After 13 plus years of Hamas’ rocket and missile attacks against southern Israel, aside from 2 limited defensive operations in 2008 & 2012 respectively – both ending with “cease-fires” to “quiet” down the Strip – suddenly, the entire calculus has changed a little over 2 weeks ago. The question becomes: why now?
Commentary by Adina Kutnicki
HAVING fielded several working trips to the Gaza border and elsewhere, there is nothing more poignant to show ones valued American contacts (in effect, returning some favors) than the “rocket/missile collections”, some of which are on public display in the border town of S’derot. “Art projects”, if you will. In addition, though the remainder of the countless projectiles are under lock and key, whether or not they are accessible just depends on who is asking.
BE that as it may, in tandem, another focal point are the ubiquitous, make-shift bomb shelters. They are everywhere. Beyond belief. It is as if this town, and some other border-line communities, is living in a constant war zone! Indeed, they are.
IN fact, over a generation of these children have grown up believing that dodging rockets and missiles is “normal”, even as a large percentage suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome, as do the adults in their lives. Can you imagine?
Sderot is located less than a mile from Gaza (the closest point is 840 m). Rocket attacks on the city have killed 13 Israelis, wounded dozens, caused millions of dollars in damage and profoundly disrupted daily life. Studies have found that air raid sirens and explosions have caused severe psychological trauma in some residents. From mid-June 2007 to mid-February 2008, 771 rockets and 857 mortar bombs were fired at Sderot and the western Negev, an average of three or four each a day. Popular for having numerous Bomb shelters some of which are built in the form of Children’s Play areas in school play grounds, Sderot is infamously referred to as The “Bomb Shelter Capital of the World.”
MIND you, the above missile stats are from 2007-2008 and they are child’s play compared to the hundreds fired now on a daily basis!
SO, instead of living normal lives as kiddies, Israel’s southern children even have playground equipment outfitted as bomb shelters! Now, you tell this blogger: what kind of leadership would allow over a million of its citizens to be rocketed for well over 13 ! years, yet do nothing to stop a genocidal foe, other than rapping them on the knuckles for limited defensive actions in 2008 and 2012, incursions which did not even stem from the rocket fire but other political calculations. More to the point,cease-fire became the “norm” for Israel’s political echelon, instead of actually ceasing the fire once and for all. What’s going on?
NOT only that, what kind of leaders actually supply the Gazans with all their utilities, in effect, not only sustaining their everyday lives, but fueling their missile fire? In fact, even the far left Haaretz news has reported on this strange phenomenon, something which hasn’t abated to this day! Again, what’s going on?
“It is time to seriously consider cutting off their power for one day for each rocket attack; I think it would be more effective,” he said.
Similar comments were made earlier this week by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who called for Israel to stop the ongoing humanitarian aid to Gaza in the wake of hundreds of rockets being fired on Israeli citizens over the past week.
“We have to stop the entry of fuel and electricity to Gaza immediately,” Danon stated. “You cannot fight Hamas on the one hand and provide electricity and fuel to transport the missiles fired at us on the other.”
Israel also provides 100 megawatts of electricity to Gaza on a regular basis, including additional aid that was supplied during Hamas’s energy crisis with Egypt earlier this year.
Several months ago, the director of the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) called on the Israeli government to cut off the supply to the PA so long as it does not pay its debt.
TO wit, while it may appear indelicate (to some) to reveal this and that dirty laundry while Israel is at war, the fact of the matter is that this American-Israeli’s entire family is also in Hamas’s cross hairs, therefore, sweeping it under the rug is not an option. Unseemly.
MOST egregious is the national secret which is rarely spoken about, at least in public: yes, the leadership knew about the tunnels for years, in fact, they supplied the actual fuel, as stated above. Wrap your brains around this…Alas, the question becomes: why are the leaders, all of a sudden, after many years of terror onslaught on their southern citizens, charging into Gaza, but this time full speed ahead?
WELL, for the most part, the tunnels were viewed as a southern danger, like the rockets and missiles. However, once Tel Aviv (and central Israel) became a PRIME target, well, everything came into sharper focus for the leadership. Say what?
THE ugly truth is that Israel’s political leadership, its chattering classes and its civil society elitists truly believe there are two Israel’s. On the one hand, they enjoy leftist-style, hedonistic playgrounds and a lifestyle which rivals that of many western capitals world over. On the other, the above poohbahs, for the most part, revile the “settlers”, those whose only “crime” is their attempt to reclaim the land of Zion, not only for themselves, but even for the leftists! Into the mix, one finds the lower socioeconomic areas, especially those straddling the southern border. Hmm…the “poorer” relations. The embarrassing ones.
The IDF’s Shejaiya operation in the Gaza Strip continues apace, carried forward by five task forces now heading for the center of Gaza City amid casualties on both sides. Sunday, July 20, Israel’s crack Golani Brigades lost 18 fighters, without slowing down, compared with 170 Palestinian fatalities.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that each task force, the size of half a division, is an integrated amalgam of air, armored, artillery and engineering forces, capable of operating almost autonomously in field combat. The buildup of the last 24 hours has expanded Israel’s fighting strength in the Gaza Strip to a total of 75,000 men, the largest ever fielded in this territory. Because of its scale, Israeli leaders are referring to Defensive Edge as a war rather than an operation.
