Friday, April 08, 2011

"Pain and Rage"

Arlene Kushner

This afternoon an anti-tank missile shot from Gaza hit a school bus that was traveling just outside Kibbutz Sa'ad in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council district, in the south of Israel.

Most of the children had been dropped off already. One 16 year old boy was left on the bus, which apparently took a direct hit. An anti-tank missile is directed, not a Kassam that meanders randomly.

The boy was thrown into the road, which is where medics found him, unconscious. He was air-lifted to the trauma unit of Soroka Hospital in Be'ersheva, where he is in critical condition. The driver, who took shrapnel in his leg, was also taken to the hospital.
A barrage of rockets and mortars continued -- some 45 in all -- even after this hit, and residents of the area were ordered into shelters.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to respond to the attack "immediately" and to use "all necessary means" (whatever that implies). He said that Israel holds the Hamas terrorist organization "completely responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza."

Within an hour, Israel Air Force fighter pilots had gone up: According to the IDF spokesman, two terrorist squads, who were involved in firing military-use projectiles at the Israel from the southern and northern Gaza Strip, were successfully targeted. Additionally, artillery forces returned fire at the area in the northern Gaza Strip from which the anti-tank missile had been launched.

And apparently this operation is not yet over.

Barak said the use of an anti-tank missile to hit the bus was very serious "because it hit deep within Israel's territory from deep within the Strip."

So I ask, if it came from near Gaza's border with Israel, and hit an Israeli target just on the other side (meaning a less powerful projectile was in play), that wouldn't be serious? Any fire of rockets, missiles or mortars against our civilian population is serious! This is part of the problem now, that every single projectile sent across Gaza's border has not been taken seriously. (Maybe it was "just" a Kassam, and it fizzled without injury, and so, nu, let it go with just some tough words.)

"This is something we cannot accept," declared Barak. "The actions being taken now are a reaction to this incident and they will continue as long as necessary in order to clarify that these things cannot go on."


And what I wish to say is that this is not nearly sufficient. This tit-for-tat response, this attitude that "you hit us, we'll make you pay by hitting you back."

It is, in my humble opinion, time to disable Hamas's ability to damage us. Past time. We didn't carry Cast Lead far enough.


Part of what is so enraging and generates such a sense of impotence is the diplomatic climate, which renders the Israeli government super-cautious with regard to actions taking.

The hard cold fact is that if we move into Gaza to take out Hamas, civilians will be killed. We've just gone through what we've endured with Goldstone. There is, undoubtedly, reluctance to go that route again And should we go in, there will be a tip-toeing with regard to operations under-taken, with the sense that the world is looking over our soldiers' shoulders.

A war cannot be waged this way. And we indeed are at war.

The IDF is the very model of an ethical army, second to none in the world. We have nothing to apologize for. We do not target civilians. We have no desire to see civilians injured. When civilians are injured, or killed, it is because Hamas uses them as human shields. The moral culpability lies entirely with Hamas. But the world does not choose to see it this way.

No nation in the world would tolerate what we have been enduring.


Also particularly infuriating is the moxy of Hamas itself. It's breathtaking.

Hamas says it is calling on the international community to "stop Israel's aggression in the Gaza Strip." Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu indicated that they planned to appeal to the UN Security Council because Israel was not honoring a lull agreement in Gaza. Just talk, of course.

A terrorist organization that launched 45 projectiles against Israeli civilians today is complaining about Israel not honoring a lull agreement?

A lull agreement, I will add, that has dubious value because it allows Hamas to keep arming and preparing, even when it is in place -- meaning matters will be worse the next time they choose to hit.

Nunu said the rockets and missiles were launched to protect the people of Gaza and "pressure the occupation to stop its crimes."


So what does the IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz say?

I am "sure we will take control of matters. We will do everything that needs to be done."

Gantz is new, and it's too soon to assess where he will be going with this. I want to be careful not to second-guess what may be in the planning.

However, according to YNet, when Gantz was asked if the IDF was headed for a second Cast Lead, he advised citizens not to be "hysterical."


This, then, is the opinion of one "hysterical" citizen. Not an army officer, just a writer. But this is what I see:

Hamas doesn't care if one team or another gets taken out. Those lost can be replaced. Remember, they celebrate death, not life. If one launching site or cache of weapons is destroyed -- so, they keep going, for they've got lots more.

I don't believe we have to level Gaza, nor am I suggesting we should. But the hit on Hamas, however it is planned, must be serious enough to genuinely and deeply cripple their capacity to act.

One reader, who will recognize himself, just wrote to say that we both know Hamas keeps weapons in underground bunkers. And indeed he's correct. But I'm not sure we have to take out every weapon, although it's likely with bunker busters we can take some that are hidden.

We must take out what weapons caches we can reach and hit those who manufacture weapons (the recent capture of Abu Sisi was marvelous in this regard and there may be more yet).

And we have to, finally, work to stop the smuggling of weapons, which might even mean a presence on the Philadephi Corridor.

We have to target their leadership vigorously as well, so they are too busy trying to save their lives to think about hitting us.

We have to hit them in multiple ways that will generate fear of us in their hearts. I see it as essential. This is for the sake of deterrence with regard to Hamas. But also more broadly.

We cannot be seen to tremble with hesitation now. We cannot seem to operate only with knee-jerk responses to a terrorist organization that is calling the shots.

Hezbollah is also watching.


Now that I've said it, we must watch and see how this particular action plays out and whether anything serious is in the works. There are undoubtedly vast amounts of information that I am not privy to.

As I complete this posting -- which I've decided to send through -- first reports of a "cease fire" with Hamas are coming through. Don't know what that means yet.


I will mention once again my concern that what needs to be done is best done while the military still controls Egypt. If radicals take over, the dynamic shifts seriously.


I will also mention here the Iron Dome missile defense batteries, two of which have been installed in the south -- one in Be'ersheva and one now in Ashkelon. Today, for the very first time, a Grad rocket headed for Ashkelon was intercepted by Iron Dome. This is good. It is not, however, the final answer. For many batteries would be required to provide full protection of the south, and intercepting every projectile that came from Gaza would become prohibitively expensive.


The US has condemned the attack on the school bus. I have yet to hear that either the UN or the EU have.


There will not be another posting until after Shabbat.

Allow me to make one correction -- some of you received a version of my last posting that identified Eli Yishai as from Yisrael Beitenu, and he is, of course, from Shas.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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