Israel Resource Review 9th January, 2009


Contents:

Israel Scores Initial Victories In Gaza War
David Bedein


During Thursday's Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations, the Israeli army targeted, identified and killed Islamic Jihad terrorists who in recent days launched rockets into Israel including, Nasser Halil Hassan Ouda, 21; Muhammad Faez Yadeb Hanedi, 24; Anwar Abed al-Hafiz Abu Salem, 23.

Israeli ground troops encountered and shot armed gunmen in several different incidents.

On Thursday morning, an Israeli officer, Maj. Roi Rosner, 27, from Holon, Israel, was killed when an anti-tank missile hit Israeli troops from the Kfir infantry brigade.

On Thursday afternoon, Sgt. Amit Robinson, 21, a tank crewman from kibbutz Magal, was killed Thursday by sniper fire in Northern Gaza.

The Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked approximately 25 targets, including: 


Nine Weaponry storehouses, most of them hidden under the homes of Hamas terrorists;

Weapons smuggling tunnels;

Four rocket launching sites;

A vehicle carrying a rocket launcher;

Two Hamas outposts;

and five cadres of armed terrorists operatives, some of which fired at Israeli forces.

On Wednesday night, the IAF attacked a number of targets, based on IDF and Israel Securities Authority (ISA) intelligence, including the house of Yaser Natat, who commands the rocket-firing program in the Rafah area, and the house of Muhammad Sanuar, the commander of the Hamas "Han Yunes Brigade."

The Middle East Newsline confirmed the IAF had knocked out the Hamas government's telecommunications facilities in Gaza.

Hamas has lost its entire cellular phone system, operated by PaTel, the Palestinian telephone system, due to IAF attacks, as well as most of its landlines. Its secure communications system has now been totally disrupted by Israel's military.

PalTel reported that at least three of its technicians were killed during the war.

The IAF also knocked out Hamas' military communications systems. Over the last two years, Hamas' military wing operated the Senao system of Taiwanese origin, which is meant to prevent interception or jamming. It was comprised of two-way handheld wireless radios with a range of 35 miles.

Hamas military leaders have been forced to cease most of their communications with field units, and messages are now transmitted through couriers or walkie-talkies.

"This [walkie-talkie] is also becoming difficult because we are running out of batteries," a Hamas operative said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has said the IAF has combined manned and unmanned aircraft to target and strike Hamas operatives and facilities throughout the Gaza Strip. CSIS, said to be close to members of the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama, said the air force has eroded much of the Hamas command structure.

"One should not underestimate Israeli success in purely military
 terms," the CSIS report, titled "The Fighting in Gaza: How Does It End?" said. "The IAF flew roughly 150 sorties on December 27, the first day, and over 100 the next three days. Hamas quickly dispersed both its personnel and weapons and equipment, but the IAF has continued to have excellent targeting support from its unmanned aerial vehicles and other technical intelligence assets, and support from anti-Hamas elements inside and outside of Gaza."

The report, authored by former Defense Department official Anthony Cordesman, said Israeli air strikes have eroded Hamas' military command. Mr. Cordesman cited such air force targets as Hamas weapons tunnels, shelters and other facilities.

"The IAF may not be able to find and hit every target, and some tunnels and sheltered areas, yet Hamas has clearly lost some key leaders and is losing most of its key facilities and much of its equipment," the report said. "It may be able to fire limited numbers of rockets indefinitely into the future, but it will lose a significant amount of its weapons, as well as its training facilities and communications facilities."

Mr. Cordesman said that Hamas has failed to reach the military capabilities of the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. The report said Hamas does not have the training, experience or the equipment of the Lebanese-based militia.

"Hamas is not Hezbollah," the report said. "It has not fought the IDF for years. Its forces are limited in training and experience, and do not seem to have had anything like Hezbollah's access to the more modern and lethal man-portable and crew-served weapons although it may well have some anti-tank guided weapon and portable surface to air missiles in reserve."

CSIS determined that the Israeli military could quickly overpower Hamas in urban strongholds in the Gaza Strip. The report cited the lack of a Hamas military infrastructure, hampered by the refusal of the rival Fatah movement to battle Israel.

"For all of the talk about the difficulties of house-to-house fighting, it is important to note that most urban combat is over quickly unless both sides have extensive combat equipment and support capabilities, and that insurgent defenders generally take massive losses relative to the attacker," the report said. "Hamas may inflict casualties in a few clashes, but it also has not yet demonstrated that it can bring together any kind of broad Palestinian resistance that has any effectiveness."

Mr. Cordesman said the Israeli army would not be required to attack all Hamas strongholds, because the Israeli military could rely on its air force to flatten suspected Hamas facilities in urban areas.

"It [Israeli military] can secure and isolate such strong points, attack only those strong points that have key value, and use airpower instead of house-to-house fighting," the report said. "The problems the IDF faces because it was committed to a static war against far better defended areas long the Israeli-Lebanese border do not apply in Gaza, and Israel has had two years in which to retrain and improve its capabilities for joint warfare. Unless its political leadership repeats the mistakes of 2006, it does not need to fight the wrong kind of urban warfare."

Still, Mr. Cordesman appeared to dismiss the prospect that Israel's military would stabilize the Gaza Strip, and doubts Israel's military will defeat Hamas or its insurgency allies.

"While no one should judge the outcome of any clash or series of battles before they are over, the more serious question will be whether IDF tactical successes have lasting strategic value, and produce any kind of stable political outcome," the report said. "The deafening silence of the Israeli government in describing the broader goals behind Israel's operations raise much more serious questions here than its military operations to date. It seems very unlikely, however, that any amount of Israeli tactical success can by itself bring an end to the war process."

Israel's current defense minister, Ehud Barak, was a research fellow at the CSIS during the six-month period after he completed his term of office as the commander in chief of the IDF on December 31, 1994. After that, Mr. Barak entered Israeli politics and served as the interior minister, foreign minister and prime minister of Israel.

Diplomatic Initiatives:

The Director of the Political-Security Staff in the Israel Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad made a short visit to Egypt on Thursday morning to discuss Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's cease-fire plan. However, the Israeli government security cabinet instructed the IDF to exhaust the second stage of the operation in the Gaza Strip until it becomes clear whether the diplomatic measures initiated by Egypt and France are leading to a cease-fire. Sources in the Israeli government confirm that if the diplomatic talks fail, the prime minister will convene the security cabinet in order to approve the third stage of the operation and its expansion.

The London based al-Hayat newspaper reports that Mr. Mubarak had invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with him in order to discuss the Egyptian cease-fire initiative. The item said Mr. Olmert said he would come to Egypt after the security cabinet meets.

Talks are also underway for a meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who will meet with President Mubarak in Cairo on Saturday.

The U.N. Security Council has come to no agreement. Libya demands that the Security Council vote on a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S., U.K. and France wish to issue a statement rather than a binding resolution. Such a statement requires the agreement of all 15 members of the council. The statement that the three powers has offered emphasizes the need for a sustainable cease-fire that will include guarantees that arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip will be prevented.

However, Hamas has rejected any and all initiatives for a cease-fire that have emanated from Egypt and France.

Northern Israel Attacked

On Thursday morning, a second front opened up against Israel. At least three Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon on the city Nahariya area in the Western Galilee. A nursing home suffered a direct hit. Fortunately, all of the elderly residents were sitting in the breakfast hall when the attack occurred on Thursday morning. The rocket hit the roof of the building, penetrating to through the ceiling and crashing into the kitchen, destroying its water and electrical system.

Following the attack, all Nahariya school children were instructed not to report to school.

Within a few hours, the IDF shelled rocket-launching sites in Lebanon with artillery fire. Israeli security sources said that they believed that a pro-Palestinian was involved in the attack, and not by Hezbollah. Afat Mora, a Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, said on Thursday that his organization was not involved in the Katyusha fire."

The Nahariya attack caused the Israeli Army Northern Command to convene for an urgent meeting to evaluate the situation, to discuss the possibility that the northern region could flare up if armed groups in Lebanon were to decide to launch attacks to show their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

Senior intelligence officers, headed by IDF Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, warned earlier this week that Hezbollah or another Palestinian group in Lebanon might attempt to open a second front against Israel in light of the fighting in the Gaza.

Civilian Front: An Interim Assessment

With the second week of Israel's Gaza Incursion coming to a close, initial insights about Israel's civilian front have emerged.

In the first six days of the operation, 182 improvised Qassam rockets and 65 standard Grad katyusha rockets were launched against Israeli civilian targets an average of 41 rockets per day (compared with an average of nine rockets per day in all of 2008). In addition, 277 mortar shells were fired.

The rockets fired at Ashdod and Beersheba reflect a significant upgrade in Hamas' range capabilities. This expanded capability relies on standard katyusha rockets smuggled into the Gaza Strip, during the recent six-month cease-fire.

So far, four civilians in Israel were killed during this operation.

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Sderot resident; 66-year old Maria, angry with Hamas
Anav Silverman


See accompanying video at:

http://www.sderotmedia.com/bin/content.cgi?ID=275&q=3

Maria Kovelskya is a 66-year old Ukrainian immigrant.

Her husband died a year and half ago.

She now lives alone in her Sderot apartment with her five cats to keep her company."I live in fear here in Sderot," says Maria.

Six Palestinian rockets have exploded near Maria's apartment complex on a quiet residential street in Sderot.

The most recent Palestinian rocket attack on Maria's neighborhood took place only a week ago, on Monday, December 29.

A Palestinian rocket landed in the courtyard right behind Maria's kitchen but did not explode.

However, the impact of the rocket attack shattered the glass windows in Maria's kitchen and living room.

Damage from the rocket impact reached the fourth floor of Maria's apartment complex.