The battle for Shejaiya waged Sunday burst into public prominence because of the heavy losses suffered by the Golani Brigades, but it is not the largest engagement underway at present. The other ongoing IDF battles, their progress, the units involved and their locations, are kept secret. We can only point to their general locations as being around Beit Hanoun in the north; Zeitun, south of Gaza City and the Shati refugee camp to the north.
More arenas are scheduled to be added to the list of battle zones Monday.
Rather than causing despondency, the high IDF casualty toll Sunday – the highest in a single engagement since the 2006 Lebanon War – has invigorated the fighting forces in the field, making them more determined than ever to get the better of Hamas with all possible speed.
Whereas their orders on Sunday were to advance warily and slowly, meanwhile testing the strength of Hamas resistance and observing their tactics, the tempo went into high gear at dawn Monday, when the troops were told to speed their advance from the outer fringes of Gaza City into its center.
Their performance in Shejaiya and other engagements Sunday deeply impressed Israel’s war leaders and made them confident enough to step up the rate of advance.
This upbeat mood was evident in the comments made Sunday night by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and, from the field, by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. While condoling deeply with the bereaved families of the 18 soldiers who died in combat, they were full of praise for the troops’ performance “in defense of our home” which outdid all expectations.
The following decisions were reached in consequence:
1. Gen. Gantz would stay in the field and lead the forces from there, rather than from staff headquarters in Tel Aviv.
2. The prime minister and defense minister would manage the war, without constant recourse to security cabinet sessions to obtain its approval of every stage of the plan of operation, the final goal of which DEBKAfile has learned, is Israel’s military takeover of the Gaza Strip.
3. As the military operation unfolded, the three war leaders were convinced more than ever that demolishing Hamas’ terror tunnel complex was not optional, any more than wiping out the rocket menace hanging latterly over five million Israelis and, for nearly a decade over the million people living directly in the shadow of the Gaza border. Publicity guidelines were to be built around this conclusion.
International statesmen are flitting busily around regional capitals, including Jerusalem, in search of an opening to broker a ceasefire in Gaza hostilities. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been holding meetings and US Secretary John Kerry will try and reach the Middle East in the coming days, according to a White House directive – unless he again cancels at the last minute.
According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the requisite political and military conditions for a ceasefire are not yet in place because of a number of circumstances, not least of which is Hamas’ refusal to contemplate a halt.
Israel, for its part, is fighting for the first time in its history with solid Arab backing from the Egyptian-Saudi-United Arab Emirates bloc. So determined are its members to obliterate the Muslim Brotherhood that they have virtually blacklisted Qatar for supporting the Brothers and for patronizing the Palestinian Hamas, regarded as the MB’s paramilitary arm.
This rift has put a spoke in the diplomatic effort to set in motion effective mediation for a Gaza ceasefire predicated on co-opting Qatar.
A bid to make Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas the bridge between the Egyptian-Saudi-UAE grouping and Qatar has likewise foundered. And there isn’t much Secretary Kerry can do if and when he comes over to try his hand.
US President Barack Obama’s suggestion, when he called Netanyahu Sunday, to build a new Gaza ceasefire around the 2012 formula concocted by the US, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey – and accepted by Israel and Hamas – for ending Operation Pillar of Defense, shows him to be cut off from the fundamentally altered diplomatic and military realities of the current Gaza conflict.
He declines to recognize the emergence of a powerful new Arab bloc. It will be necessary to twist the arms of each of its members, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE, to gain their consent for a bid to cut the Israeli offensive short to rescue Hamas from defeat. And even then, they will stall.
And although anti-Israel demonstrations are being staged in some parts of the world, the most violent in Paris, hardly any world governments have openly condemned the Israeli operation – as yet.
FOR the absolute, unvarnished record this blogger warned: not only was it immoral and illegal to allow Israel’s (less fortunate) southern citizens to be rocketed non-stop, but that “disengagement” from Gush Katif, in Aug. 2005, was itself a crime. Inherently and unquestionably, it was a violation of the civil/human rights of over 8,600 law abiding Jews! Moreover, as predicted, it was a strategic nightmare waiting to happen. Nevertheless, PM Sharon and his criminal cronies “disengaged”, and they were 100% backed by the leftist media and their civil society elitist cronies.
BUT that was then and this is now. Significantly, the blow back from the “disengagement” from Gaza, its knock-on effects, and the subsequent expulsion and destruction of thriving Jewish communities in Gush Katif – the bulwark against Hamastan – has now affected life, as they know it, in Tel Aviv and its surrounding communities. And, that is intolerable for Israel’s political echelon. Hence, the calls to re-conquer the strip, something which this blogger happens to agree with, but for all the right reasons.
INDEED, as is said, finally smelling the coffee…but for all the wrong/left reasons.
YET, first and foremost, Gaza must be totally cleared – razed, if necessary – and years of political neglect will cost many IDF lives. But when the smoke finally clears, it will be due time to start uncompromising hearings, somewhat akin to the Winograd Commission but on steroids.
WATCHING…waiting…the leadership must be held to account…its feet to the fire….