In the days when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were lobbing home made mortars and Ketushah rockets into Israel by the hundreds, things were bad. It was obvious that normal life in places like Sderot in the south near the Gaza border required action to halt the rocket fire. One could make the argument, and I heard it frequently, that these rockets and mortars did little damage and that Israel’s response to those attacks of launching Operation Cast Lead was more than should have been acceptable.
Over the past three years, Israel repeatedly noted that no other nation in the world would even be asked to tolerate such barrages, much less be accused of overreacting when attempting to halt them. For Israel, the threat of rocket attacks makes life difficult to bear and, for the residents of Sderot, in the minds of many, action on the scale of Operation Cast Lead was required to prevent them.
Yet also over the past three years, it was made abundantly clear that the introduction of longer range Iranian made rockets and missiles would bring much more of the Israeli population into the cross hairs and pose a much bigger threat. In fact, the introduction of those weapons significantly escalates the conflict because while Israel cannot long tolerate the fire of inaccurate short range weapons that do little damage in relatively sparsely populated areas, the threat of longer range and more powerful weapons fire being regularly launched against major population centers is an existential threat.
Knowing that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had acquired stockpiles of longer range missiles and launchers, phase 2 of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, was to target twenty sites related to them.
Here is the dilemma. As long as Hamas is a petty military organization, as long as it fires crude weaponry against Israel, it offers those who hate Israel the ability to pretend that Hamas is a ragtag bunch of people fighting for something other than a Jewish body-count. They can imagine Hamas to be impoverished and pathetic, overwhelmed by Israel’s military might. They can proclaim a vision of Hamas as David to Israel’s Goliath, throwing rocks at tanks.
But that is far from today’s reality. Today, Hamas is firing anti-tank rockets at tanks, using rocket propelled grenades RPGs against Israeli jeeps, and firing much more sophisticated and far more damaging Iranian made rockets intentionally against Israeli population centers. This is no longer a border conflict that affects a small percentage of Israel’s population. Today, more than half of Israel is under threat and that is intolerable by any measure for the Israeli government. This is a conflict between Israel and an Iranian backed and well armed militia bent on slaughtering any Jews that it can.
Yesterday, Hamas launched what it is calling “M75” missiles named for Maqadma, one of the founders of Hamas with 75 indicating the weapon’s range in kilometers, 75 to 80 kilometers. 75 Kilometers is 46 miles. Tel Aviv is 44 miles away. Ramat Gan, Israel’s high tech center, is 45 miles away. The center of Jerusalem is 48 miles away, its suburbs closer.
Iran and Hizballah have been smuggling Iranian made long range weapons into Gaza. I noted in my analysis of the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense that these Iranian made weapons were being manufactured and stored at the Yarmouk Weapons Factory in Khartoum, Sudan before being shipped out by Iran to Sinai and points further north. Some reports actually have Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops in Gaza aiding in their deployment against Israel.
All this said, what is going on now is not like previous conflicts with Gaza. Iran and Hamas have escalated it to an existential crisis for Israel and it will require a massive response. No ceasefire can be possible under these circumstances and Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that in recent days. Israel cannot allow the current level of advanced weaponry present in Gaza to remain there, much less to increase and be used against its civilian population.
We pray for Shalom, well-being, for all of our many friends in Israel and for peace at last to descend upon the region, but know too well that the days ahead will be ones filled more with violence and challenge than with peace and contentment. Oseh Shalom Bimromav…
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