May 19, 2019

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Is Iran behind the rockets fired towards Tel Aviv?
Screenshot from TOI video of sirens in Tel Aviv

Last night, as Mrs. Elder and I were eating at a Tel Aviv hotel restaurant after a couple of hours hanging out with Israel advocates at a nearby bar, we heard the Red Alert sirens.

We asked two waitresses whether this was Red Alert – and one said she thought it was just a burglar alarm from a nearby store. From inside the hotel, the alarms were not loud. No one told guests to seek shelter. (Later, the other waitress admitted that it didn’t occur to her that this was a Red Alert since it has been so long since there was such an alert in Tel Aviv. She herself was an Iron Dome operator and wondered if she would be called up for duty this weekend.)

I immediately opened Twitter and saw that it was indeed a Red Alert, and a minute later read that people heard a “Boom” – from Iron Dome. We didn’t hear the boom. And we kept eating.

Now we know that the two rockets fell in open areas and that the “boom” was from Iron Dome rockets self-destructing. We know the rockets came from Gaza and that the IDF spent the night bombing empty terror sites in Gaza, and that a few more rockets were shot towards Israeli towns closer to Gaza overnight.

Soon, Islamic Jihad denied shooting the rockets, and this was followed by Hamas not only denying the rocket fire but condemning whoever did it.

The IDF blamed Hamas, but this is one of the rare times that I don’t believe them. They hold Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza and want to create a situation where Hamas has incentive to stop rocket fire from other terror groups – a strategy that has been very effective since the last Gaza war in 2014.

I also believe Islamic Jihad’s denial. They may be murderers, but they are proud murderers and are not prone to lie.

Which brings up the question: If it wasn’t one of those two groups that fired the rockets, who else could it have been?

While there is no shortage of other terror groups in Gaza – Fatah splinter groups, Salafist groups, PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP – none of them are taking responsibility as far as I can tell, and I do not think most of them have rockets with that range.

Who would have incentive to fire rockets at this time? Hamas didn’t, as they were hosting an Egyptian security delegation, which hurried out of Gaza before Israel’s retaliation.

It is possible that rogue elements within Hamas or Islamic Jihad fired the rockets.

My concern, and I don’t have any evidence yet for it, is that Iran has been setting up a new terror group in Gaza to disrupt the detente that exists between Israel and the other terror groups. So far, this is the only thing that makes sense to me, because Iran can help a group get longer range missiles in a relatively short time. There are still tunnels under the Rafah border that allow weapons smuggling. Plus, Iranian and Hezbollah media are celebrating the rockets, although that is weak evidence as they would celebrate no matter who shot them, there does seem to be a little more glee with this attack.

Iran is the only entity that would gain from this attack.

As I said, I have very little evidence that there is a new stealth Iranian funded terror group in Gaza. But there has been noise about Iran and Hezbollah plans to help either fund existing smaller groups or to set up new ones in the past in Gaza. Iran would love to surround Israel with rockets under their control, as they already have rockets aimed at Israel from Lebanon and likely Syria.

This doesn’t feel like a one-off. There is a change in the status quo, and it might have consequences down the line.

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