She no longer has a boiler or air conditioner as rocket shrapnel caused heavy damage both.

"It gets so cold at night," says Maria. Sheets of plastic, held by duct tape, cover the broken windows in Maria's home.

A volunteer knocks on Maria's door and enters with extra blankets for the old lady."My Philipino caretaker left me after this past rocket attack," says Maria in Russian. "She got very scared." Maria has a new caretaker now, but doesn't know how long she will stay. One of Maria's cats was wounded in the rocket attacks.

The door to the kitchen is broken and the clock has cracked. The time says 12:10 and Maria explains that the clock stopped working at the time the Qassam rocket slammed into the courtyard. "I was taking a bath at the time of the rocket attack," says Maria. "My caretaker was with me when we heard the siren, Tzeva Adom."

Like the fifty other apartments in the complex, has no shelter. Most of the residents are Russian immigrants who speak little Hebrew. "When the alert goes off, I run to the innermost room in my apartment, one without windows," explains Maria. Next week, Maria has a meeting with a psychologist, although she appears to be in fair spirits. This is not the first time that Maria has lived through war."I lived in the Ukraine during World War II," says Maria. "I was a baby when the Germans began attacking my city."

One of the German bombs blasted Maria into a wall in her home, injuring her legs.

Maria, however, is very angry with Hamas. "I am proud of the Israeli soldiers. If I could, I would join the IDF in the fight against Hamas," says Maria, banging her cane on the floor. In the Ukraine, Maria was a principal of a school, and earned her BA and MA at a Russian university. When she arrived to Israel with her husband in 1996, she worked as a Russian language teacher.

The couple moved to Sderot after living in Bat Yam for four years. Her husband suffered a heart attack seven years ago, and lay bed ridden.

During that time, Maria took care of him and also worked until he passed away. "I only hope that there will be some peace and quiet for us here in Sderot," finishes Maria. "I am too old to continue living with this kind of danger. You never get used to war."

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Incisive Commentary
Arlene Kushner, Senior Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
www.arlenefromisrael.info


Posting: January 8, 2009

"Diplomatic Confusion"

Major Ro'i Rozner, of the Kfir Brigade, has been killed by mortar fire in a fierce battle in the region of the former Jewish community of Neztarim. We salute him.

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It was obvious yesterday that our government seemed to be on the verge of agreeing to a ceasefire -- which was enormously worrisome -- and then backed off. The reason given for backing off was that there were elements of the agreement that turned out to not be acceptable to us.

I have since learned that there were, in essence, two versions of a ceasefire agreement being floated, and that we had actually agreed to one and then backed off because it became apparent that what was on the table was the second version, not what our government thought it was agreeing to. What is more, I have been advised that Sarkozy was at the heart of this confusion, having lead Israel to expect one thing and then offering Mubarak something else.

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So . . . we backed off, and decided to continue our operation. But we have not yet decided to expand it to the next stage, which would have involved bringing in some of the reserves who have been called up and are waiting, and sending troops into the south of Gaza. Those in the Security Cabinet who were in favor of expanding the operation with an eye to toppling Hamas were Haim Ramon, Eli Yishai, Daniel Friedmann and Rafi Eitan; eight voted against doing so. Barak, who dragged his feet with regard to starting the war, seems most eager to call a halt now.

We are, in essence, in a modified holding pattern while we wait to see what develops diplomatically. Amos Gilad has been sent to Cairo to participate in discussions Still worrisome. It is not yet time.

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As for continuing the operation, what we did was to release flyers in the area of Rafah -- near the Philadelphi Corridor -- warning people to leave their homes. Five thousand people left, seeking temporary shelter in nearby schools.

And last night we began bombing in the area -- bombing both additional tunnels and houses. We had already destroyed at least 100 tunnels, but it is said there are some 200 more still in existence. As to the houses, not only are weapons stored in many of them, but in many cases the tunnels exit holes are inside of houses so they are not visible.

The Post editor-in-chief, David Horovitz, made the point this morning that we learned from Lebanon that an army trapped in indecision is most vulnerable: the army must keep moving to avoid being a target. Indeed. The indecision, such as it exists, is totally political and diplomatic. Our troops have been exceedingly well prepared and trained and are comporting themselves excellently.

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While we have not yet sent troops to the south, I note that there are those who are advocating that we return to the Philadelphi Corridor and stay there. Horovitz says that Yom-Tov Sama -- who is now advising the head of the Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant -- has urged that we return to the Corridor and stay for 25 years.

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Rather than even attempting to examine the elements of the various cease-fire proposals being advanced, I would like here simply to review the major issues and their import.

[] There is talk of a temporary cease fire, to be followed by a permanent one. The parameters of each would have to be clearly defined, if indeed there would be two stages. There has been some suggestion that Israel should halt unilaterally, which strikes me as a horrendous idea.

[] Israel must retain the right to act if Hamas either renews smuggling or again launches rockets or fires mortar shells. We cannot have a cease-fire that prevents us from responding defensively.

[] The issue of opening all crossings permanently is key to what Hamas seeks. In fact, Hamas has said if it doesn't get the crossings opened, it won't agree to a cease-fire. The parameters and conditions for this would need to be carefully spelled out -- if indeed we were to agree at all, which seems unlikely. Hamas is seeking normalcy while we are seeking to isolate it. (Humanitarian aid would continue to flow.) There is talk of some monitoring by Europeans of the crossings, which is likely to be fairly useless.

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[] The big issue for us is the matter of the re-establishment of tunnels by Hamas and its renewed smuggling of weapons in order to rearm. And the ultimate question is whether it's actually possible to set up a system that would block this from happening. There remains some serious doubt in this regard.

Major Israeli defense officials are saying this won't be possible.

Egypt, it goes without saying, must be a key player. The Egyptians have been vociferously denying that they have been lax in their monitoring of the situation until now, and are somewhat defensive. But evidence is that for years they might have done much more, and, in fact, blithely looked away.

By agreement, since we pulled out of the Philadelphi Corridor in 2005, Egypt has had 750 soldiers stationed on its side of the border. They are requesting permission to put in more. Permission is required because our peace treaty with Egypt makes this area demilitarized.

There are some US army engineers in the area now, as well, working as advisors with the Egyptian troops, and there is talk about bringing in more, to remain on a permanent basis. Presumably, they would be empowered to destroy tunnels.

But a question of great sensitivity arises here regarding what any monitors/observers/advisors from another country can do on sovereign Egyptian soil. Egypt will not take kindly to suggestions that it is falling down on the job and that other forces must act. There is a parallel here with Resolution 1701, which put in place enhanced UNIFIL in Lebanon: UNIFIL is not empowered to act unilaterally against Hezbollah, only at the behest of the Lebanese army.

~~~~~~~~~~

On the other side of the Sinai-Gaza line is the Philadelphi Corridor (and Rafah). When Rice spoke this week about bringing back the PA, it was to place them here. The regrettable arrangements Rice manufactured in 2005 had us gone from Philadelphi and the PA in. She wants to return to this situation, but it is not going to work. Hamas will not stand for it -- they've already said so -- and the PA has not the power to withstand Hamas.

This is where our presence might be invaluable.

~~~~~~~~~~

So here we are, once again, at a cross-road. Will we slow down and then agree to a diplomatic arrangement, or hit Hamas even harder than we have so far?

Olmert visited the south and received a briefing today. In a statement he issued, he admitted that we have not yet reached our military goal: We are not in a place that yet assures long term peace for the south of our nation. Said he: " . . . the IDF hasn't been asked yet to do whatever it takes get to this point."

Well, you want to ask, Why the hell not? If security for the south was our stated goal, why has action to secure it not been ordered?

"This decision is still ahead of us," declared Olmert.

The decision is, of course, to be made by the political echelon. To me, it's a no-brainer. We haven't reached the point of protecting our citizens adequately yet, and we have a superbly trained and functioning force ready to move ahead to achieve this. Do we stop now for a diplomatic arrangement that at best would provide dubious protection?

Let us pray not.

~~~~~~~~~~

And right now, in spite of vigorous efforts to secure a ceasefire, and our potential willingness to cooperate, it looks as if Hamas attitudes and statements may move our government in the direction of further forceful action:

Eight radical Palestinian movements headquartered in Damascus -- primary among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- have met to discuss the situation in Gaza. Now a spokesman for these groups has declared:

"Palestinian organizations, notably Hamas, see no valid basis in the Egyptian plan for a solution to the crisis . . . The Franco-Egyptian initiative does not contribute towards finding a solution since it is a threat to the resistance and the Palestinian cause, allowing the enemy to continue its aggression."

We cannot declare a cease-fire with ourselves. And Hamas is not ready to have one imposed.

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It must be remembered that Hamas leadership consists of radical, jihadist revolutionaries. They do not make compromises and they do not surrender easily. They have to be beaten to the ground.

Hamas still retains some military leadership and forces, and some rocket supplies. They are defiant and arrogant in their attitude, even as they are hurting badly. Even if the political leadership of Hamas ultimately might agree to a cease-fire, the military wing is unlikely to truly honor it. "We will win, or we will die," they have said.

Our defense officials say Hamas is still capable of delivering a "quality" (let us say, "serious") terror attack.

To date, the IDF is reporting that engagement with Hamas forces is lighter than had been expected. This is what General Kupervasser was referring to yesterday with regard to flushing them out. Instead of doing battle, Hamas troops are going into heavily populated urban areas and melding with the civilian population. Leadership is in hiding, either in bunkers or places such as hospitals.

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Let me add one other factor of considerable importance here: the question of deterrence and how we appear at the end of this war. We have to come out having vanquished Hamas sufficiently so that there is no question that Israel and not Hamas is victorious. Anything that makes Hamas seem to have achieved an advantage, such as opening of crossing and normalization of the situation, in return for their holding their fire, would be disastrously counterproductive to our goals.

They would broadcast to the world that they had achieved what they wanted by attacking us. And this would further motivate and energize radical jihadist forces in other places -- such as Hezbollah to our north and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

This must be a consideration in terms of how a cease-fire might be structured.

