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June 28, 2006
Gaza Incursion Gains Ground

The IDF gained important tactical positions east of Rafah this morning, allowing Israel to control more of the southern border of Gaza, while it also captured an airstrip in Dahaniyeh and bombed northern Gaza where Palestinian terrorists often launch Kassam rockets into Israel. The manuevers show that the IDF has taken the time to think its incursion through for strategic as well as tactical purposes, cutting off the escape routes from Gaza into Egypt:

Earlier in the day, the IDF took control of the abandoned airport in Dahaniyeh and the town of Shuka in southern Gaza in a move to cement their foothold in areas east of Rafah, a city on the Egyptian border.

The area of Dahaniyeh represents a strategic control and observation point over the area of Rafah and the southern Gaza Strip. So far there has been one incident of gunfire and anti-tank missile fire at the forces, but no injuries or damage were reported. ...

Armored personnel carriers were stationed outside northern Gaza, and were expected to move in later in the day.

The Israelis appear to have a much larger invasion planned than first thought. Originally, pundits surmised that the IDF had wanted to just find their kidnapped soldier, and assumed that their intel placed him in or around Rafah. However, if the Jerusalam Post has its information correct, the IDF will hit Gaza in the center and the north once Israel has the southern egress routes into Egypt sealed off -- effectively trapping Palestinian fighters between the IDF and the Mediterranean.

The Israelis appear serious this time about delivering the war for which the Palestinians voted when they elected Hamas to govern them. Hamas certainly has given them the provocation the voters wanted by attacking into Israel and kidnapping Gilad Shalit. With Gaza no longer occupied by Israel, it gives them a much easier target to attack on this invasion; the Palestinians no longer have the settlements as a bargaining chip against full-scale war.

This incursion comes as the world media reports that Hamas has agreed to an "implicit recognition" of Israel, but the details show that it does no such thing:

The military moves came as Hamas executed a dramatic shift in policy to reach an agreement that implicitly recognises Israel. The militant Palestinian group’s U-turn could see the Hamas-led Government — anathema to Israel and the West — replaced within weeks by a national unity coalition.

As the military wing of Hamas took joint responsibility for kidnapping the Israeli soldier, its political wing was ending its power struggle with Mr Abbas by apparently accepting a national unity plan that the President had threatened to put to a referendum. ...

Hamas has long advocated the destruction of Israel, but the plan calls for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza territories captured by Israel in 1967 — implicitly recognising Israel’s existence in the rest of historic Palestine.

However, the original document, drawn up by Palestinian prisoners from all factions, does not mention a two-state solution or Israel’s right to exist. Its already ambiguous language may also have been watered down in recent talks.

The document that Hamas has apparently accepted does not implicitly recognize Israel, nor does it limit resistance to the "Zionist enemy" to the post-1967 territories, as some had reported earlier. As I wrote last week, the NCD does nothing but propose that all factions unite in their opposition to Israel rather than continue to fight each other. It delegitimizes any effort to find peace by tying all groups into one unit to fight Israel under one command. With Hamas' efforts this week to force military action, we can see exactly what purpose the NCD serves now.

Israel considers Hamas an enemy at war, and have announced that Hamas leaders involved in the attack and kidnapping of at least Gilad Shalit will be a fair target. That includes Khalid Mashaal, who reportedly ran the abduction mission from his offices in Syria:

Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Wednesday that Hamas's Syria-based leader, Khaled Mashaal, is a target for assassination for ordering the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip.

"He is definitely in our sights ... he is a target," Ramon told Army Radio. "Khaled Mashaal, as some who is overseeing, actually commanding the terror acts, is definitely a target."

Interior Minister and former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter said that the only reason Mashaal is not in an Israeli jail is that Israel, as an enlightened nation, has placed certain restrictions upon itself.

Well, that's not entirely the reason. The Mossad actually attempted an assassination once before, injecting Mashaal with poison in Jordan, but got caught before Mashaal died. King Hussein of Jordan refused to release the agents until Israel gave up the antidote, which it did and Mashaal survived. Netanyahu also released Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas spiritual leader, as part of the deal. The IDF caught up to Yassin seven years later in 2004, when they killed him in a 2004 Gaza air strike.

If the IDF gets another shot at Mashaal, pardoning the pun, you can be sure they will take it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 28, 2006 6:20 AM

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