by Iran. That led to the Iranian 2011 order that sent Hezbollah forces into Syria to protect the Shia Assad government and later to take control of the Syrian side of the Israeli border and work with Iranian troops to launch attacks on Israel. Israeli efforts to prevent Iranian forces from operating close to the Israeli border or gaining support from the border population in the border provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda have increased. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Quentera and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Quentera province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.
February 27, 2023: The IAEA reports that they found traces of uranium enriched to 83.7 percent, just short of the 90 percent required for nuclear weapons. These samples were found at the Fordow procession facility where uranium is only supposed to be enriched to 60 percent.. This comes at the same time information about an agreement between Russia and Iran for Russia to pay for weapons by supplying highly enriched uranium.
February 26, 2023: In the West Bank two Israelis were killed by Palestinian gunmen. One of the dead held dual Israeli-American citizenship.
February 25, 2023: In the West Bank a Palestinian man was shot dead when he tried to attack an Israeli civilian with a knife. This sort of attack on Israelis, usually with knives or vehicles, usually takes place in the West Bank. This began in 2015 when Palestinian leaders called for suicidal “knife terrorism” attacks. These attacks soon lost their popularity despite Fatah continuing to encourage these attacks energetically in all the Palestinian media. This can be seen in the number of Palestinian terror attacks disrupted each year. It was 217 in 2014, 187 in 2013, 112 in 2012 and 88 in 2011. In the last decade knife attacks are less common and almost always occur in the West Bank or Jerusalem. Since 1948 some 2,600 Israelis have died from terror attacks inside Israel. Nearly five percent of those dead were foreigners. Palestinian terrorism efforts have never recovered from the defeat they suffered, when Israel adopted new tactics that largely shut down the terror campaign the Palestinians began in 2000. Fatah and Hamas have been trying to revive that effort ever since and have largely failed. The 2022 Israeli deaths are hailed as a great victory while the 70 Palestinians killed during these attacks, especially the many that failed. These attacks are often described by Palestinians as Israeli oppression of peaceful Palestinians.
February 23, 2023: In the south (Gaza) five rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, where they were intercepted by Israeli air defenses. Later in the day, Israeli air strikes destroyed a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility as well as a weapons storage warehouse.
February 22, 2023: In the West Bank, soldiers sought to arrest three terrorism suspects but the three refused to surrender and opened fire and were killed by return fire. Hundreds of Palestinians then attacked the soldiers and tried to block their withdrawal. More soldiers arrived and nine more Palestinians were killed and over a hundred wounded.
February 20, 2023: Turkish interference in Libyan internal affairs is making the formation of a Libyan national government even more difficult. The UN agrees that the Turkish demands are illegal but refuses to do much about it. That is actually normal for the UN. The United States and European governments are demanding that the UN act but the UN refuses without admitting that it is simply impossible for the UN to obtain enough international support to pressure the Turks to get out of Libya. UN efforts in Libya to help establish a national government have failed and are now seen as part of the problem. The UN still considers its efforts as a positive force in Libya. While most Libyans are ready to form a national government, the UN and Turkey remain the primary obstacles to achieving that. There are other obstacles, like Egypt, which has long been a major factor in Eastern Libya politics because the Egyptians want to look after the many Egyptians who work in Libya as well as keeping Islamic terrorists in Libya from getting into Egypt or smuggling weapons into Egypt.
February 19, 2023: In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike at night damaged a ten-story building in a residential neighborhood that was being used as the headquarters for Iranian and Hezbollah operations in Syria. Iran believed that a building in a residential area would discourage Israel from carrying out an air strike. The upscale residential area is where a lot of senior government officials and their families live. Israeli aircraft used at least two air-to-surface guided missiles for the attack. The building was not completely destroyed, but much rubble fell into surrounding streets and windows in some adjacent buildings were broken. The airstrike took place after midnight when February temperatures are near freezing and not many people are on the streets in residential neighborhoods. Iran tried to use civilians as human shields by placing this headquarters in a residential area and it is unclear if the Syrian government agreed with this policy or were forced to go along. In Gaza the Hamas government regularly puts key military facilities in residential areas and Israel attacks them, usually after first hacking the telephone system to call all the civilians who might be and danger and warning them to leave their building. This reduces civilian casualties and annoys Hamas. The situation is different in Syria where Iranians are an unwelcome guest the Assad government cannot refuse.
