Exhausted Hamas Seeks Significant Gain to Justify Losses

YERUSHALAYIM -

It is possible to make an assessment at this point at the end of the first week of Operation Protective Edge.

At present, there is no decisive outcome. The exchanges of fire continue full blast.

Hamas initiated the current conflict and dragged Israel further and further into it, bringing about the present situation.

The results, to this point, are disappointing to Hamas. It has been building up its forces for years, aiming to cause tremendous death and destruction in Israel.

B’chasdei Shamayim, this did not happen. Their missiles land by the hundreds, but most are intercepted by Iron Dome or find their way to open areas. Officially, the number of casualties on the Israeli side are far less than was dreamed of. Also the damage to property, miraculously, has been nothing like what they had anticipated.

Hamas also had prepared “surprises” by sea and by land. But, again, chasdei Shamayim spoiled the surprises, and Israel was able to thwart them. It intercepted the naval commando raid into Israeli territory at Zikim, and prevented infiltration by tunnel in the Kerem Shalom area.

Hamas is frustrated, disappointed and despairing. Nevertheless, its members continue to shoot their missiles, hoping for their own “miracle,” that one out of almost a thousand will, in the end, accomplish its deadly objective. But it appears that the “miracle” is not with them but in the Hand of the Shomer Yisrael.

They are already ripe for a ceasefire, since they understand that every hour that passes, Israel will feel compelled to do more — and it is Hamas that will pay. Senior Hamas officials are already searching all over the world, from capital to capital, for intermediaries acceptable to Israel. But so far, there are none to be found.

The campaign in the south will not continue much longer. Diplomatic possibilities are beginning to appear. But, it is clear that, in the final analysis, the military situation will determine the outcome. Hamas is worn out. But they won’t stop until they can claim some “victory,” not necessarily by rocket fire.

The Hamas military commanders have been underground for a whole week, and are afraid to show their faces, because the skies are full of surveillance drones that are waiting for them. They cannot even go to their own homes, which were razed to the ground.

Their family members are scattered and other Gazans ask them: “Why have you brought all this on our heads, and what exactly are we supposed to get out of it? You quarreled with the Egyptians who closed off the Rafiach crossings. You fought with the Syrians, with the Hizbullah, with the Europeans, and with the Americans, and now you are trying to get the Israelis to shut off our electricity, to halt the hundreds of trucks carrying food. Is this what you wanted?

“You said you would free prisoners, but you didn’t. Not only that, but you caused those who were already released in the Shalit swap to be re-arrested. Even your missiles don’t cause any real damage.”

Despair has gripped Hamas, and it knows how to finish it and climb down from the tree with a minimal loss of prestige. Hamas outwardly continues to proclaim its willingness for a ceasefire on its own conditions, but it knows that Israel will not accept any part of them. It is doubtful if Israel will agree to a ceasefire until Hamas is brought to its knees.

The shooting in the meantime will continue. And Israel will continue to expand the scope of its military operations, possibly including a limited or broader ground offensive. The mobilization of tens of thousands of reserves is almost complete.

The feeling in Yerushalayim is that a golden opportunity presents itself to crush the head of the terrorist snake that dwells in the Gaza Strip. But not everyone in the civilian echelons believe that a ground offensive is necessary, and so it gets pushed off again and again. But it can’t be pushed off for much longer. A nation does not mobilize 50,000 men and keep them indefinitely in the searing Negev at the peak of the summer. Especially when the other side continues to fire its rockets.

Israel finds itself at a crossroads. It must decide, and quickly, which direction to take. The present situation cannot continue.