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January 5, 2009

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Israeli Intelligence Agencies: Hamas Feels Existential Threat - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin told the political echelon on Sunday: "The Hamas leadership abroad is stressed, working to obtain a ceasefire and disappointed by the Arab countries failing to stand by its side. The situation of the leadership in Gaza is similar."
    "A real threat exists today on the Hamas enterprise in Gaza. The leaderships in Gaza and abroad feel an existential threat."
    Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said, "Hamas understands that violating the lull was a strategic mistake."

Hamas Using PA Arms to Battle IDF - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas claimed Sunday that it was fighting against IDF troops in Gaza with weapons confiscated from the Palestinian Authority in the summer of 2007.
    They said Hamas has all the weapons that Israel, the U.S. and other countries had given forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas. This includes tens of thousands of rifles and pistols, heavy machine guns, night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests, as well as vast amounts of ammunition.
    Hamas had also seized dozens of armored vehicles used by Abbas' forces.
    Hamas also claimed that dozens of members of the rival Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, had volunteered to fight alongside Hamas units.

IDF Soldier Escapes Kidnapping Attempt in Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
    An IDF soldier managed to foil an attempt to kidnap him during night operations in Gaza Sunday, Israel Radio reported.
    Soldiers entered a house which they knew was used as a Hamas command center, and discovered entrances to several tunnels.
    One of the soldiers followed the gunmen into a tunnel and managed to contain several Hamas fighters in a firefight while underground, before teaming up with his comrades again.
    The military assesses that the Palestinian terrorists were trying to lure the soldier to go after them alone into the tunnel in an effort to kidnap him.

Israel Is Doing the U.S. a Favor By Taking On Hamas - William Kristol (New York Times)
    An Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror - and in the broader struggle for the future of the Middle East.
    Hamas is only one manifestation of the rise of a terror-friendly and almost death-cult-like form of Islamic extremism.
    Israel is doing the U.S. a favor by taking on Hamas now. If Israel were now to withdraw under pressure without accomplishing the objectives of severely weakening Hamas and preventing the reconstitution of a terror-exporting state in Gaza, it would be a triumph for Iran.

U.S. Jewish Leaders Taste Sderot Trauma - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
    Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on a solidarity visit to Sderot Sunday rushed into a fortified police building following the sounding of a "Color Red" siren as a Kassam rocket hit a few dozen meters from where they held meetings.
    "We all live with a sense of suppressed rage," said Kenneth Bialkin, former chairman of the conference.
    "You can't look at this and not wonder how the world can stand by and watch as Jews are attacked for being Jews, by people who want to destroy them."
    "How do people not understand there is no justification for the course Hamas is taking?"

