Rockets and drones

Thousands of people, including families with young children making the most of the last week of the school vacation, were enjoying the concert when the rocket was launched.

August 26, 2019 21:53
3 minute read.
Rockets and drones

An Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza toward Israel on August 9. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Most eyes in Israel were looking to the North on Sunday night, where the recent attempted attacks using explosive-laden drones had grabbed headlines and imaginations. However, Gaza-based Palestinian groups sent their own chilling reminder that the threats from the South are no less serious.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Hamas terror organization, which rules the Gaza Strip, threatened to respond to Israel’s defensive actions in the North, which included Israel’s destruction of an Iranian drone storage site near Damascus and a similar reported Israeli strike against a Hezbollah target in a Beirut suburb.

Three projectiles were fired from Gaza on Sunday. One was knocked out by the Iron Dome system above an open-air, end-of-summer concert in Sderot. Thousands of people, including families with young children making the most of the last week of the school vacation, were enjoying the concert when the rocket was launched.

The seriousness of this attack should not be underestimated. Not only were the crowd of people exposed to the direct danger of the rocket itself, but there was a huge risk of a deadly stampede. While the concert organizers immediately ordered that the gates be opened to allow the audience to leave, many people realizing there was no place to take shelter, followed standard safety procedures in these circumstances and simply lay down with their hands on their heads to protect them from shrapnel.

The situation where half of a panicking crowd was running and scrambling to leave the site and the other half – including very young children – was lying on the ground, is a frightening one.

Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt in the rocket attack, although the longterm effects of shock and emotional trauma should not be belittled.

Had the rocket caused loss of life, either directly or as a consequence of a stampede, the government would have been left with no option but to risk further escalating the situation with a swift and harsh response – incurring likely international condemnation.

The security cabinet convened Monday to discuss what steps should be taken. The dilemma is very real. For a long time, residents of the South and elsewhere have questioned whether avoiding a serious military response encourages more attacks. Could the escalation of the so-called “Great March of Return” on the Gaza-Israeli border – and the hundreds of attacks using incendiary devices – have been averted by knocking out the terrorists months ago, who launched the flying firebombs and tried to breach the border fence? Or would this type of action have dragged Israel into another war with Hamas, with the potential loss of lives on both sides of the border and no significantly different results from what followed Operation Protective Edge in 2014?

And for those concerned about the drones in the North this week, it should be noted that attempted attacks using drones have also been carried out from Gaza, along with the balloon- and kite-incendiary attacks.

The IDF said that each drone was capable of carrying several kilograms of explosives. But then again, each rocket fired from Gaza carries with it several kilograms of explosives – and those are fired daily!

Israel has been repeatedly told that Hamas is not interested in war and yet the attacks continue – even in a week when Israel allowed another massive amount of Qatari funding into the Gaza Strip. Hamas has claimed that the rockets were not fired by its members, but either it is in control of the Gaza Strip or it isn’t: Hamas can’t have it both ways.

Meanwhile Hezbollah, situated over Israel’s northern border, is undoubtedly watching to see what consequences – if any – Hamas will incur.

There is a tactical question of how to respond to the latest drone attacks in the North and rocket attacks in the South, not forgetting the horrific IED attack in which 17-year-old Rina Shnerb lost her life on Friday during a family trip to a spring in the Benjamin region.

But another question hovers in the air: Does restraint show moral strength or does it undermine Israel by ruining deterrence? When all players in the region are watching one another, what happens on one front immediately radiates to the others.

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