Let’s get into the details of what’s happening in the Middle East

October 10 – After surprise attacks in Israel over the weekend, the focus of most of the world has been in the area of the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas, a Palestinian political and militant organization, attacked a number of civilian occupied areas, including a music festival. The death count continues to rise. 

For a history of the situation, we turn to State Senator Doug Mastriano, a former Colonel in the US Army. 

He explained, “We’re facing the worst attack on Israel since the Holocaust. What happened is Hamas has launched a war crime, a criminal attack on Israel, largely attacking civilian targets, causing harm and injuries to hundreds, if not thousands of innocent civilians.” 

People are being abducted and bodies are being mutilated. Civilian structures are being destroyed. 

Mastriano said, “This is not a conventional attack. It’s not a legitimate operation. It’s a complete terrorist attack.” 

There are several terrorist groups at play here – the most obvious one being Hamas. 

Mastriano said, “Hamas is in charge of Gaza. They’re supposed to be running the city, but instead they’re using their money to attack Israel. Also within the Gaza strip, there is Islamic Jihads. They’re on the outs right now, but they claim they also are supporting the terror attacks on Israel.” 

Toward the north, in Lebanon, is Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist group. 

Mastriano said, “Iran is the puppet master behind the scenes. Iran is on a boom right now. They got $5 billion from the Biden administration for a prisoner exchange, on top of all the other money they’ve been able to make by the weakening embargo on them.” 

In the west bank is Fatah, a political organization founded by Yasser Arafat in the 1980s. 

Mastriano said, “Israel is besieged on several sides. We’re looking at about 700,000 killed in action, mostly civilians.”

There are more than 100 hostages. 

Mastriano said, “There’s mutilations, there’s rapes, there’s assaults. I’m a retired Colonel, combat deployment, and have conducted lots of operations around the world here. I’m reading these heart-breaking stories of families and individuals being killed. I had to stop reading it. It’s so horrible it’s happening to the young people.” 

There are a wide variety of political and militant groups in this area of the world. 

The depth and details of the attacks certainly seem as though they were planned. 

Mastriano said, “This level was more than normal. During the rocket attacks, Hamas sent drones over Israeli observation posts and they took out the eyes and ears of the Israeli intel systems. Then they had organized sniper teams blowing holes into the barriers and then having people on foot and on motorcycles driving through these gaps in lines and driving into Israeli towns…and just killing people anywhere they could see them.” 

Congressman John Joyce said, “What we’ve seen in the past 72 hours is unprecedented. These have been the deadliest days since the Holocaust. Since Saturday, Hamas has launched over 4000 rockets, murdered civilians at a music festival, and they’ve invaded peaceful towns. This is the face of evil. That’s what we’re seeing. Terrorists conduct a coordinated and calculated attack to kill and kidnap civilians and Israel needs to do what it needs to do to protect its own citizens. We know that Hamas has taken hostages back into Gaza and we know that Netanyahu has told Biden that Israeli forces will need to enter Gaza to fight Hamas head on. Israel needs to make sure that they have the tools that they need to win this war. What’s happening, we’ve seen a nation come together to drive evil from their streets. Strangers are risking their lives for one another. Ambulances are dodging attacks from mortars to reach those in need. Right now we have citizens from Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional district who are in Israel. Just moments ago we were on the phone with them. We are trying to facilitate their exit to safety out of Israel. We will be in contact with them as they continue to move. We are in contact with the State Department looking for the safety of all Americans. We need to continue to be vigilant. We need to recognize that we are seeing radical Islamic terrorists once again, rearing their heads and coming after a peaceful democracy. We saw it on 9/11. We’re seeing it once again. America is on alert and we are working to protect our citizens who are stuck right now in Israel.”

United States warships have been deployed and a lot of aircraft are in the area. 