~~~~~~~~~~

Questions have been raised about securing the release of Gilad Shalit. I am not seeing this as a central issue in resolution of the war. But, off the record, it is being said that the hundreds of Hamas fighters we are capturing will give us a new advantage on this score.

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Our fighting stopped for three hours again today, to allow in more humanitarian supplies. A European Commission official is due to arrive soon to coordinate these humanitarian efforts. I think this is an excellent way for the EU to be occupied.

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A barrage of three Katyusha rockets coming from Lebanon hit the Nahariya area of northern Israel this morning; two people were lightly wounded when a rocket went through the roof of a retirement home. We returned fire.

The rockets were fired from the southern town of Nakoura, where, in late December, eight Katyusha rockets pointed at Israel and ready to be fired were discovered by a local farmer. He informed the Lebanese army, which defused the rockets.

What happened today is being considered an isolated incident. It is thought that these rockets were launched by a radical Palestinian group in Lebanon and not by Hezbollah. The rockets were an older model than what Hezbollah now possesses, and it would be expected that if Hezbollah were attacking there would be more than three rockets launched. The suspicion is that a Palestinian group is trying to drag Lebanon into the war.

Israel, none-the-less, has let Lebanon know that it is held responsible for rocket launching.

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More rallies for Israel (hopefully I've gotten all that have been sent to me)

St. Louis (from Paula Lemerman) Today, January 8, 7:00 p.m., 2 Millstone Campus Drive

Toronto (from Steve Tanennbaum) Today,Thursday, January 8, 7.30 p.m., Beth Tzedec synagogue, 1700 Bathurst Street

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Posting: January 7, 2009

"A Tough Task"

In a different battle from the ones that claimed the soldiers I named yesterday, we lost one other soldier: St.-Sgt. Alexander Mashevizky, of the Engineering Corps. If I locate a photo of him, I will run it, for he, too, should be honored.

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Yesterday, Hamas terrorists stationed themselves on the grounds of an UNRWA school in the refugee camp of Jabaliya in northern Gaza and fired mortar shells at nearby IDF troops. The troops returned fire; an IDF investigation indicates that they acted according to procedures.

However, what happened subsequent to this is that there was an explosion and over 30 Palestinians inside the school building -- of the many more said to be hiding there -- were killed. Our defense officials say that booby-trapped bombs were hidden in the school and were set off by the fighting, killing persons inside.

A great deal has been made of this, and it hurts our public image. This is particularly painful because it is clearly and unequivocally Hamas that is at fault here. Yet one continues to read of the deaths "caused" by Israel.

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I routinely point out that when Hamas conducts itself in a fashion that puts civilians at risk, that it is guilty of a war crime. Here I would like to refine this statement a bit, and in the process demonstrate how difficult it is for Israel to cope with the situation:

Someone with considerable knowledge with whom I spoke this morning pointed out to me that Hamas is not a sovereign nation and is not a signatory to international agreements that define the rules of war -- and what constitutes a war crime. Hamas does as it pleases, without legal entanglements or concern for the standards of the international community. And he's right. So technically what I need to say is that Hamas is behaving in a way that is defined as a war crime by the civilized international community, but Hamas does not care.

The issue is how the most civilized and moral of nations, Israel, handles itself in military confrontation with a group such as this.

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Today I attended a special briefing at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, on the issue of what constitutes victory for Israel, in both the military and diplomatic aspects. Dr. Dore Gold, who heads the Center, spoke, as well as Brigadier General (res.) Yossi Kupervasser.

When the issue of Hamas willingness to sacrifice civilian lives was raised, Dr. Gold referred to Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, the Hamas terrorist leader who had been taken out by Israel recently. Rayyan's family was with him when their house was hit. Information about their refusal to leave, even after IDF warnings, had made the press. Dr. Gold, however, said that when Rayyan knew the IDF was coming after him, he actually called his family, which had been elsewhere, to join him.

I have now searched the Internet for information on this, and found the following that came from Ma'an, a Palestinian news agency that interviewed Walaa, one of Rayyan's surviving daughters:

"'My father raised us all to love martyrdom,' Walaa said. 'If you had the chance to ask my 4-year-old sister Aaysha, who died in the attack, she would have told you that she preferred to die martyr.'

" . . . According to one of his four wives, Rayyan would tease his children in the days before his death, and ask them: 'Who wants to die martyr with me?' and all his children used to answer, 'Yes daddy, we all want to be with you alive or dead.' His youngest son said, 'I can't imagine that you die martyr and leave me behind unable to see you. I want to die with you.'"

How to cope with this?

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Christopher Gunness, an official with UNRWA, has now said that UNRWA was "99.9% certain there were no militants or military activity in its school."

And I am 99.9% certain that Gunness is lying. I speak as someone who has done years of research on UNRWA and has known for a long time that terrorists use UNRWA schools. (I have documented material on this and will return to the subject in due course.)

I am certain because I know the IDF does not just shoot at schools and I believe what they've said here.

Residents living near the school, who wisely chose to go unidentified, told AP yesterday that they saw terrorists shooting near the school. And some of those who were killed inside the school have been identified by the IDF as part of a rocket launching cell. They include senior operatives Imad Abu Askhar and Hassan Abu Askhar.

We will never know how many others of the 30 allegedly killed in that operation were actually terrorists and not "innocent" civilians.

Last year the IDF filmed a terrorist who was operating -- and firing mortars -- from an UNRWA school. They provided the video to UN Secretary-General Ban, who promised to investigate. He has yet to give an answer.

Enemies of Israel are all about.

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General Kupervasser spoke at today's briefing about the fact that the air operation was important, but did not achieve goals that were critical. We hit some weapon storage and many weapon production sites. Some key figures were taken out, but not enough. Thus has the ground operation been necessary.

Hamas tries to hit us indirectly, using booby-traps, etc., and to avoid direct confrontation. We are trying to flush them into the open. They have had Iranian training, but are not as well trained as Hezbollah. Our efforts in fighting them have been impressive and our casualties minimal. But right now there are fighters remaining and rockets remaining, and they still have the capacity to launch against us.

The more the pressure is maintained on Hamas, and the more they are in isolation, the more likely that they will crumble. Every day their ability to fight erodes further. What is needed is time.

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Says General Kupervasser, Hamas has not yet surrendered its goal of using Gaza as a base to attack us. They are not yet convinced that there's a new game. And indeed, Hamas made a statement to this effect today, declaring that there is no intention of accepting a permanent ceasefire and they intend to keep fighting the "occupation."

The general believes that given enough time we could get Hamas to that point. They have a vested interest now, he says, in holding on to control of Gaza. If they see that they must decide between losing Gaza or surrendering the fight, they might give up the practice of attacking us. Destroying us would become only a dream, for the future.

Perhaps. (I and others still suspect that giving up the practice of terrorism would be only a temporary maneuver on their part.) What is clear, however, is that it is not time to stop. They are not yet on their knees. Victory is close, but not yet ours.

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In line with all of this, the IDF was talking today about expanding the operation to move into all of Gaza, and the Security Cabinet was supposed to meet to discuss this. Temporarily this was put on hold because of potential progress (if we can call it that) in the diplomatic arena.

The diplomatic progress involves discussions between Sarkozy and Mubarak, in an attempt to come up with a cease-fire plan that is acceptable to both sides. For the first time, Rice, instead of stalling, was saying this is going in a good direction. What is more, she was talking about re-instating Abbas in Gaza. This is her own pipe-dream, a step towards the fulfillment of the negotiations she's worked on. But it's not going to happen.

All-in-all, however, this was a most worrisome state of affairs.

Sarkozy wanted us to stop fighting now, while this ceasefire is being discussed and shaped in its particulars. But Olmert told him, nothing doing: We haven't come this far to stop for an unknown quantity in terms of arrangements.

Both Sarkozy and the PA (Abbas is most eager) have lent the impression that we're solidly on board. This is not the case.

~~~~~~~~~~

The core issue is the stopping of smuggling and how to achieve it. Egypt must be a key player here, as a major part of the action to stop it would take place on Egyptian soil. (Interestingly, talk about the Philadelphi Corridor has diminished.) Egypt for the first time today is saying it needs help, notably Israeli help, certainly with intelligence. And it is said there would be a significant contingent of US army engineers involved.

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But what has evolved is that there are other elements of the proposal Egypt was advancing that are definitely not to our liking: Including Hamas in discussions and opening all crossings.

That being the case, the Security Cabinet has now met and said we are going forward with the battle. In the coming days, we will be continuing the operation in order to achieve our goals. Hamas must be squeezed and crushed. Our government -- glory be! -- is not caving. Breath a sigh of relief.

Olmert has no intention of returning to a glorified version of what we had with Hamas before, and has no intention of negotiating with Hamas. He wants conditions imposed on a vanquished Hamas. Livni has said this repeatedly -- negotiations with Hamas would give it credibility. We want to isolate and weaken Hamas. The mere fact that Egypt is thinking about making concessions to Hamas to get them to stop firing shows with certainty that they are not vanquished yet.

Israel has expressed gratitude to France and Egypt for its efforts and will be sending a delegation to participate in discussions regarding the cease-fire. Said cease-fire is several days down the road, at least.