February 15, 2023: Iran is converting a container ship to an aircraft carrier. This is complicated by the fact that the superstructure (crew quarters, work spaces and offices) stretches across the ship and is over a hundred meters from the rear of the ship. Using a container ship as a carrier means building an odd shaped flight deck. Reconstruction of the container ship Perarin began about nine months ago and recent satellite photos show an angled flight deck that partially overhangs the hull. The area behind the superstructure is apparently being used as a helicopter landing pad with anti-aircraft guns mounted at the rear of the ship. The new carrier will carry and operate several types of UAVs, including the Shahed 129A. Iran has about three dozen of these and while they look like an American Predator, they are smaller (less than half a ton) and the tech was obtained from reverse engineering an Israeli Hermes 450 that crashed largely intact in a place the Iranians could recover it. The 129A entered service in 2013 and is not used as a cruise missile, like the smaller (less than a quarter ton) Shahed 136 used in Ukraine as a cruise missile. The 129a can carry four Sadid guided bombs. Each of these weighs 34 kg (75 pounds) and has a max range of six kilometers. Accuracy is (at several meters) not as precise as missiles like Hellfire which can hit within a meter of the target, Sadid was proved effective when used in Syria. Operating relatively large UAVs like the 129A from a carrier deck may lead to a few accidents and possible loss of some 129As. This is less of a problem with the smaller UAVs used as cruise missiles on one-way missions. Most of the UAVs carried by the new carrier will be these smaller models. They are built in large quantities and Iran assisted the Russians in building a factory in Russia to produce several types of Iranian UAVs. The larger UAVs are often built in smaller quantities, often no more than 30 or 40. The exceptions are particularly successful models, like the more than 200 Mohajer-6s built since 2018. Iran’s UAV carrier can carry over a hundred UAVs if most of them are the smaller models used as cruise missiles. The larger UAVs are essential for reconnaissance and surveillance and training operations can be monitored because they have to be held at sea under realistic (windy with rough waters) to be effective. Some Western navies operate large UAVs off carrier decks. Turkey has built an amphibious assault ship with a carrier deck designed for operating large, jet powered, UAVs. The only problem with the Iranian carriers is that they are easy to spot and track by nations (like Israeli) with their own surveillance satellites and warplanes carrying long-range air-to-surface missiles that can be used against ships. Israel also has submarines operating in the region. Iran appears to be converting a second ship (a tanker) into a carrier and apparently has ambitious plans for these new ships. Iran lives in a dangerous neighborhood, made so largely by the mischief Iran creates, and the neighbors, especially the wealthy Arab oil states are heavily armed and well trained to handle whatever Iran aims at them.
February 6, 2023: A massive earthquake registering 7.8, on a scale where anything over six is considered major, devastated the Turkish-Syrian border in northeast Syria. Iran ordered its Islamic terrorists support units (Quds Force) in the area to provide any quake relief they are capable of. Some other Islamic terrorist groups did the same. This has long been a major combat zone on the Syrian side of the border. Most of the earthquake damage took place on the Turkish side. Total deaths are expected to exceed 50,000 and the total won't be known until the massive numbers of collapsed structures, especially in residential areas, are searched. The quake brought a halt to combat in Syria and Turkish military operations in the area as well as the food and other aid for the many civilians trapped in the Syrian Idlib province combat zone. This disrupts the operations of Islamic terror groups in the area. Islamic terrorists in other parts of Syria, particularly near the Israeli and Iraqi borders, reduced or suspended operations because of fears they would be subject to more attacks as a result of the temporary neutralization of Islamic terrorist operations in northern Syria. Israel and Iraq have both sent rescue and relief aid to Turkey.
January 30, 2023: : Israel has developed another, the fifth, version of its Merkava tank. The Merkava 5 was quietly developed, built, tested and deployed in small numbers during late 2022. This was ahead of schedule because the original delivery date was supposed to be early 2023. Like the earlier Merkava models, Merkava 5 is an improved version of the previous model. The 65-ton Merkava 4 entered service in 2005, with an upgraded version appearing in 2011. Further upgrades of Merkava 4 turned out to be so extensive that this version was designated Merkava 5, which weighs the same as Merkava 4. Several hundred Merkava 4 tank deliveries will instead incorporate the Merkava 5 features and enter service as Merkava 5s. This means there will be 360 Merkava 4s and 300 Merkava 5s. The price per tank will also increase from $4.5 million for each Merkava 4 and about $5 million for each Merkava 5. Improvements in the Merkava 5 include a more effective engine along with upgrades to the Iron Vision system that provides the commander a view of what is happening outside the tank. The new version provides a more realistic day/night view of what is outside as well as indications of where enemy fire (bullets or projectiles) hitting the tank is coming from and how best Merkava can respond. This was the result of upgrading the fire-control system. The Trophy APS (Active Protection System) has also been updated to be more effective and incorporate some of the lessons of the war in Ukraine. Israel is the smallest nation in the world to design and build its own tanks. This was the result of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which took Israel by surprise and inflicted heavy losses before Israel counter-attacked and defeated Egypt and Syria and their larger number of modern Russian tanks. Israel carefully analyzes the results of each war it fights and makes changes to deal with problems encountered. The 1973 war prompted Israel to start designing and building its own tanks.
January 29, 2023: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) unidentified armed UAVs attacked a convoy of trucks that had just left Iraq and were moving towards a nearby base used by Iran-backed militias. Many of these militiamen are from Iraq or Lebanon (Hezbollah). Sometimes the UAVs are American but sometimes they are Israeli, which has UAVs capable of doing this and intelligence assets (photo satellites and local informants) to detect and track such Iranian supply convoys. Iraq doesn’t care who does it as long as the attacks take place on the Syrian side of the border.
January 27, 2023: In the north (Golan Heights) a Hezbollah agent trying to sneak into Israel from Syria was caught by an Israeli army patrol. The Hezbollah agent was seeking to meet with an Israeli Arab he had recruited to observe and report on Israeli military operations in the Golan Heights. The Hezbollah agent entered Israel twice a month to meet with Israeli Arab operatives to pay him and receive new data they had collected. There were originally two Arab Israelis doing this for Hezbollah but the other operative was killed in May 2022 and Hezbollah continued to pay his widow. While Arab Israelis prosper in Israel compared to Arabs in neighboring states, they do not take advantage of educational opportunities to the extent that Jewish Israelis did. As a result, Arab Israeli income is now about 60 percent that of Jewish Israelis. Arab Israelis are still better off in terms of income and security compared to Arabs in Arab majority nations. Despite that, there has been a growing problem with the loyalty of Israeli Arabs since the 2006 war with Hezbollah. At least fifty Israeli Arabs are known to have joined ISIL and most appear to have died there or otherwise disappeared from view (or at least contact with their families back in Israel). A 2007 opinion survey of Arab Israelis revealed some scary attitudes. For example, 48 percent believed the Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel in 2006 were justified, even though Israeli Arabs suffered a disproportionate number of the Israeli casualties because most Israeli Arabs live in the north. Moreover, half saw the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which triggered the 2006 war, as justified, and 89 percent considered the Israeli attack on Lebanon a war crime while 44 percent believed the Hezbollah rocket attack was a war crime. A third of Arab Israeli high school and college graduates don't believe that six million Jews were killed during World War II, compared to 28 percent of all Israeli Arabs. Arab Israelis also have fears, like the possibility of mass expulsions from Israel (60 percent), or transfer of their communities to a new Palestinian state (62 percent). In fact, 68 percent would prefer to live in Israel even if there were a peace deal that led to the creation of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, 63 percent of Israel Jews avoid entering Arab towns or neighborhoods, and 68 percent fear civil unrest among Israeli Arabs. Since 2007 these anti-Israel attitudes among Arab Israelis has gotten worse and Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIL try to take advantage of it. ISIL has been the most successful, mainly because it is the most radical Islamic terrorist group and that appeals to the young (especially teenage) Moslem males who are most attracted to Islamic terrorism. In 2020 another Arab-Israeli was arrested and charged with working as a spy for Iran. Police have observed the suspect meeting with Iranian intel personnel and then seeking to recruit other Arab-Israelis to work for Iran and help destroy Israel. Since 2014, and the appearance of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), there has been a sharp increase in Arab-Israelis actively working to “destroy Israel”. Police estimate that over 50 Arab-Israelis have actually made it to Syria and joined ISIL and about as many were detected in Israel or in Turkey before they got to Syria. Not many Palestinians (about a hundred) have actually gone to Syria. At least seven Israeli citizens (all Arabs) have died fighting for ISIL, which considers the destruction of Israel very important and called on Arab-Israelis to join the fight. Many of those who did not want to fight in Syria were receptive to Iranian efforts, via Hezbollah, to recruit Arab-Israelis to serve as spies. In most cases Iran simply wanted a reliable source of basic information any Israeli citizen could pick up by driving around the country or consulting local media. Iran also found that recruiting Arab-Israelis to assist in carrying out attacks inside Israel often worked. These attacks are carried out by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs but organized by Iranian agents in Gaza or Iranian-trained Palestinians in the West Bank. These Arab-Israeli terrorists are the great-grandchildren of the Arabs who decided to remain in Israel in 1948.