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The violence in and around Gaza sharply escalated early on Wednesday when an Israeli air raid killed five Hamas militants and Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets, one of which killed a civilian in southern Israel…The clashes peaked on Saturday when Israel sent a regiment of ground troops into the northern town of Jabaliya in an operation dubbed “Hot Winter” that killed 77 Palestinians in two days.
Various media outlets report over 110 Palestinians killed at this time, including 90 militants terrorists. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed and one Israeli civilian was murdered in a rocket attack.
The operation included coordinated air bombardment by planes and unmanned drones as well ground attacks by armored, engineering and infantry units. However, after a short period of heavy assault the ground forces abruptly pulled out. The Jerusalem Post notes:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, told the cabinet that the current round of fighting was “unavoidable” and must be seen as part of efforts to create a “different equation” in the South.
OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin expanded on this and provided the ministers with an overall assessment of what Hamas was trying to do by increasing its rocket fire, saying that the organization’s decision to bombard Israeli communities was connected to its own strategic situation.
Having been in power now for more than two years, Hamas was dissatisfied with its overall situation and decided that it needed to take dramatic action to reshuffle the deck, Yadlin said.
“Hamas is not pleased with the current situation,” Yadlin was quoted as telling the cabinet. He ticked off a number of factors working against the Islamist group: the Quartet conditions for talking to Hamas have remained in place for two years; very few countries are willing to speak to them; a diplomatic process is under way with the Palestinian Authority; and the Annapolis process runs contrary to the organization’s overall strategy.
“All those pressures – diplomatic, economic and military – brought Hamas in the last two months to the conclusion that its situation is unbearable, and they need to break the siege and create a new military balance against Israel,” Yadlin said.
He added that Israel’s killing of a “high-quality” terrorist cell on Wednesday, made up of operatives who had trained in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, was also a severe blow to the Islamist organization.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her way to Israel to push the Annapolis Peace Plan while Hamas militants declared victory at a celebratory demonstration in Gaza City. Given the facts on the ground I don’t see how the process is going to move forward.