Both sides were preparing Saturday night, Aug. 23, for an impending battle on Gaza Strip soil, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Heavy IDF ground forces were poised ready to enter the territory for the initial mission of reaching and demolishing the sources of Hamas’s short-range rocket and mortar attacks, which have disrupted the lives of neighboring Israeli communities and forced their mass evacuation.
Hamas has been firing those short-range weapons from 3-7 km inside the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian extremists escalated the barrage in the last 48 hours as a provocation, daring the IDF to send in the forces massed around its borders.
All the signs point to Israeli forces preparing for limited ground strikes in the first stage.
Hamas spent Saturday deploying its strength to waylay an Israeli incursion. Whole brigades were pushed underground into tunnels and placed on preparedness. Groups of suicide killers were hidden in orchards ready to ambush advancing Israeli troops.
The decision by Israel and Hamas to raise the stakes of the conflict to another ground engagement in the Gaza Strip was dictated by a string of new developments, which made a final clash of arms unavoidable.
1. At their meeting in Qatar, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas failed to talk Hamas political secretary Khaled Meshaal around to a compromise to enable a negotiated ceasefire with Israel.
2. Abbas notified Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi Saturday night in Cairo that hope had run out for a political accommodation to resolve the Gaza conflict, because Hamas was set fixedly on full-scale war with Israel. Abbas passed the same tidings to Washington.
3. Hamas rejected every draft accord incorporating a ceasefire, including the draft resolutions to be submitted to the UN Security Council.
4. Abbas informed Washington and Cairo that the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, had conned President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah, when he promised to soften Meshaal on the Gaza crisis, when it fact he proffered Hamas all possible assistance for continuing the war with Israel.