A post was withheld on this topic last night for developments. The developments occurred. Last night and in the early hours of Wednesday June 28th, Israeli forces entered the Gaza Strip for the first time since they pulled out, last summer. Air strikes have destroyed a power station, cutting off electricity thus disabling water pumps in much of the strip. Three bridges have also been smashed, limiting access between the northern and southern parts of the strip. For now, at least, the troops are staying outside populated areas.
The aim seems to be to to put pressure on those holding Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured in a daring raid across the Gaza-Israel border on Sunday. Israeli officials think that Corporal Shalit is being held in the southern Gaza Strip. The hope is that through Gazans the soldiers release will occur. This is a militarily bad situation, turned worse, (no help by recent US comments) and politically bad for the Palestinian government.
Israel can not be seen giving in to the Palestinian hostage-takers, by releasing prisoners (this is the demand) since it would be politically fatal. So, for now, their best hope is that Egyptian and French diplomats (the soldier also holds French citizenship) can negotiate his release. While they wait, the Israeli military conducts its operations, embittering the Gazans and slowly turning a sympathetic world opinion against Israel.
Israel says Hamas is responsible for the soldier’s fate. This is a simple claim, since Israel cannot discern from the Palestinian Authority (PA) who is in charge. Three groups have claimed joint responsibility for the abduction: the unknown Islamic Army; the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a small but active militia with fluid political loyalties; and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, which now governs the PA. The abduction also shows interal issues for both Hamas and Fatah, since both are suffering deep internal divisions. the various branches of Hamas, which were already divided over attempts to reach an accord with the rival Fatah party, are practically in open war over the abduction.
There is no clear answer at present. Hope is with the diplomat’s.