Israel’s crucial Gaza invasion is ready to go after three-day air assault
DEBKAfile Special Analysis
December 29, 2008, 9:10 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israeli tanks stand by for order to go
DEBKAfile‘s military sources report that, after being knocked sideways by three days of massive Israeli air strikes, and more than 315 dead, Hamas appeared to have recovered its bearings sufficiently to pound Israel with more than 70 Qassam missiles and two Grad Katyusha rockets Monday, Dec. 29, on Day 3 of the operation.
Its spokesmen again reject a ceasefire. Among the 100 targets struck by Israeli bombers was a Hamas truck loaded with Grad rockets for distribution to rocket crews. The trucke blew up in Jebalya in northern Gaza.
Its tacticians pin their hopes on the overcast, rainy conditions forecast for the rest of the week to slow Israeli air attacks, delay an incursion, and further intensify their cross-border missile onslaught.
Monday, their missile crews focused on the Israeli towns of Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot and the Eshkol farming region just across the border. One Israeli construction worker was killed at an Ashkelon building site and 18 injured when a Grad slammed into a half-finished building.
The Palestinian terrorists are now about to again broaden the radius of their attacks by launching their new Iranian rockets against the important towns of Beersheba, Ashdod and Kiryat Gat.
Among the 100 targets struck by Israeli bombers was a Hamas truck loaded with Grad rockets for distribution to rocket crews. The truck blew up in Jebalya in northern Gaza.
The planners of the Israeli air offensive turned Monday to “second-tier” targets, such as Hamas’ political offices and wings of the Islamic University in Gaza City, afterits high-profile leaders went into hiding in the underground bunker network designed by an Iranian general deep under the surface of the Gaza Strip.
They can only be dug out by special forces and armored units on the ground.
The crucial battle of Gaza is therefore still to come, as indicated by Israel’s deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Israel Harel, when he warned Monday that the hardest part of the campaign is still ahead.
Prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni conferred in Tel Aviv Monday night to determine the next phase of the Gaza offensives.
Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah told a mass rally in Beirut Monday that Hamas’ most effective weapon is time; by holding out, it can wear Israel down and prevail.
He was using the 2006 Lebanon war as an analogy for the Gaza campaign. Then, a massive Israeli offensive in the first days of the war failed to break Hizballah, By sustaining the blasting of its cities, the Lebanese terrorists ultimately cancelled out Israel’s gains.
He may not have realized that Israel’s defense minister and chief of staff were both appointed after that debacle. Their most important guideline was to learn from its lessons.
Hamas’ trouble is the lack of a conspicuous war leader. Its politburo chief Khaled Meshaal is visible but because he is based in Damascus away from the action, he does not carry much clout. The flamboyant Hizballah leader, Nasrallah, appears to have appointed himself senior strategist.
So far, this Tehran-sponsored Lebanese Shiite leader is making his mark verbally, but his repeated fiery rhetoric day after day aims at goading Iran and Syria, Hamas’ avowed patrons, into intervening in the Gaza crisis to rescue Hamas, so dragging in the other Arab governments.