[Marxism] Hamas is hoping for an IDF ground operation

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Tue Dec 30 04:05:27 MST 2008

Last update - 13:01 30/12/2008 			
ANALYSIS / Hamas is hoping for an IDF ground operation
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: IDF, Israel News, Hamas

Three days into Operation Cast Lead, Israel is proposing a diplomatic  
exit. A ground operation likely looms in an effort to increase the  
pressure on Hamas. At the same time, however, others argue that the  
air force is close to exhausting its target bank, so if Hamas can be  
brought to accept a cease-fire on terms convenient to Israel in the  
near future it would be better to do so.

Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar fire at Israel Monday. It is  
starting to recover from the initial shock of the assault, and the  
bad weather is helping to protect its launching crews from Israeli  

By 8 P.M., Hamas had fired more than 80 rockets and mortars at  
Israel, including a Grad Katyusha strike on Ashkelon that killed an  
Israeli construction worker and wounded 10 others. At 9:30 P.M., a  
Katyusha hit Ashdod, seriously wounding another two civilians . The  
Home Front Command says some of the civilian casualties of the last  
few days could have been prevented had people obeyed its orders and  
entered shelters when they heard the warning sirens.
Israel has thus far refused to officially discuss a cease-fire, but  
in practice it is conducting an indirect and hesitant dialogue with  
Hamas. As of yet, however, there is no official mediator.

Khaled Meshal, the Damascus-based head of Hamas' political bureau,  
has been calling for a cease-fire for two days now. However,  
communications with the organization's leadership in Gaza are  
hampered because all its leaders have gone underground for fear of  
Israeli assassination attempts, while Israel's air strikes have  
disrupted the Strip's communications networks. Paradoxically, the  
same measures that have hampered Hamas' military response are also  
impeding efforts to end the fighting.

Israel will insist that any truce include a complete, long-term halt  
to the rocket fire from Gaza. In exchange, it will apparently agree  
to reopen the border crossings at some point, though no final  
decisions have been made. Some ministers want to continue the  
military operation, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the chief of  
staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, are more cautious.

The diplomatic clock is ticking relatively slowly because both Europe  
and the United States are all but closed for Christmas and New Year's  
Day. Meshal has been trying to get the Arab League and Senegal, which  
holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic  
Conference, to push for a cease-fire. So far, international criticism  
of Israel has been relatively muted despite the many Palestinian  
casualties. Even in the Arab world, not everyone is crying over  
Hamas' losses.

The operation's goals, as defined by the cabinet, are "creating a  
different long-term security situation in the south, while bolstering  
Israel's deterrence." The IDF does not interpret this to mean a  
complete end to the rocket fire, as it considers this impossible.  
Rather, its goal is to eliminate Hamas' desire to attack Israel. The  
bombing campaign has so far dealt a severe blow to Hamas.

However, ground forces are already in place for the next phase. The  
Gazan mud will make it harder for tanks and armored personnel  
carriers to maneuver, and Hamas has clearly been preparing its  
defense for months. Thus any ground operation will entail many  
casualties, which is one of the government's considerations in  
deciding how the operation should proceed.

On July 12, 2006, hours after the Second Lebanon War began, Barak  
called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and warned: "It's very important to  
define how and when you'll end [the war], because the more time goes  
by, the greater the potential for complications." That is no less  
true today.

As for the Palestinians, they plan to declare victory regardless of  
what happens. If the IDF withdraws rapidly, without a ground  
operation and without having seriously reduced the rocket fire, Hamas  
will boast that it survived and Israel blinked first.

But Hamas officials and analysts said Monday that the organization  
would actually like Israel to launch a ground operation; it hopes  
this would let it inflict such heavy losses on Israeli tanks and  
infantry that Israel would flee with its tail between its legs.

Just as the Second Lebanon War did, the current war will have far- 
reaching consequences for the balance of forces in the Middle East.  
First, it has brought the conflict between Hamas and Egypt into the  
open, which could influence domestic developments in Egypt. To some  
degree, it has also reignited the conflict between Arab moderates,  
led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the extremists, led by non-Arab  
Iran. In Lebanon, it is already clear which side won. In Gaza, we  
will learn the answer in the coming days or weeks.

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