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04TELAVIV1451 2004-03-09 07:50:00 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001451 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2014

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: We assess that the threshold for IDF
conventional ground force action in Gaza following a complete
Israeli withdrawal, including from the Philadelphia Strip,
would be substantially elevated. The loss of IDF-secured
roads, fortified bases and settlements, and diminished IDF
tactical intelligence capabilities would create real
obstacles that ground force commanders would be hesitant to
confront. Moreover, the IDF would have to count on facing
better-armed Palestinians than at present. In response to
threats or provocations from Gaza, the IDF would almost
certainly rely for as long as possible on standoff action,
especially airstrikes. Special forces operations would be an
intermediate step between standoff and ground force actions,
but they would be hindered by many of the same obstacles as a
ground invasion. (This judgment does not necessarily apply
to Shin Bet operations, which would continue.) Events that
would almost certainly trigger some form of IDF strike on
Gaza include mega-terror attacks by Gaza-based Hamas or PIJ,
or with some other clear connection to Gaza; the deployment
from Gaza of standoff weapons with professional
characteristics (e.g., Katyushas, SAMs, military-quality
mortars) against targets in Israel; and, the revelation of a
Karine-A-like smuggling operation.

Note: This is one of three messages by Embassy Tel Aviv with
initial thinking about the implications of an Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza. The other two cables address the
political/institutional and economic implications of
withdrawal. END SUMMARY.

2. (S) Should the IDF withdraw completely from Gaza,
including from the Philadelphia Strip along the Gaza-Egypt
border, it would subsequently face significant obstacles to
sending back ground forces. Ground force commanders would be
highly reluctant to lead troops into Gaza without the assets
they currently enjoy, notably pre-cleared routes of movement
for attack and withdrawal, and fortified safe areas on bases
and settlements within Gaza. Moreover, the good tactical
intelligence that the IDF currently enjoys by virtue of its
own eyes on the ground in Gaza would almost certainly be much
weaker after a full withdrawal. Ground forces would also
likely be inhibited by the prospect of facing opponents who,
after a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, would likely
be better armed and organized.

3. (S) Based on these factors, the Embassy assesses that the
threshold for IDF conventional ground operations in Gaza
would be signficantly elevated after withdrawal. Any
conventional ground operation would almost certainly ensue
only after repeated IDF attempts to deal with threats by
standoff means, notably fixed wing and helicopter attacks.
Another possible alternative to a ground campaign would be
the use of IDF special operations units, but their deployment
would be inhibited by the same factors militating against
large-scale ground force operations. (This judgment does not
necessarily apply to Shin Bet operations.) Nevertheless, the
IDF would be likely to turn to special forces, perhaps
inserted by sea, before resorting to any larger-scale ground

4. (S) A full withdrawal from Gaza would remove, or at least
significantly reduce, the stigma of occupation associated
with IDF actions in Gaza. With a greater feeling of
legitimacy to respond militarily to provocations from Gaza,
the IDF will probably show less inhibition about undertaking
operations likely to cause significant civilian casualties
and other unintended effects. The effect of taking more
risks of killing non-combatants would be compounded by the
possible greater tendency of the IDF to resort to less
precise air power following a full withdrawal from Gaza.


Reverse Tripwires


5. (S) The Embassy has identified the following events that
would almost certainly trigger conventional (air or land) IDF
action in Gaza. As noted above, we do not assess that a
conventional land forces operation would be the first
response in any case, except perhaps in the event of a
Palestinian attack that far exceeded the number of casualties
in any previous attack, or that employed nonconventional
means. This list, like those that follow, should not be
considered exhaustive.

-- A mega-terror attack (at least 50-100 deaths) within the
Green Line committed by Hamas, PIJ or other Gaza-based group,
or with some other clear Gaza connection.

-- An attack into Israel, or against an Israeli plane,
whether successful or not, from Gaza using standoff weapons
with professional characteristics, e.g., Katyushas or similar
SSMs, SAMs or (not homemade) mortars. The launch of such
weapons into Israel, or against an Israeli plane, would
likely provoke an IDF response, even without, or with few,
Israeli casualties. An attack using unsophisticated standoff
weapons of the kind already in use (Qassams, home-made
mortars) would be unlikely to provoke an IDF response if it
causes no fatalities. A "lucky hit" that causes fatalities
with these imprecise weapons would probably trigger a
standoff response, but not more.

-- The exposure of a large-scale arms smuggling operation,
similar to the Karine-A, involving standoff weapons of
professional characteristics.

6. (S) Actions more likely to provoke an IDF response would

-- A significant increase in the presence of Hizballah
fighters, Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, or
al-Qaeda-associated operatives in Gaza.

-- Continuous, small-scale smuggling of the sorts of weapons
described in para 5 above, as revealed by intelligence
sources. Whether the IDF would respond to the presence, but
non-use, of such weapons is uncertain. However, we assess
the probability as very low that Palestinian groups would
maintain Hizballah-like capabilities with Hizballah-like
restraint. In other words, Palestinian groups would almost
certainly not refrain from trying to deploy a new capability
almost immediately against targets in Israel.

7. (S) Actions unlikely to provoke an IDF response, but that
plausibly might do so, include:

-- The political ascent of Hamas.

-- A significant increase in terrorist penetration of the
fence separating Gaza from Israel.

-- A series of attacks in Israel carried out by terrorists
smuggled into Israel from Gaza via Egypt.

8. (S) Any combination of events from paras 6 and 7 would
probably have an increased chance of provoking an Israeli

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