Israel Preparing For Major Ground Invasion of Gaza Strip

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The violence that has erupted between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip isn’t exactly a fair fight, as a story in the BBC News pointed out, because Israel has a far superior military force—but a piece in Haaretz notes that it hardly matters because deadly air strikes will only serve to strengthen the resolve of the Palestinian people and give Hamas even more power when this conflict is over.

The escalating violence in Gaza has killed at least 16 Palestinians and three Israelis. In addition to the 16 Palestinian deaths, more than 100 have been injured.

There is a growing fear that Israel is about to launch a ground invasion, as Israeli troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers have massed near the Palestinian territory. There was a brief hope of cease-fire, but that was gone after both sides accused the other of violating a proposed cease-fire during a visit by the prime minister of Egypt to Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised Egypt that Israel would suspend its military offensive in the Gaza Strip during Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s three-hour visit there Friday. However, Israel later said Hamas did not honor the deal, saying rockets fired from Gaza had hit several sites in southern Israel as Kandil was in the enclave.

The entire conflict prompted Russia to fault Israel for its “disproportionate” response to Palestinians firing rockets into Israel.

“The president of Russia called on the parties to exercise restraint and avoid the path of escalating violence, whose victims include civilians, and to do everything to return the situation to its normal course,” the Kremlin said, after the telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Russia called on Palestinian terrorists to stop firing rockets into Israel, but it strongly condemned Israel’s use of air strikes.

“Attacks on the south of Israel and the disproportionate strikes on Gaza—especially when civilians are killed on both sides—are completely unacceptable,” foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters.

While 200 or so rockets that Hamas has shot into Israel aren’t especially accurate or sophisticated, they have become a source of increasing worry for Israelis. The Fajr-5 rockets made by Iran have a potential range of up to 75km, meaning they can reach the fringes of Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live within the range of these rockets and could be potential targets. This was demonstrated on Thursday morning when a rocket hit an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi, killing three people.

While many of the longer range missiles are made by China and Iran, there is actually a family of weapons, called the Qassam, that are being produced in factories and workshops in the Gaza Strip itself—sites that have been the targets of Israeli air strikes.

While Israeli military spokesmen claim to have been very successful in destroying these factories, there are reports that at least one Fajr-5 has been fired during the current round of fighting.

Israel is using a new anti-missile system called Iron Dome to fight off the rockets, identifying incoming rockets by radar and then firing interceptor missile to destroy the rockets before they each their targets. But some rockets are still getting through.

Because Israel believes that rockets are coming into Gaza by way of a complex smuggling network from Iran to Sudan and then overland through Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip, the Israelis likely conducted a “mystery” air attack against a consignment of shipping containers outside an Iranian-operated arms factory in Sudan in late October.

A piece in Haaretz argues that Israeli leaders have not learned their lessons from past engagements with Hamas, wrongly thinking it can subdue the organization by taking out its leaders.

“Hamas is a mass movement and an organization with institutions, internal discipline and laws,” the piece said. “Unlike Fatah, it doesn’t depend on a charismatic figure or on the personality of one strong leader. Its policy and debates are marked by continuity, even if senior officials are killed by an Israeli missile or bomb…Military attacks on the entire Palestinian population unite it behind its leaders and silence criticism. The Gazans have many reasons to complain about Hamas, which deserves its reputation as an oppressive ruler. But even Hamas’ opponents are convinced that Israel is not just the occupier but the aggressor as well. So when the attack is over, Hamas will remain, probably stronger.”

 

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