A decision to push ahead for the next stage of Israel’s counter-terror offensive in the Gaza Strip was widely expected Monday night, July 28, after a day of deadly coordinated attacks by Hamas at the cost of 10 Israeli soldier’s lives. The IDF was braced ready to carry out the order for an operational response a soon as it came down from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
But the order did not come. Netanyahu and Yaalon continued to pin their hopes on someone forcing Hamas to pretend to accept yet another unsustainable ceasefire, even though they are progressively losing their cabinet majority and people are growing increasingly impatient with their stand-and-wait stance. Successive polls show that support for pushing Hamas hard all the way is steadily rising and stands now in the region of 80-90 percent, while opposition to any ceasefire grows stiffer every day.
Yet, instead of going forward, Netanyahu and Ya’alon appeared Monday night to be clutching at a new straw: Palestinian Intelligence Chief Majid Faraj was due in Cairo Tuesday along with an unidentified Hamas representative to discuss a ceasefire with the Egyptian intelligence chief, after rejecting Cairo’s original proposal for failing to meet Hamas’ terms.
Official sources in Jerusalem continued to feed the media with the myth that Hamas is badly in need of truce, a misapprehension which keeps Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip from advancing. The artillery and air strikes the IDF conducted Monday evening in no way deterred Hamas from ramping up its spiral of violence yet again.
Just hours later, the Palestinians launched their first rocket attack by night on metropolitan Tel Aviv. One rocket exploded in Rishon Lezion. Israel retaliated by bombing the empty residence of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
Tuesday morning began with another massive Hamas barrage on Tel Aviv, Holon, Bat Yam, Yavne, Ness Ziona, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Gedera, Rosh Ha’ayin and Rishon Lezion.
One former general after another with vast experience in warfare against Palestinian terrorists, including the former defense minister and chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, continue to warn Israel’s war leaders that leaving Israeli troops in stationary positions exposes them to attack. “An army must advance,” said ex-Gen. Israeli Sieff, former commander of the Gaza Division. “Treading in place puts them in danger.”
debkafile reported earlier Monday night.
In the past 48 hours, Israel was pressured to accept its fifth “humanitarian” ceasefire in Gaza by President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came close to folding, whereas Hamas saw the truce as applying only to Israel and therefore used it as a call to arms.
The slogan Israel broadcast: Quiet will be met with quiet and fire with fire, was seen by Hamas as a sign of Israel weakening.
This impression was confirmed on Sunday when the order went out to Israel troops to exercise restraint in the face of sporadic Hamas rocket fire, so as to give the truce a chance.
The Palestinian Islamists used it as a welcome respite for getting organized for the next stage of their onslaught.
Neither Israelis, Americans or Egyptians anticipated the radical Hamas launching an escalated assault on the first day of the Eid el-Fitr festival. In fact, by coordinating rocket, mortar and tunnel terror attacks, they inflicted on Israel one of the worst days of the three-week Operation Defensive Shield, claiming the lives of ten servicemen.
A grim omen of the deadly attacks ahead cam from a surge of rocket fire Monday noon, after a relatively quiet night. It targeted Gaza’s closest neighbors as well as Ashkelon and was followed by a salvo against the Lachish District and the towns of Netivot and Ofakim.
At around 4:30 p.m. Israel time, Hamas thought to give Israel a nasty surprise by sending one of its heavy Iranian Fajr-5 missiles (range 75 km) smashing into Tel Aviv. Instead of taking to the air, the missile plummeted to the ground in the nearby Shifa Hospital compound and exploded. Ten people were killed in the blast.
Half an hour later, Hamas directed mortar fire at the Eshkol District, where a group of soldiers was meeting. One hit its mark, killing four men and injuring nine.
The mortar attack was coordinated with another rocket barrage, this one directed at Ofakim and Mt. Carmel.
At around 6 p.m., a band of Hamas terrorists came out of a tunnel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz They shot dead five defenders and were killed themselves in a firefight with the soldiers. The IDF later amended this to one terrorist killed, while the rest escaped without attacking the kibbutz.
The tenth soldier was shot dead by Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip Monday morning
Their deaths raised to a total of 53 the IDF toll in the three-week counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip.
Monday night, Israeli troops appeared to have started expanding the operation to the west. The inhabitants of Jebalya and Zeitun were told to leave their homes and, soon after, Israel artillery began shelling Ain Bureij.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz made a joint TV appearance Monday, offering a pledge to continue the campaign against Hamas until all goals were achieved, however long it takes.
Netanyahu said: “Today we suffered terrorism from above and below.” The destruction of terror tunnels, he said, was an essential step towards the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which offered the only path to real peace.
Ya’alon said Israel would no longer a tolerate dialogue through terror tunnels and rockets. Hamas had been punished and would continue to be, he said, until it understood that Israel will never be brought to surrender.
Gen. Gantz: “As a human being, it is hard for me to accept civilian deaths,” he said, – unlike Hamas, which is solely responsible for 10 deaths at Shifa hospital, in whose grounds a missile aimed at Tel Aviv exploded prematurely.
The 24-hour “humanitarian ceasefire” was the stage for a major escalation in violence as Hamas strutted its stuff, fully confident of its ability to stand up to the next stage of the IDF operation. Will Israel's war planners finally show iundivided resolve to win this momentous struggle against an expansionist Islamist terror movement?