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
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2334 GMT (0734 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT