MORE WAR CLOUDS GATHER OVER TENSE MIDDLE EAST

April 1 Release

By David Dolan

Armed attacks upon the world’s only Jewish state escalated sharply during March, coming from both the northern and southern border regions. For the first time in over 40 years, Israeli air force jets struck several Syrian Army military positions after four Israeli soldiers, including a battalion deputy commander, were wounded in a border attack that the IDF said was launched by Syrian soldiers stationed on the tense Golan Heights. One week later, two Syrian infiltrators were shot and wounded as they tried to penetrate the Golan border fence.

Earlier in the month in the south, Iranian-backed Palestinian Muslim terrorists once again fired nearly 100 rockets at Israeli civilian communities near the Gaza Strip. One landed just outside of a library in the often attacked Israeli town of S’derot. It was the largest barrage of rockets to be fired in the same timeframe since Israel fought a six day battle with the radical Hamas movement in November 2012.

The Israeli Air Force was quickly ordered into action, hitting a number of rocket shooting positions and other targets connected to the Islamic Jihad group, which said it carried out at least most of the rocket assaults. As they have done several times before as rocket attacks escalated over the past year, Israeli government officials warned that a major military incursion into the small Palestinian coastal zone might become necessary if the shootings continued, prompting the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers to put at least a temporary halt to the sustained firings.

As fierce fighting continued to envelop neighboring Syria, the embattled Assad regime made more gains against its multifaceted Sunni Arab Muslim opponents during the month, recapturing a strategic town near the border with Lebanon with the help of Iran’s surrogate Shiite Lebanese Hizbullah militia force. This came as the regime continued to drag its feet on commitments made to the United Nations last year to hand over all of its huge chemical weapons arsenal to international control and destruction. Israeli leaders are said to be worried that the chemical weapons deal may fall entirely apart in the coming weeks and months, since Syria’s main big power ally, Russia, is now at loggerheads with much of the world after Vladimir Putin invaded portions of the country of Georgia during March.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met once again with American President Barrack Obama during the month in Washington, with discussions reportedly focusing on faltering peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, the war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program. The meetings came just a couple weeks before a deadline set by the PA last summer for suspending the talks if they did not make any tangible progress by the end of March. Meanwhile the Israeli government decided to postpone the fourth and final round of Palestinian prisoner releases that was due to be held on March 29. The four stage release was agreed upon last year as part of the peace talk’s resumption, prompting outrage from Palestinian leader who issued more threats that a new terrorist attrition war may be on the horizon if the release did not take place.

Meanwhile PA leader Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his hard line position that the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state—a basic requirement spelled out by Israeli leaders for many years if there is to be a final peaceful resolution of this portion of the wider Arab-Muslim conflict, which has morphed in recent decades into a struggle with non-Arab Iran and its allies. Further sinking the always extremely slim prospects that an American-brokered peace treaty could be ironed out sometime this year, the Arab League subsequently formally endorsed the PA’s rejectionist stand.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon got into more hot water during March after he delivered a speech in which he termed President Obama’s response to the so-called “Arab Spring” regional upheaval, and the recent Russian invasion of Crimea, as “feeble.” He noted that widely perceived growing American weakness in the region can only spell ill for Israel. This came as Egypt’s military leaders finalized a major arms deal with Moscow that will provide the large Arab country with some of Russia’s most advances weapons systems, said media reports from Cairo.

Senior Iranian government leaders praised their Palestinian allies for lashing out at Israel. Defense Minister General Hossein Dehqan said that Iranian weapons shipments, training and financial aid had left Palestinian militiamen in the Gaza Strip “a thousand times more powerful than they were before.” This came as the country’s Foreign Minister predicted that international talks to curb the regime’s rogue nuclear production will fail to reach that goal.

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