Friday, September 07, 2007

'Time for offense in Gaza'

From Ynetnews, 5/9/07, by Yaakov Lappin:

Former Mossad director : IDF has wide range of options to tackle Qassams

The IDF must stop responding defensively to the daily rocket attacks terrorizing Sderot, and take up an offensive posture, former Mossed chief, and Chairman of the International Institute for Counter-terrorism (ICT) Shabtai Shavit told Ynetnews on Wednesday.

"The way to deal with this is to talk less about defense and go towards attack. Without going into details. I can say with certainty that the IDF has a very wide selection of options to activate, enabling it to go from a state of defense to attack, where terrorists will be forced to hide," Shavit declared.....

...and also from Ynet news, 5/9/07, by Neta Sela:

Former Chief of Staff Yaalon says Israel should cut off water and electricity, saying it is unacceptable that a nation supply such things to an enemy

Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon called Wednesday for increased pressure on Gaza, following continued rocket fire on Israeli community in the vicinity, noting at conference for strategic thinking that Israel does not have the ability to influence the area using soft power....

...When asked his opinion of whether electricity and water should be cut to Gaza in reaction to the Qassam attacks (a question that arose at a Wednesday cabinet meeting), Yaalon answered in the affirmative, stating "it's unacceptable that we are supplying these things to the enemy.

"The question is, how is it that we disengaged from Gaza and are still responsible for its fate?" he continued. "I fear that this ambiguity is caused by ethical confusion, as well as a practical misunderstanding of the situation. We disengaged, but did not. For some reason, the occupation did not end."

According to Yaalon, if Israel disconnects electricity and water from Gaza, the finger of blame should be pointed at Hamas. "Hamas, not Israel, is the one who is causing Palestinians to go without their daily bread," he said....

...and from Ynet news, 5/9/07, by Ron Ben-Yishai:

Strike Gaza now
Only wide-scale IDF operation will curb rocket fire

....a large-scale military operation. That is, overtaking the entire Gaza Strip or large parts of it for a limited time. Such an operation would allow the IDF to destroy Hamas' existing infrastructure pertaining to manufacturing the Qassam rockets and its general combat capabilities.

We would also be able, through wide-scale arrests and interrogations, to create an intelligence infrastructure that would enable us to quickly hit Qassam cells even after the soldiers leave Gaza. We would also block smuggling above and below the Philadelphi Route through a deep-water tunnel that would be dug from the sea to the Rafah Crossing.

Later, we would go in and out of the Gaza Strip again, utilizing relatively small units, in order to maintain the achievements of the initial large-scale operation.

They're scared
The advantages of such an operation are clear: It would not completely curb the rocket fire, but would significantly minimize the ability to manufacture and launch rockets and boost the price tag for every rocket attack. Still, the government is not quick to order the IDF to enter the Strip. Even the defense minister and army chief are not recommending a large-scale operation at this time. Why?

Barak and Ashkenazi are concerned that taking over the Gaza Strip or large parts of it would also light the touchpaper on the northern front and lead Israel into an all-out war on three fronts before it's ready for such war.

They are concerned that an operation in Gaza would result in the suspension of contacts with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and would weaken his status on the Palestinian street, which is currently being boosted at great effort.

They are also scared of heavy IDF losses at a time when the country is still licking the wounds of the Second Lebanon War. They don't want to force the IDF to invest another two divisions in the Strip – including both regular and reserve forces – for a period of months, which will exact a high casualty toll. There are also fears over the fate of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Yet mostly, top security and cabinet officials are concerned about a further blow to the IDF's image and the State of Israel's deterrent power should the Qassam fire be renewed during or after the operation.

Despite these considerations, it is completely clear that out of all the options, a large-scale military operation is the most effective way to minimize the rocket fire and attacks originating from the Strip. In the long run, this is also the way to minimize the overall Hamastan threat on Israel or possibly topple the entire Hamas regime, on all this entails.

Moreover, if it doesn't embark on a large-scale Gaza operation now, Israel may end up doing it in the near future, but under much worse conditions. This could happen because of a lethal attack on Sderot that would force the IDF to embark on such operation hastily, for example, or because winter weather conditions will disrupt the Air Force's ability to assist such operation. Also, the international conditions, during the international peace conference or after it, would portray Israel as the party attempting to disrupt Washington's peace efforts.

In light of all this, we should start getting the move underway. First, submit an ultimatum to Hamas that includes an unequivocal demand to stop immediately the rocket fire on western Negev communities. Such an ultimatum would also prompt the international community to act and exert pressure on Iran and Syria, which instruct Hamas.

If the ultimatum is rejected and Qassams continue to fall, the government should order the IDF to enter the Gaza Strip. The initial incursion must be undertaken with very large forces and utilize a modus operandi that would split Hamas' ability to defend against such attack. Developments in the first few days would determine the operation's success over time and shorten the IDF's stay in the Strip.

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