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February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

Despite three weeks of intense Israeli bombardment, Hamas’s military capabilities inside the Gaza Strip are still largely intact, top Hamas leaders claimed. “We admit our government institutions suffered a big blow, but even the Israelis admit our military capabilities have not been hurt,” said Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’s so-called military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades.

“All bases used to store rockets, munitions, explosives are still there. Our Hamas fighters are still there,” Abu Abdullah declared. Other top Hamas leaders, including Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to Hamas in Gaza, made similar comments to this column.

Israeli air strikes targeted both symbolic Hamas institutions, such as government buildings, and the group’s military infrastructure, including rocket caches, police stations, explosives factories, and about 200 of an estimated 600 smuggling tunnels between Gaza and neighboring Egypt. Although the IDF will not officially comment on the percentage of Hamas’s military infrastructure that was wiped out, Israeli defense sources said Hamas lost about 30 percent of its rockets and a sizable portion of its explosives development program.

But the sources said Hamas’s estimated 6,000-man force trained in Hizbullah-like guerrilla tactics is still largely in place along with the majority of the group’s underground bunkers. In addition, 60 percent of its rocket arsenal and most of its weapons caches are well-stored. Crucially, many components of Hamas’s military wing are stored underground and remain safely tucked away.

The IDF only launched two portions of a planned, three-stage assault on Gaza. The first stage was Israel’s continuing aerial bombardment of Hamas targets, which the terror group admits dented its government infrastructure and which Israeli sources said resulted in some damage to the group’s military capabilities. The second stage began about two weeks ago, with some ground troops entering Gaza, taking up peripheral positions in central and northern Gaza and mounting some small offensives and special operations within Gaza City and select northern Gaza camps.

But defense sources say to deal a decisive blow to Hamas’s ability to attack Israel, the IDF needed to embark on an extensive, large-scale ground operation that would clean out central and northern Gaza of Hamas’s intact military wing. Now that a cease-fire has been announced, it seems Israel will not continue its offensive – meaning Hamas’s military infrastructure will remain largely intact.

Lebanese PLO Groups
Were Given Green Light

Just prior to the cease-fire, Palestinian organizations in Lebanon were given a green light by Iran, Syria and by the Iranian-backed Hizbullah militia to escalate tension along Israel’s northern border if a truce was not reached or if Israel’s continued war in Gaza began to severely damage Hamas, according to informed Israeli defense sources.

Iran, Syria and Hizbullah were concerned that if a cease-fire was not reached, the IDF would commence the third phase of its offensive – a large-scale ground effort to sweep clean Gaza’s terrorist infrastructure. The sources said Syria, Iran and Hizbullah gave a green light to Palestinian groups in Lebanon to attempt to escalate tensions along the northern border with more rocket and mortar fire or with shootings along the Israel-Lebanese border.

But the sources said Israel doesn’t believe either Hizbullah or its Syrian patron was looking to engage in any direct conflict with the IDF. More likely, Hizbullah, backed by Iran, was trying to prompt Israel into fortifying its northern border with Lebanon in a bid to draw some Israeli forces out of fighting the Iranian-backed Hamas regime in Gaza.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “Schmoozing with Terrorists.”

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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