A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
December 30, 2008--Day Four of Attack, Talk of Possible Ceasefire, Mubarak Places New Condition on Opening of Border
Israel's air war with Hamas continued today, for the fourth day. The list of targets has become smaller and as a result, the air assaults are accomplishing less and less as time goes on. Tonight the Israel Air Force launched another large attack against the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Israel warned Egypt of the attack and Egypt moved its soldiers and policeman away from the border, in case of a near miss. Israel also attacked symbols of government power in Gaza; all the buildings of the government. Forty Palestinians were killed in today's attack.
Hamas succeeded in increasing the range of its attacks, launching missiles to Beersheva and hitting North of Ashdod. All of this was expected, but it has increased the number of Israelis within the range of Hamas rockets. Since Saturday Hamas has fired 180 missiles and rockets at Israel. A number that is actually lower than what was expected. Hamas began the war with 3,000 missiles and now has 2,000 left, of which a couple of hundred are long range.
This evening the news in Israel was dominated by reports Defense Minister Barak is suggesting Israel consider a French proposal that Israel accepts a 48 hour ceasefire in which Israel would stop firing, and Hamas would stop firing at Israel. It's unclear whether or not this is just a trail balloon, or possibly even an elaborate disinformation. The kitchen cabinet (Livni, Olmert and Barak) meet tonight and the whole government meets tomorrow. Hamas' initial response to reports of the Israeli/French initaitve has been dismissive. It will be up to Achmad Jaabari, the Hamas military commander who is controlling event for Hamas, to decide whether Hamas has any interest in pursuing a ceasefire at the moment. Many members of the Israeli cabinet have already publicly stated their opposition to this initiative.
The weather forecast for the next two days calls for more rain, not the sort of weather in which you would expect Israel to launch any attack.
President Mubarak of Egypt gave a speech today, calling for an end of the attacks. He did blame Hamas, once again explicitly, for not listening to Egypt and endng the ceasefire. More importantly, Mubarak created new conditions for reopening of the Rafiah border post. He stated he would only open the border, if the Palestinian Authority, "the only legitimate government took over the post again", and "all of the arrangements that were in the agreement reached between Israel, the Authority and Egypt before the Hamas military coup were reinstated". Clearly Mubarak has taken himself out as mediator between Hamas and Israel, he is now a rather public opponent.
Benny Morris, the Israeli historian, wrote an interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times, called Why Israel Feels Threatened. This article captures the feeling of uncertainty that most Israelis feel today.