By the time the cease-fire took effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday, the Israel Air Force had already attacked Hamas' military intelligence and internal security buildings, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing) command posts, and safe houses used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip — more than 130 targets in the span of one day.
All told, Israel hit more than 1,600 targets in its eight-day campaign, with many parts of Gaza City now in ruins. It is now unclear what the effect on Hamas is and what damage it sustained. Israel Defense Forces officials said Wednesday that Operation Pillar of Defense achieved its stated objectives, although these were modest, focusing mainly on "shoring up deterrence," crippling Hamas rocket-launching capability and "minimizing" the threat on the Israeli homefront.
Among the successes of the operation are the assassination of Hamas' top commander, Ahmed Jabari, and the damage to the terrorist groups' strategic weapons systems: the long-range rockets that can strike further than 40 kilometers (28.4 miles) and the hundreds of medium- and short-range rockets and launchers. Some 17 Fajr-5 long-range rockets and launchers were destroyed on the first day alone. As the operation progressed, the number of Fajr rockets fired every day gradually decreased.
But when it comes to the medium- and short-range rockets, the damage to Hamas' firepower was not as severe. By the time Wednesday's truce had set in, Hamas had fired more than 1,500 rockets over eight days. Its stockpile, which at the height of the conflict comprised some 10,000 rockets, still includes some 6,000 projectiles, although only a handful are considered to have long-range capability.
IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said on Wednesday that Hamas' command and control apparatus was badly damaged, in part because of Israel's targeting of about 30 of its top commanders and the attacks on its lower echelons and military infrastructure. Some 120 Hamas terrorists were killed and 26 weapon caches were destroyed. IDF officials also noted Wednesday that the IAF bombed some 140 tunnels that had been used to smuggle arms, as well as 66 tunnels that were to be used for terrorist attacks on Israel.
However, it is still too early to tell whether the attack on Hamas' tunneling activity compromises its ability to perpetrate attacks, and what this means for the terrorism threat from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas and the other terrorist groups can take credit for expanding the rocket threat to Jerusalem and central Israel through repeated barrages, although only in one case did these inflict damage to a residential area, when a Rishon Lezion apartment building suffered a direct hit. Hamas also showcased its indigenously produced eight-inch rocket for the first time, which has a longer range than even the Fajr rockets.
Hamas can also tout the high number of shoulder missiles fired on IAF aircraft. The number of incidents was in the double digits. None of these incidents resulted in any damage because of the pilots' actions and the aircrafts' sophisticated defense systems.
Meanwhile, officials in Egypt said on Wednesday that they had successfully interdicted a shipment of 108 Grad rockets and other arms on Wednesday. Law enforcement officials in Cairo said the shipment, which included 19,000 bullets, were confiscated in Mersa Matruh, a port city in western Egypt. They originated in Libya, which in the wake of the country's civil war in 2011 saw local militias lay their hands on most of the 20 million firearms there as they pursued forces loyal to President Moammar Gadhafi's now-defunct regime. Some criminal gangs and Islamic fundamentalists have also managed to seize some of the weapons.
The political implications of the campaign will now take center stage. Hamas has already been under criticism for allowing armed gunmen to assassinate six Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel. One body was tied to motorcycles and dragged along Gaza's streets.
On Wednesday, Hamas' political bureau issued an apology for that incident, which spurred international condemnation. "Those who collaborate with Israel must be dealt with, but not like this; we have issued a directive to avoid such disgraceful actions," Hamas political bureau second-in-command Moussa Abu Marzouk said in a statement. A spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry told the Arab press on Wednesday that "those who carried out the extra-judicial killings were armed gunmen from the military wing. Legal action will be taken against people who carry out such assassinations."
Hamas has also had to contend with criticism from Arab countries, mainly from Sunni states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates. Top Egyptian officials believe that Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials humiliated Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi by repeatedly introducing new demands in the cease-fire negotiations just when he was about to declare that a cease-fire had been reached.
One prominent Egyptian pundit noted that the Arab street did not go out of its way to show solidarity with Hamas during the fighting, owing to the Islamic organization's pro-Iranian agenda. Saudi and Kuwaiti papers ran editorials blaming Islamic Jihad and Hamas for "using the blood of Gazans as currency in the battles they wage for Iran," and wrote that the two terrorist groups refused to accept that "Israel is militarily superior in the Gaza Strip."