A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January 3, 2009--Day Eight of War with Hamas, the Ground War Begins
The expected ground operation has begun. At 9 PM Israel time, Israeli troops crossed the border into Gaza. The IDF picked 9 PM to take full advantage of it superior ability to fight at night. The attack was preceded by an artillery barrage whose goal was mostly psychological. In the first hours of the battle there were reports of heavy clashes with Hamas, which resulted in a large number of their fighters being killed.
Minister of Defense Barak spoke an hour after the ground attack began. In his speech, Barak made it clear that the attack will neither be easy nor short. He warned there will be casualties, but that what had to be done will be done.
Israel announced the mobilization 20,000 additional reserve soldiers. This has been done to provide the IDF the maximium flexibility in the ongoing fighting. They will be available if the fighting goes on longer then expected, or if things heat up in the North.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, warned Israel that Gaza was going to become a graveyard for IDF soldiers. A Lebanese Hamas spokesman stated, however, that while Hamas had expected the attack, it was alone, as opposed to Hezbollah who was re-supplied over the course of its war with Israel two years ago. Therefore, Hamas will not be able to be re-supplied with weaponry. He stated that "While the organization is physically weak, its morale is high and that will allow it to defeat Israel."
Earlier in the day, Iran warned it had reached an agreement with Hezbollah. If Israel entered Gaza with ground troops Hezbollah would respond with a missile attack from Lebanon. Minister Barak responded in his speech by stating Israel was aware of the Hezbollah threat. Although itdid not expect it to happen, in any event, Israel was ready in case Hezbollah did act.
It is very early in the course of the ground attack, and as in every attack, the fog of battle still covers the battlefield. Israeli military censorship is strict, in these first few hours, and rightly so. It is therefore very difficult to know what is really happening on the ground.
It is clear, that Israel's goals in the next few hours and days will be to inflict as many casualties as possible on Hamas' military forces. It is important that Israel inflict the maximum pain on Hamas as quickly as possible. If that is done, it might be possible to fundamentally change the situation on the ground.
The reactions from many countries around the world have been quick. France criticized the attack, saying that it complicated the ability to resolve the problems of Gaza. Luckily for Israel, France is no longer the chairman of the European Union. The Czech Republic received that title on January 1st, 2009. The official statement of the EU was that it recognized Israel's attack as a defensive measure. The UN Security council is going to meet tonight-- not much is expected from that meeting.