Crossfire War – Israel Suspends Five Day Operation Warm Winter for Rice Visit

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – BEIRUT WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – Damascus – Nablus – Beirut – El Arish – Gaza/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Israel Suspends Five Day “Operation Warm Winter” Offensive on Eve of US Secretary of State Visit – 20,000 Palestinians Attend Hamas “Victory” Rally in Gaza City – Missile – Rocket Fire Continues

Night Watch: GAZA – Israel suspended its five day “Operation Warm Winter” offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip quite possibly due to Tuesday’s scheduled visit by U. S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice is to visit Ramallah, Cairo and to meet Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Tuesday evening. U. S. West Asia analyst Aaron Miller told the New York Times the Secretary of State is “walking into a buzz saw.” I assume Dr. Rice will be briefed on the results of the recent operation and given indications as to the scale of the next offensive as the rocket-missile fire from Gaza is continuing. Hopefully she will not take the insincere pledges she will receive from Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo seriously. She could actually be in a buzz saw of accusations and counter-accusations. In the meantime Hamas is claiming victory as if the war is over. Their state of mind has become completely unreal and there is nothing like comparing unrealistic observations from leaders in a region of constant conflict. I hope she does a book. [INN]

INN reports Prime Minister Olmert is currently conducting a cabinet session with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees and also with the Security Cabinet and I suspect they are reviewing the results of the offensive into north Gaza where most of the Katyusha-Qassam rocket fire is centered. More than a hundred Palestinians were killed and Israel states ninety were militants. An Israeli government official said the Israel Defense Force (IDF) operation was “a very limited operation that was intended to show Hamas what could happen.” Olmert warned the Warm Winter offensive of the past several days “were not a one-time operation. Everything is possible, including aerial and ground attacks. Everything is on the table for discussion.”

Knesset – According to Debka one of the subjects being discussed by Olmert and his cabinet is news that was blacked out by Israeli officials on Egypt allowing Hamas militants, trained in Iran and Syria, to re-enter Gaza through the Rafah Terminal in 27 ambulances. 15-20 Hamas commandos returned Sunday as each ambulance carried weapons and ammunition, including the shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile. It seems last week 17 Hamas fighters were also allowed to return as Israel’s offensive began. Cooperation between Cairo/Jerusalem is virtually non-existent as the government of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak is only concerned with its own security and could not care less what happens to Israel. There seem to be at least 100 more Hamas militants in Egypt, with similar training, waiting to re-enter Gaza and no doubt will during the next phase of Israel’s offensive when the fighting captures the headlines and attention is diverted away from Rafah. I should say media attention because chances are Jerusalem’s next offensive will be larger and more comprehensive to include troop movements into south Gaza on the Egypt/Gaza/Israel border to seal the Rafah Terminal and prevent the entry of more Hamas agents. [DEBKA]

Gaza City – Hamas is showing no indication it has learned anything from Israel’s limited offensive even though Israeli troops had no difficulty reaching Gaza City. The Jerusalem Post reports Hamas and supporters staged a “victory” rally in the city with a 20,000 turn out including Hamas gunmen carrying rocket propelled grenades. Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar warned of attacks deep into Israel and stated, “Invading one inch of the Gaza Strip means that the battle and confrontation will continue and will expand even further that it has reached.” But Hamas has shown no ability to do that as Israel invaded a lot more than one inch. As mentioned earlier the IDF had no difficulty entering Gaza and advancing deep into it as Hamas members in the West Bank did nothing. As has mentioned constantly the only way for the war to expand is for Tehran to have Hezbollah, then Syria, then Iran itself enter. It is quite possible Jerusalem has learned from its Operation Warm Winter the benefits of keeping the enemy on the defensive and maintaining the initiative which was not the situation in 2006 during Israel’s war against Hezbollah-Hamas. [JPOST]

Jerusalem – What is especially significant is Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak is extremely satisfied with the operation. The Jerusalem Post reports Barak said the counter-terror operation will continue and Hamas was dealt a “heavy blow.” Barak said the army performed a “high-level” operation and that the cooperation between the IDF, IAF (Israel Air Force) and intelligence services was particularly praiseworthy. These were not the remarks and observations made by Israeli officials two years ago when it was no secret the offensive into south Lebanon was not well planned and cooperation-communication between the services was not the best. Israel is showing signs of having learned from its mistakes then and is indeed now ready for any combination of enemy action including the entry of other countries. [JPOST]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.