Sunday, August 21, 2011

21-Aug-11: Violent Saturday night; bombardment of southern Israel continues unchecked

Beer Sheba - Saturday night
It's Sunday morning here, and our hearts are with the million or so Israelis living under the double curse of being within firing range of the vast and unchecked Gazan rocket arsenal and having their plight conspicuously, deliberately ignored by mainstream media's preference for casting the warfare in southern Israel in terms of a clash between Israel and Egypt.

[To illustrate, at this moment - Sunday 09:10 Israel time - the home page of BBC News leads with a main story that is its sole, repeat sole, mention of Israel. The headline reads: "Israeli regrets over clash fail to end Egypt protests | Protesters burned Israeli flags and chanted "Long live Egypt!" | Thousands of Egyptians have rallied outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo for a second day over the deaths of five Egyptian policemen."]

Dozens of Israelis, including babies, have been injured by the ongoing terror attacks that started Thursday afternoon.  A was killed in Beer Sheba last night. JPost says his name is Yossi Shushan, a resident of Ofakim. He heard last night's air raid sirens and became anxious for the welfare of his wife who is in the ninth month of pregnancy, and rushed over to Beer Sheba, where he was fatally injured by one of last night's GRAD rockets.

That's in addition to the eight who were killed up until Friday night. The not-so-new reality is we are in an ongoing war with terrorists that is routinely mischaracterized by those who deliver the reports to your door and your screens. Is this for ideological reasons? Is there another way to look at it?

As for the events of Saturday night, Ynet put it sharply and well: "The IAF refrained from mounting strikes in Gaza overnight, but the Strip's terror groups failed to afford Israel the same courtesy, firing rockets on western Negev communities relentlessly throughout the night."

To some of the details:
  • Two children were injured late Saturday night when 4 Gazan rockets exploded in the desert town of Ofakim (population: 20,000), some 20 km west of Beer Sheba.  
  • Around midnight, two Qassam rockets flung into the heavens by the terrorists of Gaza in the vague direction of anything Israeli crashed to earth in the Sha'ar HaNegev region, exploding harmlessly in open fields.
  • In the small hours, yet another powerful GRAD missile was fired at Beer Sheba, and fortunately was intercepted in mid-air and destroyed by an Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile missile. We don't give enough credit to the technology that makes this intercepts happen. If only Israel had far more such batteries.
  • Around the same hour, three additional GRADS were fired at Ashkelon. No reports of injury but there is property damage - no details yet.
  • Seven mortar shells landed in open areas of the Eshkol region, also in the hours of darkness.
  • The Israeli "Tzeva Adom" (Color Red) incoming-missile warning siren has sounded right through the night and well into this morning at frequent intervals in Beer Sheba, as reported on several on-line bulletin boards in real time. The news channels here report only some of the outcomes. Fair to assume the levels of anxiety in those cities and towns are sky-high.
  • Around 6:30 this morning, a Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza exploded in an open area in the Hof Ashkelon region, with no injuries or damage. [Ynet]
  • Then a little after 8 this morning, another Gazan rocket crashed into the outskirts of Beer Sheba [Ynet]. 
  • Just before 9, another 3 rockets were fired into Beer Sheba. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted one. A second landed and exploded inside the city causing property damage. The third appears to have landed just outside the city. [Ynet]
  • A little after 9, an educational institution in Beer Sheba took a direct hit from a Gazan GRAD [source]. Thank heavens, the building was closed and no one was inside. No reports yet of the extent of the damage.
Every Israeli, reading the news, speaking by phone with relatives in the free-fire zone, running to a shelter with her/his children, knows what keeps being forgotten outside this country. Israel has the fire power to end the bombardment at will. The price in terms of Arab lives would be horribly high, but it is certainly doable from a military/strategic point of view. 

Tolerating this ongoing fire into our homes and towns is a decision that is rooted in political and moral considerations. But at some point, Israel's willingness to tolerate the losses and the fear and the disruption to civil society and to peaceful lives. (What would you do if you were living this life?)

At that point, the faithful consumers of such news sources as BBC World Service and many other brand name media channels are going to be perplexed at the fury and scale of the Israeli response, and will wonder why they weren't told. So will we. 

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