Update – 16 November 2012

Posted by Emily Gian on 16 November 2012 at 2:54pm:

As Operation Pillar of Defence continues, we were unfortunately met with the news yesterday afternoon that three Israelis had been killed when a rocket hit a building in the southern city of Kiryat Malachi. The victims were unable to make it to the fortified stairwell in time (see more). This is a picture of the damage to the building, which should serve as a clear message to those that dismiss Hamas’ rockets as “homemade” and “ineffective”:

In the meantime, Israeli aerial strikes have been targeting over 320 terror targets, including 70 underground launching pads designated for firing mid-range rockets into Israel. It should be noted that Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza with a warning in Arabic for civilians to stay away from areas where Hamas operates. However, this can be tough given that Hamas purposefully operates from civilian areas. While the Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted 130 rockets, over 300 rockets and mortars have still landed within Israel (see more). Yesterday evening Israeli time, the alert siren sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War, as two rockets aimed at the area landed in open areas. A short while earlier, the sirens went off in Rishon Letzion, but no injuries or damage was reported. Three Israeli soldiers were injured when a mortar shell hit in the Eshkol region (see more).

In terms of the range of the rockets from Gaza and to put things into perspective, the following map shows the equivalent range of the Gaza rockets to Melbourne. Using the same scale as the map of Israel, the Embassy of Israel in Australia has compared the ranges for Australian cities using the middle runway of the main airport as a launch point (for other states in Australia, click here):

Compared to previous conflicts, the media coverage on the conflict has not been as bad, though there does seem to be a slight disconnect between the Editorials in both of our broadsheets (The Australian and The Age) and the reporting from their Middle East Correspondents.

The opening paragraph of the Australian Editorial reads:
“Hamas has only itself to blame for the latest Israeli military strikes in Gaza and the sooner the international community accepts this – rather than indulging in another round of knee-jerk condemnation of the Jewish state as an aggressor – the sooner an element of reality will return to Middle East peace efforts” (see more).

I commend the Australian newspaper for having a true understanding of the situation, and conveying this to their readers. It continues, “While calls for caution and restraint are justified, Hamas’s culpability is clear. Israel has an unequivocal duty to protect the lives of its citizens against deadly attacks by a terrorist organisation that steadfastly refuses to even acknowledge its right to exist”. 

This is how the front page coverage looked in the Australian, and this is how the coverage appeared in the World News section.

In the meantime, the Age editorial puts the blame on both sides, yet five paragraphs in they do concede the following: “Yet Israel cannot be expected to remain passive in the face of missiles fired across its borders. Nor can it expect to find a path for a peace unless it negotiates. To negotiate, there must be goodwill and credibility from the other side, qualities that the seriously unpredictable Hamas lacks” (see more). This marks as a departure from the Age’s usual stance, and it is refreshing to finally see them admit that the firing of rockets should not be tolerated. Also, for a paper that usually champions Hamas’ cause at every opportunity, they have now admitted Hamas has little credibility.

The Age’s front page featured an article by Peter Munro, while the World News coverage featured an article by Middle East Correspondent Ruth Pollard, where she probably felt the paper had shown enough sympathy for the Israelis, so did not even find it fit to mention that 3 Israelis had been killed, and devoted very little column space to the 300+ rockets fired into Israel. 

We should spare a thought though for the Middle East correspondents who have enjoyed years of filing stories about a war zone from the safety and comfort of the numerous bars in Jerusalem. Harriet Sherwood, the Guardian’s Mid-East Correspondent was in Gaza during the funeral of Ahmed Jabri yesterday where she tweeted, “Doesn’t feel good to be on the rooftop overlooking cemetery when militants start firing in the air”. This may have been alarming for someone like Sherwood, because back in March a Palestinian boy was killed when an errant bullet from shots fired by Palestinians during a funeral procession struck him in the head (of course, our correspondent Ruth Pollard reported that the boy was killed by the Israelis during an air strike, but that is a story for another time).

