Gaza clash impending – Israel air strikes versus Palestinian long-range missiles
The fifty or so missiles and rockets Hamas sent crashing into Israel Wednesday, Dec. 24, along with dozens of mortar rounds, represent no more than a quarter of its capabilities, debkafile‘s military sources report.
IDF officers calculate that the fundamentalist Palestinian group can shoot 200 missiles a day, on a par with Hizballah’s barrage against Galilee in the 2006 Lebanon war, with devastating consequences in casualties and damage to property.
They can reach an area far broader than the strip taking hits from Gaza Wednesday which was delimited by Ashkelon to the north and Netivot to the east. Therefore an outer rim of 30 locations 30 km distant from the Palestinian enclave has now been connected to the Homeland Command’s early warning system, including Kiryat Gath, Kiryat Malachi, the Lachish Region and Ashdod. Homeland Command operations units have been deployed there too, together with emergency medical, firefighting and rescue teams. Magen David Adom is on top terror preparedness with 200 ambulances on standby in southwestern Israel.
The Israeli security cabinet meeting Wednesday concluded that Israel would have to resort to military action to extinguish the escalating missile, mortar and rocket barrage from Gaza, which Wednesday left a trail of some 57 shock victims – half of them children – and wrecked homes, vehicles, shops, workshops and roads. The ministers took into account that Hamas would counter effective Israeli air strikes in Gaza by fielding its long-range missiles now believed to have a range of 42 km. This takes in the important Mediterranean port town of Ashdod and the outskirts of Beersheba.
The dilemma facing Israel’s military command is this: Will Hamas if attacked immediately throw its long-range weapons into the fray against southern Israel, or rather build up the tempo of its short-range missiles in stages? They hope that, like the IDF, Hamas will exercise a measure of restraint and not lose sight of its goal, believed to be the renewal of the “ceasefire” which it formally terminated last Friday.
However, field officers in the South are less optimistic. They told debkafile‘s sources that they don’t believe half-wars are a practical option.
Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni has been invited to meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak Thursday, Dec. 25, to discuss the Gaza crisis. Cairo has broken the embargo on the Gaza Strip by inviting any government wishing to send aid to the Palestinian population to send it via Egyptian territory.