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10:11 AM 11/6/2023 – Russia benefits from war in Gaza. Was that the plan all along? … Opinion | Putin Is Getting What He Wants … Putin Unleashes Record Bombing in Ukraine as the World Watches Gaza … Analysis: Hamas’s asymmetric warfare against Israel – lessons from Ukraine

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It’s been four weeks since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The fog of war is still very thick. Weeks into the war, we still don’t know many details of either the attack itself or its planning. 

Yet there is one aspect of the bacchanalia of brutality of that day that experts, professional militaries and astute observers agree on: Hamas did not act on its own. No terrorist organization can make such a dramatic leap forward in its operational planning and execution capabilities without help from the outside. 

Currently, the conventional wisdom states the force helping Hamas to achieve spectacular success was Iran. Iran has denied connections to the attacks, but members of Hamas and Hezbollah say otherwise. But is their admission enough to conclude with certainty that Iran was the only helping hand in the operation? Does that admission make sense tactically and strategically? Is it possible the admission is a ruse to hide part of the truth? Is there another cunning power expertly lurking behind trying to stay in the shadow? 

We are reminded of the question Vladimir Lenin urged everyone to ask in situations like that: Who benefits here? The answer is simple. There is one power that benefits the most from the crisis. The address of that power is the Kremlin, Moscow. There is no hard evidence currently in our possession to unequivocally suggest one history of events or another. However, right now is the time to ask tough questions which may or may not lead us to the answers to help us face reality head-on.

Russia, at this time, is the only player interested in the conflict spreading out beyond the usual Gaza conflagration. Chaos is and has always been Vladimir Putin’s strategy for regaining Russia’s influence around the world. Russia has little to offer in terms of financial support or ideology. Its main export is instability. 

In the late 2000s, in the early days of Putin’s regime, Russia had surrounded itself with a circle of hot spots, primarily in the former Soviet republics. Gradually, with many successes steaming from U.S. inaction, Russia moved beyond to the Middle East and Africa

In Russia’s foreign policy toolkit, conflicts for the sake of a conflict are not a problem but a goal. The regime in the Kremlin, being a criminal regime, always looks for criminal opportunities. It is their strategy, not a tactic. Whether the regime is antisemitic or not is completely irrelevant.

We know, based on multiple sources, that training for the Oct. 7 attack started at least a year and a half ago. That is an important time. That coincides with when the Kremlin could see that the war in Ukraine was a lot more than it planned for. It needed a serious distraction for the U.S. to shift its primary attention to another hotspot. Perhaps this is how and then when the preparations began. 

One should never forget the longstanding ties between Palestine and the Soviet Union. Short of a brief period in the 1990s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas would always find an open ear in the Kremlin. That connection has never been broken, even when Iran got involved. Even the political structure of both organizations resembles more of the Bolsheviks than the Ayatollahs. Thus, it would not be farfetched to assume Russia’s involvement with Hamas not only on a political level — which is no secret — but on an operational level as well. 

The early stage of the October assault bears all of the markings of a classic Russian intelligence operation. It was painstakingly planned, impeccably organized, hit the weakest spots of the target and had clear tactical and strategic goals. It also appeared to be guided by handlers in ways unknown to the actual participants. It is a classic Russian trick to embed oneself in the process and leave right before the act, with the results going well beyond the goals of those responsible for the execution. 

It is unlikely that Iran wanted the operation to become successful to the point of igniting a regional conflict. Iran is not ready for such a situation until it gains nuclear capability. Yet it is clear that the initial stage of the attack set events in motion that would inevitably lead to a conflagration on a regional scale. 

One may argue Hamas lost some control after the unprecedented success of the first few hours. Yet it is hard to believe a successful operation would lead to anything less than a massacre, a pogrom, leaving Israel no choice but to retaliate in full force against Gaza and perhaps beyond. It is almost impossible to believe the tactical improvements Hamas displayed during its attack were the result of a self-improvement routine. There is clearly a third party helping it to achieve its spectacular results. Iran has never displayed such ability and is not up to the task with Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, gone

Assuming Russia was indeed involved at some operational level in training Hamas terrorists, how is it possible that Israel had no idea? But what if Israel knew? What if Israeli intelligence knew and so did Netanyahu? Netanyahu must have confronted Putin in one of their numerous meetings during the previous decade. What if Putin assured Netanyahu that the trainers were basically an insurance policy and Hamas would not do anything stupid beyond the “red lines”? What if the relationship between Israel and Russia which persisted even when Netanyahu was not in power — the relationship that, at times, was difficult to rationalize — was based on this tacit agreement? What if Israel was double-crossed? And even if Russia was not operationally involved in October events, it is almost impossible to imagine the Kremlin did not know about the preparations. 

Hamas leadership visiting Moscow earlier this year is as much of a coincidence as a grenade exploding on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane. Moscow must have known about the plot either from Iranians, directly from Hamas or through their own informers. Why Israeli intelligence did not know about it is another question. And though the Israel Security Agency takes most blame for the failure, Mossad should not escape unscathed from the greatest intelligence blunder Israel has ever seen. 

