Saturday, January 10, 2009

War With Hamas: Day 15

The fog of war seeped out of Jerusalem spread over Israel and blanketed Gaza. This was the feeling in Israel entering the Jewish Sabbath, and the same feeling once the Sabbath ended Saturday night.

Forty targets were hit by the Israel air force and thirteen Israeli soldiers were injured, most lightly.

Titus, a retired Israeli physician who walks his dog twice a day in the Jerusalem Forest, reported on the news. “Fog of war,” he said. Had Israel entered the third stage, sent in the reservist? “Fog of war,” he repeated. “No one knows.”

Moshe Shlonsky, former head of Army radio, told Channel 2 news that this operation had reached a static situation, that there was nothing to film. This is response to a complaint by Erlich Zaram, a German journalist, who said that Israel wasn’t allowing reporters into Gaza. When Shlonsky suggest these reporters go in through the Egyptian side, Zaram said, that border was also denied them. Besides, said Zaram, foreign reporters had stopped going into Gaza because Hamas had started kidnapping them.

Shlonsky said that enough footage was coming out of Gaza through the army. In a static operation there was nothing to film anyway. Zaram said that Al Jazeera had two cameras set up in Gaza, one permanently on a rooftop of a high-rise, another mobile at Gaza’s Shifa hospital. A third camera was set up on a hilltop in Sderot. That was all the footage coming out of Gaza. Shlonsky said if and when a third stage of the operation began reporters would probably be embedded with the troops.

An Arab affairs professor speaking on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet said that the complexity of the situation was overlaid by the “long view” of the Palestinian radicals who believed they could absorb the body blows Israel was delivering, and still be around to strike back, for years if necessary, until Israel was destroyed and the Jews driven out of the region.

According to this professor Hamas didn’t accept Israel’s existence and never would. IDF actions weren’t going to change that fact, and Hamas would never stop firing rockets. They might pause, but not cease firing completely.

According to Avi Assarof, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 2, “Palestinians will never ask Hamas to stop fighting.” He said that was not in the cards. The Palestinians would never rise up and overthrow Hamas. It was neither in their abilities, nor their world-view.

Another reporter, Adnan Abu Hasana, calling in from Gaza, said that most of the Gazans were simple people who only wanted to get on with their lives. He also said that when observing the wounded brought into Gaza’s Sheba hospital, very few were Hamas fighters. Most were civilians. He said most of the Gazans didn’t understand the politics, only saw Israel bombing and people injured or killed.

Demonstrations against the operation were held in some Israeli Arab towns and villages. In Kfar Arba young Arabs told Israel TV that they were against Israel killing innocent children. In Kfar Kana four Israeli Arab teenagers were arrested for throwing stones at Israeli cars driving on nearby roads.
During the early evening in Israel Amir Manasee, a Hamas military leader reportedly expert in firing rockets was killed in Gaza while firing a mortar at IDF forces, two other Hamas fighters with him were also killed.

Hamas continued firing rockets into Israel. Four rockets fell in Ashkelon, causing thirteen injuries. Rockets also fell in Ashdod. Israel announced it would increase the attacks on Gaza. The IDF dropped leaflets calling on residents to stay away from terrorists and from arms caches. According to informed sources 20 Palestinians were killed today in Gaza.

Israel announced that school would resume tomorrow for those students along the Gaza border, like Sderot, with classes held in protected rooms and bomb shelters.

The UN has called for an immediate cease-fire, but so far Israel is continuing the actions. “An army against a guerilla force” was how Ayala Sasson described the operation to Resehet Bet’s radio interviewer. She said the coming week would determine how Israel would proceed with the diplomatic front. She also said that Foreign Minister Tzip Livni, leader of the Kadmia party, was in favor of an immediate unilateral cease-fire.

But according to Rubik Rosenthal, an editor at the Haaretz Newspaper, the Ehud Barak seen on TV these days was a man in his element. His statements were precise, his actions measured and effective, not the mumbling politician uncomfortable in front of TV cameras.. This was a man in charge, radiating confidence. Barak was also the leader of the Labor party that has increased in popularity since the operation began. Israel’s general elections are to be held in about four weeks.

The fog of war so far continues with many people speculating about the next stage, but no one certain what it will be. Almost everyone, from left to right, agree that the war with Hamas was inevitable, but few see how to end it, if that is indeed possible.