Are recent Israeli air strikes on Gaza militants an alternate solution to launching a large scale ground attack? Many military strategists think so; and perhaps with good reason. With the southern town of Sderot and several smaller settlements under an almost constant barrage of Palestinian launched Kassam rockets and mortar shells, something had to give in regards to Israeli government patience so soon after the summit meeting in Annapolis. And although the attacks on Israeli communities appear to be solely carried out but groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the IAF air attacks seem to be a veiled warning against others as well, including West Bank Palestinians.
Targeted assassinations, as these attacks appear to be- especially against higher-up members of the Islamic Jihad – are nothing new and have been carried out for years. Some of Hamas’ top people, including Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yasin and Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, have been carried out with the hope of delivering a strong message against terror attacks on Israelis. These attacks have only been partially successful, however, and the recent ones in which at least 13 Palestinian militants were killed, including 2 senior Jihad military officials, will probably wind up the same way.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert (pictured) may also want to let the militants know that the IDF is prepared to carry out these attacks even during one of the holiest periods on the Muslim calendar – the Hajj.
Speaking at a meeting of his Kadima political party in Jerusalem, Olmert said that Israel “will continue to seek out the heads of terror organizations and get all those responsible for firing rockets at us”. While this may seem like a “get tough” statement, it also may be an indication that the government believes that this tactic is a better alternative than launching a large armored force into Gaza, which could result in a number of IDF casualties. As in former air operations, it’s much easier, and safer, to launch air to ground missiles against selective targets. It is also believed that better security intelligence has enabled the IAF to target more senior terror commanders, such as the two Jihad military wing commanders who were killed.
These attacks are not without the potential for deadly reprisal operations by Palestinian militants against Israelis; as was cautioned by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said that Israelis “must be prepared for possible reprisals from the other side”. These “tit-for-tat” attacks, coming so soon after the 20th anniversary celebrations for the founding of Hamas, appear to be sending out a message to Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who may be actually getting the gist of the message. Haniyeh made a statement in which he expressed the desire for “the shedding of our blood to stop”. That statement should be welcome news to people living in Sderot and other communities adjacent to the border with Gaza. Past “experience”, however, make most people believe that Hams and other militant groups are not likely to agree to any long lasting peace agreements with Israel.