We will know sooner or later who guided Hamas to the most horrific massacre in modern Jewish history. Yet we should never forget there rarely has been a world crisis without Russia lurking in the background. This time is unlikely an exception.

Lev Stesin is a founding member of San Francisco Voices for Israel.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Russia is emerging as a major beneficiary of the war in Gaza.

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Russia unleashed an unprecedented bombardment in southern Ukraine overnight in what local officials described as a “massive attack” in the conflict which has continued to rage even as the international community’s attention has moved to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Ministry on Monday morning said Russia dropped at least “87 aerial bombs on populated areas of the Kherson region – the largest number for all time.” At least eight people were also injured in other Russian strikes carried out in the Odessa region further to the west on Sunday night.

Four high-rise apartment buildings in Kherson city were damaged in the first strikes on Sunday evening, the ministry said, but no casualties were reported. Later, at around 3 a.m. on Monday, the city was shelled for a second time, with two more private houses hit. Another 12 airstrikes took place through the night in the city of Beryslav and around 17 miles away in the village of Krynky across the Dnipro river.

At around 9 p.m. on Sunday, another barrage using drones and missiles began in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. “As a result of the attack, 20 apartment buildings, an art museum, more than two dozen cars, and infrastructure were damaged,” the ministry said, adding that eight people were injured in the attacks.

The Operational Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine “South” separately said the strikes in Odessa damaged a “museum in the historic part of the city, classified as a UNESCO heritage” site. Odessa Governor Oleh Kiper shared images of the damage to the Odessa Fine Arts Museum located in one of the city’s oldest palaces. He said most of the museum’s collection had been evacuated “in advance,” and that paintings still displayed in exhibitions “were not affected.”

He added that the museum “turns 124 years old” on November 6. “It was on the night of November 6 that the Russians ‘congratulated’ our architectural monument with a rocket that hit nearby,” Kiper said.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office, indicated that the strikes in Odessa were Russia’s retaliation to Ukrainian attacks in Crimea. “This is their pitiful response to reality,” he wrote on Telegram. “Ukrainian Crimea will be demilitarized, without the Black Sea fleet and Russian military bases.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has attempted to link his country’s battle against Russia with Israel’s conflict against Hamas, with U.S. lawmakers politically divided about providing support to both fights together. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Zelensky accused Russia of being involved in both conflicts by sponsoring Hamas.

The Ukrainian leader was also asked about a report last week claiming that U.S. and European officials have started quietly speaking to his government about the possibility of peace negotiations to end the war with Russia. “I am not ready to speak with the terrorists because their word is nothing,” Zelensky said. Later, he added: “We are not ready to give our freedom to this fucking terrorist Putin. That’s it. That’s why we are fighting.”

Fighting in Gaza between the Israeli army and the armed faction of Hamas is a textbook example of modern asymmetric warfare. Whenever fighting ends, it will be studied by strategists and tacticians.

The term “asymmetric warfare” has been used for less than 60 years, but the concept is much older. Originally it denoted a conflict between significantly disparate enemies, often simplistically portraying it as a David vs Goliath situation.

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Asymmetric wars are usually bloodier and more savage than those between regular armies: In a state versus non-state conflict, the latter’s fighters are not recognised as “proper” combatants and thus not considered protected by international conventions and laws of war.

The regular army will use weapons and tactics that might be legally unacceptable in a “proper war”. In a chicken-and-egg situation where it is usually impossible to say which side started with unacceptable practices, the rebels also commit acts that are blatantly illegal, often claiming to do it for not being recognised as equals.

Numerous wars, civil and other, in the last half-century or so, were asymmetric: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, and Syria. In many cases, the underdogs triumphed, often not by winning decisive battles but by wearing out their enemies, but it does not mean the smaller party always wins.

IsraelIsraeli soldiers take position in the Gaza Strip, November 4, 2023 [Handout via Reuters]

For the fighting in Gaza, the most relevant cases of asymmetrical warfare are the continued skirmishes of Hezbollah with the Israeli army and the war in Ukraine. Although both Ukraine and Russia are states, there are important elements of asymmetric warfare in Kyiv’s initial response to the aggression.

When it gained independence in 1991, Ukraine inherited an old Soviet Union-style army and it did little to change it. Until Russia attacked it by proxy in 2014 and occupied Crimea. Ukrainian leadership realised that to beat Russia it had to improve on tactics and strategy, so it decided to adopt NATO standards, believing them superior to Soviet-type practices.

But changing a big and inert system takes time (other armies, take note, Israel included) and the leadership realised that the first step in implementing the new doctrines was to allow tactical initiative and independence as the first step. That move, I dare say, saved Ukraine from being defeated in a matter of days, as Moscow almost certainly expected.

Free of interference from higher commands and orders to unify every move, the Ukrainian army, or to be more precise, its highly independent battalion-sized or smaller units, resorted to ingenuity and innovation.

