UPDATES 5 pm Israel time, Tuesday, January 7 2014:
*Severe budget cuts continue to hit the IDF with the news yesterday that the IDF’s most advanced tank, the Merkava MK 4 will have its operational tasks greatly reduced. Based mainly on the Gaza border, tank crews will have their “drill days” cut from two weeks to four days.
The Merkava MK 4 which has the “ghost ability” to protect it from anti-tank missiles costs 4,000 shekels (about $1150) per mile to operate. The cuts are expected to save about $20 million dollars.
*Hamas’s efforts to reconcile with Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO Fatah organization intensified today with the Hamas government calling on all residents who fled Gaza in 2007 during the Hamas takeover [read PLO members] to return to Gaza.
As we all know, Hamas is now almost completely isolated as its source of money and weapons has steadily dried up. There is virtually no one supporting Hamas these days except for Israel.
*Speaking of drying up, the level of the Dead Sea has continued to drop. Despite heavy rains in October, November, and December and lower than normal temperatures, the Dead Sea has fallen another 3 cm–and has reached a level of 427 meters and 82 centimeters below sea level.
*The Samarian community of Esh Kodesh was the scene of a bizarre incident this afternoon.
To begin with, IDF forces showed up to evacuate and destroy a supposed “illegal” structure with the support of Palestinian residents of the nearby Palestinian settlement of Kursa. Rocks then began to be thrown by both sides and the confrontation moved from Esh Kodesh into Kursa.
A large group of Palestinians then surrounded and trapped Jewish residents of Esh Kodesh, and it was not until some hours later that the IDF showed up and evacuated those residents to safety.
The entire episode is indicative of the continuing spiral of violence in Judea and Samaria and the IDF’s ambiguous role in what is going on–on the one hand throwing Jewish community members out of their homes, and on the other rescuing the same community members.