"Many of the battalions have simply disappeared," a military source
said. "They are without leaders or communications and the soldiers are
In some cases, the flight of Hamas combatants has forced commanders to
the battlefield. The sources cited the death of Hamas rocket division
commander Amir Mansi on Jan. 10 in an Israeli air strike.
"We found him, a senior commander, firing rockets by himself, something
that should have been done by his subordinates," the source said.
The sources said the military has determined that hundreds of Hamas
combatants have deserted their units. They said the high casualty rate among
Hamas fighters has sparked numerous unauthorized leaves.
By late 2008, Hamas organized a military of more than 20,000 soldiers.
The sources said about 15,000 were Hamas combatants, with the remainder
of the Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees.
"Hamas is suffering from heavy casualties, damage to warehouses, and
damage to transportation capabilities, both of material and operatives,"
Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin said. "Hamas' smuggling
across Philadelphi [Egyptian border] were damaged. Many of the operators of
the smuggling tunnels were hurt or fled their homes."
The sources said the desertions have been enabled by the disintegration
of Hamas's military command. They said many of the leaders of Hamas's
military have been hiding with families in apartment buildings in Gaza City.
Others were said to have been hiding in or near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
On Jan. 11, the Israel Air Force targeted the home of Hamas military
commander Ahmed Jabari. Jabari was not believed to have been home.
"The leaders of Hamas and the armed wing are hiding in bunkers,
hospitals and foreign missions," Israel's Cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel,
who did not elaborate, said.