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The political calculations behind Israel’s assault on Gaza
Israel’s invasion of Gaza is a calculated act of aggression for which the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian commandos provided the pretext. If anything, the scale and nature of the incursion, which has targeted Gaza’s infrastructure for destruction and has been accompanied by threats to assassinate the leaders of Hamas, works against the safe return of the 19-year-old conscript.
The huge number of troops and tanks that have either entered Gaza or are massed on its borders—3,000 soldiers and 100 tanks—belies Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s claim that “We have one objective, and that is to bring Gilat home.”
The destruction of three major bridges and the bombing of the region’s only power station, cutting off electricity for most of Gaza, underscore the cynicism of his statement that Israel does not “intend to punish ordinary Palestinians.” Israeli planes fired at least nine missiles at the power station. Water pumps throughout the area are powered by electricity, and hospitals in Gaza City face a permanent loss of power.
In addition, Israel has closed off the borders to Gaza, preventing food, medical supplies and other necessities from getting in and blocking the inhabitants from getting out. These actions are creating a humanitarian disaster throughout the impoverished region. If this is not “punishing ordinary Palestinians,” then what is?
At the same time, Israel is using its vast military supremacy to terrorise the defenceless population. Israeli warplanes have flown low over Gaza City, producing sonic booms that have shattered windows.
Things will not end there. Olmert has issued the following sinister threat: “We won’t hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family.... All the military activity that started overnight will continue in the coming days.”
Talk of “extreme measures” suggests bloodshed on a scale that prompted one BBC correspondent to raise the possibility of “Jenin mark two”—referring to the destruction of the heavily populated refugee camp during Israel’s 2002 invasion of the West Bank.