Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hamas' Last Stand?

Is This the Last Stand for Hamas? -Benny Avni

Can Hamas survive the latest onslaught in Gaza? The terrorist organization has clearly learned from past confrontations and is trying to hone its military abilities in the current exchange.

But as the confrontation heats up, questions are being asked about the organization’s capabilities and to what extent its recent loss of support from outside Gaza has weakened it. 

Meanwhile, millions of Israelis—including the easy-going beachgoers of Tel Aviv and its environs, Israel’s most populous region, as well as those living in the outskirts of Jerusalem—braced themselves for a hot night of red alert sirens signaling the arrival of incoming rockets from Gaza.

While the attempt to infiltrate Israel through [a] tunnel was apparently unsuccessful, it exposed a new tactic, rarely used by Hamas in past confrontations. This coincided with a Hamas naval commando unit trying to invade Zikim, an Israeli kibbutz near Gaza’s border. After a short battle, all four members of the Hamas unit were killed.

Simultaneous attempts to Infiltrate Israel is not the only new Hamas tactic. The Monday salvo on southern towns showed that Hamas is trying to learn the lessons of its 2012 confrontation with Israel. Iron Dome, the sophisticated missile-intercepting system developed by Israel and the United States, managed at that time to blunt much of the damage from Hamas rocket attacks. As top military analyst Ron Ben Yishai notes on Y-net, Hamas decided this time to shoot large salvos of rockets at a single target all at one time, hoping to overwhelm Iron Dome, which identifies launches and quickly calculates where a warhead would hit.

If true, it is doubtful Hamas has enough long-range rockets to seriously threaten the central area of Israel. On Monday, Hamas apparently attempted to similarly overwhelm the Iron Dome system in Israel’s center. But so far, and despite numerous reports of warning sirens and launched missiles around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Iron Dome has intercepted all incoming rockets, with no Israeli damage reported.

All of which may raise doubts about whether Hamas’s current rocket campaign can be sustained and whether their latest assault upon Israeli forces can succeed.

The reason the terrorist group Hamas joined in May with the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, was mostly because of its weakness. After losing one of its main backers, Syria, whose government is tied up with fighting rebel insurgents, Hamas’s top leaders relocated from Damascus to Qatar. Meanwhile Gaza, where Hamas rules and has its main military presence, suffered a major blow from a power shift in Egypt, where the government of its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown by the army.
Consequently, Hamas has lost much of its prestige inside Gaza. Even after the Hamas/Fatah agreement was signed in May, Abbas refused to allow funds from Qatar to reach Hamas officials in Gaza. Salaries have not been paid for months, and competing factions have started fighting over their dwindling financial resources.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens, the IDF went after the Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank, at times with the tacit assistance of Abbas’s forces. The IDF have arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives, closed down its charities and frozen its bank accounts. Hamas, which had hoped for political resurgence in the West Bank after the unity agreement with Fatah, instead had little recourse but to retreat back to Gaza.
One of the major reasons for the current unrest, therefore, seems to be Hamas’s decision, under duress,  to “go all in,” as the president of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv University, Uzi Rabbi, told Israel Radio.

What the current operation would decide is whether that bet will turn Hamas’s fortunes around, or deal a major blow to its claim for Palestinian leadership.

[Jewish World Review]

Why Are We Fighting with Gaza, Again? - David Horovitz
  • We finished Day One of what the Israeli army has dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and the contours of international thinking are already predictably clear: Since people are dying in Gaza and, as of this writing, nobody has been killed in Israel, plainly Israel’s response is an aggressive overreaction.
  • It becomes wearying, conflict after conflict, but it is necessary, nonetheless, to urge policy-makers and opinion-shapers overseas to make just a modicum of effort, to look just a little closer. And to recognize the bottom line: If there was no rocket fire from this non-disputed enclave, there would be no Israeli response, and nobody would be dying.
  • That Israelis do not die in greater numbers has nothing to do with Hamas and the other terror groups. They’re doing their absolute best to kill us.
  • (Times of Israel)

    Moslem Worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque Celebrating Hamas Rockets Falling Near Jerusalem


