Hamas to maintain missile blitz up to Ashdod – until Israel’s February poll

debkafile‘s military sources report that Israeli government leaders have misread the motives behind Hamas’two-week missile-rocket-mortar assault on Israel as jockeying for better terms when the six-month truce comes up for renewal next month. Their decision to mute Israel’s military response to the ongoing violence stems from their misplaced expectation that the attacks will stop once the truce is in the bag.
Israeli intelligence circles challenge this perception. They estimate that Hamas will continue escalating the violence at least up until Israel’s general election on Feb. 10, 2009, forcing more than a quarter of a million suffering citizens to live on a never-ending knife edge.
The Hamas rationale falls into three parts:
1. The 25-kilometer range Grad multiple-launch rockets, which the radical terrorists have vowed to continue firing against the Mediterranean port-town of Ashkelon, will also be directed further north to Ashdod, Israel’s most important port after Haifa. This will keep Hamas at center stage of Israel’s election campaign and demonstrate who really influences the Israeli voter. This maneuver, learned from the Palestinian master terrorist, who used to step up the violence before Israeli elections, will put rival Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose “peace talks” with Israel came to naught, in the shade.
2. Hamas is not scared by the prospect of the Olmert government being driven to a major military operation in Gaza. Its leaders calculate that it will be so costly in casualties for the Palestinian population and Israeli troops alike that an international outcry will force the IDF to cut the campaign short without achieving its goals.
3. Forcing the Israeli army to withdraw without a victory will enhance Hamas’ standing in Gaza and the West Bank – just like Hizballah after the 2006 Lebanon war.
In Hamas’ view, the compromise proposals put forward by Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman in his bid to broker a Palestinian power-sharing deal was biased in favor of Abbas and his Fatah. This left the Hamas free to walk away and instead build up its violent assaults on Israeli towns and villages.
Despite the ongoing missile attacks, Israel decided Sunday, Nov. 17, to allow 30 trucks of humanitarian aid through to Gaza. However, fuel consignments have been stopped until further notice.

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