Gaza War

10.01.2009

 

An Unlikely US-Led Coalition against Hamas.

On the twelfth day of Israel's war offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, six government leaders banded together for a conscious, focused bid to take Hamas down militarily, logistically and as a political entity.

US president George W. Bush, German chancellor Angela Merkel, King Abdullah, Jordan's Abdullah II, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert joined hands for a once-improbable association.

This fledgling bloc is still testing its wings and the robustness of the
stitching holding it together. All six are aware that despite their common causes, their association could break up over differences along the way. They first tested their solidarity by attempting to forge a compromise on rival resolutions on Gaza at the UN Security Council Gaza Thursday, Jan. 8, with the US, Britain and France ranged against the Arab bloc.

But before then, their effort though fragile had established some remarkable new landmarks in modern Middle East history:

It is the first concerted, cross-national challenge ever posed to Iran's demand for primacy of the radical Islamic camp and, by definition, of the Middle East at large.

It brings together the first Western-mainstream Arab Muslim partnership embracing Israel in support of Israel's offensive against Hamas up until Wednesday.

The still unacknowledged pact laid down clear areas of action for each of its partners:

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have undertaken the daunting task of breaking Hamas' military back.

The other six will lay the groundwork for building a different political-military environment in and around Gaza. If this collaboration works, holds up and achieves its objectives, which *DEBKA-Net-Weekly'*s Middle East sources outline below, it will have crafted from a blend of military prowess and diplomacy the first workable international-regional solution for an arena blighted by terror.

Conservative Arab governments quietly applaud

A winning formula that offers the failed state of Gaza and its battered neighbors a safe and normal future might help other world powers confronting Islamist terror, like India and Pakistan, to win their struggle against Taliban and the al Qaeda-led group of jihadist factions.

And if it works, President Bush may have a bright new offering for his successor to burnish his Middle East legacy.

This offering was as unimaginable two weeks ago as the alliance which fathered it. The following unforeseen events made it possible:

1. Israel decided to stake all its national resources and entire army, including reservists, for an all-out, make-or-break effort to defeat a terrorist entity governing a next-door sovereign territory. The closest analogy is Russia which went all out to win Chechnya.

2. For the first time, prominent Arab powers are quietly approving Israel's exercise of military strength against Palestinians, although they may hesitate along the way, especially if oil prices keep falling.

3. For now, the IDF has a free hand with no timeline or restrictions on weaponry, including items new to the battlefield, for the sake of breaking Hamas.

4. Egypt, the only power in touch with Hamas, has finally sealed its border with southern Gaza, closing the last breach in Israel's land and sea blockade. Hamas has no way of replenishing depleted hardware or raising reinforcements from outside. Cairo has even denied Gaza medical supplies, willing only to evacuate a small number of injured Palestinians to Egyptian hospitals.

Bush tips the wink to Obama

5. While anti-Israel rallies rage in European and Asian capitals, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are cracking down on large-scale protests over the Gaza conflict lest they ignite their countries.

Jordan's Abdullah II went so far as to replace his intelligence chief, Muhammad Dahabi, because he was thought too friendly to Hamas. The new man is Muhammad Rath'an Raqqad, an experienced case officer from a powerful Jordanian Bedouin family, known for his antipathy for radical Islamic groups. The king clearly decided to bank on the Bedouin community's staunch loyalty to the Hashemite throne by appointing the first Bedouin officer in 20 years to the top security post in the kingdom.

Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have succeeded so far in damping down violent sentiment on their streets.

6. The Bush administration, quietly tipping the wink to Barack Obama and in conjunction with likeminded Arab governments, turned aside diplomatic pressures on Israel to halt its offensive against Hamas. An American veto was brandished to forestall a UN Security Council draft ordering Israel to accept a ceasefire and withdraw from Gaza.

