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Hamas has learned from the Second Lebanon War
by Haaretz (reposted)
Monday May 21st, 2007 10:17 PM
One hundred and forty Qassam rockets landed in Israel last week. On Monday night, the barrage caused the first Israeli fatality in the current round of hostilities - a 35-year-old woman from Sderot.
It seems that Hamas has learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. Its militants timed the lethal Qassam salvo to occur just before the 8 P.M. television news after keeping a low profile all day. Hamas in Hezbollah's clothing.

As in all the previous years of the second intifada, it's the body count that matters. The victim's funeral will determine the government's response. The week-long barrage, by contrast, does not count for much. Israel will now escalate its actions against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Since the renewal of aerial assaults against Palestinian terrorists, the Israel Air Force has killed 30 suspected militants. Security forces will now focus on adding prominent Palestinian military leaders to that figure. High up on the list are Ahmed Jabri, Ahmed Randor and Mohammed Deif - all from Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the Hamas military wing.

All three are promoting an escalation in the fight against Israel, and the renewal of suicide bomb attacks within Israel proper. However, Hamas' capabilities in launching suicide bombers past the Green Line are not what they used to be.

Years of preemptive efforts by the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces have greatly diminished Hamas' abilities, and decimated most terror networks in the West Bank.

Nonetheless, one or two determined suicide bombers are likely to penetrate into Israel sooner or later. The main question is whether Hamas will flinch as a result of the pressure Israel is applying. Last night, the answer was still no.

Still, large IDF forces are not expected to enter the Gaza Strip any time soon. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will opt for a regulated escalation through a system of stages. As the defense establishment knows, Hamas is a long way from acquiring Hezbollah's capabilities.

Moreover, massive aerial strikes in the Strip will result in many civilian casualties. The army can warn in advance all it wants; unlike in Lebanon, the residents have nowhere to go.

by Haaretz (reposted)
Monday May 21st, 2007 10:18 PM

Meanwhile, Ahmed Yusuf, a political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a member of Hamas, announced Monday that there is a possibility of a general cease-fire that all the Palestinian factions would accept, if Israel would agree a tahdiyeh, or "lull," in the West Bank as well.

A tahdiyeh had been in place in the Gaza Strip, but while Hamas largely adhered to it for about six months, other, smaller organizations did not, and Hamas made no move to enforce it. Israel therefore refused to extend it to the West Bank, arguing that only the IDF would or could curtail extremist Palestinian groups operating there.

In a conversation with Haaretz, Yusuf said that "Israel's agreement to extend the tahdiyeh to the West Bank will enable the government headed by Haniyeh to convince the groups to cease firing Qassam rockets. We have the tools to enable us to do this."

Urging Israel to offer a political solution to the recent escalation, he added: "We are interested in a general cease-fire, and the question is whether Israel is also interested in this," Yusuf said.

The Hamas official called on Israel to negotiate a solution to the crisis with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Seconding this call, Palestinian Minister of Information Mustafa Barghouti said that expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank is necessary in order to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

Though the view in Israel is that Hamas escalated the rocket attacks because of its internal battles with the rival Fatah organization in Gaza, Hamas claims that it is Israel that caused the escalation, due to the domestic political difficulties of Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday May 22nd, 2007 8:09 AM
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Published: 22 May 2007

An Israeli woman civilian was killed by a Qassam rocket last night after Israeli air strikes killed five Palestinians - including all four members of an Islamic Jihad rocket launching cell.

The woman was three metres from a car hit by a rocket near the commercial centre of the southern border town of Sderot. Her death was the first in the current spate of rocket attacks by Gaza militants on Israel. One man was injured.

Cabinet ministers had warned yesterday that a range of Hamas officials -including the Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal - would be regarded as legitimate targets in response to the rocket attacks.

The warning followed the Israeli air force bombing of premises next to the Gaza home of a Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament Khalil al-Haya on Sunday night, which killed eight people, including seven members of his family. Mr Haya was slightly injured.

Avi Dichter, the Public Security Minister, told Army Radio that Mr Mashaal, whom Mossad agents tried to kill in a botched poisoning attempt in 1997, was not "invincible" or "immune from Israeli attack". Earlier, an Israeli aircraft killed all four Islamic Jihad passengers when it launched a missile at a car in which the faction said the men had been returning from launching rockets. A spokesman for the group threatened "earthshaking revenge".