Gaza Blitz to Strengthen Hamas: Press

The bloodshed in the besieged Gaza Strip is a sign on Israel’s failure to topple the ruling Hamas and would further strengthen the group, British commentators wrote on Sunday, December 28.

"The unprecedented wave of airstrikes yesterday could not have been a more dramatic indication of the failure of Israel’s policy to remove Hamas from power in Gaza," Marie Colvin wrote in The Times.

"It will, however, have achieved little in terms of the ultimate Israeli goal: to create conditions that were so intolerable that either Hamas would recant its hardline stand against Israel, or that the Gazan population would turn on the Hamas government."

At least 290 people were killed and more than 700 wounded when Israel blitzed the Gaza Strip with massive air strikes on Saturday.

Israeli warplanes continued to pound the impoverished and overcrowded seaside territory on Sunday, killing six people and sending thick columns of smoke barreling into the air.

"Some 230 targets have been hit," said an Israeli army spokeswoman.

"They include Hamas infrastructure like buildings, arms depots and rocket-launching zones."

Observers do not expect the Israeli offensive, expected to continue for days, to weaken Hamas popular profile, but rather improve it.

Immediately after the first wave of airstrike, hundreds of people organized a rally in Gaza criticizing Hamas rival President Mahmoud Abbas and accusing him of complicity.

"It is hard to gauge Hamas’s popularity, but first signs were that the raids will rally support," Ian Black wrote in the Guardian.

Electioneering

British newspapers linked the onslaught against Gaza, home to 1.6 million people, to next month’s Israeli general elections.

"Yesterday’s strikes will have had as much to do with Israeli domestic policy as military deterrence," said Colvin.

"The country goes to the polls on February 10. Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and the Kadima party candidate for prime minister, increasingly faced accusations of being soft on defense," he noted.

With Livni’s rival Benjamin Netanyahu, the hardline Likud candidate, ahead in the polls, a continued barrage of rockets on southern Israel would have meant certain defeat."

Many observers also believe that Defense Minister Ehud Barak would much gain from the Gaza operation.

"The man who, until yesterday, had to remind the Israeli voter of his existence with self-ridicule on billboards and satirical shows is returning to the political ring with force," said Haaretz.

"In the coming days, weeks maybe, Barak will stand in the center of the public’s attention. For better or worse, he’s in his element."

The daily said this would not win Barak the prestigious premiership but would at least spare him and his Labour party "the humiliating defeat the polls are predicting."

(IslamOnline.net and newspapers)

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