Following a barrage of rockets fired into Israel over the weekend from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the IDF reinforced air defense units deployed in the south, even as intelligence agencies spoke of increasing disarray amongst the terrorist groups in the Strip and increased pressure on those groups from Iran, which is believed to be pushing attacks on Israel to avenge the US assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani and also to sew discord ahead of Israel’s upcoming elections. At the same time, reports have emerged that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror militia, second in power only to Hamas within the Strip, has increased its internal security measures following the assassination by Israel of PIJ official Baha Abu al-Ata in November. There are also reports that an outbreak of hostilities could commence this week because of the increased pressure from Iran.
Iranian Protesters Freshly Outraged by Majles Disqualifications
Iran was shaken by more internal turmoil over the weekend as news broke that thousands of candidates for the Majles Council, which serves the regime in an advisory role, were disqualified from running by the clerical “Guardian Council”, prompting a rare rebuke of the regime from President Hassan Rouhani. Further stoking popular anger against the regime was an announcement that information regarding the shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner by air defense elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) earlier this month will no longer be shared with Ukrainian authorities following media leaks.
In related news, Saudi Arabia refused to issue entry visas for Iranian diplomats wishing to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) scheduled for Monday in Jeddah. The news of this broke even as reports were emerging of deepening efforts by the US to build ties between its Sunni Arab allies and Israel.
Here is a video about with some analysis regarding Iran
Syrian War Heating Up Once Again
Monday morning saw a sharp escalation in the Syrian theater as forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar Assad fired artillery at a units of the invading Turkish forces in the northwestern Idlib region, killing four Turkish soldiers and wounding several others. Turkish units immediately launched retaliatory raids, leading to concerns of accidental clashes between NATO ally Turkey and Russia, which backs the Assad regime and has air units in the region where the clashes took place.
Abundant Winter Rains Allow for Kinneret Pumping
Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, announced over the weekend that the abundant rains the country has received this winter has allowed it to resume pumping out of the Sea of Galilee’s main water reservoir. “Increasing water pumping from the Sea of Galilee will allow us to use the natural water resources more optimally” Said the deputy head of engineering in Mekorot, Yossi Yakovi. “[It will allow us to] decrease our reliance of underground water reservoirs, which have been carrying the ‘burden’ of supplying water to Israel, and will allow us to manage them properly [back] to their former level”
Israel Responding to Coronavirus Threat
An emergency cabinet meeting was held over the weekend to asses Israel’s response to the dangerous coronavirus outbreak in China. “Our preparations [for the virus] will include all branches of the Israeli government,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. “Our goal is first to delay the arrival of the virus to Israel – I say ‘delay’ because it is inevitable that it will arrive here – and then to treat, to identify those infected, to isolate them and treat them.”
Haredi Men Increasingly Seeking Work
The Central Bureau of Statistics issued a report over the weekend showing that employment rates of Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men made a dramatic comeback in 2019 from 50.2% to 51.5%. The new numbers follow intense efforts by the government and private groups over many years to encourage haredi men to seek gainful employment.
Today’s video gives a briefing on the Middle East by a former US CENTCOM Commander
This article originally appeared on ICEJ, February 3, 2020, and reposted with permission.