July 17. 2014 10:36PM

Another View -- Yehuda Yaakov: What Israel is up against


FOR THOSE made uneasy by the relatively low Israeli casualty rate so far during Operation Protective Edge, I have news: Our children are definitely being victimized by rockets fired by Hamas and its jihadi counterparts. Not “just” psychologically — no small matter in itself — but very much physically.

Over a recent weekend, for instance, rocket shrapnel lodged in the chest of a 16-year-old from Ashkelon. I heard his father explain in a radio interview that his restless son could no longer suffer the repeated stays in bomb shelters and insisted on going for a stroll. His father pleaded with him, but to no avail.

Monday morning, we learned that an 8-year old from Ashdod was injured. Later that day, two sisters, 11 and 13, were wounded by rocket debris near the heavily attacked southern city of Beersheba. The two girls sustained moderate to serious injuries.

Just another war story, right? Yes and no. The two sisters are children like any other, with a twist: They aren’t Jewish, they’re Bedouin Muslims. Their names are Atil and Maram al-Wakili. 

This shouldn’t surprise anyone; around 20 percent of Israel’s population isn’t Jewish. The Hamas rockets aren’t smart enough to distinguish among our civilians — whether Circassian, Druze, Muslim, Christian or Jewish — and so they’re all targets. So when Hamas rockets fall on Ashdod, Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Haifa or farther north, they cement the common fate of all the religious and ethnic communities that make up our resilient societal mosaic.

Hamas’ brutality is not relegated to Israelis but is also victimizing the Palestinians themselves.

It has positioned rocket launchers, weapons stores, leadership facilities, command and control centers, communication facilities and other terrorist infrastructures among the civilian population of Gaza. The sites are deliberately located in, near or under homes, schools, hospitals and mosques, leaving Palestinian civilians deliberately exposed to grave danger.

 Hamas actively calls on Gazans to go onto roofs after Israeli warnings, and its Ministry of Interior has ordered them not to evacuate targeted homes.

It doesn’t end there: Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has fired more than 100 rockets from from Gaza that have hit their own territory.  Indeed, last Sunday Hamas left 70,000 Palestinians without power after one of its rockets hit a high voltage power line in Israel that carries electricity to Gaza.

This reckless disregard for the needs of Gazans led to one of the more surrealistic events of the campaign thus far: Israel Electric Corporation crews, wearing protective gear, repaired the damaged power line under heavy security of IDF troops.

Hamas is also bombing the humanitarian crossings facilitating the movement of Gazans and goods. Despite this brutality, the crossings remain open, and Tuesday saw the movement of humanitarian cases plus 71 trucks of food and general supplies, 151 tons of gas, and 598,109 liters of fuel. 

In the past few days, Hamas rockets have also hit Muslim and Christian areas in the West Bank, one possible reason why a Palestinian Authority official admitted that the Hamas rocket firings at Israeli civilians constitute a war crime.

The Palestinian Authority representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ambassador Ibrahim Kraishi, stated, “The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets.” 

This is what Israel is up against, and this is why Israel insists on continuing the operation until a sustainable calm for all civilians in the region is achieved.

Yehuda Yaakov is consul general of Israel to New England.