Israel Attacks Hamas in Gaza
Not surprisingly, the massive Israeli strikes into Gaza are the prime topic of conversation in the blogosphere.
The basic facts, as reported by the NYT:
Waves of Israeli airstrikes destroyed Hamas security facilities in Gaza on Saturday in a crushing response to the group’s rocket fire, killing more than 225 — the highest one-day toll in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.
Israeli military officials said the airstrikes, which went on into the night, were the start of what could be days or even months of an effort to force Hamas to end its rocket barrages into southern Israel. The operation could include ground forces, a senior Israeli security official said.
Palestinian officials said that most of the dead were security officers for Hamas, including two senior commanders, and that at least 600 people had been wounded in the attacks.
(That straightforward report was initially headlined provocatively as “Israeli Attack Kills Scores Across Gaza.” It’s now simply “Israelis Say Strikes Against Hamas Will Continue.”)
Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid has an interesting piece called “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about” that leaves more questions unanswered than it answers.
Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public – all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.
The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.
Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.
A similar report by Roni Sofer at Ynetnews, titled “How Israel led Hamas into false sense of security,” sheds additional light.
The Israel government reportedly employed several measures in order to lead Hamas into a false sense of security and ensure the operation against the Islamist group would take the organization by complete surprise. The tactic called for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza, despite the ongoing rocket fire on the western Negev.
“Hamas pulled its people out of hiding and resumed normal operations,” said the sources. “It would seem that Hamas believes the Israeli media, and thought it had a few more days before Israel launched an operation… once the tactical opportunity presented itself, the prime minister called Barak and Livni to his home on Friday night and they made the decision.”
Putting two and two together, I wonder if the humanitarian aid convoys that have gone back and forth over the past six months — during which the operation was being planned — were used as the major source of intelligence recounted in Ravid’s piece? Not exactly kosher, if so, but smart. As Meryl Yourish puts it, “You see what happens when you create an army out of smart Jews? They tend out outthink the enemy, adapt their tactics as needed, and ultimately, win.”
Sean Rayment, writing at the Telegraph, titles his piece “Israel is addicted to violence.”
Slaughtering 155 civilians, many of whom are women and children, can not be justified.
Every nation state has the right to defend itself against terrorism and wanton aggresion but this attack is both disgraceful and disproportionate, and Israel, a nation which has endured much suffering in its relatively short history, should recognise this. Imagine the international response if the UK committed such an act in today in Afghanistan.
At TPM Cafe, M.J. Rosenberg uses perhaps the last un-ironic “I Blame Bush” we’ll see:
It is not like Israel wasn’t provoked. It was. Hamas’s suicidal addiction to bombing innocents borders on the insane. But Israel is far from innocent. It wanted no violence from Gaza but it also maintained a blockade on Gaza that turned it into hell on earth.
Who do I blame other than Hamas and the Israelis? The Bush administration. It forced the election that brought Hamas to power against the strong urgings of the Palestinians and the Israelis. It insisted on democratic elections and then, when it didn’t like the result, authorized Israel to do whatever it could to destroy the victors.
Anticipating these sort of attacks, Haaretz correspondent Bradley Burston responds in advance to “The worst anti-Israel charges you’ll hear in wartime.” A sampling:
Leftist 5: The world overwhelmingly sympathizes with the Palestinians against Israel, and unreservedly backs their struggle for independence.
In an era of global revulsion against radical Islamic terror, Hamas’ protracted program of suicide bombings, drive-by murders and shelling of civilian populations, coupled with its refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel, or accept past peace agreements, coupled with its ideology of militant jihad, have drained the Palestinians of international sympathy and have, in fact, legitimized Israeli arguments of military self-defense.
Nothing has been more instrumental in harming the cause of Palestinian independence than Hamas, with its brutal take-over of Gaza in a war with brother Palestinians, and its frank efforts to build a large-scale regular army force in the Strip.
Jerusalem Post columnist David Horovitz provides a must-read matter-of-fact analysis of the events that got us to this point (“Fighting Hamas in the shadow of 2006’s mistakes“) and the goals of the Israeli government. He’s almost certainly right in this analysis:
No matter how effectively Israel articulates its narrative, however, it would only take one misdirected attack, with heavy civilian casualties, to ensure a replication of the dramatic shift in international opinion that occurred early in the war against Hizbullah. After civilians were killed in the basement of a building hit by Israel, adjacent to a Katyusha launch zone in south Lebanon, a previously relatively supportive international community turned bitterly critical in an instant.
The longer the military operation goes on, the more strident the international criticism will become. Hamas, whose indifference to the deaths of fellow Palestinians was manifest when it killed many of them in seizing power in Gaza 18 months ago, will not easily succumb to Israel’s demands. Will Israel succumb to those of the international community?
From a U.S. perspective, WaPo staff writer Michael Abramowitz has an editorial-disguised-as-a-news-article entitled “Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Strip Imperil Obama’s Peace Chances.” Perhaps this is so obvious — indeed, tautological — that it’s jumps past commentary and becomes analysis.
There is little doubt, however, that if the situation escalates, it could hand yet another crisis to Obama, who will already be inheriting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an unstable situation in Pakistan. If the past is any guidance, the United States will probably come under great pressure to restrain Israel if the tit-for-tat violence grows.
One senior Bush administration official said he thinks the Israelis acted in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in.” Although Bush has largely been supportive of almost any Israeli action taken in the name of self-defense, the official pointed out: “They can’t predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration.”
From the Department of Bold Predictions:
But other U.S. analysts were skeptical the Israeli offensive would succeed in intimidating Hamas. “By now Israel should have realized that [this kind of attack] rarely has any decisive effect,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “At best you get another faltering cease-fire, and then the whole thing begins again. Both sides have been escalating to nowhere.”
Betting on continued violence in this perennial conflict is about as close to a sure thing it gets.