Israel's planned disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in August  will be a historic opportunity for the Israeli people, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.That historic opportunity is unfolding right now, this weekend. It's worth taking a close look at what has been gained.
The pictures below are from Israel's southern war-front - the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon - where some 50 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Friday night (it's now late Saturday evening here in Jerusalem). The flourishing Israeli communities and greenhouses and fields of Gaza have been replaced by rocket launchers and grinding, hatred-inspired poverty and hopelessness. (We reflected on this depressing reality here, here and here.)
It's been a bloody and violent weekend. Too much pain, too many injured and too many incidents of damage for us to cover them adequately here. There's detailed reporting from the Israeli areas hardest hit on the YNet website and at Haaretz. (The havoc on the Gazan side is described fulsomely and at great length in almost every media channel in the world. You won't need our help finding it.)
Stepping back from the smoke and damage, it's worth remembering what the mainstream media have omitted to say and even today are not reporting. Missiles have been fired hourly into Israel by the terrorists for months. They can cause small-scale misery to this city or that, this family or that, but nothing significantly strategic. The goal of what is sometimes called low-intensity warfare of this sort (but it's far from low-intensity if you're in the target area) is to draw the enemy into a serious response, to wear down his restraint, to provoke, to escalate.
The terrorist strategy of the jihadist Hamas regime has included storing in, and despatching their rockets - huge quantities of them - from, residential areas of the Gaza Strip. Why? Because this maximizes the likelihood that when Israel's patience, its ability to absorb these attacks (up to dozens of them each day) dries up, there will be photogenic casualties, particularly of children, and public opinion points to win. Hiding behind their children, deploying them as human shields, is a long-established dimension of the manhood and courage of the heroic freedom fighters of Gaza.
Yesterday and today, the terrorist thugs appear to have hit the jackpot.
Even so, as the New York Times reports today, half the dead are reported to be Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. Its report also reveals what we know here but which is rarely said for outside consumption:
"Hamas said that one young girl, Malak Karfaneh, 6, died Friday night from an Israeli strike on Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, but locals said that a Palestinian rocket had fallen short and landed near the house. Israeli officials say that up to half of Palestinian rockets — mostly crude, inaccurate Qassams — fall inside Gaza."To be kept in mind as the propaganda war of the jihadists and their more-than-willing media collaborators crank up their latest assault.
The mainstream press love calling the terrorist weapons "home made". This is an apartment in Ashkelon after yet another "home made" attack today.
Sderot's mayor, Eli Moyal, inspects an apartment in his town on Friday after the jihadists delivered the latest in a long series of 'home-made' greetings.
Police and journalists momentarily abandon their nonchalant cool as yet another 'rocket incoming' alert is sounded on Friday in Sderot.
Ashkelon on Friday. That roof is reinforced-steel and cement. Home-made Gazan war implements blew right through it. That there were no deaths here is miraculous.
Injured on the streets of Sderot, Thursday 29th February.
Sderot 29-Feb-08: Hundreds of rocket attacks per month, for months. But you never get accustomed to the fear.
Sderot 29-Feb-08: Hospitalized for treatment after one of dozens of attacks on Thursday (alone).
The carpark of Sapir College, a tertiary education institution just outside Sderot. It came under rocket attack this past Wednesday. A student was killed, his four children left orphaned.
Israeli forces have been ready to roll into Gaza for months. The picture above was taken at Kibbutz Mefalsim, southern Israel, Thursday 29th February. They wait, equipment at the ready, for the possibility that someone in a position of authority in that crazed place will come to his/her senses and realize that no one has more to lose in this ongoing war than the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza. Sadly, losses don't count for much when, like the ruling clique in Gaza, you're driven by religious fanaticism and hatred. So these young men and their equipment are rolling tonight.