It looks like the IDF is going to launch their ground operation in the next few hours – certainly over the next day – so I’m going to open up this post for running updates. I imagine that the Israeli bloggers who’ve have been liveblogging the operation over the last week – Israellycool and Israel Matzav and The Muqata – will hop online when the Sabbath ends in a few hours.
In the meantime: the IDF has dropped leaflets telling Gaza City residents to stay indoors and telling the residents in between Israel and Gaza City to get out of the way. IDF artillery is heavily shelling the border area – the first time that Israel has used artillery in Operation Cast Lead – to clear out a path, to prevent Hamas soldiers from taking positions, and to destroy errant rocket launchers.
Updates below this line will go top-down most recent to oldest. Previous and references are behind the jump…
12:50 PST – I’m going to close this post. Barak has ordered a 40km naval blockade around Gaza. On land Israeli reports indicate that anything from “tens” to “over 50″ Hamas causalities, although of course in the fog of war it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on. But all analysts are unequivocal that this is going to be a long battle and that Israeli and Palestinians civilians – thanks in both cases to Hamas’s machinations – will be caught in the middle.
12:40 PST – According to Radio 2, the last week of precision Israeli bombing successfully destroyed the Hamas weapons tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border. That means that every missile they fire now is one less missile they’ll have later. How precise was the bombing, by the by? This precise:
Muhammad al-Zarb said that the Israelis somehow seemed to know which tunnels were commercial and which were run by Hamas, and that they seemed to be selective in their bombing. “If someone has a tunnel for Chipsy, it seems O.K.,” he said. “When a Hamas guy has a tunnel for weapons, they bomb it.”
12:35 PST – The IDF has destroyed Gaza’s main fuel depot, which is now on fire. It’s strange that it’d be on fire since we’ve been assured that there’s no fuel in Gaza because of the suffocating Isreali blockade. I’m sure there’s a better explanation than “those media reports were vulgar anti-Israel propaganda.”
12:24 PST – Radio 2: “Will Hezbollah open up a second front in the north?” “Tough to say – they’re kind of irrational.” Hmm…
12:01 PST – Early reports say that Hamas has taken dozens of casualties. It’ll be interesting to see how hard Hamas fights initially: a lot of the IDF’s wargames assumed that Hamas would try to blend into the civilian population and drag Israel into a lowlevel war that would last over weeks.
12:00 PST – The EU President: Israel’s entrance into Gaza is “defensive not offensive”. Interesting.
11:54 PST – Al Jazeera reporters in Israel apparently tried to put Barak’s statement on the air, were immediately overruled by the central office in Qatar, and had to switch back to live coverage of Israel’s offensive. Something to keep in mind the next time State’s media experts talk about how Al Jazeera is a news organization first and a propaganda outlet second.
11:52 PST – Radio 2 just had an interesting exchange. The reporter on the scene commented that no rockets have been launched into Israel since the IDF crossed the border. The newscaster cut him off immediately to remind him that Barak says that the South needs to be ready for rocket barrages and that he shouldn’t give anyone any false impressions.
11:50 PST – Barak just gave a statement. Strike Hamas… The campaign will go on as long as it needs to… Win for Israel the right to peace and quiet that every other country on the planet expects.
11:45 PST – Charming. Hamas has packed the minarets of Gaza’s terror mosques with explosives. The plan is to blow them up as Israeli troops pass under them and crush them in the rubble.
11:40 PST – Israeli Radio 2 is spending a lot of time discussing the green light that Olmert received from Arab countries to go into Gaza.
11:30 PST – For what it’s worth, Hamas officials are reporting that they’ve already inflicted casualties on the IDF.
11:20 PST – They’re putting their rocket launchers in cemeteries now.
11:15 PST – In what must have been a pre-planned decision – kept under wraps to avoid tipping the IDF’s hand – Israel is calling up what YNet says are thousands of reserves and what Ha’aretz is describing as “tens of thousands of reserves.” The quote from the IDF is that the ground operation will take “many long days.”
11:10 PST – A bit of a warning: news over the next few hours or days is going to be iffy. It’s not just a fog of war issue. In the broadest terms: the Israeli military censors will prevent too much from leaking to the Israeli side while on the Palestinian side, well, Al Jazeera lies. We’re guaranteed to see replays like what happened in Lebanon II – 40 civilian deaths suddenly become one guy who stuck around after Israeli warning leaflets and shots told him to get out.
