All peace-loving citizens should ask him or herself how they would react if their world was turned up-side down by an unprovoked, daily barrage of missiles launched from neighbouring territory with the evident purpose of maiming and killing indiscriminately. Every single missile launched from Gaza is fired with the evident intent of killing, maiming and sowing panic among a civilian Israeli population. Every single missile fired is launched with the clear objective of hitting Southern Israel’s quarter of a million citizens whose passionate dream is to live in peace and prosperity with neighbouring territories.
Missiles against Israel started to fall in earnest in January 2001 at a time when Sderot and the Western Negev fell victims to a flood of unprovoked rocket attacks from Gaza – and the world remained impassive. Over the past eight years, the international order dismally failed to bring any measure of order to the violence emanating from Gaza. Words of condemnation were sparse and far between. The feeble response of the international order served to embolden those in control in Gaza. While an apathetic United Nations donned an ostrich complex, a quarter of a million Israelis lived 24/7 in the shadow of daily rocket attacks from Gaza. The past eight years witnessed 10,000 missile attacks against Israel – and the world remained uninterested! For eight solid years, a quarter of a million Israelis, recipients of 10,000 missiles which landed in Southern Israel, wondered when the United Nations would become cognizant of their plight.
Dozens of Israelis were killed over the past eight years as a direct result of missile attacks and hundreds were injured. Damage to property and the impact on the economic life of Southern Israel is of mammoth proportions. The psychological impact of the past eight years, the strain on the young and old, the consequential syndromes which come to light in these critical circumstances have manifested themselves over the years in the civilian population of Southern Israel. Loss of hair among the young, inability to sleep and loss of appetite are some of the psychological effects of the barrage of missiles over the past eight years on a civilian Israeli population.
The election of a Hamas-led government in 2005, spear-headed a new and equally bloody onslaught on South Israel’s residents. Some 500 missiles had been launched in 2005. Their numbers jumped dramatically to 2,500 in 2007 and increased to 2,978 in 2008. Gaza has become a central hive for terrorist activities. It has also become a larder for a range of missiles; Iran-produced 122mm Grad Katyusha rockets are prevalent in Gaza. These are much more advanced than the Katyusha rockets. Katyushas are much more advanced than the Qassam and are used to hit heavily populated areas in Israel. In fact, in March 2008, a Katyusha rocket hit a shopping mall in Ashkelon wounding over 90 Israelis. Throughout the years, and despite the advanced nature of the rockets fired into Israel, the United Nations remained silent as the concerns of Southern Israel’s population grew in intensity.
Syria’s and Iran’s fingerprints are peppered over the policies embarked upon by Hamas. Both these countries offer theological inspiration and financial, logistic and material support to the Hamas government in Gaza. A number of terrorist groups prowl in Gaza, prime among these are Palestine Islamic Jihad (affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
Since 2005, Hamas has relentlessly pursued a policy of increasing the number of missile attacks against Israel; these have increased in volume and the strategy of Hamas has grown in intensity in sowing death, injury and fear among the Israeli population. Israel’s self-restraint and the growing obsessive arrogance of Hamas left Israel’s leaders with little option but to consider a military option. During December 2008, perhaps hoping that the Christmas season would camouflage the increase in missile attacks against Israel, a flood of missiles were launched from Gaza against innocent men, women and children residents of Southern Israel. On the 26th December 2008, 84 missiles fell in Southern Israel – an unprecedented number in one single day. Israel’s government tried, through diplomatic means, including the good channels of the Egyptian government, to influence Hamas to stop the barrage of missiles on Israel. Israel failed. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tsi Livni’s, statement that ‘enough was enough’ was scoffed upon by Hamas. On Friday the 27th December 2008, further missiles were lobbed into Israel. It was evident that Israel’s warnings and entreaties were falling on deaf ears. The surreal situation facing the residents of the South of Israel became untenable.
No people in the entire globe should have put up with the eight-year onslaught faced by Israelis. No people in the entire globe should ever need to face a situation of continuous missile attacks. Confronted by the reality that Hamas had embarked on a dangerous offensive, Israel resorted to military steps. Over eight years, Israel attempted to find a modus vivendi with its neighbours in Gaza. However, it was paramount that Israel showed its terrorism-inspired neighbours that the days of bully-tactics by the neighbourhood bully were over. Israel’s population has waited patiently for Hamas to put its rockets away. Au contraire, on the 19th December 2008, Hamas officially and unilaterally terminated its ceasefire with Israel. Proof of the pudding, as it’s said, is in the eating; the 84 missiles lobbed into Israel on the 26th December 2008, were proof enough that enough was enough! Israel’s military steps launched on Saturday the 27th December 2008, have their roots in the first missiles launched eight years ago and the 10,000 which have fallen since, in its wake. The patience of Israel’s population has been tested to the hilt. There was no other response than a military one because Hamas closed, tightly, all doors to a ceasefire. The reality on the ground in Southern Israel has to change. It is impossible and immoral to expect a quarter of a million innocent men, women and children to continue to live under the daily threat of missiles raining in – where the distance between life and death is, as in Sderot, a mere 15 seconds!