Stating that Israel had crippled Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just announced an end to the 3-week Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. He said the army would remain in Gaza while Egypt mediates a long-term truce with Hamas.
According to DEBKAfile Israeli forces will hold to their positions in the Gaza Strip for a trial period to test Hamas’ response. Meanwhile, Hamas promises to keep on fighting and shooting rockets, while neither Washington nor Cairo guarantee action to end the flow of weapons to Gaza. As the Israeli security cabinet voted on the unilateral cease fire, Hamas blasted rockets against Ashdod and Ashkelon.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office reiterated that the IDF began Operation Cast Lead following an extended period of restraint as Hamas continued to terrorize the residents of southern Israel with daily rocket barrages. According to the IDF “Hamas alone is responsible for creating the situation in Gaza and is accountable for its consequences.”
The IDF will redeploy forces within the Gaza Strip in accordance with security assessments. Air, naval, ground and intelligence forces will remain on alert .
Israel launched its ground operation in Gaza today. Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Major Avital Leibovitch said:
The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations…We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas.
DEBKAFile’s Washington source reported that in a telephone conversation with prime minister Ehud Olmert, US president George W. Bush OK’d Israeli air, sea and ground operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He promised the US would veto a resolution condemning Israel at the UN Security Council meeting next Monday.
The IDF released the following statistics today:
1. Today, over 950,000 Israelis live within range of rocket and mortar attacks.
2. There have been approximately 7,200 rockets (Grads, Qassams) and mortars launched at Israel since 2005.
3. During 2008, there have been 1755 mortars shells, 1720 Qassams rockets, and 75 Grad missiles launched at Israel.
4. Since Hamas’ election there has been a steady increase of these rocket attacks against Israel’s citizens:
- Between Israel’s evacuation of Gaza and the election of Hamas (Aug. 15, 2005 – Jan. 25, 2006), there was an average of over 15 rocket and mortar attacks a month.
- Between Hamas’ election and Hamas’ forceful takeover of the Strip (Jan. 25, 2006 – June 14, 2007), there was an average of over 102 attacks per month—an over 650% increase.
- Between Hamas’ takeover and the start of the Tahadiya (State of Calm), (June 14, 2007 – June 16, 2008), there was an average of over 361 attacks per month—an increase of an additional 350%.
5. On Nov. 4 – 5, Israel launched Operation “Double Challenge”, targeting a tunnel Hamas was building as part of a plan to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
6. From the end of Operation “Double Challenge” until the end of the Tahadiya, (Nov. 4 – Dec. 19, 2008) a period of only a month and a half, there were 170 mortars, 255 Qassams, and 5 Grads fired upon Israel’s civilian population centers.
7. Since the end of the Tahadiya (Dec. 19, 2009) until the beginning of Operation “Cast Lead,” (Dec. 27, 2008) a period of little more than a week, there were approximately 300 mortars and rockets fired onto Israel.
8. Since the begining of Operation ”Cast Lead”, there have been an additional 500 launches, 284 of which have been verified as rockets (both Qassams and Grads), and 113 as mortars.
Enough is enough…When there’s shooting, there’s a response. Any state would react that way.
–Tzipi Livni, Dec 25, 2008, as quoted by The Associated Press
Watch the December 31 video interview of Livni on the Hamas situation:
Israel Has No Alternative (double click on the play button to start the video)
Watch the January 1 BBC interview: Livni Defends Gaza Operation