|Palestinian baby killed by an Israeli air strike|
Tonight, Gaza is burning and its people are dying. The citizens of southern Israel are living in bomb shelters. At the time of writing, 22 people have been killed since the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched Operation Pillar of Defence yesterday with the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. Nineteen of the dead were Palestinians, including four babies and a pregnant woman. Three Israeli civilians were killed today by a rocket attack on the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, 25km north of Gaza; a four-year-old boy and two babies were also wounded in this attack. Ominously, the IDF has moved its troops south in case a ground invasion of Gaza is ordered.
|Israeli baby injured by Palestinian rocket fire|
For over three years, Hamas fired very few rockets into Israel. Lately though, whenever its own members or Palestinian civilians were killed, Hamas came under pressure to respond. Thus, it claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks in the last few weeks. However, Hamas has tended to avoided major confrontations with Israel. It has also tried to limit attacks from Gaza by the more radical Palestinian militants, who are growing in power and in numbers due to the inability of Hamas to end the Israeli blockade and to improve living conditions for Gazans.
This is what Col. Tal Hermoni, the outgoing IDF Gaza Division commander, had to say last month:
"Hamas is taking action to prevent an escalation and is turning from a terror group to a sovereign movement that is assuming governmental responsibility. They have to worry about feeding and educating people, and every act of terror costs them dearly. But the day the decision is made, we'll know how to bring it to its knees. There will be a [ground] operation in Gaza. The only question is when."
It seems that Hermoni's question is about to be answered.
Update: The IDF have claimed that the reason its soldiers crossed the border into Gaza on November 8 was to disarm explosive devices planted near the security fence. Even if this was the case, crossing the border into Gaza was obviously going to cause a confrontation. Certainly, those explosives could have been destroyed or neutralised without an IDF incursion.