Hamas Pulling Back into Crowded Cities

[Washington Post] Griff Witte - Rather than stand and fight, Hamas has opted for a tactical withdrawal, with its fighters melting away into Gaza's sprawling cities and refugee camps. "They're hitting here and there with antitank missiles and mortars. Overall, though, they're not confronting the Israeli presence in Gaza," said former chief of staff retired Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. Until now, Israeli casualties have been lighter than expected. Six Israeli soldiers have died in five days of ground operations, although only two were killed by Palestinians. The four others died as a result of "friendly fire" incidents. For the time being, military commanders have ordered ground troops to tighten their grip on less-populated areas that had long been used for launching rockets, while Israeli warplanes and helicopters continue to pound suspected hideouts from the air. For Hamas, the objective is to survive and to show the world that it continues to engage by firing rockets into southern Israel. "Whatever the outcome, they're going to say, 'We won.' They're going to say, 'We were attacked by a vastly superior force, and the rockets kept coming,'" said Martin van Creveld, professor emeritus of military history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

2009-01-08 06:00:00

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