A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January 4, 2009--Day Nine of War with Hamas, Israel Cuts Gaza in Half- Ground War Continues
Israeli forces have now been in Gaza for 24 hours. The IDF entered Gaza with overwhelming force. Its forces moved faster than expected and reached all of the early objectives very quickly. The IDF cut Gaza in two, with a tank column reaching the sea just south of Gaza City. The forces that entered from the North have reached all of their strategic targets and are now in Beit Hanoon and Beit Laheya. A third force has moved in on the South, near the Egyptian border. Now that the first stage has been accomplished, tonight the forces on the ground are engaged in the second stage, cleansing the area of Hamas fighters. Their goal is to kill as many Hamas fighters as possible, but also to capture as many prisoners as possible. As night fell on Gaza, the IDF increased the pace of the fighting, once again making use of the nighttime sky.
Most of the fighting has taken place in open areas, so far, with Israel occupying just a few of the urban areas. It is clear Hamas wants to draw Israel into the urban areas. Israel will do that as carefully as possible. Until now, Hamas has not put up any effective resistance, just small scale fire fights with Israeli forces. It is not clear whether Hamas is able to exercise command and control over its forces. Israeli casualties have come primarily from continued Hamas mortar fire. One Israeli soldier was killed and thirty four others were wounded, mostly lightly.
Hamas has managed to fire over 40 missile today at Israel. All of them have been short range missiles, with the largest number landing on Sderot, and the area surrounding area. The furthest one landed in Ashkelon.
All reports from Gaza indicate Hamas is under pressure and according to the head of the Israeli internal intelligence agency, the Shabak, it will be willing to agree to a ceasefire on terms more favorable to Israel. It is clear that Hamas has been surprised by the size of the Israeli ground assault. Israel has successfully cut Gaza off from the world. There have been no pictures and nearly no reports from Gaza. The foreign press is not there, and even Al Jazeera is not reporting from Gaza at the moment.
In the Arab world, the split between Iran and the other moderate countries has become ever clear. Mohamad Jolali, the Iranian equivalent of the American National Security Advisor, traveled to Syria and Lebanon. He demanded that Syria and Hezbollah start helping Hamas. He tried to convince Nasrallah to start using his arsenal of missiles to fire on Israel. So far his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Nasrallah is not interested in endangering his position in Lebanon. Earlier reports were that neither he, nor Syrian President Assad are willing to take on Olmert or Bush, both of whom they feel have nothing to lose. Nasrallah limits himself to a daily speech in support of Hamas. A Hamas spokesman in Lebanon turned to the Israeli Arabs and asked them to revolt. So far, the demonstrations inside Israel have been limited, with almost none on the West Bank.
There have been continued demonstrations in the rest of the Arab world and all of the Arab governments have issued the ritual condemnations. Behind the scenes, however, most of the Arab governments are hoping Israel does a better job with Hamas than it did with Hezbollah.
There continue to be demonstrations in Western Europe, with 15,000 people participating in one in London. Most of the demonstrators continue to be Muslims. Last night, the US government made it clear it would block any UN resolution that would limit Israel's ability to achieve its military goals.
There have been some smaller demonstrations in the US. The host of a radio show I appeared on in Kansas City told me about a small anti-Israel protest in his city. My experience over the last few days, based on a variety of radio shows on which I appeared, is that most people are very supportive of Israel's actions. Most of the shows have been hosted by conservative talk show hosts, but some have been straight new shows. The most difficult question I received was from a caller in Tucson, Arizona about Jewish support for Israel. At first I was afraid the question was directed at the issue of dual loyalty, but in fact, the opposite question was asked, "Why are there many Jews who do not support Israel?".