A surfeit of news and information. But this must come first:
On Thursday night, Ronen Lubarsky, a fighter in the IDF’s elite Duvdevan Unit, was involved in a routine military operation outside of Ramallah – arresting members of a terror cell that had carried out shooting attacks against civilians. The IDF had intelligence that the cell was planning another attack.
One Arab – believed to be a member of that cell – threw (from the height of a tall building!) a chunk of marble at Lubarsky’s head with such force that it crushed the soldier’s helmet.
The solider, who was from a family of combat soldiers, lay in the hospital, unconscious and in critical condition, for two days.
On Saturday, Ronen Lubarsky passed away. He was 20 years old.
His funeral was held in the early hours Sunday morning at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.
I have written this so many times before, without comprehending it, but write it again here: the finest are taken. At the funeral, his commander said, “You were one of the best soldiers in the unit.”
President Ruby Rivlin released a statement (emphasis added):
“…I want to offer strength also to the wonderful fighters and commanders of his unit, the best of our young men, who go out every night on operations which ensure we are able to carry on our day-to-day lives in safety. We feel the pain of the family and of the unit and have them in our hearts.
“May Ronen’s memory be for a blessing.”
To this I say, Amen. I am glad Rivlin mentioned the unit: it’s easy to forget what these special soldiers do for us, so that we can go about our business during the day.
The terrorist who threw the marble slab has not yet been caught, to the best of knowledge. He will be. The IDF entered the al-Am’ari refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah, on Monday night, during an operation to seek him out. This resulted in a clash between residents and the IDF.
There were 5,000 at the Gaza fence last Friday, which seems to indicate that the worst of the violence there has dissipated for now. This does NOT mean we are home free with regard to Gaza (as you will read below).
Prof. Hillel Frisch, assessing what has taken place these past weeks at the fence concluded (emphasis added):
“The scoresheet is heavily set against Hamas, which spent a great deal of blood and treasure on the campaign,” but has very little to show for it now.
“The organization’s biggest failure was its inability to ignite the Arab residents of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority…To the despair of Hamas, the six weeks from the beginning of the campaign in late March through Nakba Day on May 15 were relatively quiet in Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
A major media site, al-Quds, summarized the situation: “’Gaza is preparing for demonstrations this Friday.’ In other words, Gaza was preparing – not the West Bank.
“…the ‘March of Return’ campaign deepened the divide that has existed between the two populations ever since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007.
“This divide is a major boon to Israel.”
Frisch does not allude to this specifically, but one goal of the violence was believed to be an attempt by Hamas to prove itself the leader of the Palestinian Arabs, and clearly this failed.
What Frisch does say is that Hamas failed in its goal of dividing Israelis along political lines: “a march…that demanded the return of refugees to Ashkelon (Majdal), Beersheva, and Jaffa clearly had the opposite effect on the Israeli public…Israeli hearts rallied together behind the IDF’s tough policy of zero tolerance for breaching the fence.”
But what of the verbal and written attacks – incited by Hamas – that have been emanating from a good part of the international community?
We will weather these, perhaps in the process having learned a few lessons regarding how much to expect from others and how to best make our case. The worst thing we could do would be to weaken under international demands, in order to appease and please.
One of the accusations frequently made against Israel – in particular by the EU – is that we use “disproportionate” force.
Anyone who says this is promoting the totally erroneous premise that because 100 of our soldiers were not killed we cannot justify having killed 100 of the rioters.
Of course, with its use of civilian human shields, Hamas deliberately sets up this imbalance in casualties. But beyond this is the fact that from a legal perspective “proportionality” is not about having a roughly equivalent number dead on each side.
International lawyer Alan Baker has addressed this issue and what he says is important to internalize and keep as reference (emphasis added):
In making their charges, says Baker, European leaders “did not bother to indulge themselves in ascertaining the facts of the situation.”
Baker tells us that the principle of proportionality is that “Loss of life and damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained…”
In other words, it is understood that there may be incidental death of civilians in the course of taking a legitimate military action. There is no charge of disproportionality unless the number of civilians killed was in excess of what was necessary to achieve the desired military advantage.
If, for example, the IDF – which would never do this! – had decided to drop bombs on the entire crowd of 50,000 people gathered not far from the fence, that would have achieved the military goal of keeping people from breaking through the fence, but would have been a disproportionate response, as it would have been possible to achieve the same military goal while killing many, many fewer people.
How many Israelis were or were not killed is irrelevant.
“Faced with the widely publicized appeals and incitement directed by Hamas to Palestinian civilians to charge the fence and to attack and kill Israeli soldiers and civilians, Israel was duty-bound to view the protests as potentially violent, and thus to prevent the anticipated violation of the border fence and danger of violent infiltration into sovereign Israeli territory.
“In the course of doing so, Israel’s soldiers guarding the fence, under strict orders to engage only those violating the fence with explosive devices and attempting to infiltrate, found it necessary to direct fire against Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives actively attacking and infiltrating the border fence…
“It was routine border protection by a sovereign state, from within its sovereign territory, facing a blatant threat of border violation by violent elements on the other side of the line.”
