Over the last month the rocket fire into southern Israel from Gaza has been steadily increasing, and with increasingly severe results. On Saturday night a factory in Sderot took a direct hit and burnt down, while other factories in the area were damaged. 4 people were injured in that attack. A further 2 rockets hit other areas in the region. In retaliation the IAF hit 12 terror targets in Gaza. That wasn’t the only attack over the weekend:
On Friday evening, six rockets were fired into from Gaza into Israeli territory and a mortar shell exploded near the border fence between Gaza and Israel. Two of the rockets fired were shot down by the Iron Dome anti missile system while the other four fell in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. No damage or injuries were reported as a result of the rockets or mortar fire.
The Israeli Air Force attacked four terror targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Friday in response. IAF aircrafts struck two terror activity sites, a weapon manufacturing site in the central Gaza Strip and a weapons storage site in the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF said. Direct hits were confirmed on all targets.Just hours before the rocket attacks on Friday, the IAF launched an attack on a civilian vehicle killing Muhammad al-Fasih, 24, from Gaza City, and Usama al-Hassumi, 29, from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.Both were senior members of Al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees and supposedly connected to an increase in rocket attacks over the last two weeks since the IDF began Operation Brother’s Keeper searching for three abducted Israeli teens in the West Bank.
This morning an even heavier barrage of rockets hit the south, causing damage to houses with residents suffering from shock:
At least 16 rockets were fired out of Gaza at Israeli communities Monday morning, most of them hitting open areas in the Eshkol region, the army said.
In the Sdot Negev region, two people were treated for shock after a high-trajectory rocket hit near two homes, causing light damage, according to police.
Haim Yellin, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council warned that the deterrent effect put in place by Israel’s last major engagement with Gaza, 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense, had waned.
“Israel’s government has two arms, political and military, and it needs to use both wisely to return quiet to the region,” he said according to Ynet.
He added that classes for Monday, the last day of school, would be held as normal.
The missile attacks came hours after Israeli aircraft retaliated against rocket fire emanating from the Strip in a Sunday evening strike that Palestinian reports said left one Palestinian dead and three injured.
Although most Israelis reckon that the Gaza jihadists, whether they be Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any of the other amorphous gangs, simply want to disrupt life in Israel and kill as many Israelis as possible, DebkaFile posits a different theory: the reason for the increased rocket-fire from Gaza onto the south is because Hamas wants to disrupt Israel’s oil pipeline bringing oil from Kurdistan to Israel. (via DavidinPT).
The Trans-Israel Pipeline from Ashkelon to Eilat is the real target of the increased Grad rocket fire on Ashkelon and nearby coastal areas, military sources tell debkafile. Its momentum has quickened since the launch this month of a transit route for oil exports from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via Turkey and Israel.
Islamic Jihad and other Salafist militants in Gaza are in cahoots with the Al Qaeda affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis operating out of Sinai. All are potential sources of the rocket fire and certainly have an eye on civilian targets, but the sources say the uptick of the last few days is a clear attempt to take out the new Kurdish export route. (see attached Special Map)
Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda in Sinai are strange bedfellows – their backers, Iran and ISIS, are at loggerheads in Iraq. But they share an interest in preventing Israel from using its small oil ports, Ashkelon and Eilat, to become a major conduit for Kurdish oil. Through its geography and infrastructure, Israel has quickly become a key element in the war in Iraq and its future.
Iran wants to put a stop to oil sales out of the northern Iraqi oilfields near Kirkuk, while ISIS considers Iraqi oil to be an important war spoil and strategic asset, likewise the oilfields in eastern Syria.
Both Tehran, which has its own designs on Kirkuk, and ISIS, were amazed to discover the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had signed onto a combined Kurdish-Turkish-Israeli concern for the new Kurdish export route. No time was lost for this transaction after the Kurdish peshmerga moved into Kirkuk as Iraqi troops fled the oncoming ISIS fighters.
The crude flows to Ceyhan, Turkey’s port city on the Mediterranean. From there it is loaded onto tankers that sail to Ashkelon, where the cargo is unloaded either into storage or poured into the 254-kilometer Trans-Israel Pipeline. Traditionally the pipeline has served companies from Russia and Central Asia who use Israel as a middleman for their sales to Asian countries. But with the arrival of the first Kurdish tankers in the past few weeks, the pipeline has begun to operate at its capacity of 20 million tons per year.
Now that the tanker channel between Turkey and Israel has opened in the service of oil, Western military sources say that the two countries’ navies have boosted their cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean to secure the channel, the tankers, and their precious cargo.
They add that Israel has put special security measures in place to bolster its defenses against terror and rocket attacks in Eilat and the Gulf of Aqaba, lest newly arrived Iranian and ISIS elements in Sinai target Eilat’s oil terminal and the tankers full of Kurdish oil.
This article certainly helps explain Turkey’s acquiescence both in the face of the Kurds’ burgeoning autonomy in Iraq and in permitting the use of Turkish ports for the Kurds to ship their oil to Israel. (I wrote about this here). On the face of it, Turkey is enabling its two main rivals to form an economic alliance at the very least.
Politics and expedience indeed make strange bedfellows, and the fear of Iran and the barbaric jihadists of ISIS has hopefully brought the Turks to their senses.