The toll the rockets from Gaza have taken on Israeli citizens is heavy. Over one million civilians has lived in range and their lives are threatened with every launch. Now with use of Fajr-5 missiles even two million Israelis are under thread. Approximately 800 rockets and mortar shells have launched since the start of the year a record amount since the end of Operation Cast Lead (January 2009). This peak is similar to the attacks that occurred in 2007-8. Daily life in southern Israel has been totally disrupted. Some 200 rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday 15th, with about 30 intercepted by the Iron Dome system, including between one (IDF version) and three (Hamas version) Fajr rockets fired at Tel Aviv. However, the escalation of events over the past few days forced Israel to react to the Hamas attacks.
For the first time since the Gulf War, a rocket has hit Tel Aviv by Fajr-5 rockets, Iranian-made weapons which can reach a lot further than the ordinary Grad missile. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the attack. This strike is the furthest Hamas has ever struck into Israeli territory and signals a major escalation.
More about terrorism from Gaza see the report Terrorism from the Gaza Strip since Operation Cast Lead: Data, Type and Trends, by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Pilar of Defence aka Amud Anan
Aircraft dropped leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings also via twitter a a couple of days ago. These early warnings were not enough.
This operation – Operation Pillar of Defense aka Amud Anan – was planned months ago, but an official launching of it was on Wed 14th when Israel targeted Ahmed Jabari, Hamas' military chief in Gaza who was responsible for all Hamas terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip in the past decade. Marwan Issa has been named the new commander of Hamas’s military wing. Issa was the deputy of Jabari. Issa headed the Hamas military delegation that traveled to Tehran and Beirut last September and signed secret mutual defense pacts with Iran and Hizbollah. Mr. Jabari (Israel's OBL) was the first target.
The second phase of the operation was an aerial attack which targeted 20 different targets, all underground, which served as launching pads for various kinds of rockets. So far the IDF has targeted some 70 underground, medium range rocket launching sites in Gaza, and some 200 launching sites in overall. IDF special forces which are already inside Gaza, and another which says that armored battalions are already situated around Gaza, ready to go in. The IDF also deployed more infantry troops to the Gaza Strip, as well as armored combat units that largely comprised Merkava Mark IV tanks fitted with Rafael's Trophy active protection system that effectively neutralizes the threat of antitank missiles. More and live updates from IDF.
The Israel Air Force carried out precision strikes on the bunkers where Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets had been stored as well as on other caches and launching sites, reducing Hamas' ability to launch these long-range missiles which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. As in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began with Israel destroying Hezbollah's long-range rockets, the most pressing objective was to deny Hamas (and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) the ability to disrupt the lives of those in the greater Tel Aviv area and central Israel by means of long-range rockets.
The aim of Operation Pillar of Defense is to remove a strategic threat to Israeli citizens including by reducing the capabilities of Hamas' long and short range rocket forces. Additionally, Israel is acting to impair Hamas' command and control system. According IDF all options are on the table, including ground maneuvers. IDF has not yet confirmation that one part of these rockets have been launched from Sinai, Egypt, which would bring new international aspect on the table.Underground Fajr-5 launching site/Gaza
The role of civilian population in Gaza seems again to be that of cannon fodder and their value only propagandist. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations hide among the civilian population of Gaza. They also direct their fire at the civilian population of Israel. These actions constitute a double war crime.
I well understand that Israel as no other state would allow a million citizens to be targeted by terrorist organizations without responding. Despite Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005 , Hamas has continued to attack Israel, so one could conclude that they are not fighting against Israel's (non-existent) presence in Gaza but against Israel's very existence. Presuming Israel is not about to re-take Gaza permanently, some experts and commentators in Israel have been recommending the latter option.
I really don't understand the strategy of Hamas during last weeks. In my opinion Hamas is closing the window of opportunity which was opened this autumn. Arguably one of the most powerful men in modern Arab political affairs, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani personally broke the politico-economic blockade in place over Gaza. His meeting with Haniyeh, along with the $400 billion he brought with him, is the first event of this kind since the Islamist movement gained power in 2005.
The official visit of an Arab head of state in Gaza should be considered as a trigger of a developing inclination which will likely alter the Israeli-Palestinian equation. Along with Qatar, Sheikh Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruler, is rumored to prepare his own trip to the Gaza Strip. This would in fact echo an implicit blessing of the Saudi royal family in regards of a new policy aimed at effectively fracturing the Arab-Palestinian relations.
In my opinion these visits could give both a recognition and the boost for Hamas to show political leadership in Gaza. To be recognized as political force – instead to be a terror organization – Hamas could be the partner to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. However Hamas made opposite choice, it started again a military campaign. The reasons for this are unknown to me but might it be so, that Hamas has lost control to more aggressive organizations?
In addition to these diplomatic shifts, Prince Hasan Bin Talal of Jordan stated at the beginning of the month of October that the West Bank is historically linked to the Hashemite Kingdom, thus opening the road again to the integration of these territories to Jordan. By empowering Hamas, Al Thani may be successful in terminating the two–state solution while providing to the Jewish state the possibility to have a multi-faceted approach toward peace negotiations, directly separating the talks with the West Bank from the ones with Gaza, effectively opening the road to a three–state solution. Palestinian statehood in Judea and Samaria would be possible through mutual recognition and far reaching security agreements. Such a deal should no longer be attached to the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.
The history of Gaza conflict is known. Israel left the Gaza Strip down to the last soldier, settler and to the last square mile. Hamas, an organization committed to the destruction of Israel, seized control of Gaza. Since the rocket fire continued, an (light) embargo was put in place. Hamas and its satellite organizations proclaim war without end, fire rockets at population centers. The Palestinians could have taken advantage of Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip in order to prove to the world that they are capable of doing something for themselves – in human development, industry, education, social welfare, etc. Capital is flowing but it is hard to see it on grassroots. But Hamas leadership seems to have different priorities than capacity building of civil society. From my point of view this is their fatal miscalculation.