DEBKA July 28, 2014, 11:55 PM (IDT)
In the past 48 hours, Israel was pressured to accept its fifth “humanitarian” ceasefire in Gaza by President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came close to folding, whereas Hamas saw the truce as applying only to Israel and therefore used it as a call to arms.
The slogan Israel broadcast: Quiet will be met with quiet and fire with fire, was seen by Hamas as a sign of Israel weakening.
This impression was confirmed on Sunday when the order went out to Israel troops to exercise restraint in the face of sporadic Hamas rocket fire, so as to give the truce a chance.
The Palestinian Islamists used it as a welcome respite for getting organized for the next stage of their onslaught.
Neither Israelis, Americans or Egyptians anticipated the radical Hamas launching an escalated assault on the first day of the Eid el-Fitr festival. In fact, by coordinating rocket, mortar and tunnel terror attacks, they inflicted on Israel one of the worst days of the three-week Operation Defensive Shield, claiming the lives of ten servicemen.
A grim omen of the deadly attacks ahead cam from a surge of rocket fire Monday noon, after a relatively quiet night. It targeted Gaza’s closest neighbors as well as Ashkelon and was followed by a salvo against the Lachish District and the towns of Netivot and Ofakim.
At around 4:30 p.m. Israel time, Hamas thought to give Israel a nasty surprise by sending one of its heavy Iranian Fajr-5 missiles (range 75 km) smashing into Tel Aviv. Instead of taking to the air, the missile plummeted to the ground in the nearby Shifa Hospital compound and exploded. Ten people were killed in the blast.
Half an hour later, Hamas directed mortar fire at the Eshkol District, where a group of soldiers was meeting. One hit its mark, killing four men and injuring nine.
The mortar attack was coordinated with another rocket barrage, this one directed at Ofakim and Mt. Carmel.
At around 6 p.m., a band of 5 Hamas terrorists came out of a tunnel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz They shot dead five defenders and were killed themselves in a firefight with the soldiers.
The tenth soldier was shot dead by Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip Monday morning
Their deaths raised to a total of 53 the IDF toll in the three-week counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip.
Monday night, Israeli troops appeared to have started expanding the operation to the west. The inhabitants of Jebalya and Zeitun were told to leave their homes and, soon after, Israel artillery began shelling Ain Bureij.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz made a joint TV appearance Monday, offering a pledge to continue the campaign against Hamas until all goals were achieved, however long it takes.
Netanyahu said: “Today we suffered terrorism from above and below.” The destruction of terror tunnels, he said, was an essential step towards the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which offered the only path to real peace.
Ya’alon said Israel would no longer a tolerate dialogue through terror tunnels and rockets. Hamas had been punished and would continue to be, he said, until it understood that Israel will never be brought to surrender.
Gen. Gantz: “As a human being, it is hard for me to accept civilian deaths,” he said, – unlike Hamas, which is solely responsible for 10 deaths at Shifa hospital, in whose grounds a missile aimed at Tel Aviv exploded prematurely.
The 24-hour “humanitarian ceasefire” was the stage for a major escalation in violence as Hamas strutted its stuff, fully confident of its ability to stand up to the next stage of the IDF operation. Will Israel’s war planners finally show iundivided resolve to win this momentous struggle against an expansionist Islamist terror movement?