The Israeli air strikes in Gaza early Monday, Jan. 10, described officially as aimed at "terrorist targets" and "smuggling tunnels" were in fact systematic missions to start destroying the new Hamas underground command centers which Iranian Revolutionary Guards engineers are building across the enclave. This is reported exclusively by debkafile's military sources.
The enhancement of Hamas's military capabilities against Israel is seen as Iran's punishment for the attacks on its nuclear scientists and installations, while serving its broader effort to control the Gaza Strip as its Mediterranean outpost.
Sunday, Jan. 9, the heads of Hamas's military wing Ezz e-Din Al-Qassam tried to persuade Iran's Palestinian proxy, Jihad Islami leader Amin al Hindi, to rein in his group's missile and mortar attacks on Israeli towns and villages and its rocket strikes against Israeli border patrols. They argued that these attacks caused no real harm, depleted the resources needed for a major showdown with Israel and provoked the IDF into prematurely launching another round of the Cast Lead campaign of 2008-2009. This campaign had already begun, they said, with the Israel Air Force's precision bombing of the new Hamas facilities going up for the next Palestinian war on Israel; Israel should not be driven to devastating attacks before the facilities were in place.
debkafile's sources report that IRGC engineers who stole into Gaza in recent weeks have been working around the clock to lay a network of command centers across the territory according to detailed plans . In highest demand in Gaza today are not the missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv but the concrete smuggled in mainly from Egypt.
The "terror targets" the IAF struck Monday in Gaza City and Khan Younis were those very command centers.
To tempt Jihad Islami leaders into keeping their powder dry for now, Hamas offered them cabinet portfolios, hoping to buy them off with ceremonial departments, sumptuous offices, fancy cars and "budgets." However, Al Hindi, who takes his orders from Tehran, refused to play. He told Hamas: We don't want money; we want to step up our war on Israel.
According to debkafile's Iranian sources, Tehran is aiming to launch a war of attrition from the Gaza Strip by using the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami to constantly batter the border fence and the Israeli populations in its vicinity and so elevate the level of confrontation with the IDF.
Since Jihad Islami takes its orders directly from Tehran, Hamas – which also depends on Iranian directives, funding and military aid received through Damascus – cannot afford to force its will on the Jihad Islami and risk an open breach with Tehran.
Hamas-Gaza's only recourse is to persuade Khaled Meshaal, head of its Damascus wing, to press Tehran to rein in Jihad Islami and so save the unfinished command centers from destruction. Hamas seems to think that in Tehran one hand doesn't know what the other is doing. In fact, according to our sources, Iran is acting deliberately to stir up confusion among the Palestinan organizations in the Gaza Strip while also maintaining military tensions around the border fence and southwestern Israel at a high pitch.
While its air force takes advantage of the confusion Iran is generating in Gaza to wipe out the new military command centers, Israel's military planners are fully aware that this is a short-term strategy which carries a high price. Their reprisals for attacks are predicted by Iran and serve its strategic objectives in the Gaza Strip. Iran can rebuild Hamas's destroyed command centers but is determined to allow no letup in Palestinian violence from the Gaza Strip. Israeli strategists are therefore expected to chart different and novel modes of operation for stemming the attacks now fully orchestrated from Tehran.
So far, Iran is doing better in the Gaza Strip than in Lebanon. There, it calls the shots for a single radical group, the Hizballah, whereas in Gaza it holds the two dominant radical Palestinian movements in the palm of its hand.