Both sides declare victory as Israel starts withdrawing troops
DEVELOPMENTS:Israel began withdrawing the army yesterday that had been poised to invade the Gaza Strip to go after Hamas, with both sides declaring they had won their eight-day battle.
Dust-covered tanks and armoured bulldozers were winched on to transporters and driven out of the same groves of straggly eucalyptus where they camped in January 2009 before going in.
That conflict cost more than 1,400 lives, all but 13 Palestinian, while this time some 160 Palestinians were killed in eight days of fighting, against six Israelis.
Hamas nevertheless declared it had come out on top.
“From the lion’s den, we declare victory,” said Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas’s armed wing, Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades. Israel’s “security hallucination” had been exposed.
Islamist militants launched more than 700 rockets from Gaza by the end of October, Israel said, to explain its decision to spark the latest conflict by killing Hamas’s top military commander with a precision strike from an F16 fighter jet.
Psychologically and in propaganda terms, the long-range rockets Hamas fired all the way towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were a game-changer, celebrated by Gazans who were also relieved the invasion never came. But 84 per cent of Gaza’s rockets were knocked out of the sky by Israel’s new “iron dome” interceptor defence, neutralising Hamas’s main weapon.
The Israeli army says Islamist fighters fired 1,500 rockets at Israel, both home made and smuggled from Iran, scoring two lethal hits. The same number of Israeli strikes killed 30 senior militiamen and blew up rockets, launchers and arms dumps.