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Gaza Exploding By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Under heavy international pressure, Israel allowed food and medicine but not fuel supplies into Gaza on Monday. Amnesty International had called on Israel to “stop its policy of collective punishment.” European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner had declared herself “profoundly concerned about the consequences for the Gazan population of the complete closure of all Gaza crossings for deliveries of fuel and basic humanitarian assistance.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had demanded that Israel immediately end “measures which increase the hardship and suffering of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.”

 

Also on Monday the Al-Quds Brigades—the military wing of Islamic Jihad—fired eight rockets from Gaza into the western Negev, damaging several houses. A little later in the morning another volley landed south of the much-besieged town of Sderot, damaging houses in a kibbutz.

Though the current “ceasefire” with Hamas is not supposed to be over until December 19, the shelling has been going on for almost two weeks. Just on Friday, for instance, Sderot was hit by eleven Qassam rockets and Ashkelon—a city of 120,000 to the north of Gaza—by six Grad rockets (larger and longer-range than Qassams). An 82-year-old Sderot woman was wounded by shrapnel and 22 shock victims were taken to hospital. Air raid sirens rang out in Ashkelon all day and the city opened its public bomb shelters. Children on the lunch break got caught in rocket fire and had to scamper back into their schools.

Ashdod, a city of 200,000 north of Ashkelon and Israel’s second most important port after Haifa, was also ordered to get its bomb shelters ready since it too is within Grad range.

 

As of now, 250,000 Israeli men, women, and children in the Gaza vicinity are under bombardment with the attendant toll in anxiety, traumatization, and disruption of life—not to mention those unlucky enough to have had rockets hit their persons, dwellings, or property. It goes without saying that Amnesty, Ferrero-Waldner, Ban et al. do not perceive a humanitarian crisis here and are not going to perceive one even if the situation gets much worse. The notion of Jews as victims is now confined to the Holocaust and for most of the world is categorically precluded for the Jews of Israel.

 

Also on Friday the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported that:

Sixteen months after assuming full control over the Gaza Strip, Hamas appears to be stronger than ever—largely thanks to the growing number of tunnels that are used to smuggle goods and weapons under the border with Egypt.

…the tunnels have now become a vital tool in circumventing the Israeli commercial blockade [and] are no longer a secret, and foreign journalists are…invited to visit them and interview their owners…. large supplies of food and medicine are being brought through them into Gaza on a daily basis….

When Israel decided earlier this year to temporarily suspend fuel supplies to…Gaza…in response to the rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities, the smugglers installed underground pipes that continue to pump gasoline into the Gaza Strip. As a result, motorists there pay nearly half the price they were paying several months ago to fill their cars.

…a veteran Palestinian journalist [said,] “Today people want to eat and buy cheap goods from Egypt. That’s why they are smuggling everything, including sheep, calves, lions, cigarettes, perfume, electrical appliances, food and even tens of thousands of Viagra pills.”

Both Israel and Egypt seem to have wearied of battling the underground tunnel trade…. Seventeen Palestinian diggers and smugglers who were killed when their tunnels collapsed in the past few months have been declared shahids (martyrs) by Hamas and their families.

This makes the Egyptians reluctant to take tough measures against the smugglers, fearing they will be accused by the Arab world of complicity in the “siege” against Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians.

And what does Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, have to say about the situation? In a speech on Saturday he warned against getting “carried away,” stating: “The time may come when there will be a need for a broad operation, because we cannot accept the ongoing violation of the truce. But getting carried away is not a policy.”

Adding that he was “the minister of defense, not the minister of war,” he continued: “If the need will arise, the IDF and the security forces are ready for a powerful operation that will be painful for the other side. But security is not a matter of pride. Two years ago, we saw what an overly-rushed decision can do to Israeli security.”

He was referring, of course, to the bungled war that Israel launched against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. The defense minister’s message, then, was threefold: (1) agreements with Israel mean nothing; (2) Israeli citizens can be attacked with impunity; and (3) the precedent of the Second Lebanon War proves that Israel is too incompetent to use military force anyway.  

On Monday Barak visited Sderot with British foreign secretary David Miliband, who said the attacks from Gaza were “intolerable” and “that Israel must continue to pursue talks with the Palestinian Authority.” Barak—still seeming to be using some of his script from Saturday, and expressing an exquisite sense of “ripening”—said he had “made it clear to [Miliband] that…no country can tolerate a constant bombardment of its citizens from a foreign entity…and Israel will not accept it. We will act when the conditions ripen and there will be need for such action, and we will act with force.

 

DEBKAfile claimed that: “Hamas is not scared by the prospect of the Olmert government being driven to a major military operation in Gaza. Its leaders calculate that it will be so costly in casualties for the Palestinian population and Israeli troops alike that an international outcry will force the IDF to cut the campaign short without achieving its goals.”

 

In other words, the consequences of Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza seemed as dire as possible, with Israel (1) under bombardment from Gaza, (2) seen as responsible for Gaza’s welfare, and (3) expected to allow the bombardment to continue.

 

There is a strong chance that a new Israeli government will be elected in February that, unlike the current government, will be considered “hard-line.” Its work will be cut out for it.

 

As for the current government, also on Monday it announced to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that in December it would free a further 250 Fatah security prisoners in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. At a memorial rally for Yasser Arafat last Tuesday, Abbas had proclaimed: “The Palestinian leadership will continue to follow…Arafat’s path…. The path of the shahids—Arafat, George Habash and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin—is the path that we cherish….”


P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.


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