This morning, during our Shabbat meal, we were startled by what sounded like heavy artillery to the far southwest. My son was sceptical, but I insisted on going outside for better sound. Sure enough, to the far southwest came the sound of heavy powerful thuds; followed a minute later by the unmistakable roar of the IAF that appeared to be coming from everywhere. In the late afternoon, after sunset, more thuds were heard.
This afternoon's web media are reporting the long awaited Israeli response to the continued rain of rocketry and mortars from Hamas. Ha'aretz reports that the IDF launched a wide attack at 11:30 am Jerusalem time against some 50 targets.
Palestinian medical sources said that at least 195 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.Later this afternoon, Barak called a press conference to discuss the opening round of Israel's response to the recent reign of rockets.
Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.
The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordnance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.
Barak laid out the three objectives of the offensive – dealing Hamas a forceful blow, fundamentally changing the situation in Gaza, and bringing to the cessation of rocket attacks against Israeli citizens.Meanwhile, the international response contains no surprises. The Vatican urges a peaceful solution, the US asks Hamas to stop but urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties [which is why Hamas locates its factories and launch sites in civilian areas], and the Arab press has denounced Israel's action accusing Barak of seeking pre-election points in the polls. Same as it ever was.
"There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting. The operation will expand as necessary," said Barak.
"I don't want to mislead anyone. This won't be easy and it won't be short, but we must be determined," he added. "The time has come to act. We do not go to this clash gladly, but neither are we afraid of it. We will not let terrorists hurt our citizens or soldiers. We will do what is necessary. For weeks Hamas and its affiliates lobbed Qassams and Grads and mortar shells on the towns and communities of the South. We have no intention of allowing this situation to continue."
The weather has been stinky--grey, overcast, cold, with intermitten showers. The rain of the last several days had left the Gaza area muddy, all of which lulled Hamas into a false sense of security. In recent weeks, the Hamas command in Hamastan and Damascus have brushed off reports of impending Israeli action. Who would fight in the rain? Professionals.
Of course, they have Jimmy Carter as a consultant. If they remembered that Barak is the one planning the action, more importantly Barak's testimony to the Winograd Commission on the failure of the 2006 Lebanon action, they would have been more cautious of Barak's tactical style. Unlike Jimmy, whose only combat experience is with a killer bunny rabbit, Barak was a commando and a general.
What Barak said to the Winograd Commission was simple and to the point--give them six weeks to stop and then hit them hard. Indeed, this was the conclusion reached by the Winograd Commission--Olmert and Peretz were ill prepared to launch "an action"--there simply had been no prior planning or build up.
This is exactly what Barak did with the Gaza crisis. Of course, the six weeks to prepare doesn't hurt either.
As for Hamas, I'd suggest stop listening to Jimmy Carter and start talking to Ehud Barak--unless you'd rather talk to Bibi.