The third war with Hamas continues. The first war was in 2009 and lasted three weeks. The one in 2012 went on for eight days and did not involve the use of ground troops. Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, two years after Israel relinquished control of Gaza as a good will gesture. Hamas defines itself as existing mainly to destroy Israel and drive all Jews out of the Middle East. Hamas began as a branch of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood and the continued presence of any Egyptian Islamic terrorists in Gaza has made Egypt increasingly hostile to Hamas. In fact, for the first time, most Egyptians are backing Israel in their fight with Hamas and Egyptian media openly encourage Israel to destroy Hamas completely. Egypt cooperates by sharing intelligence and sealing the Egyptian border with Gaza. But up until 2013 Egyptian officials tended to ignore the smuggling of weapons (especially rockets from Iran) into Gaza. This enabled Hamas to stockpile thousands of rockets, all in preparation for the final battle with Israel that will make Hamas the ruler of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. At least that’s the plan. For the current war Hamas is trying to keep the Israeli air attacks going for as long as possible. Hamas believes that the new Palestinian civilian deaths each day will increase world media and diplomatic pressure on Israel to make peace on Hamas terms and allow Hamas to declare victory (at least in Arab and Moslem eyes). Israel is determined to avoid this. Hamas is also hostile to any peace efforts put forward by Egypt, which Hamas considers an ally of Israel.
Day 12 of the war with Hamas sees Israeli ground troops advancing into northern Gaza. So far over 350 Palestinians have died in Gaza, most of them Hamas members and the rest civilians. Five Israelis have died, two of them soldiers operating inside Gaza. Heeding Israeli warnings over 100,000 Gaza residents have fled their homes, mostly to stay with friends and family in southern Gaza. At least 50,000 Gazans are in UN run shelters. The UN has been as diligent as they are allowed to be in keeping Hamas gunmen and rockets out of these shelters. Israel earlier caught Hamas hiding rockets in an unoccupied UN building and the UN warned Hamas that actions like that incidents like that make relations between Hamas and the UN more difficult. As a result of incidents like that the UN is less frequently taking the side of Hamas in the conflict. Meanwhile the Gazan population is becoming more open about their anger at Hamas. It’s not just the continued Hamas calls for civilians to voluntarily risk death by remaining in areas Israel has warned they will bomb. Gazans are also angry at how poorly Hamas has run Gaza. This is quite obvious in how badly the Hamas run medical facilities in Gaza are handling the nearly 3,000 people wounded by the Israeli bombing. Hamas leaders and gunmen are given priority and that means many women and children are hardly treated at all. There have been some public and very physical protests by Gazan civilians against Hamas over this.
So far Israeli warplanes have hit over 2,500 targets in Gaza and 44 percent of these strikes were against rocket launchers. Hamas has fired over 1,400 rockets at Israel so far, and would have fired more if Israeli bombing and artillery had not destroyed over a thousand rockets on the ground. Over 60,000 reservists have been mobilized and thousands of these are now operating inside Gaza.
Over a thousand air strikes were aborted because too many civilians were in the area. Israel would warn civilians with leaflets or even automated phone calls, to clear out to avoid a bomb strike. This was often to destroy rockets that were stored in residential areas. It was also common to find Hamas rockets stored in schools and mosques. These were attacked as well, especially when Hamas efforts to persuade civilians to serve as visible (from the air) human shields failed.
Hamas has long been a big believer in using civilians as human shields (often against their will). Israeli soldiers are not allowed to use civilians as human shields, even to protect Israeli soldiers from attacks by Palestinians. Hamas, on the other hand, encourages the use of human shields, and describes, in their training manuals, how best to do it. Lots of dead civilians are essential to Hamas success (in getting enough Western countries threatening Israel and forcing ceasefires and concessions). Much of what Hamas knows about using human shields it learned from Hezbollah up in Lebanon. There, Hezbollah has been using human shields for decades. Back in 2006 Israel released video, and other evidence, showing how Hezbollah used civilians as human shields during rocket attacks on Israel. Hezbollah's attitude in response to this was largely one of, "so what?"
