Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Israel destroys al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City; cabinet considering expansion of Gaza operations

    One of the first targets on the first day of the current round of war between Israel and Hamas was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms and shelter Hamas fighters, who also use the hospitals’ upper floors for snipers to shoot at IDF soldiers and for rocket launching – some witnessed by a Financial Times reporter. In the case of al-Wafa, the hospital also served Hamas as a command-and-control center. Yesterday (Wednesday), Israel decided that enough was enough, and that allowing Hamas fighters the freedom to operate behind the patients and staff at the hospital, located in central Gaza City, posed too much of a risk for Israeli forces, and Israel Air Force (IAF) planes finished the destruction of the hospital — after the staff heeded IDF warnings and vacated the facility with the remaining patients. A series of powerful secondary explosions proved that the hospital served Hamas for arms storage. The Israeli cabinet is meeting this morning to consider the expansion of the ground war.

  • Azamat Tazhayakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend, guilty of conspiracy charges

    Azamat Tazhayakov, who removed a backpack from the dorm room of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been found guilty by a Boston jury of impeding an investigation and conspiracy. Tazhayakov was one of three college friends of Tsarnaev charged following the bombing. Tazhayakov could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

  • FBI: driverless cars could be used as bombs-on-wheels

    Whether or not a driverless car, from Google or any other company, ever makes it to market, the FBI thinks it may be a “game changing” vehicle which could dramatically change high-speed car chases so that the pursued vehicle would have an advantage over the pursuing car. An agency report also warned that such cars may be used as “lethal weapons.”

  • After eight years under siege, Hamas is fighting to stave off a slow death

    Hamas and Egypt are currently testing each other’s nerve. Hamas wants to engage the Egyptian government and press the point that they have nothing to do with the Islamist insurgency there, in an effort to get the border crossings open and re-engage with the new al-Sissi administration. But regardless of whether this round of conflict is resolved sooner rather than later, or whether Egypt softens its stance on Hamas, the fundamental challenge facing both Palestinians and Israelis remains the same: to reach a political settlement for a viable Palestinian state where both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security.

  • Canadian “sha’hid” used by ISIS in Jihadi recruitment video

    The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) strategy to use English-speaking Westerns and social media to recruit militants is unprecedented. ISIS has used World Cup hashtags on Twitterand Facebookto spread propaganda and generate death threats. The group’s adoption of new media could be seen as a move better to compete with rival militant groups. One of the more popular YouTube ISI video featuring a Canadian of was killed in an attack on a Syrian military airport.

  • Israel launches ground war against Hamas; Egypt blames Hamas

    Israel forty-five minutes ago launched a land incursion into the Gaza Strip. The ground move is being accompanied by the heaviest Israeli bombardment to date – from land, sea, and the air — of targets throughout the Gaza Strip. The IDF spokesman said that large infantry and armored units have entered Gaza in the north, center, and south simultaneously. The Prime Minister’s office issues a statement saying that one of the goals of the ground operation is the destruction of the system of tunnels Hamas has built close to Israel’s borders. Egypt blames Hamas for any Palestinian casualties resulting from Israel’s operation.

  • Why hundreds of westerners are taking up arms in global jihad

    The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are attracting many Westerners as jihadi fighters. The stereotype that these fighters are migrants who have struggled to find a place in their adopted societies is shattered upon viewing YouTube propaganda videos. The typical portrayal of a violent jihadi is as a brutal group member, wearing sinister ninja-style costumes, maintaining a lifestyle straight from the Dark Ages and determined to drag the world back there. This stereotype is far from reality. Salafism is a thoroughly modern phenomenon, one that materialized the abstract concepts of Islam into an actual political system to be implemented. Salafists use modern means such as the Internet, social media and other technology. Their language embraces modern concepts of freedom, liberation and equality, which are all foreign to traditional Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Salafists also strongly oppose the traditional Islamic seminaries and institutes. They see these as one of the major barriers to Islamic awakening. Jihadi Salafism promises its followers an attractive utopia that is certain to become reality with the application of strong will and assertive action. They see their battle as a fight for humanity and for a better world where purity and authenticity prevail. In this regard, they, like other utopian movements such as particular types of socialists and communists, have a clear strategy for changing the world.

  • Hamas refuses Egypt's cease-fire proposal; Israel to resume – and escalate -- military operations

    Israel earlier today (12:00 midnight EST) had accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, which was to go into effect at 02:00 EST. At that time, Israel halted all military operation. Hamas, however, announced it would not accept the cease fire, and continued to fire rockets into Israel. Sources in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have just announced that Israel, after five hours of not responding to Hamas rocket attacks, was about to resume the fighting – and said that the next hours and days will see an intensified Israeli military efforts to destroy Hamas war-making ability.

  • Holder calls on Europeans to adopt U.S. counterterrorism methods

    Last week in Oslo, Attorney General Eric Holder called on more European countries to adopt American-style counterterrorism laws and tactics to prevent would-be terrorists from traveling to Syria. “If we wait for our nations’ citizens to travel to Syria or Iraq, to become radicalized, and to return home, it may be too late to adequately protect our national security,” Holder said.

