Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The First Gaza War

The First Gaza War has begun.

Israel has begun a punitive/rescue mission into Gaza in response to the capture of one of their soldiers by Palestinian terrorists:

Some Israeli troops crossed the border into southern Gaza, near the site of Sunday's militant attack in which Shalit was abducted. It was not immediately clear how many soldiers entered Gaza, though the army confirmed its soldiers were crossing the border. A number of Israeli soldiers had been in Gaza since Sunday's assault.

In the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, not far from the fence, armed militants took up positions across from the blaring headlights of Israeli vehicles, and Israeli attack helicopters hovered overhead. The roar of Israeli fighter planes reverberated throughout Gaza City.

The militants told residents to leave the area. They piled gasoline-soaked tires in the streets. Earlier, bulldozers blocked some of the main roads with piles of sand and dirt to try to slow down Israeli tanks.

Hamas forces are set up to defend their land rather than cooperate in capturing the thugs and freeing the Israeli soldier. The Palestinian gunmen will die trying to hold their land. And by telling civilians to get out of the way, they won't get a faux Stalingrad as at Jenin. This will be conventional warfare.

Israel is getting the advantage of dealing with a state-like entity with assets that can be harmed.

And Israel will have no responsibility for supplying water and electricity to the residents of Gaza when they pull back out.

I hope Hamas enjoys their new status of government. And the responsibility for cleaning up in the wake of their foreign adventures against the region's most powerful state--perhaps in time for the Second Gaza War.

And how long before the Palestinians of the West Bank decide a three-state solution is better than tying their fate to the Gaza anchor dragging them down?

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in thinking the Israelis would blitz their enemies in a short conventional fight. The Israelis have not hammered the Hamas gunmen. Instead, the Israelis are putting their troops into static position inside Gaza that will allow the Palestinians to attack them at their convenience. And military activity by the Israelis appears to be all thunder and no lightning:

Witnesses reported heavy artillery shelling near the long-closed Gaza airport outside of Rafah. Warplanes flew low over the strip, rocking it with sonic booms and shattering windows.

Fighter jets repeatedly fired missiles at open fields in northern and southern Gaza in a show of force, the military said. Two missiles hit empty Hamas training camps, witnesses said. Separately, Israel attacked a rocket-making factory in the area.

Wow. Sonic booms and striking empty fields. That will make Hamas cry uncle. And the two actual attacks noted did not require an Israeli ground presence inside Gaza. The Israelis should have assaulted and killed as many Hamas gunmen as they could in a short operation that takes advantage of the window of opportunity provided by the kidnapping of their soldier.

Before long, this window will close and we will hear the whining about a new Israeli occupation and see grimly concerned Euros nodding their heads in agreement.

And as long as the Hamas thugs don't kill their prisoner, the Israelis will feel compelled to keep their troops inside Gaza, where they will be targets of attack by Hamas and so-called human rights groups. In time, the Israelis will retreat and it will look like a defeat. Even if the Hamas thugs eventually release the soldier, the terms and any Israeli casualties in this incursion will make it look like Hamas won.

This should have been a conventional punitive operation playing to Israel's strengths. But that isn't how it is working out.