Community leaders of 40,000 dwellers of the dozens of kibbutzim, moshavim and small towns adjoining the Gaza Strip spoke out Monday, Aug 25: “It is no longer possible to hide what is going on and the country must hear the truth,” they said: “The populated front line facing the Gaza Strip is no more.” Some bluntly blamed this fiasco on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and their management of the operation against Hamas.
The collapse of the Israeli line outside Gaza is analogous in strategic terms to the fall of the Bar Lev line 41 years ago which permitted the Egyptian artillery and tank assault across the Suez Canal, some veteran reservists said.
Others pointed out that, whereas the IDF should have carved out a sterile security zone inside the Gaza Strip, Hamas had managed to depopulate a strip of territory on the Israeli side of the border by relentless cross-border short-range rockets and mortar fire, and was now dictating events in southern Israel.
On the 50th day of Operation Defense Edge, people living in the south were outspokenly critical of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkott, in contrast to the early days of the operation. They are now blamed for failing to present the security cabinet with “creative military solutions” for combating Hamas tactics.
The prime minister and defense minister this week turned to covering their dilatory tactics against a full-scale war by disseminating predictions “from official sources” that this would be a “week of diplomacy” and truce negotiations would be resumed in Cairo.
This kite didn’t fly for long. Hamas was too full of triumph over the Zionist foe to bow to terms dictated by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority and refused to be cowed in compromise – even by the heavy ordnance the Israeli air force is throwing at the Gaza Strip’s tallest buildings and high officers. Indeed, history shows that aerial blitzes rarely cause their objects to capitulate, unless augmented by ground action.
In an interview Sunday to Iranian TV, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal acclaimed the “great Hamas victory” over the Israeli army and thanked Tehran for the assistance which made it possible.
Monday morning, Palestinian Hamas leaders Izzat Rishak and Osama Hamdan added their voices to Meshaal’s by rejecting “talk” of an imminent ceasefire in Gaza and flatly turning down the amended Egyptian truce proposal as a basis for negotiations.
The exclusion of a “diplomatic option,” say our military sources, puts the ball back in the Netanyahu-Ya’alon court.
Air strikes are again proving unequal to halting or deterring Hamas’ rocket offensive – exactly as they did before Operation Defensive Edge began. So Israel’s options boil down to a choice between a war of attrition – which Netanyahu has publicly vetoed – and overcoming his revulsion to ground operations in the Gaza Strip – preferably a series of short, sharp surgical strikes.
Three days ago, DEBKAfile reported: Both sides were preparing Saturday night, Aug. 23, for an impending battle on Gaza Strip soil. Heavy IDF ground forces were poised ready to enter the territory – initially to demolish Hamas’s short-range rocket and mortar launches, which have disrupted the lives of neighboring Israeli communities and forced their mass evacuation. Hamas has been firing those short-range weapons from 3-7 km inside the Gaza Strip.
Once they appreciated the effectiveness of their tactics, Hamas planners escalated the barrage Monday, launching 140 rockets and mortar shells, salvo after salvo, against a broad Israeli population, which has begun to register casualties and extensive damage.
This was meant as a goading challenge to the commanders of the Israel army ranged around the Gaza border, to come in and fight – if they dare.
Netanyahu government can hardly avoid calling a spade a spade, namely calling the conflict a “war” instead of an operation and treating Hamas as “the enemy,” which has to be beaten in a ruthless all-out national effort by every means available. The present situation, whereby Israeli air strikes reduce Gaza’s buildings to dust without stopping Hamas rocket attacks, juxtaposed opposite vanishing Israeli communities reduced to refugees is untenable.