Israeli forces focus on northern Gaza

Map of Gaza. Click map to view. Created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.

As the third day of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza ends, the Israeli military indicated it may expand operations in the southern portion of the strip after focusing primarily on the north.

Fighting between the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas has largely been reported in the northern areas of the Gaza Strip. The IDF has surrounded Gaza City and is heavily engaged in Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanun, Jabalya, Saja’iya, and Atatra. While operating in Gaza, Israeli forces have encountered mortar fire, snipers, suicide bombers, and houses rigged to explode. Israeli troops killed a suicide bomber in northern Gaza as he attempted to detonate his vest in the midst of Israeli soldiers.

Six Israeli soldiers have been killed since ground operations began; five have been killed in the past 24 hours. The IDF believes 100 Hamas fighters and several Islamic Jihad fighters were killed yesterday and another 10 were killed today. More than 150 Hamas fighters have been detained.

More than 30 Palestinian civilians were reported to have been killed after Hamas fighters launched mortars from a United Nations school at Israeli troops, who returned fire. Hamas reportedly rigged the school with IEDs, and secondary explosions killed and wounded the civilians taking shelter at the school.

Israeli forces continue to target the homes of Hamas military leaders. Ayman Siam, the founder of Hamas’ rocket program and commander of the artillery program throughout Gaza, was killed after Israeli troops and the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, attacked his home in Jabaliya.

The operation in Gaza is said to have disrupted communications between Hamas’ political leadership in Gaza and the armed terrorist wing of the party known as the Izzadin Kassam. Political leaders in Gaza have gone in hiding.

Khalid Mashal, the senior political leader of Hamas who is based out of Damascus in Syria, is said to be providing direct orders to the Izzadin Kassam. Mashal has given the Izzadin Kassam “full freedom to take any measures it deems necessary to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Several days ago, Hamas started to seek out and punish “collaborators” and political enemies in the Gaza Strip. Hamas arrested and maimed more than 100 opposing Fatah members and collaborators. Six Palestinians accused of providing information on the location of Hamas leaders to Israeli intelligence were executed in the past two days.

Despite the Israeli offensive, Hamas was able to launch more than 40 rockets into southern Israel on Tuesday. The Israeli military said the presence of troops in northern Gaza has stopped Hamas from launching missiles at the Israeli cities of Ashdod and Beersheba.

As the military operation expands in Gaza, Israel’s political leadership appears eager for the Gaza incursion to end.

“The sooner, the better,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz when asked when the operation would end. “We did not set out to occupy Gaza or kill every terrorist. We set out to bring change to the south.”

Olmert indicated Israel is seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Gaza. “There are different ideas for a diplomatic solution,” he said. “I am currently in discussions regarding them with many leaders around the world. The result must be an effective blockading of the Philadelphi Route, with supervision and follow-ups.” Hundreds of Palestinian smuggling tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt cross the Philadelphi Route.

Israel, under the leadership of Olmert, accepted a negotiated settlement with Hezbollah at the end of the war in Lebanon in 2006. The United Nations provided monitors and peacekeepers to observe in southern Lebanon. But Hezbollah is said to have consolidated control in scores of villages south of the Litani River and has replenished its arsenal of rockets with the aid of Syria and Iran.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Warthog says:

    They cannot win their hearts and minds, they can only cripple their hands. Hamas had all the chances in the world and they sewed the wind. Now they reap the whirlwind.
    Still, the Israelis send them food and medicine. Do they not understand the definition of “war”? They’d better learn it or they will have to take remedial classes.

  • JusCruzn says:


  • Gringo says:

    A “diplomatic solution” is useless. Hezbollah used the “diplomatic solution” to rearm southern Lebanon under the consenting eyes of US troops.

  • CommonCents says:

    How can Meshaal be coordinating Hamas activity from Damascus and Syria not be held responsible in some way? This would be an excellent opportunity for Syria to step up to the plate and if not arresting Meshaal at least make him incommunicato.

  • Israel seems to be the only country that I know of that keeps winning wars and then is forced to make concessions to the losers of those wars. The reason that I’m skeptical that this war on Hamas will succeed is because of Israel’s self-imposed decency. If Hamas had the power, does anyone really think that they would hesitate for a minute to destroy Israel? If Hamas really wanted peace, why didn’t they simply take an active role in the peace process? The answer (as everyone knows) is that Hamas never had, and never will have, any desire to live in peace next to Israel and that Hamas’ members would rather die in abject poverty rather than pursue a brighter future for their own people through peace negotiations. So, given Hamas’ determination not to live in peace, what is Israel to do? The logical answer would be to crush and kill all of the members of Hamas that could pose a future threat to Israel. Crush them so decisively that there wouldn’t be any Hamas members left in large numbers to mount any kind of offensive against Israel. Does Israel have the stomach to do that, knowing the instant condemnation it would receive from Europe, not to mention the rest of the Muslim world? Of course not, which is why Israel will have to fight this same battle with Hamas again, and again, and again. The only way for Israel to obtain long-term security from Hamas is to secure an unconditional surrender from that terror organization. Will that ever happen? Not a chance, and that’s the real tragedy that’s unfolding right now in Gaza.

  • Joakim Ekström says:

    Libertyship and others,
    It’s not simple to “kill or capture every terrorist” within a given geographical area. Like Churchill said: “…Never believe any war will be smooth and easy…” Terrorists don’t wear uniforms and most days they are just the most ordinary persons. Then perhaps an hour a week or so, they take potshots at someone, or plant an IED.
    To destroy Hamas, Israel would most likely have to occupy Gaza. And I’m not sure they are willing to do that, simply because there are many cons of that. With an occupation, Israel would be stuck with the responsibility for the safety and well-being of all people in Gaza, for example.
    Hamas is in a desperate situation. The people have seen that they have nothing to offer, and former allies are turning against them. They are most likely well aware that their control of Gaza is nearing an end. Their reign is not sustainable. The PA will take over Gaza, and thus Israel can have some strategic patience.
    Hamas is a terror organisation, and the conventional wisdom is that it isn’t possible to deter a terrorist. But Hamas is now also a regime, and the conventional wisdom about regimes is that their first and foremost priority always is to stay in power, and are therefore easily deterred. So maybe Hamas is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I believe Israel to some extent already has succeeded in deterring Hamas for some years to come.
    From Israel’s point of view, I think the best thing would be if the arabs dealt Hamas. Such a solution would have more credibility and carry less political risk. And it would therefore also be better for the palestinians as well.

  • KW64 says:

    I suspect any ceasefire observers will just be human shields for Hamas just like the UN observers in southern Lebanon are for Hezbollah. Fatah on the other hand neither trusts Hamas or likes them. If they are in charge, they may actually care about suppressing them. So, strange as it may sound, I would rather have Fatah Palestinians control the area than the UN.


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