Flashback and Fast Forward: IDF v. Hamas
A February 2007 note on Iranian supply of advanced anti-tank weapons to Hamas is instructive for a bit of background on how the Hamas arsenal got to where it is in Gaza today (or perhaps was in Gaza up until recent days.) The following is from 2007's Karine-A Redux: Saggers In Gaza, which includes images of the weapons.
The Sagger anti-tank weapon is not as effective as the Kornet, the type believed to have been used in the Palestinian tunnel raid that resulted in the capture and continued captivity of IDF corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006. But it is a significant upgrade from the past weapons stocks held by Hamas and their cooperative network of Palestinian terrorists.
Saggers Captured Aboard Karine-A ShipIran is the likely originating source of the Sagger anti-tank weapons and would not be the first time they were sent to Gaza Postmarked Tehran. Numerous Saggers were among the 83 crates of weapons shipped from Iran and intercepted by Israeli SEALs before it could reach Gaza aboard the Karine-A.
The TIME magazine article (linked at the above) on the Israeli interdiction of the Karine-A cargo ship loaded with Iran's weapons shipment to Hamas is a good report.
Fast forward to today, and you see bold Israeli advances into the heart of Gaza City. Israel, thus far, is ignoring the loud international outcry and instead pressing on and wading into the enemy. That the terrorists have chosen to enmesh themselves and garrison among Palestinian civilians is and unfortunate - though not deterrent - condition. The first graphs of an International Herald Tribune report from Sunday tells you what you need to know about how the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) operations are going thus far - and the resultant state of Hamas.
Israeli troops pushed into a heavily populated area of Gaza City from the south on Sunday in fierce fighting, and senior Israeli officials said for the first time in the two-week-old war that they believed that the Hamas military wing was beginning to crack, and that Hamas leaders inside Gaza were looking for a cease-fire.
Israeli officials also said Sunday that the military had started to send reserve units into Gaza for the first time since the war began Dec. 27, in what could presage an expansion of the fighting.
Three quick things about the two important paragraphs above.
- 1.) The IDF casualty figures are dominantly low. Their terrorist kill ratio is equally dominantly high, though you wouldn't know this from the loud and condemning media characterization of collateral civilian casualties, which remain far lower than perceived.
- 2.) Some may question the unidentified Israeli official's claim that Hamas is quietly seeking a ceasefire, or even the characterization that Hamas is near the breaking point. Ask yourself, in all the destruction seen, what significant tactical defeat has been dealt the IDF in Gaza by Hamas. The answer is none. How Hamas goes about (quietly) pressing for a ceasefire without publicly appearing to actually be doing such is another entry for another day. But the chances that the characterization that Hamas is is as probable as it is logical. Of course, you are not likely to read about it (or a Hamas acknowledgment that they are taking a debilitating hammering.)
- 3.) Reserve forces (not to be confused with reservists) are generally called in when either the primary force is proceeding as planned and a crushing phase is being rolled out, or when the primary force has met with disaster and requires immediate relief via counter-assault. I leave it to the objective observer to arrive at the proper conclusion for the IDF and Hamas in Gaza today.
If Israel continues to ignore international condemnation and ratchet up the pace of operations, effectively beating Hamas to the ceasefire finish line, they may well leave Gaza with a Hamas severely degraded and with a decapitated and gutted operational terrorist leadership. This would set the stage for the rebuilding of a challenging Fatah force in Gaza - an actor preferred by both the Israeli and (importantly) Egyptian governments. Both would (and plan to) assist in standing up this force.
This is the operational end game I was driving at in last week's PrincipalAnalysis, A View To A Kill: Why Israel Is Likely Preparing Future Fatah Battlespace Against Hamas in Gaza.
Israel is getting close to the tipping point setting this in motion, and the flashback to the Karine-A and subsequent Iranian shipments of advanced arms to Hamas provides some context as to why Israel simply must see this through. And they appear quite intent on doing just that.
UPDATE: I intended to note the apparent huge success and impact of the IDF's targeting of Hamas weapons caches and stores in the early phases of the current Operation Cast Lead. What attacks have been made on the Israeli Merkava main battle tanks have been with roadside bombs - notably the Iranian EFP design, which can be manufactured inside Gaza rather than smuggled, thanks to effective Iranian training in Iran and Syria. The relative silence of Saggers indicates either a suicidal withholding of the anti-tank missiles in the face of an IDF armored push or the inability to produce them on the battlefield. Hamas possession of Saggers was not a myth, but known. So it is not unreasonable to conclude that many, if not most of them, have been destroyed.
UPDATE II: Welcome, Hugh Hewitt readers and listeners. Since this item was posted, we have published a new PrincipalAnalysis on Gaza, The Israeli Long View In Gaza: Considering Israel v. Hamas Phase II - With Egypt, Enable Fatah in Gaza.
I will be on the air with Hugh at 7:20 EST discussing Gaza and the context provided here. Online readers can stream Hugh's show Live via New York City's AM 970 The Apple.