Nope, these Palestinians didn’t attack civilians. They were also successful in their attack.
Palestinian fighters from three groups including Hamas, by using a fairly deep tunnel, attacked an Israeli military post at Kerem Shalom. Once out of the ground, they attacked a tank, a military vehicle and the post itself. I’m sure we’ll know more in the next couple of days. Two of the Palestinian fighters (yes, I use this word because they attacked soldiers, not civilians) were killed, but more important, so were two Israeli soldiers. Four others Israeli soldiers are injured, including one critically. One soldier is apparently missing and probably kidnapped – the remaining Palestinians fled back into Gaza through the tunnel.
The mistake Israel is making as I write is that it is sending ground forces into Gaza in large numbers for the first time since the Disengagement. This is a clear victory for the Palestinians and a clear error for Israel. Yes, in my opinion. Unless they can extricate this soldier, they are falling into a Palestinian trap.
The Israelis have been out of Gaza for over a year. In that time, Israel has experienced a handful of deaths and injured at the hands of the Gazan Palestinians. Over 1000 Qassem rockets have been launched at civilian targets inside Israel, that is true, but they have missed the mark more often than not and Israeli casualties are low. The effort Israel has had to make to protect Gaza is much smaller than having the army inside of Gaza, and the cost is lower as well.
The Palestinians were and are well aware that Israel was washing its hands of this area and its Palestinians. This is precisely why they have launched all these rockets into Israel, so as not to be dismissed. It is crucial for them to be noticed and for Gaza to be identified as part of the same struggle as Judea and Samaria/ West Bank. Bringing Israel back into conflict with Gaza is a trap that is intended to lock up Israeli resources, create the same type of propaganda war that worked so effectively in the past against Israel, but mostly to link up Gaza with the Palestinians to the east.
Israel has stood fast and played the game well. They have stayed out of Gaza and used targeted killings to control those who launch the rockets. While there has been mixed success in terms of stopping the Qassems, there has been plenty of success hitting terrorists and for the most part the international community has accepted this status quo and sympathized with or at least understood Israel’s position. Israel was able to keep the moral high ground. Of course, the cost was to Sderot residents who have been receiving the brunt of the Qassem attacks and it has been a dangerous and emotionally draining period for them where they cannot send their kids to school, for example, without fear of not seeing them again.
Despite Sderot’s problems, Israel should stay out of the Palestinians’ trap and away from Gaza. It’s not as if the Palestinians weren’t expecting this response. On the contrary, it is what they sought and craved, and now Gaza is linked into the conflict again. Israel could, instead, remain outside of Gaza and use their air power to target Hamas leaders, Fatah leaders and any Palestinian who had a connection with this attack. Their new leaders will know better than to attack Israel in the future, Israel will maintain the upper hand in the international arena, and Gaza will find itself becoming more and more distant from Judea and Samaria. This would be to Israel’s advantage.
Make no mistake, one of the best things about leaving Gaza is that the Palestinians can no longer blame the “occupation” for everything bad that happens over there. By attacking today, they declared openly that this is a war. Israel should fight this as if it’s a war. It should fight to win. But winning, in this case, is by attacking their leaders, fighters and terrorists, not by re-occupying Gaza. That’s what the Palestinians want and it’s a trap for Israel.
My condolences to the families of the soldiers who were killed. We already know that the Palestinians will demand the release of a significant number of their prisoners if they did indeed capture an Israeli soldier in order to return him alive. Past experience with this shows the Israelis are usually flexible and open to making these deals.
By the way, a small note. The AP had this story covered at least 2 hours before the Israeli papers came out with correct information. I assumed the AP’s story was mistaken about the dead and kidnapped Israelis, but it turned out they were in the loop while the Israeli papers delayed their story. The name of the AP reporter was an Israeli name, Yaniv Zohar. AP also reports that Israel had warnings last week of a pending attack in this area. I guess nobody thought to look for a tunnel.
(map source is Jerusalem Post)