|Israel Destroys Hamas Installation|
The surge against Hamas will be fought to “the bitter end,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has declared. Israel is now determined to undo the Hamas terror state that has emerged in Gaza, targeting all of its installations, tunnels, and infrastructure.
Hamas squads have lobbed thousands of rockets into southern Israel since it seized power in a coup against the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in June 2007. Once in power, Hamas established a Taliban-style rule, forcing secular Palestinians to abide by Islamic fundamentalist precepts, massacring supporters of the Palestinian Authority, and forging extensive military connections with Iran and its surrogate, Hezbollah. In the process, it has waged a daily war of rocket launches and terrorist attacks against nearby Israeli towns and cities.
Barak’s forceful “to the bitter end” remarks came as Israeli jets continue to pound terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and ground forces mass along the border. “This operation will be extended and deepened as we find necessary,” said Barak, adding, “Our goal is to strike Hamas and stop the attacks on Israel. Hamas controls Gaza and is responsible for everything happening there and for all attacks carried out from within the Strip. The goals of this operation are to stop Hamas from attacking our citizens and soldiers," said Barak.
Even as Israel wages it latest war, an unavoidable humanitarian disaster unfolds across all of Gaza. The 25-mile long strip is engulfed in smoke, sirens, screams, rubble, and the sheer madness of moment-to-moment survival in a war zone. It was something Hamas counted on. Hamas has located all its installations in the midst of dense civilian zones, including schools and mosques, and virtually inducted many of the ordinary population into its terror apparatus. Hence, the Hamas terror net and the population to a large extent have been interwoven. Indeed, Hamas replicated the Hezbollah model of a terrorist state in south Lebanon operating in complete fusion with civilian areas. Knowing this, Hamas never thought Israel would strike back for thousands of rockets launched daily. Nor did Hamas believe Israel would act when it revoked the six-month truce or “lull” brokered by Egypt. In fact, Hamas tore up the truce one day early to dramatically declare there would no let-up in hostilities. Then Hamas operatives launched scores of additional rockets into Israel to prove its point.
The realities have caused the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments to blame Hamas itself for this disaster. “Hamas could have prevented the massacre in the Gaza Strip,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Cairo. "We spoke to them and told them 'Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'" Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don't want it to be destroyed.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Gheit also attacked Hamas, saying the group had prevented people wounded in the Israeli offensive from passing into Egypt to receive medical attention. Hamas has often been accused of heightening the devastation against its own citizens as a propaganda ploy. "We are waiting for the wounded Palestinians to reach Egypt. They aren't being allowed to go through," Gheit said. When asked who was to blame for the dire situation in Gaza, the foreign minister replied: "Ask the party that controls Gaza." While Egypt has opened its side of the fence for medical emergencies, it has kept the border sealed for all other purposes including resupplying. Gheit added that a forthcoming Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo should call on Hamas to extend the truce. That meeting has been visibly slow in coming, Arab commentators have asserted.
In the Cairo press conference, Abbas also blamed Hamas for disrupting national unity talks that could have paved the way for general and presidential elections with other Palestinians on the West Bank. "We have warned of this grave danger," he said. "We talked to them [Hamas] and we told them, 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop,’ so that we could have avoided what happened."
It has been apparent to many in the Arab World that the West Bank, which has engaged Israel in far-reaching peace talks, including the recent Annapolis process, has experienced comparative prosperity and tranquility. Employment, economic expansion, and growth of civil society have dramatically telescoped in the past year, even in spite of dozens of onerous Israeli checkpoints. Many in the Arab world want to know why Gaza refuses the same progress and, in fact, have waged internecine war against the PA itself.
The open criticism of Hamas by Palestinian president Abbas and Egypt has caused a fiery response across the Arab media and in the Arab Street. Al-Jazeera TV and numerous other Arab satellite networks monitored by this reporter have mixed their coverage of gruesome civilian casualties with continuous reporting on the denunciations of Hamas by official Arab quarters. Rioters, legislators, and commentators alike in the Arab World have accused Egypt and the Palestinian Authority of “collusion” with Israel. In a combative interview on Al-Jazeera with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the correspondent repeatedly asked whether the Israeli attack has been greenlighted by Arab governments or the Palestinian Authority.
The schism grows wider by the hour. Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Ramallah, reported that senior figures had supported Abbas in his call on Hamas not to abandon the truce. "Not just Abbas, but people close to the circles of decision-making in key Arab states said that Hamas was warned that breaking the ceasefire or not keeping it would result in mayhem and bloodshed," she reported.
In a televised speech before thousands, Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah attacked Arab nations such as Egypt and Jordan. “There are some who speak of Arab silence, but this is wrong. There is full Arab cooperation, especially by those who have signed so-called peace agreements with Israel," he said. Nasrallah added, "We heard a high-ranking Egyptian leader cast the responsibility on the victim. Can we accept such things from Arabs? Casting the responsibility for this war on the Gaza resistance is embarrassing and saddening.” To this, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Gheit declared "Hezbollah has practically declared war on Egypt via several satellite stations. The Egyptian people reject and oppose this declaration.” He added, "Hezbollah wants there to be chaos in Egypt as there is in their country. I tell this man [Nasrallah]: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you. Your interest in creating chaos is not in the best interest of the area.”
Increasingly, the Gaza War is turning into a conflict about Iran and its surrogates. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are largely funded and armed by Iran. Woven into the regional tension is the Shia-Sunni divide and the fundamental extremism Teheran has cultivated throughout the region. Iran, its apocalyptic leadership and its nuclear ambitions are now seen as a threat in numerous capitals across the Middle East.
There is every indication that Israel intends to change the reality on the ground both for the security of its own citizens and with an eye toward its next challenge: a nuclear Iran. many think that’s next.
Edwin Black is the New York Times best selling investigative author of IBM and the Holocaust, Internal Combustion and his just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). More information about The Plan can be found at www.planforoilcrisis.com.