At 10:30PM local IDF forces began an operations in three sectors in Gaza which, if successful, would divide Gaza into 4 manageable slices, bypassing the populated areas for now, in what is described as a “limited operation” against “Hamas tunnels.”
The operation is as we had predicted it, a limited operation aimed at isolating the populated regions and disrupting Hamas’ operations and communications. It is unlikely that the IDF will want to roll tanks into populated areas and it remains to be seen whether Hamas’ much vaunted “increased capability” against Israeli armor will materialize. The rockets from Gaza has apparently stopped during this operation.
Coincident with the Israeli government’s announcement of this operation, the Egyptian government announced “the possibility for hundreds of civilian deaths in Gaza” must be blamed on Hamas for being unwilling to agree to any truce, which the Arab powers have brokered and which Israel had agreed to. The Egyptian Government has diplomatic relations with Israel and has been actively brokering peace between Arab Palestinians and the State of Israel.
On July 14th Avignor Leiberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, reportedly told the Norwegian Foreign Minister that a truce fire agreement set to occur on July14th did not happen “because Qatar and Turkey” urged Hamas not to consider the deal. Hamas had denied that they had been consulted, a fact denied by the Egyptians and the Israelis. However, while the Qataris and the Turks have consulted, there is no evidence that the Qataris urged Hamas to reject any deals.
Some are saying that the IDF is crossing the border “at all points” in order to find tunnels, while forces are only moving further into Hamas territory in less populated areas. We are working to connect with people on both sides to get more detailed information.
We had issued a War Warning for the area. That Warning has materialized. We are issuing a War Report- war has broken out on the ground on a limited basis between Israel and Hamas.
A low probability War Warning remains in effect for the region. War Warning General War, Israel Versus Hamas and Hezbollah- there is a low but credible probability that Hezbollah, operating from Lebanon and Syria, will launch rocket and other artillery attacks against Israel which could prompt air attacks and limited ground attacks aimed at securing their population from such threats. The danger of a more general war is extremely low at this time as Egypt is embroiled in its own political instability thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood and Syria is militarily weak. However there are remote possibilities that the factions in Syria and Egypt agree to unite and push for some sort of military response.
For Arabs, this invasion elicits rage as they consider the Arab civilians which must necessarily suffer as a result of this, but this does not mean they “side” with Hamas. Hamas is viewed as a destabilizing influence and a “bad actor”, their “antics” undermining Arab efforts to create a Palestinian State with international recognition. As long as Hamas is in power, many Arabs have confided to me, the case for a Palestinian State is weakened.
If Israel can quickly eliminate Hamas and if Fatah can regain control over Gaza this can de-escalate and a pathway for peace may be possible. But if Israel’s invasion is in depth, takes a long time, and creates civilian casualties many Arab leaders will find it politically untenable to do anything but defy Israel and possibly even push some into real or covert conflict with the State of Israel.
Currently the battle appears, from a distance, to be rather one-sided but if Israeli forces are not entering heavily populated areas Hamas will not deploy their alleged “new” anti-tank capability. Their aim is to lure the IDF into populated areas where close combat is necessary and where air support is impossible.
Meanwhile, Israel has indicted three unnamed young men (names not released) for the murder of a an Arab Palestinian youth in apparent retaliation for the murder of three Israeli youths, the murder of which indirectly sparked this round of conflict. Immediately after the discovery of the murdered teens, Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Hamas of murdering them. Hamas responded by beginning a rocket assault against Israel, which has gone on for 9 days.
There have been no arrests in the case of the three murdered Israeli teens. It has not been established that Arabs, let alone Hamas members, were responsible, although Hamas has since declared that “every Israeli, everywhere” is “a legitimate target”.