Friday, December 07, 2007

7-Nov-07: Escalatingly lethal fireworks

Israel, as we routinely note here, has absorbed daily barrages of rockets with what we regard as unbearable restraint. Barrages that the mainstream media largely bury and ignore, but barrages nonetheless, that have cost Israeli lives and brought chaos into cities, towns and homes of southern Israel with barely a murmur of protest from anyone.

During this past year, it's been known that the IDF and the Shin Bet have built their strategy around two red lines. Crossing them would trigger the sort of response that Israel's military can deliver but very strongly prefers not to. Those red lines are: (1) an improvement in the range of the Qassam rockets of the sort that would place the major Israeli city of Ashkelon (population around 108,000) within firing range of the Gazan terrorists. And (2) the development of an ability by the terrorists to store their rockets for longer periods of time.

Haaretz reports this afternoon that one red line has now been crossed, and the other is very close. The paper says "Hamas has recently upgraded its Qassam rocket capability in the Gaza Strip, raising grave concern in the Israeli defense establishment. Senior defense officials say that Hamas is now able to store the rockets for a relatively long period, which would allow the organization to launch a large number of Qassams at one time."

The paper says Hamas had difficulty, until recently, in storing its Qassam rockets. The explosive charge is volatile and can (and does) explode when stored for more than a few weeks.
"This is one of the reasons behind Hamas' haste to launch most of its rockets as soon as it gets them. When firing rockets is politically inconvenient, Hamas hands them over to smaller organizations such as the Islamic Jihad, various Fatah factions and the Popular Resistance Committees to launch them in its place. In previous periods of escalation between Israel and Hamas, such as last year's Independence Day, Hamas fired almost 300 rockets in a few days before running out of supplies."
According to Haaretz, Israel's defense establishment is concerned that Hamas will accumulate an arsenal of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rockets, enabling it to fire hundreds of rockets a day at Sderot for several days and prompting Israel to take extreme measures.
"The improvement in rocket-storage capability followed the entrance into Gaza in recent months of Palestinian terror experts, mostly via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. These experts, members of Islamic organizations, trained with Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and Iran. Alongside the ability to store rockets for longer periods, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, with Iran's help, are expected to increase the Qassam rockets' 15-kilometer range, which would place Ashkelon and dozens of small communities in the northern and western Negev within rocket range."
As concerned as Israelis are with the clear direction indicated by this report, most of our fellow-citizens would prefer to see the armed forces sit by the sidelines will the perpetrators of daily terror are dealt with in less-intrusive and dangerous ways.

We routinely get hate-mail here "explaining" to us the inherent justification of acts of terror against Israel and Israelis. We understand the hypocrisy and don't let it bother us too much, and the same goes for most other Israelis.

Our point is that when confronted with existential dangers like this one, and when appealing to the sense and morality of onlookers and the world "community" has no effect, you are left with no option but self-help. This has long guided this country's leaders and it looks like we're not far away from the resort to self-help once more. Sadly, that's part of the price of living in an era of uncontrolled terror and widespread ignorance of the price it exacts from civil society.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

5-Dec-07: Pal-Aab terror rocket strikes Israeli residence

Yet another Qassam rocket attack on Israel today. This one resulted in a three-storey residential building in southern Israel being hit today (Wednesday) causing heavy damage. Haaretz says several people were left suffering from shock. The rocket hit long-suffering Sderot, a city located close to the sealed border with the Hamas-infested Gaza Strip.

YNet, in a report filed this evening, says the rocket, fired by Palestinian terror groups from Gaza, struck the roof of a private home this evening. It says four people were treated by emergency services for shock, including a 50 year-old who complained of chest pains, and an apartment, home to an elderly couple, suffered damage. Fortunately they escaped serious injury but were treated for shock at the scene.

The Qassam attack happened just as national Teacher's Association chairman Ran Erez was addressing a rally organized by student and teacher organizations as well as various charity groups. The demonstration, held under the banner of 'Enough with the apathy – we're coming to Sderot' was opened with the lighting of a special Hanukkah menorah made of Qassam shells.

In addition to the Qassams, JPost reports that four rounds of mortar fire were directed into Israel from Gaza today, fortunately without causing any actual harm.

Meanwhile the defense minister Ehud Barak, together with IDF's chief of staff Ashkenazi and head of Southern Command Galant, visited soldiers of the IDF's Gaza Division this evening. They were briefed by division commanders on recent operations including the killing this past week and a half of some 30 terrorists in clashes with IDF forces in the area. YNet quotes Barak discussing the possibility of launching an extensive counter-terror campaign in the region with the soldiers: "We know a large-scale operation in Gaza is just a matter of time, but we are not trigger happy… we still consider such an operation a last resort." The defense establishment believes that an IDF operation in Gaza is inevitable, especially considering the growing support for Hamas and other terror organizations in the Strip.

None of this reportage appears in any mainstream news source outside Israel as of this posting. Most people, including those with an interest in developments in the area, have no idea any of this is happening and will be easy prey for the hostile headlines-to-come describing a lack of 'proportion' in Israel's actions. The sight of Israeli children (see picture above) cowering below tables for shelter from incoming rockets will be unknown to them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

3-Dec-07: The murderers are the Pal police. Who'd have guessed?

