Since the beginning of operation Pillar of Defense, 11 Palestinians have been killed. According to Arab sources, the IAF bombed targets in the Rafah and East Jabaliya. Aircraft dropped leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives” when further attacks begin. Meanwhile, three Hamas terrorists were killed while riding a motorcycle in Khan Yunis.
So far, some 200 rockets were fired at Israel this morning, with about 30 intercepted by the Iron Dome system, including between one (IDF version) and three (Hamas version) Fajr rockets fired at Tel Aviv.
It is widely expected here that after the funeral for the late Chief of Staff of the Hamas military wing Ahmed Ja’abri, the rocket launches will increase dramatically. And, despite the IAF’s efforts overnight, it appears that there are still more Fajr long-distance rockets left in the Hamas arsenal, one to three of which have been fired at Tel Aviv. It is quite conceivable that, sooner or later, Israel’s soft center will be reached, God forbid.
This will likely serve as a pretext for Israel to move in with infantry and armored forces.
The question is whether the IDF will choose to follow a plan resembling Cast Lead, which began with air strikes in late December, 2008, and proceeded with a ground invasion on January 3, 2009. On January 5, IDF forces began operating in the densely populated Gaza Strip. The operation resulted in close to 1500 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire).
The result has been a decreased rocket launching activity, which, because of developing Middle East politics and the competition among different Arab states and different terror organizations, has begun to increase early this year.
It is estimated that the sudden, sharp rise in rocket launches over the past week, followed the visit of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in late October, when he offered the Hamas government $400 million to develop the area. This irked the Emir’s next door neighbor, Iran, which feared losing its hold on Gaza, and gave the order to heat up the conflict with Israel.
Several officials, from MK Michael Ben-Ari on the extreme right to Chaim Ramon, formerly the Secretary General of Israel’s national trade union and a political king maker on the center-left, have both called, each in his personal style, for the IDF to forego a repeat of Cast Lead in favor of Defensive Shield (Homat Magen), which was a thorough cleanup of the Palestinian Authority’s area of government, following the March 27, 2002, suicide bombing at a hotel in Netanya.
Operation Defensive Shield began on March 29, with an invasion of Ramallah, complete with placing Yasser Arafat under siege in his compound, followed by a takeover of the six largest Arab cities, and their surrounding towns and villages: Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Jenin and Shchem. The IDF declared a strict curfews on the civilian population and went about restoring law and order.
During the fighting, 30 Israeli soldiers were killed (23 of them following a dubious order to avoid civilian casualties at all costs), and 127 were wounded. Altogether, 497 Palestinians were killed and 1,447 were wounded. About 7,000 Arab terror suspects were detained by the IDF, including 396 wanted suspects.
The result of that thorough operation has been a complete turnaround in the PA. The roots of terrorism were cut off, and the civilian population was given a chance to thrive. Despite the adverse effects of the world economic crisis, many Palestinians still experience prosperity, which has been showing, among other things, in a gradual reduction in the birth rate.
Presuming Israel is not about to re-take Gaza permanently, experts and commentators in Israel have been heartily recommending the latter option this morning.