IDF Takes Northern Ground Amid Gaza Ceasefire Talk
As Israeli operations along the Lebanese border continue to increasingly reach across into Hizballah territory amid broader airstrikes, there are initial reports of a ceasefire proposal from Gaza terrorist leaders. While the world has shifted focus towards Israel’s northern front, Operation Summer Rains has continued in Gaza without shifting gears.
It is being reported by the Associated Press that the Gaza agreement is the result of meetings among the terrorist leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad at the behest of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ PA Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh. While not mentioned in the article, if the meeting and agreement indeed occurred, then members of the Popular Resistance Committees must have been present or the agreement – as reported – is effectively without value.
The agreement was described in broadcast reports as a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire agreement effective midnight Gaza time on the part of the terrorists, but the fact that it was couched with the condition of “if the Israelis also ceased operations” belies any unilateral nature. It may have been written unilaterally, but the conditions – as currently reported – clearly are not and the use of the ‘unilateral’ description is misleading.
The fact that both Abbas’ and Haniyeh’s power and influence in their own territory is effectively at a minimum should be also considered, as throughout Operation Summer Rains the terrorist groups have largely ignored the two elected leaders and taken their operational direction straight from Meshaal’s Damascus headquarters. Still, this could either be a sign of an increase in the local power of Abbas and Haniyeh. But whatever agreement was made between the terrorists and local Gaza leadership was not reached without direction from Damascus, potentially seeking a period of reorganization and regrouping on the southern front to possibly re-launch during a longer-than-expected confrontation with Hizballah in the north.
Regardless, the hand of Damascus – and all state actors that implies – cannot be removed from the agreement’s equation. Surely Israel is thinking the same and has refused to comment on the development.
On the northern front, broadcast reports indicate that the IDF has increased the tempo of ground operations across the border into Hizballah territory. Those reports detail that IDF troops have taken a key hill, Marun al-Ras, and two villages close to the border. This is likely a continuation of an operations overnight as the IDF sent armor across the border to take a UN observation post that has been caught in the crossfire between Hizballah and the IDF recently. The UNIFIL post’s Ghanan troops were reported to be in a bomb shelter during the earlier exchanges.
Taking the forward hill of Marun al-Ras will effectively extend the northern reach of IDF artillery already stretched to its range limits. From within Israel, the artillery units have been pushing Hizballah and their rocket launch points farther away from Israeli cities. The taking of the two nearby villages was a necessary security measure to prevent Hizballah terrorists from mounting attacks from there on the new hilltop firing position. It would not be unreasonable to expect the IDF units along the Blue Line to branch out to other positions in a creep northward.
In the air campaign, sorties continued throughout the south of Lebanon and in southern parts of Beirut, which are Hizballah-dominated. With the intended target Hizballah’s al-Manar TV, IAF destroyed communications towers in Lebanon that also effectively brought down services for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and Future TV.
It is unclear whether there will be a large single surge of IDF forces into Hizballah territory. But what looks to be taking shape is coordinated smaller and more cautious incursions to clear and hold territory. An IDF spokesman may have been signaling this as the world may expect to see an all out blitz when he said, “It will probably widen, but we are still looking at limited operations. We’re not talking about massive forces going inside at this point.” Perhaps just not all at once.