According to a late Saturday night report of the Washington Post (US close to deal with Israel and Hamas to pause conflict, free some hostages), the US is close to brokering a deal between Israel and Hamas that would free “dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza,” in exchange for interrupting the IDF charge toward the southern Gaza Strip for five days.
You’ll notice that Hamas is not asking, as it has done earlier, for the release of its prisoners held in Israel, not even women and adolescent terrorists in exchange for the kidnapped women and children. Only a 5-day pause in the fighting.
The reason is that while the Hamas leaders couldn’t care less about its members who are in Israeli security prisons, they do care very much about their own hides.
Kan 11 reported Saturday night, citing IDF sources, that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and the head of its army, Mohammed Deif, have fled south during the war from Gaza City to the Khan Yunis area. The IDF noose is tightening around their necks, and a five-day break in the Israeli onslaught would shine a ray of hope for the two arch-murderers.
According to the WP, a six-page set of detailed terms the two sides are expected to approve requires “all parties to the conflict” to stop the fighting completely for at least five days, allowing for “50 or more hostages” to be released in small groups every 24 hours.
The report did not specify the names of the hostages who will be released, and how many of them are included. Currently, there are 239 hostages in the hands of several groups, including Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and some criminal families.
The report also does not specify that Hamas would take responsibility for the actions of the non-Hamas groups, neither regarding the release of hostages nor the interruption of the fighting.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Israelis on Saturday concluded a five-day protest march to Jerusalem, urging the Israeli government to make hostage-release its highest priority, never mind the costs. At this point it’s not clear where the families of the hostages end and where the familiar, extremist “Kaplan armies” begin. The slogans sure sound like remnants from the interruption campaign we all thought had ended on October 6.
THIS WAR COULD STILL BE LOST
Back to the proposed deal at hand: one factor is certain: during the 5-day ceasefire, Egypt plans to increase significantly the flow of “humanitarian” goods into the Gaza Strip, and while 20 trucks a day can be monitored rather easily for contraband, a thousand trucks a day cannot be.
In short, the report reeks of a plot to damage Israel’s war plans in critical ways: give the Hamas leadership a chance to escape to Egypt, enhance the material currently in Hamas’s hands, and, last but not least: take advantage of the army units switching from a dynamic to static mode to start murdering them with sneak attacks, exactly the way it was done during the 2014 war.
As long as infantry and armored units are on the go, they are on full alert and guerilla forces don’t stand a chance to hit them badly. Since the start of the war, almost every encounter with Hamas has resulted in dozens of killed terrorists with relatively low casualties on the IDF side.
But when the same IDF units are grounded and must rely on surveillance and vigilance in place of the sheet force of mowing down everything in their path, the equation will inevitably start turning in favor of small bands of well-armed terrorists who will start taking down IDF soldiers like ducks in a shooting gallery.
There’s one more crucial element: will the IDF be able to kickstart its assault anew after a 5-day interruption? Adrenaline is a funny hormone, in that it is activated by very strong emotions: fear and rage are the most common. As long as the soldiers in the field are pushed to produce copious amounts of adrenaline while they’re on the attack, nothing can stop them. But in five days all of that changes, and the fear and rage decline, making room for more complex feelings which, frankly, are less useful in war. This is true about individual soldiers but also about the military system. Five days later, the same infantry and armored units who crushed through Gaza will now be sluggish and consequently more vulnerable. It would take them at least two more days to get back into the swing of their initial attack.
All of these are unspoken benefits for Hamas, whose leader have so far proven to be smarter, more creative, and far more ruthless than their Israeli opponents. They are now betting on the IDF not recovering from its siesta, and on the war concluding in a status quo: Israel rules northern Gaza, and Hamas maintaining its control over southern Gaza.
DON’T TRUST AMERICANS BEARING GIFTS
The Biden administration couldn’t care less. As the WP put it Saturday night, “The administration’s highest priority … has been freeing the nine Americans and one permanent US resident among the hostages.”
As President Biden put it two weeks ago, “I think we need a pause, a pause means time to get the prisoners out.”
And by prisoners, he means the kidnapped Israelis with American citizenship. Everything else, including a sharp rise in IDF casualties as a result of the five-day ceasefire, can go to hell.
In short, Israel is walking into a trap from which it may not be able to release itself.