Thursday, April 17, 2008

Israel Mulls Broad-Scale Gaza War After Bush Visit


There is a heightened sense in the security establishment that a broad-scale ground incursion inside the Gaza Strip is necessary this summer to deal a severe blow to Hamas's infrastructure, sources in Jerusalem told the Jerusalem Post.

According to the sources, the incursion - similar but more difficult than Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002 - would not take place until about a month or a month-and-a-half after US President George W. Bush's planned visit in mid-May. The timing would also place the operation in the middle of summer, considered an optimal time for this type of operation, according to the Post.

The sources said there was recognition that such an operation would be extremely costly, both in terms of soldiers and Palestinians killed. Nevertheless, the operation is being considered out of a widespread sense that the current situation in the Gaza Strip cannot continue festering indefinitely.

In recent days, significant changes in the nature of fighting in the Gaza Strip have been noticed by the Israeli military command, Yediot Aharonot said Thursday. Hamas and the organizations that are inspired by it and operate under its wing scaled back the rocket fire and are now focusing on firing and attacking along the border fence around the Strip.

Machinegun and sniper fire, mortar shells, as well as attacks and clashes initiated along the fence by the Palestinians also grant the terrorists a blatant military advantage: They are able to determine the timing, location, and circumstances of their clashes with Israeli troops. Wednesday morning’s clash that left three soldiers dead was further testament to this fact, Yediot's Ron Ben-Yishai said.

"It is very possible that the clash and its grave outcome are a direct result of the fact that Gaza’s terrorists drew lessons from the Nahal Oz attack. They learned the IDF’s response patterns and the unequivocal orders issued to troops urging them to aspire for contact," he added. "Therefore, two terrorists approached the fence in order to plant explosive devices. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Palestinian force remained well-hidden and was lying in wait. Once the relatively small IDF force entered, the terrorists directed lethal fire at it and immediately left the area. This modus operandi is virtually identical to the one adopted by Hezbollah in Lebanon until the Second Lebanon War," Ron Ben Yishai concluded.

He also said that there is no reason for amazement or surprise on the Israeli part. What has been happening in the Gaza Strip is a process that is particularly typical to an ongoing confrontation where two sides are engaged in an undecided war of attrition along a static frontline. "

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