Three members of the Palestinian Authority police have confessed to the murder of the young father shot to death in his car in a drive-by shooting two weeks ago. (We reported the terror attack in "20-Nov-07: A worrying escalation")
IDF arrests cell that murdered Israeli in West Bank
Palestinian policemen behind shooting of Ido Zoldan two weeks ago apprehended by Israel, Palestinian security forces. 'We told the settler's family that we would reach every cell member – and so we did,' IDF official says | Efrat Weiss
Published: 12.03.07, 00:06 / Israel News
The IDF arrested members of a cell responsible for the murder of Ido Zoldan two weeks ago close to the northern West Bank settlement of Kedumim, it was cleared for publication on Sunday. According to army officials, the arrested men are Palestinian policemen from the nearby village of Qadum. The IDF reported that two of the men, Abdullah Braham and Jafar Braham, were arrested on the night of the murder. A third terrorist, Fadi Jama'a, was apprehended by Palestinian security forces. The cell members are all 22 years of age. Security sources said that during their interrogation by Shin Bet the men admitted to committing the murder, and even disclosed the weapon used in the shooting. They said that on the night of the murder they waited by the side of the road for an Israeli car to pass. The gunmen then proceeded to follow Zoltan's vehicle, then opened fire as they went driving passed it. The attack occurred on November 20 at around 11:30 pm near the Palestinian village of Funduk. Magen David Adom paramedics who were called to the site attempted to revive Zoldan, a resident of Shavei Shomron, but pronounced him dead a short while later. An IDF official told Ynet after the cell was captured "Immediately following the murder we told Zoldan's family that and the residents that we would reach every cell member – and so we did. The IDF will continue to hunt down terrorists." Shortly after the attack, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's military wing, announced that it was assuming responsibility for the event. A spokesman for the organization said that the terror attack was "an act of protest against the Annapolis conference and a response to Israeli crimes". Zoldan was survived by his wife Tehila and his two small children, three-year-old Aharon and one-year-old Rachel.
(The Palestinian police officer beating some of his fellow citizens in the photo above is not directly connected to this story. The PA has many violent young men to choose from when it recruits. Despite the evidence of the mayhem caused by adding active terrorists to the ranks of the police, several public figures from outside this area have called on the Palestinians to do more of the same.)

This is what we know to expect from their police. Is there a reason to expect a better outcome when we release their convicted prisoners? 150 of them left Ketziot Prison on their way to the Erez crossing and the Bitunia checkpoint a few hours ago. 143 other Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel ("as part of a goodwill gesture by the Israeli government to the PA") earlier. Some 429 of them will be free on the streets (408 in the West Bank, 21 in Gaza) by the end of today. The convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti says this release is a joke but he's very wrong.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

2-Dec-07: If the major media don't report it, did it happen?

We believe a certain proportion of the irrational knee-jerk hostility to Israeli self-defence measures stems from sheer ignorance. Hardly any media channel outside Israel reports the near-daily rocket attacks on Israeli towns, communities, settlements, houses, schools and cars. All of Israeli society ends up paying the price when people - and that includes politicians, journalists and public figures of influence - don't get the basic facts.

This afternoon yet another Qassam rocket landed in an open field in southern Israel close to the Gaza Strip from where it emanated. (See "27-Nov-07: A rocket attack every three hours" for some of the context.) YNet says there were neither injuries nor property damage - but as too many people seem to forget, this was not, and never will be, the intentions of the terror-minded thugs who fire these things. They want to kill. Two additional Qassam rockets struck Israel's western Negev region earlier today. No injuries or property damage there either.

Ynet and Haaretz both report that a Palestinian opened fire at soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem this afternoon. He arrived at the checkpoint, one of the many which Israel's critics say need to be dismantled in the interests of peace, and pulled out a gun, opening fire at Israeli soldiers. He pulled off two shots before his pistol jammed and IDF forces overcame him. Another Palestinian, waiting at the checkpoint, was injured by the shooting. He's now in hospital for treatment.

As we've noted here, Israelis are especially watchful and edgy (see 25-Nov-07: Heightened anxiety) about escalating terror attacks this past two weeks. Security forces raised the official alert level across Israel to the highest level a week ago. Intelligence reports point to many of the numerous anti-peace factions among the Palestinians (see "Hamas: Jews Out") aiming to pull off a showcase attack in connection with the Annapolis peace conference process. YNet describes how security forces are now deployed in crowded places and hitchhiking posts, both around the seam line area and in city centers. The defense establishment currently has pinpoint intelligence regarding 10 potential terror attacks and general alerts concerning 10 others.

UPDATE: Sunday 5:15pm - Haaretz is reporting that eight mortar shells, fired from the Gaza Strip, have landed near Kibbutz Nahal Oz; no injuries reported. YNet says there were ten mortars. People live and work all over that area.

UPDATE: Sunday 9:30pm - Today's toll of mortars fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to Haaretz, has climbed to fifteen.