Sound of sirens

It’s not a joke – even if the two rockets launched against Eilat yesterday did for the initial disorienting moments produce scenes that seemingly came straight out of comic skits.

Rocket Sirens 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Rocket Sirens 370
(photo credit: reuters)
It’s not a joke – even if the two rockets launched against Eilat yesterday did for the initial disorienting moments produce scenes that seemingly came straight out of comic skits.
For the first time in Eilat’s history, sirens raised alarm throughout the city. Since they were unfamiliar in an emergency but familiar from the just-past Remembrance Day for the IDF fallen, the piercing undulating sounds caused drivers to halt their vehicles, get out and stand solemnly at attention alongside their cars with doors flung open.
Obviously that’s exactly what shouldn’t be done during a rocket attack, but the sound of the siren caused confusion. It was activated by the Iron Dome system, which identified the incoming rocket volley but for some reason didn’t intercept it.
But none of this is funny. Indeed, it’s all dead serious because rockets fired at a civilian population center could just as easily have caused carnage. It’s all a matter of blind chance, turning innocent noncombatants into pawns in a cruel game of life-and-death roulette.
This is the reason that the devil’s arithmetic practiced by Israel-bashers abroad is so fundamentally immoral.
The trend these days is to claim that the rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon, Gaza or even from the Sinai aren’t a genuine security threat and don’t justify Israeli counterstrikes. These rockets, it’s asserted, simply don’t kill enough Israelis.
This is an obscene argument, first because it appears to propose an equation whereby Israel has no right to selfdefense unless it bleeds profusely. But more cogently, it really doesn’t matter whether a specific rocket drew blood or not. What matters is that it was at all aimed indiscriminately at peaceful civilians going normally about their daily lives. It’s the potential to inflict casualties that matters and not whether there was an actual cost in lives.
And the potential in a city like Eilat is horrific. At a little past 9:00 in the morning, children were in their classrooms, the airport was buzzing and activity at hotels and tourist attractions was in full swing. A negligibly different firing trajectory could have resulted in a major tragedy.
This is why the danger of these Grad rockets – a version of the Russian Katyusha – must not be downplayed. One of the two Grads actually fell in a residential neighborhood, underscoring the menace all the more.
The very fact that an Iron Dome battery was deployed in Eilat attests to the fact that predations on it are now expected. This is another undesirable Arab Spring corollary.
The Sinai was a quasi-no-man’s-land even before former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled but the peninsula, which was never intrinsically Egyptian, is now unruly like never previously.
It is an anarchic staging post for a sordid variety of imported terror-mongers – from al-Qaida to Iranian proxies. Some of these are headquartered in Gaza and venture out to the Sinai to conduct offensives from there. A gamut of Gazan salafists especially favors this mode of operation.
An odd pattern is established. Heavy long-range rocketry is smuggled into Gaza via the Sinai through a network of underground tunnels. Eventually some of these rockets are then ferried back out into the Sinai from Gaza to be used in specific attacks on Israel.
Complicit in such offensives are the Sinai’s Beduin tribes, which never accepted Cairo’s authority and traditionally made their livelihood out of banditry and smuggling.
The confluence of so many jihadist and outlaw elements directly south of our border is a major concern. It is also a worry for Egypt, much as its new powers-that-be are reluctant to admit any communality of interests with Israel.
But the fact remains that the terrorists who currently dominate the Sinai don’t merely target Israel. They are the very forces that aim to undermine Egypt’s new regime.
Therefore, rather than habitually start off by denying that anti-Israel aggression was launched from Egyptian territory, it would be better if Cairo instead engaged in more forthright counter-terrorism efforts. Rather than cooperate with Israel almost surreptitiously, it would be better if Egypt boldly made its position clear and fostered pro-peace public opinion among its people.