The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

No victors in Gaza war

Israeli troopsAs the fighting finally ceased Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s Gazan leader, broadcast a message congratulating the Palestinian people on their “great victory”.

Outside, those Palestinians were savouring that “victory”. In neighbourhoods pulverised beyond recognition, hungry, traumatised and distraught they picked with bare hands through the rubble of their homes, searching for the decomposing corpses of relatives.

Mr Haniyeh’s claim of victory was obscene. In three weeks Hamas’s fighters managed to kill just six Israeli soldiers. The group’s much-vaunted tunnels, booby-traps and other “surprises” barely dented Israel’s mighty military machine. The Hamas regime managed to survive three weeks, and kept firing rockets at southern Israel, but at a terrible cost to the 1.5 million people whose well-being it is supposed to promote: 1,300 men, women and children dead, 5,000 maimed and injured, 100,000 homeless and 14 per cent of Gaza’s buildings damaged or destroyed. So much for Hamas’s aspirations to be a responsible government, not a guerrilla force.

That said, the Israeli leadership is little better. Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, claims that Operation Cast Lead more than achieved its goals. It has, he says, severely damaged Hamas and taught it such a lesson that Israel’s enemies will in future think long and hard before tangling with the Jewish state.

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Those are dubious assertions. Hamas remains firmly in control of Gaza. No more than 600 of its fighters were killed, leaving roughly 19,000 alive by Israel’s own estimates. Israeli military intelligence officers say that it retains an ample supply of rockets. Yuval Diskin, Israel’s spy chief, says that the offensive failed to destroy the tunnel system through which Hamas smuggles in weapons from Egypt and that operation could be back to full strength within months if Egypt does not stop it. Egypt has promised to crack down, but will not allow a single foreign monitor or soldier on its Gazan border.

But even if Mr Olmert is right, he is failing to weigh the wider costs of the offensive. It has undermined the moderate leadership of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, deepened the gulf between Arab and Jew, and radicalised another generation of young Palestinians in Gaza. It is just conceivable that ordinary Gazans will blame Hamas for the disaster that has befallen them, but those approached by The Times this week say that the offensive has only fuelled their hatred of Israelis.

Finally there is the terrible toll the war has exacted on Israel’s international standing. At home, and in America, it was seen as an entirely justifiable reaction to eight years of Hamas rockets, and the death toll is blamed on Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields.

Elsewhere the offensive was seen as a totally disproportionate response to pinprick attacks. The world was outraged by the suffering of Palestinian women and children, the destruction of schools, hospitals and other shelters, the obstruction of international relief and rescue efforts, the flagrant defiance of UN ceasefire demands, and the possibly illegal use of phosphorous bombs.

That outrage will only grow as the foreign media finally gains access to Gaza and the true scale of the destruction becomes apparent. The Israeli brand has suffered huge damage, and its leaders are now braced for a wave of war crimes charges.

Contrary to the claims of Mr Haniyeh and Mr Olmert, this was a war without victors – just hundreds of thousands of losers.

Source: Times

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