Hamas hiding behind skirts in Gaza City
When thousands of heavily armed Israeli soldiers poured into the Gaza Strip on Saturday night, Hamas pulled back.Urban warfare is not really what Hamas has in mind.
Rather than stand and fight against the Middle East's strongest army, the Islamist movement opted for a tactical withdrawal, with its fighters melting away into the strip's sprawling cities and refugee camps, according to Gaza residents and Israeli military analysts and officers.
Now, Hamas appears to be daring the Israeli troops to follow.
"They're hitting here and there with antitank missiles and mortars. Overall, though, they're not confronting the Israeli presence in Gaza," said retired Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. "They're challenging the Israeli military to enter the built-up areas."
For Israel, the temptation to move in is great: After 12 days of air-, sea- and land-based attacks that have weakened the Islamist movement's capabilities, Israeli leaders are weighing whether now is the time to try to deal a death blow to Hamas. That, analysts say, would require an expanded ground operation in the twisting alleys of Gaza's main population centers.
Analysts say that unleashing ground forces in Gazan cities and refugee camps would almost certainly allow Hamas to launch a campaign of urban warfare featuring sniper fire, suicide attacks and car bombs. The death toll would rise on both sides when Israel is already under international pressure to end its offensive. Palestinian health officials say more than 680 people have been killed in Gaza since the operation began, about a third of them women and children, according to the United Nations.
What Hamas is looking for is a new victim offensive where they can blame Israel for noncombatant casualties. Hamas is looking to use more human shields to hide behind as they strike out at the Israelis. It is a cowardly immoral way of making war but it is the Hamas way. It is surprising the media has not noticed yet.
The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer identified it early on noting that Hamas prized not only Israeli noncombatant casualties, but also Palestinian noncombatant casualties. The Post reporters should pay more attention to Krauthammer in their analysis of the strategy of Hamas.