E.R. Campbell said:Seven weeks would take us about the end of the year 2012, by our calendar.
E.R. Campbell said:According to YNet, an Israeli online news source, Home Front Command asks local authorities to prepare for seven-week fighting period: "In discussions held between Home Front Command Chief Major-General Eyal Eisenberg, regional commanders and heads of local authorities in the center and in the south, authorities have been instructed to prepare for a seven-week period of combat as part of Operation Pillar of Defense and to prepare emergency supplies, accordingly."
Seven weeks would take us about the end of the year 2012, by our calendar.
As Battlefield Changes, Israel Takes Tougher Approach
By ETHAN BRONNER
Published: November 16, 2012
TEL AVIV — With rockets landing on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Friday and the Egyptian prime minister making a solidarity visit to Gaza, the accelerating conflict between Israel and Hamas — reminiscent in many ways of so many previous battles — has the makings of a new kind of Israeli-Palestinian face-off.
The combination of longer-range and far deadlier rockets in the hands of more radicalized Palestinians, the arrival in Gaza and Sinai from North Africa of other militants pressuring Hamas to fight more, and the growing tide of anti-Israel fury in a region where authoritarian rulers have been replaced by Islamists means that Israel is engaging in this conflict with a different set of challenges.
The Middle East of 2012 is not what it was in late 2008, the last time Israel mounted a military invasion to reduce the rocket threat from Gaza. Many analysts and diplomats outside Israel say the country today needs a different approach to Hamas and the Palestinians based more on acknowledging historic grievances and shifting alliances.
“As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters — as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact,” Rami G. Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut, wrote in an online column. “Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.”
But the government in Israel and the vast majority of its people have drawn a very different conclusion. Their dangerous neighborhood is growing still more dangerous, they agree. That means not concessions, but being tougher in pursuit of deterrence, and abandoning illusions that a Jewish state will ever be broadly accepted here.
“There is a theory, which I believe, that Hamas doesn’t want a peaceful solution and only wants to keep the conflict going forever until somehow in their dream they will have all of Israel,” Eitan Ben Eliyahu, a former leader of the Israeli Air Force, said in a telephone briefing. “There is a good chance we will go into Gaza on the ground again.”
What is striking in listening to the Israelis discuss their predicament is how similar the debate sounds to so many previous ones, despite the changed geopolitical circumstances. In most minds here, the changes do not demand a new strategy, simply a redoubled old one.
The operative metaphor is often described as “cutting the grass,” meaning a task that must be performed regularly and has no end. There is no solution to security challenges, officials here say, only delays and deterrence. That is why the idea of one day attacking Iranian nuclear facilities, even though such an attack would set the nuclear program back only two years, is widely discussed as a reasonable option. That is why frequent raids in the West Bank and surveillance flights over Lebanon never stop.
And that is why this week’s operation in Gaza is widely viewed as having been inevitable, another painful but necessary maintenance operation that, officials here say, will doubtless not be the last.
There are also those who believe that the regional upheavals are improving Israel’s ability to carry out deterrence. One retired general who remains close to the military and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that with Syria torn apart by civil war, Hezbollah in Lebanon discredited because of its support for the Syrian government, and Egypt so weakened economically, Israel should not worry about anything but protecting its civilians.
“Should we let our civilians be bombed because the Arab world is in trouble?” he asked.
So much was happening elsewhere in the region — the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, the Syrian civil war, dramatic changes in Yemen and elections in Tunisia — that a few rockets a day that sent tens of thousands of Israeli civilians into bomb shelters drew little attention. But in the Israeli view, the necessity of a Gaza operation has been growing steadily throughout the Arab Spring turmoil.
In 2009, after the Israeli invasion pushed Hamas back and killed about 1,400 people in Gaza, 200 rockets hit Israel. The same was true in 2010. But last year the number rose to 600, and before this week the number this year was 700, according to the Israeli military. The problem went beyond rockets to mines planted near the border aimed at Israeli military jeeps and the digging of explosive-filled tunnels.
“In 2008 we managed to minimize rocket fire from Gaza significantly,” said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman. “We started that year with 100 rockets a week and ended it with two a week. We were able to give people in our south two to three years. But the grass has grown, and other things have as well. Different jihadist ideologies have found their way into Gaza, including quite a few terrorist organizations. More weapons have come in, including the Fajr-5, which is Iranian made and can hit Tel Aviv. That puts nearly our entire population in range. So we reached a point where we cannot act with restraint any longer.”