One of the biggest tactical advances was the use of small, cheap commercial drones for innovative tasks. Highly mobile squad-sized units using $200 drones like the ones all children now seem to have, became much faster in action: they would launch a drone over the enemy several hundred metres distant, see its position and adapt the attack or defence almost immediately.

Israeli army tanks move towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel Wednesday, Nov.1, 2023. Israeli ground forces have been operating in Gaza in recent days as Israel presses ahead with its war against Hamas militants. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)Israeli army tanks move towards the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, November 1, 2023 [Ariel Schalit/AP Photo]

Their Russian opponents were stuck with the old, cumbersome process of asking higher units for reconnaissance assets to be deployed, then having to wait for the results to trickle down the chain of command.

The next step was to arm the hand-held drones. Their big cousins, weighing several hundred kilogrammes and operated by professional pilots, “real” aircraft just without a pilot on board, have been used for more than 20 years. The United States used missile-armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to perpetrate assassinations across the Middle East. Efficient and powerful but expensive, complex and requiring professional pilots and support.

Ukrainian geeks produced “poor man’s pilotless bombers” within days of the Russian attack, arming them with small bombs, weighing just a few kilogrammes, well within the carrying capacity of hand-held drones.

What can such a puny projectile do?

Only Russian artillery commanders know how many gun crews were killed by such bomblets, but the number is significant. Videos of small drones dropping bomblets at soldiers in the field are countless. Russian soldiers are said to fear them so much that many do not dare sleep in their trenches or move across open ground.

After initial success against infantry and artillery, Ukrainians felt emboldened to attack Russian armour. Even the mightiest tanks are scantily armoured on top: they are built to fight against another tank or withstand infantry missiles, both fired from the ground and at ground level, so the front armour is extremely thick but tank topsides have only very thin armour, as they never expected to face major attack from above. Until the advent of drones.

Bomblets dropped on unsuspecting armour directly below may or may not penetrate through a turret roof. If they do, they usually cause the internal ammunition to explode, destroying the tank and the crew. If they hit the engine compartment, they almost inevitably incapacitate the tank. A drone-bomblet system costs a few thousand dollars, a tank a few million.

There are two methods to counter these asymmetric attacks: active protection, jamming the frequencies that the enemy’s drones use, making them useless, or using anti-drone weapons. Much safer to use, cheaper and simpler is passive protection: putting a “roof” on top of a tank.

A simple metal frame is welded onto the tank with a hard-wire mesh. The drone bomb explodes when it hits the wire and cannot damage the tank. A simple, easy and cheap solution, but nevertheless, it took Russians many months to wake up to their losses and start implementing it.

Why such a long description of Ukraine to explain Gaza?

Because we could replace almost every mention of the Ukrainian army with “Hamas” and every “Russia” could read “Israel”. As the Israeli army entered Gaza, they demonstrated the same gargantuan bureaucracy’s slow approach to learning and implementing changes as their Muscovite counterparts.

Since tanks and infantry closed in on Gaza City, Hamas has been releasing videos showing bomblet attacks, with at least some of them demonstrated as efficient. Just a small percentage of mighty Merkava tanks can be seen with “roofs”, indicating that the decisions to implement such simple and cheap solutions still have to be approved and ordered through the chain of command.

Technical and tactical innovation has not (yet) won the war for the Ukrainians, but it slowed their enemy and gave him a very bloody nose. The implementation of similar weapons and methods might not defend Gaza City against massive Israeli attacks, but it will certainly make it longer and bloodier.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy came as Israeli troops surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged Hamas-ruled territory. Troops are expected to enter the city Monday or Tuesday, and are likely to face militants fighting street by street using a vast network of tunnels. Casualties will likely rise on both sides in the month-old war, which has already killed more than 9,700 Palestinians.

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It’s been four weeks since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The fog of war is still very thick. Weeks into the war, we still don’t know many details of either the attack itself or its planning.  Yet there is one aspect of the bacchanalia of brutality of that day that experts, professional militaries and astute observers agree on: Hamas did not act…
posted 18m ago via thehill.com
 

Russia is emerging as a major beneficiary of the war in Gaza.
posted 20m ago via nytimes.com
 

Russia unleashed an unprecedented bombardment in southern Ukraine overnight in what local officials described as a “massive attack” in the conflict which has continued to rage even as the international community’s attention has moved to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Ministry on Monday morning said Russia dropped…
posted 23m ago via thedailybeast.com
 

Fighting in Gaza between the Israeli army and the armed faction of Hamas is a textbook example of modern asymmetric warfare. Whenever fighting ends, it will be studied by strategists and tacticians. The term “asymmetric warfare” has been used for less than 60 years, but the concept is much older. Originally it denoted a conflict between significantly…
posted 1h ago via aljazeera.com
 

Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy came as Israeli troops surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged Hamas-ruled territory. Troops are expected to enter the city Monday or Tuesday, and are likely to face militants fighting street by street using a vast network of tunnels. Casualties will likely rise on both sides in the month-old war,…
posted 2h ago via bostonglobe.com
 

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