The morning of Saturday, December 27, Israel launched an offensive on Gaza. The Israeli Air Force struck 40 sites simultaneously, and a total of 170 sites. The attack was a surprise, according to Hamas sources. Hamas claims that all police headquarters have been destroyed, and the Gazan Chief of Police Tawfik Jaber has been killed. Expecting an Israeli attack to be similar in nature to past ones, Hamas lost much of its infrastructure. 195 Palestinians, mostly Hamasmen, have been killed. Though, recent media reports place the death toll as high as 225. In retaliation, Hamas has fired over 80 rockets into southern Israel, hitting Ashkelon and Netivot, where an Israeli citizen was killed. The IDF is mobilizing tanks to be prepare for the event of a ground incursion, and stationing combat units around the “borders” of Gaza to prevent a potential attack on Israel. Minister of Defense,Ehud Barack has said that, “Our purpose is to hit Hamas in such a way that will force it to halt any firing and other hostile activities against Israeli citizens and against the IDF.” This task will be made more difficult in that, according to Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas is prepared and “will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood.” In addition, Hamas official Khalid Mashaal has called on Palestinians to start a “third intifada.”
Israeli security strategy is based on a concept known in Hebrew as hachra’ah. While there is no direct translation into English, the closest concept would be that of a decisive victory. The point is to show your enemy that you are so strong that you can absolutely destroy them, should you so choose. This should deter the enemy from continuing its course of action and prevent future wars or attacks against you. It is essential that Israel show that it is strong, in order to prevent further attacks.
For years now, Hamas and the PIJ (the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) have been firing rockets on Israel with no real military threat against them. When checkpoints or de facto “border-crossings” were blocked, Hamas continued with its activities, winning over the hearts and minds of its populace, who do not realize that Hamas’ activities are the cause of their suffering. Israel has made itself look weak in the eyes of its enemies by allowing rocketfire to go unchecked, and thus Hamas has continued with its actions. However, the implications of this operation, “Operation Cast Lead,” go far beyond Gaza. It is crucial that all of Israel’s potential enemies view Israel as strong, so as to deter all those wish to wipe Israel off the map. These enemies grow stronger by the day, including Iran and its satellite organizations (though this is a different discussion, perhaps better suited for a separate blog). As a result, it is crucial that Israel fully complete this operation, and not leave it “half done.” This will be made more difficult by the fact Gaza is very crowded, giving little room for movement. In addition, Hamas has had time to prepare for an incursion; they will have studied Israel’s performance in its last war, and will know its weaknesses. While they will be, clearly, weakened by the loss of personnel and valuable munitions and weaponry, the IDF should still expect a considerable amount of fighting, particularly in light of Hamas’ dedication to their cause, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah and jihad. (Note: I am not claiming that there is a lack of logic in such actions. Rather, I believe that these individuals will act very rationally. It is simply a question of to what rationale or logic they hold. Clearly, theirs is rather different from ours). In short, Israel will have great difficulty in completing its tasks with regards to the Gaza Strip. Yet, it is crucial, for Israeli national security, that Israel show a considerable display of strength, force, and reach a quick and decisive victory.