Hamas leaders regularly seeks to avoid Israeli attack by surrounding themselves with human shields (Palestinian women and children) and increasing their efforts to keep hidden from Israeli intelligence. Gaza residents are always being accused by Hamas of spying for Israel and are regularly executed (often in error). Hamas really isn’t sure who is spying for Israel, only that such spies do exist and report the location of Hamas leaders at every opportunity. Many of these spies are not working for Israel as much as they are fighting Hamas. While Hamas can still generate cheering crowds to celebrate the latest Hamas victory, most Gazans feel otherwise and quietly wish the Hamas leadership dead. On the plus side, Hamas gains more popularity among Palestinians, especially those in the West Bank and anywhere outside Gaza, for all these rocket attacks. This puts Fatah, the long-time ruling party in the Palestinian Authority (and still considered corrupt and ineffective) at a disadvantage.
Hamas sees these wars more as media campaigns than military ones and they see victory achieved by getting more Palestinians killed. In the aftermath of the 2009 war Hamas lied regularly to exaggerate the nature and extent of their losses. For example, Palestinians claimed that the 22 day long 2009 War indiscriminately killed civilians. Hamas claimed that 1,434 Palestinians were killed. Hamas further claimed that only 235 were Hamas fighters, while another 239 were police officers, and 960 of the dead were civilians. Hamas admitted that most of the "civilians" were men, mostly of military age. They also claimed that 121 of the dead civilians were women and 288 were children (defined as anyone under 18). It goes downhill from there. The Arab world unites behind these lies, and encourages all other Moslem nations to join them. Many Western nations, seeing a cheap way to ingratiate themselves with the Moslem world, join in. One thing Hamas and Fatah agree on is that over half a century of failed Palestinian (and Arab) efforts to destroy Israel is not their fault. They insists that Arabs are victims of a conspiracy by Jews and the West, to sustain Israel and keep the Arabs down. This is the core of Palestinian propaganda on all their media, and now accepted by many leftist supporters in West. Just another conspiracy theory, but one with thousands of heavily armed believers, who will kill if they get an opportunity. And trying to defend yourself against this is called oppressing the Palestinians.
Israel says that the ground offensive will last two weeks or more. One reason for this is the need to destroy the large number of tunnels Hamas has been digging from Gaza into Israel. So far Israeli troops have found 34 of these. This was made possible because the tunnel entrances could easily be found on the Gaza side. The exits on the Israeli side often did not exist because the tunnel builders stopped digging before they hit the surface on the Israeli side. The tunnel was only opened on the Israeli side when it was time to send armed men into Israel to kill Israelis or, if possible, take Israeli soldiers prisoner.
Before the ground invasion Israel knew of the Hamas tunnel operation but had only found four one them in the last two years. In March Israeli troops found one that was 1,800 meters long and extended 300 meters into Israel. Hamas dismissed this find as a tunnel that had been abandoned because of a partial collapse. But the Israelis said the tunnel had been worked on recently and equipment, like generators, was found in it. The tunnel was lined with reinforcing concrete and was 9-20 meters (30-63 feet) underground. Three of these tunnels were near the town of Khan Younis and apparently part of a plan to kidnap Israelis for use in trades (for prisoner or whatever) with Israel. Israeli intelligence knew Hamas leaders were discussing a much larger tunnel program, involving dozens of tunnels. Most had no exits in Israel, yet. Available monitoring equipment was slow and often ineffective if there was no one actively working on the tunnel below. Hamas had been building and “stockpiling” these tunnels for at least two years and most of the completed ones could only be detected inside Gaza, where their entrances were. These were also hidden, at least from aerial observation. Israeli intelligence had discovered some of these entrances by detecting the Hamas activity around the entrances (entering and leaving, removing dirt). Hamas tried to hide this activity and Israel knew this meant they probably succeeded in some cases. Thus before the Israeli troops went into Gaza recently, commanders had lots of information of where to look. Israeli combat engineers had been trained to destroy the tunnels, which was not easy because Hamas had booby-trapped some of them.
