This week's escalation did not start with an attack on a Hamas military commander. It started with the use of Gaza as a launching pad for ideological war
Earlier in the week, Israel was hit by errant fire from Syria – likely an act of incompetence by the Assad regime and an incident that was borne out of the continued civil war and increasingly desperate situation in the country. Amidst all this activity on the Golan Heights, little did we know that in the south of Israel, the activities of Hamas were coming to the fore, escalating to the point where Israel targeted a Hamas military leader on Wednesday.
For the past week, Hamas and others have been firing dozens of Grad missiles, Qassam rockets, and mortar bombs into Israeli territory, causing suffering for Israeli civilians.
Southern towns such as Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Sderot continue to be the targets. As a result, daily life has virtually ground to a halt. Schools were closed, offices were shut, and people were warned to remain within 15 seconds of a shelter.
For not a second would I try to suggest that tragedies do not occur on both sides of the conflict and need to be avoided but it is patently clear that Israel’s defence of its population is paramount to the Israeli government. One would hope that the government of Gaza would feel similar levels of commitment to the Gazan people.
It falls to us as responsible and rational observers to note where the crucial problems pertaining to the conflict arise. Much is made of Israel’s expansion of settlements, which is far from an ideal situation as the coalition government has stated. But for the population of Israel, dealing with the terrorist threats surrounding the country is a matter of existence.
Today we saw how Israel has used a security fence to defend itself from high levels of suicide attacks, the majority of which, from the West Bank, were curtailed following the erection of the fence. The barrier, which, contrary to popular belief, is only 5 percent concrete wall and 95 percent chainlink fence, has put enough distance between those seeking to kill innocent civilians in Israel. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has not yielded similar results for its security.
Whether it is on the Syrian border, the Lebanon border, the West Bank border or the Gaza border, Israel’s right to defend itself should remain of primary concern for Israel. Until both populations can be assured of security, peace talks will remain elusive, which is why we should reject the premise of attributing blame towards the side simply willing to assure the safety of its civilian population.
This week’s escalation did not start, as many have reported, with Israel’s attack on the Hamas military commander. It started with the abuse of the trust of the people of Gaza and the use of the strip as little more than a launching pad for an ideological war.
John Howell is the Member of UK Parliament for Henley