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Debka File's assessment

Reader comment on item: Israel's Strategic Incompetence in Gaza

Submitted by Mike Malkovitch (United States), Jan 11, 2009 at 03:34

Our military sources report that Hamas was preparing to haggle over ceasefire terms, chiefly the opening of the crossing points, to save face, but had come closer than ever before to accepting a pause, any pause, without counter-demands – until Meshaal intervened.

Six developments brought Hamas near to breaking point, our military sources disclose:

1. Desertions are spreading among the 18,000 rank and file and police officers, who were left out in the open to shoot missiles and rockets and fight off Israeli attacks, while Hamas leaders and commanders stayed under cover in bunkers.

Seeing the fading resistance, Hamas' Grad rocket specialist, Ami Mansi, emerged from hiding Saturday and took over a mortar position against Israel troops. Quickly identified, he was killed by an Israeli helicopter missile with two aides. That night, Al Qaeda's Gaza commander, Ghassen Maqdad, was killed in Khan Younes in the south.

2. The Hamas hard core of fighters, estimated at 3,500 before the war, has suffered painful losses - at least 550 men, including high profile operatives. Israeli forces continued to press forward Saturday, disabling Hamas' bunker hideouts, booby-trapped tunnels and buried passages designed to serve as escape hatches and the abduction of Israeli soldiers. Their missile production workshops have been destroyed but Hamas is not finished yet, say Israeli military sources.

Saturday, 12 Israeli soldiers suffered minor injuries.

3. Signaling an intense push ahead, Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip Saturday with this warning: "The IDF will soon raise the level of attacks on tunnels, weapons caches and terrorists. For your own safety and that of your families, keep your distance from places where terrorists are hiding, active and store weapons."

4. The commander of Hamas' military wing, Muhammad Jabry, has lost his credibility after failing to follow through on his vow that Israeli troops would never set foot in Gaza City. Our military sources disclose that as of Saturday, the Gazan capital is virtually defenseless after desertions left Hamas bunkers, defensive tunnels and anti-tank positions unmanned.

Hamas tacticians have decided to deploy their dwindling manpower to maintain the missile and rocket-fire, which began dipping from 40 Thursday, to 30 Friday and 20 Saturday.

5. The southern town of Rafah is in the same dire straits as Gaza City.

6. Gaza's population is increasingly estranged from its invisible Hamas rulers, accusing them of fighting their battles to the last civilian. Hamas has planted booby-traps, weapons caches and firing positions in private homes, so that civilians take the brunt of explosions and counter-attacks.

DEBKAfile's military sources report senior IDF commanders are anxious to build on Hamas' weakness at this moment to step up the tempo of their offensive and finally push Hamas to the wall. Israel will then be placed in position for attaining its targets – an end to Hamas' eight-year missile assault on the South and its ability to rearm as well as the release of the captive Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.

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