The ground offensive is also out to capture lots of Hamas fighters and take them back to Israel for questioning. Israel sees intelligence gathering as one of their most effective “weapons” and a wide variety of techniques (electronic eavesdropping, informants, aerial and satellite photos and prisoners) are used to obtain an “information advantage” over the enemy.
Because of some decisions earlier in the year Israel has been able, in the week after the war began, to increase the number of Iron Dome anti-rocket missile batteries by 43 percent (from seven to ten). Israel has long wanted fifteen batteries of Iron Dome but that was going to cost more than Israel could afford. Earlier this year the U.S. agreed to help out and Iron Dome production was immediately increased. Earlier, between 2009 and July 2014, Israel received eight Iron Dome batteries and about two thousand Tamir missiles. Even so over a thousand Tamir missiles had been used (the end of June 2013) since the system entered regular service in 2011. The latest war with Hamas began on July 8th as Hamas ceased even pretending to halt the rocket attacks (by non-Hamas Islamic terrorists) on Israel coming out of Gaza. Hamas began firing a lot more rockets and the seven Iron Dome batteries in service were the primary defense against a rocket hitting an inhabited area. One additional battery had already been delivered but was not activated yet.
Israelis wanted more Iron Domes batteries. So the air force and the manufacturers went to work. Inventory was checked and it was found that there was enough equipment in stock (newly manufactured, used for development work or almost completed) to quickly equip two more batteries. Because there were already seven batteries active and personnel had been selected, trained and assembled for the new eighth battery it was calculated that by prying away a few key people from each of the eight existing batteries, activating reservists with Iron Dome experience, using some contractor personnel (civilians who had worked on Iron Dome even if they had not done so while in the military) and calling in some military personnel with similar skills (maintenance, operations) to those used by Iran Dome crews. By speeding up the training and certification of the eighth battery as well as the newly formed two batteries all could be in action soon (as in a week or less). The eighth and ninth batteries went online by the 11th and the tenth battery was active by the 15th. Military and contractor personnel. Instructors and the new crews had to work round the clock for over a week to make it happen. More manufacturing personnel were brought in to speed up production of the Tamir missiles and components for the radars and fire control systems. Iron Dome is nearly 90 percent effective in destroying rockets headed for inhabited areas.
In Israel there has been some violence among young Arab Israeli men in support of Hamas. This has consisted of rock throwing and the use of a few fire bombs.
July 19, 2014: Using one of the many tunnels Hamas has dug under the border fence into Israel, eight Hamas gunmen, wearing Israeli uniforms entered Israel and ambushed some Israeli soldiers, killing two of them and wounding several others. One Hamas man was killed by return fire and the others retreated.
In southern Egypt (Al Wadi Al Gedid) Islamic terrorists attacked an army checkpoint with assault rifles and RPGs, killing 21 soldiers. This was mainly due to one of the RPG warheads hitting the checkpoint ammunition supply, causing explosions that caused most of the casualties. Elsewhere in Egypt (Sinai) terrorists blew up a portion of a natural gas pipeline. This is the fifth such attack in 2014.
July 18, 2014: In Gaza an Israeli soldier was killed, apparently by friendly fire (a tank shell).
July 17, 2014: Early in the day Israeli ground troops began moving into northern Gaza. This was not unexpected because more Israeli troops have been arriving at or near the border over the last few days. Hamas has refused calls to agree to a ceasefire.
Israel and Hamas did agree to stop shooting at each other for five hours, beginning at five o’clock in the afternoon, so that the UN could move food and other supplies (especially medical) for the 1.8 million civilians in Gaza.