7. The seventh partner of the Group of Six is rarely seen or heard. Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen, chairman of the Palestinian Authority,is biding his time, waiting for the big powers to fight his wars. Occasionally, he pops up to denounce Israel and demand Security Council action.

He has not lifted a finger to help his beleaguered Hamas brothers, who knocked his Fatah government off its Gaza throne in June 2007. And, on the quiet, he directed his US- and Jordanian-trained special security forces to keep pro-Hamas Palestinian protests off West Bank streets and suppress their terrorist plots against Israel.

Five primary goals shared by the Group of Six

* To extinguish Hamas as a military force;

* Reducing it to a marginal religious faction in Gaza and the West Bank cured of political or military aspirations;

* The restoration of Palestinian Authority rule to the Gaza Strip;

* A kick in the teeth for Iran and its sponsorship of a Palestinian extremist militia;

* An object lesson for the Shiite Hizballah and any other present or future Islamist organization with jihadist pretentions in the Arab world.

The Group of Six Has a Post-War Plan

In the wake of the Gaza conflict, six Western, Arab and Israeli leaders banded together to use the bloody Gaza conflict as a fulcrum for bringing down the Palestinian Islamist Hamas and aiming a blow at its sponsor, Iran.

The ad hoc Group of Six, formed by US president George W. Bush, German chancellor Angela Merkel, King Abdullah, Jordan's Abdullah II, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, also drafted a plan for the future.**

Our Washington sources reveal its broad outlines. The details will be filled in as the plan unfolds.

The axiom approved by them all is that Gaza will not revert to the status quo ante.

The Philadelphi corridor, Hamas' main supply route through Egypt for hardware and the passage of fighters on the move, will be demilitarized and relegated to international military monitors.

Egyptian troops will enter the Gaza Strip to enforce the ceasefire and ascertain that Hamas does not rearm and regroup.

The IDF will remain in the Gaza Strip at the points held when fighting ends and a ceasefire goes into effect for as long as it takes to install these international mechanisms.

Can this program work?

The Palestinian Authority will take over Gaza's government in stages, starting with responsibility for the seven crossings? Six on Gaza's border with Israel and one with Egypt. They can then be reopened and the embargo on Gaza lifted.

Before opening the passage to Egypt, Abu Mazen will take over its location, the town of Rafah which straddles the Gazan-Sinai border. The West Bank model of handing one town at a time to the Palestinian Authority will be repeated in Gaza. When his regime is secure and stable, Israeli forces will pull back to the international border.

After that, the Saudis and Egyptians will press ahead with their ambition for Abu Mazen's Fatah and Hamas to open power-sharing talks leading to a merger under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

At this stage, nothing is settled, except the basic premise, namely that so long as Hamas rejects an unconditional ceasefire ? a kind phrase meaning capitulation on dictated terms? The IDF will continue fighting. It will take the battle into Gaza's cities and not yield before Hamas is crushed as a military force.

This is the big club the six powers hold over Hamas' head unless the Arab rulers falter at some stage.

Hamas' leaders grasp that they cannot hope to survive an all-out Israeli assault. Israeli attackers will brave Hamas strongholds in the cramped urban conditions of Gaza's towns and refugee camps ? even at the cost of heavy casualties.

If not curtailed, the Gaza operation will be a long haul

Unless Hamas buckles now, our military sources do not believe that the hostilities will be over any time soon; they foresee weeks of fighting that will most probably overlap the onset of the Barack Obama presidency and run into months.

During that time, Israeli forces will set up permanent lines in the enclave and carry out sorties against Hamas forces and weapons caches, gradually grinding down its combat capabilities and reducing the rocket fire against Israeli cities.

Twelve days of Israeli bombardment left Hamas with only 40 percent of the arsenal it started out with on Dec. 27, when Israel launched its Operation Cast Lead. Most of the small foundries manufacturing the Qassam missiles have been smashed by aerial and commando strikes. Hamas was nearly cut off from its supply lines by the constant pounding of the Philadelphi smuggling tunnel region on the Egyptian border

This offensive culminated Wednesday night, Jan. 7, in massive Israeli air strikes and tank fire to finally wipe out the tunnel system and capture the strategic border strip.