~~~~~~~~~~

We held a three-hour cease-fire today, at the request of Sarkozy, to allow more humanitarian supplies to come in and the civilian population to collect materials from warehouses.

As soon as this time was over, Hamas hit Beersheva with two Grad rockets.

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More rallies:

Atlanta (information from Joel Margolies) Today, Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m., Ahavath Achim Congregation, 600 Peachtree Battle Ave NW

Fort Lauderdale FL Tomorrow, Thursday, January 8, 5:00 p.m., at US Federal Building, Broward Blvd. and Third St. For info: (305) 864-5110

Nashville Sunday, January 11, 3:00 p.m., Tennessee Legislative Plaza

Philadelphia Tomorrow, Thursday, 12:00 p.m., noon, Love Park, Center City

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Posting: January 6, 2009

"Pain and Progress"

Our boys are in the toughest of fights now, since the beginning of this war.

Overnight, we suffered three losses in the Golani Brigade. This happened in Saja'iya, when a contingent of our troops hid in an empty house and the house was hit by one of our own shells. This happens, but it's tough, tough stuff.

They have been identified as Yousef Moadi, 19, who was buried in his Druse village of Yirka today; Maj. Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma'aleh Michmash, who served as the doctor for Golani 13th Battalion; and St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem.

And there was a forth death overnight: Capt. Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim, of the Paratroopers Brigade.

May there be no more occasion for reporting such news.

And may their families be comforted with the knowledge that they had gone bravely to protect our nation.

Soldiers killed in Gaza: From . . .

From Top left (clockwise): St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem; Yousef Moadi, 19, from Haifa; Capt. Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim; Maj. Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma'aleh Michmash. Photo: IDF

In the course of the day, yesterday, another 12 soldiers had been wounded in other action; I understand most of these injuries were light to moderate.

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For our part, in intense gun battles, we killed 100 Palestinian terrorists and captured 80, who will be interrogated. That interrogation should be greatly helpful in securing intelligence for our operations.

All and all, we are moving as had been planned and are said to be making good progress.

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According to the Post's Khaled Abu Toameh, a very reliable source, Hamas desperately needs the fighting to stop, but is searching for some way to turn this into a "victory." At this point, what Abu Toameh describes is a rather schizoid situation, with some leaders wanting to call it quits and others wanting to keep fighting in order to "score some kind of 'military victory.'" Hamas is on the verge of collapse.

Hamas's leaders in Gaza have thrown away their cell phones and gone into hiding. They cannot be reached, and are no longer in direct communication with Hamas leaders in Damascus, or with their patrons in Damascus and Teheran. The leadership in Gaza knew nothing about the decision, made in Damascus, to send a mission to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire.

All in all, the military wing of Hamas, Izza al-Din al-Qassam -- which is what we are now fighting, is in control of Gaza, as the political elements in Gaza have abdicated. The fighters have been charged with doing everything possible to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime. But because they have no guidance from local leadership, the result is chaos and anarchy: except for some long-distance communication from Syria, the gunmen are in charge on the street. Hamas as a local governing body has collapsed.

This has implications not only for our ultimate victory, but for what lies in store for Gaza after the war.

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Reports are surfacing that if matters continue to go as intended, we might be finished in 78 hours. It is not clear if this is what was intended, if we're progressing faster than had been expected (which seems to be the case), or if this is all the time it is estimated we will have before the international community intervenes.

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About that international community:

The Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, which chairs the EU at the moment, said in a press conference:

"We didn't have a specific plan for the cease-fire because the cease-fire must be concluded by the parties. We can help it, mediate, assist a solution, but it not up to us to propose the conditions of the cease-fire."

And so there is speculation by some analysts and diplomats that the visit of the EU delegation, and the separate visit of Sarkozy, were meant in part for domestic consumption.

Certainly, "we think you should stop, but you have to work it out, we can't tell you what to do," does not seem to be a major threat to our military progress.

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Sarkozy, without a doubt, has been a thorn in our side, however. Where did he go as soon as he came to this area? To Ramallah, to meet with President Abbas. And standing next to Abbas (talk about playing to the Arabs), he declared that the fighting must stop "as soon as possible." He said he would be delivering the message that the violence must stop when he came here.

But it seems to me that Olmert handled him as well as he might have. Yesterday he appealed to him to block a Security Council resolution for a ceasefire. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council.

Said Olmert:

"We defined from the very beginning a limited goal - to change the security situation in the South and to free thousands of citizens from the threat of terror.

"In view of the diplomatic developments, it would be unwise to pass a resolution on the matter, since past experience has proven that Israel cannot afford restricting its freedom to act against terrorism . . .

"Sometimes the need to find a compromise in the UN comes at Israel's expense . . . "

I do not know what Sarkozy said to Olmert, other than offering a vague promise to keep working on the issue with him, but I would not hold my breath with regard to his cooperation in the matter. It would be nice to be pleasantly surprised here.

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The Security Council is scheduled to meet and discuss the situation in Gaza later today (well after this will have gone out). French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher (who is no friend to Israel) will be presiding over this meeting. The goal enunciated by some parties is to promote an immediate ceasefire. But it's not going to happen so fast.

Said Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador to the UN, there should not be "false expectations": "Practical arrangements have to be put in place in which everyone has confidence that it will be maintained, it will be respected, it will be observed," and these will take more than "a day or two."

In any event, Israel has no expectations with regard to what the UN might do, and intends to proceed as necessary. "We're fed up with empty gestures," Olmert has said.

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President George Bush has been a sterling friend during this process. He said:

"I understand Israel's desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place, in Gaza, was caused by Hamas . . . I know people are saying, let's have a cease-fire. And those are noble ambitions. But any cease-fire must have the conditions in it so that Hamas does not use Gaza as a place from which to launch rockets."

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The US is currently working on international channels outside the UN for establishing a "meaningful" ceasefire. The goal is said to be to end rocket fire by Hamas, secure opening of crossings, and insure that no further smuggling of arms is done. In some contexts I have read that Bush wants Hamas held responsible.

Olmert has spoken about disarming Hamas, but I see no mention of this. And, while Shalit is not being mentioned here (and should be!), I have read that Israel will not agree to normalization -- which refers to crossings being opened -- until Gilad Shalit is returned.

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I would like to examine in some more detail the entire notion of observers or monitors at the Philadelphi Corridor to prevent smuggling of weapons. We have destroyed perhaps the better part of 100 tunnels running under that Corridor, but it is perfectly possible for many to be dug again, and for Hamas to bring in even more weaponry, if not prevented from doing so.

In general, the notion of international monitors is a joke. UNIFIL "supervised" in Lebanon while Hezbollah re-armed under the noses of these troops. Actually, the situation has been so ludicrous that UNIFIL does patrols that deliberately avoid Hezbollah strongholds. Egypt was supposed to be monitoring on its side of the Corridor, but, pleased to allow Hamas to harass Israel, has pretty much turned a blind eye to weapons smuggling.

When we pulled out of Gaza for the "disengagement" in late August 2005, we were supposed to remain at the Philadelphi Corridor (which, technically, is a sort of no-man's land between Gaza and the Sinai). But then along came Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and pressured us to leave the Corridor. We should have said no -- our security people knew it was a bad deal. This was about giving the PA more control, you see.

A deal was worked out in which the PA supervised on its side of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza. (The Corridor is the entire length of the Gaza-Sinai border, Rafah is an actual crossing facility.) European observers were stationed there and theoretically information was supposed to be transmitted to us by computer informing us of who was crossing -- there was a desire by Israel to keep out terrorists and the suitcases full of money they sometimes carry. This, too, was a huge joke. All the Europeans did was "observe." And not only did we not reliably receive information in a timely fashion, we had no way to stop someone we objected to from getting through. Then Hamas took over, and it all fell apart.

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So why should we have the remotest confidence now that any international forces will be effective there? And what will Israel ultimately agree to?

The Reuters report that Olmert was demanding monitors with real enforcement responsibility was encouraging -- forces that were armed and trained and able to take out new tunnels.

Best of all would be our returning to the Corridor.

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Lastly here now, I want to look at Livni's comments yesterday on the arrival of the European mission. She said some very good things. For example:

" . . . a necessary war on terror does not end with an agreement. We don't sign agreements with terror; we fight terror."

But she also said,

"The region is divided between moderates and extremists. Each person in the region must pick a side to work with. Hamas works with Iran."

And she concluded that signing an agreement with a terror organization would prevent Israel from advancing the "peace deal."

The corollary: Allow us to take down Hamas properly, because you all want peace here, and then we'll be able to achieve it.

A very dangerous and erroneous conclusion. But this is the way Livni is headed. She envisions a situation in which Hamas is destroyed, and Gaza is turned over to the PA -- after which she is elected prime minister and manages to negotiate "peace."

No, the Fatah is not Hamas. But it's goals are not so different. It too wants us gone and seeks all of the land. We are not about to have "peace" with the PA. This approach is something that must be monitored, and protested, vigorously, once the war is done.

The catch here is that, Livni's goals not withstanding, there is solid reason to believe that radical forces in Gaza would never accept the PA. That is certainly the opinion of some very savvy analysts.

The question, then, is who will be in power in Gaza at the end of the day. The mistake that fueled this situation was our leaving in 2005. What is certain is that the struggle will not end on the day the fighting stops.

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After I posted yesterday, I received this information from Minka Goldstein and put it out now for all those in the Washington DC area who want to attend a rally for Israel:

Today, Tuesday, January 6, at 12:30 p.m. at the Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Dr. NW, DC Take the Red Metro Line -- Van Ness Stop.

Wednesday, January 7, at 12:00 p.m. at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue Take the Red, Green or Yellow Metro Line -- Gallery Place Stop, Chinatown Exit.

