Israel Attacks Tunnels, Hamas Fire Lower, Ground Action Expected
Israel continued to attack targets in Gaza today. The largest attack was a series of simultaneous strikes late in the day against the tunnels used to smuggle weapons and goods into Gaza from Egypt. Forty tunnels were attacked simultaneously by bunker busting bombs. The goal was to cut Hamas off from any additional supplies. It would seem Israel's attack was successful. This was a delicate operation. The distance between the targets and the Egyptian border was a mere 100 meters, in some points, but it seems that each large bomb carrying plane successfully dropped that bomb on its target.
More Hamas members were killed yesterday than expected, when the first missile landed in the midst of the Hamas Police Academy graduation ceremony, killing over 100 policemen in one location, including Hamas' police chief and his deputy.
In the meantime, Israel has been gathering forces for the next stages of the operation. Tanks and other armored vehicles filled the roads heading to Gaza in preparation for the expected ground attack. The army seems to be following its prepared plan. The army is ready for this attack and seems to believe this is the only way to bring about a long term change.
There was a marked decrease in the missile attacks today. No missiles fell on Sderot. Hamas did fire more than 20 rockets, including one that went all the way to Gan Yavne- east of Ashdod. Residents of Sderot ignored the advice of the army and opened their stores. It's not clear why the number of attacks dropped so dramatically. It is clear Hamas has been stunned by the attack and their command and control have been seriously disrupted. They have lost control of the streets and have not been able to communicate to the people. Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenzi reported to the cabinet that 50% of Hamas' launchers and supplies have been destroyed, but that still leaves large number of missiles that can be used by Hamas. Some analysts believe Hamas is holding back due to the realization the only thing that can stop an Israeli ground assault is international pressure; pressure that will only come if Hamas seems to be the victim.
Israel has been very proactive on the propaganda front, with both Livni and Ashkenazi giving endless interviews. Israel has also made sure it has had suffiecient interviewers available for the Arabic media, both Security Minister Avi Dichter and a number of IDF officers have been appearing in Arabic on Al Jazeera and other Arabic networks.
The Arab world continues to be divided about what has happened. Large scale demonstrations have broken out throughout the Arab world, but Egypt and to a lesser extent Jordan, have made it clear that Hamas is getting its just desserts. The Egyptians have clearly stated they warned Hamas to renew the ceasefire. Abbas, who was visiting Mubarak, joined the chorus of those saddened by the deaths, but blamed Hamas. Iran has, of course, been stoking the fires of the Arab street-- both focusing on Israel and even more so, focusing on Egypt.
A storm is expected to blanket Israel from tomorrow evening that should last through Wednesday. The inclement weather may or may not put a damper on IDF plans. The one thing that one can expect from the IDF under Barak is the unexpected.