At that point, the six-power strategy swung into coordinated action.

Coordinated six-power action

In New York, the US defeated a second bid for UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate and mandatory ceasefire. This left the Egypt ceasefire initiative standing out as the only diplomatic game in town. French president Nicolas Sarkozy had tried and failed to graft his ideas on that initiative. Thursday night, a serious attempt was made to bridge the differences between the US-UK-French draft and the Arab text.

In Gaza, Israel suspended military operations for three hours Wednesday and two hours Thursday, opening a window for essential supplies to reach the one and-a-half million beleaguered inhabitants. The firing resumed thereafter.

A ceasefire now would give Hamas the chance to claim it had fought Israel to a standstill and robbed it of victory, a rerun of the unresolved ending of the 2006 Lebanon War with Hizballah. Prime minister Olmert barely survived that disaster and does not propose to live through another. Backed by most of Israel's defense cabinet and high command, he is determined not to let victory escape Israel against and is driving the army to go through to the last critical stage of the Gaza campaign.

Stage One was a week-long heavy aerial bombardment of Hamas' facilities from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3, 2009, when Stage Two began with an invasion of the Gaza Strip by tank, infantry, artillery and engineering units. Israeli troops secured the northern region - "Qassamland" from which most missiles were launched, bisected the enclave and halted on the northeastern outskirts of Gaza City on Jan. 5.

Hamas' rejection of a ceasefire signals the onset of Israel's final stage

Stage Three started Jan. 7 with a massive assault for the capture of the Philadelphi route, the barrier between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Sinai, which most tacticians have always held Israeli forces should never have abandoned.

The last stage is programmed to last until Saturday, Jan.12th at the earliest.

Israel has finally set itself the task of flushing Hamas out of its southern strongholds, seizing control of the smuggling tunnels and clearing the ground ready for an Egyptian or international force to take over.

It will leave the Palestinian terrorists marooned behind a tightening noose choking off their external logistical lifeline from Sinai to the south, the north, the east and the sea. The Israeli navy has imposed a 40-km blockade on Gaza's shores.

Hamas' rejection of the ceasefire terms articulated by the Six Powers and dictated by Egypt was delivered from Damascus Thursday night, Jan. 8. our military sources report it will be the signal for Israeli forces to raise the heat of warfare and start entering the northern and eastern districts of Gaza City.

To shorten this last stage, the toughest of all, and bring key Hamas elements to their knees or surrender, the IDF will have to boost the five brigades fighting in the Gaza Strip with two or even three of the reservist brigades on standby.

From Wednesday, the US, Egypt and Israel were seen to be working in harness.

The first two are leading the diplomatic front. They expect Israeli forces on the battlefront to do well enough to give them the levers for success. All three will have to keep up a fast pace and reach their goals before Tehran catches its breath and decides to put a spoke in their wheels to rescue its Palestinian protégé from its downfall.

Bush Hands Obama a Fulcrum for Reducing Reduce Iran

A hairline crack was visible Wednesday, Jan. 8, in the incoming US president Barack Obama's silent front on the Gaza crisis. He actually told reporters that he is concerned about the violence in Gaza, but also wary of sending conflicting messages about American foreign policy. But, he added, after Jan. 20 he would h ave "plenty to say."

Obama is fully updated on the ins and outs of the crisis by the president he will succeed, George W. Bush, and the intelligence community. Moreover, according to our Washington sources, he is nowhere as passive as he seems. His designated secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been directed to open a direct line to Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, while the new national security chairman, Gen. John Jones is in close touch with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

In her last days as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice is umpiring the diplomatic front on behalf of the Bush administration. But those sources disclose that the two presidents have agreed to let Mubarak handle Middle East diplomacy and to give the Israeli military enough slack to finish Hamas off as a military force and terminate its rule of the Gaza Strip.

