Four days into the operation to repress the rocket fire long afflicting the South, Israel and Hamas have reached a crossroads. It is possible, at this stage, to scale back the conflict and reach a cease-fire, if Hamas ends its indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians, and if it has internalized the fact that the days in which it could freely terrorize southern Israel have passed.

With nearly 1,000 key Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets destroyed in waves of Israel Air Force strikes (made possible by painstaking intelligence efforts), Hamas has sustained considerable damage. It has lost its military commander, key operational figures and most of its strategic long-range missile caches, as well as a respectable portion of its medium-range rocket stockpile.

Hamas is sporadically firing on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in part to hide the fact that its long-range threat has been largely destroyed, despite its access to a small number of remaining projectiles that can reach deep into Israel.

It is the South that is on the receiving end of most of the Hamas attacks.

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The IDF fully expected Hamas to respond this way. The Iron Dome batteries have created an aerial blanket over Israel’s cities, sparing Israel many casualties and scenes of mayhem, and enabling the IDF to proceed according to its plan without sudden changes.

The IDF appears to be entering a stage in the campaign where it is responding to Hamas’s actions.

From now on, it seems, continued rocket salvos on our cities will be met with increasingly firm steps, while a cessation of rockets would likely lead to an end of the operation.

Hamas may, however, decide to keep to its jihadi ideology, and keep up appearances among the terror factions of Gaza, by continuing its war on Israeli civilians.

To deal with such a development, the IDF has been amassing infantry brigades, armored vehicles and all the necessary support components on the Gaza border. The sizable military force waiting at the gates of Gaza is no bluff.

The goal of a ground offensive would not be to topple the Hamas regime, but rather to inflict enormous damage on critical Hamas terrorist infrastructure.

A ground offensive carries risks for soldiers, and the IDF is braced for the possibility of casualties.

Hamas would find itself on the receiving end of overwhelming force, and might struggle to recover from the confrontation.

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