Gaza Rockets Fire Deep into Israel

Since Friday, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza have unleashed a new wave of rockets at Israeli population centers in the south of the country, injuring civilians and disrupting normal life for almost 1 million people.

This Leadership Action Network Alert provides up to date information on this critical situation as well as some historical perspective on Hamas and Gaza.

Talking Points:

1.       Over 210 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel over the past three days, targeting as many as one million civilians (15% of the Israeli population). Rockets reached past Ashdod to Gedera, about 20 miles south of Tel Aviv.  Today alone, 47 rockets exploded in Israeli territory and 13 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system which protects populated areas in the target zone.

2.       Schools in southern Israel have remained closed since Sunday in an attempt to protect children and civilians, and 200,000 children are today huddled in shelters rather than in school.  The preemptive action of closing schools saved many lives at an elementary school in Beer Sheva and at a preschool in Ashkol that were hit with Grad missiles on Sunday and today. Grad missiles are much more accurate and destructive than Kassam rockets.  The Grad missiles come via Sinai.

3.       While Israel’s Iron Dome mobile air defense system has a 90% success rate, Israelis have been injured in these missile attacks and a million people’s lives have been disrupted.   It costs about $20,000 each time the Iron Dome is deployed.  Israeli government officials clearly state that cost is not a factor in protecting the lives of the Israeli people.

4.       Israel reacted with carefully targeted responses. Of 44 strikes, 18 struck high trajectory missiles and 15 hit weapons facilities. The balance hit terrorists carrying out or supplying planned attacks.

5.       Friday’s elevated activity began after the Israeli Air Force targeted  and killed two members of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), a terror organization funded and supported by Hamas and based in Gaza.  The PRC was thought to be planning a terror attack that was to take place via Sinai in the coming days.  Ahmed Karsi, a senior operative and political commander, was one of the leaders that planned, funded and directed the combined terror attack that took place near the resort town of Eilat last August.   The infamous attacks included ambushing a bus going to Eilat and bombing a passenger car leaving two couples murdered leaving Eilat.  A total of 8 Israelis were murdered and 40 were injured on that day. The PRC was also responsible for firing rockets into Israel and attacking the Nahal Oz fuel terminal in which Israeli citizens were murdered.

6.       The Israeli government considers “Hamas responsible for all of the terrorist activity in Gaza, and demands that it carry out its responsibility.”   Hamas is funded, supported and trained by Iran.  According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Iran provides Hamas “significant support, which some diplomats say could amount to $20 million to $30 million per year.”  The latest dangerous developments could also be seen as an attempt by Iran to divert the world’s focus off  their nuclear ambitions.

7.       Since the fall of Mubarak’s government in 2011, Hamas has been able to smuggle advanced weapons into Gaza with the help of the Bedouins who control much of the Sinai.  “We have smuggled thousands of shoulder-launched (surface-to-air) SAM missiles to Gaza through the tunnels for a transporting fee only, “a Bedouin tribal leader told CNN.   According to the same report, large stockpiles of RPGs, machine and anti-aircraft guns are also being held by the Bedouins to fight the Egyptians whom they have accused of committing treason.   According to military sources, it is only a matter of time before Hamas escalates the war on Israel with missiles that can reach Tel-Aviv.

8.       In a 2009 New York Times article, it was reported that, “…even Israel’s critics agree that Hamas’ regular use of rockets to fire at civilians in Israel, and its use of civilians as shields in Gaza, are also violations of the rules of war.  Israeli military men and analysts say that its urban guerrilla tactics, including the widespread use of civilian structures and tunnels, are deliberate and come from the Iranian Army’s tactical training and the lessons of the 2006 war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

9.       Since the 2005 withdrawal, the almost daily rocket attacks from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians have not only reached as far north as Rehovot, just 12 miles south of Tel Aviv, but have resulted in thousands injured and numerous deaths.  In 2011, there was an average of two rockets a day terrorizing Israeli civilians.  Many attacks deliberately target children in kindergartens and school buses.  The constant attacks have caused long term psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with children particularly affected.  According to the Palmer Report, paragraph 71, “…The enormity of the psychological toll on the affected population cannot be underestimated….The purpose of these acts of violence, which have been repeatedly condemned by the international community, has been to do damage to the population of Israel.”

