By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Tensions appear to be escalating between Israel and Hamas as well as there being a potential for escalation with Iranian-backed groups in Syria. This comes after the January US airstrike on Qasem Soleimani and the US decision to rollout a “Deal of the Century” in late January. The new Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani has phoned Palestinian factions and he may want to pressure Israel.
We now know some other details as well. A smuggling operation several months ago to Gaza was thwarted at sea. A new report tweeted by Yossi Mansharofincludes rumors that Qasem Soleimani also travelled to Yemen. “The deputy governor of Yemen’s al-Hodeidah district Walid Al-Qadimi claims Soleimani visited in Yemen during recent October. According to him, he entered Yemen via al-Hodeidah port and met with the IRGC-backed Ansarallah officials in Sanaa.” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had indicated on October 28 that Iran was seeking to strike at Israel viaYemen. More threats by Yemen’sHouthis came in December.
The immediate issue on February 6 areSANA Syrian media reports of Israeli airstrikes near Damascus. Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the air defense system shot down most of the missiles before they reached their targets in the early hours of Thursday. “Our air defenses confronted an Israeli attack” west of Damascus, the report said. Iran’s Press TV picked up the report. The report says airstrikes occurred near Izra, Kiswa, Baghdad Bridge interchange and Marj al-Sultan (الكسوة ومرج السلطان وجسر بغداد وجنوب إزرع). Kiswa has been hit previously. Marj al-Sultan has military facilities near Damascus International Airport. Baghdad Interchange is a key interchange of the M5 and the N2 highway to Ad Dumayr airbase. The Baghdad Bridge area also has many military facilities.
Israel-Hamas tensions and Palesitnian tensions
The Palestinian Authority has been threatening to cut ties with Israel due to the US “Deal of the Century” and in recent days there have been numerous incidents from Gaza. These are some of them: Feb 5: Two mortars, 3 projectiles (rockets) Feb 2: Airstrikes in Gaza Feb 1: One rocket from Gaza, airstrikes Jan 31: 4 mortars, two rockets Jan. 30: Four rockets Jan 29: One projectile (Israel sends forces to WB/Gaza border) Jan 26: One rocket.
Israel has responded with airstrikes and reducing the fishing zone off Gaza. On February 6 Israel’s IDF also gave more details. Israel’s IDF reports the following: Direct quotes are from an IDF briefing: GAZA: An “Intense period.” From midnight to five AM. “Rockets or mortars were fired (three mortars) and didn’t cause damage. In response to that continuous mortar fire and explosive balloons, condoned and authorized by Hamas, we responded against different fronts of military infrastructure, including an underground complex and in central Gaza that served maintenance purposes. We hold Hamas responsible. Hamas is allowing mortar fire toward Israel and we won’t tolerate, significant concern.”
JERUSALEM: “There was an attack on a group of soldiers in basic training Golan brigade who were on an educational/heritage tour on foot, as they were standing at the old train station, a car rammed into the soldiers and wounded 12 and one severely wounded; latest report the situation NOT life threatening. All wounded were evacuated to hospitals in Jerusalem. We are in pursuit of the assailant, reports say vehicle might have been found, there is an ongoing pursuit. Led by IDF and with police.”
JENIN: “We’ve seen enhanced activity over last days, three events in Jenin overnight. First was the demolition of a house of a terrorist involved involved in 2008 shooting. There was a riot of people throwing Molotov cocktails and IEDs and SNIPER FIRE and that was second incident. In retaliation, our snipers retaliated and killed a sniper. A third incident that is separate we are looking into, a significant event is the reported injury of a Palestinian Security forces member who engaged IDF. Happened at night.”
CONCLUSION: IDF says “there will be an assessment by Chief of Staff.” They also reference the friction in Hebron. “We are not trying to escalate. It is not our aim to have any friction with Palestinian security forces. We are investigating. Over last days there is a rise in intensity.”