I've alluded to some of this already, but want to return to look in some more detail at the various "fronts" we are dealing with in this conflict.
I wrote yesterday about the fact that Hamas fights "dirty," and that we will never lower ourselves to their level. But what we do have to do is contend with that dirty fighting.
There are two aspects to this. The first is the use of human shields -- the storage in and launching of rockets from civilian areas, which puts Israel in the impossible position of either avoiding air attack on certain sites or risking considerable civilian damage. This, in spite of surgical strikes, warnings to the populace, etc.
As The Israel Project put it:
"Hamas has turned hospitals, homes, schools, and mosques into military bases..."
See here rockets being fired from a civilian area:
An enormous amount of intelligence work by Israel went into locating the sites of rocket storage. We know where the rockets, especially long-range rockets, and missiles are. They are not "hidden," in that sense. But this human shield aspect makes taking them out sometimes very difficult.
The simple logic of the situation tell me that this is why we've amassed troops and tanks at the Gaza border. Not for an escalated operation intended to take down Hamas completely or re-take Gaza, but because it may be impossible to remove those rockets and missiles and related terrorist infrastructure by air without unacceptable levels of civilian causalities. If we cannot do what we need to do by air, we may send in troops. (More on the possibility of a ground operation below.)
The other part of the "dirty" fighting is utilization by Hamas of the media and left wing NGOs to propagate images of an aggressive Israel deliberately hitting poor innocents in Gaza. Unfortunately, the media and those NGOs, substantially predisposed against Israel, are more than ready to cooperate by telling these stories, which lack balance and context. Which lie.
Here is one stunning example of a lie that was believed:
"A dead Gazan child, whose picture made world media headlines claiming him to be a victim of an Israeli airstrike, appears to have been killed by a Hamas rocket that fell short of its target, landing inside Gaza instead of Israel, according to evidence brought to light by...blogger Elder of Ziyon.[http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com]
"...International publications including CNN and Britain’s Mirror ran the tragic images of Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh and others cradling the dead child, and the media outlets explicitly blamed Israel for the child’s death.
"'Egypt’s Prime Minister wept today as he kissed the forehead of a boy killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza,' reads the Mirror’s caption under the photo. CNN reporter Sara Sidner referred to the boy as 'another victim of an [Israeli] air strike.'"
But when Yiftah Shapir, a ballistics expert who is the Director of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, studied CNN's video footage of the explosion, what he saw were "a lot of small holes."
"It is reasonable to say that this damage is from a relatively small explosion at close range...If it was a very heavy bomb the damage would be worse, and at long range the shrapnel would be spread much more widely because of the long distance."
The IDF denies that it had carried out any strikes at the time the child was hit, in the area where he was.
Please see at the bottom of this Algemeiner piece a video of the vile anti-Israel CNN report.
This tactic enormously exacerbates diplomatic pressure on Israel. People believe what they are reading about the evils of the Israel self-defense operation and conclude that we must be forced to stop to save the poor Palestinian Arabs of Gaza.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, is due here today, and UN Sec.-Gen. Ban on Wednesday. This is in addition to phone communication between Netanyahu and other leaders, most significantly President Obama and including German Chancellor Andrea Merkel. And there's more to come, rest assured.
Israel has been waging a PR war of its own, and putting out videos presenting the Israeli side. But, as this front is often the most difficult to fight, I implore you to help get the facts out wherever you can. Information you can use follows:
Israel is so careful about civilian life that sometimes an operation is aborted because civilians are observed entering the area intended for attack.
A story about this here:
"...in the early hours of the morning, a squadron of intelligence collecting aircraft took to the sky. Through sophisticated observation equipment and cameras the pilots were able to identify a rocket launch, and Air Force aircraft were sent to strike the area. But things didn't go as planned. 'We saw that innocent civilians were approaching the area of the underground launch site,' said Lt. Omer, a source within the intelligence squadron who took part in the operation. 'We immediately contacted the forces and instructed them to abort the strike.'"
Here you have more complete information from the IDF on how we minimize harm to civilians:
Read this and share it, it's amazing. Not only pinpoint targeting, and leaflets of warning in Arabic and phone calls warning people of strikes imminent in their area. There is also sometimes diversion of a missile on its way to strike. And there is "roof knocking": a non-lethal bomb is exploded on the roof of a building where weapons or ammunition are stored, which warns people to flee the building before the target is hit by live ammunition.
Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces testified at the UN in 2010 about IDF behavior, following Israel's last action in Gaza.
The IDF, he said, "did more to safeguard the lives of civilians in a combat zone than any other military force in history."
See and share the video of his testimony, which addresses Hamas tactics and lies.
Then there is information from the IDF on our right to defend ourselves:
Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel. This blog page provides videos of people, ostensibly "religious leaders," who incite in their sermons and provide "religious justification for unimaginable depravity."
