Monday, January 05, 2009

War with Hamas: Day 10

Over thirty rockets fell on Israel from Sderot to Beer Sheva, starting with the first light on Monday, causing property damage and some injuries. A number of people were admitted to the hospital suffering from shock. Many of those were elderly residents of the South who had no other place to go. On Sunday forty-five rockets fell on Israel. Israel’s former Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said that Israel was succeeding in shutting down the Hamas rocket attacks. Israel Television’s Channel 1 military reporter Yoav Limor said that every day the decrease in rocket fire was proof that Israel’s attacks were having an effect. Originally Israel expected at least 150 – 200 rockets a day during the fighting.

Overnight no rockets fell, providing the first quiet night since Hamas ignored calls for an extension of the cease-fire and began firing rockets into Israel. Israel TV showed video of the streets of Ashkelon busy with traffic for the first time in over a week.

Hospitals reported no soldiers seriously injured overnight, but the previous night over thirty wounded soldiers were admitted for care. One, Staff Sergeant Dvir Emmanueloff, 22, died from his wounds, the first to give his life in this battle. Most of those who were injured the first night when a motor attack was launched at soldiers advancing into Gaza.

Over the last two days Israel’s soldiers have entered Gaza from both the north of Gaza the center and the south, taking up positions in smaller villages on the outsides of the heavily populated areas. One hilly site, Al Majon, is considered the gateway to Gaza, and it was here that the troops were attacked.

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the security cabinet on Monday that Israel was working according to plan, and achieving the expected goals. The plan, he said, was meant to result in a positive result with Israel holding the upper hand against Hamas. Barak warned that the fighting would be intense and last a while. Meanwhile a news blackout was still in effect with no journalists allowed into Gaza.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan caused a stir in Israel with a strong condemnation of Israel’s action in Gaza calling it a “humanitarian tragedy”. He also said Israel would destroy itself with this attack. Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said that the comments were out of place, but one had to take into consideration that the PM of Turkey is also under pressure from his Moslem constituents. Another diplomatic source said the statements might obviate Turkey from being a mediator in future negotiations with Syria.

Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet reported there is no humanitarian crises in Gaza. Israel has continued to supply tons of materials to Gaza even as the fighting continues. The radio also reported that Israel is firing artillery at Gaza City in advance of Israel's ground forces entry.

Hamas TV said that the Israeli air force hit the office of a charity. According to the Arabic Al Jazeera TV over five hundred and thirty Gazans have been killed since the outbreak of the fighting.. Israel’s Defense Minister Barak put the number at 509 with 2,200 wounded. Many reports say that civilians have also been wounded, however Barak said almost all those hit were Hamas fighters. Israel says that more than sixty Hamas fighters were killed in the ground fighting.

John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, told the Washington Post that Hamas has cancelled the possibility of a Palestinian State, and this should be removed from the agenda.

Javier Solana of the European Union spoke about the situation. Analysts said his words indicated that the EU was in no hurry to stop the Israeli action. Yesterday on Israel Television, commentators were reminded that the EU has put Hamas on the terrorist list, and participated in the embargo of goods into Gaza. Egypt called on Israel for an immediate cease-fire. Sources expect that ultimately it will be Egypt that will broker the cease-fire.

Analysts say that one of Israel's major goals now is to so weaken Hamas so that they will not be able to strike back at Israel for years. This as Israel prepares to enter the heavily built-up Gaza City area. Hamas is reportedly waiting in ambush with between 15,000 - 20,000 fighters for the Israeli army to enter the narrow streets and alleys of Gaza City. These fighters are the backbone of Hamas power, and Israel cannot expect any quiet unless they are either neutralized completely or their numbers significantly diminished.

Iranian Foreign Minister has said if Israel enters Gaza City it will turn into a graveyard for Israelis. One Israeli analyst wondered how the Iranians knew so much about what Hamas had planned for the Israelis unless Iran was involved in Hamas' plans.

Yesterday Hamas tried to kidnap an Israeli soldier who was separated from his unit during the initial incursion of Gaza. Hamas fighters appeared from a tunnel and tried to drag him in, but he fought them off. This was apparently the cause for yesterday’s Hamas report that an Israeli soldier was kidnapped.. Meanwhile Gilad Shalit is still held captive. Knowing how much this pains Israelis, Hamas is hoping to add more Israelis to his cell.

According to Channel 2's Arab Affair's reporter Zvika Yehzkeli, the Gazans he spoke with complained that the Hamas leaders were safe in their bunkers with their families while the simple people were suffering from the war. According to Yehzkeli this would present Hamas with problems if and when the present fighting is over. As if to underline the point one of the Hamas leaders, Machmud Al-Zahar sent a videotape from his hiding place calling on the fighters to continue to fire the rockets.

The feeling among pundits is that so far Hamas has shown itself to be a paper tiger, and that Gaza is not a deep pit but rather a medium sized city populated with a large group of hard-core fighters. One Israeli former-generals says the IDF has had experience dealing with fighters like these in the past, and in due course will deal with these Hamas fighters as well. He added that the IDF must do ‘”root canal” work on Hamas, not just go for “fillings.”

Another commentator wrote that “In today's world romantics see Israel as Goliath, with a massive up-to-date air force, arsenal of latest bombs and rockets, satellites in the sky, pilot-less drones patrolling the war zone, tanks and canons all lined up against the terrorist group Hamas that is seen as the little David, with only suicide bombs, hand-made rockets made with fertilizer, and some Chinese rockets with a 20-mile range, all fired from crowded neighborhoods. In Gaza before the pull out 18 Gazans were killed when an Israeli tank shell fell accidentally on a building, and the world's reaction was harsh.

“Israel,” wrote the commentator, “is a client state of the EU and America, reliant on funding and weapons. Israel is not a super-power that makes rules. And the Jews stand on a higher rung of the morality ladder because of the Holocaust: at every turn we point to someone acting like a Nazi, so Israel can't act that way. Getting angry isn't the way to win a fight.“

“So far my boys haven't been called up, although A_ received a warning call telling him he wasn't being called up yet. Both have friends who were called up. My guess is they army is going to try its best to confront Hamas' 20,000 fighters, who are the real strength of the Hamas in Gaza, with the goal of significantly diminishing their numbers. All this has to be done before the international pressure builds up and Obama takes office. Defense Minister Barak says it's going to be a long campaign. Is this psychological warfare? Who knows?

“If I were Hamas I would sure be upset to hear that besides the soldiers already in Gaza, which isn't a big place to start with, additional tens of thousands of soldiers are on the way, I'd start thinking fast about an exit strategy. My guess is Hamas'll be scurrying around like rats trying to arrange a cease-fire, which might just have been Barak's goal in the massive call up.”

The problem with this commentator’s analysis is that many Israelis want to see Hamas finished off completely. A resident of Sderot interviewed on Israel Radio said, “You can’t stop the fighting now. This is a snake that needs its head cut off.”