Israel launches ground war against Hamas; Egypt blames Hamas

Al-Wafa hospital
One of the first targets in tonight’s attack was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms. During the last nine days, Israel has destroyed seventy-nine schools and twenty-three health facilities in Gaza, which Hamas used to store arms. These facilities continued to take care of children and patients, in line with Hamas’s strategy of using the Palestinian citizens as a human shield for its war machine.

In the case of these other hospitals, Israel had followed its policy of issuing warnings for people in these facilities to leave before it attacked the buildings. In all the other cases, people followed IDF’s warning, and left before the facilities were destroyed. Some of the staff at al-Wafa refused to leave, however, and the IDF has decided not to attack the building.

An hour ago, however, the Israel Air Force fired missiles which destroyed two floors at al-Wafa — and the attack was followed by spectacular secondary explosions, proving that large quantities of munitions were stored in the hospital.

It is not clear what happened to the few staff and patients who insisted on staying in the hospital despite the warnings.

The political leaders of Hamas are hiding in a system of bunkers under al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip. When Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas’s spokesman, is giving statements to Western journalists, he does so from a corridor at the oncology department of l-Shifa.

It is not clear whether or not Israel plans to attack al-Shifa.

Interim conclusion
Hamas gambled – and failed:

  • It gambled that Israel would not have the stomach to launch a ground incursion into Gaza
  • It gambled that Egypt would hesitate to side with Israel against a Palestinian group – even though Egypt has outlawed Hamas and designated it a terrorist group
  • It gambled that Turkey and Qatar were carrying an equal weight to Egypt in the region
  • It gambled that despite its inability so far to use its two strategic weapons – its rockets and its tunnels, weapons in which it has invested millions of dollars, money it has not used to improve the lot of Gaza residents – it would be able to end the current round with some achievements

Egypt’s position, at least for now, is clear: Egypt would lead the effort to help Gaza residents, and it would help PA leader Abbas – but it would not help Hamas gain a better position for itself after this round than it had enjoyed before it started the fighting.

Egypt, in other words, is going to help Gaza residents not through Hamas, but at the expense of Hamas. The beneficiaries of any future Gaza arrangement would be the strip’s citizens and the Palestinians under PA rule, but not Hamas.

Israel would serve its interest well by making it easier for Egypt to continue with this policy, and one way of doing so would be to let Egypt – and Muhammad Abbas – know that when the shooting in Gaza finally stops, Israel would be willing to come back to the negotiations table to deal, creatively and imaginatively – and generously — with the Palestinian issue.