By Abdel Monaem Fareed
Military and security experts believe that the high death toll and a trail of destruction left by 22 days of Israeli massive air, sea and land bombing have failed to guarantee Israel a victory.
"After 22 days of non-stop attacks, the Israeli military juggernaut failed to force Hamas and other resistance groups into surrender," Lebanese military expert Walid Sokaria told IslamOnline.net.
Israeli troops began on Sunday, January 18, a gradual withdrawal from the bombed-out Palestinian territory after a deadly 22-day offensive that killed more than 1300 people, nearly half of them civilians.
Announcing a unilateral ceasefire a day earlier, Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert claimed the onslaught has reached all its goals.
Israel has been inconsistent about the objectives of its deadliest offensive ever against Gaza, starting from ousting the Hamas-led government to ending rocket firings.
Security analysts, and even some Israeli parties, believe none of that has been achieved.
"The war did not stop rocket firing, did not end Hamas rule in Gaza and did not even succeed to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit," noted Sokaria.
"So what kind of victory can Israel claim?"
Israeli intelligence chief Yuval Diskin admitted Sunday that the war failed to wipe out the network of tunnels operated by Hamas, another key objective.
The right-wing opposition Likud party has also said that the war failed to achieve its goals.
Some experts believe that by not losing to one of the world’s most powerful armies, the Palestinians have actually won.
"Hamas won the war," contends Sokaria, the Lebanese military expert.
"The fact that the enemy has failed to achieve its set goals should be deemed a clear victory for the resistance," agrees Tal`at Musallam, an Egyptian military analyst.
Sokaria believes Hamas has also won the propaganda battle.
"The war has boosted Hamas popularity on the Palestinian, Arab and international arenas."
But Yassin Suwaid, another Lebanese military expert, disagrees.
"Israel is the winner, no doubt," he told IOL.
"It has achieved its goal of dealing a major blow to Hamas."
Suwaid denied that Israel had intended to topple Hamas rule in the coastal territory, which has been under siege since Hamas was voted into power in 2006.
"Ending Hamas’ rule in Gaza would not have been in Israel’s favor as it would have ended the West Bank-Gaza division."
He believes the only loser were the people of Gaza who lost their beloved ones and saw their homes brought to a pile of rubble.
Israel has destroyed 20,000 residential buildings, 1,500 commercial facilities, 51 government buildings, 18 education buildings, 20 mosques and 50 kilometers of roads.
According to preliminary estimates, rebuilding Gaza would need no less than $1 billion.
But Mohammed Abdel-Salam, an Egyptian military analyst, insists the scale of destruction is no basis to decide the winner.
"Israel has failed to end Hamas rule in Gaza, halt rocket firing and stop arms smuggling," he noted.
"Hamas has also not achieved any military victory," he added.
"So the best way to describe the result is that Hamas did not lose and Israel did not win."