Showing posts with label Operation in Gaza 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Operation in Gaza 2012. Show all posts

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 6 - Operation Pillar of Cloud

On Friday evening, we ate Shabbat dinner outside in the Rehovot area.  At some point over the course of dinner, we saw some bright flashing lights in sky, off in the distance.  Soon afterwards, we heard a large explosion.  We later learned that Israel's Iron Dome system had intercepted a rocket that had been fired at the Gadera area.  Yesterday, sitting at our home in Ra'anana, we heard a loud sound late in the afternoon.  The windows in the house shook.  We then learned that the Iron Dome had intercepted two rockets that were fired at Tel-Aviv, about 15 km away from here.  Fortunately, for us, these two incidents are about as close as we have come to any kind of involvement in the current hostilities.  But the situation has been much more difficult for many Israelis and for Gaza residents.

Dozens of rockets were fired today from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities in the south, including Beersheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.  Many were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, although there were reports of explosions in Ashkelon.  According to IDF reports, between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, more than 60 rockets were fired at Israel by Hamas and its allies.  Hamas issued a statement on Sunday night indicating that it fired approximately 1,090 rockets at Israel by Sunday night.  The IDF has claimed that it has intercepted 310 missiles and/or rockets since the start of the operation.

The IDF has been carrying out a vigorous air bombardment campaign in an effort to put a stop to the Hamas rocket bombardments.  The IDF reported earlier today that approximately 1,350 targets have been hit, many of which have been missile launching sites.  It has been reported that approximately 85-90 Palestinians have been killed with several hundred injured.  Israeli spokespeople, from both the government and the IDF, have emphasized that Israel has made every effort to avoid civilian casualties and has used the best intelligence that it has to target Hamas military sites, including missile launching sites.   In this kind of battle, is, of course, impossible to eliminate all civilian casualties.  The flip side is that Hamas has been sending its rockets with the explicit purpose of attacking and terrorizing civilians, even though it has not been that successful in causing casualties.

As of the time of this writing, there are reports of significant dialogue between the two sides over the possibility of some type of cease fire.  Egypt is apparently brokering these talks, which are said to have involved the U.N., the U.S., France, Germany and other countries as well as, of course, Israel and Hamas.

From the Israeli side, Israel is wary of concluding a cease fire that only lasts for a few days or weeks.  There have been quite a number of situations over the past seven years, since Hamas took power in Gaza and began firing rockets at Israel where a cease fire or truce of some sort has been put into place.  However, within days or weeks, or in some cases, months, Hamas has started firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities, sometimes blaming other "militant factions" in Gaza and claiming that it could not control them, even though Hamas is the governing power in Gaza.

To end the current operation, Israel has therefore reportedly asked for a 15 year truce, to be "guaranteed" by Egypt.  Israel has also asked that there by an outright ban on the importation of weapons into Gaza and that Hamas agree to prevent the firing of any rockets at Israel - not only by Hamas but by any other faction as well.  Thousands of Israeli reserve troops have been called to report to duty and are now in place.  These are primarily civilians, who serve in the IDF for one month per year of reserve duty or whenever else they are called to report.  IDF spokespeople have indicated that the army is prepared to proceed with a full scale ground invasion at any moment if an acceptable cease fire deal cannot be arranged.  Neither the Israeli government nor the Israeli public is interested in a temporary cease fire which will simply require Israel to conduct another similar operation in the coming days, weeks or even months after Hamas has had an opportunity to rebuild its rocket supply.  If that is all that is being offered, there is significant support in Israel for an expansion of the current operation even if that involves alienating world opinion in Europe and other places, even the U.S.

From the Hamas side, the Palestinians have issued their own demands, which include asking that Israel lift its "blockade" of Gaza, agree to cease Israeli policy of targeted killings of key terrorist targets and agree to refrain from any kind of strikes in Gaza.

The fascinating thing is that all of these discussions are being carried out through intermediaries since neither Israel nor Hamas recognize the other.  Nevertheless, the successful resolution of a deal to exchange Israeli prisoner Gilad Schalit, who had been held by Hamas in Gaza, provides a ray of hope that Israel will be able to negotiate some sort of deal with Hamas.   There are reports that Israel is willing to discuss lifting a blockade of Gaza, if there is an inspection process put into place, with mutually agreeable inspectors who will ensure that weapons are not being brought into Gaza.

In the meantime, both sides are actively continuing their activities.   Hamas continues to launch rockets at Israel and the IDF continues to conduct aerial bombardments against targets in Gaza.  Against this backdrop, Israel faces significant world pressure to cease its operation, much of which comes from countries which are hostile towards Israel in any event.  There have also been a barrage of false or misleading media reports just as there were in Israel's previous operation in Gaza.

For a demonstration of the type of propaganda that Israel faces, here is a link to a compelling story involving CNN.  The web site "Elder of Zion" reports that CNN has now retracted a false accusation that it publicized against Israel.  When Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil visited Gaza, he was photographed holding a dead four year old child.  Reuters publicized the allegation that the child had been killed by an Israeli attack.  It soon became clear, initially from the Palestinian side, that the boy was actually killed by a Hamas rocket that was misfired or exploded prematurely.

As of the time of writing, Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas is holding a press conference in Cairo to discuss the situation.  It is likely that we will hear from Israeli government spokespeople shortly afterwards.  The next 24-48 hours will undoubtedly be critical.  If a cease fire deal is not reached, there is every indication that Israel will embark on a full scale ground operation in Gaza.

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.