Addressing the severe damage caused to civilian infrastructure in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, army officials said Monday forces had no other choice but to act in population hubs as Hamas gunmen were operating out of neighborhoods and private homes.
The IDF said thousands of phone calls were placed and an even greater number of pamphlets were distributed in Gaza to warn its civilians of planned attacks. TV broadcasts were also interrupted during the campaign toward this end, they added.
The army said that in addition to operating out of civilian structures and using civilians as human shields, Hamas also used ambulances that were dispatched to areas that had been bombarded to transport its gunmen.
Israel estimates that 500 Hamas gunmen were killed in the fighting, but is also taking into account that in some cases it was difficult to differentiate between gunmen and civilians, as some terrorists wore plain clothes when they were unarmed. According to the army, the gunmen were able to travel unarmed as numerous structures throughout the Strip served as weapons caches. Therefore, the IDF said, some of those were counted as civilian casualties were actually gunmen.
As for Egypt's involvement in the efforts to maintain the ceasefire, Israeli officials said they have identified greater willingness among authorities in Cairo to work toward preventing the smuggling of arms into Gaza along the Philadelphi Route.
Meanwhile, Iran, Hamas' main sponsor, is also drawing its lessons from the war in Gaza. Despite congratulating the Islamist group on its "victory", during the fighting Tehran feared that Israel would topple Hamas' regime in the coastal enclave. The Islamist Republic will now look to embolden Hamas, especially with regards to its defensive capabilities, this after Palestinian forces that were supposed to block Israel's ground incursion failed miserably.
Iran and Hamas are also considering ways to replenish the Islamist group's depleted arsenal in Gaza, particularly in light of the destruction of an estimated 80%the smuggling tunnels situated along the Egypt-Gaza border by the Israeli Air Force. Terror leaders in Gaza believe they will be able to dig up new tunnels and resume the smuggling.
Earlier Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas was dealt a blow that created "the deterrence that is now enabling this calm".