Shin Bet head says some Hamas leaders support cease-fire; PM: Ground op was "unavoidable."
By HERB KEINON
Nine days into Operation Cast Lead and less than a day after the IDF launched a massive ground attack, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin said Sunday that Hamas leaders are showing a "willingness" to reach some kind of arrangement with Israel.
In a briefing he gave the cabinet, which met in Tel Aviv, Diskin said there had been a "softening" of Hamas's determination, "and today there is a willingness from Hamas to reach some kind of arrangement."
Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel, who briefed the press on the ministers' meeting, emphasized that this willingness was apparent among Hamas leaders, implying that the same sentiment was not apparent among the leaders of Islamic Jihad or the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.
While Diskin said it was becoming increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern, the organization's military wing, Izzadin Kassam, had not sufficiently been hit.
Yehezkel quoted Diskin as saying that although Hamas's military wing had begun the current round of fighting by firing rockets on Israel, it was now unable to implement its plan to block IDF troops moving into the Gaza Strip. Yehezkel also said the cabinet had made clear that Israel did not intend to reoccupy the Gaza Strip.
OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet that Hamas now understood that breaking the "calm" with Israel was a "strategic error."
According to Yadlin, "Hamas has absorbed a very hard blow. Dozens of its command headquarters were hit, hundreds of terrorist were killed, ammunition dumps and production facilities were destroyed. Their ability to govern has been harmed, its leaders have completely abandoned the population and are worrying only about themselves."
Yadlin said that there had been a great deal of Palestinian criticism of the suffering that Hamas had brought upon them. "Hamas has made itself hated in the world and the region, and found itself isolated and in an alliance of lepers with Iran and Syria," he said.
According to Yadlin, the moderate Arab regimes in the region want to help the Palestinians and understand that Hamas is harming Palestinian interests and playing into the hands of the radical axis headed by Iran.
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Hamas was firing fewer rockets than Israel expected, but still retained its rocket-firing capacity. The current operation was expected not to stop the rocket fire, but to reduce it, he said.
The fighting inside Gaza was difficult and taking place at close range, Ashkenazi said. Like Diskin, he said that "not much" remained of the Hamas government.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opened the cabinet meeting by reiterating that the ground action was part of an overall operation designed "to establish our aspiration to change the security reality in the South."
He said the IDF was establishing control of the areas from which most of the missiles had been fired at Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod in recent weeks and months.
"I can look each one of you in the eyes and say that the government did its utmost before deciding on the operation," Olmert said, addressing the "parents and family members" of those involved in Operation Cast Lead.
Calling the ground action "unavoidable," Olmert appealed to the country to comport itself "with responsibility and consideration" in times that are neither quiet nor simple.
"Our boys are on the battlefield," he said. "Let us be worthy of their courage and sacrifice."
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