Israel and Hamas on the brink of something much worse

Michael Petrou explains the stakes

Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (Bernat Armangue)

Here is what’s making news on Sunday morning:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from a cabinet meeting to say that Israel is prepared to expand its operation.
  • Reuters is reporting that Israel fired artillery into Syria on Saturday in response to gunfire aimed at its troops.
  • The Washington Post reports that Israeli military hit two buildings used by journalists in Gaza. The paper also reports that the country’s missile defence system stopped a long-range rocket over Tel Aviv.

And here is Michael Petrou on what is at stake:

The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is on the brink of escalation into a much wider war and a possible Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.

Following months of Palestinian rocket attacks against civilian targets in southern Israel — as well as an anti-tank missile attack against a military jeep — on Wednesday Israel assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in a precise airstrike as he traveled in his car.

Israel also targeted a number of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad weapons depots and rocket launching sites. The Palestinian militant groups responded with a flurry of rocket attacks, including several using what appear to be Iranian Fajr-5 missiles that were launched at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — the first time Israel’s two largest cities have been attacked from Gaza.

By Sunday afternoon, at least 52 Palestinians had died, including 11 children, according to Palestinian health officials. Three Israelis died Thursday. The Israeli government has  confirmed “in principle” the call up of 75,000 reservists in preparation for a possible ground invasion of Gaza.

Still, such an invasion is not inevitable, according to Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

“In the next day or two it’s going to go in one of two directions. It’s going to peter out pretty quick, or it’s going to escalate just as quick,” says Levitt. “It is possible for both sides at this point to back down in a face saving manner, claiming to accomplish their respective goals.”

Levitt says Israeli goals in its current campaign include re-establishing the principle of deterrence — in other words, making it clear to Hamas that rocket attacks against Israel will trigger a punishing response. A war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza four years ago killed well over 1,000 Palestinians, and led to a sharp reduction in rocket attacks until this year.

Israeli ambassador Miriam Ziv, in an interview with Maclean’s, also underlined the importance of deterrence as tactic in Israel’s campaign.

Israel’s second major goal is to destroy, or at least seriously deplete, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s arsenals of rockets. Here, too, Israel can argue it has had some success, and has been quick to do so on Twitter and other social media.

On the other, Hamas can also claim a sort of victory. It’s demonstrated its ability to strike far beyond the southern Israeli towns that have thus far borne the brunt of its attacks, right into the Israeli capital. And, with the visit of Egyptian prime minister Hisham Qandil to Gaza today, it can make the case that its diplomatic isolation is ending and it is once again an influential player in the Arab world.

Such boasts wouldn’t sit well with Israelis — and yet the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah also claimed victory after its 2006 war with Israel, but has kept its border quiet since. Israelis could probably put up with Hamas chest-thumping were a ceasefire to take hold over the next couple of days, as long as the rocket attacks stopped. While a ground invasion would allow Israel to more thoroughly root out targets in Gaza, it also makes Israeli military casualties more likely.

There are signs, though, that escalation, rather than a ceasefire, is imminent. On Friday evening, Israel reportedly assassinated a second senior Hamas figure: Ahmed Abu Jalal, along with three of his brothers. Hamas will feel obligated to respond to such a high-profile strike.

And according to Jonathan Fine, a research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, Israel’s goals of punishing Hamas and destroying its heavy weapons requires a ground invasion. Mobilizing the reserves is not a bluff.

“What you’ve seen up to now is the first stage in a massive operation. [Hamas] is gong to get the shit beaten out of them. There’s no way back to what was up till now.”

Israel is also likely to see continuing rocket attacks against Tel Aviv as a sort of red line that demands a more severe response — even than the sea and air bombardment it has so far unleashed.

Israel has so far enjoyed the firm backing of most of its Western allies, including Canada. Britain and Germany have also emphasized Israel’s right to self defence. A ground invasion may erode that — though unlikely from Canada.

“The Prime Minister and I have both stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy they have in this situation,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News, whose journalists used a media building hit by an Israeli air strike Sunday.

Israel, however, appears determined to decisively deal with Hamas. International objections — unless they come from Washington — are unlikely to matter much.

 




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Israel and Hamas on the brink of something much worse

  1. Good for israel they should destroy hamas i only wish the western world had the balls to strike back like israel instead of kissing there ass

    • Are you insane?! Every time the west messes around with Arab countries it makes a bigger terrorist problem then we went in to stop. And to what exactly would we be striking back against? bin Laden is dead after 11 fucked up years. Thank god you’re not in charge of shit.

      • Muammar Gaddafi was pushing other Arab countries to adopt a gold standard currency which would have eclipsed the dollar and the euro.

        So the whole country of Libya was sacked in order to kill him.

        When the ‘rebels’ ousted Gaddafi, what was the first thing they did ? Form a new GOVERNMENT ?

        Nope. They formed a LIBYAN NATIONAL BANK.

        Now, why would they do that?

        And even though they ‘ousted’ Gaddafi, he remained sole proprietor of the Libyan National Bank (the original one) until he (and his heirs) died.

        So… guess what?

        The EUSSR needed Libya’s oil and since they have been on US military welfare since WW2, they had their dupe Sodom Hussein Obama arrange the assassination of their newly uncooperative stooge Muammar Queerdaffy, who they previously had on the UN Human Rights Commission.

        In Syria, nobody wants to get openly involved because it would force them to admit that George Bush was right and the WMDs Saddam Hussein did have and did use on Kurds and Iranians went over to his friend (and formerly theirs) Bashar al-Assad in the Ba’ath Socialist party.

        The EUSSR socialists can never face the facts of what socialism really is.

        Smuggling guns to narcoterrorists in Mexico is the same modus operandi as smuggling guns to the Salafist terror groups in Syria…

        The deliberate indifference to the planned assassination of US ambassador Stevens just eliminated one loose end.

        Leon Puñettas was just too busy having gay pride celebrations at the Pentagon and couldn’t spare the troops to protect an ambassador…

        Serbia was bombed by NATO so the IMF could make loans to rebuild and get control of the iridium assets.

        It is never about human rights at all with these people, it is all about who controls.

    • The Israelis phucked up when they let the Palestinian trash back into their country after having them exiled and stranded in the Jordanian desert.

      I’m not on anyone’s side.

      If the Iranians nuke Israel, the Palestinians also die in the fallout.

      It is a win/win situation for me, because I don’t like any of them…

      If the atomic bomb is the only thing that keeps the peace, then like the Ozzy Osbourne song says: “thank God for the Bomb.”

  2. Unfortunately, at this stage in the game, neither side is right nor wrong. A perfect conflict resolution will never be possible.

    • Antagonists on both sides profit from further conflict and these fake progressive “human rights” organizers would be unemployed if the conflicts ended.

      They feed off of the misery for their paychecks…

  3. Fear warps human minds into utter mush. This is caveman level, folks

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