Israeli troops still outside Hamas rocket strongholds in urban centers

High-placed Israeli officers have told debkafile‘s sources that the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip Saturday night, Jan. 3, gained less ground in its first 24 hours than officially indicated – in much the same way as civilian casualties are overstated by the Palestinian side. While essentially bisecting the Gaza Strip, the tanks and armored infantry had not entered urban areas by early Monday, Jan 5. They halted at the outskirts of Jebalya, Zeitun and Beit Hanoun.
As to combat, Hamas activated its sniper unit for the first time Sunday night, injuring 4 Israeli troops. Five more were injured early Monday in clashes with Hamas at Netzarim south of Gaza City. In two and-a-half days of combat inside the Gaza Strip, Israel sustained 39 wounded men, 5 seriously injured, and one fatality, the Golani infantryman 1st Sgt. Dvir Emanueloff, 22.
Hamas has suffered scores of dead, including four senior rocket commanders in the southern Gaza Strip. Its combatants account for the overwhelming majority of the 509 Palestinians killed in ten days.
debkafile‘s military sources note that, after establishing a presence in Qassam-land in the north, Israeli forces have not yet secured Hamas’ missile launching sites. Ten were fired into Israel early Monday. The far more powerful Grad rockets were pulled into Gaza City with Hamas’ Northern Brigade Sunday ahead of the Israeli advance. They are now being launched against Israel from inside this densely populated town, their range theoretically shorter than from their former deployment right up to the border – unless, as it is believed, their reach is longer than the 42 km postulated so far.
The only additional territory covered in the ongoing Israel ground thrust is the Netzarim belt running west from the border up to the Gazan coast south of Gaza City. Although much bigger, the force has not penetrated much deeper to date than the small-scale units which struck Qassam sites from time to time in the last two years.
So far, moreover, none of Hamas’ five Ezza e-Din al Qassam’s military brigades have yet been seriously degraded – a key Israeli objective – although the two deployed in the North have been cut off with Gaza City from the three in the south. This does not seriously impair their combat capabilities since every Hamas brigade down to platoon level is trained to operate autonomously, each equipped with emergency stores of weapons, ammo, food and medical aid.
To crack Hamas, the IDF will clearly have to take their offensive into densely populated areas. And indeed IDF officials and commentators reiterated that the offensive against Hamas would be lengthy. Hamas was shaken up badly by Israel’s seven-day bombardment and its fear of the coming Israeli invasion but, once it began Saturday night, they appeared to regain confidence from the cautious pace of the Israeli advance.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email