Our boys are in the toughest of fights now, since the beginning of this war.
Overnight, we suffered three losses in the Golani Brigade.This happened in Saja’iya, when a contingent of our troops hid in an empty house and the house was hit by one of our own shells. This happens, but it’s tough, tough stuff.
They have beenidentified as Yousef Moadi, 19, who was buried in his Druse village of Yirka today; Maj. Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma’aleh Michmash, who served as the doctor for Golani 13th Battalion; and St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem.
Andthere was a forth death overnight: Capt. Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim, of the Paratroopers Brigade.
May there be no more occasion for reporting such news.
And may their families be comforted with the knowledge that they had gone bravely to protect our nation.
From Top left (clockwise): St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem; Yousef Moadi, 19, from Haifa; Capt. Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim; Maj. Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma’aleh Michmash.
In the course of the day, yesterday, another 12 soldiers had been wounded in other action; I understand most of these injuries were light to moderate.
For our part, in intense gun battles, we killed 100 Palestinian terrorists and captured 80, who will be interrogated. That interrogation should be greatly helpful in securing intelligence for our operations.
All and all, we are moving as had been planned and are said to be making good progress.
According to the Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh, a very reliable source, Hamas desperately needs the fighting to stop, but is searching for some way to turn this into a “victory.” At this point, what Abu Toameh describes is a rather schizoid situation, with some leaders wanting to call it quits and others wanting to keep fighting in order to “score some kind of ‘military victory.'” Hamas is on the verge of collapse.
Hamas’s leaders in Gaza have thrown away their cell phones and gone into hiding. They cannot be reached, and are no longer in direct communication with Hamas leaders in Damascus, or with their patrons in Damascus and Teheran. The leadership in Gaza knew nothing about the decision, made in Damascus, to send a mission to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire.
All in all, the military wing of Hamas, Izza al-Din al-Qassam — which is what we are now fighting, is in control of Gaza, as the political elements in Gaza have abdicated. The fighters have been charged with doing everything possible to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime. But because they have no guidance from local leadership, the result is chaos and anarchy: except for some long-distance communication from Syria, the gunmen are in charge on the street. Hamas as a local governing body has collapsed.
This has implications not only for our ultimate victory, but for what lies in store for Gaza after the war.
Reports are surfacing that if matters continue to go as intended, we might be finished in 78 hours. It is not clear if this is what was intended, if we’re progressing faster than had been expected (which seems to be the case), or if this is all the time it is estimated we will have before the international community intervenes.
About that international community:
The Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, which chairs the EU at the moment, said in a press conference:
“We didn’t have a specific plan for the cease-fire because the cease-fire must be concluded by the parties. We can help it, mediate, assist a solution, but it not up to us to propose the conditions of the cease-fire.”
And so there is speculation by some analysts and diplomats that the visit of the EU delegation, and the separate visit of Sarkozy, were meant in part for domestic consumption.
Certainly, “we think you should stop, but you have to work it out, we can’t tell you what to do,” does not seem to be a major threat to our military progress.
Sarkozy, without a doubt, has been a thorn in our side, however. Where did he go as soon as he came to this area? To Ramallah, to meet with President Abbas. And standing next to Abbas (talk about playing to the Arabs), he declared that the fighting must stop “as soon as possible.” He said he would be delivering the message that the violence must stop when he came here.
But it seems to me that Olmert handled him as well as he might have. Yesterday he appealed to him to block a Security Council resolution for a ceasefire. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council.
“We defined from the very beginning a limited goal – to change the security situation in the South and to free thousands of citizens from the threat of terror.
“In view of the diplomatic developments, it would be unwise to pass a resolution on the matter, since past experience has proven that Israel cannot afford restricting its freedom to act against terrorism…
“Sometimes the need to find a compromise in the UN comes at Israel’s expense…”
I do not know what Sarkozy said to Olmert, other than offering a vague promise to keep working on the issue with him, but I would not hold my breath with regard to his cooperation in the matter. It would be nice to be pleasantly surprised here.
The Security Council is scheduled to meet and discuss the situation in Gaza later today (well after this will have gone out). French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher (who is no friend to Israel) will be presiding over this meeting. The goal enunciated by some parties is to promote an immediate ceasefire. But it’s not going to happen so fast.
Said Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador to the UN, there should not be “false expectations”: “Practical arrangements have to be put in place in which everyone has confidence that it will be maintained, it will be respected, it will be observed,” and these will take more than “a day or two.”
