A view from Israel
The first stages were done by the air force, in a pattern first used by the Americans in Iraq in January 1991, but adapted to the conditions of Gaza. The first stage was to kill as many Hamas men as possible, in as many sites as possible. The goal was to throw Hamas into immediate confusion and never allow it to recuperate. Hundreds of dead and many hundreds of wounded - the majority not innocent bystanders, of course - taxing the hospitals, sowing panic and demoralization or at least its potential, disrupting any type of public order, forcing the leadership underground, hopefully severing some of their command and control capabilities.
On the second day we also destroyed some of their tunnels, effectively cutting off, or at least significantly reducing, their logistic hinterland.
By the third day the initial wave of airborne successes had been achieved, and David Grossman, assuming we were still in 2006, called for a halt: the air force had done its best, and from here on there wasn't much left for it to do other than rearrange the rubble and kill civilians. Better to call it a victory and stop. In hindsight, arguably this may have been true by the end of the first week, but it wasn't true on the third day. On days 3 through 7, the air force did something many of us hadn't thought of: it pulverized the middle level of the Hamas fighting machine. The head had been confused frightened and forced underground on day one; the fighting units, to the extent Hamas has them, and the 15,000-some armed men, were mostly unscathed. During those days, however, their immediate hinterland was targeted and apparently seriously hit. These were the dozens of homes of senior Haman figures pulverized, mostly while they were empty of people but still full of weapons. And tunnels. By destroying them, the IDF seriously crimped the ability of the Hamas units to function except where they already were. They couldn't be moved or regrouped. They can't be resupplied. They are where they are, armed as they are, period. They cannot be relieved. They probably have intermittent connections with their commanders at best.
This was achieved with limited loss of Hamas lives, and very few of civilians. True, someday the international media will enter Gaza freely, and they'll show endless footage of destroyed buildings, but by then it won't make much difference, will it. They'll be preaching to the believers, and anyway there will be a new story, somewhere else.
The next stage of the attrition focused on the barriers to a land invasion. The myths told about this stage were endless, even in Israel, and I'm not going to repeat them, but the general idea was that Hamas had created a series of fortifications, barriers and impediments to the advance of IDF ground forces. The Hamas leadership seems to have believed this, too, witness their proclamations as recently as three days ago that the ground forces will never come because the cowardly Israelis know they'll be cut down if they ever try.
In spite of the total fog of war that first evening, it was clear within about three hours that this probably wasn't what had happened. On the contrary: the IDF forces sailed through those lines of defense with very little action, few casualties, and, one might add, not very many dead Hamas fighters, either. My explanation for this is that for an army to slow down an invader on a fortified line, it has to be an army: with training, weaponry, command and control systems, reinforcements on their way, and so on. (The Israeli failures on the Golan and Suez on October 6-7th 1973 demonstrate this, and that IDF was always much more formidable than Hamas). Hamas would never have been able to stop a concerted effort of the IDF to get in, but it expected to bloody them. The attrition of days 3-7 prevented that.
By noon after the invasion Gaza had been bisected, with powerful forces sitting on the hilltops (such as there are in Gaza), or tall rooftops, and lines of supply back to their rear echelons. Casualties can be evacuated, supplies can get in; in the rear, meanwhile, new brigades are carefully and purposefully preparing themselves for battle: the reservists. Experienced veterans of previous campaigns, who flocked to their units when called up two nights ago, irrespective of how inconvenient it was in their regular lives.
Where are we now? The next line of Hamas defense, and its main one, was always the inevitable weakness of an attacking army in an urban environment. Even the most brutal and ruthless armies invade cities at their extreme peril: think Red Army in Berlin, April 1945, taking more than 100,000 casualties (the number of dead Berliners was, of course, much higher). Keep in mind, however, that the commanders of the IDF know that; they don't need to be informed by the media. Keep in mind also that Hamas has to be hit, as explained above. Ergo, a way had to be found, and prepared, trained and prepared for.
I'm no more informed than the rest of you, but allow me to suggest what may be happening (this is pure conjecture). As described above, at this stage of attrition the Hamas men are almost on their own, perhaps in small groups. They're tired and frightened, or at least, tired and very tense. They've been under fire for ten days, most of which were filled with frustrated anticipation: even assuming they've been raring for a fight the whole time, it has been slow in coming and doesn't appear all that imminent even now. Their leaders are out of sight, their closer commanders may also be gone. They realize that the tunnel they intended to use to resupply has been bombed, nor are many reinforcements likely to come. All this would still be alright if only the IDF infantry would walk into their carefully prepared traps. But the IDF isn't doing that. Instead, it's inching forward. Its infantry seems to have excellent intelligence about each building; instead of racing forward like an elephant into a booby-mined trap, it fights for a building, kills some of the defenders but captures others, interrogates them about the other buildings on the street and only then moves forward to the next one.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here