Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Israeli/Hamas Conflict: Update--Cease-Fire Agreement Signed on August 26

According to AFP, a senior Israeli Army intelligence official has admitted that Israel underestimated the tenacity of Gaza militants and did not expect a 50-day conflict to last so long, but he insisted they were soundly beaten.

"If you'd asked me two months ago, I wouldn't assess that it's going to take us 50 days," the official told journalists in English at a briefing in Tel Aviv late Tuesday (September 2).

The conflict, which ended with a cease-fire last week, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, as well as 66 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side, in the bloodiest battle between the Jewish state and Gaza militants in years.

"We thought it's going to take them a shorter time to understand what happened, and we are mistaken here. It's a tactical assessment mistake, but it's a mistake," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the training of some Hamas militants had impressed him, but that there were no "surprises" for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). 

"They [Hamas] were in pretty good shape and pretty well-trained," he said of amphibious commando-style raids by Hamas militants on Israeli shores.

"You can see for sure they were trained outside of the Gaza Strip," the official said, but added "we haven't seen anything that has surprised us" militarily.

COMMENT: I remain skeptical that the cease-fire between Hamas and the IDF is a lasting one. My only hope is that my instincts are wrong. 

My continuing concern is that as a part of the cease-fire agreement, Hamas was NOT directed to abandon its stated goal of eliminating Israel as a Jewish state and surrendering all of its weapons, including rockets.

Hamas and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire on August 26, with both sides hailing it as a victory.

The Israeli Army intelligence official said Hamas, the main power in Gaza, and Islamic Jihad (IJ), the next largest anti-Israel militant group, were successfully neutralized.

"We think they are in very bad shape," he said, pointing out that two-thirds of the militants' rocket holdings had been wiped out and several hundred of them killed. That being said, the reality is that Hamas retains perhaps hundreds of rockets with which to use against the Jewish state.

The UN says some 70% of Palestinian fatalities were civilians. Israel's army says it killed more than 616 militants, out of some 16,000 Hamas, 5,000 Islamic Jihad and 5,000 other fighters reportedly based in Gaza.