In any event, Israel has no expectations with regard to what the UN might do, and intends to proceed as necessary. “We’re fed up with empty gestures,” Olmert has said.
President George Bush has been a sterling friend during this process. He said:
“I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place, in Gaza, was caused by Hamas…I know people are saying, let’s have a cease-fire. And those are noble ambitions. But any cease-fire must have the conditions in it so that Hamas does not use Gaza as a place from which to launch rockets.”
The US is currently working on international channels outside the UN for establishing a “meaningful” ceasefire. The goal is said to be to end rocket fire by Hamas, secure opening of crossings, and insure that no further smuggling of arms is done. In some contexts I have read that Bush wants Hamas held responsible.
Olmert has spoken about disarming Hamas, but I see no mention of this. And, while Shalit is not being mentioned here (and should be!), I have read that Israel will not agree to normalization — which refers to crossings being opened — until Gilad Shalit is returned.
I would like to examine in some more detail the entire notion of observers or monitors at the Philadelphi Corridor to prevent smuggling of weapons. We have destroyed perhaps the better part of 100 tunnels running under that Corridor, but it is perfectly possible for many to be dug again, and for Hamas to bring in even more weaponry, if not prevented from doing so.
In general, the notion of international monitors is a joke. UNIFIL “supervised” in Lebanon while Hezbollah re-armed under the noses of these troops. Actually, the situation has been so ludicrous that UNIFIL does patrols that deliberately avoid Hezbollah strongholds. Egypt was supposed to be monitoring on its side of the Corridor, but, pleased to allow Hamas to harass Israel, has pretty much turned a blind eye to weapons smuggling.
When we pulled out of Gaza for the “disengagement” in late August 2005, we were supposed to remain at the Philadelphi Corridor (which, technically, is a sort of no-man’s land between Gaza and the Sinai). But then along came Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and pressured us to leave the Corridor. We should have said no — our security people knew it was a bad deal. This was about giving the PA more control, you see.
A deal was worked out in which the PA supervised on its side of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza. (The Corridor is the entire length of the Gaza-Sinai border, Rafah is an actual crossing facility.) European observers were stationed there and theoretically information was supposed to be transmitted to us by computer informing us of who was crossing — there was a desire by Israel to keep out terrorists and the suitcases full of money they sometimes carry. This, too, was a huge joke. All the Europeans did was “observe.” And not only did we not reliably receive information in a timely fashion, we had no way to stop someone we objected to from getting through. Then Hamas took over, and it all fell apart.
So why should we have the remotest confidence now that any international forces will be effective there? And what will Israel ultimately agree to?
The Reuters report that Olmert was demanding monitors with real enforcement responsibility was encouraging — forces that were armed and trained and able to take out new tunnels.
Best of all would be our returning to the Corridor.
Lastly here now, I want to look at Livni’s comments yesterday on the arrival of the European mission. She said some very good things. For example:
“…a necessary war on terror does not end with an agreement. We don’t sign agreements with terror; we fight terror.”
But she also said,
“The region is divided between moderates and extremists. Each person in the region must pick a side to work with. Hamas works with Iran.”
And she concluded that signing an agreement with a terror organization would prevent Israel from advancing the “peace deal.”
The corollary: Allow us to take down Hamas properly, because you all want peace here, and then we’ll be able to achieve it.
A very dangerous and erroneous conclusion. But this is the way Livni is headed. She envisions a situation in which Hamas is destroyed, and Gaza is turned over to the PA — after which she is elected prime minister and manages to negotiate “peace.”
No, the Fatah is not Hamas. But it’s goals are not so different. It too wants us gone and seeks all of the land. We are not about to have “peace” with the PA. This approach is something that must be monitored, and protested, vigorously, once the war is done.
The catch here is that, Livni’s goals not withstanding, there is solid reason to believe that radical forces in Gaza would never accept the PA. That is certainly the opinion of some very savvy analysts.
The question, then, is who will be in power in Gaza at the end of the day. The mistake that fueled this situation was our leaving in 2005. What is certain is that the struggle will not end on the day the fighting stops.
After I posted yesterday, I received this information from Minka Goldstein and put it out now for all those in the Washington DC area who want to attend a rally for Israel:
Today, Tuesday, January 6, at 12:30 PM at the Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Dr. NW, DC
Take the Red Metro Line — Van Ness Stop.
Wednesday, January 7, at 12:00 PM at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
Take the Red, Green or Yellow Metro Line — Gallery Place Stop, Chinatown Exit.
For more information, call 301-770-0881.