Operation Cast Lead Thurs Jan 1st, 2009

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After a day in which they hit 25 terror-related targets, the IAF continued to go after the terror infrastructure, hitting three government buildings and reportedly injuring 25 people. One of the targets was the home of appropriately named Hamashole leader, Abu Anas Chabana, but it seems he was not home at the time. At least we left our name and number after the beep.

An IDF ground operation looms due to a shrinking number of targets to hit from the air and top Hamas leaders showing their willingness to “martyr” themselves like they expect of their people deep in hiding. The IDF says it is prepared for such an operation, which has been over two years in the making.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has stated that Hamas will agree to “talk about all issues – and seriously” if three conditions are met: ending of the “Zionist aggression,” lifting of the “siege” and opening of all the Gaza crossings. I assume by issues, he means things like Hamas’ stated aim to destroy Israel.

In other news, classes have been canceled in all towns within 40 km of the Gaza Strip, and a UN council debate on Gaza has ended without a vote since the Libyan-drafted resolution was “unbalanced” (much like their leader).

Oh, and a Happy New Year!

Updates (Israel time)

8:55AM: The terrorists continue to fire rockets into Israel – 2 Qassams  landing in the Eshkol region and a Grad striking the Be’er Sheva area already this morning.

9:00AM: A bit of news that escaped my radar yesterday: Ma’an reports that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah – claimed responsibility for some rockets fired at Israel.

9:12AM: Some important facts and figures (from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs site):

  • 900,000 Israeli residents are under immediate threat due to the 40-km range of the rocket fire out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Since December 27, 285 rockets and mortars have landed in Israel, including 51 Grad rockets.
  • 4 Israelis have been (deliberately) killed
  • 12 Palestinians from Gaza have been transferred to Israeli hospitals for assistance
  • 2500 tons of humanitarian aid has been transferred to Gaza

9:22AM: An informative website showing all the aid being transferred to Gaza from all sources (hat tip: Elder of Ziyon).

10:45AM: 2 more rockets landed in the Negev a short time ago.

12:00PM: IAF planes have bombed more Gaza Strip targets.

12:05PM: Chairman of the Egyptian Foreign Relations Committee and former ambassador to Israel Muhammad Basyouni:

“Where are the Hamas leaders now, when Gazans are being killed? They are all down in shelter.”

12:10PM: Barak’s chief of staff has stated that we have no intention of toppling Hamas, but rather create a deterrent balance that will reduce the threat of rocket fire at the western Negev.

While Hamas maintain their aim to destroy Israel, continue to enjoy support from the likes of Iran, and preach the glories of martyrdom, I don’t think they will be deterred.

12:18PM: The palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports that IDF troops briefly entered Gaza this morning, killing a Hamashole – referred to in the headline as a “Hamas fighter” but as an “activist” in the report itself. I guess by referring to him as an “activist” they can count him as a civilian casualty.

12:28PM: A Grad rocket scored a direct hit on an 8-floor Ashdod building.

1:00PM: 2 rockets have exploded in Ashkelon. No word yet on casualties.

1:10PM: A few minutes ago, a fourth rocket struck Ashkelon.

1:18PM: Here’s a CNN article on Israel’s embracing of Web 2.0 to gets its message across. I just don’t know what took Israel so long.

Meanwhile, Hamas have sent SMS messages to Israeli cell phones. Needless to say, it isn’t “Happy New Year!”

1:19PM: That’s what I’m talking about: The IAF just struck the Gaza rocket launching squad which fired a Grad rocket at Ashdod.

1:45PM: Here is something for those of you who think Hamas is firing nothing more than pesky “homemade projectiles.” Or for those of you who do not want to read the whole thing:

Qassam

1

Qassam

2

Qassam

3

Qassam

4

Grad Oghab Fajr-3 / Ra’ad
Width: ~80cm ~180cm ~200cm
Diameter: ~60mm ~150mm ~170mm 122mm 230mm 240mm
Weight: ~5.5kg ~32kg ~90kg 72kg 360 kg 408 kg
Payload: 0.5kg 5-9kg 10-20kg 18kg 70 kg 45 kg
Max. Range: 3-4.5km 8-9.5km 10-12km 15-17 km 18-20 km 34-45 km 45 km

Meanwhile, I live 46km from Gaza, so I am 1km out of range.

2:55PM: A number of rockets have been fired at Israel since my last update (I say it so matter-of-factly), with today’s tally standing at over 20. Thankfully, no-one has been killed or wounded, but some have been treated for shock.

Meanwhile, the IAF earlier struck the houses of 3 terrorists, used to store rockets, explosive devices, and anti-aircraft missiles.

Think about that for a second. These terrorists hide explosive devices in their houses, with scant regard for the safety of their families and neighbors.

3:05PM: The IAF bombed the Gaza home of senior Hamashole Nizar Rayyan, an advocate for the renewal of suicide bombings. No word yet on whether he met his 72 raisins.

3:15PM: Here is Rayyan in livelier times.

3:45PM: 4 other palestinians were reportedly killed in the strike on Rayyan’s home, including members of his family (who will, no doubt, be counted as “civilians” in UNRWA’s statistics).

3:46PM: Ma’an is claiming 9 of his family members were killed in the strike.

4:05PM: Thanks to commenter Jay for drawing my attention to this:

Rayan, one of the most hardline Hamas figureheads, was killed at the house of one of his four wives in the north of Gaza.