For more information, call 301-770-0881.

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Posting: January 5, 2009

"Heads High"

Golani Staff-Sergeant Dvir Emanuelof (22), who died of his wounds from a mortar attack in Gaza, was laid to rest in the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem last night. Thousands attended.

It is being reported that he told his mother, "Ima, I have to fight."

I salute him, as does all the nation.

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See here for a video clip of reservists off to serve. It does us proud.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/129219

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Livni has met with representatives of all the major humanitarian organizations providing relief in Gaza to determine precisely what needs are. Crossings were closed yesterday, with the beginning of the ground incursion, but humanitarian supplies will be going in again today.

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Our four brigades in Gaza have successfully surrounded Gaza City and divided the Strip in two. What this does is cut off the flow of men, weapons, and supplies to the north, and interfere with Hamas's command-and-control facility.

Now our operation is being expanded as we go after the military wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din Al Qassam Battalions -- both men and infrastructure. This fighting force still retains considerable strength, and were it to emerge at the end of the war with much of its fighting power intact, it would not only have capacity to hit us yet another day, it would also provide Hamas leadership with the rationale for declaring that we didn't, and couldn't, defeat them.

Thus this is a critical operation. But it is also a dangerous one.

According to Palestinian sources, our troops are on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya, Saja'iya, and al-Attara. Homes, where gunmen, supplies and tunnel exits are hidden, are being surrounded, shot at, and, as appropriate, entered.

The heart of nation is with the soldiers conducting this necessary battle.

It certainly appears that a good deal has been learned since Jenin, where our men were ambushed in small alleys. I read of one operation in which holes were shot in the sides of houses before they were approached. Troops in certain circumstances are accompanied by dogs from a K9 unit that can sniff out booby traps; soldiers move around to avoid becoming stationary targets; troops in the dark use night-goggles and camouflage their faces. Attack helicopters hover overhead when appropriate, accompanied by drones, and release flares to confuse shoulder-launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. Artillery units shell heavily to support troops on the ground.

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According to YNet, another target of our operations is Hamas's fortified defensive system that exists both below and above ground. Action on razing this system will come in stages, as the IDF is working to secure additional intelligence.

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A senior IDF officer has indicated that our troops are prepared to enter urban areas if this becomes necessary: "This is what the troops have trained for and are designated to do -- to fight in densely-populated areas," the senior officer said.

Over the past year, all of the troops that have been deployed in Gaza or may be deployed there, have received training at the IDF's Ground Forces Command Urban Training Center near Tze'elim.

"We built models for them of places inside Gaza. There are places that replicate city outskirts, the casba marketplaces and over-populated refugee camps."

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Defense Minister Barak gave a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today, in which he said the operation is "being held as planned":

"Gaza City is partially besieged and the forces have reached the ground targets we set for them . . . Hamas has suffered a very heavy blow, but we have yet to reach the goals we set for ourselves, so the operation continues."

He indicated that armored, engineering and artillery corps were taking part in the ground operation, supported by the Navy, Air Force and special units.

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Yesterday, Prime Minister Olmert had phone conversations regarding a cease-fire with Tony Blair, the Quartet's Middle East envoy; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. According to the Prime Minister's Office, Olmert presented them with Israel's demands for a truce: The end of all projectile fire on Israel, the end of all terror acts, international monitoring of Gaza and the complete disarmament of Hamas.

Olmert, we are told, emphasized that Israel will continue its operation in Gaza until its conditions are met.

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Reuters is reporting that an Israeli demand with regard to monitoring by international forces has to do with the Philadelphi Corridor and insuring that no further smuggling is going on. Israel wants fortifications along the stretch of the Corridor, with monitors that are heavily armed and equipped to search out and destroy tunnels that may be re-dug.

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Yesterday, Foreign Minister Livni said:

"The war in Lebanon ended in a diplomatic arrangement, but today we are in a different place. The objectives today are military. We went in to strike against terrorism, and to impair the capabilities and motivation of Hamas. My position in favor of a long-range goal of toppling Hamas is known; this is not a one-time operation . . . For this situation to end in a diplomatic arrangement with Hamas would be contrary to our strategic goals; our diplomatic activity concentrates on weakening Hamas and striking it, as I described . . . Anything that weakens Hamas is good from our standpoint."

Today she said to visiting foreign ministers (mentioned below) that Israel intends to "change the equation in the region" as the days of "Hamas firing rockets and Israel showing restraint" are over. She indicated that there was no constructive place for international observers yet, as Israel needed time to complete the military operation.

"Complete" -- this indicates she is seeing international involvement as a follow-up to, and not a substitute for, our victory.

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The northern border with Lebanon is being closely monitored in event of attack from Hezbollah there. UNIFIL and the Lebanese army have raised an alert with regard to this possibility.

Barak has indicated that we would be prepared to fight on both fronts at one. In fact, some of the thousands of reservists who have been called up, but have not yet been sent into Gaza, are being held back and prepared for this eventuality.

But the Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitari said today that Lebanon has no intention of being dragged into a war with Israel over Gaza and believes this is Hezbollah's position as well.

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Hamas is offering public defiance still. Strongman Mahmoud Zahar, in Gaza, called on Hamas fighters to "crush the enemy."

A closer look, however, indicates something else. Our intelligence sources indicate that numerous Hamas leaders are still hiding in hospitals.

And it has been announced from Hamas's political wing in Damascus that a Hamas delegation -- headed by Imad al-Alami and Mohammad Nasr -- will be visiting Cairo next Monday to discuss Israeli "aggression," opening of border crossings, and lifting of the blockade. As if Egypt can negotiate a ceasefire with Israel to make this possible now.

Perhaps most significantly, even though it was mentioned last, the mission will be discussing an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation with Fatah. This is what they had refused to do previously. This is a bid for increased legitimacy and for tempering the relationship with Egypt.

It is unlikely that there will be any permanent alliance between Hamas and Fatah. As Martin Kramer, of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, says, "Hamas assumes (probably correctly) that its Palestinian opponents fed Israel with much of the intelligence it needed to wage precision warfare against Hamas. There is likely to be a vicious settling of scores as soon as a cease-fire is in place, if not before."

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Rockets are continuing to fall on Israel. Yesterday 50 were launched and today by late afternoon there had been over 30. This includes Grads that wounded nine people in Ashkelon. Rockets have hit several other locales as well, including Ashdod, Sderot, and Yavne.

It has been revealed that a Grad rocket shot into a Beersheva kindergarten at the end of December contained ball bearings to increase injuries. Thank Heaven, the decision had been made to close the schools, so no one was present.

It is feared that Rishon LeTzion and Rehovot, both over the 40 km. line -- which represents the farthest that any rockets have reached thus far from Gaza, may be vulnerable to attack. They are preparing bomb shelters.

A report from the London Times indicates that there is Israeli concern that Hamas may have acquired Iranian-made Fajr-3 missiles, which have an even greater range.

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Hamas has made claims about having kidnapped some of our soldiers, but the IDF is denying this.

Hamas has shot a number of Fatah-affiliated people in Gaza in the leg, to "insure" that they don't fight on behalf of Israel. (A mere hint of what Kramer has suggested will be coming.) It has been revealed, however, that Al Aksa Brigades, a terrorist arm of Fatah, is fighting against Israel in Gaza.

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The stream of international visitors who are here to push for cease-fire has begun. The European delegation consists of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who heads the group, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Some of the visitors will be going to Egypt and Ramallah as well. A report on this -- including an expansion of Livni's comments -- will follow tomorrow.

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Here I would like to mention French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is coming on his own. Sarkozy was one of the first to criticize Israel when this war started, calling our actions "disproportionate."

But he has told a Lebanese paper that "Hamas is largely responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Photo: AP)

Speaking of things French, there is this good news: Yesterday there was a pro-Israel rally of 12,000 persons in Paris. Paris!

While in Harlem, New York City, Bishop Carlton Brown of the Bethel Gospel Assembly led a pro-Israel prayer service for 1,000 worshippers. All of NY's TV stations covered this.

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Listed here for your information are a number of scheduled pro-Israel rallies to take place in the US, sponsored by StandWithUs. Listed by time:

New York: Monday, January 5, 1:30 p.m., Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 1st to 2nd Ave. at 47th St.

Denver: Monday, January 5, 5:30 p.m., Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 South Ivanhoe St.

New York: Tuesday, January 6, 12:30 p.m., Across from the Israeli Consulate, E42nd St. at Second Av.

Los Angeles: Tuesday, January 6, 4:30 p.m., In front of the Israeli Consulate, LaJolla and Wilshire

Los Angeles: Wednesday, January 7, 12 - 2:00 p.m., Federal Building in Westwood, Veteran and Wilshire

Boston: Thursday, January 8, 7:30 p.m., Congregation Mishkan Tefilah, 300 Hammond Park Pkwy, Chestnut Hill

If you are interested in helping plan or attend a rally in Seattle: seattle@standwithus.com If you are interested in helping plan or attend a rally in Portland: portland@standwithus.com

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Posting: January 4, 2009

"Inside Gaza"

Barry Rubin, in his latest piece, "On the Ground in Gaza," observes how upside down and incomprehensible this world has become. His observations are a good way to begin today's post: "Often, nowadays, it seems as if all history is being rewritten when it comes to Israel. In World War Two, allied air forces carpet-bombed cities even though there were no military bases in civilian areas. In France alone, tens of thousands of civilians were killed by allied bombs that fell on their intended targets.

"Even the Nazis didn't put ammunition dumps in houses and use human shields. And up until now the blame for doing so would fall on those who deliberately and cynically sought to create civilian casualties in order to gain support for themselves

"Up until now, a country whose neighbor fired across the border at its people and even staged cross-border raids had the right of self-defense.

