Posted Dec 2, 2018 at 3:01 AM
For Israelis living along the southern border with Gaza, the past several months have been stressful and tense, and the past hours have been impossibly difficult as more than 460 rockets have been fired from Gaza into the region. Rocket attacks, aerial arson attacks, and huge riots along the Israel-Gaza border have terrorized residents of southern Israel every single week since March. Thousands of acres of Israeli farmland and nature preserves have been burnt in arson attacks. Tunnels have also been uncovered, built to strike into Israeli communities.
Hamas, the terror group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 instigated these recent hostilities under the guise of protests where tens of thousands of Gazans have attacked and rioted along the border. During these riots massive tire-fires and fire bombs have provided cover while attempts were made to destroy the security border fence so that attackers could rush into Israel–to murder and kidnap Israelis.
Since just before 5 p.m. on Nov. 12, over 460 rockets have been fired, triggering an endless stream of sirens, and causing hundreds of thousands of Israeli families to spend the night in shelters. In the worst incident, a residential building in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket, killing a 48-year old man and severely injuring two women. In total, at least 55 Israelis have been wounded by the effects of the rockets since the attacks began yesterday.
While Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System successfully intercepted more than 100 rockets that were headed to populated areas, eight residential buildings were hit in Sderot, six in Ashkelon and two in Netivot.
The escalating hostilities have brought the Israeli military to the brink of war. Warnings and attempts to get Hamas to end their hostility have largely gone unheeded. Even the recent ceasefire talks should be approached with caution. Several times over the past weeks ceasefires were declared only to be broken hours later. After months of patience an IDF operation is on the horizon.
Any military activity against Hamas is difficult and necessitates precision targeting in a dense urban environment. Israeli military policy dictates that civilian casualties must be avoided but any operation will likely cause unintended destruction. If Hamas has any semblance of humanity and care for the people of Gaza they should immediately halt all attacks and rioting against Israel, make peace, and live a normal coexistence. Will this happen? Almost certainly not.
Hamas began firing on Israel more than a decade ago- after Israel unilaterally left Gaza, and after Hamas violently took total control of Gaza from the Palestinian group Fatah. They were given and opportunity to choose peace, to choose negotiation, and they rejected it. They have consistently and repeatedly attacked Israel since then.
The Hamas charter calls for violently destroying Israel and advocates for killing Jews worldwide. Gaza is under blockade from Egypt and Israel, and Hamas leaders are in hiding. Billions of dollars intended for humanitarian aid have been stolen. Gaza is arguably the most mismanaged, corrupt piece of land on Earth, the people there suffer through it, and yet Hamas still seeks the destruction of Israel as their primary goal.
Hamas has another reason for terrorizing Israel. Their authority and economic model essentially relies on extortion. They attack and don’t stop until they get what they want- their goals are usually money or the lifting of the blockade [to import goods that they sell for revenue to fund more terrorism]. The good news is that Hamas is significantly weaker today than it has been in years. The Palestinian Authority has put pressure on them, and their ISIS-like rule is resented by many Gazans. The bad news is that Hamas’s real weapon is its public relations campaign. Firing hundreds of rockets forces Israel into military action, and by using schools and hospitals as weapons depots and tunnel entrances, and by using human shields Hamas is leaving the IDF with very limited options.
Hamas is entrenched in the very heart of Gaza which puts its own citizens right into the midst of the battle. Israel recognizes this is Hamas’s endgame and does all it can to avoid playing into their hands. But this type of conflict is messy and Hamas ensures that collateral damage will happen. What we must not fail to recognize is the longer Hamas and its affiliates remain in control of Gaza, the longer they attack Israel, the more severe the consequences will be.
It would be helpful for all of us, for the sake of the people of Gaza and Israel, to demand that Hamas put down their rockets, stop the arson attacks, the digging of terror tunnels and let the people whose lives have been so severely disrupted live again – both Israelis and Gazans. Hamas is so obsessed with the destruction of Israel that they have failed to realize they are destroying their own people.
– Steven Schimmel is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. The views represented here do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Jewish Federation or its members.