Bomb shelter 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
The latest round of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza is part of a pattern.
Every few months, Islamist terror organizations loosely linked or opposed to
Hamas launch attacks against Israel in an attempt to undermine Israeli military
Hamas plays the game of claiming that it is not directly
connected to the attacks while doing little to prevent them. In this way, Hamas
hopes not to provoke Israel while at the same time avoiding a direct
confrontation with hard-line Islamist terrorists attempting to continue their
armed struggle against Israel.
The trigger for the latest conflagration
was the targeted killing of Zuhair Qaisi, the leader of the Popular Resistance
Committees in the Gaza Strip. The IDF says Qaisi was behind the August 2011 gun
and bomb attacks near Eilat that left eight Israelis dead. He was apparently
planning a repeat performance, also to be launched from Sinai, a lawless
no-man’s land nominally under Egyptian rule and home to Islamist terrorists and
Beduin drugs and arms smugglers. But the IDF took the initiative, bombing a car
carrying Qaisi and another top terrorist in the organization released in the
Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.
In October 2011, there was another
flare-up after Islamic Jihad fired a Grad rocket at Rehovot to mark the October
1995 assassination in Malta of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shkaki. Israel
retaliated, killing five terrorists, including Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, the head of
the Islamic Jihad’s rocket production facilities.
But even when there is
no official “escalation,” the various terrorist organizations operating in the
Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the anarchic Sinai have kept up a steady stream
of fire directed at about a million civilians – men, women and children – living
within range of Kassam rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles.
course of 2011, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PRC and other terrorist organizations
fired 680 deadly projectiles of various types from the Gaza Strip at surrounding
towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, a significant rise from the 365 fired during
2010. Sixteen-year-old Daniel Viflic was killed by Hamas terrorists who fired a
Kornet anti-tank missile at the school bus he was riding in on April 7,
Israel significantly restored its deterrence after launching
Operation Cast Lead – the 22-day military incursion in the Gaza Strip that began
in December 2008 and ended in January 2009. But in the months since, there has
been a steady deterioration of the security situation. Thousands of families now
live under the constant threat of mortar, rocket and missile fire. Many
lack proper bomb shelters.
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True, the Iron Dome system has been a
game-changer. Its three rocket-defense batteries – in Beersheba, Ashdod
and Ashkelon – have significantly improved Israel’s defense capabilities. Dozens
of rockets and missiles that might have hurt or injured Israelis were shot from
the air. This has given our leaders the breathing room to plan for the future.
Israel would have no choice but to react on a much wider scale if one of the
more-than-100 recent mortar shells, rockets and missiles caused series injuries
Meanwhile, the air force has succeeded in accurately
pinpointing about 20 terrorists, many of them caught in the act of firing mortar
shells, rockets and missiles at Israel. Civilian deaths on the Palestinian side
have been kept to a minimum.
However, as Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny
Gantz noted in November and reiterated in December on the third anniversary of
Operation Cast Lead, a military offensive in Gaza will be launched “sooner or
Hamas cannot be allowed to continue to play the game of claiming
it is not directly connected to the attacks while doing little to prevent
We are living in an untenable situation in which every few months,
there is an “escalation,” and between these “escalations,” Gaza’s various
terrorist groups maintain a steady stream of mortar shells, rockets and
missiles. Over a million of our citizens live in constant danger and our
children are regularly kept home from school.
Unfortunately, sooner or
later our leaders will be forced to confront Hamas. The Iron Dome system
provides them with important breathing time. But that time is limited.
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