Israel's offensive on Gaza has deterred Hamas from new hostilities despite its claims of victory and the front is now at its quietest in 20 years, a senior Israeli military officer said.
Vastly lopsided shelling exchanges over eight days killed 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis before the November 21 truce brokered by Egypt.
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Hamas, which for the first time managed to fire rockets towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the conflict, says it won in the absence of an Israeli ground invasion that might have toppled its Gaza administration.
The officer said Hamas should be allowed to save face after failing to inflict more pain on the Jewish state.
"Their jubilation was not from victory, it was from their relief at being able to emerge from shelters," said the officer, who could not be identified by name under military regulations.
"They took a major blow and they have to patch up their honor," he said.
There have been scattered confrontations since, with Israeli troops killing two Palestinians who neared the border fence.
The officer said such incidents were rare and lacked the backing of Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions, which he said were now "thoroughly daunted" by Israel and trying to shore up the calm or at least avoid breaching it.
"A quiet like we had over the past month hasn't happened in 20 years," the officer said.
Harsher than nextThe officer would not be drawn on how long the calm might hold but threatened heavier bombing in any future offensive.
Though Israel killed the Hamas military chief, Ahmed al-Jaabari, in a November 14 air strike, the officer said several other commanders had been spared because non-combatants were nearby.
During the fighting, Israeli officials accused terrorists of sheltering in Gaza's Shifa hospital and other civilian sites.
In the next round, the officer, said, "I won't fire on Shifa. But I won't be able to keep to sterile strikes like I did in this round. I intend to kill the brigade commanders and battalion commanders wherever they are."
Gaza hospitals said at least half of the Palestinian dead in the offensive were civilians. Israel put the number of slain combatants at 120, around two-thirds of the toll.
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