Israel: Hamas Seeks a Blaze of Glory

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March 6,2008: Hamas refuses calls from Arab countries to make peace. At most, Hamas will agree to a ceasefire, but on terms that will allow it to continue bringing longer range rockets into Gaza. The Hamas leadership has visions of a massive rocket attack on Israel, like the one Hizbollah pulled off from Lebanon in 2006. In practical terms, this makes no sense. The 2006 war weakened Hizbollah, got thousands of UN peacekeepers moved into southern Lebanon, which Hizbollah had controlled for two decades, and has led to a close examination of what Hizbollah is up to. Hizbollah suffered heavy economic losses in 2006, and now has to deal with the threat of another civil war with the Christians and Sunni Moslems.

Hizbollah has told Hamas that it cannot join in any attack on Israel. Any Hamas rocket offensive, using the factory made rockets, would threaten 200,000 Israelis, less than ten percent of the population Hizbollah attacked. The new Hamas rockets are 107mm and 122mm Russian designs (but of Egyptian or Iranian manufacture). The B-12 is a 107mm, 42 pound, 33 inch long, unguided rocket that is very popular with terrorists. It has a range of about six kilometers and three pounds of explosives in its warhead. Normally it is fired, from a launcher, in salvoes of dozens at a time. But when used individually, it is more accurate the closer it is to the target. This 107mm design has been copied by many nations, and is very popular with guerillas and terrorists because of its small size and portability. The 122mm BM-21s weigh 150 pounds and are nine feet long. These have 45 pound warheads, but not much better accuracy than the 107mm model. However, these larger rockets have a maximum range of 20 kilometers. Again, because they are unguided, they are only effective if fired in salvos, or at large targets (like cities, or large military bases or industrial complexes.) The BM-21s can reach farms and towns in southern Israel containing about 200,000 people. Hamas may have several hundred BM-21s. How do you get nine foot long, 150 pound rockets into Gaza? You hire the criminal gangs the smuggle all sorts of stuff in. The gangs either elude, bribe or intimidate the Egyptian border guards. Stuff gets through. Iran is supplying the cash, and many of the weapons. But Egyptian factories produce the BM-21, and enough money in the right pockets, and those BM-21s can find their way to Gaza.

Over 120 people have been killed in the last week of Gaza fighting. This includes three Israelis. About half the Palestinian dead are civilians. Hamas fighters try and stay close to civilians, as the Israelis are more cautious when fighting around civilians, and when civilians are killed, Hamas can accuse the Israelis of war crimes, or whatever. Hamas leaders appear to believe their own propaganda, that they are on a mission from God, to destroy Israel, and now is the time. On a more practical level, Hamas has backed itself into a corner. Only via radical talk, and action, can they keep most Gazans on their side. But Gaza is miserable, and if Hamas admits that all this woe is for nothing, the Gaza population will turn on them. Unfortunately, this appears to make the prospect of "going out in a blaze of glory" attractive to the Hamas leadership. This option is not very popular with most of the people living in Gaza.

Up north in Lebanon, 17 people have died so far this year, mainly in Hizbollah backed terrorist attacks against Lebanese leaders who oppose an increase in Hizbollahs control of the Lebanese government. There is a standoff now, and Hizbollah is being cautious. Another war with Israel could be disastrous right now, because the rest of Lebanon might turn on Hizbollah, which has lost most of the luster it acquired for rocket attacks on Israel in 2006.

March 3, 2008: Israel pulled their troops out of Gaza, but threatened to come back in greater force, and go looking for rocket stockpiles, rocket workshops and those involved with the rockets. If Hamas resisted this with force, Israel would law waste to the place. Hamas declared the Israeli withdrawal a victory and refused to negotiate.

March 1, 2008: In response to Hamas use of longer range BM-21 rockets, Israel sent several battalions of troops in Gaza, to find additional rockets and the teams of men who launch them (some skill is required in setting up and aiming the rockets). Hamas gunmen resisted, and the ensuing battle left nearly 300 people (mostly Palestinians) dead or wounded. This was the highest one day casualty count in Gaza since the 1967 War.

 

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