Suicide Bombings Resume in Israel
A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated an explosive on January 29, killing three civilians in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eliat. This is the first suicide bombing in Israel for nine months, and indications are it could mark the beginning of a renewed campaign against Israel.
The attack was the first to take place in Eilat, a town on the Sinai border with Egypt, and targeted a bakery in a residential neighborhood. One of the victims, a 25-year-old, has a family living in Florida; another leaves behind a wife and two daughters; the other a wife and an 8-month-old son. Evidence suggests, however, the suicide bomber had an even worse tragedy in mind but was rushed into prematurely setting off his bomb because of fear of discovery.
Three terror groups claimed responsibility for the attack: the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (pij), which is financed by Iran; the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is the military wing of Fatah; and a previously unknown group called the Army of Believers. Whatever the stated motives, reports Stratfor, “this attack likely signifies the resumption of suicide bombings against Israel, which the various militant groups see as being in their interest” (January 29). A joint statement released by the pij and the Brigades warned: “The heroic operation announces the beginning of a series of operations ….”
Stratfor reports that the bombing will have several regional implications.
First, it will relieve pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel and will provide a way to break its political deadlock with Fatah. It could also work to Hamas’s advantage in another way: by inflaming divisions within Fatah. While Fatah’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack, Fatah itself (supposedly moderate) sought to distance itself from the bombing.
It has also put the Israeli government in a difficult spot. Stratfor reported immediately after the incident: “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s extremely weak domestic standing will force his government to carry out a significant retaliation.” However, the following day, sources close to the prime minister, as reported by IsraelNationalNews.com, said that though the Defense Ministry is talking tough, “no large-scale offensive is to be expected” (January 30).
What complicates Israel’s options is its dedication to a ceasefire with the Palestinians—a ceasefire it appears to be trying to coax the other side to abide by. “The reasons for not mounting a large offensive, according to political and security sources, are that Kassam rocket attacks have become less intense in the past weeks, and that an incursion by the idf [Israel Defense Forces] would unite the warring Arab terror organizations, Fatah and Hamas, against Israel” (ibid.). In other words, even though the rockets keep coming—albeit at a slower pace—and a suicide bombing has taken place, Israel seeks to tread softly so as to avoid provoking the terrorists further. Through compromising to this point, Israel has become weakened to the point where its enemies increasingly are not afraid of retaliation.
In all this, however, there is a clear winner: the biggest facilitator of terror, Iran. Stratfor reports how:
The Eilat bombing and the coming Israeli response … will complicate Saudi Arabia’s efforts to block Iran from exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to expand its sphere of influence in the Middle East. Tehran will use the opportunity to sustain its influence over Hamas and pij. A resumption of Palestinian militant activity against Israel helps Iran to counter Saudi and Egyptian moves to contain the Palestinians. It also helps Iran by keeping the Israelis militarily occupied as Tehran presses ahead with its nuclear program and negotiations over Iraq.
Stratfor concludes: “The Eilat bombing, in essence, will help Iran and its radical allies in the Middle East to achieve their goals while creating problems for the mainstream Arab camp.”
Watch for Iran to continue to instigate and exploit events in Israel and beyond to further its goal to dominate the Middle East.