"Up until now, there has been a capability of understanding which group is inciting hatred, trying to turn children into robotic terrorists, calling for the extermination of another people, and committing aggression.

"Many people, many journalists, many governments, and even many intellectuals still understand the most basic principles of right and wrong as well as of the real world. Unfortunately, too many don't or at least don't when Israel is the target."

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This leads us directly to a video from the IDF with regard to our current operations -- and why they are necessary -- that is well worth seeing and sharing broadly:

http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=58&ar=longstoryshort-V&ak=null

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Inside Gaza:

We have large numbers of troops in the north of Gaza, so that Gaza is in essence divided, as I am reading it, into three sections, which prevents movement of weapons and fighters.

There have been reports of numerous tanks cited in the area of the former Jewish community of Netzarim, which is south of Gaza City. (No, I am not suggesting we are re-taking it for Jewish settlement purposes.) Apparently we have approached the outskirts of Gaza City.

We are said to be aiming to control areas which were being used for launching of rockets, and to do damage to the military wing of Hamas, which hasn't been heavily damaged in the air attacks.

Our very finest fighters are involved here: Paratroopers Brigade, Givati Brigade, and Golani Brigade.

It seems that there is no intention of getting bogged down in the sort of house-to-house search (such as was done in Jenin in 2002) that is so dangerous to our boys, and is just what Hamas would like -- not in Gaza City and not in the huge Jabaliya UNRWA refugee camp. Much terrorist activity emanates from Jabaliya, and rockets are often fired in its vicinity.

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Last night, 30 of our boys from the Golani Brigade were wounded in a mortar shell attack, two seriously, three moderately, and the rest lightly. It has now been reported that one of those seriously wounded has succumbed to his injuries: St.- Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof, 22, from Givat Ze'ev.

St.- Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof, 22, . . .

Today an additional three were wounded. Fighting is intense. According to Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, fighting has been mainly carried out from close range. "I spoke to the brigade and regiment commanders on the ground, and I'm encouraged by their determination and willingness to complete the mission."

The IDF has placed an embargo on the details of the fighting.

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Along with the ground operation, we are continuing air attacks. In a strike on Khan Yunis, we took out senior Hamas terrorist Hussam Hamdan, who was in charge of Grad-rocket launches into Beersheba and Ofakim, and senior Hamas terrorist, Muhammad Hilo, who was in charge of the Hamas special forces in Khan Yunis.

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The Cabinet, in its weekly meeting today, was briefed on the war.

Prime Minister Olmert offered remarks at the beginning of the meeting, and in the course of which he addressed parents and family of our soldiers and security personnel:

"I have thought about you a lot since the operation began, especially since the decision about a ground operation approached. I asked myself and my ministerial colleagues if there was some other step, outlet or effort that we had not yet tried before sending our boys into a place fraught with such risks - from which some of them may not return. This morning, I can look each one of you in the eyes and say that the Government did its utmost before deciding on the operation.

"This operation was unavoidable."

He ended with these words:

"We will behave as a responsible and reasonable society, the way we know how to behave in times of decisions of national importance. My heart and the hearts of the people of Israel are with its fighters.

"We in the political echelon will limit our statements, and try to transmit responsible and reliable information to the public in real time, and put our rivalries and disputes aside. Now more than ever, the people of Israel are one people."

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The reports delivered at the Cabinet meeting by security heads are encouraging:

According to Shin Bet head, Yuval Diskin:

"There are first signs that Hamas is toning down its views in regards to a possible ceasefire . . . The Hamas leadership abroad is stressed, working to obtain a ceasefire and disappointed by the Arab countries failing to stand by its side. The situation of the leadership in Gaza is similar. A real threat exists today on the Hamas enterprise in the Gaza Strip. The leaderships in Gaza and abroad feel an existential threat."

The message from Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin was even stronger:

"Hamas understands that violating the lull was a strategic mistake. It suffered a great blow. Dozens of headquarters have been damaged, the ammunition warehouses and production infrastructure were destroyed. The ability to smuggle through the tunnels was damaged.

"The organization leaders only care about themselves. There is harsh criticism against them among the Palestinians. Hamas has brought hate upon itself and found itself isolated in a lepers' alliance with Iran and Syria."

According to Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, we have killed about 400 in our operations, most of them Hamas. "Not much is left from the Hamas government."

(A note here: the IDF is saying that about 40 civilians have been killed, roughly one in ten of those taken out.)

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There is strong feeling here that Livni's diplomatic efforts in making our case are paying off. In any event, the US is running interference for us at the UN, and blocked Libya's move to call for an immediate cessation of our effort.

Rice is coming to New York to spear-head efforts to cobble together an acceptable cease-fire resolution. She and Bush both say it must be a balanced and sustainable cease-fire. Israel has made it clear that there is no point in stopping if we will have to go in again very soon. This sustainable cease-fire will not be easy to achieve.

Livni has made a further point that she doesn't want a cease-fire that elevates Hamas and gives it legitimacy, she wants a cease-fire imposed upon Hamas.

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Hamas resumed its barrage of rockets last night, after a temporary lull. Today over 30 -- including both Kassams and Grads -- have been launched, with four injured and a house that took a direct hit destroyed.

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UN Secretary-General Ban has called Olmert to declare himself "extremely disappointed" with Israel ground incursion." He's not nearly as disappointed as we are, perennially, with the UN itself. He "insists" that we cease operations immediately, which carries no weight whatsoever here.

There is no further Security Council meeting scheduled until Wednesday. What is particularly notable, from my perspective, is that YNet this morning reported that according to "top diplomatic officials" we need not concern ourselves unduly even if a resolution that works against us were to be passed at that time:

"There have already been precedents, for example Operation Defense Shield [in Judea and Samaria in 2002]. A Security Council resolution will not necessarily stop Israel from proceeding with the ground operation in Gaza. It is in Israel's sovereignty to make such decisions, since it is operating in self defense."

If we are in a place where we are no longer running to appease those who oppose us, this alone is a much welcomed sign of increased strength.

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On Friday, before our ground invasion, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, called for a "truce" that will "require bringing Gaza back into the fold of the Palestinian Authority through arrangements on the ground and renewed efforts to reunite Gaza and the West Bank."

He did not clarify exactly how this state of affairs would be brought about.

I'm reading about some notion of placing the PA in charge of the Rafah crossing into the Sinai -- a stipulation of Egypt for allowing the crossing to be opened. But as long as Hamas is standing, I do not imagine them tolerating this, or the PA having the strength to withstand what would ensue.

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In the meanwhile, French president Sarkozy is coming tomorrow. What a disappointment he has been: there was expectation when he first assumed the presidency that he would be more amenable to understanding Israel's situation. But, I imagine, he's playing to the Muslim population and the anti-Israel sentiment within his nation: He has condemned what we're doing.

Following Sarkozy, a EU delegation is expected.

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Dr. Max Singer, writing for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, today address the issue of victory for Israel that I had raised yesterday.

We must face the fact, he says, that total victory is not possible because we are not prepared to totally occupy the Palestinians, as Japan was occupied after WWII, for long enough "to change their society into one that is ready to live in peace with Israel." And we cannot destroy the Palestinians.

"Therefore after any war, Palestinian enemies will still be there seeking ways to attack Israel, and Israel will have to live with the continued existence of the Palestinians on our borders." But "temporary" victories are very possible -- victories that can be critical:

"Our basic task is to defeat each and every kind of attack that the Palestinians devise. Each of our victories will lead, some time later, to a new Palestinian attack which must be defeated in turn . . . we must go from victory to victory," until the day when the political situation changes.

Dr. Singer concludes that the current victory against Hamas is one that "Israel can win because it must win, regardless of the cost. There is no substitute for this victory."

What will this victory do for us?

"It will demonstrate to everyone that Israel is still or again capable of doing whatever is required to win the battles it needs to win to protect the country. It will show what some have come to doubt, that we are prepared to take whatever casualties, and whatever international condemnation, that we have to take to achieve our military missions, and we will undertake whatever military mission is necessary to protect our country."

http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/perspectives56.html

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Posting: January 3, 2009

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

"We're In!"

Late this afternoon -- in line with a Security Cabinet decision yesterday to expand our actions against Hamas -- IDF ground operations began in Gaza. This followed a heavy artillery bombardment to soften things up.

Large numbers of troops from the Infantry Corps, Engineering Corps and Armored Corps have entered at several points, accompanied by intelligence units, in the north of Gaza. (Reports are being received of three different fronts advancing.)

Our troops have engaged with Hamas fighters already and it is believed that more than 30 Hamas people have been killed.

As I write there have been no Israeli casualties. This is significant because there had been dire predictions of booby-trapped ground that awaited our troops entering on foot. Either those predictions were erroneous or the "softening up" we did with artillery took care of it.

An IDF official has stated that, "For the time being, we are facing several hubs of resistance, yet we are not dealing with massive resistance."

Tens of thousands of additional reservists have been called up, to be utilized as needed.

At the moment, for whatever it means, there are no rockets being launched from Gaza. There are expectations that launchings may well start again and even intensify for a period.

Our navy has established a blockade at sea, to prevent Hamas from being aided in that direction.

~~~~~~~~~~

Prime Minister Olmert has said, briefly, "The time has come for Israel to do what Israel must do."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a brief statement tonight in which he said, "it won't be easy, it won't be short."

"We have been biting our lips for long enough, but now we must provide our citizens with what every citizen deserves - peace and quiet."

All Barak said about the aim of the operation was that it was to hit Hamas and its infrastructure hard.

We know that there was no specific goal of taking out Hamas enunciated in the Security Cabinet decision -- because both Eli Yishai (Shas) and Haim Ramon (Kadima) abstained in protest of the fact that it was not.

