Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 5, 2009--Day Ten of War with Hamas, Heavy Evening Fighting, Hamas Missiles Reach Ashdod and Beersheva

It was another day of ground fighting in Gaza. Most of the day was rather quiet, with continued advances. The IDF has surrounded the major refugee camp of Jebaliya, and has completely surrounded Gaza City as well. Another force has now inserted itself between Khan Yunis and Rafah, dividing the Gaza Strip into three parts. In the course of the second day of the ground attacks, nine Israeli soldiers were wounded, almost all lightly. The Israeli forces have slowly been entering built up areas. This is the most dangerous part of the warfare -- the urban warfare -- and that is just beginning. This evening there was a major encounter with Hamas forces two soldiers were initially wonded by Hamas fire, but then tragedy struck when three soldiers were killied and 20 wounded by friendly fire from an Israeli tank. Forces are finding that complete houses have been booby trapped. The IDF is said to have killed 100 Hamas fighters in the first two days of ground combat. The IDF has also begun to send Hamas fighers captured in the fighting back to Israel.

Hamas has continued to fire missiles at Israel today, reaching both Ashdod and Beer Sheva as well cities close to Gaza. One of the missiles landed in a kindergarten, luckily that building was unoccupied due to the school closings in the region. The missiles have been fired from inside Gaza City and the Jebaliya refugee camp. Hamas has shown that it can still control the fire and keep the missiles coming despite the presence of IDF troops in Gaza. That was expected. Israeli leaders stated that they do not expect to be able to fully stop the firing. Israel has ret
ained complete control on new stories from Gaza. Israel has not allowed any reporters to join the Israeli forces, and the IDF Spokesman Office has been giving out only limited information. There has been very little information coming out of Gaza, with the limited reporters in Gaza reporting exclusively from their homes.

By the end of the week, the reservists who are now training will be ready. At that point Israel will have to revisit what its goals are going to be.

There has been little movement on the diplomatic front. French President Sarkozy is currently in the region, and is making a visit to Israel. His visit is unlikely to accomplish much. President Bush made it clear that while he supports a ceasefire, he stated that any ceasefire has to insure that Hamas can not fire any rockets into Israel. When the ceasefire takes place it will no doubt occur due to American efforts to bring it about.

A major question that remains is who is there to talk to on the Palestinian/Hamas side. Mahmoud Zohar, one of the leaders of Hamas made his first appearance today. He was filmed reading a speech. As one observer stated, if the goal of the speech was to show that Hamas is still in control, it has the opposite effect. Zohar looked exhausted while hiding in a bunker and completely unsure of himself. That is clearly the opposite of a leader in control. It is clear that
Hamas would like a ceasefire, but the group is not willing to agree to new terms. It does not recognize that the situation has changed. Until that happens, a ceasefire will not occur. The IDF is assuming that it has at least 10 days to reach its goal if it need be.

There is a good article in the NYT today by William Kristol Why Israel Fights.