Islamists Estimate Death Toll of 1,500 Palestinians, 500 Israelis
Undeterred by US President George W. Bush‘s arrival in the Middle East, Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas stepped up its daily missile-mortar assault on Israel communities abutting on the Gaza Strip. While burning Bush placards and American flags, their missiles destroyed two Sderot homes and a kibbutz hen coop.
By now, Hamas appears to have taken on board the prospect of finally goading the Israeli military into a major operation to end the punishment which condemns more than 40 Israeli towns and communities abutting the Gaza Strip to live in fear.
Its leaders are working on the premise that to wipe out the Hamas war machine the Israeli army would have to sustain a six-to-nine month invasion at a cost of 1,500 Palestinian and 500 Israeli lives.
The Hamas military command has laid out its war plans and estimates of Israel’s military operation in well-ordered documents, which have reached DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s militlary and intelligence sources.
This is the first time a Western counter-terror authority has procured a detailed plan of campaign drawn up by a Middle East terrorist organization, one moreover that is sponsored by Iran and aided by Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah.
The 60-page Hamas War Plan for 2008 is a testimony to the Palestinian Islamist movement’s determination to fight Israel to the finish, however bitter the cost in lives and in human suffering for the Gaza Strip’s one and a half million inhabitants.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly has selected the plan’s high points and publishes them here for the first time:
Hamas war planners expect the Israeli invasion to unfold in two stages: First, tank and special forces will push in from the north and south and capture most of Gaza’s area of 365 sq. km, except for Gaza City which will be laid to siege.
Five enclaves and a horde of suicide bombers
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) employs this tactic on the West Bank against the Palestinian terrorist strongholds of Nablus and Jenin. In Gaza, it would save the Israelis from having to rule a town of three-quarters of a million Palestinians.
This first stage should take five to seven days, or even less, according to the Hamas estimate.
According to Hamas, the next Israeli stage will consist of sectioning the sausage-shaped territory, 45 km long and between 5 and 12 km broad, into five mlitary enclaves, each under an autonomous military command.
Enclave One, the southernmost, will stretch from the Philadeliphi strip on the Egyptian border, include the town of Rafah and end on the outskirts of Khan Younes. The Israeli mission here will be to destroy the smuggling tunnels bringing arms and fighters into Gaza via Egyptian Sinai.
Enclave Two will enclose the town of Khan Younes and outlying villages.
Enclave Three will lie to the north from the Kissufim junction up to the Karni Crossing, taking in the central heart of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Al Mouazi and Al Boureij refugee camps.
Enclave Four will cover Jebalya, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya up to the Gaza Strip’s northern border with Israel.
Enclave Five will be the Israeli militlary belt encircling Gaza City, from which the troops will mount forays into the city to strike at Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist bases and headquarters.
Hamas planners are under no illusion that thay can beat a major Israeli offensive, but they are banking on inflicting maximum pain.
As soon as the IDF’s enclaves and its encirclement of Gaza City are in place, a horde of hundreds of suicide bombers will be unleashed against Israel’s front-line troops from the 3,000 to 5,000 civilian Gaza City homes facing them.
Hamas does not count on Iranian, Syrian support
These newly-created units will breach Israeli lines and detonate their charges against the troops, the tank positions and mobile artillery. Hamas hopes that this onslaught will inflict enough Israeli casualties to force them to pull back. It is touted as the biggest suicide offensive in the history of the war on terror.
Hamas will also strew thousands of roadside bombs along all the routes used by Israeli troops, while training an intolerable level of mortar fire and surface missiles on the Israeli population within range of Gaza.
Ultimately, Hamas leaders do not expect to escape the wholesale destruction of the logistical structures, huge, constantly replenished arsenals, metal foundries for making missiles, camps, bases and police stations, built up since Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But they believe their ability to shoot barrage after barrage of up to 100-125 missiles per day is capable of wreaking devastation as massive as the damage sustained by the Palestinian side. Hamas predicts more than a quarter-of-a-million Israelis will be forced to leave their ravaged homes and take refuge in other parts of the country.
In their war plan, Hamas chiefs have tried to second-guess the Egyptian response to a massive Israeli incursion. They reckon that Cairo will first condemn the Israeli operation and protest to Jerusalem. When the IDF is at mid-point of its advance and controls half the Gaza Strip, Cairo will threaten action, but hold back from issuing an ultimatum. If the Israelis persevere, the Egyptian ambassador will be recalled from Tel Aviv and diplomatic relations suspended.
Only after Israel seizes control of the entire territory, will Egypt turn to the UN Security Council for an emergency session and break off relations.
While covering the Egyptian reaction, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources note a glaring omission from the Hamas War Plan’s projections: At no point, do they envisage their Iranian or Syrian sponsors or Hizballah allies opening a second front in the north to divide Israeli strength and relieve some of its military pressure on the Gaza Strip.