Source IDF. The above image shows the aftermath of a rocket strike on civilian structures in the 2014 conflict.
Media wars continue, as Israel struggles on three fronts
Security implications to reflect from the Gulf to the Caucasus
By Rachel Brooks
May 20, 2021
News, analysis, and commentary
Note the following article is political commentary and may contain opinion-based language.
The war between Israel and Hamas continued on May 20, with information war posing as great of a concern as rocket fire. The Israel Defense Force challenged Sky News directly via its social media account. Sky News had alleged that Israel was blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza deliberately. The IDF showed official statements from May 18 and 19 that it had actually opened humanitarian aid corridors on both of these dates.
“@skynews didn’t do their research. You could have checked our Twitter account. Maybe you should follow us,” tweeted the IDF in response to the Sky News report that said Israel had blocked aid to Gazans who were “in desperate need of help.”
Israel then cited reports made on May 18 and 19.
“Israel opens the Erez Crossing to give humanitarian aid. Terrorists fire mortar shells at the crossing,” wrote the IDF on May 18.
“Israel opens the Kerem Shalom Crossing to give humanitarian aid. Terrorists fire mortar shells, again. Hamas is depriving Gazans of vital humanitarian aid,” wrote the IDF on May 19.
On May 20, the world continued to respond to the media rhetoric with venom referring to Israel as a “no-state” and demanding that Israel give more evidence for why it conducted an airstrike on the Al Jalaa building. The Al Jalaa building reportedly housed terror elements as well as the bureau offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera media.
Implications for Iran regional defense
The demands and rhetoric did not solely come from actors in the media. The Turkish President Recep Erdogan also made demands that Israel should remove Jerusalem from the Jewish state. This is a rapid escalation of anti-Israel rhetoric from former friendly state Turkey. Before the Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel and Turkey were nearing rapprochement, as the Israel-friendly nation, Azerbaijan had proposed hosting a trilateral summit between the states. This was reported by Israel Hayom last month.
The conflict in Israel that threatens this trilateral rapprochement relation now holds some implications for the region immediately neighboring Iran. Israel, Azerbaijan, and Turkey stand to benefit from national cooperation in the region as all three nations are presented with security issues from the volatile Islamic Republic, which lies immediately along the Azerbaijani republic’s southern border. As hostilities rise from Iran against the developed nations of the Gulf, Azerbaijan likewise faces a renewed threat of hostilities from Armenia, as the ceasefire is teased with renewed pressures. On May 17, Reuters reported the U.S. concerns over the renewed movements by Armenia and Azerbaijan’s military leaders.
Tensions have increased as post-2020-era conflict agreement measures have not been met with consistent cooperation. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of sending troops across its border, which follows in a trend of using public media as a tactical weapon of its regional interests.
The White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev that any military movements near “un-demarcated boundaries” are “irresponsible and provocative.”
The risk of political instability between Armenia and Azerbaijan increases the region’s vulnerability. Actors within the Islamic Republic would be in a position to take advantage of this vulnerability. The growing strain of political tensions between Israel and Turkey also put Azerbaijan in a difficult political position, as a close cooperative ally of Turkey and an ally and cooperative state with Israel. Strained as the third party in the trilateral discussion, Azerbaijan faces a difficult role as a mediative influence as it continues to develop post the immediate implications of the Karabakh conflict, which reached a ceasefire after Azerbaijan liberated territories lost during the war of 1988-1994.
Despite the political complexity, members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora have expressed their solidarity with Israel, Rachel Avraham reported in Israel Hayom. The Azerbaijani Diaspora draws direct comparisons between the Israel-Hamas conflict and Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia over the Karabakh and the right to exist as a republic in the region. Likewise, the Diaspora noted that Armenia used the same tactics as Hamas by firing rockets into civilian areas such as Ganja and Barda.
Trend News Agency of Azerbaijan reported that the Chairman of the Azlz Israel-Azerbaijan International Association Vahid Bayramov has made public statements regarding the desire of both the Arabs and Jews to reach a peaceful solution. He noted that the conflict between Palestinian Authority Arabs and Jews has continued for years. He also noted that the region has an interest in mediating an end to the conflict with Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates taking steps to attempt to resolve it. He also noted that Israel retains diplomatic relationships with many Muslim countries, particularly Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The chairman then stated that his association strongly condemned extremism, religious radicalism, and terrorism, and stated that this was the direct cause of the civilian casualties of the conflict.
