Israel: Hamas At War

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April 21,2008: Hamas is desperately trying to remove Israeli and Egyptian control over access to Iranian weapons supplies (not to mention food and fuel). The basic strategy is to attack the border crossings, so as to interfere with shipments of food and fuel. Then manipulate media coverage inside Gaza to make it look worse than it is. That is supposed to persuade the Europeans to force Israel to allow Hamas to bring in whatever they want (especially explosives and longer range, factory made, rockets from Iran.) Then Hamas can increase the rocket attacks on southern Israel. Currently, only a few of the home made Kassam rockets are being fired into Israel each day.

Hamas does not have a risk-free strategy going. For one thing, if they let food and fuel shortages get too severe, they risk another rebellion. Fatah still has allies inside Gaza, and many Gaza residents feel more loyalty to their clan leaders, than they do to Fatah or Hamas. But as long as Hamas puts on a good show, without too much pain, than the majority of Gaza Palestinians will go along.

But many Gaza Palestinians remain hostile to Hamas, and some are aiding Israel with intelligence on the movements of Hamas leaders. This leads to several attacks a week, usually with missiles from aircraft, against Hamas leaders. This is made more difficult by the Hamas leadership trying to stay out of sight, and in residential neighborhoods, most of the time. So the Israelis put a premium on getting them with a missile when they are travelling by car. Less elegant are the Israeli ground raids into Gaza, to grab weapons or prisoners. These often end up as battles in residential neighborhoods. Hamas encourages young (age ten and up) boys to get involved, by throwing rocks at the Israelis, or just reporting their positions. When these kids get hurt, more propaganda.

Egypt refuses to open its crossings in the south of Gaza, until Hamas agrees to behave itself. Hamas refuses, and instead threatens to blow open the security fence on the Egyptian border again, and send thousands of civilians across, like it did in January. Egypt has brought in more police and soldiers to guard the border, and told them to shoot anyone trying to force their way into Egypt from Gaza. So far, this is a stand-off, although Egypt has not stopped the smuggling tunnels from being used.

While Hamas has held its fire on the Egyptians, five Israeli border crossings (through which food and fuel pass) have been attacked in the last two weeks. On the 9th, Hamas mortars fired on the fuel crossing point, which allowed Hamas gunmen to reach the facility, where they shot dead two civilians before being killed themselves. The attacked was launched the day after the weekly fuel shipments had been delivered. Fuel shortages inside Gaza are created by Hamas, which makes quite a bit of money. Normally, gasoline sells for about $7 a gallon in Gaza (about what it costs in Israel). But Hamas creates a shortage by refusing to release supplies, then diverts some gasoline to its black market operation, which sells it for up to ten times the normal price. Hamas considers control of the gasoline supply a weapon. This ensures that Hamas always has enough fuel for its own vehicles, and any potential enemies inside Gaza do not.

Hamas is getting lots of munitions, either through the smuggling tunnels from Egypt, or via the sea from Iran. This involves Iranian ships dropping weapons (usually rockets and explosives), sealed in semisubmersible containers (that float just beneath the surface) off the coast of Gaza, at positions where the currents will carry the containers to Gaza beaches. Palestinian fishermen are alerted, and pick up many of these containers. Israeli naval patrols catch many of these containers, either on fishing boats or still in the water, but some are getting through.

On the 19th, three Hamas suicide truck bombs attempted to destroy another Israeli border crossing. But the security measures stopped them. Three Palestinians died, and 13 Israeli troops were wounded (most lightly) by the explosions. The Israelis respond after each of these border attacks, if only to try and destroy the mortars the Palestinians use to distract Israeli troops. The mortars are usually fired from a residential neighborhood, to maximize the chances of Palestinian civilians being killed. This makes great propaganda, and increases the calls for European intervention against Israel. The Palestinians are playing the Europeans hard, as Europe is the only local power capable to hurting Israel economically or militarily. The chances of this happening are remote, but Hamas is operating in a fantasyland where Islam will soon conquer the world, with the expulsion of the Jews from Israel being the first step.

Hamas is encouraged by the situation in Lebanon, where Iran continues to supply Hizbollah with rockets, and other weapons, via Syria. This traffic is supposed to be halted by UN peacekeepers and Lebanese troops, but Hizbollah has no trouble intimidating border guards, and just moving in whatever they want. That's the kind of freedom Hamas wants. If they could get European peacekeepers guarding their borders, they could proceed with their arms buildup. Ultimately, Hamas believes that a larger scale rocket attack, than the one in 2006, in conjunction with Hizbollah, could wreck the Israeli economy, and ultimately drive the Jews out of the region.

 

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