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Hamas in Trouble By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 07, 2009

By Tuesday, Day 11 of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas was described as “desperate for a lull,” its leadership in underground bunkers and Gaza in near-anarchy. The terror organization was both boxed in and isolated as apprehensions of Hezbollah opening a second front to Israel’s north failed to materialize—inviting plausible speculation that the war was a ploy by Iran to distract attention from its progress toward the bomb.

Still Hamas operatives above ground in Gaza were able once again to fire a few dozen rockets at Israel, one of which injured a three-month-old girl in Gedera 45 kilometers from the Strip. Israeli forces had, though, reportedly taken over most of the rocket-launching sites in northern Gaza.

A stream of EU visitors in Jerusalem were firmly rebuffed by Israeli leaders who in the past had not excelled at resisting Western pressures, and whose once-hawkish worldviews had become much softer over the years. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the French, Czech Republic, and Swedish foreign ministers that “This is the time for action not words. We are fed up with empty gestures,” and that the IDF campaign in Gaza, not a premature ceasefire, would stop the rockets.

President Shimon Peres, who in the 1990s became the key figure in setting Israel on a path of appeasing terror, spoke even more strongly to the Czech Republic and Swedish FMs along with EU foreign policy chief Benita Ferraro-Waldner, telling them that “Europe needs to open its eyes with respect to the fighting in Gaza”—and that they “must understand that Hamas is a terror organization of the worst order that uses its population of women and children as human shields.”

And Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni—now also an aspirant for the office of prime minister and rival of hawkish Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu—went so far as to tell the Europeans that “When Israel is targeted, Israel is going to retaliate. Israel is going to give an answer to [rocket fire] because this is an ongoing, long war against terror.”

Meanwhile, in addition to intense gun battles in Gaza City in the north of the Strip, Israeli forces were closing in on Dir al-Balah and Khan Yunis in central and southern Gaza. Although a total of about 500 Hamas fighters had been killed by Tuesday evening with at least 80 taken prisoner, the six Israeli soldiers lost so far were, as always, a focus of detailed and mournful attention in casualty-sensitive Israel. They include two residents of West Bank communities, two Jerusalemites, a Russian immigrant from Beersheba, and a Druze Israeli from Haifa.

Also on Tuesday evening about 30 Gazans were reportedly killed when IDF tank fire hit a UN school in Jebalaya in northern Gaza. The IDF announced that terrorists had used the school to fire mortars at troops who had fired back in self-defense, and that the dead included numerous Hamas men. It wasn’t yet clear whether the incident would turn out to be an Allah-sent coup for Hamas, like the staged Kafr Kana incident in the Second Lebanon War. But Barack Obama’s response—breaking his silence on the war—that “the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me” sounded ominous.

At about the same time the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center happened to release an 81-page report on “Hamas Exploitation of Civilians as Human Shields.” It describes such Hamas practices as:

  • firing projectiles “at Israeli population centers from inside or close to private Palestinian residences and sometimes from educational institutions and mosques”;
  • “exploit[ing] IDF warnings to civilians to evacuate their residences…to send children and adolescents to the relevant locations”; and
  • “repeatedly attack[ing]” the crossings into Gaza “with rocket and mortar shell fire as well as attempted mass-casualty and suicide bombing attacks.”

Detailed reports, though, have little power compared to the graphic images projected to the world by the media-terrorism complex. Although the Associated Press reported that “Area residents confirmed the [IDF] account [of the school incident], saying militants were seen staging attacks from the area,” it also described the growing agitation against Israel including a top UN official “call[ing] for an investigation into the mounting civilian death toll.”

International pressures were expected to intensify after the incident as the UN Security Council prepared to hold its second meeting on the war. Olmert, despite his earlier tough talk, said he was “currently in discussions [about a diplomatic solution] with many leaders around the world” and that “the sooner [Israel’s offensive ends], the better.”

In other words, there’s already good reason to fear that Israel’s efforts and sacrifices will again go up in smoke, while Hamas, for all its moral failings, will be pulled out of the fire.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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