Israel is racing against time as it wages a massive ground invasion of Gaza to try to stop the incessant rocket and mortar barrages against civilians before international pressure obliges Israel to engage in diplomatic efforts to cease its assault.
The masterful Arab public relations onslaught is underway as the news media reports every Arab death and especially when each child that is killed. Of course no mention is made of the Hamas use of innocents as shields so Israel can’t help to kill civilians as the battles continue.
Rockets have been launched from Gaza onto Israel for many months even during a “cease fire” agreed to by Hamas. As the new Gaza fighting continues, the rockets still rain down on southern Israel with more than 50 reported launched indiscriminately at southern Israeli towns. Katyusha rockets hit residential buildings injuring and killing Israelis.
What Israel wants is clear and simple; no more rockets and no more smuggling of arms into Gaza. From Israel’s perspective the operation is defensive. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is not looking to oust Hamas. “We have no love for Hamas, but the goal of this operation is purely defensive. We have not articulated regime change as an objective. On the contrary, the minute we can be sure the civilian population in the south of Israel is not going to be on the incoming end of Hamas rockets from Gaza, this operation can be over.”
From my point of view this stated goal for the Israeli operation is misguided; the goal should be the eradication of Hamas who is sworn to destroy Israel.
Even Samir Abdullah, the Palestinian Authority's minister of planning warns that “keeping Hamas in Gaza … could lead to another Somalia.” “We will end up with warlords dismantling the society,” he said.
Leaving Hamas in Gaza would not sit all that well with Egypt either. Egyptian officials have said that they will not open the Rafah crossing to Gaza (almost certain to be part of any ceasefire agreement) unless Mr. Abbas's Palestinian Authority polices the Gaza side of the border. Yossi Alpher, a strategic analyst and co-editor of bitterlemons.org, a joint Israeli-Palestinian journal, said he thinks any ceasefire agreement will take care of that concern. “Even if Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire, Israel could re-establish a corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border, with PA and EU monitors controlling access and countering efforts to smuggle weapons or explosives into Gaza, as was agreed on in 2005. Hamas might want to fire rockets at us, but they wouldn't have anything to fire with.”
However Hamas has a different objective and it is not defensive. Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Az-Zahar claimed victory for Hamas, saying Hamas had succeeded in “destroying Israel's sense of security” with its rocket attacks. Zahar made his proclamation in video footage sent from a secret hideout, where he is taking shelter in order to avoid being targeted in an IAF strike.
The Hamas leader called to murder Israelis and Jews worldwide, including children. “The Israelis have sentenced their children to death... They have legitimized the killing of their people all over the world,” he said. Hamas' platform calls for all Jews to convert to Islam or be killed, based on an Islamic saying (Hadith), and the group has not refrained from targeting children in the past.
Zahar also said "Hamas will destroy synagogues and Jewish schools as well, just as Israel destroyed mosques in Gaza." Israel bombed several mosques used to store rockets and ammunition.
Zahar suggested Hamas was prepared to seek a ceasefire, saying Hamas would discuss “whatever is good for our people.” He issued a list of demands, saying "Any ceasefire must include a complete end to IDF counterterrorism activities, Hamas control of the Gaza coast and the opening of Israeli crossings."
It is indeed strange with the history of Arab deceit that Israel would accept a ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place ruling Gaza. How can Israel possibly expect that any agreement would be honored? All that a cease fire would do is to allow Hamas to catch their breadth and rearm. No amount of policing Gaza borders would prevent Hamas from obtaining fresh arms and rockets; perhaps rockets with greater range.
At the moment Israelis support the Gaza initiative but As Alex Fishman wrote in Yediot Ahronot (newspaper), “The Israeli public is strongly behind the military operation against Hamas. But if there are a large number of Israeli casualties – either on the battlefield or on the home front because of rockets – all bets are off.” In this respect Israelis are like Americans.
Like a fighter on the mat who has had a punch too many and his brain is scrambled, Hamas said “We will not agree to a unilateral cessation of rocket fire unless the conditions for a new [cease-fire] are accepted, which means lifting the blockade [of Gaza]. Time is in our favor.” Just a few minutes after the IDF ground operation began Hamas issued a series of dire warnings from Abu Obeida, a senior official in Hamas’ military wing. “The Zionist enemy needs to know that its battle in Gaza is a lost battle.” And more: “Gaza isn’t going to be a picnic for you,” Ismail Radwan, another senior Hamas official, said to IDF soldiers. “It will be your graveyard.”
The western world can only hope Israel remains steadfast and carries out the Gaza incursion to conclusion with the destruction of Hamas. This would serve as a lesson to all Muslims who only respect force, not diplomacy. Israel must ignore the bleeding hearts; world opinion never won a war but it has cost many to lose wars.