Saturday, March 01, 2008

War of the Missiles Redux

Most of the IDF activity is taking place around Jabaliyah (Map: Perry Castaneda, click to enlarge)

What we are seeing so far is eerily reminiscent of the beginnings of the war between Israel and Hizbullah in the summer of 2006. So far, Hamas has demonstrated that its rocket attacks can reach at least as far as Ashqelon, and that it is capable of firing hundreds of missiles a day, if it so desires. IDF activity, so far taking place at the brigade level (Givati) and consisting of infantry forays together with armored units, engineers, and air force, has made no dent whatsoever in the qassam firing while killing many civilians, including children - though it has also managed to engage Hamas fighters. The army has even made statements to the effect that its activity in Gaza is not directly related to the rocket launchings; the claim seems to be that it is pursuing larger tactical or strategic aims.

בכירים אומרים בנוסף כי ההחלטה להמשיך בפעילות היא ללא כל קשר למספר הקסאמים שנורים מהרצועה לעבר ישראל, וכי הצבא ממליץ על שורה של צעדים כנגד החמאס ולא להסתפק בתגובות נקודתיות בהתאם לשיגור הרקטות

Senior figures added that the decision to continue the activity is without any connection to the number of qassams that are fired from the Strip at Israel, and that the army recommends a series of steps against Hamas and not to make do with pin-point responses to rocket launchings (Ha'aretz).
The army appears to be testing the waters before embarking on a larger ground offensive. Barak may very well be unable to resist the calls (indeed it serves him in his own political aims against Olmert) for the "real thing" - the much-anticipated ground operation - if qassams hit a strategic installation in Ashqelon, end up killing a family, or strike a target similar to the train depot in Haifa during the Lebanon war.

What we have not seen so far are significant casualties of IDF soldiers. This suggests that the forays are still being conducted fairly cautiously, even though the military has apparently entered heavily defended areas.

UPDATE: As I write this, there is a report of 5 "seriously injured" soldiers.

Right now, it appears that Hamas is trying hard to force Israel into a truce that would see an end to the threats of assassinating the remaining political leadership. Israel, in the meantime, hopes to achieve some kind of near-knockout blow that would make it look as if it had won this round of the conflict. Destroying a few Hamas outposts will not do for this aim. If there is no large-scale ground offensive, we may see an attempt to assassinate a key Hamas figure before this fighting ends.

One thing that Israelis and Americans must get into their heads is that neither this activity, nor the assassinations, nor a large-scale ground operation will by themselves bring about regime change. The goal of regime change will continue to elude the allies. That is not to say that there isn't a great of dissatisfaction with the Hamas government in Gaza. But a revolution from below is a very unlikely prospect, especially while Gaza is under attack.


Rebecca said...

Do you have any suggestions about what Israel should do? Your analysis seems correct to me - is there anything the government can do?

Amos said...

I think Israel should refrain from embarking on the ground operation. We have seen what kind of casualties (Israeli soldiers and civilians as well as Palestinian civilians) we can expect from it. None of the options look particularly good, but I think Israel should work through a third-party to bring about a truce with Hamas, and hold out this option publicly. Barak should announce that Israel wants to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties in the Gaza strip and that it is offering Hamas a truce to prevent further civilian deaths. However, it should also alert Hamas that if it continues firing qassams and katyushas, its entire political leadership will be fair game.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong. Don't offer them a truce. They created this situation and now they have to deal with it. When they get tired of it, they can stop the rockets. Let them take the initiative.

The situation in the south is bad, but lets not make any rash decisions under pressure.

Amos said...

I need to see clear, realizable aims.

Amos said...

To add to this. I do not believe that Hamas is interested in peace (duh). As I've said before, a truce will allow them to rearm. However, I am not convinced yet by the rhetoric of Olmert & Barak in recent days. Perhaps the IDF surprised Hamas with its response, but O & B can say all they want about the operations not being related to the qassam firing, we all know that as long as missiles are falling on Ashqelon (which is crazy!) the army is either failing or a military solution does not exist.

Hamas doesn't care how many civilians die in the Gaza Strip as a result of IDF operations, and the civilian population will not hold Hamas responsible. They want Hamas to avenge the deaths.

In other words, Israel has few genuinely good options at its disposal. Again, I want to know what the goals are. Is the idea to weaken Hamas's military organization and security apparatus? If so, who will take over afterward? Will this mean that Sderot will no longer face qassam fire?

I think the defeat of Fatah in the Gaza Strip has created an enduring problem that neither the international community nor Israel have been able to crack.

Noah K said...

So head of the Shin Bet security services Yuval Diskin says Hamas could stop the rocket fire immediately. That's propaganda, right? Or is it? Certainly Hamas must keep close tabs on its inventory of the katyusha-style grad rockets that are expanding the conflict. I mean, not just anyone can get hands on those, right?

Amos said...

No, it's true. They could stop the rocket fire. At least, they could cut it down to a trickle if they wanted to.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani commenting.
Noting new about these people lying.
1) It is an old map with all the ex Israeli settlements. The blue are hot houses that exported Million of $ worth per year. Any up to date map will show that most of them were destroyed. This is a part of the whole story. Hot houses down rocket up.
2) Hamas can stop rocket shooting from Gaza and they did in the past. If you dont do what you are being told you get dropped from the 15th floor, after you have been tortured for a day or two.

Nobody said...

2) Hamas can stop rocket shooting from Gaza and they did in the past. If you dont do what you are being told you get dropped from the 15th floor, after you have been tortured for a day or two.

hazbani ... you are spending too much time reading arab blogs ... some of the arab barbarianism has plainly rubbed off on you ...

what is this dropping people from the 15th floor after having tortured them for days ??? why so much cruelty with a lethal outcome when people can be pacified in a split second by just shooting their kneecaps out ???

Amos said...


I think that was Atzbani speaking, not Hazbani.

Nobody said...

:D :D