Gaza: Qassam attacks had to be answered
Israel has the unimpeachable right to defend its citizens in the firing line. To demand that it should refrain from doing so is callous and cruel
The weakest weapon in the arsenal of those condemning Israel for attacking Gaza is the 'Qassams are harmless' canard. Granted, thousands of incoming rockets have only caused a handful of deaths since they began falling, but the psychological impact of the barrage has left an entire region paralysed with fear.
Visiting Sderot is like wandering through a ghost town. This is the Israeli town that has born the brunt of the Qassam onslaught, thanks to its location less than a mile from the Gaza border. To date, over 7,000 rockets have rained down upon Sderot. The result is boarded-up shops, deserted streets and a sense of impending doom etched on the faces of all who live here.
In terms of abject fear, nothing I experienced during my 15 months of active combat duty in the Israeli military (throughout the West Bank and on the Lebanese border) compared with my last visit to Sderot. Missiles rained down indiscriminately on schools, homes, parks and gardens.
Israel's citizens demand - rightly - that their elected officials take care of their security, as in any other country. Whilst Israel's behaviour towards the Palestinians is reprehensible at best, and criminal at worst, in the context of the here-and-now the collapsing ceasefire and resumption of Qassam attacks left Israel's government with little choice than to act, and act swiftly.
No sane or rational Israeli wishes to see Gazans suffer any more than they wish harm on the residents of Sderot. But, given Hamas's predilection for using Gaza's civilians as human shields, launching rockets from heavily populated towns and cities, taking action to stem the flow of Qassam fire was inevitably going to lead to civilians being caught in the crossfire.
Israel has the unimpeachable right to defend its citizens in the firing line. To demand that it should refrain from doing so is a callous and cruel way to dismiss the suffering of thousands of civilians in the south of the country. Just as Israel is wrong to occupy the West Bank for decades and ensnare 1.5m Gazans within what is essentially a vast prison, so is it wrong for Hamas to collectively punish the citizens of Sderot, Netivot and Ashkelon as a way of sending a message to the Israeli government.
Sderot’s residents deserve just as much protection as those of Gazans
In the long term, only fair and honest negotiations will bring a lasting peace to the region. However, in the immediate term, the lives of Sderot's residents deserve just as much protection as those of Gazans, Jerusalemites, or anyone else. Allowing Hamas to fire indiscriminately at Israeli towns should not, and cannot, be tolerated. International law recognises Hamas's actions as a war crime, regardless of who is wrong or right in the bigger picture.
Too many people play the numbers game, suggesting that things aren't anywhere near as bad in Sderot as they are in Gaza because fewer people are dying violent deaths. But that view is myopic, as well as unhelpful in terms of solving the crisis.
Whatever the casualty figures, the residents of southern Israel have been forced to suffer in silence, and raise an entire generation of children whose only experience of Palestinians is terror and hate. They deserve as much sympathy as those trapped inside besieged Gaza, because they no more deserve to be victims than any other civilians caught up in the conflict. ·
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