[Israeli air strike in Rafah, AFP photo]
Over the past three days at least 100 rockets have been launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations into southern Israel. This is not a recent development. Thousands of rockets have fallen on Israel in the past eight years. Israel finally responded by leveling Hamas’ headquarters and other targets across Gaza.
60 warplanes struck more than 50 locations in the first few minutes of “Operation Cast Lead”, the largest Israeli military operation in Gaza since the 1967 War. In addition to attacking Hamas personnel and facilities including rocket launching sites, political offices, a police station, weapons warehouse, and radio station, the Israeli Air Force bombed tunnels along the Philadelphi Route, near the Israeli-Egyptian border. To conclude the operation, the military has mobilized over 6,500 reservists and may be preparing for a ground assault. David Hazony (Contentions) writes:
After a devastating set of aerial blows, Israeli tanks are now gathering at the border, and Barak is talking about calling up reserves. It is way too early to tell, but it is starting to look less like payback or deterrence, and more like the beginnings of a prolongued operation aimed at toppling the Hamas regime.
Rather than considering how they would respond in a similar situation, officials from the Philippines, Turkey, France, Russia and many other countries have condemned Israel. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged a “ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay decried Israel’s use of “disproportionate” force while UN undersecretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes opined [h/t Cinnamon Stillwell]:
The Israeli reaction is not justified by those rocket attacks, even though it’s caused by those rocket attacks.
Say what? Ami Isseroff ‘s (ZioNation) post “Gaza: Rights Versus Wisdom” is worth quoting at length:
Since the breakdown of the so-called truce, which was never very quiet in the best weaks, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States did nothing other than to bemoan the mythical humanitarian crisis in Gaza and call on Israel to send more supplies. The supplies were sent, both before and after the breakdown of the truce. Israel has maneuvered itself into a unique legal situation, where it is forced by world opinion and twisted juridical rulings to supply its declared enemy with war materiel. Building materials were used to construct bunkers. Cash released by Israel was used to pay the salaries of rocket launching crews and to purchase weapons smuggled in through the tunnels beneath the Rafah crossing. No country could remain forever silent and non-reactive in the face of the continued provocation.
The real issue in Gaza has nothing to do with Shalit or with sieges or rocket fire. The stakes are much bigger. The Hamas has been steadily and successfully pursuing a rather single minded program: to establish itself as the Palestinian government and supplant the Fatah, thereby voiding the concessions made by Palestinians in the Oslo process, without reversing any of the Israeli concessions. Once installed in Gaza and the West Bank and recognized as a “legitimate government” and “peace partner,” Hamas will use these territories to establish an official or unofficial Islamic state, and use it to launch terror attacks against Israel, as well as to foment subversion in Jordan and Egypt. These goals are to be reached by continuously “pushing the envelope” – establishing increasingly intolerable conditions as the status quo, accepted and approved by the entire world, in which Israel must acquiesce. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has a similar strategy vis-a-vis what is left of the Lebanese government, and is well on its way to implementing it.
Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement succinctly articulating what many Americans think about the situation:
Israel has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week. No government in the world would sit by and allow its citizens to be subjected to this kind of indiscriminate bombardment. The loss of innocent life is a terrible tragedy, and the blame for that tragedy lies with Hamas.
Why is this so difficult to grasp?
Predictably, Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal blamed Israel for the escalation of hostilities and called on Palestinians to launch a Third Intifada. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh asserted, “Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre.” One wonders, uglier than Jenin and “Al Nakba“?
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran issued a religious decree on state television to Muslims around the world, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Large protest rallies have occurred throughout the Middle East in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In Mosul, Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated himself in the midst of an anti-Israel demonstration.
Check out Elder of Ziyon’s Gaza reference articles here.
Small Wars Journal roundup here.