At UN headquarters in New York Wednesday night, Washington blocked for the second time the Arab-drafted Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops without mentioning Hamas.

Rice objected that the text left out Israel's call for monitors to destroy Hamas' tunnels for smuggling arms through Egypt and its rocket attacks on Israel. She applauded President Mubarak's initiative instead. Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal did not hide his displeasure at being thwarted by Washington.

A flourishing exit for Bush, a strong hand for Obama

Privately, the US diplomat told the Arab ministers firmly to forget about giving Hamas the slightest leeway. The United States, which holds veto power in the Security Council, would not let a resolution stand which demanded an Israeli withdrawal or the reopening of the Gaza crossings.

Rice then got together with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who is the current Security Council president, and UK foreign secretary David Miliband, both of whom lined up behind her.

Kouchner had just left president Nicolas Sarkozy after accompanying him on a failed ceasefire mission to Middle East capitals.

Explaining her government's policy to reporters, she said: "There must be a solution this time that does not allow Hamas to use Gaza as a launching pad against Israel cities. It has to be a solution that does not allow the rearmament of Hamas, and it must be a solution that finds a way to open crossings so that Palestinians in Gaza can have a normal life."

Thursday night, a concerted effort was made by the US, British and French envoys and the Arab bloc to formulate a compromise text.

The rapport between the outgoing and incoming US presidents on the Gaza question benefits them both. Bush bows out after his second term with a chance of burnishing his mixed Middle East record. An exceptional achievement in this region, whose conflicts lurk in wait to trip up US presidents, is not to be sneezed at, especially one which promises continuity of his policies on the Palestinians, Iran and Syria.

As for Obama, he has a good chance of stepping into the White House armed with a strong hand for tackling Iran on the nuclear question: After Hamas' prospective downfall, the Islamic Republic can hardly demand to be treated as the No. 1 regional power.

Of course, this bright outlook for both presidents is predicated on the Israel's military's success in Gaza. It also depends on Egypt being able to execute its plan to dwarf Hamas, reducing the Islamist extremists to their initial size and restoring Palestinian Authority government to the Gaza Strip.

If these tricky and complicated efforts are fruitful, Obama's starting point in the Middle East will be a lot more favorable than anticipated.

Iran May Step in to Save Hamas from Collapse

Tehran is counting on a surefire device for drawing Israeli forces out of the Gaza Strip and saving its Palestinian protégé Hamas from collapse.

Gen. Mohsein Rezai, former Revolutionary Guards commander and one of the few Iranian high-ups with intelligence contacts in the West, sent those contacts a message Wednesday, Jan.7.

Our Iranian sources reveal its main thrust: A second front opened up against Israel from its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria would force the Jewish state to halt its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Rezai wrote. In his view, therefore, Hizballah must heat up the Lebanese border, while Syria should call up its military reserves and move units from Lebanon's borders to the Golan.

Just days before Israel launched its offensive against Hamas on Dec. 27, Iran's powerful foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki made telephone calls to some of his opposite numbers in Europe. He warned them that Tehran could not afford to disregard an Israeli attack on Hamas. If Israel went to war on Hamas, he told Per Stig Moller of Denmark, it would have to contend with more than one front.

Our Iranian experts translate these warnings as signifying a decision by Tehran to intervene in the Gaza conflict if Hamas faces military extinction. Iranian officials are meanwhile trying to enlist Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah to the Hamas cause. But if neither is proactive enough to meet Tehran's expectations, the Iranians may decide to go for direct action

Iran's calls to arms fall on deaf Syrian and Hizballah ear

Our military and intelligence sources report that this view began to gain ground in Washington and Jerusalem in the second half of this week. It was supported by three significant moves:

1. The trip made by Saeed Jalili, chairman of Iran's national security council and its senior nuclear negotiator, to Damascus, Beirut and Ankara.

