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Belmont Club

The strike on Hamas

December 27th, 2008 - 3:50 pm

The Times Online reports that Israel carried out attacks on multiple Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. It says that several schoolchildren were also hurt in the attack.

One perfectly aimed missile demolished the Hamas-control-led Rafah police station. But the building next door was a school and several pupils were on the street outside when a huge explosion sent shards of shrapnel and concrete hurtling in all directions. Parents rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children.

The strikes on Gaza yesterday were unparalleled. Israeli warplanes screamed in from the sea across Gaza in wave after wave, pounding at least 30 security compounds in the strip controlled by the Hamas government.

At 11.30am Israeli time, the first wave of 60 F16s screamed low over Gaza, launching rockets at 50 targets. Israeli military sources said a total of 100 missiles were fired at Hamas police stations, command centers, training bases and illicit manufacturing warehouses.

In the second wave, 20 Israeli jets returned, following up intelligence received from drones in the skies over the Strip. They launched 50 missiles aimed almost entirely at militants who had come out with makeshift rockets to hit back.

The offensive took Hamas by surprise. The Islamic fundamentalist government had expected retaliation for the 200 rockets that Hamas and other extremist groups have launched into southern Israel since a six-month truce expired earlier this month. It had believed, however, that the attack would follow an Israeli cabinet meeting today.

The US blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire but also called for its restoration. The AP reported that

“The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza,” Rice said in a statement. “The cease-fire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza.”

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council [said] “The message from the United States is that Hamas is a terrorist organization that is firing rockets into Israel and they fired them onto their own people as well”

IDF photos provided to the Belmont Club by email show a number of the pre-attack photos of targets planners had intended to hit.  The photos are of training sites, intelligence and debriefing facilities, weapons storage areas and administrative headquarters. Some of the pictures are shown after the “Read More”.

CBS News reports that Barack Obama is monitoring the situation from Hawaii. “President-elect Obama is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza, but there is one president at a time,” said Brooke Anderson, Mr. Obama’s chief national security spokesperson.

It’s tempting to see the attacks as kind of one time Israeli security shopping expedition where it hoped to fulfill its wish list at one stroke — while George W. Bush was around to take the rap — and before the political windows of opportunity closed again. Hamas knows this. The target pictures shown above depict military facilities which are completely hardened with political and diplomatic armor. Physically, they are sitting ducks.

The BBC’s reporter in Gaza actually followed the strikes from his balcony 20 meters away from the target. “I have witnessed one of the compounds – which is 20m [yds] away from my house – I was standing on the balcony and I have seen the Israeli airplanes hitting the place. Some of my balcony was damaged and my kid was injured. Many people were injured inside their houses today. … Gaza has no shelters, it has no safe places. The Hamas security compounds are in the middle of the city – it’s not the kind of place where you see compounds outside the cities.”

The only shelter the BBC man — and the people of Gaza had — was the precision strike capability of the IDF.

Obama seems content to play along; and the phrase “there is one president at a time” can conveniently mean “don’t blame me”. But however damaging the attacks have been, they will not change the basic dynamic. Israel and Hamas are at war, though no one will admit it, and sooner or later, probably during the first months of BHO’s term, Hamas will retaliate. And the war will continue, however the diplomats avert their eyes to its existence, because wars have the unhappy tendency to continue until one side loses and the other wins.

I visited Sderot a couple of years ago very briefly. There’s a storage area behind the local police station where they keep all the Kassam fragments they recover. I took the “hi mom” video below. You can see the Kassam remnants piled up behind me and the market storefront that had been taken out by a hit the day before. That was a little after the 8/2005 mark on the chart showing the numbers of rockets fired from Gaza per month. It was easy for me to be breezy on the video; I didn’t have to live there. If one had to take the kids to school with those rockets coming down consistently, there might well be a demand for the authorities to do something. What does restraint mean in that context? Is it killing an equal or proportionate number of people on the other side or attempting to eliminate the attack capability of Hamas?

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The Kassam weather chart below (courtesy of Wikipedia)

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