4:45PM: Joke of the day: Hamas have threatened to retaliate for the killing of arch terrorist Nizar Rayyan. As if they are not throwing everything at us already?

4:58PM: Ma’an News reports:

Local witnesses told Ma’an that Rayan had not evacuated his house despite a warning from the Israeli military.

The deaths of his family members is on his head.

5:12PM: Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion have begun preparing bomb shelters. Tel Aviv? That is surreal.

Meanwhile, Jameel reports that the rocket range is 60km – contrary to my 1.45PM update. If he is correct, I am also in the firing line.

5:15PM: The BBC, true to form (hat tip: Tim):

Hamas considered Mr Rayyan to be a political leader, but he often wore a military uniform and was close to the group’s armed wing.

Until now, political leaders have not been killed.

6:05PM: Some more Qassams and Grads fired in to Israel. I seriously cannot keep up.

6:15PM: Today’s rocket tally stands at more than 40.

6:35PM: Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated Israel’s rejection of the French-proposed “humanitarian cease-fire” proposal – since there is no humanitarian crisis.

“There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce,” the Foreign Ministry quoted Livni as saying in a statement. “Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the Strip … and has even been stepping this up by the day.”

Livni noted that Israel was providing 70% of the electricity used in Gaza and had allowed 300 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Strip.

8:00PM: Since my last update, the IAF bombed the home of senior Hamashole terrorist Nabil Amrin. And surprise surprise:

A series of secondary explosions detected following the air strike confirmed that Amrin’s house in the Sheikh Raduan neighborhood of Gaza City contained a large weapon and ammunition cash.

No word yet on whether he was sent to hell.

8:20PM: Another great editorial from Canada, this time from the National Post (hat tip: John).

We have a great deal of sympathy for the ordinary people of Gaza. Israel’s attacks this week on terrorist infrastructure within the tiny, heavily populated area are undoubtedly extremely hard on them: No power, no water, little food and the constant threat of injury or even death as Hamas officials and operatives use them as human shields. But remember: All that was ever required to forestall these attacks was for Palestinians to stop their violence against Israelis. If the rockets and mortars had stopped falling at any time in the past seven years, Israel would not have felt compelled to launch Operation Cast Lead.

To be sure, Israel’s reaction to the constant deluge of missile fire from Gaza has been harsh, but necessarily so. Moreover, now that Israel has begun its retaliation it would be unwise to halt before Hamas is permanently incapacitated. Among the many reasons Hamas felt emboldened to attack Israel first was the Jewish state’s recent reluctance to counter assaults on its people and territory with punitive force. Thus Israel is also justified in rejecting an internationally proposed ceasefire. If southern Israel is to know “quiet” again, Israel must rout Hamas so as to deter it and other Islamic extremists from resuming their assaults.

When the Israel Defense Force last engaged jihadis in battle — in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 – it was too tentative. It attacked only from the air throughout most of the four-week campaign, sent ground troops in too late and refused to let them combat forcefully, then grasped at the first international ceasefire that came along. The result was that Israel withdrew without shattering Hezbollah, its enemy in that confrontation, which emboldened Islamic militants across the Middle East. They perceived the Israeli government’s timidity as a sign Israel no longer had the stomach to defend itself or its people.
This time, Israel cannot display similar frailty. And so far it has not.

We doubt Hamas’s claims that over 300 Gazans have been killed in fighting so far. In other recent “massacres” — Jenin, Bethlehem and Qana, for instance — Palestinian and Hezbollah estimates of the number of dead turned out to be grossly exaggerated. Israel’s opponents have mastered such techniques as digging up graves and stealing bodies from morgues to inflate the carnage on the ground, and much of the Western media has reported casualty figures uncritically.

Nor are we much moved by Hamas’s claims that most of the dead are women and children. Again, Israel’s enemies know what tugs at the heartstrings of Westerners and are not above adding young corpses to the piles so as to shock and appall European and North American viewers.

Still, even if we accept Hamas’s death tolls and concede that many innocent civilians have died in Israel’s air raids, the fault for these deaths lies clearly with Hamas.

International law recognizes a country’s right to defend its borders and population, with violence if necessary. It also places the legal blame for civilian deaths on combatants who attack a sovereign nation, then scurry back to bases hidden among the regular population.

Were Israel to desist now, before Hamas has been dealt a crippling blow and before the Israeli government has once again proved its mettle, Palestinian militants would soon be firing rockets at Israeli schools, homes, shops, offices and public buildings again. Nothing would have been gained and the lives lost on both sides would have been in vain.

As unpleasant as it may be for Israel to persist, it must forge on if Operation Cast Lead is to have any long-term benefits.

9:25PM: Israeli television reported that there are 60 terror attack threats.

9:35PM: Danish police have reportedly arrested a man suspected of shooting and wounding two Israelis at a shopping mall – a 27-year-old Dane born in Lebanon of palestinian parents.

10:18PM: Airborne bacon alertAl Jazeera poll

al-jizz-poll

11:20PM: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered a closure on the West Bank until Saturday night.

11:55PM: I’m calling it a night. As usual, I ask that you please keep the brave soldiers and citizens of Israel in your prayers. And if you have appreciated my blogging and would like to contribute, please feel free to donate here:

Friday Jan 2nd – for latest updates, see here.

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