According to those sources, he put before Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a selection of military options which Damascus was asked to pursue if Israeli persisted in its offensive against Hamas. One was to move the Syrian army to its Golan border.

Jalili explained that neither Tehran nor Damascus could afford a Hamas defeat, because it would cancel out their strategic gains from the 2006 Lebanon war, reflecting negatively on Hizballah and Syria's standing in Lebanon.

The Iranian official pointed to Israel's alarming military build-up on its northern borders. Iranian intelligence was certain, Jalili said, Israel was there waiting for an opportunity to attack Hizballah or Syria.

Assad was his usual noncommittal self. He bent only far enough to send his foreign minister Walid Moallem out with a statement that Syria was concerned by Israel's heavy call-up of reserves without cause ? unless they were poised for aggression against Hizballah or Syria as well as the Gaza Strip.

2. No sooner had Jalili exited Damascus than Iran's Majlis (parliament) Speaker, Ali Larijani, arrived.

One of supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's closest confidants, the Speaker went from talks with Assad to meet the Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shelah. Together they formulated a collective strategy for Iran, Syria, and the radical Palestinian organizations against Israel. n Beirut, Jalili held the same conversation with the Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Rocket salvo denied by Hizballah's Nasrallah

3.Nasrallah, who delivers fiery speeches nightly since the Israeli offensive began, declared after meeting the Iranian official: "We are prepared for every possibility and every aggression. The Zionists will discover that the war they had in July was a stroll in the park compared with what we have prepared for a new aggression."

He was referring to the 2006 Lebanon War when Hizballah bombarded Israel with rockets for 33 days

Its leader had clearly been persuaded by his Iranian visitor that Israel was about to attack his movement and was gearing up for a counter-strike, possibly even a pre-emptive one.

4. The next morning, Thursday, Jan. 8, five 122-mm Katyusha rockets were fired into northern Israel from southern Lebanon. One hit the town of Nahariya, injuring two people.

Hizballah issued a statement denying its involvement.

According to intelligence sources, Hizballah took a direct hand in this attack, like the one that did not come off on Dec. 25, when brand-new Iranian rockets primed to fire at northern Israel were discovered and defused by Lebanese troops two days before Israel launched its offensive against the Lebanese Shiites' Palestinian ally, Hamas.

But Nasrallah is treading cautiously now - firing old rockets and quickly denying culpability.

Neither he nor Assad is in a hurry to be caught up in a clash with the Israeli army. But the pressure from Tehran is beginning to tell and will be intensified the further Israeli troops advance in Gaza and the harder Egypt squeezes Hamas.

For Mubarak, Hamas Is a Powerful Threat to Egypt and Must Be Crushed

If Egypt were not locked in mortal combat with Hamas, it is doubtful if Israel would have been allowed to battle Hamas so intensively for two whole weeks.

In 1982, Syrian president Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, slaughtered 25,000 Muslim Brotherhood extremists in the town of Hamma and the Tadmor prison in 1982, a calamity from which the Syrian branch has never recovered.

Since then, no Arab ruler has ever humiliated any Islamist terrorist group in the same way as 82-year old Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is now treating Hamas, because he believes that the Palestinian Islamists are a threat to his regime.

So intensely is the Egyptian ruler immersed in the campaign to destroy Hamas' military strength, that he has removed himself from Cairo to conduct it from his Sharm el-Sheikh palace in Sinai, shunning speech with anyone but his intelligence, military and security advisers.

While eschewing Assad senior's level of brutality, the Egyptian ruler has locked the Palestinian Islamists in the Gaza Strip and left them to the mercies of the Israeli army. Not only has he sealed the Rafah crossing into Sinai, he is withholding humanitarian treatment from Hamas casualties.

