Before I go to the heart of the matter, which is the ability of Hamas to re-establish its supply of Fajr and other long-range missiles…let me provide a clarification:
Had the IDF gone into Gaza last week, it would not have been for one of the operations I described yesterday with regard to re-taking Gaza either partially or in totality.
This had been made very clear: the goal would have been to remove additional rockets that could not be reached by air because of their placement in densely inhabited civilian areas. It was very difficult to witness the intense barrage of rockets that was launched at our civilians immediately prior to the ceasefire and in the hours following, and to know that the IDF would not be taking out those weapons that Hamas still possessed. But if the IDF would have gone in to do this, it would have been a quick operation.
Thus, in retrospect, it is possible to say that perhaps the ground operation in Gaza is better done at a time when Iran is not in the center of the radar screen, and planning has been done towards taking Gaza or maintaining some permanent presence there.
Just a thought, among many thoughts.
News broke today in a number of sources, all citing the Sunday Times (Britain), regarding the fact that Iran has already put missiles intended for Gaza on a ship. Fajr-5 missiles are mentioned, as well as the more powerful Shahab-3 missiles (pictured — a very serious missile), which according to some reports might be headed for Sudan.
The information was picked up by Israel via satellite, and clearly refers to the same Iranian “project” that I wrote about a few days ago.
You can see reference to it, with a descriptions of the machinations that Iran is undertaking to hide the identity of the ship, here:
Mention by name of the Shahab missiles is new in today’s report, as is additional information on what Israel knows. But most important of all, in my opinion, is a quote attributed to an Israeli defense official:
“Regardless of the ceasefire agreement, we will attack and destroy any shipment of arms to Gaza once we have spotted it.”
If this turns out to represent policy and is sustained, it will be huge — just the sort of pre-emptive defensive action that is needed, indeed, essential. For this, we have to wait and see. I assume “spotted” means in real time and not via satellite transmissions.
On the other hand, Aaron Lerner has up on the IMRA site today a brief transcript from a Kol Yisrael radio broadcast of this morning:
“A state source in Jerusalem warns that if Hamas acts to refill its weapons stores that were significantly damaged in Operation Pillar of Defense it will be necessary – sooner or later – to have a stronger operation against it.
“According to the source Israel will not be satisfied with the ‘quiet for quiet’ formula and smuggling will force Israel to act with great force.”
That would be great, says Lerner, except for that inadvertent slip about “sooner or later.”
So it’s anyone’s guess.
According to Ezat Risheq, of the Hamas politburo, the ceasefire agreement does not call for stopping the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. And you know what? As far as I can see, he’s right.
The response, by an Israeli “official” cited in the JPost today, is that at the time of the ceasefire President Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the US “would use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”
But let’s look at Obama’s words. We’re hearing a great deal, speculatively, about what Obama is going to do to stop smuggling. And yet, “helping Israel address its security needs” is not exactly a firm and specific commitment to do anything. This seems to me a masterful instance of appearing to say a great deal while actually saying next to nothing.
How much did members of the Israeli government allow themselves to be reassured by these words?
But we’re not done! According to this same official, “it was equally clear” (clear to whom?) that there will be a US-led international effort to combat smuggling.
I see no statement from Obama regarding this, although he may have whispered something in private. But let me tell you what those of us here in Israel who have our heads screwed on properly think of “international efforts” to protect Israel from arms-stockpiling by her enemies:
In 2006, at the (premature) end of the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, Resolution 1701 was passed unanimously by the Security Council, It called for withdrawal of Israel from Lebanese territory and established an enhanced UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon), which was supposed to ensure that Hezbollah did not move south of the Litani River (which would mean approaching the border with Israel) and did not re-arm.
UNIFIL is an international force; troops from 20 nations were deployed. But it was not provided with a forceful mandate — it is permitted to operate only under the authority of the Lebanese army. What is more, it proved to be a very timid force, so that I found myself at times sharing reports that it avoided certain areas and that it chose not to operate at night (which is when smuggling occurs).
At any rate, today Hezbollah has strongholds in villages south of the Litani, and has acquired a vast quantity of weapons and rockets as provided by Syria (also carefully stored in civilian areas). It has more, actually, than it had before the Second Lebanon War.
So, spare us!
I was going to share further analysis of the ceasefire document, but have decided not to bother, at least not now. For I suddenly feel as it if is on the edge of being moot.
Egyptian president Morsi, who was lavishly praised by Obama and Clinton as playing a central role in the agreement, not only so far as negotiating it, but sustaining it, is in BIG trouble right now. Having moved to assume sweeping authoritarian powers for himself, he is facing riots by thousands in Tahrir Square and calls for his resignation. That’s Obama’s boy!
If he lasts, it’s questionable whether he will have much patience for matters concerning Gaza.
As a function of this unrest, last night Islamic terrorists destroyed part of a security building in Rafah (which is at the border between Gaza and the Sinai) in a challenge to Egypt’s control over the Sinai.
We’ve could have seen this coming. The Sinai is only nominally part of Egypt. In truth it has been a hotbed of terror groups that Egypt cannot control for some time. These terrorists, as I am reading their actions now, are also responding to the ceasefire and protesting both American embrace of Morsi and any notions of inhibiting or blocking the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
What we can safely assume is that if Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza are not to build up their arsenal again, then either weapons must be stopped before they reach the Sinai, or Israel must take them out, with all deliberate speed, after they arrive in Gaza.
Neither a US force nor an international force is going to be placed in the Sinai.
The JPost is representing as big news today the fact the PM Netanyahu has told pilots to prepare for the next campaign and reservists that they may be needed again soon. Hey! He’d be very foolish indeed if he didn’t think this way.
The headline says, “PM lacks confidence in Israel-Hamas truce.” Nu?