Israel’s War with Hamas 2014: Part 1 – The Prelude

by Jerry Gordon and Lisa Benson (August 2014)

IDF Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, July 2014

The latest conflict erupted on July 8, 2014 following the discovery of the bodies of three Jewish yeshiva students on June 30th executed by two Hamas operatives near Hebron on the West Bank. Israel had begun a massive manhunt for these Jewish teens kidnapped on June 12th while hitchhiking home. Several hundred Palestinians including Hamas sympathizers and leaders were rounded up by IDF and the General Security Service or Shin Bet. This failed kidnap hostage operation by Hamas was the spark that launched the cycle of rocket violence and ground incursions in Operation Protective Edge.

Prior to the start of this third conflict the IDF had estimated Gaza held upwards of 11,000 rockets and missiles.  So far, Hamas and its terrorist Partner PIJ  have launched more than  2,507 rockets, and  mortars, 1004 since the ground incursion into Gaza began on July 17th. To date the Israeli human toll in Operation Protective Edge, 43 IDF soldiers and three civilians. That is in contrast to the more than 1,047 Palestinians killed and more than 6,000 wounded, among them several hundred Hamas and PIJ fighters. 

A hitherto undetected intricate network of 30 tunnels had been excavated under the Israel Gaza frontier in an evident attempt to capture Israeli civilians in adjacent Kibbutzim. US Intelligence sources estimated there could upwards of 60 such tunnels. The Hamas tunnel strategy was akin to the 2006 capture and five year imprisonment of former IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit. Schalit was released on October 11, 2011 in a lopsided exchange for 1,027 Palestinians prisoners.

On July 16, 2014, a  Hamas suicide commando squad was detected trying to reach a kibbutz near the Kerem Shalom crossing. The Hamas commando team was attacked by an IAF drone with a missile sending survivors scattering weapons and scampering back into the tunnel entrance. That was the trigger for the launch of the IDF ground incursion into Gaza the following day. The IDF Golani, Givati and Nahal brigades in Gaza have found tunnels inside homes, schools and mosques. They were booby trapped and mined with IEDs and loaded with caches of weapons.

According to an Algemeiner report, the Netanyahu Security Cabinet learned that Hamas was going to send hundreds of suicide commandos on the Jewish holy day of Rosh Ha Shanah in 2014 in a mega version of 9/11. That stunned the military planners in the pits of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. 

They should have known that was inevitable. Former US Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James T. Conway, recounted in a Wall Street Journal, op-ed , after a tour that he and other retired US flag officers had made on May 1, 2014 of  “a 3 mile long tunnel reinforced with concrete, lined with telephone wires, and included cabins ..useful for holding hostages. The tunnel was located less than a kilometer from an Israeli kindergarten.”

Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 lasted 22 days ending on the day of first inauguration of President Obama, January 20, 2009. It involved a limited ground incursion by elite IDF units directed at routing out rocket caches, firing positions and Hamas and PIJ fighters. Operation Pillar of Defense ended in less than eight days on November 21, 2012 as a result of a cease fire brokered with Israel and Hamas by Egyptian President Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader and supporter of Hamas. That operation witnessed the first deployment of the Iron Dome system developed by Israel after the 34-day 2006 Lebanon War with Hezbollah during which hundreds of rockets hit Israel’s north. Iron Dome batteries deployed in 2012 demonstrated increased proficiency intercepting rockets from Gaza that had begun to reach suburbs of Tel Aviv. By the 20th day of the current conflict, the Iron Dome batteries intercepted 492 rockets, 87 of these following the start of the ground incursion. Those long-range Hamas rockets as well as mortars and other arms were supplied by Iran, despite Israel’s navy intercepting shipments on the high seas.  

More was yet to come.

In March 2014, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a Panamanian-flag vessel, the Klos-C , bound for Port Sudan. After boarding and the directing the vessel to the Red Sea port of Eilat, more than 43 Syrian made M-302 rockets with a range of 150+ kilometers were uncovered. Additionally they found, stashed under sacks of flour, large stocks of 120 mm mortars and hundreds of thousands of rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. Once again, Iran’s Quds Force was behind the shipment. This was a game changer as those M-302 rockets would threaten more than 80 percent of Israel in the current Operation Protective Edge.

fter being extended, the latest pause ended at midnight, Saturday, July 26, 2014, despite being breached by Hamas rocket and mortar fire.  

