January 20, 2009:
Israel has ended, for now, it's operations in Gaza. Their main goal appeared to be crippling Hamas combat power, and cutting the smuggling routes (the tunnels under the Egyptian border). Hamas suffered heavy losses, with dozens of buildings and compounds (used for barracks, weapons storage, bomb building and headquarters) destroyed. About 70 percent of the Palestinians killed were Hamas employees, including 350 who came out to fight the Israeli infantry. The failure of Hamas fighters to show up for the ground war was a big loss of face for the terrorists. Hamas has a major goal of killing Jews and destroying Israel, and their performance in the 22 day war made it clear that this terrorists organization was terrified of their victims. Only 13 Israelis were killed in the entire campaign, four of them to friendly fire. Losing a hundred people for each of the enemy killed is not making Hamas any more popular in Gaza. Hamas seemed to sense this, and sent death squads around to kill or wound Fatah supporters they thought might try to take advantage of the chaos.
Nevertheless, Hamas declared victory. It's traditional in the Arab world that, if you fight Israel and still have possession of your capital at the end of hostilities, you can declare that the Arabs won. No matter how many battles your troops lost, if you can still issue a press release declaring victory after the shooting stops, it counts as a win (apparently because the Israelis had the ability to utterly crush you, but were stopped by steely Arab resolve). This particular charade is growing threadbare with over-use, and this time around, even many Arabs are openly disappointed with the Hamas "defeat" (or "lack of victory.")
The Israelis did not go into the cities, where Hamas fighters would have had the biggest advantage. But this, and the extensive use of smart bombs only against Hamas targets, also greatly limited civilian casualties (about 400 dead and 1,500 wounded among a population of 1.5 million). In those cities, Palestinians openly expressed their anger at Hamas. To most Palestinians, Hamas brought the war on by constantly violating the June-December cease fire by firing rockets into Israel. Now more Palestinians see Hamas as terrorists who don't much care for the people they say they are supporting. Since Hamas took over two years ago, live has gotten worse for the residents of Gaza, and Hamas doesn't seem to care. Now it's obvious that Hamas can't even defend itself.
Israel believes that, unless there are better security measures installed on the Egyptian border, Hamas will build more tunnels and continue smuggling in long range rocket components. With that in mind, it should be remembered that there's only a ceasefire in place at the moment. The Israelis aren't quitting, they're just halting. And, despite the ceasefire, Hamas is still firing rockets, and shooting at Israeli soldiers. Israel has promised to respond if Hamas does not stop shooting. And the final blow is an announcement from the European Union that they will not contribute reconstruction funds for Gaza, as long as Hamas is running the place. Arab countries have pledged billions for reconstruction, but even these Arab countries want to attach strings to the cash, to hinder Hamas from diverting the money to other uses.