Saturday, April 19, 2008

Carter to meet Hamas, an increasingly formidable challenge for Israel

Contributed by Anonymous

"Tel Aviv - Traditionally known as an underground organization that specialized in suicide bombings and crude homemade rockets, Hamas has refashioned itself into a more formidable military outfit since taking over the Gaza Strip last summer.

Repeated infiltration attempts into Israeli territory, including the Wednesday ambush that killed three Israeli soldiers, increasingly suggest that Hamas is emulating the tactics of Hizbullah – adding a new dimension to the conflict with Israel. The border ambush helped push the casualty toll this year of Israeli soldiers killed inside Gaza to eight, on pace with the annual death rate inflicted by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon in the late 1990s.

"They have a new tactic now," says Michael Oren, a military historian and author of the recent book, "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present."

"Rocket fire was popular with the Palestinian public but frowned upon by the international community, whereas drawing soldiers into Gaza and getting them into ambushes, they get the credit for killing Israel soldiers and they don't get the animus of world.... This is the next challenge for Israel."......

"[Gazans] feel that this is a serious resistance movement, not just the game of boys," says Eyad Sarraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. "People think that Israel will think one hundred times before they dare to come into Gaza.... Everything that happens now, people are reminded of Hizbullah tactics.".......

To be sure, Hamas still has a ways to go before it attains the fighting sophistication and weapons stockpile of Hizbullah.

"In many ways they remind us of Hizbullah, but they're not Hizbullah yet," says Amos Harel, the military correspondent for Ha'aretz who co-authored a book on the Lebanon war. "You shouldn't exaggerate the proportion, but there is a change."

At the same time, the Israel-Hamas standoff in Gaza involves a different geopolitical terrain than Lebanon.

Israeli hawks like Likud lawmaker Yuval Steinitz have called on the government to order an all-out invasion of the Gaza Strip to strike at Hamas before it becomes "Hizbullah II."......"

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