The first cease fire was offered by Egypt’s newly elected President, Abdel  Fattah El-Sisi. El-Sisi, as Egypt’s  Defense minister had overthrown President Morsi in July 2013 and was no supporter of Hamas. He ordered Egyptian security forces to close the Rafah border with Gaza sealing many of the tunnels through which weapons had been smuggled and much of the cash economy of Gaza was conducted. According to Egypt, 13 tunnels have been destroyed during the current conflict. That first cease fire offer had been approved by Israel, but rejected by Hamas as its demands for re-opening the border with Egypt and lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza were not part of its 10-year deal for a hudna, or cease fire in Arabic. There were brief humanitarian pauses negotiated by the UN and Red Cross to deal with recovery of the dead and  wounded. These were breached by Hamas with rocket and mortar attacks.  

report citing IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner who indicated that based on  military sensors it could have been from Hamas rockets that have fallen in the vicinity. Israel still screens   and permits the entry of truckloads of basic humanitarian supplies at its southern Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza, despite being a target of Hamas and PIJ rockets and mortars.  

Secretary of State Kerry was dispatched in late July 2014 to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy between Cairo, Ankara and Qatar endeavoring to find some leverage with Hamas to obtain a longer cease fire. His latest attempt as of this writing was rejected by Israel as the offer he put on the table simply reiterated Hamas’ previously rejected  terms. Those terms proposed by Hamas were based on the November 2012 cease fire agreement. An agreement the Administration used to encourage Israel to relent to the shipment of cement, steel and equipment for reconstruction in Gaza. This reconstruction was funded by $405 million from Qatar, a Hamas supporter. Israel’s fears about diversion of those resources were confirmed in the discovery of the elaborate fortifications and tunnel network. Kerry returned to Washington via Paris, where he met with foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, France the U.K. and the EU foreign relations commisioner, without the likelihood that further mediation between the warring parties could yield an agreement to return to calm.  

Unlike the two prior Israel – Hamas conflicts, Israel has the tacit support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and a number of other Arab league countries, as they also wanted Hamas finished. These Arab states, nominal allies of the US in the Middle East,  were vitally concerned with the rising threat of the Islamic State (IS). IS has declared a Caliphate after conquering large swaths of Syria and Iraq in a blitzkrieg  during which it acquired billions in funds, oil resources and vast warehouses of captured US and Russian advanced weapons.

Against this background, the Lisa Benson show convened an interview  on July 17, 2014 with Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Shoshana Bryen, Senior director, Jewish Policy Center, both of Washington, DC. The ground incursion phase of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began shortly following the interview.

Benson:  Good afternoon America. Welcome! Thank you for being with us today. This is Lisa Benson, your host for the Lisa Benson Radio Show for National Security matters. Today we have breaking stories for you and I thank you for joining us. from across America, Israel and Europe. Week after week this broadcast brings you the intelligent, accurate and measured response to the urgent matters regarding national security and foreign policy. We are here to help you become better informed so you can work with us as a member of the National Security Communication Task Force of America to forge strong national security policies to protect the American people, American homeland and safeguard our closest ally, Israel. We have exceptional guests with us today and my co-host and co-producer of this show Jerry Gordon, a former Army Intelligence Officer and a prolific writer and researcher.


Gordon:  Glad to be back.

Benson:  Glad to have you. And also with us today Shoshana Bryen, are you there?



Bryen:  I am here.


Benson:  It is a great measure to meet you Shoshana. You have more than thirty years of experience as an analyst of U.S. Defense Policy and Middle East Affairs. You have run programs and conferences with American military personnel in various countries. Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, DC. Also with us today from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), is Dr. Jonathan Schanzer.  Welcome Jonathan.



Schanzer:  Thank you very much.

Benson:  You are the Vice President of Research and you, Cliff May and others at FDD are doing tremendous work as a think tank in Washington DC. 

Dr. Schanzer, we understand that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel and Hamas delegation are in Cairo. Why they are all in Cairo and what might be the breaking story today?

Benson:  That is the breaking story today. 

Gordon:  Shoshana, why did Hamas launch this latest rocket blitz against Israel and reject the originally Israeli approved and Egyptian sponsored cease fire,?

Bryen:  The first rockets were launched while the IDF was engaged in the West Bank dealing with the three kidnapped teens and arresting Hamas operatives on the West Bank. It was probably a distraction.

Benson:  Dr. Schanzer it appears that Hamas is riven with divisions. Can you expand upon that?

Benson:  Shoshana could you inform our listeners what the Jewish Policy Center does?

Bryen:  The Jewish Policy Center is a non-profit think tank which works to spread certain messages inside the American Jewish community – specifically messages of support for strong American defense capability, close U.S./Israel relations, small government, low taxes and independent thinking.

Benson:  Jon and Shoshana, where do you think this Administration are going and why are they doing this?

Bryen:  In this corner folks we have Saudi Arabia. We have Israel. We have Egypt and in this corner ladies and gentlemen we have Turkey, Qatar, Russia, China, and Iran. Is that the way it sums up for you?