Discussions are underway about sending financial aid as well. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “Some of this in many ways is only a proposal because the House obviously cannot vote on it. But it sounds like Republicans and Democrats both are largely on board to provide Israel with whatever resources they need. There is some controversy brewing. I mean, there’s some reporting this morning that some in the House and Senate want to package Ukraine aid with Israeli aid, the thinking is, it’d be more politically palatable if they package these things together instead of doing them as standalone aid packages. So that’ll be something to keep an eye on this week when the House and the Senate return to session, assuming that the House elects a speaker tomorrow.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “That’s unbelievable because they know people are starting to say wait a minute. Wait a minute. We’ve given so many billions to Ukraine. They won’t allow any accounting for it. They won’t vote for that. How do you give all that aid to both Ukraine and Israel? Where’s that coming from?”

A lot of the aid is in forms of weapons, not just cash. 

Barkdoll said, “You look at the stock market yesterday, the defense contractors, their stocks were just through the roof yesterday. The thinking is the US is going to have to keep fueling money to these companies to keep making bombs and bullets and guns and airplanes and weaponized drones, etc. But the problem with it is to the extent a lot of that aid has already gone to Ukraine and there’s the argument that these are US companies, US jobs, etc., but it’s largely been unaccounted for. A lot of the stuff is missing. They don’t know where it is. To the extent there was direct financial aid for things like what I would call social services, housing, food and medical programs, that money is not fully accounted for. So I don’t know what kind of guardrails Congress might create when it comes to ongoing aid when it comes to Israel or Ukraine. But in the case of Israel, a lot of it may be actual hardware and I don’t know how quickly these companies can ramp up production. They’re already stretched thin. Remember, during this Ukraine issue a few months ago, the reporting was that the US’s own stockpiles were getting dangerously low. Well, now if you throw on top of that, we’re going to have even more need to send things to Israel, I’m not really sure how they retool their lines. There’s only so much they can produce in a given period.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran helped Hamas plan the attacks against Israel for a number of weeks. 

US intelligence however, says they haven’t found any evidence of Iran’s involvement in the attacks.

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Of course they haven’t. You’ve got to be kidding me. US intelligence. I use that very, very lightly.”

US Representative Kevin McCarthy was on Hannity yesterday, saying he believes Iran did play a role. 

McCarthy said, “When Biden came into office, Iran was only producing 400,000 barrels of oil a day. Now they’re producing 3 million. There are sanctions against that, but he does not enforce it. Enforce those. You know what the foreign currency reserves are for Iran? When Biden took office it was only 4 billion. It’s now up to 70.”

Barkdoll said, “The point about the oil is what a lot of international security experts cite, that there’s all these sanctions on Iranian oil that Biden has never enforced, which has allowed Iran to really grow its wealth over the last few years. Now look, there’s a flip side to that. We know if the sanctions were enforced, the price of oil and your price at the gas pump would likely be even higher than we’re paying and consumers would not like that. But there’s no question that the lax enforcement of those sanctions have allowed Iran to become wealthy again. As the Journal reported yesterday, they have confirmed through their reporting sources. Iran did have a hand in this attack on Israel. They met with Hamas, they approved the plans. Now the US government, they’re saying they’re not able to confirm that that’s the case. About the Israeli newspapers, that is now twice this morning, regardless of the international players here, and there’s no doubt that there’s some blame in this, I think on the Biden administration, go to the ground in Israel, there is almost universal opinion against Benjamin Netanyahu. Scathing editorials in that country’s newspapers saying that he has been completely distracted with intelligence issues, even though there have been warnings over there going back to earlier this year, that things may be building with Hamas. That’s another piece of the story to keep an eye on. Is he able to hold on to the government? Remember, he only recently returned to power. He’s under criminal indictment. He had all these other distractions. Well, now it looks like the public opinion might be turning against him again.”

What does the future look like with this conflict?

Mastriano suggested, “From a domestic perspective, first off, we have to secure our border. Period. The border has to be secured now. It may be too late. Number two, I’m not fear-mongering. I don’t have any intel. I don’t have any access to intel, but be extra vigilant when you go out. Whether you’re in Philadelphia or Chambersburg, you pull into a parking lot, take a look around you before you get out of the car. Be vigilant. Don’t be paranoid, but be aware of your surroundings.”

Israel will be looking at war for a long time. 

Mastriano said, “They’re going to need persistent backing from the United States. Israel is the only democracy in that entire region. It’s our closest friend. We have to stay the course.”