January 11, 2009

Hamas Rigged a School and a Zoo to Explode

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2009 6:54 PM


It takes courage, probably beyond many civilians' capacity, to confront this horror day after day; sort of like walking point through thick southeast asian jungle, I imagine, never knowing what the next footstep might bring. I've just started Bing West's "The Village" about counterinsurgency in Vietnam early on, with his "The Strongest Tribe; War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq" up next. The writing alone impresses me so far, as well as being a window on COIN thought through.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 7:29 PM

I am seeing reports that the IDF might be using white phosphorous projectile shells versus white phosphorous smoke agents. (The later use is legal.)

Does anyone have any info on this?

Paul, Israel is not fighting COIN or fighting to save the Gazans. That is the biggest problem I have with the whole operation. What is the end state? The strategic objective?

If the PA were fighting Hamas, they would be fighting to rule Gaza and govern it, presumably to benefit the Gazans. {Although it isn't clear to me that the corrupt Fatah is significantly better than Hamas.}

Is Israel only looking for a hudna/cease fire that ends attacks from Gaza against Israel? What does Israel want?

Note that when the IA went into Basrah and Sadr city last year, they brought humanitarian relief and reconstruction with them. What is the ISD bringing into Gaza?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 7:41 PM


I haven't heard or read anything credible about the IDF using any illegal weapons.

As far as Israel's goals in this operation are concerned, creating deterrence is the first. That much, at least, seemed to work in both Lebanon and the West Bank.

Weakening Hamas is the second. Hamas will not be able to resupply itself as Hezbollah did in Lebanon through its land border with Syria.

Almost every Lebanese person I spoke to a few weeks ago told me Hezbollah is finished in Lebanon if Nasrallah starts another war with Israel. I don't know if that's true, but that's what I heard. If Palestinians in Gaza adopt that kind of attitude, it will be a good thing for everybody on both sides.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 7:56 PM

I am seeing reports that the IDF might be using white phosphorous projectile shells versus white phosphorous smoke agents. (The later use is legal.)

Does anyone have any info on this?

Yes. As near as I can tell, it's garbage, the rounds in question are the smoke shells. Details at


One thing that should be remembered is that the smoke shells are used both to generate screens, and to mark targets for airstrikes or other artillery. This may result in inaccurate claims of what the effect of the round is, as the WP may not be the only thing hitting the target.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:25 PM

"What is the ISD bringing into Gaza?"


What has Hamas brought to Gaza, not to mention done with what Israel left there?

If it's me or you, I'm using what I've got that doesn't draw the innocent in unnecessarily. That my deference to morality. But if you cower behind civilians? Wire their homes, schools and mosques? All bets are off if survival's at stake---and Sderot's residents is. Like Israel's deference to morality would be duly noted on arab and european streets anyway (this conservative has lived in San Francisco way too long...) Nothing outside my own country's politics makes me as cynical as this tragedy.

I was reminded of Bing West's insightful perspective on COIN only in that the IDF seems to have thought this one through since Lebanon. And, as Michael with his experience has pointed out, Gaza isn't Lebanon; hell, studying the geography alone prompts that conclusion, and makes it seem like an understatement.

Facing irreconcilability, I don't see any other realistic end point for Israelis beyond (endless?) temporary containment.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:47 PM

What has IDF brought into Gaza...

The IDF has set up a joint coordination center in Tel Aviv where officers and representatives of the Red Cross and other international organizations can meet to facilitate the (safe) supply of humanitarian aide to the Gaza Strip.

The center is located in a military base in Tel Aviv and was created based on a similar model used successfully during the Second Lebanon War.

Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead the IDF has facilitated the transfer of 780 trucks into Gaza carrying over 17,000 tons of basic foods and medical supplies.

Meanwhile Sunday, defense officials discovered a discussion on a Hamas internet forum in which Palestinian civilians accused the terror group of stealing flour that the international organizations had supplied to Gaza. The flour is then released to the market at hiked-up prices.

The officials noted that there have been reports that Hamas is also stealing most of the medical supplies allowed into Gaza and for that reason the Palestinian Health Ministry is warning that its hospitals are lacking basic supplies. Hamas has, according to Israeli intelligence, established its own independent hospital in the Gaza Strip to treat its wounded.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:01 PM

The real goal, which Israel is reluctant to voice loudly, is to prevent the rocketing of Tel Aviv. Completely unspoken is that Beersheva, being rocketed now, is halfway to the Dimona Nuclear plant, which Hamas has said it would not hesitate to target. If they can hit Tel Aviv, Dimona's a snap.

6 months ago, Hamas had no rockets range over about 25 KM, or actual targeting ability. After the 6 month 'truce,' Hamas is routinely hitting 45 KM with pretty damn good targetting -- something like 5 direct hits on Israeli Kindergartens and nursery schools in the last week -- that's not chance. That's Iranian and Chinese grad rockets they never had before. IDF seems quite sure Hamas has at least a handful of near-Tel Aviv range rockets, and they are determined to destroy them.

Left uncrushed, it's reasonable to assume in another 6 - 12 months, Hamas will have many Dimona and TA-range missiles -- and when the time is right, they'll use one. And that could crash Israel's economy on the spot.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:13 PM

Paul S.,

You should look at Hammes "The Sling and the Stone". Excellent look at the characteristics and capacities of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW), and some attention is spent on framing the questions for what Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) will be about. I'm seeing some indications that after getting embarrassed by 4GW tactics in 2006, Israel is using some 5GW tactics against Hamas. In many ways, 5GW might well be in the process of definition in this conflict.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at January 12, 2009 8:52 AM

What? Nobody has wire cutters in Gaza?

Posted by: JohnJimson Author Profile Page at January 12, 2009 8:54 AM

Thanks, Patrick; it's now on my check-it-out list.

Just as battle is fluid, effective strategy and subsequent tactical decisions always have to be a work in progress. History is so often such a heartbreaker to read because key players didn't realize---or admit---that static rather than dynamic mind states can be death traps.

Talk about static...Some day I want to learn more about WW I. An aside: I read somewhere that one observer referred to it as modern warfare without modern medicine.

Enough though; Michael probably appreciates us sticking close to topic.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 12, 2009 5:25 PM
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