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IDF Coiled on Gaza Border After Kidnapping

Israel has massed troops and armor along the Gaza borders with dirt mounds blocking roadways out of the Gaza Strip, poised for an iron-fisted offensive in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas forces in a Palestinian raid on an IDF position. Late Monday night, the Popular Resistance Committees claimed a second Israeli kidnapping, this one an Israeli settler, reportedly near Nablus in the West Bank. The situation is clearly tense.

A ‘senior intelligence officer’ reportedly has informed the Israeli Knesset that they knows the area where Gilad Shalit is being held, but have yet to mount an extraction effort, likely because they do not know precisely where he is beyond a certain neighborhood and are surely working to develop more specific and actionable intelligence.

The reaction from Hamas, not unlike that of Iran on its nuclear stance, is fragmented and varied, displaying further the internal splintering within Hamas (as previously noted here, here, and here). While the Washington Post report distinguishes the notable rift between the Damascus leadership and the Gaza-based leadership, they do readers a disservice by characterizing Hamas’ Gaza leadership as the “more moderate leaders in Gaza” by comparison, leaving the impression that Hamas’ PA Prime Minister Haniyeh and his fellow ministers are reasonable. Some may be, but a more accurate description of reality is that the Gaza-based leadership is currently staring down the bores of Israeli tanks massing on the borders, a very real and present danger that the Khalid Meshaal’s Damascus-based Hamas leadership need not endure. The pause inspired by the threat of force should never be confused for a more reasonable nature. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ call to Syrian President Bashar Assad is significant, highlighting the nature of the relationship between the Syrian regime and the Hamas terrorist leadership Syria protects in Damascus along with that of Hizballah and others. Influence over Middle Eastern terrorism largely begins and ends with Syrian and Iranian contact, as Abbas’ call clearly demonstrates.

Hamas’ military wing, Izzadin el-Kassam, as well as the Saladdin Brigade and the Army of Islam have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and made the demand that all female and youth prisoners in Israeli prisons be released in order to secure the Israeli soldier’s freedom. The Saladdin Brigade and the Army of Islam are both new and reportedly offshoots of the Popular Resistance Committees and likely with significant Hamas (or former Hamas) membership within both.

One significant factor that should be carefully considered in the attack was that the two Israeli soldiers killed were inside an Israeli tank that was attacked with an anti-tank missile after the terrorists emerged from a tunnel dug from Gaza about 300 meters deep into Israeli territory. Israeli tanks are well armored and among the best in the world, and the Merkava MK4 is the best to many.

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It seems that getting Shalit home safely is no longer the main goal, because the mechanism has been set off; it is already riding into the streets of Gaza, it has a kidnap victim who has ignited a chain reaction and the mechanism doesn't need more than that. Now is the time to create a new order in Gaza because someone has to pay for the lost honor, the snafu, that Hamas was elected to rule, that Amir Peretz is defense minister, for the Qassams, the Palestinian mockery of the disengagement plan and for the fence around Gaza. In short, it was a strategic kidnapping. Now all we have to do is let the IDF win.

The name given to this hormonal outburst is "Summer Rains" - something else that is abnormal in the region. Summer rains; it's certainly less successful than the codename the Palestinians gave to their attack: "Smashed illusion." The signs of the disease are already evident - insignificant to start with, but symptomatic nonetheless. First destroy the power station and impose a blackout on Gaza and then, at night, drop leaflets on the population. And how are they supposed to read the Israeli letter in the dark? Amass tanks and armored personnel carriers, which have zero capability of fighting in the narrow alleys of Gaza, and at the same time, fly noisily over Bashar Assad's palace. That's logical. After all, the idea is to frighten people, both those considered influential over the leaders of the foreign-based Hamas, as well as the local leadership by making the terrified local population rise up against it. But there's no wait for the effect of the intimidation. Instead, there's a rush to kidnap a few dozen politicians, of the type who were supposed to get frightened, and lock them up.

This is what is done by a country that has only just begun a course on how to run an occupation, or by a country that totally failed the course. The trick has been tried so many times, in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan and dozens of other places that it is impossible to summon up any forgiveness for its repetition. Nowhere did these steps yield the desired results. The local leadership was only strengthened, the terror groups became legitimate in the eyes of the public, and the more the population suffered, the more they supported the acts of terror.

If in Lebanon the population still had something to lose, in the Gaza Strip, the population is already hardened. But now Israel has outdone itself. It kidnapped most of the Hamas leadership and jailed them. Not that it hasn't been tried before - with the kidnappings of Lebanese citizens who were meant to be bargaining cards, and mostly returned with nothing gained. Or maybe the negotiating arrests are only the first stage and Israel will now expel them, perhaps to Marjayoun, where they originally flourished and turned into leaders in Yitzhak Rabin's day. Or maybe to Eritrea, where Herut's leaders were nurtured. Or maybe they'll be dropped into Syria. After all we said Summer Rains, something abnormal here. And then what? Will someone pop out of the Rafah tunnels and agree to negotiate with Israel over the release of Gilad Shalit?

What does it matter; Shalit has finished his role. The tactics are done, now we've moved to strategy. A new order is what this government wants to impose, to wipe out the Hamas government and install Abu Mazen as Israel's business manager in the territories. But carefully, anyone who attributes any strategic thinking to this government can't also argue that there is method to the madness. They obviously know what they are doing. After all, they're the government, aren't they?