  • Bad social policy, not ideology, is to blame for the Arab world’s downward spiral

    Nothing symbolizes the sorry state of Arab politics more than the rise of ISIS. The Arab world at large appears to be fast descending into a political quagmire, only a few years after the euphoria of the so-called Arab Spring. The unravelling of old dictatorships in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria has opened up a Pandora’s box of sectarian, ethnic and tribal divisions, old fault lines that have persisted under the heavy hand of police states for the last century.

  • IAF begins heavy bombardment of residential areas in north Gaza

    As we predicted yesterday, the Israel Air Force (IAF) earlier this morning showered Palestinian urban areas in north Gaza with leaflets giving residents until today (Sunday) at noon (Israel time) to evacuate their homes ahead of massive Israeli bombardment of these area. The leaflets were accompanied by calls to every home phone and cell phone of residents in the area (Israel has all these phone numbers), and radio and TV broadcasts in Arabic. Hamas, in an effort to forestall the Israeli attack by keeping Palestinian civilians as a human shield, has publicly ordered the residents to stay put, branding those who leave as collaborators with the “Zionist enemy.” So far, about a third of the residents have left. Israel has just begun a heavy bombardment on the outskirts of Beit Lahia in order to remind residents that Israel is serious.

  • Israel to focus on Hamas tunnel system, then seek a “Syrian solution” to Hamas problem

    Since Hamas violently seized power in the Gaza Strip in summer 2007, the organization invested millions of dollars in following Hezbollah’s example and build a vast system of tunnels and bunkers under residential areas, using the Palestinians living above ground as a human shield to the Hamas war machine underground. Israel cannot destroy these underground tunnel systems without destroying the cities above, in the process killing and injuring an untold number of Palestinian civilians. In a move similar to the tactics followed by Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the Israel Air Force (IAF) will drop leaflets on cities in the northern part of the Gaza strip, instructing residents to leave their homes and move south. These leaflets will be accompanied by automatic phone calls to everyone in these areas to reinforce the message that they must leave. Once the residents have left, in effect turning towns into ghost towns, the IAF will have the freedom to use much heavier ordinance in bombing and destroying large portions of Hamas’s tunnel system underneath. As to how the war will end: The “Syrian option” – that is, allowing a defanged Hamas to remain in power – now appears to be Israel’s goal.

  • Hamas’s rocket force commander killed, Iron Dome’s effectiveness impresses

    This is the third day of Operation Solid Rock, the third war between Israel and Hamas since Hamas forcibly took control over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in summer 2007 — the first two rounds were Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 - 18 January 2009) and Operation Pillar of Defense, aka Pillar of Cloud (14-22 November 2012). In a precise targeted attack, Israel has killed Iman Siam, the commander of Hamas’s rocket and missile force. He is the most senior Hamas military leader to have been killed in a targeted strike by Israel. Hamas and a few smaller Islamist organizations launched 255 rockets and missiles into Israel. Most of the rockets fell in empty fields, but between a quarter and a third (about 75 rockets) were heading toward populated areas. Of those, Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted seventy – a success rate of about 95 percent

  • NSA, FBI monitored e-mails of prominent Muslim American leaders, attorneys

    The NSA and FBI monitored the e-mails of prominent Muslim American leaders and attorneys, including the head of the largest American Muslim civil rights group, The Intercept reported yesterday. Critics of the surveillance programs of the NSA and other government agencies said the revelations proved their contention that these programs should be more closely monitored. The critics say that in order to obtain FISA court approval for the surveillance, the government alleged that these activists were agents of foreign powers. The critics also note that the monitoring of lawyers’ e-mails raises concerns that some of the information collected may be protected by the attorney-client privilege, which the intelligence agencies are bound to respect.

  • Israel launches Operation Solid Rock against Hamas (updated)

    The Israeli government has launched Operation Solid Rock, authorizing the calling up 40,000 reservists as it prepares for a long campaign against Hamas, a campaign which may include land incursions into the Gaza Strip. About 10,000 are being called right away, and they will be sent to Israel’s borders in the east and north, allowing army units now stationed there to move south to engage Hamas in the south. The calling up of 10,000 reservists – about four brigades – indicates that, at this stage at least, Israel contemplates a relatively limited ground operation in Gaza. Militants in Gaza have, in the last three days, been launching nearly 100 missiles and rockets a day at Israeli cities and towns in the south of Israel, for a total of 246 missiles and rockets so far. Most of these rockets fell in empty fields. Forty-six missiles (about 27 percent of the total) were heading toward populated areas, and the IDF’s Iron Domes defense system intercepted forty of them, a 97 percent interception success rate. Six missiles managed to go through the defensive system and exploded in populated areas. During the day Tuesday, the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, and earlier this morning, the IDF has intensified its retaliatory strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, attacking and destroying more than 450 targets across the Gaza Strip. The Israel Air Force (IAF) says that so far it has dropped more than 400 tons of explosives on targets in the Gaza Strip. The IAF says that the damage it has so far inflicted on the Gaza strip in the first two days of the current operation is greater than the damage inflicted in the eight days of Operation Pillar of Cloud (14-22 November 2012).