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Update – 31 October 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 31 October at 4:36pm:

Last Wednesday, after a short period of relative calm in Israel’s south, a Grad rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza landed in an open area between Ashdod and Gadera. The “Code Red” siren went off in many communities including Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Rehovot, Ness Ziona and Gan Yavne (see more).

Over the weekend, more than 30 mortars and rockets were fired into Israel. On Saturday, 56 year-old Moshe Ami of Ashkelon died when shrapnel hit his car.

Some one million Israelis living in the South went to sleep on Saturday night to the sound of Code Red sirens going off. Classes were cancelled in Ashdod, Ashkelon and other towns in the 40-kilometer range from Gaza. The first day of semester for Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva was also called off on Sunday.

At this stage, the much of the media was (predictably) not interested in the story.

Finally, the Israeli Air Force began attacking various cells of terrorists preparing to fire more long-range missiles into Israel and at least nine terrorists were killed. The terrorist group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks and on Saturday night they released footage showing their people (oddly enough called “militants” by some and “terrorists” by others) firing rockets from a portable rocket launcher which installed on the back of a pick-up truck (see more). This method has not been used in Gaza before, though it was a “popular” method employed by Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

In a special Cabinet session on Sunday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel’s defence policy was based on two principles: “Kill or be killed” and “He who harms you should bear the blood on his head”. He continued, “I suggest Hamas, Jihad and other organisations not test our determination to actualise the two principles I have described here… we will harm every attempt to fire against Israel and anyone who fires anyway. We are not tempestuous and we do not want things to deteriorate, but we will defend Israel’s citizens determinedly, aggressively and effectively” (see more).

At around that time, an Islamic Jihad spokesman stated, “We have the capabilities and intend to extend the cycle and range of the fire so that includes new settlements and cities deep inside Israel” (see more).

The European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying that she was “very concerned at the renewed exchange of fire in Gaza Strip and the South of Israel following the firing of rockets of Islamic Jihad from Gaza into Israel”. She continued, “I wholeheartedly condemn the indiscriminate targeting of civilians where ever they are. I call on all sides to respect the ceasefire brokered by Egypt” (see more).

It is good to hear Ms. Ashton condemning the targeting of civilians because unlike Islamic Jihad, the Israeli Air Force has been specifically targeting terrorists. Even Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Palestinian press have admitted that all casualties have been “Palestinian fighters” (read: terrorists). What a pity Ashton fails to make the distinction between the actions of the terrorists and those of the IDF?

While Hamas rules Gaza, it seems to have not played an overt role in the current flare up. Please read this analysis, which outlines why it is not in their interest to enter into a conflict with Israel, given its close relationship with Egypt and their worry that any escalation may harm the second part of the Shalit deal and the release of 550 more prisoners. Please also read this analysis on the increasing threat of terror groups such as Islamic Jihad.

Despite the attacks on Israeli civilians, Israel continues to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza. Last week 1,285 truckloads crossed over from Israel into Gaza carrying 34,657 tons of goods (see more).  While the Kerem Shalom border crossing was closed on Sunday due to the attacks, security officials have announced that it would reopen today (see more).

Honest Reporting has produced a “Cheat Sheet” for the way that the media has reported on this latest round of attacks on Israel which you can find here. On a local level, Today’s Age had a small article from the New York Times which states that Israeli drones fired two missiles “at a training site situated on dunes in a former Jewish settlement near the city of Rafah” (see more). I am sure neither the author of this article, nor the publication that reproduced it, realised the not so subtle irony that a former Jewish settlement is now a training camp for terrorists.

On another note Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave a rare, candid interview on Friday on Israel’s Channel 2 where he discussed Arab refusal to accept the UN Partition Plan back in 1947. He declared, “It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole”. He continued, “But do they [the Israelis] punish us for this mistake 64 years?” (see more). It is a very interesting admission to make given the refusal of many Arab leaders to admit that things could have turned out very differently had the Arabs accepted the plan. Not surprisingly though, Abbas continues to place blame on the Israelis for this when the truth is, successive Palestinian and Arab leadership have continually punished their own people by leaving them to fester in refugee camps, by inciting and encouraging terror and violence and by refusing to sit down to honest negotiations with Israel. The situation in Gaza right now is proof that the occupation is not the only obstacle to peace. Nor even the major obstacle for that matter.

In the meantime, questions are being raised as to how Islamic Jihad managed to so successfully fire rockets into Israel. Defence officials are saying that the cloudy weather had something to do with it, as well as more advanced launcher technology on the Palestinian side (see more). The IDF has now said that the latest round of fighting seems to be over, but despite these declarations, at least five more rockets have been fired into Israel (see more). We will have to wait and see if this ceasefire holds up.

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