Using one of the many tunnels Hamas has dug under the border fence into Israel, 13 Hamas gunmen entered southern Israel but were quickly spotted and killed by an air attack. There were two other incidents were small groups of Hamas gunmen emerged from tunnels and attacked Israeli soldiers. Israelis found that some of the invaders carried tranquillizer pills and handcuffs, indicating that their mission was, if possible, to take Israeli soldiers prisoner and get them back to Gaza alive. Such prisoners can be used to get hundreds of Palestinian Islamic terrorists released from Israeli jails.
July 15, 2014:
A rocket from Gaza damaged a second (out of ten) power line delivering electricity to Gaza. Repair crews were not sent because of the risk of injury from continuing rocket attacks. With two power lines out about 20 percent of Gazans are without power. Bomb damage has cut electrical power to many more Gazans because local power lines were brought down.
The first Israeli fatality occurred near Gaza when mortar shell fragments hit a civilian volunteer (a rabbi) who was delivering food to reservists recently sent to the Gaza border.
In Egypt (Sinai)
seven Islamic terrorists and one soldier were killed in two separate clashes.
July 13, 2014: Israeli naval commandos went ashore in southern Gaza and destroyed a facility used for launching long range rockets at Israel. Four of the commandos were wounded but the mission was accomplished and all the commandos returned to Israel.
A rocket from Gaza damaged one of the ten power lines that delivers electricity to Gaza. Repair crews were not sent because of the risk of injury from continuing rocket attacks.
On the Syrian border a shell landed on the Israeli side starting a small brush fire. Nearby Israeli artillery returned fire.
One bit of good news for Hamas was the Saudi pledge of $53 million to the Palestinian Red Crescent (Red Cross for Moslems) to aid Gaza residents in their time of need. Hamas is hoping their battle with Israel will elicit more such generous donations.
July 11, 2014: In Egypt (Cairo) two demonstrators were killed during violent protests against the 2013 removal of the elected and pro-Moslem Brotherhood president. Elsewhere in Egypt (Sinai) Islamic terrorists fired mortar shells at an army checkpoint killing one soldier. But most of the shells landed in a nearby residential neighborhood killing seven civilians and wounding 25.
July 10, 2014: In Egypt police seized twenty 122mm rockets smugglers were attempting to get into Gaza via one of the few smuggling tunnels not yet found and destroyed by Egyptian security forces. This year the Egyptians turned against Hamas by going after the smuggling tunnels and destroying over a thousand of them.
Elsewhere in Egypt (Sinai) a soldier was killed and four wounded by a roadside bomb.
The Israeli Air force, as it had predicted earlier in the year, had improved its ability to find targets and attack them since the 2012 war with Hamas. Thus in two days the air force has launched as many air attacks as they did during eight days in 2012.
July 9, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb. In Cairo three police stations were bombed but there were no casualties. In the Cairo suburbs there was an explosion in an apartment apparently being used by Islamic terrorists to build and store bombs. At least two of the Islamic terrorists were killed during these explosions.
July 8, 2014: In Gaza Hamas fired one of its M-302 rockets at Israel for the first time. This is the first time one of these has been fired at Israel since 2006, when Hezbollah fired 24 from Lebanon. Four of those actually hit residential areas, but some were seen to fall apart in flight. This indicated poor design or construction. The M-302 is unguided and its main asset is its long range (160 kilometers). This time around Israel has an anti-rocket system that fires interceptor rockets at any rockets headed for inhabited areas and this Iron Dome system has already shot down at least one M-302. Hamas is not believed to have many M-302s, perhaps a few dozen. That’s because it has to be broken into pieces to be smuggled in via the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza. The M-302 is large (over five meters/16 feet long) and heavy (1.2 tons with a 175 kg/386 pound warhead). The warhead is believed to be designed to do maximum damage to personnel (Israeli civilians). At least three M-302s were fired today and all missed. On this first day of this war Hamas fired at least 120 rockets into Israel.