Israelis have had a belly full of attacks from Gaza and yet here we go again.
But this time it is going to be different.
We saw it coming just a week ago, when a rocket was fired towards Ashdod but missed its mark and landed in the sea. At that time, the IDF reduced the fishing zone for Gazans that had just recently been expanded.
While Hamas, as Gaza’s ruling faction, is always held responsible, all indications were that the group that launched the rocket was the Iranian-supported Islamic Jihad (IJ). Eager to play a significant role in “the resistance,” its first goal last week was trying to disrupt long-term, Egyptian-facilitated ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel. The IDF fingered IJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata (pictured), as the party who activated the launch, on instructions (depending on what source you rely upon) from the IJ leader in Damascus or IJ chief in Gaza, Ziad Nakhla’a.
A word about those “long-term ceasefire negotiations” with Hamas: Once again, depending on the source, it appears that an informal arrangement was already in place, or that an agreement for something more formal was making progress. We did see some weeks that were relatively quiet and Israel had made one of those “goodwill gestures” by expanding the fishing zone for Gazans (albeit in the end very briefly).
In any event, formal arrangements are bad news – allowing strengthening by Hamas, which then begins hostilities again at will.
This past Friday, there was rioting at the Gaza fence and two Gazans were killed.
Then, starting overnight on Friday, the rockets started in earnest. By morning it was reported that 200 rockets had been launched, and in short order it was 300. As I am writing now, it is 600 and the number will increase. And now there are casualties – several deaths already, one death overnight and now three in Ashkelon alone, and a number injured, some seriously. What is more, the area being targeted is expanding, with concerns about Tel Aviv being hit. The barrage has now reached Be’ersheva. And they have not yet utilized their most effective long-range rockets.
What the casualties indicate is that the accuracy of the Hamas/IJ weaponry has improved. Most that do not end up in open fields are taken down by the Iron Dome – most, but not all. That is what comes of the “quiet for quiet” policy, which Aaron Lerner of IMRA, among others, has long and vigorously criticized: this short-sighted policy of telling Hamas, OK, if you don’t hit us we’ll leave you alone, gives them the latitude to improve their weaponry undisturbed.
Not only that, it has allowed them to construct an enormous number of tunnels inside of Gaza to which they can retreat and in which they can store weaponry.
This attack, which is clearly being spearheaded by Hamas, is EXTORTION, plain and simple. We have Yom Ha’atzmaut coming on Thursday and then Eurovision in less than two weeks. Hamas head Yahya Sinwar and Islamic Jihad chief Ziad Nakhla’a (pictured) are calculating that under the circumstances we will deal to buy quiet.
Both Sinwar and Nakhla’a are in Cairo. But they want money and are not in a rush to strike a deal, even as the Egyptians are working to restore “quiet.” (Part of the irony here is that the Qatari emissary who arranged for money to go into Gaza is out of commission for health reasons and this has nothing to do with Israel.)
Never mind, quiet is not what we need now. Rather it is imperative that Hamas be hit hard. Truly hard this time. It has happened too many times – and it is maddening – that Hamas is, for all intents and purposes, in charge. Hostilities begin when they decide, and then when they’ve had enough and stop, we say, OK, we’ll stop too.
The involvement of Egypt and the UN, whatever their intentions, has been a factor in restraining Israel from continuing with strength. I believe the government, time and again, has been concerned about appearing to be the “aggressor” – which is indeed how we would be labeled – if we continued the fight when Egypt had brokered a deal. But this has been counterproductive.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had indicated earlier that he had ordered “massive” strikes on Hamas, and that this would go on for some days. With this, he was signaling that even if some quick deal were offered, we were in no mood to take it.
Merkava IV Tanks from the Seventh Armored Brigade have been moved into the Gaza area:
This morning the Security Cabinet met, and by this afternoon instructions were to increase the attack, and very importantly, to begin targeted assassinations.
Finally! What took them so long?? THIS is a sign of seriousness at last. So many times it has been announced that we took “action” in response to an attack by Hamas and then it turned out – maddeningly! – that we had hit only empty buildings, even warning terrorists before we bombed.
Several terrorists have been taken out. Most importantly, we have just assassinated Hamed Ahmed Abed Khudari. Said an IDF spokesman:
“Khudari was responsible for substantial cash transfers from Iran to terror organizations operating within the Gaza Strip.
“Khudari was the owner of the monetary exchange company, Hamed Co. for Exchange / Al Wefaq Co. for Exchange, which Israel designated a terrorist organization in June 2018.
“Khudari’s financial activity, which served as Iran’s spearhead in the Gaza Strip, contributed significantly to the promotion of terror activities and the military buildup of terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.”
Right on! Hamas wants money, and we take out the man who helped Iranian money get into Gaza.
I had read earlier today that the whole Hamas organization was underground in tunnels, but clearly this is not so – or, was not so.
This should strike terror in the hearts of many terrorists. The car that Khudari was riding in was identified (see: we know) and the Air Force hit it directly:
There is a broad consensus in Israel right now for continuing these strikes. And there is not even a hint of suggestion that we need to buy quiet before Yom Ha’atzmaut or Eurovision. In fact, the opposite has been the case.
The situation is shifting even as I write. I will of course, follow with additional posts over the week. But now, it is important for me to get this out.
Please! Do not write to me telling me what Israel should do now, and especially, do not tell me that Israel simply must go in and take out Hamas. We are not going to do it and I am not one who would advocate that we should. Whether there will be any ground troops utilized remains to be seen.
But there are ways to send messages to the terrorist leaders in Gaza that will change the dynamic, and I believe we are on the way to doing this now.
I would like to learn about deep air strikes that hit tunnels inside of Gaza (we have already hit one IJ tunnel that was being constructed into Israel), thus taking out at least some of their cache of weapons. We have enormous Intelligence and most of all we need the will to act with determination.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.