Sunday, January 04, 2009

On The Defensive

Israeli ground troops have entered Gaza in an attempt to put an end to the Philistine's shelling of Israel.

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza on Saturday night as the military launched the second phase of its assault on the Hamas-ruled territory after a week of airstrikes.

"Obviously, ground forces have capability that air forces don't have," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN.

"We want to create a situation where the civilian population in southern Israel is no longer on the receiving end of those deadly Hamas rockets. When quiet can be achieved, this operation can be finished."
And here is a big surprise. The EU says the Israeli response is defensive.
PRAGUE, Jan 3 (Reuters) - European Union president, the Czech Republic, said on Saturday an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza was "defensive, not offensive" action.

"At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action," Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik said.
The Associated Press has more news.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli tanks and troops launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip Saturday night with officials saying they expected a lengthy fight with Hamas militants in the densely populated territory after eight days of punishing airstrikes failed to halt rocket attacks on Israel.

Hamas vowed that Gaza would be a "graveyard" for Israelis forces.

"This will not be easy and it will not be short," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said soon after the ground invasion began.

The incursion was preceded by several hours of heavy artillery fire after dark, igniting flames in the night sky. Machine gun fire rattled as bright tracer rounds flashed through the darkness and the crash of hundreds of shells sent up streaks of fire.

Artillery fired illuminating rounds, sending streaks of bright light drifting down over Gaza's densely packed neighborhoods. Gunbattles could be heard, as troops crossed the border into Gaza, marching single file. They were backed by helicopter gunships and tanks.

Israeli security officials said the objective is not to reoccupy Gaza. The depth and intensity of the ground operation will depend on parallel diplomatic efforts, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
So far the military objectives are not clear to me. Perhaps they will become clearer as the offensive proceeds.

Israel National News gives more details on where the advances are taking place.
(IsraelNN.com) Ground troops moved into Gaza Saturday night for the first time since last February and returned to the sites of former Jewish homes in northern Gaza for the first time since the government abandoned the area with the promise that the western Negev would be freed of rocket and morat attacks.

Artillery fire from the ground and from Naval boats rained on terrorist targets before tanks roared in, and at least 30 terrorists were killed. Soldiers did not meet any massive resistance. Hamas claimed that it killed several Israeli soldiers, but there has been no other report of IDF casualties.

The soldiers, from Givati, tank, Golani and engineer units, are back by intelligence, Air Force, artillery and Naval forces. The Navy has enforced a blockade of 20 nautical miles from the Gaza Coast because of the presence of terrorists in the area.
So Northern Gaza is the focus of at least one segment of the operation. Will they flatten the area making it easier to target the rocket shooters? Time will tell.
Israeli Air Force planes dropped thousands of leaflets warning Gaza residents not to cooperate with terrorists by using phones to report on IDF operations.
I don't expect the Philistines to pay any attention to the warnings. Of course that will make Gaza communications infrastructure a target. Cell phone towers and central offices.

You can watch the Israeli Defense Forces YouTube Channel for video updates on the fighting. Here is one I particularly liked about the Philistines using mosques as weapons depots. The text that goes with it says:
Major Avital Leibovich, the head of the International Press Branch in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, explains how Hamas uses Mosques in the Gaza Strip for the storage of weapons. This is yet another example of how Hamas uses the civilian population as a human shield, risking innocent lives in order to carry out acts of terrorism.
Haaretz reports a call up of tens of thousands of Israeli troops.
Israel's government has approved the call-up of tens of thousands of reservist soldiers, it was annnounced Saturday, almost simultaneously with the launch of a Gaza ground incursion aimed at halting rocket fire on Israel's southern communities.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement that, in accordance with a secret cabinet discussion Friday, the government ordered the armed forces "to draft the necessary reservists, on a scale of tens of thousands of troops."
Since it takes about three days to bring Israeli reservists into action this move says that the war on the ground is likely to last ten days or more. Which would make it a very significant punitive raid.

Amos Harel gives his analysis of what is going on.
The killing of senior Hamas official Nizar Ghayan Thursday in an Israel Air Force strike in Jabalya is a significant development at this stage of the war in the Gaza Strip, due not only to his high position in the Gaza leadership but also because of the message his assassination sends to the Palestinians.

Gazans have been asking Haaretz why Israel is hitting Hamas foot soldiers, empty buildings and innocent civilians rather than the leadership. They see this as proof of Israel's inability to really deal with Hamas. Ghayan's killing shows that Israel is no longer hesitating. The Hamas leader in Gaza, Sheikh Ismail Haniyeh, his government and certainly Hamas military leaders such as Ahmed Jabri know they have good reason to stay in hiding.

The assassination in the spring of 2004 of Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Ahmed Yassin was the main factor behind the Hamas decision to suspend suicide bombings and limit friction with Israel.

But these killings also increased sympathy for Hamas in Gaza and led to its electoral win two years later. In the same way, Hamas television quickly made use of Thursday's incident, repeatedly showing footage of Ghayan's headless body.
The message I got was that mindless violence leads to headless leaders. Pity the Philistines can't see the obvious.
Unlike the Second Lebanon War, the ground war in the Gaza Strip will be waged in densely populated urban areas. The civilian population in Lebanon fled during the fighting. In the Gaza Strip, however, there is nowhere to run but the beach and the Egyptian border, and many civilian casualties can be expected.
So what is the Egyptian attitude? Well, it is very interesting to say the least given this report fron the 29th of December.
An Egyptian border guard and a Palestinian youth were killed during border clashes between Hamas and Egyptian security forces.

An Egyptian security source said Hamas forces had also shot an Egyptian policeman in the leg.

The incidents took place near the main border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, where Egyptian riot police fired in the air to try to drive back Palestinians who had managed to penetrate the border wall.

The Palestinians were trying to flee Gaza in the midst of Israeli air strikes which have killed nearly 300 people so far.

The events are likely to aggravate tense relations between Hamas and the Egyptian Government, which says that Hamas is largely to blame for the Israeli onslaught.
An Iranian news agency says the Egyptian border guards are authorized to shoot at Philistines trying to flee Gaza.
Cairo orders a security cordon at the Rafah border crossing to open fire at the Palestinians fleeing to Egypt from Israeli raids on Gaza.

The task force has been deployed to take a stance against the Gazans seeking refuge in Sinai amid continues Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, Debka reported on Friday.

This is while an increased number of Palestinians are on their way to the border crossing following reports that Tel Aviv is scheduling artillery bombardment.
Jeeze the Iranians are quoting the Debka rumor mill. Is that the best they can do? Still it is likely to be true. After Palestinians attacked Egypt in February of 2008 I wouldn't imagine the Egyptians would be welcoming the Philistines with open arms any time soon.
One Palestinian was killed and 24 Egyptians were injured in clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Egyptian border police Monday.

In a statement published Tuesday, the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza demanded an investigation into the death and said the incident proved an arrangement must be found 'quickly' for the formal reopening of the border.

But al-Hayat quoted Egyptian officials as saying Egypt would not accept an arrangement whereby Hamas security forces would guard the Rafah border passage, as Cairo recognizes the Ramallah-based 'caretaker' government of President Mahmoud Abbas as the only legitimate Palestinian regime.

Hamas demands a role in running the passage, bypassing an international agreement from November 2005, which stipulated Abbas' Presidential Guard, Egyptian authorities and European observers would man the border passage, while Israel would observe security procedures at Rafah via video monitoring.

Hamas militants blew holes in the border on January 23, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to circumvent a tight Israeli blockade and stock up on supplies in Egypt.
And speaking of supplies, as you would expect in a war zone prices are rising for basic commodities.
According to reports from the Strip, ever since the start of Operation Cast Lead there has been a shortage in basic commodities, and those who manage to get their hands on them discover that their prices have been doubled.

The supply of basic commodities has dropped significantly since Sunday, when the Israel Defense Forces bombed dozens of smuggling tunnels at the Philadelphi Route.

Residents in the Strip reported that a sack of flour was sold on Tuesday for more than NIS 200 (about $53), compared to less than NIS 100 ($26.5) before the IDF operation which began Saturday. Many Gazans say they have been left without flour, as the vast majority of sales points have not been opened.

Sources in the Strip claim that the big merchants have basic commodities in stock, but some are afraid to bring out the goods and market them these days, while others are taking advantage of the distress in order to increase their profits.

The prices of fuel, which had been smuggled from Egypt until Sunday, have seen a significant rise since the military operation began. On Tuesday 1 liter of petrol was sold in Gaza for more than NIS 10 ($2.65), compared to only NIS 2.8 (74 cents) last week. This price rise is the reason why many private cars and public transportation vehicles are paralyzed.

Meanwhile, merchants and industrialists from the West Bank are attempting to maximize their profits by taking advantage of the waves of hostility against Israel in light of the events in Gaza.

"The Popular Campaign for Palestinian Products" in Bethlehem issued a statement Tuesday calling on local consumers to boycott Israeli products due to the "aggression" in the Gaza Strip.
I think that is more than enough to digest for now.

If you need more here are some useful links:

The Jerusalem Post
Haaretz
Israel Insider
Israel National News
MEMRI
Y-net News
Iran Press News
Asia Times
FOX News
The Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Sun Times

H/T a friend via e-mail.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

1 comment:

rumcrook said...

here's hoping that israel is able to wipe out hammas as an effective force in gaza giving the less murderous paleostinians a chance to take power.