A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January 2, 2009--Day Seven of War with Hamas, Is a Ground Attack Coming?
Today marks the 7th day of Israel's attacks on Hamas. Israel's attacks continue, although the level of the attacks seem a little lower today. The IAF continued to try to attack Hamas leaders homes. Thousands attended the funeral of Nizar Rayya in Gaza. Sources in Gaza confirmed IDF's information that it gave warning it was going to destroy his home. He decided to stay despite attempts by other Hamas member to convince him to leave. This brings me to conclude that this was not a targeted assasination, rather an attack on the command bunker under his house. He believed that either Israel would not attack the bunker if he stayed in his house with his family, or that they would be safe in the bunker. His miscalcuation caused him, his four wives and eleven children their lives.
There seems to be a change of tone among Hamas leaders regarding a possilbe ground assualt, if initially they were saying bring it on, their tone is now to warn Israel of the consequences. Some long-term observers of Hamas believe that Hamas has truly been surprised by the ferocity of the Israeli air assaults and is wary of what a ground assault might look like.
Hamas fired a smaller number of missiles today, none of them on Beersheva or Ashdod-- the longer range missiles. There were direct hits on some buildings in Askelon, but only minor injuries resulted. The expected ground attack did not materialize today.
There were extensive meetings today between the members of the security cabinet to decide on the next steps. Israeli policy members have spent the day on planning these next steps. Israeli leaders now believe the sands of time are now running-- and they only have a few more days to operate before significant international pressures mounts to end the operation. Why that should be a surprise is hard to understand. There is still an expectation that some ground operations will be implemented within the next day or two. Israel's ground forces are engaging in large scale exercises tomorrow-- Shabbat-- an action that is not undertaken lightly. This strengthens the sense there will still be a ground attack. and its probably going to be happen very soon
There is, however, a small possibility of no ground action. 52% of Israeli polled in the last few days favor continued air attacks, while only 19% want a ground offensive. Part of this is, no doubt, due to the relative small number of missiles that Hamas has fired and the even smaller number of casualties. The number of missiles fired over the week are as follows: Saturday... 68; Sunday... 18; Monday... 70; Tuesday... 40; Wednesday... 70; Thursday... 50; Friday... 33 (as of 9:30PM). There are however, 900,000 Israelis who are within 1 minutes notice to take cover and that situation cannot last forever.
There is clearly more talk of negotiations, as the long holiday comes to an end. The Security council meets on Monday, and there are reports the Egyptians are willing to become go betweens again. However, how one gets to an agreement is very hard to see. Today, Secretary of State Rice called for a ceasefire, but one in which Hamas would not fire anymore missiles. A Hamas spokesman answered by saying that Rice is on her way to hell.
The Israeli government seems to have learned one of the lessons from the last war in Lebanon-- and that is, not to state unattainable goals for a military mission. In Lebanon, it was clear that it would be impossible to attain the release of the kidnapped soldiers. This time the goal is to change the basic situation on the ground-- Let's hope, of course, that someone truly understands what that means.