Hamas' New Year surprise... and John Kerry's cease fire - UPDATEDHamas planned a mass terror attack on southern Israel on Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, a little more than two months from now (second link in Hebrew).
According to the report, Hamas planned to send up to 200 terrorists through many tunnels that lead into six different kibbutzim, moshavim and villages around Gaza's borders. The terrorists' mission was to have been the mass murder and kidnapping of as many Jews as possible. Although the newspaper does not make the connection, I suspect that this map likely shows some of the places involved, and explains why the battle of Shejaiya earlier this week was so important.
During the course of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF discovered that the tunnels did not go straight as it assumed, but the tunnels intersected with each other, to allow the transfer of terrorists from one tunnel to the next. The tunnels also included storage rooms for weapons, tranquilizer drugs, and cables to tie the hands of potential kidnap victims. The idea was to kill as many people as possible, and bring back many more to ransom for 'Palestinian' terrorists languishing in Israel prisons.
According to Maariv, the tunnel digging started several years ago, and in the last year Hamas terrorists have been working three shifts per day, around the clock, in order to add 15 meters per day to each tunnel. Hamas has spent hundreds of millions of dollars (actually, euros) on the tunnels, which money could have gone to pay for schools hospitals, bomb shelters, etc.
Enter US Secretary of State John FN Kerry... our unwelcome guest.
Kerry has proposed a week-long cease fire beginning on Sunday (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). During that week, the parties would negotiate for a more permanent deal, i.e. until the next time Hamas violates it. It would leave Hamas with some tunnels intact, with about 45% of its rocket supply, and with the ability to fight another day. It would also bring Hamas billions in international aid for 'reconstruction,' much of which would likely be diverted to reconstruct the tunnels, as was the case after Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense.
As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending.
Important details of the plan remained under negotiation early Friday, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the negotiations were at a delicate stage. Among the unresolved issues is an Israeli proposal that its troops be allowed to remain in Gaza during the temporary truce.
I don't see how Israel could withdraw from Gaza now. As noted above, a cease fire now is not in Israel's best interest, and in any event a withdrawal would make it that much harder to get back in. The last two times in this operation, Hamas did our dirty work by turning down the cased fire. Will it happen again?It was not clear if the final plan would be endorsed by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, or by the Israeli cabinet.
Hamas’s political leader, Khaled Meshal, has stated that he would not accept an enduring cease-fire until his demands were met, including the lifting of an economic blockade on Gaza. But Mr. Meshal called Wednesday for a humanitarian truce to allow relief aid to reach Gaza, and the proposed start of the seven-day truce is intended to coincide with the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which signals the end of Ramadan. The Israeli cabinet was expected to discuss the plan on Friday afternoon, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.The security cabinet is meeting now (after the meeting was postponed from Noon to 3:00 pm), but the plan it is considering would not only have the IDF remain in Gaza for the week, but it would have the IDF continue to destroy tunnels (presumably around the clock), and I'd be shocked if Hamas accepted that.
An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government envisages the initial halt to the fighting lasting seven days, during which the army would keep digging up tunnels on Gaza's eastern frontier.
"First Israel wants to hear Hamas's response to the (Kerry) proposals," an official said, adding that some members of the security cabinet also sought assurances that Gaza would be stripped of its remaining rockets under any extended ceasefire.A Washington Post editorial earlier this week actually called for disarming Gaza, but I cannot see Hamas agreeing to that, at least so long as there are expendable civilians. And there are plenty of voices in Israel who don't want a cease fire either. For example, Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) publicly expressed support for continuing Operation Protective Edge on Friday, at a press conference with Israeli reporters.
"A ceasefire without exposing all the tunnels would be a mistake," he said.
Aharonovitch denied that Israel was considering a cease-fire just yet, however.Meanwhile, Kerry is trying to pressure the parties to reach an agreement by threatening to leave. This is the Times again.
"There are all kinds of proposals," he noted. "The IDF is operating in Gaza and exposing many terror tunnels, and the goal is to expose them all. We need to do what needs to be done, and not limit the IDF to a deadline."
“He isn’t here for an indefinite amount of time, and in the near future, he will determine whether there is a willingness to come to an agreement on a cease-fire,” a senior State Department official told reporters Thursday evening.
We wish he would leave. After all, Nantucket awaits.The Israeli news media has reported that Mr. Kerry planned to leave Cairo for the United States on Friday afternoon.
We didn't ask him to come in the first place.
UPDATE 5:43 PM