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At 1:22 a.m. on Friday morning, May 14, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted that “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.”
That statement was true, although no doubt intentionally vague, and the foreign press immediately jumped all over it. In their haste, they failed to clarify the facts and came to the wrong conclusion. They assumed, incorrectly, that Israeli ground forces had invaded Gaza in a major escalation of the developing conflict. They were wrong. They had fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
The IDF ground forces, who had been deployed to the border with Gaza, never left their positions, and were attacking Gaza from Israeli territory behind the lines, with tank and artillery fire. Instead, the major assault was, as before, from the air.
Then, at around midnight on Thursday, Israel carried out the largest Israeli airstrike since the outbreak of fighting earlier this week. According to the IDF, in this air campaign, which lasted only 40 minutes, 160 jet fighters simultaneously carried out an aerial attack on a network of terror tunnels and fired about 450 missiles at 150 targets in northern Gaza. Among the primary targets was the massive network of underground tunnels that lay below northern Gaza. Hamas had built these tunnels under the northern Gaza Strip. Many of them extended beneath the border into Israeli territory to provide an invisible route into Israel, from which the terrorists could emerge to kidnap and kill Israelis.
This operation, which the Israelis have called “Operation Guardians of the Walls,” was not a spontaneous, knee-jerk reaction by an angry Israeli government. It was the result of large amounts of intelligence and careful planning, and the consequence of a series of threats and massive rocket attacks by Hamas for more than a decade, deadly attacks against Israeli civilians, farms, and population centers.
Making the News
The headline in the Washington Post read: “Israeli troops have entered the Gaza Strip as conflict with Palestinians escalates.” And the Washington Examiner’s headline declared: “US greenlights Security Council meeting as Israeli ground forces attack Gaza.”
So the journalists fell for it. But what did this misdirection accomplish? The answer lies in what Hamas did when they heard the “news” and believed that an Israeli ground attack was underway. Hundreds of terrorists, who had been hiding among the people of Gaza, using them as human shields, were ordered to the comparative safety of the underground tunnels. And these tunnels were the intended targets of Israel’s bombs.
As a result of this intentional vagueness, and the conclusions that Hamas drew from the inaccurate headlines, it is estimated that hundreds of terrorist foot soldiers were killed that night when ten of these tunnels were destroyed.
Did the IDF intentionally create an ambiguous message for the foreign press? Maybe, and why wouldn’t they? The foreign press has been misrepresenting the situation in the region for many years, and has consistently compromised Israel’s position vis a vis the Palestinians. So this time, the IDF gave the foreign reporters what they were looking for, a scoop, and they published it. That was exactly what Israel wanted.
Israel’s response to four days of incessant and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in Israel released the rage of its leaders. It resulted in this ferocious, unprecedented attack against terror targets throughout Gaza.
The military later released video footage that showed both its preparations for the attack and some of the strikes themselves on the tunnel network, which the IDF refers to as “the metro.”
When Enough is Enough
According to the IDF, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza had launched more than 2,000 deadly rockets into Israel, killing seven Israeli civilians, and wounding 523 others in the previous five days. They also hit a hospital, a kindergarten, a bus, and many homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed earlier in the week to respond to the barrage of rockets and promised that Hamas would pay a “very heavy price”. And so they have.
In addition to the aerial assault, Israeli tanks, artillery cannons, and infantrymen on the Gaza border conducted simultaneous barrages aimed at Hamas operations, including their anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-launching teams, which emerged during the air assault to attack Israeli targets.
Was the Deception Necessary?
In his book, The Art of War, the 5th-century military philosopher Sun Tzu explained that “All warfare is based on deception.” He wrote:
“When we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
And his words are as true today as they were so many centuries ago.
Israel secured an undeniable victory in Gaza this week. By eliminating the terrorist fighters in the tunnels, Israel may have saved hundreds of Palestinian lives, lives that otherwise might have been lost, because they were forced to be human shields for the Hamas officers and fighters who were hiding among them. By driving the terrorists into the tunnels, these lives were spared.
How will this end?
This war is far from over, and it will not end in a matter of days. But the intensity and unprecedented ferocity of Israel’s attack on the viper’s nest of Hamas terrorism that has been attacking them for so long is a sign that Israel has had enough. After decades of trying to somehow solve this problem through mediation and so-called ‘peace’ talks, Israel is now taking a powerful military stand and making it clear that this ongoing aggression must end. But this open and deadly warfare will not end quickly. Hamas will not give up its addiction to the belief that Israel must be destroyed, a belief that is deeply embedded in its ideology. But this time, unlike the other times, Israel seems determined to crush, once and for all, the source of this malevolence and bring this war with Hamas to an end.
If Israel is successful, the ongoing threat to its people from Hamas will end. The problem is complicated, and the solution is far from simple.
“It will take time,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, “but with great decisiveness, both defensively and offensively, we will achieve our goal — to restore quiet to the state of Israel.”
From Netanyahu’s mouth to God’s ear. Amen.
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