Bryen:  You put your finger on it Jerry. Qatar has money and Qatar funds just about everything that the Washington establishment considers important. It puts money, for example, into the Clinton Foundation. It spends money on American universities, on the purchase of American military equipment and on sporting events. If you watched the World Cup you saw Qatar everywhere in Brazil. Al-Jazeera which is the wholly- owned subsidiary of the Qatar government is considered in Washington to be the equivalent of CNN. By spending enough money, by making itself look moderate it has ingratiated itself into the Washington establishment. American officials tend to look at places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are adversaries to each other, as part of some moderate regional grouping. In fact they are both funders of radical Muslims from Chechnya to Syria to Gaza and beyond. It is however hard to say that out loud when you are the Clinton Foundation and you are taking money or you are the Administration selling Qatar billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment, or you are a Washington politician appearing on al-Jazeera. The truth is that they are supporters of radical Islam.

Gordon:  But they also have been, as both Jonathan and Shoshana know, the conduit through which turmoil has been spread throughout the region. One only has to look at the Benghazi situation to know essentially that the Obama administration has utilized them in the context of filtering weapons not only into Libya but subsequently into Syria.

Benson:  Dr. Schanzer what are the new Jihadist groups in Gaza?

Schanzer:  We put together report here at FDD back in February. What we found was the Turks had helped Iran evade sanctions to the tune of about twelve to thirteen billion dollars, in a gas for gold scheme. After that, there was a report from the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office showing that there was an additional hundred billion dollars, that Turkey had helped Iran conduct additional illicit transactions. There was a huge amount of money right at the peak of the sanctions that was designed to bring Iran limping to the negotiating table. Instead Iran came in a much stronger position. Then you have what has been going on in Syria where Turkey has an extremely lax border policy. It has allowed for the transfer of weapons, cash and people to go back and forth over these borders. The Al Nusra Front and have ISIS has benefitted. Just about every Jihadi group under the sun has benefitted and then you add to that the fact that Hamas is now based in Ankara. They have at least twelve or thirteen different people that we have been able to identify. The point here is that it looks like Turkey, which is of course a NATO ally and a longstanding U.S. ally, also would appear to qualify as a state sponsor of terrorism. This is something that is unsustainable and we hope that Washington will move on this and call Turkey to account.

Benson:  President Obama requested $3.7 billion in supplemental funding, for immigrant children in the surge on the border. Jerry I have a question for you. What is in the Supplemental appropriations bill for 2015?

Benson:  My question for you is what is in the Congressional appropriations for the Palestinian Authority?

Gordon:  There is $440 million for the PA, in addition to that there is also the appropriation of $200 million what is called a donor contribution to the UN Works Refugee Agency (UNRWA). UNWRA administers fifty-eight so-called Arab-Palestinian refugee camps throughout the region including places like East Jerusalem, Gaza and in the West Bank or the disputed territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Hamas rockets have been discovered in UNRWA facilities in Gaza during the current conflict.

Benson:   Jonathan is there a unity government or is it a delusion?

Schanzer:  There was obviously a unity government and I think the United States Government was reticent to acknowledge the fact that that is exactly what it was. It was formed with the agreement of both Hamas and Fatah and would therefore be illegal according to U.S. law. Nevertheless it appears that the White House found a work around, they found some technical ways of getting around that designation. Fast forward through this recent conflict and it does not appear that this unity government is still in place.  Hamas is absolutely maligning Abbas at every given opportunity. They are calling him an Al Khoud Kennedy. Implying that he is more loyal to Israel than to the Palestinian cause. There is no way that this unity government holds and that Hamas stays as part of it. The question then becomes does Abbas still find a way of taking over components of the Gaza Strip and placing them under the Palestinian Authority? In that case we would have what I would call the Hezbollah model, where Hamas is able to operate with impunity under the umbrella of a weak central authority government. This would still be something that I would be reticent to support as an American taxpayer. We are just going to have to wait and see how this thing shakes out.

Benson:  How will this money get to the PA leadership Jonathan, but not to the people? Is that how you see the situation?

Benson:  What is the name of your book?

Benson:  Shoshana, where do we go from here? What do you see happening?

Benson:  Jonathan, will there be a ground war?

Schanzer:  If you asked me earlier this week I would have said that a ground war was unlikely. You have a very cautious Benjamin Netanyahu whose legacy up until now has been that he was an Israeli Prime Minister who was not going to get involved in a war. However, I think that the revelations that Hamas commandos, were coming in through tunnels, not between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, but between the Gaza Strip and Israel changed everything.

Schanzer:  It was.

Benson:  Jonathan Schanzer and Shoshana Bryen thank you for your valued insights into this current crisis.

Schanzer and Bryen:  Thank you for inviting us.

Gordon:  Within hours of this interview on July 17th, the IDF ground incursion in Gaza commenced.



Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.


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