November 17, 2012
Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
It appears that our leadership is serious this time around, and that at this point we're doing OK. This is a major operation we're in the midst of in Gaza.
I shared its goals, as spelled out by Defense Minister Barak, last week, and share them again now as Foreign Minister Lieberman has put it:
- To restore the calm in Israel's south
- Reinstate Israel's deterrence
- Destroy the stockpiles of long-range missiles belonging to Gaza terror groups
Elaborating, Lieberman said:
"The only way we can achieve peace and security is to create real deterrence via a crushing response that will make sure they don't try to test us again."~~~~~~~~~~
It is not certain yet whether there will be a ground operation, but the fact that 75,000 reserve troops have been called up and tanks have been brought near the border with Gaza makes it a reasonable likelihood.
Lieberman says that if we do go in, we won't pull out until the job is done.
Since the beginning of the operation Wednesday night, roughly 750 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel -- almost 500 have struck and 250 have been intercepted by Iron Dome.
There were 150 rockets launched against Israel over Shabbat. Ten people -- including four soldiers -- were lightly injured and four homes were hit.
Last night the siren went off in Jerusalem, but the rocket that was apparently aimed at our Golden City ended up landing in Gush Etzion.
This morning another rocket was headed towards Tel Aviv but was intercepted by an Iron Dome unit that had just been installed there.
I am having trouble locating the approximate number of strikes the Air Force has done in Gaza since Wednesday night -- I've seen numbers ranging from 500 to 900.
Overnight, the IDF targeted approximately 150 medium-range rocket launching sites as well as ammunition storage facilities across the Gaza Strip.
During the day today, the Air Force targeted multiple sites as well as key personnel. Long range rocket and missile storage sites have been hit in substantial number, along with tunnels and launching sites.
This morning, reports the IDF (www.idf.il):
"the senior member of Hamas' Air Defense Unit, Mohammed Kaleb, was targeted... In addition, a major Hamas base in the southern Gaza Strip was targeted.Also hit was the Hamas headquarters, which included the offices of Ismail Haniyeh, political head of Hamas. The building was leveled but he was not there -- almost certainly he is underground. As well, the home of Ahmed Randor – chief of Hamas' northern command -- was hit; the fact that secondary explosions followed indicates that he was storing weaponry or related explosives.
"A short while ago...a senior Hamas operative in charge of the terror organization's smuggling operations, and who was actively involved in its armament build-up was targeted in the southern Gaza Strip."
What we can now anticipate is a steady stream of international figures who will come here to Israel to push for a ceasefire. This is nervous-making. The international community should stay out of it and let us do what we need to do.
Hamas leaders have reportedly rejected several international proposals brought to them for a cease fire: they are continuing to demonstrate a belligerency that means we must keep going. I picked up from one reliable source information about Hamas demands for acceptance of a ceasefire that included the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in the Mediterranean. If this is true, it is a joke: We should take out their weapons and then let them bring in new ones by sea, right?
It is important to point out, as figures are released on the number of Israeli civilians vs. the number civilians in Gaza who have been killed, why there will always be an imbalance, with more dead in Gaza:
We protect our civilians. We sound sirens to give them warnings. We provide shelters for them to run to. We give advice on how to be safe and close schools in areas at risk. In certain areas -- notably Sderot -- we have reinforced homes and other buildings.
Hamas does none of this to protect their civilians. Instead, Hamas deliberately sets up situations that make their civilians more vulnerable. For Hamas, the fact of dead civilians is a weapon to use against Israel -- they care not a bit for the lives of these people.
These basic facts should never be forgotten.
As might have been expected, I have received a huge number of communications about the current situation, and would like to address a couple of matters here:
First, I do hope that it is clear that I do not have Netanyahu's ear. Thus, telling me what Israel "should" do or "must" do is pointless.
And then, in particular, is it pointless to say that Israel should "get rid of all of them now," "wipe them out as they would wipe Israel out," etc.
In terms of "taking them out," there are, first, several practical, logistical factors to address:
It must be understood that we are not talking about a standing army that can simply be bombed from overhead or confronted in direct battle. Those days are gone.
Though Hamas's military wing has over time shaped up to be more professional, more like an army, it is essentially composed of guerilla forces. That is, there is no way to identify who is in that "army" -- they don't wear uniforms and congregate in organized fashion. They are often underground, or hiding in civilian homes or even in schools and hospitals. The only way to "get them all" would be to send in our boys to do a house by house, building by building search -- a horrendous prospect that would still be less than totally effective.
For those who suggest we just wipe everyone out, including civilians, I protest most vociferously that Israel never will operate this way -- but quite the contrary. There is no nation on earth more concerned with protecting civilians when fighting.
This does not make us "naive," as has been suggested to me. It means that we are honoring our own moral standard and the international law of the Geneva Conventions on War. The fact that our enemy cares about neither morality nor law does not mean we have to stoop to becoming what they are. We can hold our heads high because of what we are, and work to defend ourselves while applying those standards.
Is there an inequity built into our battle with groups such as Hamas (just as American soldiers struggle with inequities when confronting such terrorists as the Taliban)? There is. For they fight "dirty." But we guard ourselves the best we can.
As to taking back all of Gaza, which has been suggested by a small handful of readers -- this transcends what is practical right now for a host of reasons, including the difficulties I've already described above. A sure way to step into an extensive quagmire, would be to attempt to "take" a Gaza that is riddled with terrorist groups.
Better, make them afraid of us, and eliminate the most dangerous weapons they have to use against us, and work to prevent them from re-arming.
On that note, there have been thoughts (which I mention here purely speculatively) with regard not to taking Gaza in totality, but the Philadelphi Corridor, which is the small strip of land that runs along the border between Gaza and the Sinai. Controlling that once again would enable us to take out the smuggling tunnels that run beneath that area and are used for bringing in weapons.
Lastly, on this subject, I remind everyone that we are still confronting the issue of Iran -- even though it seems to have fallen off the radar screen at the moment.
On the one hand, better to eliminate the ability of terror groups in Gaza to hit us hard with rockets in case the decision is subsequently made to take on Iran. The assumption has long been that Iran, if attacked, would give orders for these groups to launch attack on us, to weaken and distract us.
On the other hand, since we still may have to confront that greater enemy, it would be very unwise to embroil ourselves in that quagmire, so that our resources would be depleted and our focus drawn elsewhere for an extended period. What we do now has to be relatively quick.
One reader, Susie R., sent me an insightful comment that I want to share here. I had said that the world doesn't care if Jews die. She says that the world never cares who dies. And indeed, in Africa, in Syria, in many places there are large numbers of people dying, and the world remains oblivious.
What the world cares about, she says, is who does the killing: "If Jews do the killing (self-defense, pro-active) or even engage in self-protection in which no one necessarily dies (security fences, checkpoints), the world goes nuts."
I thank her for this point.
Lastly, but of special significance, I make a request for prayers on behalf of Israel during this time. From your heart.
One reader, Menachem K., a Jewish educator, believes Psalm 20 is especially good: "I know that the Lord will give victory to his anointed...They call on chariots, they call on horses, but we call on the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and lie fallen, but we rally and gather strength. O Lord, grant victory!"
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