Gazans see events in a very different light. The problem, they say, comes from Israel: Israeli drones fill the Gazan skies, Israeli gunboats strafe their waters, Palestinian militants are shot at from the air, and the Gaza border areas are declared off limits by Israel with the risk of death from Israeli gunfire.
But there is little dissent in Israel about the Gaza policy. This week leaders of the leftist opposition praised the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military commander, on Wednesday. He is viewed here as the equivalent of Osama bin Laden. The operation could go on for many days before there is any real dissent.
The question here, nonetheless, is whether the changed regional circumstances will make it harder to “cut the grass” in Gaza this time and get out. A former top official who was actively involved in the last Gaza war and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it looked to him as if Hamas would not back down as easily this time.
“They will not stop until enough Israelis are killed or injured to create a sense of equality or balance,” he said. “If a rocket falls in the middle of Tel Aviv, that will be a major success. But this government will go back at them hard. I don’t see this ending in the next day or two.”
A version of this article appeared in print on November 17, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Israel, Battlefield Altered, Takes a Tougher Approach.
Israel bombards Gaza Strip, shoots down rocket
GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with about 300 airstrikes Saturday and shot down a Palestinian rocket fired at Tel Aviv, the military said, widening a blistering assault to include the Hamas prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.
The intensified airstrikes came as Egyptian-led attempts to broker a cease-fire and end Israel's four-day-old Gaza offensive gained momentum. The leaders of Hamas and two key allies, Qatar and Turkey, were in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials, and the Arab League was holding an emergency meeting.
The White House said President Barack Obama was also in touch with the Egyptian and Turkish leaders. The U.S. has solidly backed Israel so far.
Speaking on Air Force One, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that the White House believes Israel "has the right to defend itself" against attack and that the Israelis will make their own decisions about their "military tactics and operations."
The Israeli attacks, which Gaza officials say left 12 dead, came as Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets toward Israel, including two aimed at the commercial and cultural center of Tel Aviv. Rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem this week mark the first time Gaza militants have managed to fire rockets toward the cities, raising the stakes in the confrontation.
The widened scope of targets brings the scale of fighting closer to that of the war the two groups waged four years ago. Hamas was badly bruised during that conflict, but has since restocked its arsenal with more and better weapons, and has been under pressure from smaller, more militant groups to prove its commitment to fighting Israel.
Militants have unleashed some 500 rockets against the Jewish state.
Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports that, despite vague talk of a cease-fire, Hamas managed to hit a southern Israeli city with four rockets, and retaliation continued unabated.
A massive explosion rocked the Gaza City soccer stadium this morning and speculation was that the target was a rocket launching site. The Israeli bombing campaign expanded into other areas and included the government infrastructure. The cabinet headquarters was flattened.
There were reports of civilians among the casualties. At least half of the Palestinians killed in the conflict so far have been civilians, including at least eight children and a pregnant woman.
In a psychological boost for the Israelis, a sophisticated Israeli rocket-defense system known as "Iron Dome" knocked down one of the rockets headed toward Tel Aviv, eliciting cheers from relieved residents huddled in fear after air raid sirens sounded in the city.
Associated Press video showed a plume of smoke rising from a rocket-defense battery deployed near the city, followed by a burst of light overhead. The smoke trailed the intercepting missile.
Police said a second rocket also targeted Tel Aviv. It was not clear where it landed or whether it was shot down. No injuries were reported. It was the third straight day the city was targeted.
Israel says the Iron Dome system has shot down some 250 incoming rockets, most of them in southern Israel near Gaza.
Saturday's interception was the first time Iron Dome has been deployed in Tel Aviv. The battery was a new upgraded version that was only activated on Saturday, two months ahead of schedule, officials said.
Israel opened the offensive on Wednesday with a surprising airstrike that killed Hamas' military chief, then attacked dozens of rocket launchers and storage sites. It says the offensive is meant to halt months of rocket fire on southern Israel.
While Israel claims to be inflicting heavy damage on Gaza's Hamas rulers, it has failed to slow the rocket fire. In all, 42 Palestinians, including 13 civilians, have been killed, while three Israeli civilians have died.
Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, Israel's southern commander, said Saturday that Hamas had suffered a tough blow.
