Saturday, January 03, 2009

War With Hamas: Day 8

The Israeli army entered Gaza at seven o’clock on Saturday evening in Israel, Israel TV reports that the army is performing as they had planned, with no surprises. By midnight Israel time both Israel TV’s Channel 10 and Channel 1 report over thirty Hamas fighters killed in the initial incursion.

The Israel air force kept up their attacks, coordinated with attacks by the Israeli navy, ground troops, sappers, and military intelligence.

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a press conference on Saturday night and said the fight would be difficult but Israel had no choice but to enter Gaza to bring peace and quiet to Israel. Barak warned that the action might be long.

Prior to the invasion Israel Television showed pictures of Israeli artillery stitching shells in a tight pattern of an open field leading into Gaza. Analysts said this was to explode any mines that Hamas had planted in anticipation of an Israeli ground attack.

Alon Ben David, military analyst for Israel Television’s channel 10 said that the action would go on for approximately a week, before the UN Security Council and other diplomatic pressures began to affect Israel’s ability to continue. Ben David indicated that Israel was not worried about Hamas’ forces inflicting serious damage on Israel, despite the boasting and threats of Hamas. More, he said, they had turned to a psychological warfare using the world’s media to broadcast the message of Israeli aggression.

France called for a cease-fire but by both sides, not singling out Israel as the aggressor. The UN Security Council met in special session to discuss the situation. Egypt called on both sides to stop the firing. However one military analyst said that Egypt was pleased with the invasion because they finally realized that the Grad rockets which Hamas has been firing at Israel can also be fired at Egypt. And Egypt realizes that the Hamas weapons stockpile can be used as an armory for radical groups, like the Islamic Brotherhood, to launch a revolution in Egypt.

60 rockets fell in Israel today, destroying a wooden house in Netivot but causing no injury. Rockets also fell in Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Israeli reporters warn that Hamas fighters will be busy shooting at Israeli soldiers tonight, but tomorrow will start firing rockets at Israel. News reports are full of warnings to residents to stay in their homes. Schools have been cancelled all across the South of Israel. As of now over 900,000 Israelis are within the range of Hamas rockets.

Israeli raids cut off the electricity to Gaza, and blew up a gas depot. According to Israel TV channel 2’s Arab Affairs reporter Ehud Yaari Israeli tanks are moving slowly through the streets. Earlier in the day an Arab resident of Gaza spoke to Israeli TV and said that he wanted Hamas out of Gaza. When asked if he wasn’t afraid of such a call, he said no. The Israeli reporter then clarified the situation. The man was from one of Gaza’s leading families with wide business interests in Gaza and abroad, and powerful enough that Hamas wouldn’t seek revenge for his statements.
One political analyst said that as bad as it looked for Hamas this was a win-win situation, since once the time came for a cease-fire it would be with Hamas, giving them political legitimacy in the world’s eyes, something Israel has been trying to prevent.

Some Israeli analysts wonder aloud how the Israeli entry into Gaza will end.

The Army also issued a call-up for over 10,000 reservists. Some pundits believe these forces will be kept in reserve should Hezbollah on the Lebanese/Israeli border enter the fray. Others say these men will be used as reinforcements for those ground forces that entered Gaza Saturday night.

In his message Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the operation in Gaza could expand if the need arose. Other observers pointed out that this incursion was in the planning stages for over a year, and so far was going according to Israeli scenarios. Military commentators on Israel TV's Channel 2 reported that the operation was to be in three modules, the first the air force, the second the ground forces. The third is a possible expansion of the action in Gaza. The last part of the module is why the 10,000 reservists have been called up.

Captured soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held in Gaza, although according to reports kept in a home laden with explosive ready to explode should Israel attack the house. Hamas has also been warning that more soldiers like Shalit would soon be captured and held hostage.

Israeli military sources said that they take the Hamas bellicose threats as part truth mixed with a lot of exaggeration. Israe,they say, is ready for any eventuality. The air force hit Gaza for a week. Then the artillery opened up the path into Gaza, which the ground troops used to enter. They will be followed by the sappers, who have been trained to disarm the explosive booby-traps set in the many tunnels along the Philadephi route, one of the ground troops prime targets. Israel TV showed footage of Israeli soldiers training for just these scenarios.

Israel now has the advantage on the ground, according to press reports, since the electricity was disconnected, the Hamas TV station neutralized, and the Gaza populace in shock. Tomorrow, Sunday, these analysts say, will be a different story. The sun will come up, the Israeli troops will have stopped moving, and the real battles will begin.