Update – 28 December 2008

Dear Advocates, 

I came home last night to the news that Israel had carried out a clinical strike on every Hamas security compound in Gaza. I have Israeli television so I immediately turned it on to Channel 2, for all of the latest updates from Ehud Ya’ari and others. 

Since Hamas formally declared an end to a six-month truce with Israel on 19 December there has been much speculation about what will happen next in the region. With Palestinian terrorists ratcheting up their constant barrage of rocket fire on civilian targets, Israel acted quickly. Before the operation began, it had opened up the border for approximately 90 trucks delivering medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods into Gaza (see here). 

The death toll sits at 230, while one Israeli was killed as Kassam rockets dropped into Israel shortly after. Hamas is now vowing that the Third Intifada (uprising) has come – (see here). Hamas has indicated that it intends to “retaliate” heavily. It is believed that due to the attacks severely damaged the Hamas communications and Hamas terrorists are communicating with over the radio. One report indicates they might use the biggest missiles they have; ones never used before which could potentially reach as far as Be’er Sheva. 

During the Israeli live coverage there was “Red Alert” siren and it was frightening to think that you might be watching an attack live on television. For the people in the southern towns of Israel, this occurs in real life multiple times in a day. With Israeli planes over Gaza now, the Israelis can see exactly where the firing is coming from and perhaps future attacks will be prevented or curtailed. Certainly, large stockpiles of Hamas weaponry have been taken out of the equation. Many of these weapons came into Gaza through tunnels, which some Western journalists portrayed as vital for the smuggling of food and necessary supplies into the territory despite the fact that such supplies were coming into the territory via legal channels.

In my last update I mentioned an article entitled ‘The Gilad Shalit fiasco’ which was critical of the government’s inaction in relation to Gilad Shalit and dealing with Hamas. I also referred to Israel’s tactics in negotiations and setting agendas. Yesterday’s operations sent a clear message from the Israelis that they will be setting their own agenda with Hamas from now on. It is believed that Ehud Barak ordered the army to start planning for an operation such as this as a backup plan as soon as the ceasefire went into effect. See the following articles:
Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about from Haaretz
A year’s intel yields ‘alpha hits’ from Jerusalem Post
Shock treatment in Gaza from Ynet and
Analysis: Fighting Hamas in the shadow of 2006’s mistakes from Jerusalem Post 

The message that the Israelis are sending to Hamas and to the whole world is that the barrage of rockets fired daily into Gaza will not be tolerated. Every nation has a right to defend itself and Israel will not sit back and work on Hamas’ disingenuous terms any longer. 

In the meantime, Israel’s attacks were so precise so as to only attack Hamas headquarters and minimise civilian casualties. The NY Times reports: ‘Palestinian officials said that most of the dead were security officers for Hamas’. 

Meanwhile, our local papers are covering the issue. The Weekend Australian obviously comes out on a Saturday so there is nothing in print, but the Australian online has quite extensive coverage. See the following:
At least 229 die as Israel hammers Gaza
Hamas vows revenge as death toll reaches 229
Britain, US refuse to call end to air strikes
Obama ‘monitoring’ Gaza strike

Israel ‘cannot accept’ ceasefire with Hamas

The print edition of The Age carried the story ‘Scores killed as Israel pounds Gaza’. Online, it is also carrying two stories: ‘World powers call for peace’ and ‘Avoid civilian casualties: US’ about the reaction from around the world. One of the articles quotes Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as saying “Egypt condemns the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip and blames Israel, as an occupying force, for the victims and the wounded.” Most Israeli commentators were wondering why he had not come out the day before and condemned Hamas aggression against the citizens of Sderot and other Southern Israeli towns.  

The blame for the attacks must rest with Hamas. See ‘US blames Hamas for Gaza attacks’ from news.com.au. Similar sentiments were expressed through the Israel media with the article ‘U.S demands Hamas end terrorists acts, urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties’ from Jerusalem Post. 

It is important to note that Palestinian officials have been quoted on a widespread basis as saying that most of the dead were Hamas personnel. It was clear from Israeli Channel 2 reports that the attacks were aimed at Hamas and its infrastructure, that every target was a security target and that many of these targets were stocked with ammunition and rockets (even those close to civilian areas). 

Many of the deaths were therefore a result of secondary explosions directly related to Hamas’ indifference to the people it is supposed to be governing. And the events of yesterday overshadowed the tragic deaths of two Palestinian sisters a day earlier when a Palestinian rocket accidentally struck a Gaza house instead of its intended target – an Israeli town close to the border. There was no condemnation anywhere in the world of those who perpetrated this needless and senseless act.

I am out of the office until 12 January 2009, but I will keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507