When two Hamas Damascus-based leaders finally turned up in Cairo Tuesday, Jan.6, to discuss a ceasefire, our Egyptian sources report the pair, operations chief Imad al-Alami and politburo member Muhammad Nasser, were handed a brusque message by Egypt's deputy chief of intelligence *Gen. Muhammed Kinawi.

They were told that henceforth, Hamas would not be allowed access to Egyptian statesmen or high officials - only military and intelligence officers. They must understand that the world had changed, along with the reality prevailing in the Gaza Strip. "Israel is now in the driving seat and handing out the dictates," said the Egyptian general. "You are not compelled to surrender to those dictates, but you must recognize the new situation."

He then issued the Hamas officials a deadline for responding to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, which met none of Hamas' demands for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the reopening of the Gaza crossings.

Mubarak is more than willing to throw Hamas to the wolves

In short, Mubarak chose to throw Hamas to the wolves and squeeze its leaders hard until they surrender.

Never before has any Arab ruler treated a Palestinian organization as ruthlessly as Mubarak. And none has every joined hands with the United States and Israel to bring one so low.

The Egyptian ruler's actions are guided by four motives:

1. His is bent on restoring Egypt to center-stage in the Middle East , a star role which faded in the past decade.

2. He hopes to push Iran and its allies off their regional pedestal, trusting to Hamas's humiliation at Israel's hands to achieve this.

3. The Egyptian-Israeli peace track will take precedence over the Tehran-led radical axis, with Saudi backing.

4. Most of all, according to our sources, the Egyptian president believes he is saving his country from the clutches of a dangerous upstart, Hamas, whose military strength has expanded to such monstrous proportions that it imperils Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Mubarak is quoted as refuting the claim that the Hamas fighting force is inferior to the Lebanese Hizballah. Look how long, he says, it is taking the mighty Israeli army, armed with an air force and tanks, to beat Hamas into submission. The Gaza Strip has been pulverized for two weeks and still Hamas has not buckled

The Egyptian ruler first decided Hamas was a threat to the Arab region in the second half of 2007, when its leaders turned the tables and began lording it over their hosts in Cairo.

Since Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and subject to its Shura council, its takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 provided the Brotherhood with an autonomous sovereign territory for building an independent militia.

Since the stability of the Mubarak regime is contingent on marginalizing the Muslim Brotherhood and isolating it from the levers of power, Hamas' rise in the Gaza Strip was a matter for the deepest concern in Cairo.

The hugely profitable Hamas-Bedouin tunnel empire

Immediately upon its seizure of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas built and expanded a mighty tunnel system for smuggling arms through Sinai into Gaza. It was extensive enough to pose a huge security menace - not only for Israel but Egypt too.

This subterranean stronghold branching out for hundreds of miles is protected by three Sinai Bedouin tribes, hired and armed with Iranian cash and weapons: The Tarabin, which have tribal territories in both North and South Sinai; the Tiyaha, which spreads far and wide across central Sinai. Both are of Palestinian origin. And the Azazmeh, which commands vast tracts of desert in northern Sinai, the Israeli Negev, Jordan and Syria.

Hamas recruited from among this 600,000-strong Bedouin population armed militias for securing its arms, personnel and money traffic through Egyptian Sinai.

While projecting the Gaza Strip to the West as a beleaguered Palestinian victim population, starved by an Israeli and Western embargo, Hamas has built its fortified tunnel system into one of the most prosperous business enterprises in the Middle East and a thriving arms trafficking route, which is administered and secured by Bedouin militias.

Hamas and the Bedouin both pull in huge profits.

The single division of Egyptian forces deployed in Sinai is no match for the better-armed Bedouin militias and has learned to stay clear of their lands. Every Israeli effort in recent years to destroy the tunnels was offset by the Bedouin who soon built new ones.

The powerful Bedouin militias' control of territory up the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and their command of Sinai's smuggling networks recently began to jeopardize Egypt's maritime economy and the Canal cities' wellbeing.