    Palestinian Rockets Reach Further into Israel - Batsheva Sobelman

  • Increasingly, rockets fired from Gaza appear more advanced and with greater range, reaching further into Israel than ever before.
  • One rocket Tuesday night struck the city of Hadera, about 72 miles into Israel. It landed on a residential street but caused no injuries. The area has been targeted in the past but by Hizballah rockets from the opposite direction.
  • A fresh round of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip sent Israelis scurrying for bomb shelters as far as Tel-Aviv, 40 miles away Wednesday morning, the second day of Israel’s military offensive on the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
  • Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a volley of rockets intercepted before hitting Tel Aviv, as other rockets landed throughout central Israel, shutting down main traffic arteries and causing concern for air traffic.
  • Israel pounded Gaza overnight by dozens of airstrikes against 160 targets, including 120 concealed long-range rocket launchers, Hamas facilities and command positions, Israeli army officials said. The military offensive came as plans were made to deploy a third infantry brigade along the Gaza border and continued drafting of army reservists.
  • (Los Angeles Times)

    "Moderate" Fatah Also Firing Rockets - Khaled Abu Toameh

    Fatah has several hundred militiamen in the Gaza Strip, some of whom are members of the Palestinian Authority security forces, who continue to receive their salaries from Western governments. 

    At least two Fatah armed groups announced that they had started firing rockets at the "settlements" of Ashkelon and Sderot, cities inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel, with another Fatah group claiming responsibility for firing 35 rockets into Israel since Sunday.
    (Gatestone Institute)

    State Department Condemns Hamas Targeting of Civilians

    Jen Psaki, State Department Spokeswoman, July 8, 2014:
    We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. We appreciate – we’re concerned, of course, about the safety and security of civilians. I know there’s been a range of reported attacks that have gone directly on both sides, the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes, the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas’s action.

    (Department of State)

    Obama and the Middle East Mess - Jonathan Tobin

    Hamas's decision to escalate the fight with Israel, both by sanctioning the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the subsequent missile attacks, is directly related to its belief that the unity pact marked a turning point in its long struggle with Abbas's Fatah.

    Though Hamas was forced to make a deal with Fatah in large measure because of its cash shortages and isolation after its break with Iran and the fall of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government, it has revived its political fortunes by reverting to violence.
     If Hamas is allowed to stay in the PA without penalty and Israel is constrained by American demands for "restraint" from the sort of military offensive that will truly make the group pay a heavy price for its behavior, then its prospects for eventual victory over Abbas are improved.  The slide into what may be another intifada or at least another round of fighting in Gaza is blamed on Netanyahu's supposedly belligerent attitude. But this is exactly what many observers feared would be the inevitable aftermath to another failed U.S. peace initiative. Secretary of State John Kerry's peace talks were acclaimed as a noble effort even if the odds were always against success. But by raising the stakes in the region at a point when everyone knew the Palestinian leadership was unready for peace, he set the stage for a chance for Hamas to interject itself into the process in this manner.

    Even worse, by deciding to treat the Fatah-Hamas pact as no big deal, the U.S. sent exactly the wrong signal to both Abbas and Hamas. While Abbas was allowed to think there would be no price to pay for abandoning the peace process and embracing unreconstructed terrorists, Hamas soon realized that it could literally get away with murder without the U.S. blinking an eye or rethinking its determination to restrain Israeli efforts to deal with the terror group.

    The result is the current escalation that has damaged Abbas while allowing the Islamists to reclaim their status as the address for "resistance" against Israel. Barack Obama may not have wanted the current fighting to happen and, indeed, he would very much like it to stop. But the administration's maneuvering led inevitably to another blowup that had the ironic effect of weakening Abbas, the one figure in this mess the president actually likes.
    America's mixed messages are not the sole reason why the situation has deteriorated but they have played an outsize role in making things worse. If the president really wants to advance the cause of peace, he should forget about more bland pronouncements such as his op-ed, and start reminding both Abbas and Hamas that they will suffer if they don't embrace the cost of peace.  

    Anything short of that is a continuation of a policy that is exacerbating the conflict rather than solving it.
    [Jewish World Review]

    IDF Kills 5 Hamas Terrorists Infiltrating from Sea - Yaakov Lappin

    IDF units intercepted a Hamas commando unit that sought to infiltrate Israel from the sea at Zikim Beach, just north of the Gaza Strip.  See video:

    (Jerusalem Post)

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