Sherwood then tweeted the following, “Hamas apparently saying no foreigners can leave Gaza. Human shields?” Sherwood must have been having a small crisis when finally faced with the very real possibility that Hamas was capable of something like that. Indeed, they operate from civilian areas almost exclusively for this purpose, and someone like Sherwood should know that Article 28 of the Geneva Convention states that “the presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations”, which means she cannot blame the Israelis. But after years of most likely not reporting Hamas’s operation from urban areas, it became a lot harder for her deny the usage of human shields when she could potentially become one herself. I am assuming she got over this mini-crisis fairly quickly, as she seems to have resumed to her regular “Hamas are the victims” tweets.

Moving on from journalists, it has been refreshing to see a number of politicians from around the world coming out in support of Israel. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated, “The government condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip and calls on Hamas to cease these immediately… Australia supports Israel’s right to defend itself against these indiscriminate attacks. Such attacks on Israel’s civilian population are utterly unacceptable” (see more).  

Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr seemed to take on a slightly different approach. While he called on Hamas to cease the rocket attacks, he asked that Israel ensures its response was proportionate. I did send a tweet to FM Carr asking him what he felt a proportionate response would be to 12,000 rockets in 12 years or even over 150 rockets in one day, but unfortunately he did not respond. 

Australia’s Opposition Leader Tony Abbot declared, “We of course regret the escalation of conflict, but Israel has every right to defend itself against the threat while continuing to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties” (see more).

William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Secretary released a statement saying, “Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis. I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups. This creates an intolerable situation for Israeli civilians in southern Israel, who have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza. The rocket attacks also risk worsening the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which is already precarious” (see more).

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said, “We fundamentally believe that Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens from terrorist threats… Canada condemns the terrorist group Hamas and stands with Israel as it deals with regional threats to peace and security” (see more).

Of course, there are always going to be countries that do not stand with Israel, and while Russian condemned Israel for their actions calling their strikes “disproportionate”; they stood in good company with their ally Syria. Syria, a country that has been butchering thousands upon thousands of their own citizens for over 1.5 years condemned “the heinous atrocities committed by the enemy Israeli army against the Arab Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip” (see more).

For quite a number of years, there has been a lot of material produced about the industry that has come to be known as “Pallywood”, whereby Palestinians would stage certain scenes for the benefit of the sympathy of the Western Media. The conflict has only be going for 24 hours, and we have already witness at least two cases of Palestinian sources attempting (and in the case of the BBC, achieving) to dupe audiences in order to gain sympathy.

In this video, the BBC is showing a report on the strikes against Gazan terrorists. At around 2:12 in to the video, there is a man in a tan jacket who appears to been injured, only to have made a recovery by 2:43. From 2:23-2:35, a man in a reflective vest is being carried, and then put down so he could walk off.

More worryingly, the al Qassam Brigades (which is the military wing of Hamas) posted this photo on their twitter page:

The picture appears to be of a Palestinian father hugging his deceased son. It certainly is a sad and confronting image. Unfortunately for Hamas, the original picture was actually taken over three weeks ago in Syria and was posted on the Guardian website in a montage of photos from the Syria conflict. The death of innocent civilians on either side is truly heartbreaking, and I am not writing about Hamas faking pictures to diminish a real problem, but the posting of the photo shows how little Hamas actually cares about Palestinian victims, and just uses them as tools for political gain.

We can only hope that the military operation comes to a quick conclusion while still achieving the aims of the IDF. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of the South of Israel, as well as the brave soldiers of the IDF, and all of the innocent civilians on both sides of the conflict.

A solidarity gathering will take place on Sunday morning in support of Israelis living under fire. Please join us on Sunday 18 November 2012 at 11:15am at Princes Park, Maple Street (opposite Central Shule) in Caulfield South, and please wear red in solidarity with the residents of Southern Israel. For the full flyer, click here, and to see the event on Facebook, click here. I hope to see you all there.