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Israeli Conflict with Hamas Brings Grim Reality of Terror Home

Only fractions of a second mark the difference between life and death.

Israeli Conflict with Hamas Brings Grim Reality of Terror Home

Benjamin Weinthal
18th November 2012 - New York Daily News

TEL AVIV — The explosion rang out high above the office where I was working.

On a Saturday morning when most of the world was resting, or waking up to coffee and cartoons, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a Fajr-5 rocket Hamas had fired into this coastal city.

And for the first time, Hamas’ rockets are now landing on the outskirts of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, bringing the grim reality of life under terrorism to the country’s largest metropolis.

Adele Raemer, a resident in southern Israel and teacher, has almost gotten used to it. Raemer, who lives on a kibbutz little more than a mile from the border of the Gaza Strip, wrote as a CNN iReporter about her daily routine: “The time that we have to respond to the ‘Red Alert’ warning is less than 15 seconds.”

That is, provided any warning comes. With shorter-range missiles, no early warnings are possible. Only fractions of a second mark the difference between life and death.

To their credit, President Obama and top European officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, have unequivocally blamed Hamas for launching an unrelenting campaign of rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population. But none of them noted the extent to which Hamas and Iran are cooperating to attack Israelis and destabilize the Middle East.

Just last month, the Israeli Air Force is believed to have destroyed a cache of Fajr-5 rockets and other military hardware at an Iranian facility deep inside Sudan. Intelligence suggested the weaponry was en route to Gaza.

Unlike the earlier, less sophisticated rockets used by Hamas, the Fajr-5 has a range of 46 miles — placing in the crosshairs not just important cities like Ashkelon, Israel’s main energy hub, but also the densely populated urban areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Hamas launched over 130 rockets into Israel over nearly five days before the Israelis responded. Since the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) retaliated with Operation Pillar of Defense five days ago, Hamas has launched more than 800 additional rockets, including 10 targeting Tel Aviv and two targeting Jerusalem. The Iranian-made rockets have rained down on Israel’s southern cities, killing three Israelis, wounding scores more, and bringing life to a standstill.

On Wednesday, the IDF killed Hamas’ military chief, Ahmed Al-Jabari, in a targeted air strike in Gaza. Jabari, who masterminded the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, oversaw Hamas’ arrangement to procure weapons from the Iranians, and likely directed the latest round of rocket attacks.

In order to confront Hamas’ latest attempt to throw a wrench into an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the U.S. and its allies will have to put a stop to Iran’s nefarious activities. That effort should include a move toward a full economic embargo of Iran, excluding only medical and other humanitarian relief.

Obama deserves credit for supporting Israel’s Iron Dome system, and ensuring that Congress authorized an additional $205 million to expand it in 2010. That investment has undoubtedly saved lives, and technological cooperation with the Israelis has surely paid dividends for the United States.

In the coming days, U.S.-Israeli relations will face a test. Will Obama continue to stand by if Israel rolls tanks and ground troops into Gaza to attack Hamas’ leaders and degrade their rocket capabilities further?

Will he see to it that his European allies have his back as he supports Israel’s efforts to defeat the terrorists who are attacking it?

If terrorists in Gaza can get weapons effective enough to strike Israel’s largest cities, the stakes have risen dramatically. And as long as those weapons continue to land near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel has no choice but to respond.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Tags

gaza, hamas, idf, israel, palestinians, pillar-of-defense