A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending Jan. 8, 2009

Day 7 of Gaza operation: Rice ceasefire must not restore status quo ante


2 Jan. Israel allowed 400 hundred foreign nationals to leave Gaza.

Ashkelon, 17 km north of Gaza, took the brunt of Palestinian rocket fire – 7 during the day, one a direct hit to an apartment building. Five people were slightly injured.

During the day, 12,000 police were on high alert across the country, though mainly in Jerusalem and the north, ready for outbreaks of violence stirred by Hamas. Friday prayers went off quietly at al Aqsa and Temple Mount after entry was restricted to men over 50. The West Bank was sealed for 48 hours.

A heavy Egyptian ring of security forces has been drawn around the Gaza border with orders to open fire on Palestinians trying to escape to Sinai.

The mounting tension in the Gaza Strip ahead of the expected invasion has driven thousands of Palestinian northerners southward to the Egyptian border.

Israeli F16 aircraft fired two missiles into the house of Nizar Rayyan, a fierce militant who had advocated renewing suicide bombings inside the Jewish state and whose son was a Hamas suicide bomber who killed two Israelis in 2001.The blast killed Rayyan, at least two of his four wives and several of his children in Jabaliya.


debkafile falls victim to cyber war


3 Jan. debkafile's two sites in English and Hebrew came under a massive cyber attack on our servers at the moment Israeli ground forces crossed into the Gaza Strip Saturday night, Jan. 3. The attackers tried and failed to block and replace our content. Our service was restored to full operation after a few hours.


Israel embarks on ground operation in Gaza, dozens of Hamas gunmen killed


3 Jan. Saturday night, Jan 3 – Day 8 of Israel's Gaza operation, Israel launched its tank and armored infantry invasion of the Gaza Strip and engaged Hamas forces at several points. Thirty Hamas gunmen were killed in initial clashes as Israeli forces fought to secure their missile and rocket launching sites in the north and around Gaza City's Zeitun district. The ground forces were preceded by air and navy bombardment of Hamas forces. Engineering units were deployed to defuse mines and booby-traps.

The goals of the operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, are to secure Hamas' rocket launching sites and break the back of Hamas' military wing.

Tens of thousands of reservists have been called up.

The operation was launched after Hamas fired 60 rockets and missiles which smashed buildings in Netivot, Sderot and Ashdod and reached as far as a point between Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. Schools within 40km range of Gaza will remain closed.

The chairman of Iran's national security council, Saeed Jalili, held talks in Damascus with Syrian president Bashar Assad Friday and blasted Arab countries which “encouraged the Zionist regime to attack through their silence.”


Day 8 of Gaza operation: Bush clears way for Israel ground operation


3 Jan. debkafile's Washington source report that in a telephone conversation with prime minister Ehud Olmert, US president George W. Bush okayed Israeli air, sea and ground operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He promised the US would veto a UN resolution unfavorable to Israel.

In his weekly radio address, the US president said: “Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable.This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas – a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction.”

He noted that “Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup and routinely violated an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire…” and went on to define the exit point for Israel's military operation:

“Promises from Hamas will not suffice,” he said. There must be “monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end.”

This left Israel the option of sustaining its military activity against Hamas until such a mechanism was installed.


Can the IDF break Hamas' fighting motivation?


4 Jan. Most military pundits agree that the Israel's Gaza operation is nothing like the 2006 Lebanon War. In the broader sense this is true. The differences are undeniable.

The Israeli Defense Forces which invaded Gaza Saturday night, Jan. 4, is not the same army as it was then. It is well-trained, its various arms are well-integrated, it is fighting according to a prepared script after practicing urban warfare at a mock Palestinian village in the Negev. The high command, under its post-Lebanon War chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, shares a unity of purpose, like the three politicians running the campaign – prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

They realize that the rocket launchers will be back when Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip so their first priority is to decapitate Hamas and choke off its rocket supplies.

Hizballah is more like a paramilitary militia, a belligerent arm of the extremist Iranian Islamic Revolution, whereas Hamas is a rogue Palestinian faction, a sort of hybrid between the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban of Afghanistan that seized power in Kabul and al Qaeda.

