Thursday, November 15, 2012

Operation Pillar of Cloud in Gaza - Day 2

Given the situation here  in Israel, I thought I'd add a second update about the current situation, at least as far as it can be distilled from current news reports (on line, t.v., radio and print media).  To try to be fair, I have read through some non-Israeli sites as well.

From various reports, the Israeli operation - "Pillar of Defence" or "Pillar of Cloud," depending on how you translate it has attacked more than 100 targets in Gaza, including, Gaza's military leader Ahmed Al-Jabari, who was killed in an attack on his vehicle yesterday.

Reportedly taken at approximately 3:00 p.m., Nov 15, 2012

The Israeli military operation came in response to weeks of rocket barrages from Gaza fired at civilian population centres.  As I wrote in my last post, there was mounting public pressure for the Israeli government to take action and stop these rocket attacks, which were occurring daily, sending thousands of people into shelters.

Today, there were a number of developments that have grabbed the news in Israel.

One rocket from Gaza hit a building in Kiryat Malachi, killing three people, including a pregnant Lubavitch emissary.  Kiryat Malachi is located about 20 miles north of the Gaza Strip.

Damaged Building in Kiryat Malachi, Nov 15, 2012

By most indications, the majority of the Hamas arsenal is capable of reaching targets within a 40 km radius of Gaza.  However, Hamas does have some additional rockets which are more difficult to launch.  These can apparently reach greater distances.  Early this evening, there was an alarm in the Tel-Aviv area.  Two rockets landed in Tel-Aviv.  No damage or casualties were reported.  Official Israeli spokespeople have indicated that they believe that Hamas' capabilities of reaching these areas are very limited, since many of these larger rocket launchers have been destroyed.

Within the 40 km radius, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets since the beginning of the operation.  More than 100 rockets have been fired at the city of Beersheva  (a city which we will read about in this week's Torah portion - I had to mention that since I've been learning the portion...).  In any event, the "Iron Dome" system has intercepted a significant number of these rockets but things are quite chaotic for residents of Beersheva, as well as residents of other towns and cities that are proximate to Gaza including Ashdod, Ashkelon and, of course, Sderot.  In these areas, school classes have been cancelled, residents are spending a great deal of time in shelters and many residents are going to stay with relatives or friends in more northern parts of Israel.  The City of Ra'anana has invited residents of affected cities and towns to come and stay with people in Ra'anana until things are back to a more liveable situation.

News sources have reported that the Prime Minister of Egypt, Hisham Qandil, is expected to visit Gaza tomorrow in an effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and Hamas.  However, Egypt withdrew its Israeli ambassador as soon as hostilities began and has been fairly hostile towards Israel itself since the election of the Muslim Brotherhood.  So there is little reason to believe that this will be an effective visit.

Israeli army spokespeople have indicated that there will be intensive operations in Gaza throughout the night.  Israel has also publicized the fact that it is prepared to call up 30,000 reserve troops in the event that a full scale ground incursion into Gaza is required.

While most Israelis, I believe, would prefer to see an end to hostilities as soon as possible, the population remains overwhelmingly supportive of the current operation.  In fact, quite a number of Israelis feel that the IDF should continue the operation until Hamas' ability to launch rockets at Israel is severely limited, if not eliminated.  There is concern that a quick cease fire, brokered under world pressure, will simply delay another round of hostilitites for a short time period and allow Hamas to rearm itself with weapons brought in from Egypt, often supplied, apparently, by Iran.  The Israeli government is confident that a more thorough operation would result in a much longer term truce as it would cripple the military and strategic capabilities of Hamas.  It is unclear whether or not this would really be the case.

So far, the U.S., Canada and Britain (as well as some others) have strongly supported Israel's right to act in self-defence, while the loudest voice of opposition has come from Russia (aside from various Arab or Muslim regimes), which has called the Israeli operation "disproportionate" while calling on Hamas to cease its rocket fire.  As an aside, doesn't it seem quite ironic that Russia, of all countries, would call the Israeli operation "diproportionate?" Especially - when considering the indiscriminate Russian "anti-terrorist" operations in Chechnya and taking into account the well known fact that the IDF goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, even when facing an enemy that is deliberately targeting civilians?  Other countries have taken less strident positions one way or the other. 

There are likely to be signficant further developments over a short time period.  We can only hope for a quick and peaceful solution and one that will bring a genuine truce between Gaza and Israel.

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