"Most of their capabilities have been destroyed," he told reporters. Asked whether Israel is ready to send ground troops into Gaza, he said: "Absolutely."
Israel has authorized the call-up of as many as 75,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground operation. Dozens of armored vehicles have massed along the border with Gaza in recent days.
Israeli officials say they have not yet decided whether to send in ground troops, a decision that would almost certainly lead to heavy casualties on both sides.
Hamas claims that Israeli intelligence is based on a network of collaborators in Gaza. Officials said two Palestinians have been executed by Hamas' military wing for allegedly providing Israel with sensitive information. One man was shot twice in the head. Another body was tossed into a garbage bin with a gunshot wound to the head.
The violence has threatened the Mideast with a new war. At the same time, revolts against entrenched regional regimes have opened up new possibilities for Hamas. Islamists across the Mideast have been strengthened, bringing newfound recognition to Hamas, which had previously been shunned by the international community because of its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
A high-level Tunisian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem, drove that point home with a visit to Gaza on Saturday. The foreign minister's first stop was the still-smoldering ruins of the three-story office building of Gaza's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
"Israel has to understand that there is an international law and it has to respect the international law to stop the aggression against the Palestinian people," Abdessalem told the AP during a tour of Gaza's main hospital. He said his country was doing whatever it can to promote a cease-fire, but did not elaborate.
It was the first official Tunisian visit since Hamas's violent 2007 takeover of the territory. The West Bank is governed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Egypt's prime minister visited Gaza on Friday and a Moroccan delegation was due on Sunday, following a landmark visit by Qatar's leader last month.
Israel had been incrementally expanding its operation beyond military targets but before dawn on Saturday it ramped that up dramatically, hitting Hamas symbols of power.
Israeli defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential decisions, said military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz personally ordered the scope of the airstrikes to be increased.
Haniyeh's three-story office building was flattened by an airstrike that blew out windows in neighboring homes. He was not inside the building at the time.
Another airstrike brought down the three-story home of a Hamas commander in the Jebaliya refugee camp near Gaza City, critically wounding him and injuring other residents of the building, medics said.
Missiles smashed into two small security facilities and the massive Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, setting off a huge blaze that engulfed nearby houses and civilian cars parked outside, the Interior Ministry reported. No one was inside the buildings.
The Interior Ministry said a government compound was also hit while devout Muslims streamed to the area for early morning prayers, although no casualties were reported.
Air attacks knocked out five electricity transformers, cutting off power to more than 400,000 people in southern Gaza, according to the Gaza electricity distribution company. People switched on backup generators for limited electrical supplies.
In southern Gaza, aircraft went after underground tunnels militants use to smuggle in weapons and other contraband from Egypt, residents reported. A huge explosion in the area sent buildings shuddering in the Egyptian city of El-Arish, 30 miles away, an Associated Press correspondent there reported.
The Israeli military said more than 950 targets have been struck since the operation began.
On Saturday, more than 120 rockets slammed into Israel, causing damage to houses. About 10 Israelis were injured lightly, among dozens of others wounded since the start of the operation.
Despite the violence, Egyptian-led diplomacy was underway to bring an end to the fighting.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was meeting the leaders of Turkey and Qatar Saturday as well as Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to discuss details of a proposed cease-fire.
The Arab League also met Saturday to consider sending its chief Nabil Elaraby and a team of foreign ministers to Gaza in the coming two days to assess the situation and respond to humanitarian needs there, according to a draft memorandum obtained by the AP.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Saturday that during discussions with Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin late Friday, he suggested that Turkey, Egypt, the United States and Russia help broker a simultaneous cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
"It would be good if we could work on it rapidly to solve the matter within 24 hours, because the death toll is mounting," he said.
BrendenDias said:I do not believe Israel could negotiate peace with the surrounding countries. Hatred has been a reality over religion for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it will likely continue...
The question is from the point of view of Hamas what advanatage would they see coming from a cease fire?E.R. Campbell said:The Straits Times is reporting that President Obama (currently in Bangkok) says that while "Israel had a right to defend itself but ... it would be "preferable" to avoid an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza." Such avoidance, President Obama said, "would depend on the success of efforts by Middle East leaders to bring a halt to Hamas rocket fire into Israel."
I wonder if the Egyptian prime minister and Arab League delegates are telling Hamas in Gaza to cease firing on Israel; if they are, I wonder is Hamas is listening. :-\