Those of us who supported the Disengagement from Gaza have had to watch over the years as Israel responded with relative silence to the ongoing Qassem rocket attacks on Israeli communities such as Sderot and others in the Western Negev. While it was wise for Israel to leave Gaza, there had to be a strong Israeli response to Palestinian attacks and the construction of strong military capabilities by Hamas. Yet, the Israelis, both under Sharon and Olmert, did little. The attacks continued and, if anything, the pressure was felt by Israel and Israelis while the Palestinians, under Hamas’s methodical leadership, continued to build their forces.
This was not a recipe for success as far as Israel was concerned. Then again, neither was attacking since it was bound to involve serious losses to IDF personnel and cause ethical concerns regarding Gaza’s civilian population which is used as a shield for Hamas, an organization that likes to emulate Hizbullah’s placement of arms and attacks inside civilian areas.
Today, after a week of watching the Palestinians use the conclusion of a flawed “cease fire” to launch dozens of rockets at Israeli communities, the Israelis finally hit back. They used the IAF to target numerous Hamas buildings and it appears that over 100 and possibly 150 Palestinians – many of them security personnel – have been killed. Another 200 have been injured.
Israel has threatened to proceed with more attacks, but nobody is naive enough to think this day will stop the Palestinians. At most it will slow them. This is, however, the best way to reach Hamas and to protect Israel: take the fight into their side and keep them on their toes by attacking anything military or security oriented in Gaza. Sending in ground forces will not be necessary at this point, although the Israelis may feel that they have to use ground forces to “clean up” the area. Israel should remember that sending troops into Gaza will prevent it from leaving again because they will have to come back in some months anyway. Better to avoid this as long as possible.
By the way, expect many media outlets to turn on Israel within the next 48 hours. Also, expect to see some “civilian” building collapse and dusty dead bodies to appear before the cameras, a lesson well learned in Lebanon where a similar event turned the tide against Israel with ferocious speed.