As bombs continued to pummel the Gaza Strip for the third straight day, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared “an all-out war against Hamas.” The Palestinian death toll rose to more than 360 yesterday, many of them civilians. But so far Israel appears not to have been able to cripple Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel. Hamas fired about 60 rockets into southern Israel yesterday and killed four people. The New York Timespoints out that Israel “has not made clear if it means to topple the leadership of Hamas” and has emphasized that it merely aims to strike at Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel. But USA Todayquotes Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations saying that the goal of the military operations is to “destroy completely” what she referred to as a “terrorist gang.” Indeed, the Washington Postnotes that the airstrikes that began Saturday “have had broader aims than any before,” which suggests that “Israel intends to weaken all the various facets of Hamas rather than just its armed wing.”
The Wall Street Journal says that the fact that Hamas can still fire so many rockets into Israel after three days of air attacks “pose[s] concerns in the West that Israel could face a repeat of its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon,” which only made Hezbollah stronger. Whatever happens in the long term, the residents of Gaza are suffering now. The Los Angeles Timesgoes inside with the straight-news story about the conflict and leads with a look at the civilian casualties in Gaza and what it refers to as “a battle of unequal forces” since “Israel is far better equipped than Gaza to absorb the conflict.” While Israel can quickly respond to a rocket attack and send the wounded to the hospital, residents of Gaza often have to fend for themselves, and the hospitals are so overwhelmed that they have to turn people away.
There are hints that Israel is preparing for a ground offensive into Gaza, although the NYT gets word that nothing has been decided yet. The WSJ points out that if the rocket attacks continue, the military may face more pressure to carry out the ground offensive. But a NYT analysis piece says that that may be exactly what Hamas wants. An analysis in Haaretz says that Hamas hopes a ground offensive would “let it inflict such heavy losses on Israeli tanks and infantry that Israel would flee with its tail between its legs.” If there’s one thing that’s clear, it is that what is already one of the largest attacks on Gaza in decades shows no sign of stopping. Hamas has called on Palestinians to retaliate with suicide attacks, and Barak has made it clear that the “operation will be widened, deepened as we see fit.”
The WSJ says that while the six-month cease-fire may have calmed military tensions, it seems clear that both Hamas and Israel spent the time preparing for battle. Israel has been aggressively training ground forces on urban warfare to avoid a repeat of what happened when it confronted Hezbollah in 2006. For its part, Hamas has dug lots of new tunnels that could allow the organization to move tools and personnel without being detected by Israeli authorities. While Palestinians are obviously quick to blame Israel, the NYT notes that the key question for Hamas now is whether Gaza residents will get tired of the current situation and vote for someone else in the next elections. Meanwhile, Israel is thinking about its own election in February, notes USATin a piece inside. The outcome of the vote is going to be strongly tied to this operation, which more than 80 percent of Israelis support.
The WP devotes a separate front-page piece to, and the LAT mentions, the tragic story of a family that lost five sisters ages 4 to 17 in an Israeli airstrike. For its part, the NYT devotes some sentences to describing the scene in a Gaza hospital, where armed Hamas militants walked the halls and shot six people who were accused of collaborating with Israel.
Many continued to take to the streets across the Middle East to express their anger toward Israel, but the WSJ points out that the protesters are also taking aim at Arab rulers who are not doing anything to stop the airstrikes. Some are worried that this lack of action by Arab leaders could create a backlash and might motivate more to join Islamist groups. “These groups are increasingly seen as the only organized movements willing to stand up to Israel,” notes the WSJ.
In the WP’s op-ed page, Daoud Kuttab writes that the “disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas.” Hamas had been steadily losing support both inside Gaza and abroad since it came to power in 2006. But now “the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.”
The WSJ fronts, and everyone covers, news that the Treasury Department announced it would commit $6 billion to prop up GMAC, the auto financing giant. GMAC provides most of the financing to GM dealers and buyers, so its survival is crucial to General Motors. The Treasury injected $5 billion into GMAC, which is 49 percent owned by GM, and then extended a $1 billion loan to GM so the automaker could purchase additional equity in the financing company. In what the WSJ says could be a sign that the government’s role “could become open-ended,” the Treasury has set up a separate program within the Troubled Asset Relief Program to inject money into the auto industry
The NYT fronts a look at how the downturn in the real estate market has made divorce more complicated. “We used to fight about who gets to keep the house,” one lawyer said. “Now we fight about who gets stuck with the dead cow.” Some couples can’t decide and end up staying together even after divorce because they can’t sell their home. “We’re finding the husband on one floor, the wife on the other,” a certified divorce financial analyst said. “Now one is coming home with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and it’s creating a layer to relationships that we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, we’re seeing The War of the Roses for real, not just in a Hollywood movie.”