The American operational modes for overthrowing Taliban in Kabul in 2001 and ultimately defeating al Qaeda in Iraq would serve Israel better than the Hizballah model of 2006.


Israeli troops halt outside Hamas rocket strongholds in urban centers


5 Jan. The Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip Saturday night, Jan. 3, bisected the Gaza Strip, while the tanks and armored infantry halted at the outskirts of Jebalya, Zeitun and Beit Hanoun Monday, Jan. 5.

Hamas activated its sniper unit for the first time, injuring 4 Israeli troops. In two and-a-half days of combat in the Gaza Strip, Israel sustained 39 wounded men and one fatality. Hamas has suffered scores of dead, including four senior rocket commanders in the southern Gaza Strip. The powerful Grad rockets were pulled into Gaza City with Hamas' Northern Brigade Sunday ahead of the Israeli advance. They are now being launched against Israel from inside this densely populated town.

None of Hamas' five Ezza e-Din al Qassam's military brigades have been seriously degraded – a key Israeli objective – although the two deployed in the North with Gaza City have been cut off from the three in the south. To crack Hamas, the IDF will have to take their offensive into densely populated areas.


Sixth Israeli soldier killed in Gaza, UNWRA school used as Hamas firing post


6 Jan. 1st Sgt. Alexander Mashvitzki, 19, from Beesheba, was killed Tuesday, Jan. 6, when his combat engineering unit came under Hamas fire in Gaza City. Four of his comrades were injured. They took down the source of fire.

An Israeli military spokesman said Israeli forces shelled the UNWRA-run school in Jebalya killing 40 Palestinians in response to mortar fire from the building. The casualties included the Hamas mortar unit and several Hamas commanders, hiding behind the backs of the civilian refugees. .

In Gaza, Hamas has abdicated its responsibilities for governance and reverted to terrorist tactics – against the Palestinian population – in order to maximize civilian casualties for horror scenes to be broadcast across the world to pressure Israel to stop fighting.

Palestinians tell reporters that Hamas locks whole families in their homes from which their gunmen fire. Some of are booby-trapped to blow up Israeli invaders along with those families.

Shedding their uniforms, Hamas operatives emerge from bunkers to seize petrol stations and ambulances and grab most of the incoming food and medical aid carried in daily by hundreds of trucks from Israel and Egypt.

Their firing stations are located in schools. One huge explosives and weapons arsenal was uncovered next door to Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Hamas terrorists force small children to accompany them on combat missions.


Three Israeli soldiers killed, 24 injured in Gaza by friendly tank fire


6 Jan. Three Golan Brigade soldiers were killed and more than 20 injured by a tank shell fired by mistake at a building in which Israeli troops sheltered east of Gaza City.

Lt. Col. Oren Cohen, commander of 13th Battalion, was among the seriously injured.

The incident Monday night, Jan. 5, caused Israel military's highest casualty toll since its thrust into the Gaza Strip began Saturday night, Jan. 1. IDF battalion commander Colonel Avi Peled, who was slightly wounded, directed the evacuation of the wounded men to hospitals in Israel under heavy Hamas mortar fire, which was returned by Israeli helicopters and artillery.

debkafile's military sources add: The incident occurred as Hamas and Jihad Islami launched a counter-attack to strengthen the hands of a Hamas delegation which arrived in Cairo for ceasefire negotiations.

To show they were not cowed, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza threatened to bring out its long-range rockets and launch them against Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv.

Hamas reported 100 killed in the fighting that day. Israel took 80 terrorists prisoner.

The Palestinian Islamists believe that they will profit by dragging out the bargaining up until Barack Obama enters the White House expecting him to be tougher with Israel than George W. Bush.


US, Egypt, Jordan, Germany and Israel are working together on Gaza ceasefire package


6 Jan. Washington, Cairo, Amman and Jerusalem are hammering out the lines of a ceasefire contingent on the state of combat in the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem accepts the proposition that the ceasefire lines will follow the lines of combat reached in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian and Jordanian forces will then enter the Gaza Strip.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert told visiting European Union ministers Monday, Jan. 5, that diplomacy is in progress to find an “international blanket for damping down the blaze in Gaza.” He was referring to Egypt as the prime mover in a ceasefire solution.