11:00 PST – I went to MSNBC because a Hot Air commenter said that they’re streaming Al Jazeera. I didn’t find a live feed but I did find a report they’ve been running about how Israeli self-defense is going to hurt Obama’s grandiose Middle East policy. There’s a lot to be said about that, but whatever. What I want to know is how I’ve never known that this picture existed:
10:50 PST – Things to look out for over the next couple of hours and through tomorrow: (1) will Hamas succeed in ambushing and penetrating the armor of an Israeli tank while the IDF heads into Gaza? This is what happened early in Lebanon II and set the tone for the entire war (2) how strong will the IDF’s initial push be? Barak and Israeli Chief of the Staff Gabi Ashkenazi are both known for being reluctant to use troops and for wanting to bring massive force to bear when they are used. Most of Israel’s “diplomatic exit strategies” call for a fast and overwhelming military onslaught followed by a relatively quick handover. If the IDF gets bogged down in weeks of urban warfare it could prove disastrous (3) does Hamas have anything between the border and Gaza City that the IDF doesn’t know about? This morning’s artillery shelling was undoubtedly designed in part to clear a path for the IDF’s APC’s and tanks: did they miss anything? (4) does Barak – notorious for special operations and military feints – have anything up his sleeve? Some kind of unexpected but coordinated attack? (5) what will the IDF’s urban warfare strategy be? Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank utilized innovative war-fighting tactics, including cutting through walls to avoid mine-laced and ambush-friendly urban alleys. But the IDF doesn’t have enough troops on the border to launch a Defensive Shield-style assault. And besides in Gaza the houses are booby-trapped too.
10:41 PST – Ground troops crossed into Gaza at about 8:30pm Israeli time.
10:21 PST – A rocket just landed near the Gaza fence. That means that Hamas soldiers may – may – have decided to target Israeli soldiers instead of civilians for a change. Or – since the rocket failed to hit the gigantic cluster of Israeli troops sitting right across the border – it was more likely just a misfire.
10:20 PST – The Israeli Navy bombed Hamas’ general intelligence headquarters.
09:50 PST – Another rocket – one that Hamas soldiers could have fired at the Israeli troops amassed on their border – lands outside Ashdod. No injuries.
09:40 PST – Via the Ha’aretz flash news thingy, someone is talking out of school: “Kadima MK: Israel-Hamas truce is as likely as U.S.-al-Qaida agreement (Haaretz)”
09:35 PST – Another article saying that a ground invasion is not imminent. It’s from the British media though and is anonymously sourced. Which means that you might as well make up what you want to believe too, since everybody else is doing it.
09:05 PST – Israel Matzav points to a JPost report saying that a ground invasion isn’t a done deal. Yeah I dunno. I’m inclined to agree with Meryl on this: there’s no reason for the IDF to escalate to artillery fire unless they’re planning to launch a ground invasion.
09:00 PST – With Israel military personelle and assets within easy striking range on their border, Hamas soldiers have shot rockets multiple rockets and Israeli civilians this morning. Because why not?
08:45 PST – The mullahs have dispatched people to Damascus for a tete-a-tete with the Hamas and Hezbollah people there. Iran has to decide whether – having pushed Hamas into a confrontation with Israel – they can afford to activate Hezbollah and potentially get involved. It’s tough to predict given that they’re, you know, batshit crazy.
08:35 PST – CNN and the AP are also reporting that an Israeli airstrike hit a mosque in Beit Lahiya, killing at least 10. You have to go to Israeli sources to find out that the victims were probably killed by the gigantic fireball that went up after the Israeli attack triggered secondary explosions.
08:30 PST – Israel has hit a Hamas newspaper building used to disseminate their incitement and propaganda.
* Breaking: Israel Drops Leaflets Over Gaza Telling Residents To Evacuate (UPDATE: Text Of Leaflets Added) (UPDATE 2: IDF Artillery Begins Shelling Gaza Border) [MR]
* IDF artillery targets Gaza [YNet]
* Israel bombs Gaza mosque, kills 10 [AP]
* Confirmed: Hamas Wants To Use WMDs Against Israel, Trigger Full-Blown Regional War
* Breaking: Israel Drops Leaflets Over Gaza Telling Residents To Evacuate (UPDATE: Text Of Leaflets Added) (UPDATE 2: IDF Artillery Begins Shelling Gaza Border)
* Hamas Forcing Civilians To Stand On Roofs They Know Are About To Be Hit