A NEW WAR IN THE OFFING IN GAZA?
"Two projectiles, which Stratfor believes to be Fajr-5 rockets due to their range, landed near Tel Aviv -- one just south of the municipal line and one in the water just outside of the southern suburb of Bat Yam. No injuries have been reported. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces denied that a rocket had landed in Tel Aviv, although this statement conflicts with eyewitness reports and may reflect the fact that projectiles have landed in areas just south of the actual Tel Aviv municipal boundary. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the attack. This strike is the furthest Hamas has ever struck into Israeli territory and signals a major escalation. Hamas has moved beyond retaliation for yesterday's airstrikes or provocative bombings and instead is engaged in war. An Israeli ground offensive is now almost assured. Central Israel is now under rocket fire for the first time since Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles into Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War. This escalation follows a spike in Israeli airstrikes over the Gaza Strip in the last 12 hours. The Israeli air force has hit more than 200 targets and Palestinian casualty numbers have risen to 15 fatalities and dozens injured. The targeting of Israel's largest population center raises the specter of a ground operation. While limited rocket fire directed at small towns in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip have been tolerated by the Israelis for the better part of the last decade, Stratfor expects rocket fire into the area where nearly 40 percent of the country's population resides -- and extending rocket fire to an area that now includes over half of the country -- to result in firmer action taken by the Israeli military to remove this threat. Regardless of where the missile hit, the incident indicates that Gaza still has Fajr-5 rockets despite Israel's efforts yesterday to eliminate those stockpiles. The revelation that Gaza militants still have Fajr-5 missiles in their arsenals means that the airstrikes yesterday were incomplete. As Israeli intelligence continues to collect information on missile sites in Gaza, we can expect to see more airstrikes to eliminate them. The IDF's official website and multiple media sources have already reported that paratroopers and soldiers from the IDF's Givati infantry brigade are beginning to prepare staging areas on the Gaza border for a ground offensive. While this alone does not make a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip imminent, the fire on central Israel now makes this possibility all the more likely. However, if airstrikes do not prove sufficient to eliminate the long-range missile threat, Israel will need to be more methodical in finding and destroying those missile sites. That increases the likelihood of an Israeli ground operation, as that is the only way to secure the missile sites and prevent their further deployment"."Tel Aviv Targeted by Rockets." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 15 November 2012, in www.Stratfor.com. The news from the Near East in the past few days is perhaps the best illustration of the late British Prime Minister's admonition that 'events my dear Boy, events', have a way of superceding the best laid plans of man and beast. With the eyes of the monde fixated on the Crisis in Syria, Gaza's quietly fraught, cease-fire from 2009's hostilities with Israel, was something which was far from being on anyone's agenda. No longer. It would appear that given the upcoming Israeli general elections in January 2013, it is highly unlikely that the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was looking to commence a war with the Hamas statelet in Gaza 1. However, it would appear that violent reaction in Gaza to the Israeli assassination of its military chief was something that the Israeli Cabinet could not overlook. Hence the beginning of the current Israeli bombardment of targets in the Gaza Strip. So far with few civilian casualties. Given however the ability of Hamas to launch strikes (so far completely harmless) on large population centres in Israel proper, it difficult to imagine that the current Israeli government can do other than launch sometime of military operation into the Strip itself. And given Netanyahu's and Defence Minister Barak's past criticism of Israeli military operations in the 2006 Lebanon War, one can reasonably expect something akin to but even harsher than, "Operation Cast Lead" the 2009 military campaign, with all that implies 2. To complete the picture for complexity, the new Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt will be under great pressure to respond in some demonstrable fashion to a prolonged Israeli military campaign. How that position can be squared with Egypt's economic reliance on the USA and the West, and with its current peace treaty with Israel has yet to be seen 3. Finally, the failure of Israeli military strikes to effectively put an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel proper, puts paid I believe to any idea that an Israeli military strike against Persia in the hopes of destroying Persia's nuclear reprocessing sites could be at all successful. Certainly, any success sans American military assistance looks quite unlikely. 1. Yossi Verter, "Gaza - the First Netanyahu War." Haaretz. 15 November 2012, in www.haaretz.com. 2. On this point, see: "Considering an Israeli Ground assault on Gaza." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 15 November 2012, in www.stratfor.com. 3.Heba Saleh, "Gaza tests Morsi influence over Israel." The Financial Times. 15 November 2012, in www.ft.com.