Hamas is surprised by the level of damage it has sustained in the military operation launched this week to extinguish rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, despite the public rhetoric coming out of Gaza.
The IDF has prepared for an offensive against Hamas for years, based on the understanding that the Islamic movement will seek a confrontation to alleviate its growing isolation and its faltering standing as Gaza’s ruler. From the moment that Hamas’s ally in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, was toppled a year ago, the Gaza regime entered a crisis from which it is still struggling to emerge.
Hamas’s guerrilla-terrorist wing has planted its assets deep in the Strip’s civilian population, but that has not prevented the IDF from seeking them out and firing some 900 tons of explosives at a variety of critical targets.
By day three of the operation on Thursday, Hamas already announced its conditions for a truce, and this is a sign that it is facing strategic distress. The current conflict has barely given Hamas any “achievements,” and it is desperately trying to increase its attacks to strike painful blows to the Israeli people, thereby altering public perception of the clash. Hamas has tried but failed to combine rocket attacks with underground tunnel attacks and naval commando raids. But it has more up its sleeves, and the IDF believes the chances of additional surprise attacks are high.
Hamas has fired a third of its arsenal of M-75 rockets, which have a range of 80 kilometers, but still has many Grad rockets and a locally produced imitation of the Syrian M-302 rocket, with a range of over 100 kilometers.
The IDF is prepared to wage a ground offensive, and is waiting for a green light from the cabinet. The Armored Corps and Infantry Corps battalions massing on the Gaza border have trained for combat in the Strip, and senior IDF commanders feel they are more than ready to move in.
A key to Israel’s offensive has been the synergy between the IDF’s Southern Command, which is managing operations, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and the Israel Air Force, which is leading the way in terms of firepower.
The Ground Forces Command may soon join that triangle.