Maneuvering the enemy: The Israel government reportedly employed several measures in order to lead Hamas into a false sense of security and ensure the operation against the Islamist group would take the organization by complete surprise.
The tactic called for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza, despite the ongoing rocket fire on the western Negev.
Last Sunday afternoon saw Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Barak reportedly agree on launching a wide-scale military offensive in Gaza. Then on Wednesday the National Security Cabinet approved the proposed operation, with the 11 ministers comprising the forum lodging a unanimous yea vote.
However leaks to the media prompted Hamas officials to go underground in anticipation of the operation, forcing Israel to rethink its strategy and attempt a three-stage deception maneuver.
Stage one called for the press to learn that the cabinet was only briefed on the situation in Gaza, but that no operational decisions were made.
Stage two called for Barak to announce that humanitarian aid would be let into the Strip on Friday.
Stage three had the media learn that the "kitchenette" – the narrow forum comprised of Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – would be meeting on Sunday to discuss future options.
These steps, said political sources, bore fruit.
"Hamas pulled its people out of hiding and resumed normal operations," said the sources. "It would seem that Hamas believes the Israeli media, and thought it had a few more days before Israel launched an operation… once the tactical opportunity presented itself, the prime minister called Barak and Livni to his home on Friday night and they made the decision."
One of the sources added that the IDF has set only two goals for the operation, which is called 'Cast
Lead.' The short-term goal calls for the rocket fire by Hamas and the other terror organization to stop. The second goal is to create the kind of deterrence that would prevent future attacks from Gaza on Israel's south.
Senior sources in Jerusalem added that unlike the Second Lebanon War, which had ambitious goals, the current operation does not aim for the outright toppling of Hamas' rule in Gaza, or for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, but rather only restoring calm to the western Negev and the Gaza-vicinity communities.