Israel's War with Hamas
Israel’s current military operation in Gaza is aimed at bringing peace and quiet to more than a million people living under the constant threat of terror in the south of the country. It is also aimed at rooting out the Gaza terror infrastructure created by Hamas. The IDF is presently destroying large ammunition depots containing thousands of weapons Hamas and other terrorist organizations had planned to use against Israel.
The recent conflict escalated when Gaza rockets began hitting Tel Aviv for the first time, despite the fact that the IDF destroyed many of the long-range Iranian supplied Fajr-5 missiles during the first two days of its military campaign. The heighted tensions have prompted the IDF to seek government approval for the call-up of thousands of reservists to help with the on-going escalation in the south.
THE NEED FOR MILITARY ACTION
The constant rocket barrage against Israeli citizens, which began in early November and intensified in mid-November, prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to prepare the IDF for a new military offensive. Netanyahu met with foreign ambassadors in Ashkelon, while Israel’s Foreign Ministry provided position papers for its embassies around the world, in order to explain why Israel needed to take action against Hamas. On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, the IDF launched “Operation Pillar of Defense” (called: “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew) to restore security to its southern communities.
THE DETERRENCE PROBLEM
Emboldened by a new Islamic power surge in the Middle East, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Salafists connected to Al Qaeda, and other Gaza terrorist groups have been intent on eroding Israel’s deterrence. They recently stepped up their attacks on an IDF tank and jeep patrolling the Gaza border, using roadside bombs and missiles. Their aim has been to stop the IDF from carrying out vital security missions along the border fence.
Since the end of “Operation Cast Lead” which began in December 2008 and ended about a month later in January 2009, Hamas has been smuggling weapons into Gaza through underground tunnels. Originating from Iran and Libya, through Sudan and the Sinai Peninsula, into Gaza -- an array of armaments has ended up in Hamas’ weapons arsenal. These include: thousands of missiles and mortars; rocket-propelled grenades; anti-tank weapons; and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.
Over the last few weeks, Hamas has been using new weaponry, including guided rockets and longer-range missiles hoping to cause as much damage as possible to the Israeli home front. The intent of Gaza terrorists has been to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible, including women and children.
According to Dan Harel, former Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF, “The rules of the game became very hard; very difficult for the southern citizen villages since Hamas was shooting all its rockets exactly at the hours of the yellow buses getting the children into the schools.”
THE “CODE RED” CHILDREN
The psychological trauma to Israeli children has brought great distress to residents of the south, especially those living in Sderot and Netivot, towns near the Gaza border. This is where Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield is not effective because of the close rocket range. These residents are often unable to leave their homes for fear of becoming a victim of a new rocket attack. Many of the homes do not have bomb shelters. When residents hear the code red alarm go off they often only have 15-30 seconds to run to a public bomb shelter. They get little sleep at night worrying they won’t make it.
Israeli President Shimon Peres visited one of Sderot’s local schools. A fourth grade student told the president, “We were born and were defined as code red children. We are children who live in fear and anxiety that at any moment we will hear the code red siren, have to leave our games, our friends, and enter the safe rooms, four walls, without windows which are really horrible.”
HITTING THE HAMAS TERROR NETWORK
At the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense the Israeli government re-instituted its policy of targeted killings. In a direct hit by an air strike, Israel blew up a car carrying Ahmed Jabari, the Chief of Staff of Hamas’ military, one of the most wanted men on Israel’s list of terrorists. Jabari was second in command of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din all-Qassam Brigades, known for directing the popular military wing of Hamas. A terrorist with Israeli blood on his hands, Jabari was responsible for carrying out numerous terror attacks, including the planning and launching of hundreds of rockets against Israelis in recent years. He was also responsible for the kidnapping and five year imprisonment of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. After Shilat’s release, Jabari declared that Hamas would kidnap more Israeli soldiers and officers to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Jabari never saw his wish fulfilled.
According to IDF spokeswoman Avital Liebowitz, “Ahmed Jabari was one of the arch-terrorists inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas got a very loud and clear message when we targeted the vehicle he sat in. The goal is to defend Israel. It is all about defending 1 million Israelis and maybe 3 million Israelis if Fajr-5’s are used.”
Harel explained how Hamas terrorists overplayed their hand, believing Israel was weak, “Hamas felt they got enough power to stand face-to-face with Israel, especially in the difficult moment of elections in Israel that should take place in 2 l/2 months. They thought we were not going to retaliate. They were wrong.”
A RESPONSE FROM EGYPT AND THE U.S.
Hamas also gambled that Israel would not want to face an angry Egyptian government under the leadership of President Mohamed Morsi, who is aligned with the Moslem Brotherhood, which is leading the new rising bloc of Sunni Islamist States. Hamas figured that Israel would be concerned about endangering the peace treaty with Egypt. But, Netanyahu had enough public and political support in Israel to launch the Gaza operation, as security is the greatest priority of Israeli citizens.
In early November when Hamas launched 110 rockets into Israel, Cairo played a key role in an effort to gain a truce between Hamas and Israel. It lasted a short time. Israeli leaders now hope that the new Egyptian government will see that it is in their interest to play the same role of mediator again. However, after Jabari’s recent assassination by Israeli Defense Forces, Morsi recalled Egypt’s ambassador from Israel; ordered Egypt’s representative at the UN to call for an emergency meeting at the Security Council; and, summoned Israel’s ambassador in Egypt to protest Israel’s military moves. It appears that Morsi sees Israel’s current offensive as a blow to relations with Egypt.
Meanwhile, Israel has clear support from the United States for its current operations. U.S. State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, stated the U.S. position: “We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself…” (November 14, 2012).
So far, it seems that many nations understand Israel is acting in self-defense against Gaza terrorist actions because the situation in the south has become intolerable. As long as the IDF hits precise military targets, without incurring Palestinian civilian deaths, Israel can expect a positive response from the international community. But, Israeli leaders do not want a long dragged out battle. They simply want to get the job done.
The main focus of the IDF is to prevent a full-fledged war, yet still be able is to wipe out Hamas’ terrorist base, removing its launching capabilities. The results Jerusalem leaders want to see is an end to rockets falling on Israel’s southern population. They want schools to open, places of business to resume, and life to return to normal. As the IDF begins to see tangible success in its current conflict with Gaza terrorists, Israel hopes to remove the strategic threat to millions of its citizens.
When Israel regains its deterrence in the south, only then will southern communities return to peace and quiet; only then will the code red children of Sderot be able to get a good night’s sleep without fear of the terror by night.
“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.” Psalm 91:5-7
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.