The IDF certainly has no regrets about the force used at the fence (emphasis added).
Said one senior commander:
“Was there an option where we could stop them cutting the fence and coming into Israel without using a lethal weapon? The answer is no. They have a hard and deep hatred of Israel and if they came into Israel I think there is no question of what they are going to do.”
A major described a confrontation when the crowd surged in front of the fence:
“They started shooting on our positions. Militants opened fire with handguns and Kalashnikov rifles from a Hamas outpost…
“One Druze infantry battalion commander said the men under his command had 20 explosives – grenades, Molotov cocktails, improvised bombs – thrown at them each week of the protests.”
While at the fence it is a bit quieter, in other regards matters in the south are seriously heating up:
On Sunday, the IDF announced that a drone armed with explosives had been launched from the northern part of Gaza last week and landed in Sha’ar Hanegev region. This was worrisome.
Then, on Monday, two Palestinian Arabs from Gaza, armed with knives, wire cutters and flammable material, were caught trying to break through the fence. As the IDF moved to arrest the Arabs, they were fired upon from a nearby Hamas post. In response, the IDF shelled the post, killing one Gazan and wounding another.
Following this incident, Israeli forces shelled targets in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza.
In the evening, several homes and cars in Sderot were hit by machine gun fire from Gaza.
Then at 7 AM this morning (Tuesday), terrorists in Gaza shot a barrage of 28 mortar shells into southern Israel. This is the largest salvo that has been fired since Protective Edge in 2014.
Most of the shells were intercepted by Iron Dome. A handful landed in open areas in the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Councils. A resident of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha sustained minor injuries. One mortar landed next to a kindergarten in the Eshkol Region:
Thankfully, there were no children there yet and a tragedy was averted.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, but Israel holds Hamas, which controls Gaza, responsible.
A meeting of the Security Cabinet was held with regard to this situation. Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that, “Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to harm it.”
Mid-afternoon today, Israel struck 35 targets in Gaza:
An IDF spokesperson confirmed that the Israel Air Force struck 35 terrorist targets in seven terrorist compounds belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Targets included attacked, including weapons storage sites, naval targets and terrorist headquarters.
A Hamas terror tunnel was also destroyed. This was a tunnel that originated in the Gaza Strip, near Kerem Shalom crossing, and moved into Egypt, and then turned around to enter Israeli territory. (A tunnel with a similar path had been destroyed not so long ago.)
Not long after this attack, there was a second attack from Gaza, consisting of additional mortars and dozens of rockets.
Rockets penetrated 25 kilometers inside Israeli territory for the first time since the 2014 war with Hamas. Some of the second barrage reached Ofakim, 20 kilometers west of Beersheba. Other rockets headed towards Ashkelon and neighboring communities such as Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.
Most of the rockets are being taken down by the Iron Dome. There are reports of sirens sounding in first one community and then another, in the area near Gaza. Residents are being told to stay close to shelters. Residents of communities close to the Gaza border have 15 seconds (!) to get to a shelter after the siren sounds.
There have been a few reports of injuries caused by shrapnel from rockets, including injury of three soldiers.
After what we’ve been dealing with at the fence for weeks, I think Israelis will have very little patience with any of this now.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reportedly said on Tuesday that Israel must be prepared to take over the Gaza Strip as part of an effort to topple Hamas.
This is not going to happen, nor do I think it should happen. Being responsible for close to two million hostile and volatile Arabs is not something we would want to consider.
However, toppling Hamas might be something else. In any event, Shaked’s remark is likely an indicator of the current mood.
It’s all speculation at this point. We might (or might not) be on the edge of changes, on the edge of war. Defense Minister Lieberman once said that if we go to war with Hamas again, he will not leave them standing.
What is gratifying is that international opinion seems to be solidly with Israel today. It’s not just US Envoy Jason Greenblatt, from whom we would expect this: “Hamas has failed,” he tweeted, “all it can offer is terror.”
Even the Irish foreign minister condemned the Hamas rockets. And envoys of both the EU and the UN have condemned “indiscriminate” attack on Israel. They seemed to be particularly shaken, as indeed they should be, by the mortar that fell in the yard of a kindergarten very shortly before the children were due to arrive.
Could it be that at long last they are getting it??? Hamas’s clearly offensive action against Israeli civilians has perhaps fatally undercut the image that they have sought to foster: innocent, peaceful Gazan demonstrators set upon by aggressive Israelis.
Yair Lapid, Chair of Yesh Atid, tweeted: “Good to see the world condemn today’s terror attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians. Now our friends and allies need to translate their condemnations into unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself and act against the terrorism of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.”
Lieberman has warned that the attacks from Gaza may intensify with nightfall.
I am going to leave off writing and send this out, and follow through tomorrow as appropriate.
The irony is that things are actually improving in our north. While I had hoped to write about this today, it was not possible.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.