Israel faces numerous terror threats on its borders. This is an introduction to the five primary threats.
Israel is seen as an oasis of stability in a volatile region. That does not mean it’s not threatened by the chaos and unpredictability at its borders.
The IDF must understand every threat in the region and the different terror groups on Israel’s borders in order to prepare for potential challenges. But with the situation in the region constantly changing, that’s easier said than done.
Following is a primer to help make some sense out of the dangerous neighborhood.
ISIS in the Sinai
In 2011, a number of Salafi Islamist groups in the Sinai Peninsula banded together to establish Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or “Supporters of the Holy House [Jerusalem].” Positioned on Israel’s southern border, they have carried out numerous terror attacks, primarily against Egyptian forces, but also against Israeli civilian and military targets.
In November 2015, the terror group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rebranding themselves “Wilayat Sinai,” or ISIS’ “Sinai Province.”
The terror group is constantly clashing with the Egyptian military and has carried out destructive attacks, including the downing of a Russian plane full of tourists visiting Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Despite their differing ideologies, they also cooperate with Hamas in Gaza, which provides them with training, medical assistance and equipment. The IDF’s Caracal Battalion, a co-ed combat unit stationed at the Sinai border, is on Israel’s frontline against the ISIS threat.
Founded in 1987, this Islamist Palestinian terror group rules over the Gaza Strip, at Israel’s southwestern border, and aspires to take over the areas of Judea and Samaria currently under the administration of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent struggle with the PA. Hamas has proudly claimed responsibility for many suicide bombings, rocket and mortar attacks, kidnappings of soldiers and civilians alike, shootings and other acts of violence, primarily targeting civilians.
Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Jihad, Muslim holy war, including terror attacks against civilians, is a central component in their ultimate goal – the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state over the entirety of Israel.
The terror group has spent millions of dollars on terror tunnel infrastructure and strengthening their terror capabilities at the expense of the Palestinian residents of Gaza. These cross-border tunnels are built into Israeli territory in order to carry out attacks and kidnappings in Israeli border communities. Tunnels built across the Egyptian border into Sinai have been used to smuggle weapons and fighters in both directions, and Hamas helps arm, train, and provide medical assistance to ISIS in the Sinai.
Khalid ibn al-Walid Army
The Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, or Liwa Shuhadat al-Yarmouk, is an Islamist group based in Syria on Israel’s northern border. It was established in 2012, mostly of local families who identified with the Syrian revolution. In May 2016, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade merged with another ISIS-affiliated group to form the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army.
The group is an active arm of the ISIS terror group, and operates in the triangular region of the southern Syrian Golan that shares a border with Israel and Jordan. They gained notoriety when they took 21 Filipino UN Peacekeepers hostage in March 2013. They often clash with other Islamist groups on the Golan border, including the Sunni Islamist Jabhat Fatah a-Sham.
Jabhat Fatah a-Sham
This Syria-based group entered the arena in 2012 as Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, dedicated to bringing down the Assad regime and establishing Islamic Sharia law.
In August 2016, they separated from al-Qaeda and changed their name. They regularly engage in violent confrontations with the Syrian army and Shi’ite Hezbollah, and struggle against ISIS and other Sunni groups for domination in the civil war. Stray mortar and rocket fire has hit the Golan Heights, and the battles inside Syria can easily be seen from its mountains.
Hezbollah is one of the world’s most active and dangerous terror groups.
Based in southern Lebanon, they’re mostly funded by their Shi’ite patron, Iran. Their long list of global terror activities includes hijackings, large-scale bombings, firing missiles at civilian targets, and weapons smuggling.
They also engage in drug trafficking and other illicit activities to fund their terrorism network.
They have carried out terror attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Israel and worldwide, including countries such as Argentina, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Currently, their major focus is the ongoing civil war in Syria, in which they support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As Assad’s ideological ally, they’re fighting Jabhat Fatah a-Sham, ISIS, and various Sunni rebel groups. While their focus is on Syria, they boast of an arsenal of at least 100,000 rockets directed towards Israel.
By: IDF Blog and United with Israel Staff