According to reports in Israeli media this week, the IDF has made two discoveries that could be called astonishing if they weren’t so serious. The first is that the IDF has found there to be far more terror tunnels than originally anticipated. The entire terror tunnel underground network is far larger, more complex and of a better construction than it has been made out to be. Some of the tunnels are large enough to move vehicles and surely can accommodate missiles and other large arms.
The second discovery has barely been met with attention by the media both outside of Israel. Israelis talk of nothing else. This is probably because the media cares more about numbers than it does about context and fact, as was recently pointed out by Prof. Alan Dershowitz. Plans for an attack so massive that Israel would likely never fully recover—the equivalent of 9/11—were found during the ground operation of Protective Edge.
The plan outlines Hamas’ intent to send a swarm of up to 1000’s of terrorists through multiple tunnels, exiting at multiple points. The terrorists would go on a rampage of a siege-attack, killing as many as they possibly could. Material discoveries made in the tunnels puts the pieces of the puzzle together as to how this would work. Automatic weapons and explosives, rocket launchers…and IDF uniforms. Their victims would initially think that Israeli soldiers are shooting at them. Soldiers wouldn’t know who to shoot at either.
The ‘siege attack’ has been used many times over the last few years in a number of different countries. Lakshar-e-Taibe could arguably be credited with popularizing this form of attack in Mumbai, although they did not create it. Before them it was used in Russia and after it was used in Algeria, Kenya, the Philippines and Nigeria. Imagine if during the 2008 Mumbai attacks there were thousands of attackers instead of just a handful. The devastation would have been enormous.
At this point of the operation Israel has made clear that its objectives are to demilitarize the Gaza Strip. Any “ceasefire” agreement must be built around this objective and may include foreign forces to conduct the cleanup. Despite the unreliability of international forces in the region to carry out such a mandate, Israel should agree to such a proposal if it is offered. Hamas is unlikely to accept such an agreement unless it suffers far more significant losses to its capabilities than it already has. Civilian death tolls will have no impact in swaying Hamas to the side of cessation.
As John Kerry landed in Israel on Tuesday it was clear from both word and deed that he had arrived to push a ceasefire deal. Israel has already agreed to the Egyptian proposal and later it accepted two unilateral ceasefire agreements. When operation Protective Edge is finally ended, Israel can be credited with the creation of the newest tactic in warfare, the unilateral ceasefire. Never before has a country allowed itself and its forces to be attacked and not respond following the rejection of a ceasefire by the other side.
Israel was already in a tough position politically, having to contend between US pressure on one hand, and the threat of a Mumbai attack on steroids on the other. Just when Israel thought that political pressure was relatively lower than anticipated however, the US and EU cancelled flights to Ben Gurion International Airport. The official reason for the cancellation was that a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza had landed in a residential area quite close to the airport’s outer borders. On face value the flights were cancelled by independent aviation authorities. However, one does wonder to what degree the aviation authorities were influenced by their governments, especially if various governments have shares or notes in airlines.
What makes the cancellation policy seem even more suspicious is that the rockets Hamas has been sending into Israel are not surface to air missiles. When Hamas tried to shoot at an Israeli UAV, it failed miserably. This is not to say that Hamas may not have some projectiles capable of shooting down a plane, it’s just that this is not their primary weapon or target. Additionally, Hamas’ rise to power and its mass stockpiling of weapons was only able to come as a result of widespread support. John Kerry’s announcement of $47 million in aid to Gaza is an announcement of that same amount going to Hamas. That is unless Hamas is no longer the ruler of Gaza by the end of this operation.
After all, to what degree in the past has there been close scrutiny on how funds were expended by Hamas, given its successful investment in growing a terrorist infrastucture and terrorist army? Hamas cannot afford, in every sense of the word, to lose support, especially now when its crimes against humanity are finally being recognized and its support dwindles.
Following the discovery of a planned mega attack against Israeli civilians, and the evidence of Hamas’ capabilities to carry out such an act, the US should not be pressuring Israel to a ceasefire at this time. It should be offering its full support in every way, not just “understanding”. Americans should remember that on that fateful day of September 11, 2001, Israel did not simply ‘understand’ the Americans’ pain, nor did it simply ‘understand’ the need for retaliation. It shared in the pain and was in full support of the reaction.