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July 24, 2014 2:15 pm

Israeli Combat Reaping Good Results

avatar by Michael Widlanski


The IDF began a ground invasion into Gaza on Thursday (illustrative photo). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel got several indications early Wednesday that Hamas terrorists are in serious trouble and that the  battle against them is proceeding better than is usually perceived:

·  About 150 Hamas fighters and agents surrendered en-masse to Israeli troops in Khan Yunis, in the southern portion of the Gaza Strip near Egypt’s border;

·  Overnight, there was a big decline in rocket attacks, and Israeli officials said  Islamic Jihad, a partner of Hamas, had used up its rocket arsenal, though Hamas still had many;

·  The Obama Administration notified Israel that the Federal Aviation Administration had rescinded its surprising ban on U.S. flights to Israel;

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·  Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al has changed some of his negotiating stance and is relying on PLO Mahmoud Abbas to present his demands to the U.S.

“It is clear that the people in Khan Yunis felt the ground burning under their feet and realized they were soon going to die,” asserted Channel 10 army field reporter Or Heller. He said it seemed  that Hamas had not expected the Israeli army (IDF) to attack as strongly in Khan Younis as in areas closer to Israel.

Hamas-supervised health officials in Gaza say that more than 700 Gazans have been killed in the fighting, but there is no way to verify or check the claim and Hamas scrupulously refuses to announce or identify its own combat losses.

Israel has lost 32 soldiers and several civilians, and IDF authorities say that between 200-300 Hamas fighters have been killed.

“This is the number from three of five IDF divisions in Gaza, and it is a significant number, although we do not know if the figure of 500 is included in the overall figure of 800 given by the Palestinians,” observed Israel TV commentator Ehud Yaari.

Meanwhile, inside Israel there is growing criticism of the Obama Administration for its ties to Hamas and for the FAA flight ban to Israel—even from the Israeli Left.

“This is an outright act of betrayal,” declared Former Brigadier General Ephraim Sneh, a leading Labor Party politician who said he did not believe the FAA ban was just an administrative reaction.

“I could say a lot more, a lot more,” said Sneh, “but I am holding myself in check.”

Israeli aviation officials said there was clearly no danger to flights from Hamas rockets, but that the Obama Administration had exploited the situation to put pressure on Israel to accept a “humanitarian cease-fire.”

Many Israelis, however, remain very opposed to an early cease-fire. Former Israeli Army Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin urged Israel to continue its land offensive in Gaza to root out all Hamas tunnels and to cripple its military command structure.

Yadlin, an ex-air force general and now head of the Institute of Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, said it would be a mistake for Israel to accept an early cease-fire. Israeli officials say they do not want to re-set Israeli rule over the entire Gaza Strip, but they already found more than 40 tunnels from Gaza into Israel, and have not yet sealed off the full length of these tunnels.

In addition, there have been growing voices in Israel to re-examine some of the very strong restrictions on Israeli firepower. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, said concern for Palestinian civilians should not outweigh concern for Israeli soldiers.

Under present policy, Israel announces air strikes with phone calls, loudspeakers and even “knocking” by dropping dummy bombs on the target before releasing explosives.

“This is a war where we have not shown any surprises, and everyone knows when we’re coming and where we’re coming from,” observed Alon Ben-David, an Israeli TV military commentator.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/ Simon and Schuster.  He teaches at Bar-Ilan University , was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ‘s Ministry of Public Security, and was the Schusterman visiting professor at University of California, Irvine for 2013-14. Widlanski has been a reporter, correspondent and editor at The New York Times, Israeli Army Radio, Cox Newspapers/The Atlanta Constitution and The Jerusalem Post.

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