Israel Attacks Hamas in Gaza

Smoke rises over the main Hamas security complex following an Israel air strike in Gaza December 28, 2008. Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state.

Smoke rises over the main Hamas security complex following an Israel air strike in Gaza December 28, 2008. Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state. (Reuters)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    As I stated earlier, we have given the green light to our “friends” Israel yet again…do what you like but be “careful”.
    It really is sickening how we pander to that country…I do feel however that unfortunately PE Obama will take the same kind of stance here as well.
    This is definitely one thing that I don’t agree with PE Obama on and it’s this continuation of our policy as regards to Israel and our constant defense of it.
    I am hoping that he will be more tolerant and involve talking to Palestine and it’s leaders…as they are the chosen leaders, they should be heard.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I tend not to post when Israel goes on the offensive in Gaza simply because I don’t think it’s news (other than in Israel).

  3. Dane C. Russell says:

    Hey caj, U.S. Presidents have been tolerant and talking to Palestine leaders for decades. The main result has been repeated Palestinian lies followed by repeated Palestinian attempts to exterminate the Jews.

    Are you advocating more of the same? Or do you want Obama to walk away (as Roosevelt did) and encourage another Holocaust?

  4. James Joyner says:

    I tend not to post when Israel goes on the offensive in Gaza simply because I don’t think it’s news (other than in Israel).

    Pretty much why I didn’t post the “news” yesterday when it broke. I find the byplay more interesting than the play.

  5. Al Bee says:

    We have been negotiating a peace between Islam and Israel for sixty years. The Islamic terrorists start with rockets and missiles. When Israel retaliates, Americans go postal accusing the Israelis of murder, genocide, class warfare and religious cleansing.

    I respect power and if comes with bomb so be it!

    Stop the shells, rockets and missiles and the problem disappears. It wasn’t the Jews in 9/11, Bali, the USS Cole ad nauseam, so stop the liberal baloney and place the blame squarely on the Islamic religion,

  6. Is this the crisis Joe Biden promised us?

  7. Ben says:

    Rayment’s article is one of the most naive, disingenuous pieces of palestinian-apologist claptrap I have read in quite a while. Hamas just launched 80 rockets into Israel on Wednesday, and every single one of them was aimed exclusively at civilians.

    Look, none of this is news. Hamas is going to keep on provoking Israel, because the Israeli response justifies their existence. Unfortunately, no one in the Arab community will ever tell them to quit it long enough for any real peace to pop into being.

  8. caj says:

    Are you advocating more of the same? Or do you want Obama to walk away (as Roosevelt did) and encourage another Holocaust?

    Posted by Dane C. Russell

    PE Obama does not need to walk away on this…he just needs to have open talks with both sides and let both sides be “heard” not just a show of being seen as talking to both sides.
    As regards to the Holocaust, although it was an awful time in history it is played up over and over again as a sympathy card by Israel….and it’s wearing a little thin.

  9. caj says:

    My hope is that PE Obama will have a different mind set in regard to dealing with this Israeli/Palestine conflict that what we have now.
    I think our constant siding with Israel over anything they do against the Palestine people sends the wrong message and I don’t know how that can ever put us in a good light as “honest brokers” in this situation, he said he will talk to “our enemies” as well as friends so I hope that will be the case here.
    We can’t dismiss talking to Hamas, after all they are the chosen leaders of Palestine whether we or Israel like it or not…..we can’t just keep saying they are “terrorists”, they have a right to be heard also….talks were held with the IRA by the UK and talks were held with Gen Gadaffi from Libya and both of those were known as “terrorists”.
    So the time has come for us to be bold enough to speak to Hamas and the Israeli side in a fair and balanced way to try and resolve this ongoing issue!!

  10. tom p says:

    Betting on continued violence in this perennial conflict is about as close to a sure thing it gets.

    I wonder what “Intrade” has it at right now?

  11. caj says:

    HALLELUJAH!!!

    Finally someone else can see that the Israeli’s are breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention.
    That has been my argument all along about this conflict….Israel think they can do whatever they like and ANY laws do not apply to them.
    Where are we in condemning these attacks, we stay silent as we always do and condone the attacks the Israeli’s make on Palestine.
    Time is long overdue for Israel to be taken to task for their actions, they have got away with them for far too long and international action should be taken against them.

    Latest from The Nation. 12/28/08
    Israel breaking Geneva Convention!!!

  12. ap says:

    Finally someone else can see that the Israeli’s are breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention.
    That has been my argument all along about this conflict….Israel think they can do whatever they like and ANY laws do not apply to them.

    uh, which law authorized those rockets from the hamas? surely not the cease-fire. troll troll go away.

  13. HiItsNino says:

    Those rockets being launched…who makes ’em?

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    PE Obama does not need to walk away on this…he just needs to have open talks with both sides and let both sides be “heard” not just a show of being seen as talking to both sides.
    As regards to the Holocaust, although it was an awful time in history it is played up over and over again as a sympathy card by Israel….and it’s wearing a little thin.

    lol dude why?

  15. dutchmarbel says:

    The rockets kill on average 3 israeli’s per year (even in the years where they send thousands). The Israeli’s started these attacks at a time when all the schoolchildren went home after school. They also target everything that is part of the government (police-officers, ministeries, etc.), since they reason that all government is Hamas. sO This week 1 Israeli has been killed by the rockets and how many Palestinians? Last report I saw said >300. That is an inappropriate response.

    The cease fire was broken by Israel november 4th, not by Hamas (they responded by firing rockets though, and as ineffective as they are they still shouldn’t fire them because they aren’t damaging just military targets). Israel also kept the borders practically closed during the cease-fire. The people in the Gaza didn’t have enough food, fuel, power, medicin, etc.

    It’s like those Israeli soldiers killing the boys that throw stones at them: the boys are in the wrong throwing the stones, but the answer is so disproportionally violent that ‘but they shouldn’t throw stones’ shouldn’t be the first reply.