Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 8

Tzuk Eytan (Protective Edge) Day 8

One Israeli died from a Hamas mortar attack at the Erez crossing near Gaza while passing out food to the soldiers. He was the first Israeli casualty in the conflict. Another young girl is still in critical condition from a different attack.
Hamas continued firing rockets into Israel even though an Egyptian sponsored ceasefire was agreed upon by Israel. However the cease-fire was only one sided. Hamas fired 113 rockets since Israel agreed to a cease-fire at 9:00 am, 24 shot down by the Iron Dome.

But  one Hamas rocket reached as far as Zichron Yaacov near Haifa, and sirens were also heard in Tel Aviv. Sirens were also heard in the area around Jerusalem, the Jerusalem hills, and Beit Shemesh. A house in Rishon LeZion was hit, and severe damage caused to the surrounding area. Luckily no one was home.

Analysts say that Hamas was livid that the Egyptians offered Israel a cease-fire without consulting anyone in Hamas. Ehud Yaari, Arab affairs correspondent for Channel 2 TV news, said that his Hamas contacts were so angry at Egypt one even slammed down the phone on him during a conversation, something he never did in the past. This anger was reportedly the reason for the heavy barrage of rockets Hamas sent at Israel. Analysts say this was Hamas’ way of telling the Egyptians they were out of line. Hamas reportedly wants Turkey and Qatar as the brokers in the cease-fire. Still, most pundits feel that this round of hostilities should end within a day or two.

However, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, of the right-wing Israeli Beitanu party, has openly criticized PM Netanyahu for his moderate approach to the conflict. Leiberman went on TV and demanded that Israel send troops into Gaza and fight Hamas until the last missile is destroyed and Hamas is dismantled. Some Israeli commentators said that this type of criticism of an Israeli Prime Minister during a war is unheard of. Usually the politicians of the various spots on the spectrum present a unified front during a conflict. Other commentators pointed out that Netanyahu may be drifting towards the center politically, much as the late former PM Ariel Sharon did when he decided to pull out of the Gaza settlements.

israel TV’s Channel 2 military correspondent Ronny Daniel is still calling for an invasion of Gaza by Israeli troops, but not to occupy Gaza, just to find the tunnels that where the rockets are hidden, and find the  leaders, if possible, and at least arrest them.

The other channels, radio shows, and newspapers were filled with chatter about the brief cease-fire and what it meant for the future

Essentially, the consensus is that the last week was pretty much a repeat of what happened in the other two battles with Hamas, the latest only a year-and-a-half ago. US President Obama is calling for a cease-fire abiding by the agreement of that last conflict in 2012. However, Hamas never fully respected that cease-fire.

As one commentator said, “They shoot, we shoot, people die, are injured, some third party steps in, we stop shooting, they stop shooting, until the next time.”

Most pundits agree that cleaning out Hamas is not on the agenda. Israel's political establishment is too worried about what comes instead. Most analysts say when one group, like Hamas is unseated, a more radical alternative takes their place. So the politicians and tacticians have decided to leave Hamas in power. 

Had the other option been taken, a ground invasion of Gaza, most military analysts say this would have taken months, perhaps a year, to ferret out each missile silo, clear out the Hamas underground city, take down the leadership, and let Abbas take over. All of this would have meant the sad sight of Israeli boys brought out of Gaza in body bags.

One observer  wondered where former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had been during this entire time, and then a brief clip on the news mentioned that Barak was Netanyahu's chief military strategist during this Protective Edge conflict. Barak withdrew from active political life and has apparently refused to grant interviews or appear on any talk shows. Some commentators were surprised to see he was still in the country, and more surprised to see he was Bibi's main brain in this latest conflict. 

During his tenure, Barak never wanted to go up against the Arabs, not in Gaza, and not in Lebanon. He was, according to reports, brought kicking and screaming into the Gaza invasion. So perhaps  Martin Indyk was right when he said that amassing Israeli troops on the Gaza border was a bluff, especially if Barak was designing the moves. Barak knew that the body count would be high, and at the end have no different result than that reached without going into Gaza.

Hamas has publicly announced they are waiting patiently for the Israeli troops to invade. Hamas TV informercials show Hamas snipers hiding, and picking off Israeli troops. Reportedly Hamas  has rigged the ground with booby-traps, manning the rooftops and apartment buildings with snipers. One source in the Prime Minister's office confirmed that the booby-traps and other dastardly surprises were in place awaiting hapless Israeli soldiers. 

As if to underline this statement, the source pointed out that the Israeli commando team that two days ago destroyed a Hamas missile silo hidden amid a civilian population was caught in such a trap. Proof of the trap being sprung was that four commandos were injured. Had the mission gone unhindered, as many of these Israeli commando missions do, the public would never have known a mission ever took place.

Was this a scouting mission as well, to test the ground and see what Hamas had in store? Perhaps that was another reason to accept the cease-fire and keep the Israeli soldiers from becoming mince-meat.

Another military analyst said on the Orly and Guy morning talk  show on Channel 10 TV that the conflict wasn't between Israel and Hamas, or even between the West and Islam, but rather between Islam and the Arab people. Once the moderate Arab population rises up and opposes the radicals than these kinds of conflicts will cease. He mentioned the countries like Kenya, Chechnya, Iraq, Syria, and others all suffering under fundamentalist attacks. It was up to the Arab nations, he said, to stop them.

This analyst, a Lt. Col in the army reserves, said that the mostly secular Palestinian Authority  could be the solution once they are allowed a freer hand in Gaza. Ehud Yaari expects that the PA will be given much more power in Gaza once the fighting stops. “The days of Hamas ruling Gaza alone are over,” Yaari said. Like other commentators Yaari says that Hamas has little support in the Arab world. And that none of the Hamas hail-Mary plays to take out a major Israeli target, or succeed in a daring raid, have succeeded. The next moves seem to be to strengthen Abbas' hand. Will that be included in the cease-fire? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, a Ynet on-line news story (  http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4543634,00.html)  detailed what is supposed to be the fortunes Hamas leaders have amassed. Ismail Haniyeh  Hamas’ leader in Gaza recently built a $4 million home for himself, and similar mansions for his children. Khaled Mashal, Hamas CEO, now sits in Qatar where he reportedly has nearly $3 billion stashed. Not all of it Hamas money. Ynet claims that Hamas Gaza chief Haniyeh gets a 20 percent cut on all goods smuggled through the tunnels in Gaza, and he and his cronies rake in millions hiking up the price of cheap Egyptian oil, selling it for eight times the price in Gaza. Maybe the solution is to start bombing the mansions of the Hamas leadership and leave the simple folks alone.

According to Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, there are no less than 1,200 millionaires in Hamas, while nearly 40 percent of Gazan live in dire poverty. Perhaps this wealth is one of the reasons Hamas’ leadership is so stubbornly holding onto power, hiding in their shelters while the simple Gazans are stuck out in the open on the receiving end of Israel’s military response to the Hamas rocket fire. Perhaps one day soon these simple people will say, enough.