~~~~~~~~~~

There has been a good deal of criticism of the "triumvirate" of Olmert, Barak and Livni for not being more explicit with regard to the goals of this operation. But at this point I am holding my peace.

Two things seem possible to me: One, that they know exactly what they would like to do, but are being careful not to set a goal publicly that might not be met -- which would bring the accusation that we had failed.

And two, that they have tiered goals, so that how far we move towards more difficult goals depends on how successful we are with the first goals. For example (and this is just my example), perhaps we will try to substantially weaken Hamas, but if we find that goes well might eventually move on to take out Hamas.

The goal here, besides weakening Hamas, is to declare victory over Hamas. There is a vast political, diplomatic, public relations element at work here -- not just the military. If we fail to achieve what we said we would achieve, it's hard to claim that victory. If a fairly vague "hitting Hamas hard" is the stated goal, we're well on our way to achieving it.

Barak is saying with a tone of assurance that we'll come out ahead this time. This is desperately important.

~~~~~~~~~~

I will make no comments here, no predictions, regarding what this operation will look like, or where it will lead our troops within Gaza. Will they enter Gaza City? Go south? Don't know.

~~~~~~~~~~

This seems like a good point to review our situation:

Since we pulled out of Gaza in 2005 -- an act that was supposed to bring peace to the area and an opportunity for the Palestinians to develop the region -- more than 6,000 Kassam rockets, mortar shells (and, until recently, in only small numbers, Katyusha rockets), have been fired at us.

In June 2006, terrorists associated with Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. An IDF operation into Gaza at that time was not successful in rescuing him.

Sderot and surrounding areas have been enduring attacks for a long time. Rockets were launched by Hamas even when the PA was in charge of Gaza, but the intensity of the attacks increased after Hamas took Gaza in June 2007. Since they took over, there have been more than 6,000 rocket launchings and mortar shell firings by Hamas and associated terrorists organizations. This past year, 2008, there were more than 3,200.

In addition, during the period that Hamas has been in control in Gaza, it has been smuggling in from the Sinai vast quantities of weapons of increasing sophistication, as well as training troops to establish an army.

From the time of the Israeli operation in June 2006, in response to the Shalit kidnapping, until this time, there have been only brief Israeli incursions inside Gaza or air actions, in response to particular rocket attacks. A weapons storage facility or a launching site would be taken out.

This past June, Israel and Hamas arranged an informal period of quiet (know as a tadiyeh ). Understood as part of this agreement, during which Israel was committed to cease any actions inside of Gaza, was that Hamas would stop smuggling of weapons and engage in serious negotiations for the release of Shalit.

Hamas failed to honor either of these stipulations, and in fact some rockets continued to be launched during the six months of ostensible quiet -- but in lesser numbers.

Ultimately, in December, it was Hamas that opted not to negotiate a renewal of the six month period of quiet. And it was Hamas that began to launch -- or sanctioned the launching by related groups -- of larger numbers of rockets, including, now, more of the sophisticated Grad Katyushas, with a great range and precision. At least 1 million Israelis are within a range of these rockets.

No nation in the world can tolerate such a situation. Hamas is sworn to our destruction.

~~~~~~~~~~

And yet, in spite of this, there is opposition internationally to our operation. There are major demonstrations in various places. There are places in the world where Israel simply cannot be right.

The ultimate irony -- a very bitter irony -- is something I saw cited on YNet: A demonstrator in the Netherlands called out, "Ann Frank is turning in her grave." Ann Frank would have been standing on a chair cheering us, for had there been an Israeli army in her day, she would not have died in a concentration camp. The point here is that we're never going the way of Ann Frank again, and that is what Hamas seeks.

But this is not the whole picture: we are gratified for much support. Right now the White House is quiet. The head of the EU, the president of the Czech Republic, said via a spokesman that "from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action."

At present, the UN efforts to require us to stop are stalemated, as the Arabs are still pushing a one-sided resolution that will not pass.

~~~~~~~~~~

While much of the world loves to cast us as heartless monsters, the fact is that our humanitarian stance is extraordinary. Who but us behaves in this careful fashion:

On Thursday, when we were preparing to hit the home of Sheikh Nizr Rayyan, we placed a phone call to that home first, warning the family (which ultimately opted not to leave).

Before our ground operation started today, leaflets were dropped advising civilians to move out of the way.

Earlier this week, a Gazan boy with a serious head injury was rushed through into Israel and taken to Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva. We had been scheduled to open the Kerem Shalem crossing tomorrow for movement of other wounded Gazans into Israel, but I will assume this has been co-opted by the ground operation.

~~~~~~~~~~

On Thursday, Col. Moshe Levi, commander of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), flatly rejected Palestinian claims that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza: In the course of one week, we facilitated the passage into Gaza of more than 330 trucks carrying food, medical supplies and medicines, even as our south was being bombarded with missiles from Gaza. We also facilitated the transfer of 10 a.m.bulances and 2,000 units of blood.

On Friday, we allowed 300 Palestinians in Gaza who have citizenship elsewhere to come through into Israel.

~~~~~~~~~~

It is important to remember, as we begin the ground operation, that Hamas, totally oblivious to the welfare of its own people, uses those people as human shields, by storing weapons and launching attacks inside civilian population areas. Deaths of civilians that will result, in spite of major Israeli efforts to avoid them, will be on the head of Hamas.

~~~~~~~~~~

Posting: January 2, 2009

"Day Seven"

The time has not yet come for the ground incursion, if indeed it will come as is predicted. I will not report on all of the various comments made -- many contradictory -- on what this incursion would be like. Only those truly on the inside know.

~~~~~~~~~~

On Wednesday, a draft resolution presented to the UN Security Council by the Arab League was rejected, primarily because of the US. It was totally one-sided, not mentioning Hamas at all. Work is being done on a "balanced" resolution. Because of this, and other efforts afoot, it is felt pressure will build on us to reach a "diplomatic resolution" of the conflict. Now is the time for Olmert and company to stand strong.

Whether we'll ever see a resolution in the UN is in doubt, however: As Hesham Yossef, chief of staff for the League's secretary-general, explained, it is not certain that the League would accept any reference to Hamas rockets in a resolution.

~~~~~~~~~~

In spite of this, I continue to see encouraging signs of a split in the Arab world, with countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey leveling criticism at Hamas at one level or another. Muhammad Bassiouny, head of the Egyptian parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, for example, asked, during a TV interview, "Where are the Hamas leaders now, when the residents of Gaza are getting killed? All of Hamas's leaders are in the bunkers."

In a response to Ismail Haniyeh, who said that "the Arab people have proven the Palestinian issue is in their hearts," Bassiouny said, "No one [ i.e., among the Arabs] cares at all if the Palestinians are destroyed. What kind of talk is this?"

Tough talk from Bassiouny. He was telling a truth that is rarely spoken.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tension is high between Egypt and both Hezbollah and Syria, with regard to Gaza. First came criticism by Nasrallah concerning Egypt's reluctance to open the Rafah crossing to Gazans, which infuriated Mubarak. And now there are reports that Syria wanted a Security Council resolution that would force Egypt to open that crossing. Mubarak says he will not give Hamas this legitimacy.

Additionally, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has said that any resolution for a cease-fire must require Hamas to stop firing rockets. Otherwise (note the wording, which is standard) Israel will be given an excuse to attack.

Egypt intelligence has information that a Hamas terror cell had infiltrated Egypt, and it is being sought. Other Palestinians that Egyptian security has picked up are being returned to Gaza

~~~~~~~~~~

Within Fatah itself there is a split with regard to what's happening in Gaza. From Ramallah, Khaled Abu Toameh reports, in the Post, that Ziad Abu Ein, a deputy minister in the PA, called on Hamas to return the weapons it had confiscated from Fatah members in Gaza (during the Hamas take-over) so they could help fight in the IDF ground incursion. There are according to Abu Ein 70,000 Fatah loyalists still in Gaza who would help.

Some members of Fatah are accusing the PA leaders of "collusion" with Israel so that a return to Gaza will be possible. They point to the fact that the PA is not permitting demonstrations supporting Hamas.

An aide to Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, bitterly attacked Hamas, calling it a puppet of Iran. He vociferously denied that Abbas intends to return to Gaza "on an Israeli tank."

~~~~~~~~~~

Among the actions we took last night was the bombing of a mosque in Jabaliyah in the north of Gaza. The IDF says this was a storage site for a large number of Katyusha rockets, which is why several secondary explosions followed the attack.

~~~~~~~~~~

There was a barrage of seven Grad Katyusha rockets launched at Ashkelon this morning -- where one woman was injured; another landed in Ofakim. There are Kassams, as well, with eight hitting in Sderot alone, as well as in other localities; reportedly portions of Sderot are without electric power.

~~~~~~~~~~

As would be expected, in various places internationally there is heightened Arab-Jewish tension, and some instance of violence against Jews.

What follows here was called to my attention by Celia Sacharow. On the "Boker Tov, Boulder" blog, there are two videos of a nasty pro-Hamas demonstration in Fort Lauderdale FL. Especially see the bottom video, which shows an Arab supporter (or an Arab?) screaming at Jews: "Go back to the oven. You belong in the oven!" Chilling. Not Paris, not London. Fort Lauderdale, for heaven's sake. Should make everyone sit up and take notice.

http://bokertov.typepad.com:80/btb/2008/12/pro-palestinian.html

~~~~~~~~~~

Several readers called this to my attention, and so, with the help of Jeff Daube, I tracked it down. President-elect Obama said this back in July, when he was here in Israel and visited Sderot, and he was campaigning.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in my power to stop that, and would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

You think now, when the implications are real, and he's in the States, and not Israel, and he's been elected, you think he would say this now?

