Saturday, November 17, 2012

17-Nov-12: Saturday night update

Sabbath in Ashdod [Image Source: Times of Israel]
We were off-line for the 25 hours of the Sabbath, plus some time before it to get ready, some time after it to clean up and re-organize for the week. But as much as any self-respecting Jewish Sabbath-observer wants to establish a firm disconnect between the life of the workaday week and the special atmosphere of the Holy Sabbath, a war that's going on around you makes that a special challenge.

A handful of vignettes from our Jerusalem vantage point:
  • Like practically everyone, we try to stay in touch with family members. That ordinary, human need to be in contact with loved ones doesn't go away when there's electric tension in the air; quite the opposite. We were Skyping with a close family member living in the south - meaning (in these days of medium-range rockets that can be operated by even the dopiest of terrorist thugs) south of Tel-Aviv - in the last few minutes. As has happened far too many times recently, he had to run from his computer and rush his family to shelter in mid-sentence. To say that people are on edge is understating it.
  • There have been contradictory indications of what we can expect from the Hamas side during these evening hours. On one hand, IDF head of Southern Command Tal Rousso addressed a press conference tonight; we heard it in the car while driving our children to their home tonight. Rousso  was upbeat, speaking in terms of the IDF's successes in destroying a large proportion of Hamas’s weapons and rocket. Haaretz quotes him tonight declaring that "We devastated their long range weapons arsenal, but there is still a lot of work left." The but is well understood by everyone here.
  • TOI's useful ongoing timeline speculated on the fact the rocket fire from Gaza had reduced "a trickle" since nightfall, a possible sign, it wrote, "that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are beginning to feel the effect of IDF strikes. The army has hit some 950 targets in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the operation, including symbols of Hamas power, such as the prime minister’s office, in the last day. They have also taken out a number of rocket launchers and missile arsenals."
  • On the other hand, a swathe of major southern communities including Ashdod, Ashkelon, the Yavne region and the Yoav region were all subject to rocket attack warnings at about the time we sat down to write this post some minutes ago. Fortunately no fewer than four GRAD missiles (according to TOI's report) were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system on their way to Ashdod in that evening attack. Achievements like this, impressive as they certainly are, are no antidote to the horror of being on the ground, bathed in the wail of sirens, waiting for the boom.  
  • As of about 8 tonight, the count of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza was on the order of 150 (again, that comes from TOI). Four of them made direct hits on people's homes, and ten people were injured in those attacks. The Israeli death toll stands at three, with dozens injured. On the Palestinian Arab side, their reports say 40 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, including 17 civilians, and hundreds more injured. 
  • Israel's Galei Zahal, the army radio station, reported on tonight's 8:00 pm news that there are 43 dead on the Gazan side. Relate that back to the hundreds of sorties Israel's aircraft have flown since Wednesday night and it points to a very high degree of care to destroy things while avoiding hurting people. We're fully aware that it's a conclusion the enemy will reject or ignore. But anyone who cares to look closely at the way the IDF instructs its soldiers knows that there is no army anywhere taking greater care to avoid civilian casualties than the IDF. (A bunch of online videos [here] illustrates the point.) 
  • This will probably be ignored too but it shouldn't. Despite the thuggery to which Israel is subject at the hands of the terrorists, the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza is going to be opened tomorrow (Sunday) morning so that food and medical supplies can be transferred to the waiting arms of Hamas. Times of Israel reports that the arrangements for opening the crossing were made by the IDF in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (which represents its rival/enemy Hamas in such matters) and international mediators. Yet another reason why people call this an asymmetric war: our side against the thugs.
  • We're still shaking from our own experiences of the past day. Friday evening, just as we were at the door to walk to synagogue for evening prayers, Jerusalem came under rocket attack. The city - at least the part where we live - was silent in the pleasant, peaceful way it usually is as the Sabbath descends and work activity ends. But a few minutes after the candles were lit, the hills around us echoed with the blood-curdling sound of the air-raid warning siren - from the same physical device that had just sounded to broadcast the start of Shabbat, but playing a very different sequence of notes, the rising and falling of the siren's wail. We now know, though we did not at the time, that a number of M-75s or Fajr-5 missiles (both are mentioned in today's reports, maybe two of them, maybe three or more) crashed to earth south of Jerusalem. TOI says the explosive landings were in the Gush Etzion area, less than 10 kilometers from here. Fortunately, according to the reports, no injuries, no serious damage.
No reason to expect this to be over quickly.

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