Part 2 of analysis
Another lesson from the Lebanon War, which the cabinet should have posted on the walls of the room while instructing the army to embark on an operation in Gaza, is as follows: Be prepared for the possibility that hundreds of rockets will be fired at Israel for an extended period of time.
This includes rockets with a 40-kilometer range that may hit the Ashdod Port, Beersheba, and in fact every large southern city. These rockets will be fired until the last day of the war, yet this will not be considered an Israeli failure.
What will be considered an Israeli achievement is a Hamas request for a ceasefire – after significant assets that make up its power will no longer exist: Government, military, and civilian facilities. Any less than that would be a waste of time; if Hamas leaders will be able to emerge out of their bunkers, restore the group’s infrastructure within two months, and renew the fire and the balance of terror, it means they won.
In order not to fall into this trap, the IDF Central Command needs to – five minutes before the jets take off – put ground forces on alert for possible operations that would complete the destruction of targets hit by the Air Force. If the rules of the game are known in advance and the operation ends with aerial assaults without complementary ground operations, it means we are back to the conception that was one of the roots of the Second Lebanon War failure.
On Thursday, Hamas taught Israel a lesson in persistence. In the first days after the group renewed its fire – around December 19th – Hamas fired a relatively small number of rockets towards Israeli communities, without hitting them. This was a warning signal: Don’t mess with us. We will operate all the way to the Gaza fence, and you won’t dare hit us.
However, Israel deviated from the rules of the game dictated by Hamas and killed three group members on the border. Hamas says we killed two more of its members within Gaza (in what we characterized as a “work accident.”) For Hamas, the killing of five people required a “disproportional response.”
Hamas’ policy, which was formulated following internal discussions among its leadership, is to respond quickly and harshly, so that Israel does not fail to understand the message.
Therefore, they allowed themselves to fire 64 rockets and mortar shells Thursday, targeting many communities at different ranges. This time around, they also took the liberty of firing into communities; another step of escalation in their view.
Now, the ball is in the Israeli leadership’s court. The question is whether it can take decisions that would enable us to realize the elementary right of every citizen to enjoy a reasonable level of security in his own land.
By Thursday night, we saw the first signal: The Air Force targeted a mortar launching cell in the southern Gaza Strip. IDF officials said the cell was firing shells at the Kerem Shalom Crossing throughout the day. Two terrorist were killed in the attack and another sustained serious wounds.