Military observers question Israel’s thinking on the Gaza operation. With hundreds of tanks and thousands of troops poised for a ground assalt, where are we headed?
These Western non-Israelis believe that time is short before the boodletting allows Hamas a victory no matter what Israel says the outcome yields. This may mirror Israel’s end state in southern Lebanon after the war with Hezbollah: with Lebanon in ruins, and Hezbollah still in existence, it was hard to see Israel a a “winner.”
War Colleges teach senior military officers to “shape the battlefield.” They preach using the right amount of force and the right mix of assets at the right time to achieve stated and clear results.
It is still not clear to many observers if Isreal merely wants to end the rocket attaks, wants Hamas out of Gaza or wants to take control of Gaza entirely.
Explosions are seen after an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, January 1, 2009.(Baz Ratner/Reuters)
This uncertaintainty is fueld by political concerns inside Israel, pending elections and reports of disagreements among senior Israelis. Those reports have been squashed and now no news is available to the media about the cabinet level discussions — but uncertainty persists.
And the clock is ticking. Every hour that goes past will be seen by Hamas and its allies, inluding Iran, as another hour of victory and resistance over Israel.
“In the public opinion battle, the battle of ‘hearts and minds,’ Israel is now ‘Murder Inc.,'” a senior Pakistani military officer told us. “They are now killing senior Hamas leaders and what, some 500 Hamas or Gazan? Now who to negotiate with? They are making a lot of martyrs.”
John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
Gaza, Day 7, January 2, “Brutal Even By Middle East Standards”
From the Los Angeles Times:
An Islamic scholar and university instructor, Rayan was a force in both the political and military wings of Hamas. The hulking, bearded imam was a hard-line theologian and military commander.
“This is a difficult hit for Hamas. Even they admit it,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, an army spokeswoman. Leibovich declined to comment on whether the strike on Rayan represented a formal return of the assassination policy.
The battle-hardened militant group has proved adept at replacing leaders, calling into question the effectiveness of the tactic. After the killings of Yassin and Rantisi, Hamas regrouped stronger than ever around a new command structure based in both Gaza and Damascus, Syria.
Although most senior Hamas leaders went into hiding when the Israeli air barrages began, Rayan made a point of living openly in his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. He encouraged other leaders to follow suit.
“He refused to leave his house; he preferred to be a martyr,” the Hamas official said.
Thirteen members of Rayan’s family, including all four of his wives, were also killed in the strike, his teenage son Baraa told The Times.
Meanwhile, Israeli tanks and thousands of soldiers remain massed on the Gaza border Thursday awaiting an order to invade the densely populated and fortified coastal territory, with about 1.5 million people in 140 square miles.
In the face of mounting international calls for an end to the campaign, Israeli officials defended the operation as necessary to bring an end to the daily rocket launches from Gaza that threaten a widening swath of southern Israel.
“Hamas understands that Israel has changed the equation,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said before leaving for Paris to consult with French officials. “The situation in which they shoot and we do not respond is over.”
From the Los Angeles Times reporters on the ground in Gaza:
From The Washington Post’s Griff Witte
January 2, 2009
Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which began last Saturday, has been carried out exclusively by air and by sea. After a day of heavy rain, the weather improved Thursday, and military analysts said Israeli tanks and other vehicles massed on Gaza’s border could more easily enter the territory.
“The forces are there, and they’re ready for anything,” said an Israeli military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich.
Israel’s exact objectives in Gaza remain unclear. Israeli military officials have said they are determined to substantially reduce Hamas’s rocket fire. Analysts expect Israel to seek a truce with Hamas on terms more favorable to the Jewish state than the ones under the six-month deal brokered by Egypt that expired in mid-December.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Thursday floated the idea of using international monitors, or even armed forces, to ensure that any future cease-fire holds. Israel has indicated it would welcome unarmed international observers.
Read the rest: