Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts

Update Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts
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Palestinians wave their national flag and celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo)
Update Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts
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Members of Israeli security forces carries an injured person on a stretcher following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on October 7, 2023. (AFP)
Update Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts
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An emergency personnel works to extinguish fire after rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel, on October 7, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 10 October 2023
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Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts

Israel ‘totally misunderstood Hamas’: Experts
  • Israel taken by complete surprise early on Saturday morning as Hamas fired thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip at the country

JERUSALEM: The devastating failure of the Israeli intelligence services to predict the deadly Hamas incursion stemmed from a total misunderstanding of the militant group, experts have said.

Israel was taken by complete surprise early on Saturday morning as Hamas fired thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip at the country, while more than a thousand fighters gunned down hundreds of people and took at least 100 hostages.

Israeli soldiers embarked on fierce battles with the militants holed up in southern communities, as the air force began striking strategic targets in Gaza.

By Monday morning, official estimates put the number of Israeli civilians and soldiers killed at over 700, a huge toll for a country of less than 10 million people.

“It’s a huge failure of the intelligence system and the military apparatus in the south,” said retired military general Yaakov Amidror, who served as Israel’s national security adviser in 2011-2013.

But beyond the operational failure of Israel’s vaunted intelligence services to detect the well-organized attack and the army’s inability to block it, Israel’s broader take on Hamas was entirely flawed, Amidror said.

“We made a huge mistake, including me, in believing a terror organization can change its DNA,” he told journalists.

“We heard from our friends around the world that they’re behaving more responsibly, and we believed it in our stupidity,” said Amidror, currently a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

The group has controlled the impoverished Gaza Strip since it ousted loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from there.

Created in 1987 by a group of militants close to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, its charter calls for an Islamic state throughout Palestinian territories and the group set up aid programs focused on social welfare schools.

Before Saturday’s assault, Israel had fought four wars with Gaza militants, the last one in 2021.

These wars were marked by devastating air strikes as Israel sought to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, while the militants rained down rockets across the border.

In an attempt to win some peace, Israel had recently increased work and trade permits for Gazans, with about 18,500 laborers providing significant income to the densely-populated coastal enclave where around half of the population is unemployed.

Israel believed that economic incentives, wedded with the implicit threat of military force, had made Hamas lose its appetite for violence.

Earlier this month, Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said that for the past two years Hamas has not initiated any rocket launches, as part of its decision to curb its violence in an “unprecedented” manner.

“Hamas is very restrained, and understands the meaning of further defiance,” he said in an interview with army radio on October 1.

To Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Tel Aviv university’s Dayan Center, such remarks show “we totally misunderstood Hamas.”

“The notion of economic incentives that would diminish Hamas’ motivation for terror and even cause the public to go against it totally collapsed,” he told AFP.

“You’re dealing with a radical, ideological organization. Do you really think you can buy their ideology out? Bend it? This is a total misunderstanding, and probably included wishful thinking.

“While we believed that a radical body that takes power gradually becomes moderate, they were gaining strength and preparing the next stage of their war.”

Milshtein, a retired intelligence officer who was an adviser to COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said the Hamas leadership had been publicly professing its intention to carry out an attack just like Saturday’s.

“The operation was planned for nearly a year, which is amazing because this is a year in which Israel kept on increasing the amount of labor permits and concessions,” he said.

“The Israeli conception was that Hamas doesn’t want an escalation,” Milshtein said.

“The writing was on the wall. They just didn’t want to believe it was true.”

Israel’s leadership was swift to indicate that the penny has dropped.

On Saturday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that when he was head of the military’s southern command in 2009, he wanted to “break the neck” of Hamas but was stopped by the political echelon.

Now, as the man who along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determines the course of the war, Gallant was no longer subject to restraints.

“We will change the reality on the ground in Gaza,” he vowed.

“What was before, will be no more.”


Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Updated 22 February 2024
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Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Ships that are wholly or partially owned by Israeli individuals or entities and Israel-flagged vessels are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, said statements from an agency controlled by Yemen’s Houthi group seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The statements, sent to shipping insurers and firms from the Houthi’s Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center, also said ships owned by US or British individuals or entities, or sailing under their flags, are also banned.

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
Updated 22 February 2024
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Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
  • ‘Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship’

The International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, on Thursday continued its hearing from dozens of states and three international organizations who question the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from countries including China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya were expected to deliver their positions during the third day of the hearing at the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

Speakers from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, with the Kingdom’s envoy to the Netherlands Ziad Al-Atiyah stating Israel’s continued actions were legally indefensible.

Ahmad Ziadat, Minister of Justice of Jordan, center, and Ayman Safadi, right, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, at the International Court of Justice hearing in The Hague. (ANP/AFP)

Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said that “Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship by banning Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and not protecting priests from humiliation and abuse from Israeli extremists.”

Safadi said that the “occupation was unlawful, inhumane and it must end.”

“Israel has been systematically consolidating the occupation, denying the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.”

Safadi closed his remarks, saying “Palestinians are being killed in the hundreds every day in Gaza and in the West Bank because Israel is not being held accountable for its war crimes and violation of international law… rule that the Israel occupation, the source of all evil, must end.”

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, center, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. (ANP/AFP)

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, called on the ICJ to stop the “systematic killing machine” against the Palestinian people and the end of “mass murder” and “genocide.”

Al-Barrak talked of Israel’s “barbaric acts”, including “air strikes and rocket attacks targeting civilians.”

“These acts constitute war crimes executed with a criminal intent” and are serious violations of the laws of war, the Iraqi representative said, and added that Israel “must be held accountable”.

Reza Najafi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs. (ANP/AFP)

The Iranian representative said the Israeli occupation force continuously violated Palestinians right to self-determination.

“The establishment of the Israeli regime was done through a violent process which involved the forcible displacement of native Palestinian people to create a majority Jewish colony in line with the Zionist movement,” Reza Najafi, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs said.

Najafi listed a series of supposed ongoing violations by the Israeli occupying regime: prolonged occupation; alteration of the demographic composition in the occupied territories; alteration of the character and the status of the Holy City; discriminatory measures and violations of the rights of Palestinian people to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.

Najafi added that “the expansion of settlements, segregated roads and barriers as well as checkpoints has created a system of apartheid which is isolating Palestinian communities.”In his closing remarks, Najafi said “the inaction or insufficient action of the Security Council” was one of the “main causes of prolonged occupation of the Palestinians,” and it was “paralysed due to the stalemate” caused by a “certain permanent member.”

Ma Xinmin, a foreign ministry legal adviser, meanwhile said Beijing “has consistently supported the just cause of the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate right”.

“In pursuit of the right to self-determination”, he mentioned, the Palestinian people’s use of force to “resist foreign oppression” and complete the establishment of an independent state is an “inalienable right”.


Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies
Updated 22 February 2024
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Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: maritime agencies

DUBAI: A missile attack Thursday targeted a vessel transiting the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire on board, two maritime agencies said, the latest in a flurry of strikes disrupting global shipping.

“A vessel was attacked by two missiles, resulting in a fire onboard,” the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said, adding that “coalition forces are responding.”

Security firm Ambrey also reported a fire aboard a Palau-flagged, British-owned general cargo ship following two missile strikes southeast of Yemen’s Aden.

The ship “appeared to be headed from Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and headed in the direction of the Red Sea,” Ambrey said.

“Merchant shipping is advised to stay clear of the vessel and proceed with caution,” it added.

There was no immediate claim for the attack but it follows a series of strikes on commercial vessels by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis say the attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

The strikes have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.


Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
Updated 22 February 2024
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Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
  • Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship, was damaged in Sunday’s Houthi missile strike

DUBAI: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels remains afloat and could be towed to Djibouti this week, its operator said on Thursday.
Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in Sunday’s missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had claimed on Monday the attack on the ship, saying it was “at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden” after receiving “extensive damage.”
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
“She will be towed to Djibouti but the tugboat has not yet arrived,” Khoury said. “It should be there in two to three days.”
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury said there was “no risk for now but always a possibility.”
Ship-tracking site TankerTrackers.com confirmed that the Rubymar had not sunk but warned that the vessel was leaking fuel oil.
The attack on the Rubymar has inflicted the most significant damage yet to a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said the ship’s last port of call was the United Arab Emirates and it was destined for Belarus.
Its 24 crew members included 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians and four Filipinos, the authority said in a statement on Monday.
“The vessel has on board 21,999 MT (metric tons) of fertilizer IMDG class 5.1,” the authority said on X, formerly Twitter, describing it as “very dangerous.”
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.


One killed, eight wounded in gun attack near West Bank settlement

One killed, eight wounded in gun attack near West Bank settlement
Updated 22 February 2024
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One killed, eight wounded in gun attack near West Bank settlement

One killed, eight wounded in gun attack near West Bank settlement
  • Eight people with varying degrees of injuries were evacuated from the scene by medics
  • Violence was already on the increase across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Three Palestinian gunmen killed one person and wounded eight, among them a young pregnant woman, in a “terror attack” Thursday when they sprayed automatic weapons fire at vehicles near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police said.
The shooters were “neutralized,” police said, and an AFP photographer later saw their bodies at the scene of the attack on a highway east of Jerusalem, where five cars were riddled with bullets.
“The three terrorists... got out of their vehicle and started shooting automatic weapons at vehicles that were in a traffic jam on the road toward Jerusalem,” police said in a statement about the attack near the Maale Adumim settlement.
“Two terrorists were neutralized on the spot,” police said. “In the searches conducted at the scene, another terrorist was located who tried to escape and he was also neutralized.”

The gunmen were identified as Mohammed Zawahrah, 26, his brother Kathim Zawahrah, 31, and Ahmed Al-Wahsh, also 31, by Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet.
Among those wounded was a 23-year-old pregnant woman who was in critical condition, said the emergency response service Magen David Adom and a spokesperson for the Shaare Tzedek Hospital.
Violence was already on the rise across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack, but has escalated since then to levels unseen in nearly two decades, with hundreds killed in recent months.
Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the site of Thursday’s attack where he told journalists: “The enemies... want to hurt us. They hate us.”
He argued that “we need to distribute more weapons” and that “our right to life is superior to the freedom of movement” of residents governed by the Palestinian Authority under president Mahmud Abbas.
“There should be more restrictions and we should put barriers around villages and limit the freedom of movement” of people from the West Bank, Ben Gvir added.

Israeli officials work at the scene of a shooting attack by Palestinian gunmen near the Maale Adumim settlement, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Feb. 22, 2024. (REUTERS)

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for a “firm security response... and colonization” by building thousands of new housing units in settlements like Maale Adumim and across the West Bank.
“Our enemies must know that any harm done to us would result in more construction, more development and even more control over the entire country,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.
The attack came after two people were shot dead last Friday at a bus stop in southern Israel near the town of Kiryat Malakhi.
The West Bank has seen frequent Palestinian attacks on Israelis and near-daily raids by the Israeli military that often turn deadly.
Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Gaza war broke out, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.
Israel captured the West Bank — including east Jerusalem, which it later annexed — in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Four people have died, including three gunmen. (REUTERS)

Around 475,000 Jewish settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, in settlements considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community.
The West Bank’s Palestinian population is about 2.9 million.
The Palestinians claim the territory as the heartland of a future independent state, a goal being discussed by the international community as the Gaza war rages into a fifth month.
Israel’s parliament Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The Gaza war erupted after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
At least 29,410 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.