It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise for Israelis, or any observers of the region, when they woke to the news on Tuesday morning that Israel had launched an operation in Gaza and assassinated three senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.
The figures targeted were Khalil Bahitini, senior operational officer of PIJ and commander of the Northern Gaza Division; Tarek Az Aldin, who directed PIJ operations in the West Bank; and Jahed Ahnam, secretary of the PIJ Military Council. They were killed along with several members of their families who were with them at the time.
The operation, dubbed Shield and Arrow, was launched in response to the continuing Islamic Jihad rocket onslaught against the residents of Israel’s South, with the tacit support of the rulers of Gaza, the terrorist group Hamas.
Why is Israel attacking Gaza?
In the latest barrage last week – which followed the death of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure Khader Adnan, who had launched a hunger strike while in Israeli administrative detention – at least 32 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, with two rockets hitting Sderot and wounding at least 12 civilians, including a foreign laborer from China who was initially in serious condition.
The launch of Shield and Arrow shouldn’t have come as a surprise because, as decades of warfare between Israel and the terrorist groups in Gaza have demonstrated, there is only a certain amount of abuse Israel will tolerate before striking back.
There was intense pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from both residents and community leaders in the South and within his own coalition, to respond forcefully to the rockets, which have made life hell for those Israelis who bear the brunt of the onslaught.
The events of Monday night, however, were not about domestic politics and nobody should claim that they were. What took place is a course of action that any Israeli government would pursue and has carried out in the past.
Claims that Netanyahu was giving in Otzma Yehudit, his far-Right flank in the coalition, to bring them back from their boycott of government duties, or that the operation is an attempt to deflect attention from the judicial overhaul protests, which are in their 19th week, simply don’t hold water.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted that he supported the operation, writing that “an Israeli response at the time and place of our choosing is the way to deal with terror from Gaza. We will support any operation to defend the residents of the South.”
Likewise, National Unity head Benny Gantz welcomed the start of the operation, saying “our enemies erred in their assessment of the situation.”
Regardless of who is at the helm, there is going to be international criticism of Israel’s offensive. But it’s important to remember that there is no equivalence between an Israeli operation that precisely targets the leaders of a terrorist group – recognized as such by the international community – and the indiscriminate rocket fire from those same Gaza terrorists, whose goal is to kill any Israeli in their path.
Israelis grieve for the loss of innocents, like the family members of the terrorists killed despite remarkable Israeli efforts to spare them, while the terrorist groups celebrate the death of every Israeli child or innocent bystander.
What the international community must realize is that Israel has and will exercise a fundamental right to self-defense. That includes carrying out targeted killings when those who are targeted pose an imminent threat to the safety of its citizens.
The opening salvo of this operation certainly fits that bill and was a necessary step in the effort to protect Israel’s southern residents from the terror they’ve been facing for far too long.
Operation Shield and Arrow, like previous operations, will not solve the ongoing conflict with the terrorist groups in Gaza. It is only another familiar response to the endless cycle of bombardment.
Until there is a fundamental change in the Hamas-controlled territory, we have no choice but to resign ourselves to that cycle and thank Israel Defense Forces and other security agencies that have the ability to target our enemies before they carry out their heinous acts against the Israeli people.