I pray so.

~~~~~~~~~~

A typo caught by Judith Nusbaum: The founder of Hamas was Sheikh Yassin, not Dassin.

~~~~~~~~~~

Posting: January 1, 2009 Posting: January 2, 2009

"The Guessing Game"

On this, the first day of 2009, I want to begin by thanking all of those who have written offering wishes and prayers of support for Israel. This is no small thing and is much appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~

I would also like to address some of the questions that have been raised. Readers wonder why we have to supply all of this humanitarian aid to an enemy, and whether it does not end up in Hamas's hands.

In response to the first part of the question: We very specifically have declared war against Hamas and not against the people of Gaza. Yes, I know there is a way in which this is an artificial distinction, as the people of Gaza voted for Hamas and in many instances sympathize with Hamas.

But this is the distinction that has been promoted, and a solid case can be made for the morality of being certain the people, at least some of whom are innocent, do not suffer unduly. It's above and beyond, but we do above and beyond -- what would be expected of no other nation. There is no cost to us for the material going in -- it is paid for/supplied internationally or by relief groups, primarily UN-affiliated. We facilitate the transfer to Gaza.

There is however, also a pragmatic reason for doing this. This literally buys us the sufferance of the world. They love to attack us by criticizing the harm we do to civilians -- that's the way the Arabs structure the fighting situation and their PR. The more we demonstrate that we're very good to the civilians, the less the basis for criticizing us and the more the world will look the other way while we deliver our blow to Hamas.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, Turkey, praising Israeli cooperation, sent in five ambulances and 130 tons of flour.

Yesterday, 93 trucks carrying food, medicine and medical supplies donated by Jordan went into Gaza. The same amount went in again today.

Officials of the UN World Food Program contacted the IDF yesterday to say their stockpiles were full and would last for another two weeks; they were not going to be transferring any more food into Gaza for a while. (Remember this when you read about Gazans starving.)

~~~~~~~~~~

But then we have UNRWA: Also yesterday, this agency, which attends to ostensible Palestinian refugees, severely criticized Israel. United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylar declared that, "We desperately need Karni to open, today, to get wheat grain in. UNRWA has no wheat grain for the 750,000 people who need it. The wheat grain warehouses are empty. We need to get that wheat grain in now. This is a must."

"A must." The problem, however, is that Karni could not be opened because there were warnings that terrorists were planning to bomb there. (As I've noted before, UNRWA doesn't seem to care if IDF manning the crossing gets bombed.) Karni has conveyor belts that UNRWA prefers to use. The offer had been made to UNRWA by IDF officials to have them load the wheat grain on to trucks so it could go through Karni. Israel was not refusing to send it in.

I tell this story now because it's a familiar refrain. I've heard the same story in the past. I've been told IDF spokespersons that UNRWA would rather lament the lack of food than go to the trouble of transferring it in a manner that is less convenient for them; then of course Israel is to blame.

As to this being an emergency: If the World Food Program has stockpiles for two weeks and Turkey sent in 130 tons of flour, what does it mean for the people that UNRWA's grain warehouse is empty?

UNRWA is the organization that loves to dramatize and then fault Israel. I know from my long-term research on this group how much they've been linked with Hamas, and I don't consider this a coincidence.

~~~~~~~~~~

As to whether some of the material is being confiscated by Hamas, undoubtedly this is the case. And there is nothing to be done for it.

What we needn't concern ourselves about is that Hamas's securing of humanitarian aid is going to make a significant difference in our winning the war. We're not trying to starve them out, but rather bomb them to kingdom come.

~~~~~~~~~~

As to what the result at the end of this war will be . . . We may speak about what would be good. I have voiced my opinion that it might be best if Hamas were on its knees but not taken all the way out. And, yes, I have received messages from some of you who speak fervently about making sure Hamas is finished. But it is in the hands of Olmert, Barak, Livni and Ashkenazi.

And this is where "The Guessing Game" comes in. We're at a crossroad and it's difficult to read what will follow:

The IDF is prepared to go in, and waiting for the go-ahead, which has not yet taken place. Weather slowed things down, and I understand that there have been other legitimate considerations as well. I've heard suggestions in several quarters that when and if we do go in, it will be something that will push Hamas off balance, and not just a matter of sending in tanks and troops to go house to house (an unpalatable prospect).

The Security Cabinet yesterday rejected France's suggestion of a 48 hour ceasefire (which message Livni officially delivered in Paris today) and it has been said by Olmert that we're going ahead until the job is done.

~~~~~~~~~~

And yet . . . and yet. There have also been inklings now of intention by Livni and Olmert to go the "international route." The mere thought of this could give one pains in the stomach. Been there, done that. Remember 2006 and resolution 1701? That's what stopped the War in Lebanon and put in place that marvelously effective international force called UNIFIL, which stood by and watched while Hezbollah re-armed.

Today, Olmert said:

"We have no interest in conducting a protracted campaign. We are not longing for a wide-scale war, but we want quiet and we want the lives of southerners to change so that our children can grow up in security, without fear and nightmares."

What is more, there was a report in Haaretz that Olmert "is interested in the establishment of an international supervision and enforcement mechanism for any cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, [and] has made that a precondition of any deal."

Precisely which international forces would effectively enforce a cease-fire with Hamas? What the presence of foreign troops would do is simply deprive us of our full sovereignty. Enforce the cease-fire? First reduce Hamas sufficiently so that they're begging for it, and then let them know that if there are rockets, we're coming after them again.

~~~~~~~~~~

But, on the other hand, Olmert indicated that "we're not there yet," in terms of a cease-fire, and that conditions must mature.

Today he also said, "This time, as opposed to in the past, there is no feeling of caving in. There is a sense of dealing with problems and responding quickly . . . We don't want to use our full might, but we will if we need to."

One savvy analyst I spoke with believes Olmert is in it for the long haul.

Bush, after discussing the situation with Olmert, is talking about a "sustainable cease-fire." Olmert's message is that he won't stop until he's sure Hamas won't start again. He seems, in essence, to be saying to the international community: "These are my conditions. You want us to call a ceasefire. Can you guarantee Hamas won't start again?" Seen thus, his talk about international supervision is a sort of "put your money where your mouth is" statement that might help the international community better understand the parameters of our situation.

~~~~~~~~~~

And so we'll wait, and watch the outcome.

What seems fairly certain to me from Olmert's statements is that he's not intending to take out Hamas completely -- the comments of Gabriella Shalev and others notwithstanding.

~~~~~~~~~~

We achieved a major strike today when we hit the home of Sheikh Nizr Rayyan, and killed him and several others (including two of his four wives) in the process.

As the religious leader of Hamas, he was considered the successor to Sheikh Ahmed Dassin, the founder of Hamas, whom we assassinated in 2004. But it seems he was also a commander of the military wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam. Said to be one of the most fanatical of the commanders -- a strong advocate of suicide bombings -- he was often seen in uniform and was associated with a number of terrorist attacks. This is the sort of man who deserved to be killed war or no war.

My distinct impression is that this hits Hamas much harder psychologically then does destruction of their buildings, even headquarters and control centers. He is the fourth Hamas leader to have been targeted since the war began, but is the most senior.

Rayyan's home was also hiding a tunnel opening (tunnel openings are often concealed inside of homes) and a cache of arms, and was a communications center.

~~~~~~~~~~

Homes of three other terrorist leaders were hit today, but their occupants were absent. Nizr Rayyan was an exception because he had sworn not to leave his home, and his family, even in spite of warnings, also refused to leave.

There was the home of Mohammad Baroud, a top Popular Resistance Committees operative, who was the head of all rocket cells in northern Gaza. The IDF reported anti-tank missiles, rockets and bombs in this house.

A second home belonged to Hasim Drili, a northern Gaza Hamas operative, who operated a manufacturing plant for rockets, mortar shells and missiles within his house.

Yet another home belonged to Tafik Abu Raf, a Hamas terror operative. The IDF reported a weapons laboratory in this house.

Altogether, 20 targets were hit today.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hamas, which had been cited as saying it would accept the French suggestion of a cease-fire "under certain conditions," now denies having said this.

~~~~~~~~~~

Here in Israel the rockets keep coming and there is a growing area in central Israel that is considered potentially at risk of attack. Precautions are now being put in place for Tel Aviv skyscrapers, as well as for Rishon LeTzion, Rehovot, and Ramat Beit Shemesh.

What is happening is not that we're terrorized and eager to call it quits. Rather, our national back is stiffened: our people want tough action against Hamas and no ceasefire soon.

It is at times like this that you see the best of Israelis, too. Homes are being opened for families in range of rockets to come for a respite. Some municipalities are making offers on a larger scale. Hotels are reducing prices for beleaguered families.

~~~~~~~~~~

Polls indicate that any temporary gain Kadima had with the start of the war has already been lost. But, as before, there are discrepancies in various polls. A poll that ran in Globes gives Likud 38 and Kadima 22; a poll that ran in Haaretz gives Likud 32 and Kadima 27.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Iranian news agency -- reporting by Internet, and carried by IMRA -- says that, "Director General of domestic media at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry said 'Kargozaran' newspaper was shut down over a media offense on Wednesday."

Why? Because the paper "[published] an article justifying anti-human crimes of the Zionist regime and calling Palestinian resistance as terrorism and claiming that Palestinian combatants take position in kindergardens and hospitals and so cause the deaths of children and civilians."

How about that? An Iranian newspaper telling the truth. Here's an instance, I think, where making a distinction between the people and the leadership is very valid.

~~~~~~~~~~

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