Fear of Ground War over Fajr-5
The violence in Gaza continued on Sunday, the fifth day of Operation Pillar of Defense. Ten Palestinians died in an airstrike on Sunday afternoon, bringing number of today’s fatalities to 18. The violence so far has claimed the lives 64 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and three Israelis. (BBC, 18 November)
Palestinian rockets were fired from Gaza at several Israeli towns and cities. It is feared that the IDF might want to launch a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the Fajr-5 arsenal remaining in the area. In the first five days of conflict, the Israeli Air Force has conducted many sorties hitting Fajr-5 launchers and their underground storage bunkers. The urgency for the IDF to dismantle Fajr-5 rocket capabilities of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza became evident on Saturday when Israel had to intercept an incoming Fajr-5 over Tel Aviv.
The Israeli campaign against Fajr-5 began on 24 October when the Israeli Air Force blew up an Iranian-operated military factory in the Sudanese capital that was producing Fajr-5 rockets. The Yamouk facility was believed to supply the 50-mile-range rockets to Hamas and other militant organizations in Gaza. Three weeks later, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense. The tactical goal of the military operation seems to be the elimination of Fajr-5 inventories in Gaza and the destruction of any suspected assembly plants producing the local version of the rocket, dubbed ‘M-75’ by Hamas.
Meanwhile, many observers in the region believe that Israel much sooner than later needs to engage Hamas in negotiations covering a host of fundamental issues beyond the Fajr-5 as a parallel track of the broader Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. In the recent months, Hamas has successfully engaged regional powers, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, and has followed an independent policy on Syria, independent from Iran and Hezbollah. Hamas can play as a positive and constructive role in the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.