Skip to main content

In Gaza, Hamas is on the ropes

By Rick Francona
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
Palestinians in Gaza celebrate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday, August 26. After more than seven weeks of heavy fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire that puts off dealing with core long-term issues. Palestinians in Gaza celebrate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday, August 26. After more than seven weeks of heavy fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire that puts off dealing with core long-term issues.
HIDE CAPTION
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel-Gaza crisis
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rick Francona: 72-hour cease-fire may prove to be end of this round of Gaza confrontation
  • He says Israel achieved its objectives militarily by destroying tunnels, rockets
  • Hamas can survive loss of manpower; it still has thousands of rockets, but it's weakened
  • Francona: Too many died; this should be a chance to find a long-term peace

Editor's note: Rick Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and CNN military analyst. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- There is optimism, and hope, that the Egyptian-brokered three-day "humanitarian cease-fire" between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas will turn into a longer-term cessation of hostilities -- with good reason.

Why? Militarily speaking, Hamas is on the ropes. Although the group has survived an IDF aerial, naval and ground onslaught, it has suffered a severe blow. Despite its somewhat successful attempts to portray itself and all Gaza as victims of a disproportionate Israeli military campaign, in the end it failed to prevent the IDF from achieving almost all its military goals, while achieving very little on its part.

The Israelis stated early on in the campaign that their objectives were to find and destroy Hamas' networks of tunnels constructed under the Gaza border with Israel, tunnels designed to be used for offensive attacks on Israeli cities and kibbutzim in southern Israel.

At the outset of hostilities, the IDF believed there were over 20 tunnels. At the end of the fighting, they had destroyed 32 tunnels, some almost 2 miles in length and demonstrating surprising engineering capabilities. Granted, it is impossible to know if the IDF has found all the tunnels.

Opinion: Bring Hamas to the table

Let's look at the situation as it appeared on the day after the last rockets were fired, the last bombs were dropped and the last tunnels were destroyed.

Egypt playing key role as truce-broker
Gaza residents have a break from violence
Gaza residents return to destroyed homes
The Middle East: A region in turmoil

Hamas has lost most if not all its offensive tunnels. These tunnels were constructed over several years at great expense, not only in terms of resources expended, but in terms of diversion of those resources from the construction of infrastructure projects, including schools, hospitals, mosques and housing.

As for casualties, the overwhelming numbers of dead and wounded were Palestinians. The death toll among the Gazans reached almost 1,900, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

There are differing claims by human rights organizations and the Israeli government about how many of the dead were Hamas fighters versus innocent civilians. The human rights groups say 80% of the dead were civilians, while the Israelis counter with a figure of just under 50%.

Assuming the human rights groups are correct, Hamas has lost fewer than 400 fighters; if we are to accept the Israeli figure, Hamas losses would be over 900. Given its suspected strength of more than 10,000 fighters, Hamas can absorb this level of manpower losses.

If past conflicts are a guide, Hamas recruitment will soar in the wake of the fighting as young men are drawn to the organization that, at least in their own minds, successfully stood up to the vaunted Israel Defense Forces. Personnel losses will not affect the ability of Hamas to survive.

That said, in addition to the loss of the tunnels, much of Hamas' rocket inventory has been depleted or destroyed. According to a spokesman for the Israeli military, Hamas started the conflict with an arsenal of about 10,000 rockets. One-third of those were fired at Israel, albeit with limited effect, and another third were destroyed in Israeli strikes.

If those figures are accurate, that leaves Hamas with over 3,000 rockets. The numbers can be deceiving, since we do not have a breakdown of how many of which type remain in the inventory -- do they have a large number of the more capable Syrian-made M-302 (100 mile range) or locally made M-75 (50 mile range) rockets, or more of the less capable, locally made short-range al-Qassam rockets? In any case, Hamas still has thousands of rockets.

However, of the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas (as well as some launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad) at Israel, few caused significant damage. There have been three civilian deaths in Israel thus far in the conflict.

The primary reason for the low number of deaths and injuries in Israel, aside from the inherent inaccuracy of the rockets, is the effectiveness of Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket/missile system.

After similar conflicts in the past, Hamas has been re-armed and resupplied by its supporters, primarily Iran and to some extent Syria. The most efficient method for the re-arming and resupply effort has been via the large number of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

That is not likely to be the case this time -- another blow to Hamas, which it must factor in to its assessment of this conflict as well as its future planning.

The new government in Egypt under former defense chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is not a friend of Hamas. Al-Sisi considers Hamas to be nothing more than a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he has outlawed in Egypt. He has increased the Egyptian military and police presence on the Gaza border and destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels formerly used to import weapons into Gaza. Hamas cannot expect to be fully re-armed and resupplied via Sinai as it has in the past.

This conflict ended, at least for a while, as most of the past wars have. Israel dominated the battlefield, possessing complete control of the air and sea, and took the ground fighting deep into Gaza, Hamas' home turf. The much more powerful Israeli armed forces did enormous damage to the public and civilian infrastructure while mostly achieving its military objectives.

I said earlier in this conflict that Israel would pursue its objectives despite the inevitable world condemnation of its so-called disproportionate use of military force, and would stop its operations when it had achieved those objectives. We appear to be at that point.

There has been far too much loss of life in Gaza. It is time to stop the fighting and seek a solution to this current crisis and establish a framework for a long-term solution. We have a chance to do just that. In this particular instance, the catalyst for that search may just be the serious military defeat suffered by Hamas.

Fearing daughter's Gaza border wedding

Palestinian-American: 'Living in occupation felt normal'

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT