Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cast Lead

Palestinians surveying the wreckage

It's been a while since I posted a blog, part of the reason being a very welcome family visit. During this time, the bits of news that filtered through the family fun focussed on the growing debate over the necessity of a military operation against Hamas in Gaza. This reached a new peak on Wednesday about 80 rockets were fired into Israel . By Friday, the media were reporting that the decision had been taken to undertake a limited military operation with "defined goals". Yesterday at about 11 a.m. we started to hear 100 planes bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in a "shock and awe" opeation that came earlier than everyone expected.

You can get an idea of what Gaza looks like here. This morning there was a second air strike and the the death toll in Gaza is approaching the 300 mark. Unclear how many were civilians and how many were armed. The reports that I've heard talk of overflowing hospitals, a complete breakdown of services, panic and shock. Some people are fleeing areas near security installations.

On our side a women was killed in Netivot in a steady rain of rocket fire, about 40 falling so far today, but reaching further than before, two in Ashdod, a mere hour's drive from the rooftop. The government has authorised the mobilization of 6,500 reservists and and with mechanized vehicles moving towards Gaza there are signs that a ground offensive will also be launched.

Kids in Sderot. Some are being evacuated. They won't be going back to school on Wednesday, after the Chanuka break.

Here's a round up of international responses. Meanwhile, in the Arab world, the press in the PA, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are openly telling Hamas "we told you so..." but elsewhere there are plenty of demonstrations. In Israel too, a few thousand Arabs have been demonstrating againt the attack and Ghaled Majadle, the Arab minister for sport and culture refused to attend today's cabinet meeting.

As I happened to write in the last post, there are no easy answers when it comes to Gaza. The incessant rocket attacks are criminal enough to warrant a military response but of what kind , and to what end? This morning's Ha'aretz (doveish, highbrow) has already taken a very critical attitude towards the war and is rightly asking some probing questions.

Here's an extract from its editorial:

"But understanding is no substitute for wisdom, and the inherent desire for retribution does not necessarily have to blind us to the view from the day after. The expression "time for combat" still does not elucidate the goals of the assault. Does Israel seek to "just" send Hamas a violent, horrifying message? Is the intention to destroy the organization's military and civilian infrastructure? Perhaps the goal is far-reaching to the point of removing Hamas from power in Gaza and transferring rule to the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas? How does Israel intend to realize these goals? The aerial assault on its own, as one may recall from the Lebanon War, cannot suffice. Does the IDF plan on deploying thousands of soldiers in the streets of Gaza? And what will the number of casualties be at this stage? "

Is it possible, in view of the surprising news that the PA is fully ready to retake control of the Gaza Strip, that this is the real aim of the Operation 'Cast Lead'? All the government spokesmen are saying is that idea is to "change the security conditions", but it's far from clear what that actually means.
Zvi Barel in Ha'aretz, thought that it wasn't but couldn't see the point of fighting for what might have been achieved (he believes) through diplomacy:

"Essentially, Israel is telling Hamas it is willing to recognize its control of Gaza on the condition that it assumes responsibility for the security of the territory, like Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. It is likely that this will be the outcome of a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip if Israel decides it does not want to rule Gaza directly. Why, then, not forgo the war and agree to these conditions now?

Gideon Levy was extremely clear on whether the response was proportional:

"Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.

What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History's bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment - today nearly everyone acknowledges as much - embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term."
In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.

Here's the entire piece.
to be continued and continued and continued...

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