The Azazmeh tribes brought to the Hamas-Bedouin smuggling empire a second system of routes straddling the entire region. It is able to serve fellow terrorist organizations including al Qaeda, who use the service to transfer fighters, arms, forged documents and money to and from every corner of the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Mubarak lives in hope that Israel will finally eradicate Hamas. No mean task. The Egyptian army well then set about destroying the Bedouin militias and their smuggling domain.

Can the IDF break Hamas' fighting motivation?

Most military pundits agree that the Israel's Gaza operation is nothing like the 2006 Lebanon War. In the broader sense this is true. The differences are undeniable.

The Israeli Defense Forces which invaded Gaza Saturday night, Jan. 4, is not the same army as it was then. It is well-trained, its various arms are well-integrated, it is fighting according to a prepared script after practicing urban warfare at a mock Palestinian village in the Negev. The high command, under its post-Lebanon War chief of staff, Lt.Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, shares a unity of purpose, like the three politicians running the campaign? prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

They realize that the rocket launchers will be back when Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip so their first priority is to decapitate Hamas and choke off its rocket supplies.

Hizballah is more like a paramilitary militia, a belligerent arm of the extremist Iranian Islamic Revolution, whereas Hamas is a rogue Palestinian faction, a sort of hybrid between the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban of Afghanistan that seized power in Kabul and al Qaeda.

The American operational modes for overthrowing Taliban in Kabul in 2001 and ultimately defeating al Qaeda in Iraq would serve Israel better than the Hizballah model of 2006.

Five rockets from Lebanon strike northern Israel Thursday

8 Jan. After the first five rockets from Lebanon exploded in the Nahariya-Kabri district, early Thursday, Jan. 8, West Galilee police ordered people to stay under cover, like citizens in the south for the past month. One rocket went through the roof of a retirement home. Three inmates were injured and 11 went into shock. Most were fortunately at breakfast on the ground floor and will now be relocated. Israeli aircraft and artillery shelled the source of fire. Schools were closed in the area and public shelters opened.

In the south, Ashkelon,Ashdod, Sderot and Shear Hanegev took rockets from the Gaza Strip. There were no casualties. Three Israeli soldiers were killed Thursday, Jan. 8, raising the military death toll to nine in thirteen days of combat in the Gaza Strip

Israel tanks join air force strikes on Philadelphi corridor

8 Jan. In southern Gaza, tanks joined the massive Israeli air-artillery assault Israel launched Wednesday night to destroy Hamas' smuggling tunnels, as an Israeli envoy headed for Cairo to discuss a ceasefire.

Cairo gave Hamas an ultimatum to reply to its ceasefire proposals by Thursday. The Palestinian terrorist group was not expected to meet the demand.

US, Israel and Egypt were clearly working in harness. In New York, the US acted for the second time to block a UN Security Council ordering an unconditional ceasefire; from Cairo, Egypt shut off Hamas' diplomatic options, while Israel embarked on a military operation to pre-determine a key outco me of the Gaza conflict: Hamas' inability to rearm.

Leaflets dropped in advance by the Israeli air force warned the 30,000 dwellers in the targeted Rafah region to leave their homes. Hamas' Southern Brigade is deployed in this strategic sector of the southern Gaza Strip under the command of a high-ranking commander called Al-Attar. Its operatives tried and failed to stem the flight from the Yibne and Block O Rafah refugee camps and Rafah's Tel Sultan

Our military sources report the operation aims to finish off the smuggling system for good by clearing the critical 300 meters between Rafah and Philadelphi, where the openings to the thousands of smuggling tunnels are concealed inside buildings.

The war will continue until the “entire homeland of Palestinians“, from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean) is no more under occupation of the Zionist enemy, claimed vice chairman of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk in Damascus Jan 8th 2009. So when the peace is expected, asks the columnist?

 

Have an Good Year 2009, at least it begins with bad news.