Tuesday saw heavy Israeli-Hamas street battles in Gaza City after a night of Israeli aerial and naval bombardment. Israel forces engaged Hamas in Khan Younis in the south and hit the southern arms smuggling tunnels of the Philadelphi route and Rafah by air and land.

Hamas attacked the Israeli troops holding the Netzarim belt cutting Gaza City off from the south at Deir al Balakh, the while keeping up its constant rocket and missile fire.


Israel approves unilateral three-hour ceasefire for humanitarian corridor to Gaza


7 Jan. On Day 12 of its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas, Israel initiated a three-hour daily halt on military operations from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. as of Wednesday, Jan. 7 as a good will gesture for the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The pause was repeated Thursday for two hours. Operations were suspended to allow deliveries of essential supplies and the people to collect them. Hundreds of trucks with food, medicine and fuel rolled into Gaza from Israel, which did not stop Hamas from shooting missiles at Ashkelon.


Hamas reserves Fajr rocket stock after losing 60% of its missiles


7 Jan. The Israeli Gaza offensive has cut by half the daily missiles/rocket level from Gaza by wiping out 60 percent of Hamas' missile stocks, demolishing its production facilities and disablling the Philadelphi smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian border. However, debkafile's military sources report Hamas has hidden a stock of Iran-made Fajr rockets with ranges of 70-75 km, capable of hitting central Israeli towns, such as Rehovot and Rishon Lezion, 16 km short of Tel Aviv – or even the Dimona nuclear center in the Negev.

A halt to Israeli assaults on the Philadelphi border route at this point would enable Hamas to restore part of its underground supply network within 3-6 weeks.


Five rockets from Lebanon strike northern Israel Thursday


8 Jan. After the first five rockets from Lebanon exploded in the Nahariya-Kabri district, early Thursday, Jan. 8, West Galilee police ordered people to stay under cover, like citizens in the south for the past month. One rocket went through the roof of a retirement home. Three inmates were injured and 11 went into shock. Most were fortunately at breakfast on the ground floor and will now be relocated. Israeli aircraft and artillery shelled the source of fire. Schools were closed in the area and public shelters opened.

In the south, Ashkelon,Ashdod, Sderot and Shear Hanegev took rockets from the Gaza Strip. There were no casualties.


Three Israeli soldiers were killed Thursday, Jan. 8, raising the military death toll to nine in thirteen days of combat in the Gaza Strip


Israel tanks join air force strikes on Philadelphi corridor


8 Jan. In southern Gaza, tanks joined the massive Israeli air-artillery assault Israel launched Wednesday night to destroy Hamas' smuggling tunnels, as an Israeli envoy headed for Cairo to discuss a ceasefire.

Cairo gave Hamas an ultimatum to reply to its ceasefire proposals by Thursday. The Palestinian terrorist group was not expected to meet the demand.

debkafile reports: In the last 24 hours, the US, Israel and Egypt were clearly working in harness. In New York, the US acted for the second time to block a UN Security Council ordering an unconditional ceasefire; from Cairo, Egypt shut off Hamas' diplomatic options, while Israel embarked on a military operation to pre-determine a key outcome of the Gaza conflict: Hamas' inability to rearm.

Leaflets dropped in advance by the Israeli air force warned the 30,000 dwellers in the targeted Rafah region to leave their homes. Hamas' Southern Brigade is deployed in this strategic sector of the southern Gaza Strip under the command of a high-ranking commander called Al-Attar. Its operatives tried and failed to stem the flight from the Yibne and Block O Rafah refugee camps and Rafah's Tel Sultan

debkafile's military sources report the operation aims to finish off the smuggling system for good by clearing the critical 300 meters between Rafah and Philadelphi, where the openings to the thousands of smuggling tunnels are concealed inside buildings.

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