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Number of Wounded in Attacks from Gaza More Than Doubled in '08 - Matthew Wagner (Jerusalem Post)
    Rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza wounded 947 in 2008, compared with 464 in 2007 and 227 in 2006, according to a report by Hatzalah.
    A total of 1,683 Kassam rockets fell in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Forces Push Farther into Gaza - Sudarsan Raghavan and Griff Witte
    Israeli ground forces backed by air and naval power moved farther into Gaza Sunday, targeting areas from which Hamas fighters are launching rockets. One Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded during a battle near Jabalya. A senior Israeli military officer said, "Most of the resistance we faced is from mortars and other things but not from fierce Hamas fighting." Some of the "other things" were improvised explosive devices. "There are a lot of obstacles on the ground. Hamas is using methods that were imported from Iran and Hizbullah."
        Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert, said the operation would end "when Israel understands that the civilian population in the south of the country will no longer be on the receiving end of Hamas rockets."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Remains Firmly Behind Israel - Ben Feller
    From the White House to Capitol Hill, U.S. officials remained firmly behind Israel. Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Israel did not seek U.S. approval before a ground operation against Hamas in Gaza. "They have said, now, for a period of months...that they didn't want to have to act, where Gaza was concerned," Cheney said. "They had gotten out of there three years ago. But if the rocketing didn't stop, they felt they had no choice but to take action. And if they did, they would be very aggressive, in terms of trying to take down Hamas. And that's exactly what's happened."
        Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin - the top two Democrats - and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell all described Israel's actions as understandable. "I think what the Israelis are doing is very important," Reid said. "I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away." Said McConnell: "Hamas is a terrorist organization. Imagine in this country (the U.S.) if somebody from a neighboring country were lobbing shells at our population. We'd do exactly the same thing. I think the Israelis are doing the only thing they can possibly do to defend their population." (AP)
  • Israel Hinges End of Gaza Operation to Closing Tunnels - Adam Entous and Dan Williams
    Israel has conditioned any halt to its Gaza offensive on international backing for new fortifications and monitoring on the Egyptian border to prevent Hamas from rebuilding tunnels and rearming, officials in Jerusalem said. Israel's assault in Gaza has included several air force sorties in which "bunker buster" bombs were dropped, designed to collapse the secret underground passages. The Israeli government has said it wants assurances that they will not be dug anew after any ceasefire. "The issue of rearming is fundamental. We want to prevent Hamas from being rearmed like Hizbullah was after the Lebanon war," a senior Israeli official said.
        Israel wants any monitors to be heavily armed and equipped to search and destroy tunnels. "Theoretically, if those 9 miles are denied to Hamas as a resupply route, then Hamas is going to find it very, very difficult to govern, let alone smuggle in Grad and Katyusha rockets," said Matt Levitt, a former senior U.S. Treasury official. (Reuters)
  • Israeli President: No Ceasefire - George Stephanopoulos
    In an interview, Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected international calls for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces. "The idea that Hamas will continue to fire and we will declare a ceasefire...does not make any sense." "They did things that are unreasonable," he said of Hamas. "They are shooting endlessly without reason or purpose." "We don't intend to occupy Gaza or crush Hamas but crush terror," Peres said. "Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it."  ("This Week"-ABC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Next Stage of Gaza Operation: "Root Canal" for Terror - Hanan Greenberg
    Some 40 IDF soldiers were wounded in clashes, and over 50 Palestinian gunmen were killed in the first day of the ground operation in Gaza, according to the Israeli army. In Sunday's cabinet meeting, the ministers were informed that 73% of the 300 rockets fired on Israel in the last week were launched from areas that have now been seized by the army. (Ynet News)
        See also The Target: Hamas' Army - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Hamas sustained grave blows from the air, yet its leadership has not yet shown willingness to reach a long-term and stable ceasefire agreement on terms acceptable to Israel. The IDF will continue ground operations until a truce is secured. The IDF will focus on causing casualties among Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam fighting force. Another target is the fortified defensive system built by Hamas both below and above ground. In order to raze these targets, the IDF needs to gather additional intelligence - mostly via human sources within the Palestinian population. (Ynet News)
        See also Inside Gaza - Yaakov Katz
    According to Palestinian sources, Israeli units in Gaza have taken up positions in Sajaya, Beit Lahiya, Jabalya and al-Atatra, which are being scoured for Hamas gunmen and infrastructure. Troops moving through fields and orchards are being led by dogs from the IDF's K-9 unit that are trained to sniff out booby-traps. There has been fierce resistance from well-entrenched gunmen, with anti-tank missiles, mortar barrages, heavy machine gun fire and roadside bombs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 50 Palestinian Rockets Hit Israel on Sunday, Wound Four - Yanir Yagna and Yuval Goren
    Gaza militants shot 50 rockets into Israel on Sunday, including seven rockets that struck Sderot and a Grad rocket that struck Ashdod. Four people were wounded. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Seeks to Formulate Ceasefire Agreement - Roni Sofer
    The U.S. has launched an international effort, which includes Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians, to formulate a ceasefire agreement that would neutralize Hamas' influence in the region, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem reported Sunday. According to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Israel is interested in a ceasefire agreement that would include a stop to the rocket fire and the terror emanating from Gaza, as well as to Hamas' military buildup. The release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will also be stipulated as one of Israel's terms for a halt to the fighting in any agreement.
        A senior source in Jerusalem said Sunday, "Contrary to the empty moves initiated by various countries, including the humanitarian ceasefire initiative promoted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the American initiative is based on the agreement of the four elements that surround the only geographical territory in the world that is ruled by a terrorist entity - Gaza." The official said that Olmert has made it clear to the Americans and other world leaders that Israel's conditions were not negotiable, and that if they are not obtained through a diplomatic course, they would be secured through the military operation. (Ynet News)
        See also Diplomacy to Buy IDF "a Few More Days" - Herb Keinon
    The IDF has a "few more days" to carry on with its Gaza offensive and weaken Hamas before facing intense pressure from the international community for a cease-fire, senior diplomatic officials said Sunday. Israel wants time to seriously weaken Hamas militarily, and then put into place a mechanism on the Egyptian border - possibly some kind of agreement that would allow American engineers to help combat arms smuggling - that would keep Hamas from rearming. Israel is not currently interested in linking the Gaza operation to attempts to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, bring Gaza back under PA control, or bring the PA back to the Gaza border crossings. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Gaza Dilemma - Max Boot
    Achieving total victory in Gaza would require Israel to wage war in the way that America fought Germany and Japan - all out until the enemy has no more capacity to resist. Then it would have to occupy the land and impose a peace at gunpoint to ensure that Gaza could never again be a launching point for attacks. None of this is beyond the Israelis' military capacity. Yet the odds are that they won't do it.
        The Russians have inflicted World War II-level carnage in Chechnya since the mid-1990s, and they don't care what anybody else says. But Israel is not Russia - or Algeria or Burma or Syria or any other state that has taken a scorched-earth approach to counterinsurgency in recent decades. For all the accusations of brutality that are routinely flung at Israel's armed forces, their conduct has been exemplary by historical standards. They have shown far less propensity for indiscriminate killing than did European states in the 1950s when confronting insurgencies in such places as Kenya, Cyprus, Vietnam and Algeria.
        The tragedy for Israel is that Hamas is the choice of the local people. The odds are that once Israeli troops leave, Hamas will rebuild its infrastructure, forcing the Israelis to go back in the future. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Three-State Option - John R. Bolton
    Given the current landscape, we should ask why we still advocate the "two-state solution," with Israel and "Palestine" living side by side in peace. Let's start by recognizing that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and build on governments that are providing peace and stability in their own countries. "International observers" or the like cannot come close to what is necessary; we need real states with real security forces.
        Without a larger Egyptian role, Gaza will not achieve the minimal stability. Objections to this idea will be manifold, and implementation difficult. But either we do better, conceptually and operationally, or Iran will be happy to fill the vacuum. The writer, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. ambassador to the UN. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Is on Firmer Ground Against Hamas - Lawrence Freedman
    The current operation in Gaza is a direct consequence of the 2006 war in southern Lebanon. As in 2006, Israel is responding to a cross-border provocation and is fighting in territories it once occupied but then abandoned in the hope of a quieter life. Hamas, long a follower of Hizbullah when it comes to strategy, believed that it too could mount a regular rocket barrage against Israel with impunity. Israel knows that if it fails again, it will have severely reduced any deterrent against future rocket attacks. So in addition to the immediate objectives, this war is about restoring deterrence - and especially the credibility of the IDF. Politically, Hamas has put itself into a position where a ceasefire will be seen as a defeat, because this will require accepting that it must stop firing rockets. The writer is professor of war studies at King's College London. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gaza Strategy - Martin Kramer (Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center)

