World View: Hamas Troop Numbers Grow as Israeli Ground Offensive Widens

This morning's key headlines from

  • Israel's war with the Gaza tunnels moves into population centers
  • Growing Palestinian military capabilities raise questions of Israel's objectives
  • ISIS evicts Christians and Kurds from Mosul Iraq as new bomb blasts hit Baghdad

Israel's war with the Gaza tunnels moves into population centers

Thirteen Israeli soldiers and dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed on Sunday, as Israel substantially widened and intensified the ground invasion of Gaza. The ground invasion has become a war over the major Hamas strategic assets: The network of dozens or perhaps hundreds of miles of underground tunnels criss-crossing Gaza, containing weapons storage, launching pads, and bunkers for command and control. 

When the ground invasion began, the focus was on tunnels at the border between Gaza and Israel, used by terrorists to invade Israel to kill or abduct Israeli citizens. But now the attack has moved into the heart of Gaza where Hamas has placed the most important strategic tunnels purposely in densely populated areas, so that striking at the tunnels is impossible without killing dozens or even hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is saying that this situation is necessary because Hamas is using Gaza civilians as human shields, but pro-Palestinian elements of the international community are calling the attack an Israeli onslaught on innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children. Jerusalem Post and Debka

Growing Palestinian military capabilities raise questions of Israel's objectives

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the Gaza military operation will continue as long as required, but pro-Palestinian elements of the international community are calling for immediate cessation of hostilities. 

There's increasingly a question of what Israel's objectives are. It's becoming apparent that it would take at least several weeks (or months) of aggressive military action to destroy the tunnels, killing hundreds or thousands of Palestinian civilians, but even then, it's likely that not all the tunnels would be destroyed. And even if they were, the tunnels could be rebuilt within a few months. So what's Israel's objective? 

The logic of the situation leads many to think that the objective is to inflict as much pain on Gaza as possible, in order to discourage rocket attacks. Under this theory, Palestinians are being "punished" for no other purpose but to buy a couple of years' time until the next war and the next "onslaught." 

In the meantime, militia factions in Gaza are increasing their military capabilities. Since the last war in 2012, the capacities of these militias have been enhanced through training exercises, following military training programs and curricula, including the development of special or commando forces. 

Troop numbers have increased considerably. Hamas's military wing, the Ezz Al-Din Qassam Brigades, can be regarded as a "standing army" of some 7,000 soldiers, with 25,000 untrained fighters able to bear arms. Other militia groups with similar numbers include: 

  • The Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement.
  • The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
  • The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)
  • The Mujahideen Brigades, which broke away from Fatah, and other smaller paramilitary groups.

At the same time, the power and sophistication of the militias' weapons has been growing. In particular, the power and capabilities of the rockets being launched into Israel has been growing. 

Following the "Egyptian Revolution" that began on January 25, 2011, overthrowing Egypt's long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, Hamas was able to smuggle large amounts of weapons provided by Iran into Gaza. According to one high-level Hamas official, this was the "golden era" of weapons smuggling: 

The brigades did not waste a single second. This was a golden era for the resistance’s arms. These basically consist of Russian weapons that come from Iran or elsewhere, or even from the free market that exists on both sides of the borders. Although the borders are now tightly controlled, arms are abundant. The closure of the tunnels slowed the flow of arms but did not stop it entirely. The promise of money makes smugglers very resourceful in finding new means to smuggle merchandise.

We were certain that the situation in Egypt after the revolution would not last and that the Muslim Brotherhood would not remain in power for a single year let alone a single term. We were certain of this and we knew that we had to take as full advantage of that period as possible in order to secure arms and ammunition.

What should be increasingly clear to everyone is that the hope for some sort of "permanent peace" is absurd. As I wrote for the first time in 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that there would be no peace between Arabs and Jews, and that they would be re-fighting the genocidal war between Arabs and Jews that followed the 1947 partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. When I wrote that in 2003, there were two groups of critics: the kind critics who called me "alarmist," and the unkind critics who called me "psychopathic." However, I doubt that either of those two groups of critics would doubt today that those predictions were correct. That war is coming, and the outcome will almost certainly not be favorable to Israel, as I wrote last week. Times of Oman and Al-Ahram (Cairo)

ISIS evicts Christians and Kurds from Mosul Iraq as new bomb blasts hit Baghdad

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS) tightened its grip on the northern Iraq city of Mosul in the last few days, first by evicting hundreds of Christian families and then by preparing to evict Kurds as well. Christians have lived in Mosul for millennia, but now ISIS has delivered an ultimatum to Christians: Leave the city, pay a tax, or die. Those leaving the city are being stripped of all their belongings and are permitted to keep only the clothes on their backs. Following the eviction of Christians, ISIS is giving Kurds only a few days to leave the city. 

Muslims in both Mosul and Baghdad are expressing sympathy for the evicted Christians and promising solidarity and aid. This comes as a new spate of suicide bombings struck Baghdad on Saturday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings and claims that one of the two suicide bombers is a German national. Bas News (Erbil) and AFP and Today's Zaman (Ankara)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Israel, Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas, Ezz Al-Din Qassam Brigades, Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad Movement, Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP, National Resistance Brigades, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, DFLP, Mujahideen Brigades, Fatah, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Iran, Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Iraq, Mosul, Baghdad 

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