He likewise described Azerbaijan as a “second homeland of the Jews” and that they had always been permitted to live in the nation, which has a majority Turkic population who are predominately professing Shia Muslims, in peace. He also paused to thank Israel for its support of Azerbaijan during the Karabakh conflict.
Meanwhile, the United States, which likewise has a vested interest in the region’s stability, is placed in a difficult political position. The United States has security reasons to support both Israel and Azerbaijan and likewise to support their cooperation. Azerbaijan has reportedly allowed Israel access to its territory to monitor the activity of the militant IRGC.
The United States faces extreme political pressures domestically as the incumbent U.S. President Joe Biden is supported by the progressive left. Heated domestic rhetoric strains the Biden administration’s mediation in both the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as the public remains mostly in the dark or misinformed with regards to the ground realities in this region as media shapes rhetoric with false reports or war propaganda.
While Azerbaijan may have a mediative influence that could depressurize the political heat between Israel and Turkey over the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, Azerbaijan is itself in a vulnerable political position. This adds to the strain of cooperation between Israel, Azerbaijan, and Turkey in the region adjacent to the hostile Iranian regime. Further erosion of this cooperation can reflect on other regional crises as Iran reportedly stretches its network into many theaters.
On May 18, the National Interest noted that Azerbaijan and its regional neighbor Georgia can assist the United States in NATO cooperation of the region and the Middle East. These two states would have the helpful capacity in defense against hostile agendas of the Iranian regime and Russia. The commentator stated that it would be possible to reap the benefits of such diplomatic cooperation if the U.S. was to repair its own relationship with Turkey, strengthen its alliance with Israel, a recognize the common interests as allies of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Yet, with the United States strained by its own political crisis domestically, moving policy forward in this direction could be expected to be a complex and protracted process.
Back to Israel updates…
The rhetoric has not yielded to the reality of these issues, as public opinion has been highly pressurized by volatile political movements in direct opposition of Israel as a state, of Azerbaijan’s rights to its reclaimed lands, and of Turkey’s operations. This increasingly negative western sentiment of this region compounds the current crisis of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
As the world continues to debate the rhetoric versus the ground reality of the Israel-Hamas conflict, reports are in that the suffering the citizens of Ashkelon and Gaza faced nearest the rocket fire. The IDF stated that Ashkelon residents have a window of 30 seconds to run to shelter every time they hear a siren go off. In the past 11 days of conflict, the sirens have sounded 389 times.
Gaza’s citizens suffered the two-fold problem of being placed on the firing line in the conflict between Israel and Gaza. One issue was the risk of return-fire from Israel as the Hamas incursion continues. The other risk comes from the misfire of Gaza rockets. When a Hamas rocket misfires, it detonates within range of Gazan residents.
The rocket fire also spreads a wide net. Hamas reportedly deliberately targets civilian structures and transportation, such as buses. On May 20, a rocket struck an empty bus. An IDF soldier posted near the bus was lightly injured by the shrapnel from the detonation. No civilian injuries or further injuries to personnel were reported.
In response to the continued heated fired on residential areas, Israel continued to attack Hamas in tunnels burrowed around Gaza. This is part of the strategy of the IDF forces to force the Hamas terror ring to pay a heavy infrastructural price for its continued incursion. Israel states that it took Hamas an estimated 10 years to build the “Metro” a series of underground tunnels used to deploy terror incursions. The tunnels were buried under civilian homes as the terror operation continues to use civilian security as an armor complicating response to their attacks. In five days, Israel has destroyed the majority of this network, which will set the Hamas incursion back.
Yet, the Hamas’ incursion is not the only threat to the nation. On May 20, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israel Defense Forces had struck down an armed Iranian drone near the border of Jordan. This was stated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister also confirmed that the drone was struck down “on the sidelines” of the current war with Hamas in Gaza. This, Netanyahu stated, was proof of the sponsorship behind the Middle East conflict. He cited Iran as the chief sponsor of the terror incursion which threatens the Gulf States on multiple fronts. Netanyahu relayed this information to the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who was in Jerusalem. The German Foreign Minister has expressed Germany’s support of Israel’s right to defend itself as the European nation attempts a mediation of the rippling-issue Israel-Hamas conflict.