Israel is a small country surrounded by many enemies, but what does this mean in concrete terms? These are the security threats facing Israel and its citizens.
The Egyptian Border: Quiet on the Southern Front
The Egyptian Sinai has witnessed a revival of terrorist activities since the beginning of 2010. The Ansar Bait al-Maqdis extremist militant group – which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State – has been active in the area, leading many attacks against Egyptian Security Force outposts spread out across the Sinai Peninsula, killing many in the process. The threat of terrorist infiltrations by Islamic State and other related organizations is a threat that will need to be addressed moving forward.
This resurgence of terrorist activity has forced the IDF to build a new security fence on the 200 km border between Israel and Egypt. The fence was completed in 2013, and is monitored 24 hours a day by the IDF’s highly trained personnel.
In July 2015, two rockets launched from Sinai hit Israel. This was the first attack of its nature since Sinai militants pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Although it seems that the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization has chosen to primarily focus its efforts on Egyptian Security Forces, it may prove inevitable that they will intensify efforts to attack Israel and the IDF troops standing guard on the border.
THE GAZA STRIP: REBUILDING TERROR
Both Hamas, the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization in Gaza, have made significant efforts in the past year to rebuild their military capabilities destroyed by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Despite the lack of resources in the Gaza Strip, Hamas invests its funds, manpower and equipment to restoring its weapons arsenal.
The military buildup is particularly shocking when considering the continued delays in the reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Recently, in July 2015, Hamas fighter and tunnel digger, Ibrahim Adal Shahada Sha’ar, was arrested by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). Sha’ar provided important information, describing planned attacks on Israel, battlefield strategy, and military cooperation with Iran. This clearly shows that Hamas’ main priority is the rehabilitation of its military and terrorist capabilities even at the expense of civilian needs.
Recruiting and training adolescents has also been one of Hamas’ top priorities. In the summer of 2015, Hamas camps provided combat training to 25,000 Palestinians in Gaza. They received basic and advanced military training (including the abduction of IDF soldiers and exiting terror tunnels) as well as religious indoctrination.
While rebuilding military capabilities with international funding, terrorist organizations continue to fire rockets from Gaza. Since May 2015, rocket fire has become an almost monthly occurrence.
Accordingly, senior Hamas officials recently emphasized the need to open new fronts against Israel in the next round of fighting and has encouraged the surrounding Arab nations to join the fighting. Hamas spokesmen have stated that during Operation Protective Edge, terrorists from the organization’s military wing already launched rockets into northern Israel from Lebanese territory, and implicitly called for the expansion of coordinated attacks for the next confrontation.
JUDEA AND SAMARIA: A RENEWAL OF PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE
Since Operation Brother’s Keeper, and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Hamas has tried to rebuild its terror network in the Judea and Samaria area. Security forces have arrested multiple terror cells for plotting attacks against Israeli civilians.
This summer, terrorists have perpetrated multiple attacks and a new cycle of violence has erupted. As recent as June 29, 2015, a drive-by shooting injured four Israelis driving along route 60, near Shvut Rachel, located near Ramallah. One of the Israelis succumbed to his wounds a day later.
Another type of lethal threat that Israel has faced is car ramming attacks that took place in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. These attacks have been praised by Hamas and amongst the Palestinian population on social networks.
Firebombs and stone hurling have also continued. On August 3, three people suffered injuries from a Molotov cocktail in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem.
THE SYRIAN BORDER: THE WAR NEXT DOOR
The UN’s peacekeeping force stationed in the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border that was taken hostage by the al-Nusra Front in September 2014 is a recent example of the nearness of the Syrian Civil War and terrorist organizations to Israeli territory.
The fighting around the town of al-Quneitra has caused the sporadic errant fire of rockets and explosives towards Israel. Sporadic fire in this area resulted in the injury of an IDF soldier in early September 2014. Since, there was also an attack on August 3, 2015, when two mortars hit territory in the Golan Heights, without any injuries. Weeks later, on August 20 four rockets were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights and landed in the Upper Galilee and Israeli Golan Heights. No injuries were reported. Islamic Jihad executed the attack from Syrian government territory.
THE LEBANESE BORDER: THE HEZBOLLAH THREAT
Though Hezbollah is also present in the Syrian Golan Heights as a part of its military involvement meant to aid Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian Civil war, Hezbollah’s stronghold remains southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization has repeatedly used its infrastructure located in the area for lethal purposes.
On January 28, two IDF soldiers were killed in a missile attack that targeted their patrol on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for this attack.
The attack revealed that despite UN Resolution 1701 – which stipulates that no armed forces other than the Lebanese Army should be present in southern Lebanon – Hezbollah has increased its military capabilities in the area. Additional intelligence has estimated that Hezbollah maintains approximately 30,000 fighters, and a stockpile of 100,000 rockets pointed at Israel. Those rockets can reach any point on the map of Israel, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, recently claimed that “Israel can’t even imagine the size of our arms stockpile.”
It is important to remember that a number of threats still endanger the civilians and soldiers of Israel. Imminent hazards from the Sinai Peninsula in the south, Judea and Samaria in the east, and Syria and Lebanon in the north surround Israelis on all sides. Despite this, the IDF stands ready on all fronts to defend the Israeli population and Jews worldwide.