    • Unlike the Lebanon war of 2006, this war has been planned in advance, and every stage has been war-gamed. After the Hamas takeover in June 2007, Israel imposed a regime of economic sanctions on Gaza. The West Bank enjoyed an economic boomlet while Gaza languished under sanctions, with zero growth - reinforcing the message that "Islamic resistance" is a dead end.
    • The Israeli operation is meant to impress on Hamas that there is something far worse than the sanctions - that Israel is capable of hunting Hamas on air, sea, and land, at tremendous cost to Hamas and minimal cost to Israel, while much of the world stands by, and parts of it (including some Arabs) quietly applaud.
    • Hamas assumes (probably correctly) that its Palestinian opponents fed Israel with much of the intelligence it needed to wage precision warfare against Hamas. There is likely to be a vicious settling of scores as soon as a cease-fire is in place, if not before.
    • The temptation to "engage" Hamas has grown, which means skirting the Quartet's insistence that Hamas not be "engaged" until it accepts past PA-Israel agreements, recognizes Israel, and renounces armed struggle. Legitimation of Hamas could seal the fate of the "peace process," and give "resistance" the reputation of a truly winning strategy.
    • Israel is united in pursuing its war of demolition against Hamas. Its aim is not only to stop the rockets from falling in southern Israel, but to move a long stride forward toward a change of regime in Gaza.

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