When last I posted, I spoke about the murder by a Hamas terrorist of Aviv Levi, an IDF soldier who was at the Gaza fence when he was shot in the chest by a sniper.
I said then that the weapon used was an Iranian copy of the metal-piercing Austrian Steyr rifle and that the ceramic bullet-proof vest Aviv was wearing was not sufficient to protect him.
Now I have learned that it likely that this was a genuine Austrian weapon that had been smuggled via Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and that Hamas has had these weapons since at least August 2014. That is when Hamas put out a video bragging about them.
I had thought it a recent addition to the Hamas arsenal, but I was mistaken.
This weapon is so powerful it can be shot accurately from one-and a-half kilometers away (which means the sniper was not necessarily right behind the rioters at the fence). Its bullet is extremely large, and it could probably go through the side of a jeep.
THIS is the weapon that was aimed at Aviv’s chest. He didn’t have a chance, which is precisely what Hamas wanted. This was their “victory.”
I cannot consider this scenario with equanimity.
I asked in my last posting, “How much do we tolerate?” In light of what I now understand, I ask it again here.
Since at least 2014, the IDF has been aware of the fact that this weapon was in the possession of Hamas. But as there had been no sign of it during all of the riots at the fence, it was not anticipated that it would be used on Friday. I wrote about a lethal escalation, but I was even more correct than I realized.
I do not fault the IDF for not having anticipated what happened to Aviv.
But I do fault our government for what seems to me, on analysis, an inadequate response. Yes, we shot up a whole bunch of terrorist sites – infrastructure, and weapons cache, etc. etc. But, in light of that escalation, it was not enough.
What is more, the ceasefire was accepted too quickly. Yes, I know, Egypt and others were pressuring us. Yet I suggest more was needed. Hamas must know that if they ever, ever utilize that weapon against our soldiers again, their heads will be summarily blown off.
I have written a great deal about the constraints of launching an all-out war in Gaza now. I remain mindful of these concerns:
There is a need to have troops and resources at the ready, should matters heat up in the north; the situation remains unstable there, with no certainty about moving Iran out of Syria. (I will be doing a good deal of follow-up on this.)
And there is concern regarding how to handle Gaza if we take down Hamas. Concern about attempts by ISIS, in the Sinai, to take over, and perhaps about international pressure to allow the PA to take over, which would also be a disaster.
There is little eagerness in Israel for us to contend now with 1.8 million hostile Gazan Arabs. This does not mean we could not, should that become the best option.
But I have also written repeatedly about the need to act, to not be passive in the face of aggression. And that is my focus here: That question of how much we tolerate.
Today Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met at IDF headquarters, the Kirya, with top IDF brass.
Now he said (emphasis added):
“Is the State of Israel interested in a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip? The answer is no. Are we deterred from [starting] a campaign in the Gaza Strip? Here too, the answer is no.”
Israel would not continue to tolerate fires, kites and border clashes, he declared. Israel had “done everything in order to prevent a war in the Gaza Strip.
“Anything that happens going forward in the Gaza Strip is the sole responsibility of the Hamas leadership.”
I am not sure what message is given by the statement that we have done everything to prevent war, and I wonder for whom this was intended. The international community?
But if Lieberman truly means it, when he speaks about zero tolerance for further aggression, whatever its form, then we will be doing all right.
The Kerem Shalom crossing was supposed to open again tomorrow, as long as everything was quiet. But that opening has been postponed because, once again, it is not quiet:
Hamas has started again to launch incendiary kites and balloons. There were incidents both on Sunday and today, Monday, with Israel shooting at (but apparently not hitting) balloon launching cells. This in spite of an apparent promise by Hamas to refrain from doing this any longer.
Are we going to slip back to a half-way process of simply shooting at or near the launchers? Or at some point soon will we decide we’ve had enough?
Two additional thoughts here.
In light of the concerns I have outlined above, it is possible that our decision makers would prefer that Hamas remain in power in Gaza, as long as it is a chastened, subdued, deterred Hamas. Better than ISIS there, or the PA, better than our inheriting momentous problems. The trick then is to make reasonably certain that it is a chastened, deterred Hamas. And when we observe how they have been behaving, it becomes clear that they are not about to be chastened readily.
On the other hand, it may have been decided that if we do go to war in Gaza, this time we will see it to its end – taking down Hamas. There has been weariness with doing the same thing every few years, going to war yet again once our deterrence weakens. What is more, Lieberman made a statement when he assumed his current position: He said that the next time we went to war with Hamas we would not stop until it was finished. If he means this, he might want to be very certain that we are prepared to see it through before starting.
Ending on an up note:
In my last posting, as well, I wrote about our part in rescuing the White Helmets, the humanitarian workers in Syria who were at serious risk from the Syrian government.
Now I simply want to share a quote in this regard, which touched me and made me proud. This is from an IDF officer involved with the project (emphasis added):
“There’s no doubt that it was an emotional position to be in yesterday, to stand on the border fence and accept the families, mostly women and children.
“The families crossed [the fence], at first apprehensively, but once they reached the border, their eyes twinkled from happiness with the knowledge that they’d gotten their lives back. I am happy to be an officer in an army and in a country that is carrying out this mission and expressing the values of humaneness and compassion.”
For the record, the number of 800 rescued, which was provided yesterday, was in error. It was 422. There are an equal number still in Syria and frightened for their lives.
The fact that the Assad regime has now angrily referred to the rescue as a criminal operation is an indication that concern for the While Helmets is well placed. He is angry that they have slipped beyond his murderous grasp.
Other issues will be explored soon – so many issues! I am eager to get this to my readers.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.