A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January 12, 2009--Day Seventeen of War with Hamas, End May Be Near, Hamas Gives Mixed Messages
Day Seventeen of the war between Israel and Hamas has come to an end. On the military front, it has been a relatively uneventful day. Hamas has fired 24 missiles at Israel today to a wide range of targets, other than one house that was nearly destroyed in Ashkelon, no other significant damage was done and there were no Israeli casualties. Within Gaza the military are slowly but surely tightening the noose on Hamas, especially in Gaza City. The entry of reservists into Gaza does not mean a full move to stage three, but instead has resulted in a continued advance of the Israeli forces deeper into the city. The reservists have taken over the positions of the regular soldiers who have moved further in. The result is a great deal of political activity.
This morning the political leadership of Hamas in Damascus rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, stating among other things that it would not accept any agreement that would limit their ability to bring in arms. Tonight, however, Ismail Haniya, the head of Hamas in Gaza gave a speech stating that he would accept any agreement that would bring the Israeli assault to an end. He said the people of Gaza could not hold up to the Israeli army. In his speech he did not make the standard Hamas threats of reprisals against Israel. He stated that the Jews would get their revenge from G-d in the future. This is as close to a white flag that Hamas can give.
While nothing is certain and Israel continues to threaten to start the third stage, it is looking like there will be a ceasefire by the end of the week. Iran may try to stop it, but tomorrow Hamas representatives return to Cairo where they are more than likely to quietly agree to the Egyptian proposal. It is still not clear who speaks for Hamas, but there are signs tonight that even Hamas Damascus is not divided between those who are willing to accept an agreement and those who are not. If Israel can reach an agreement with Egypt on the arrangement that will stop the infiltration of weapons into the Gaza Strip with international help, then it is possible that a ceasefire agreement can be reached by the end of the week. I think that is likely.