Via Mere Rhetoric.
This jibes with what other spokesmen told the AP, that the casualties were caused by booby traps inside the school triggered by the shells, but Sky says they backed off that claim later. (A UN official at the scene also blames the damage on the shells.) Would Hamas use a school as a launching pad? Sure — see the video from 2007 that Michelle posted earlier, or this gloss from Reuters about what some teachers at the UN school liked to do in their spare time. I have no great insight beyond that, alas: It could be a screw-up by the IDF — they admitted after the Qana attack that they didn’t know the building had civilians in it — or, more likely, it could be another of the endless cases of Hamas stationing weapons among innocents to try to bait the Israelis into this sort of clusterfark. Pay attention in the aftermath, though, to how many critics opt for a third theory, that the IDF did it intentionally, without provocation, just to liquidate a few extra Palestinians even though the price they’ll pay in propaganda vastly exceeds any “benefit” derived.
While the media descends on this, the grand strategic picture is getting interesting. The Guardian claimed last night that the scope of the operation might be widening to try to take out Hamas. Now the JPost wonders if they’ve already done it:
“It’s hard to tell who’s in charge in the Gaza Strip these days,” said a Ramallah-based analyst. “Hamas’s political leaders have disappeared after throwing away their mobile phones. No one knows exactly what Hamas wants.”
The analyst said that according to his sources, the embattled Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were no longer in direct contact with their colleagues in Syria…
Another Ramallah-based political analyst said that the political leadership of Hamas has given the movement’s armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, full freedom to take any measures it deems necessary to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime.
“The gunmen on the streets are now in charge,” he noted. “This is a dangerous situation, because they don’t report to anyone at the top. This has created a state of anarchy and confusion.”
Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that the general feeling was that Hamas does not exist any longer as a governing body. “All their government institutions have been destroyed,” said a Gaza City reporter. “The Hamas leaders are now behaving like al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman Zawahiri. Their only public appearances are through recorded messages aired on Arab TV stations.”
Sources in Ramallah are dicey insofar as they might be allied with Fatah, but the question remains: Once the operation ends, who’s in control in Gaza?
Update: Who’s in control? If The One has any say in it, it might be … Hamas:
Obama and the team he has chosen might be more willing to accept the type of arrangement that many believe is needed to relieve the suffering in Gaza and figure out a political solution. That will likely involve giving Hamas some face-saving partial authority role in the crowded territory it seized in 2007 after winning elections. That alone might end the blockade of Gaza that has frustrated the hopes of Palestinians there, who have long had little ability to work or move about or live normal lives. That anger and dismay has boosted support for Hamas.
Supporters of such a policy, including many Europeans, think it is the only way to lure Hamas toward eventual political accommodation with Israel, whose right to exist is rejected by the militants.
Update: Via Gateway Pundit, the IDF Spokesperson blog says two Hamas jihadis are dead at the school and a missile launcher with anti-tank missiles was recovered. Watch the media focus shift effortlessly now to “proportionality.” A belated exit question: What was the UN official doing there with Hamas gunmen firing off rockets?