10.       Hamas’ arms caches are deliberately hidden in civilian homes, schools, and heavily populated areas to create a moral dilemma for the Israel Defense Forces. During the 2008 Operation Cast Lead operation, Hamas officials called upon Palestinian civilians, including children, to congregate near buildings that contained military units, bombs and/or rockets.  Prior to striking, the Israeli Air Force dropped leaflets warning of coming attacks, losing the element of surprise and possibly putting themselves at risk in order to save innocent lives.  The Israeli military also made hundreds of thousands of phone calls to warn civilians of strikes near or targeting their homes where terrorists had taken refuge.   The Israel Defense Forces operate in a strategic manner in order to target terrorists while minimizing collateral damage.

11.     Hamas, a militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, violently wrested control of Gaza from the PA in 2007. In addition to the United States, many nations have classified Hamas as a terrorist organization, including the United Kingdom, the E.U., Japan, Canada and Israel.  Jordan banned Hamas in 1999.

12.     Contrary to media reports, Hamas recognizes that Gaza is not occupied by Israel.  On January 3, 2012, in response to Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal’s statement that Hamas will demonstrate against Israel, Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said,  “Against whom could we demonstrate in the Gaza Strip?…when Gaza was occupied, that model was applicable.”

13.     Hamas continues to refuse to recognize the state of Israel.  According to MEMRI, in a public address delivered by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV in December 2011, Haniya reiterated, “The principles [of Hamas] are definitive and non-negotiable:  Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.  There will be no concession of a single inch of the land of Palestine.”   This clearly targets the elimination of the State of Israel.

CALL TO ACTION:

Make everyone aware that firing missiles from Gaza at innocent civilians, particularly defenseless children CANNOT CONTINUE AND MUST BE CONDEMNED BY ALL.  No Government can tolerate such acts against its people and the Israeli government is no exception.  Tell them that Hamas is funded and supported by Iran.  Iran’s continuing export of terror is yet another reason why a nuclear Iran is unacceptable not just for Israel, but for the entire region and the world at large.

Write to your Senators, Congressman, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of  State to urge them to condemn the actions of Hamas against innocent civilians.

Additional Facts:

Despite some elements of strong opposition in the country, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in December 2005, leaving the Palestinian Authority in control and uprooting over 8,000 Israeli residents, many of whom still don’t have permanent housing inside Israel.  The goal of the disengagement was expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he said, “[that] the Palestinians would take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue.”

Immediately following the Israeli withdrawal, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement approving the destruction of the empty synagogues by his government.  Established greenhouses that were expected to generate revenues of over $50 million a year and create over 3,000 new jobs for Gazans were financed by outside donors like former World Bank President James Wolfensohn but many were looted and destroyed by Palestinian mobs.

The Gazan economy is growing.  According to the World Bank, growth in Gaza during the first half of 2011 was 28%.  There was a luxury mall and a luxury hotel opened in Gaza last year.  According to a report in The Guardian, one Gazan construction engineer was quoted saying, “I have so many offers; I can’t even look at them. I’m too busy.”

“[There] is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza…if you go to the supermarket, there are products.  There are restaurants and a nice beach,” said Mathilde Redmatn, Deputy Director of the International Red Cross in April 2011.  In fact, thousands of tons of aid enter Gaza via Israel every week.  For instance, during the week of February 12th, 2012, over 20,000 tons of goods entered Gaza.  The U.N. Secretary-General’s envoy to the Middle East and the Palmer Report have confirmed that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  It is important to note that Israel does not currently have Gaza under blockade and that Gaza has a border with Egypt.  In contrast to Israel’s position, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced in 2010 “Egypt will no longer allow convoys [bound for Gaza], regardless of their origin or who is organizing them, from crossing its territory.

Currently, Israel allows all goods of a civilian nature to enter Gaza via established land corridors, with the exception of arms, weapons, war materials, and certain items that can have both military and civilian applications[i]. In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, over 190,000 tons of supplies entered Gaza through Israel. These supplies included but were not limited to food, water, medicines, hygiene products, clothing, and school supplies.

Hamas suppresses free speech in Gaza and Palestinians who dare to speak about Hamas’ human rights abuses put themselves at risk.  This past January, Mahmoud Abu Rahma, International Relations Director at the Gaza based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, was stabbed multiple times.  Rahma had been receiving threats since his article, “The Gap Between Resistance and Governance” was published. Palestinian journalists in Gaza believe Hamas militiamen were responsible for the attack.

The Hamas charter is awash with anti-Semitism. Here are a few selected excerpts:

  • “The time of judgment shall not not come until Muslims fight the Jews [and kill them] so that the Jews hide behind and trees and stones and each tree and stone will say: O Muslim! there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” —Article 7
  • “The Nazism of the Jews targeted both women and children. The terror they spread is directed at everyone. They fight people by destroying their livelihood, stealing their money and trampling their dignity. Their horrible treatment of people is like that of the worst war criminals.“ —Article 20