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Destruction seekers moving ahead
By Musa Keilani June 25, 2010
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Is Israel planning another military assault on the Gaza Strip? According to a report in the Jerusalem Post last week, the Israeli military has drawn up plans ahead of a potential new conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The plan includes evacuation of entire Palestinian villages and refugee camps from areas of conflict in the event of an Israeli incursion, said the report.

Obviously, the planned evacuation is aimed at keeping casualties low. Despite its rejection of the Goldstone report, Israel has realised that its international image suffered badly with revelations that civilians took the brunt of its 34-day military assault in the Gaza Strip in 2008 and 2009.

One of the means to force the people to evacuate will be the use of flyers which will be dropped over areas Israel wants to send in its military with a warning that residents should leave. Radio messages as well as direct telephone calls would be other means.

In any event, the point here is that there is little area left in the Gaza Strip for any evacuation. Clearly, Israel will not allow the Gazans to enter its territory. Neither would Egypt take in the evacuees. And how would Israel distinguish between Hamas fighters and civilians?

In any event, technicalities like that do not matter. What matters is that the Jerusalem Post report indicates that Israel could be planning a “pre-emptive” assault on the Gaza Strip shortly before military action against Iran with a view to crippling the Iranian nuclear programme.

It is taken for granted that there would be some form of retaliatory action from the Gaza Strip (as well as from Lebanon’s Hizbollah) as and when Israel launches strikes against Iran. And Israel has claimed that there are thousands of projectiles in the Gaza Strip that could be used against it.

As such, the theory is that the Israeli military wants to storm the Gaza Strip and seize whatever weapons that Hamas and other groups could use against the Jewish state.

This region knows well that it is only a matter of time before Israel strikes against Iran. Preparations for the action seem to be in an advanced stage. An armada of 12 warships — 10 of them American, one Israeli and one German — is now in the Arabian Gulf after conducting secret exercises off the shore of south-western Israel.

An Israeli report says that the exercises conducted by the armada led by USS Harry S. Truman included  “interception of incoming Iranian, Syrian and Hizbollah missiles and rockets against US and Israeli targets in the Middle East.”

The report says that the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter bombers of the Truman carried out simulated bombing missions against targets set up at an Israeli firing range in the desert south-east of Beersheba in the exercise named Juniper Stallion.

The exercise also had 60 American F-16 fighter jets landing at Israeli air force facilities from bases in Germany and Romania, refuelling and taking off with Israeli fighter bombers to practise long-range bombing missions over the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and drill air-to-air combat along the way, says the report.

Now the armada is in place in the Gulf.  Additionally, two Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear missiles are said to be patrolling the Arabian Sea. Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly declared a state of emergency on its north-western border and deployed Revolutionary Guard units there saying US and Israeli forces are gathered in army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities.

Parallel to the military preparations, there is a diplomatic build-up.

The latest move in this campaign came from US Secretary of State Robert Gates, who told a congressional committee last week that Iran could fire “scores or hundreds” of short-and medium-range missiles against Europe.

All indications are that the clock is ticking towards US-Israeli military strikes against Iran despite US President Barack Obama’s known misgivings against such action.

Tehran is not leaving him any room for diplomacy either. And caught in the eye of the storm will be the beleaguered residents of the Gaza Strip and, indeed, those of southern Lebanon if Israel decides to wage another “pre-emptive” assault on Hizbollah.

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