Wednesday, January 07, 2009

War With Hamas: Day 12

Upstairs downstairs may have been a popular TV show, but according to Israeli observers it isn’t working with the Palestinians in Gaza. Upstairs is considered the Palestinians who are above ground hunkered down in their homes afraid to go out into the streets for fear of being caught in a firefight or in the range of an Israeli air force attack.

Downstairs are the Hamas leaders who have sought safety in the bunkers and tunnels, many supplied with ample food and comfortable lodging for themselves and their families. Israel TV footage showed two tunnel entrances in one Hamas fighter’s house. According to the news reports the Hamas military leaders all have tunnels and bunkers beneath their homes. They also use the tunnels to pop in and out of locations fighting when they please. This tunnel complex worries Israelis and according to military analysts is one of the reasons why the army has not rushed into the rabbit warren of Gaza City.

According to Zvika Yehzkeli Channel 10’s Arab affairs reporter, Hamas is cut off from the citizens. They have not supplied medical help, firefighters, sewage, electricity, or any services during the crises. They have disappeared from sight. “They are not a government. They are a guerilla organization.”

On Wednesday Israel called a three-hour halt in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel TV Channel 10 reporter Alon Ben David says that Hamas fighters immediately confiscated much of the humanitarian aid for themselves and their families. This sort of behavior, according to Channel 10 Arab affairs reporter Zvi Yezhkili is backfiring on Hamas. When residents came out of their homes they were shocked to see the enormous damage done to their neighborhoods and have begun to wonder if a new leadership isn’t needed.

The diplomatic efforts by French Prime Minister Sarkozy resulted in a tentative agreement between Israel and the PA to begin discussion on a cease-fire. However, reserve General Danny Rothschild says it is Egypt who must broker this peace, and so far haven’t been willing to agree to do so. Egypt wants to see a weaker Hamas, and at the same time, doesn’t want to appear to be catering to the Israelis. According to Rothschild this is only the start of the negotiations, and they may take another week to ten days before they reach some sort of cease-fire.

Israel TV reports that 59 Israeli soldiers are still hospitalized one in serious condition. Israel’s cabinet today postponed a decision to send in the reserve troops now in training before their entry into Gaza.

Israel is demanding that the situation doesn’t return to a status quo ante, but leaves Hamas without the ability to resume firing at will on Israeli citizens. Today the rockets reach 40 kilometers, and if the smuggling of Iranian weapons resumes, soon rockets that could reach Tel Aviv or Netanya will be at their disposal.

Part of the French proposal is that PA head Mohammed Abbas be party to the negotiations, which is something that Hamas finds antithetical to it’s position. Chico Menashe of Channel 10 said that Sarkozy offered one plan discussions and then a ceasefire two days ago but now after meetings in Egypt comes back with another, calling for a cease-fire and then discussions.

Sky News reporters said that if the US corps of engineers agrees to come into the Philadelphi route and put up a barrier to prevent weapons to come in from Egypt to resupply the Hamas weapons arsenal. This is something that needs to be put on the table, and again it is Egypt who needs to allow this since the Philadelphi route is on their border.

In previous agreements Egypt was to have patrolled this area and prevent smuggling of weapons, but according to Sky News, Egypt failed to do this. Another key issue is the Rafiah crossing from Egypt that also has been used as a weapons smuggling passageway. Al Jazeera TV announced Wednesday night that the IDF had warned residents of Rafiah were to clear away from the Philadelphi route, apparently in anticipation of an Israeli attack on the smuggling tunnels.

Al Jazeera TV showed Hamas shot footage of a Hamas fighter in civilian clothes loading a mortar shell into a launcher placed beneath a leafy tree on a traffic median strip in the Jabaliya refugee camp with the walls of some building clearly visible in the background.
While Hamas claims that there is a face to face fight going on, Alon Ben David of Channel 10 says the distance is at least 150 meters, with the Hamas fighters doing their best to stay hidden.

In an late evening interview with Amir, commander of the Yaalom army engineers unit that was involved in the tank tragedy yesterday, his forces are fighting well, destroying bombs, tunnels, bunkers, and confronting Hamas fighters. He said the IDF is using force against Hamas to prevent injuries to Israeli soldiers. He said they’ve uncovered hundreds of tunnels, but not a lot of Hamas fighters. “We’re ready and waiting for them,” he said.

Shortly after the humanitarian break Hamas began firing rockets. Two grad rockets fell in Beer Sheva, one digging a six-foot deep pit in the ground. Over 20 rockets fell in Israel from Sderot to Beer Sheva.

Another disturbing development since the start of this Israeli operation in Gaza is the radicalization of Turkey, long considered a friend of both Israel and the USA. A few days ago the Prime Minister of Turkey harshly criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza. Yesterday a game in Ankara between Turk Telekom and Bnei Hasharon, part of a European basketball championship, ended when a referee ordered the players back to the dressing room after hundreds of Turkish fans began chanting "Israel, killers!" in an Ankara sports centre, a SkyTurk broadcaster reported.

According to the Israeli team’s coach an estimated 3,000 Palestinians and Islamists began chanting “Death to Israel,” and throwing shoes, coins and water bottles on the court where the Israelis were warming up. Police rushed in to keep the angry crowd back. The Israeli team, made up of paid professionals from Israel, Europe and the USA, were frightened of a ‘lynch’ and retired to the locker room. Analysts say that the spectators were not fans of the Turkish team but protestors bent on attacking the Israeli team. To the surprise of the Israelis the officials declared that Israel had forfeited the game.