Day 4 of Israeli operation: Israel military, Shin Bet deny recommending 48-hour truce
According to earlier reports, Israeli leaders were considering a two-day truce proposal for which France is pressing. Tuesday night, Dec. 30, the IDF spokesman issued a strong denial of any such recommendation by the military or the Shin Bet.
As the rate of Hamas launchings climbed to 35 Tuesday night, Israel conducted a second round of air strikes against Hamas’ smuggling tunnels on the Philadelphi border with Egypt.
Egyptian locked the Rafah crossing.
In Hamas’ first public statement, a masked spokesman read out a “Jihad Letter, which said: “The sea of Gaza will run dry before Hamas surrenders” If Israeli attacks continued, he said Hamas would bring more Israeli towns under fire.
President Shimon Peres said Tuesday that the Gaza campaign would be hard and long. He praised the military’s precise adherence to its plan.
The quantity of hardware up Hamas’ sleeve provides a clue to how hard and long Israel’s operation against Hamas is likely to be.
debkafile‘s military sources report that Hamas still has some 6,000 missiles in its armory, of which some hundred are the high-grade Iran-made Grad Kayusha rockets.
Their range of up to 40 km enables them to target three-quarters of a million Israelis and five major southern towns. This stock survives after Israel wiped out 45% of the Hamas missile arsenal and most of its heavy 120mm mortars in three days of massive air strikes.
At the firing level maintained by Hamas Monday, Dec. 29 – roughly 100 missiles and rockets hit Israeli locations – the Palestinian group can keep going for another 60 days – if its stocks remain hidden underground.
To alter this equation, the armored and infantry forces concentrated around the Gaza Strip will have to intervene. The expected ground incursion had not happened by Tuesday evening, Dec. 30.
Hamas’ Monday barrage was a turning point in the conflict; it was then that the Palestinian terrorists began to rally from three days of harsh aerial punishment.
A repetition was threatened Tuesday night, using the cover of dark from Israel’s air strikes.
By evening 35 missiles had been fired against Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot and the new locations of Kiryat Malachi, Beer Tuvia and Rahat, after Monday’s barrage left three Israelis dead and 32 injured.
An Israeli officer told debkafile that even a small incursion of 1-2 km inside the Gaza Strip might ease the missile pressure on civilian towns and villages, by making Hamas units focus on self-defense instead of launching missiles.
On Day 3 of the conflict, Hamas overcame the havoc Israel’s electronic warfare wrought to its communications system by deploying runners using every means of transport, from bikes to donkeys, to maintain connections within their force.
Hamas’ most pressing problem now is morale. The top level of Hamas, government heads and commanders, including their “chief of staff” Ahmed Jabari and chiefs of divisions, battalions and companies, are hunkered down in underground bunkers, afraid to surface for fear of being struck down by Israel bombers alerted by Shin Bet intelligence spotters. Resentment of this is growing in Hamas ranks, including the missile crews who operate in the open and whose numbers have swelled the death toll rising now to 365. Civilians are also bitter at being forced to house operatives and missiles and exposing themselves to collateral damage.
By the end of the Day 4 of the conflict, there was no sign of Hamas leaders breaking or seeking a truce. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert too said the first three days were only the first of many stages of the planned operation.