Israel still supplies Gaza with 70% of its electric power. I have been asked by several readers why we don't just cut off that power. Legally we are within our right to do so. But it seems fairly clear to me that we refrain doing so because this would not be a pinpoint targeted action: all Gazans would suffer from that lack of electricity. And while this would be a non-lethal approach, it would open us further to accusations of being a cruel state that fosters the suffering of innocent civilians.
It should be noted that today Israel opened the Keren Shalom Crossing into Gaza to allow in humanitarian supplies. Every effort is being made to ensure that civilians are not affected by the conflict any more than absolutely necessary.
There are repeated reports of some Hamas willingness to agree to a ceasefire now. But that "willingness" -- conveyed by third parties and via the media -- carries conditions. Once again I'm seeing a demand that we stop the sea blockade of Gaza, and promise not to do targeted killings, even if we have evidence of someone who is preparing or involved in an attack.
As might be expected, PM Netanyahu dismisses out of hand any ceasefire proposal that carries conditions.
I hold my breath, with the prayer that Netanyahu will remain strong and stay the course until what needs to be done is completed. What is needed is the elimination of the Hamas capacity to attack us.
The involvement of the tough-talking Foreign Minister Lieberman is reassuring in this regard. As Likud and Yisrael Beitenu are supposed to run as a unified list in the election, Netanyahu cannot unduly cross Lieberman.
As of today, Israel has hit 1,000 targets in Gaza. There is no question but that the long-range rockets and missiles supplied by Iran have been taken out to some considerable extent. But what is evident is that they have not all been taken out yet: Today another rocket was shot at Tel Aviv.
Yesterday, the Daily Beast ran with a report, based on information from US sources only, that Netanyahu and Obama had spoken and the prime minister had assured the president that there would not be a ground incursion into Gaza unless the rocket attacks were escalated or there were serious injury to Israelis in the course of an attack.
This latter brings me close to apoplexy. For there exists the same justification for hitting in Gaza if Hamas has the capacity to cause serious injury, even if such a tragedy has not occurred (yet). That we should need to wait for it to occur before acting is unconscionable, in my opinion.
But in the end I give this report scant credence. The US does not want Israel to initiate a ground operation. Obama has made this quite clear. He speaks about supporting our right to defend ourselves, but would hesitate to give us the latitude to actually do so.
Today, at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said (emphasis added):
"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the [other] terrorist organizations, and the IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations."
And, reports Israel Hayom, "One possible sign of this were reports from Arab and international media outlets that the IDF had taken over the radio frequencies in Gaza and was broadcasting warnings to residents living near the Israel border to move away."
In addition, we have a report from the JPost today regarding suggestions from some members of Likud that Netanyahu is thinking of moving back the Likud primaries, coming soon, and possibly even the election in January, if the action in Gaza continues. This suggests some expectation that it will not be over soon.
However, Minister of Security Affairs Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) wrote on Twitter, "If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack." This bewilders me, as he seems to be pulling back and ignoring the goals of the operation.
And ahram.org reports that:
"An Israeli official landed in Cairo on Sunday for Egypt-mediated truce talks with Hamas to end the Gaza crisis, Egyptian security officials said."
True? We cannot trust the Egyptians as honest brokers. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil just visited Gaza a couple of days ago, in a show of solidarity.
But on the other hand, we have the comments at the Cabinet meeting of Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu):
"We are not yet at the point of a cease-fire. A cease-fire now would be a serious mistake. The goals of the operation must be achieved at any price, even with a ground incursion, if it can't be avoided. We can't repeat the mistakes of the past, when we stopped operations in the middle, before ensuring that we had destroyed the terrorist infrastructure and before ensuring that...they could no longer smuggle weapons. This matter requires perseverance and patience." (Emphasis added)
"Ensuring they could no longer smuggle weapons." Another related issue, which I will not address today, if at all I can yet.
And last week, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz appeared before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and told them:
"In the past year and a half, all of the combat troops have undergone training on mission-related models to prepare them for a ground operation. The sense that we are getting from the soldiers is, 'Let us in.'"
According to Israel Hayom, "It appears that senior IDF officers, among them Gantz, believe that if a diplomatic solution cannot be reached, a ground operation would be required, which according to the plan would be conducted on a larger scale than Operation Cast Lead.
"GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo said: 'We have a plan in place that is incremental in its use of force. In Gaza there is a huge arsenal of weapons and missiles, and we will have to take care of it with whatever means necessary. The Fajr missile threat has mainly been destroyed, but there could be several more here and there.'"
A few final thoughts before closing:
Hamas is using long-range rockets from Iran, and operates at the behest of Iran. Our battle here extends far beyond Gaza.
Hezbollah, which is, similarly, an Iranian proxy, is following the happenings in Gaza closely because they have critical implications for this group. They are stepping with caution at the moment and there are reports surfacing of some doubts among Hezbollah leadership as to whether targeting Israel at Iran's behest would be in its best interest.
Iran is proceeding with its nuclear development and President Obama is hoping, ludicrously, to proceed with "negotiations" with the Iranians. Something else to be visited in short order.
Please see the very supportive resolutions from the Senate and the House:
And as I write, the troops continue to amass at the Gaza border.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.