Israel says its military offensive in Gaza has dealt Hamas a heavy blow, but that’s not how the leaders of the radical Palestinian group see it. Their view is based more on a kind of jujitsu that uses Israel’s military momentum against its own political objectives than on any serious belief in rhetoric about the organization’s “steadfast” fighters being able to “crush” the invaders.
Israel had long assumed that Hamas wanted a ground invasion so it could land some blows on the Israeli military in order to claim a propaganda victory once the Israelis inevitably withdrew. Still, by entering Gaza on Saturday, the Israelis calculated that they could draw Hamas into clashes that would substantially weaken the organization, even if Israel suffered some casualties. But despite the ferocity of the fighting that rages in some parts of Gaza, there are indications that Hamas is keeping many of its best fighters out of the direct path of the advancing Israelis. Israeli military officials have noted that resistance has not been as fierce as expected, and that most Israeli soldiers wounded in the operation thus far have been struck by mortar rounds fired from a considerable distance. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel in a symbolic taunt to the Israeli public. (See pictures of Israel’s sweep into Gaza.)
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