Israel: Dealing with the Aftermath of Operation Cast Lead

After Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and pulled out of Gaza, the fire is far from stopping. Earlier this week, an IDF soldier was killed by a bomb detonated near the Kisufim checkpoint. Israel reacted by targeting tunnels near the Egyptian border used for smuggling weapons. In return, missiles were launched at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. As Hamas is expected to accept the Egyptian negotiated terms for the year-long ceasefire today (monday the 2nd), bloggers are still raising and discussing the many issues and topics around Israel's actions in Gaza.

Ya'akov Amidror from the JCPA blog lists some of the lessons learned from the IDF's recent operation in Gaza:

ניתן להקיש מקרבות עזה כי גם בעתיד ינצח הצבא בשדה הקרב הא-סימטרי אם ישתלט על השטח ולא יהסס להפעיל את כוח האש שלו ואת עוצמתו בהתאם לצרכיו, ולאו דווקא באופן פרופורציונלי.

לשיטת לחימה זאת יש מחיר המתבטא במספרם הגבוה יחסית של האזרחים שנפגעים. הסיבה העיקרית לכך היא שמלחמה כזו מתרחשת בקרב האזרחים אשר מארחים מרצון או מחוסר ברירה את גורמי הטרור. זה היה גורלם של האזרחים בפלוג'ה שבעיראק כאשר נכבשה על ידי האמריקנים, זה גורלם של אזרחים רבים באפגניסטן בימים אלה, וזה היה גורלם של אזרחים יוגוסלבים כאשר נאט”ו וארה”ב הפציצו אותם.

אם רוצים להבין עד כמה מסובכת המלחמה באזור אורבני צפוף ועד כמה טעויות הן חלק בלתי נפרד ממנה כדאי לזכור שארבעה מעשרת החיילים שנהרגו במבצע נהרגו מאש כוחותינו. מה הפלא שגם אזרחים החיים במקום שבו פועלים אנשי חמאס נהרגו אף הם? צה”ל עשה לא מעט כדי להפריד בין מחבלים לאזרחים, אך אין הוא חף מטעויות: המלחמה היא “ממלכת אי הוודאות” ואלה תוצאותיה הבלתי נמנעות כאשר נלחמים בטרור הפועל בין אזרחים.

One may assume from the fighting in Gaza that also in the future the IDF will win the asymmetrical fighting if it will take control over the territory and will not hesitate to instigate its fire power and might according to its needs, not necessarily in a proportionate manner.

This type of fighting claims a high price in civilian casualties. The main reason is that this type of war takes place within civilians whom willingly or reluctantly host the terrorist factor. This was the fate of civilians in Fallujah, Iraq, when conquered by Americans; many civilians in Afghanistan nowadays; civilians in Yugoslavia when NATO and the US bombarded their territories.

Fighting within a dense, urban territory is complex and dangerous – where many mistakes occur. Remember that four out of the ten IDF soldiers who died in the operation were killed from our own fire. No wonder that also civilians who live in the area where Hamas is active were killed? IDF took action to separate between terrorists and civilians, but it is not clean from mistakes: any war is a “kingdom of uncertainty” and these are the unavoidable results when fighting terror from within civilians.

Yaeli posts a translated letter from a Yishai, an Israeli reserve soldier who served in the recent operation. Below are several excerpts from the long piece:

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

More can be found on the Good Neighbor's blog.

Thomas Crampton is vlogging from Davos, where he attended a breakfast with Israeli president Shimon Peres who lashed out at a Spanish court probing Israel officials for alleged “crimes against humanity” relating to a 2002 Israeli attack in Gaza:

Peres: “How can a judge from Spain judge the situation of Israel? … They were not living under seven wars and two intefadas and daily terror. What is the experience of this judge about israel? What qualifies him?”.

Ranan Raz, who lives in the south of Israel, describes his frustration with the Israeli government in dealing with the ongoing missile problem, and the upcoming elections:

חוויתי שמונה שנים של הפצצות על הבית שלי, על בית הספר שלי ועל בתי החברים שלי. מאז שהייתי בבית ספר יסודי מפציצים פה. כל פעם אומרים לנו שאם רק עוד פעם אחת “ייכנסו בהם”, ואם רק יפוצצו עוד מנהרה אחת, ואם רק יעשו עוד חיסול אחד, ואם רק תהיה עוד הפצצה אחת של חיל האוויר – אז פתאום יהיה כאן שקט. אני לא מאמין בזה. אני כבר מזמן לא מאמין לממשלה הזאת.

בתור תושב עוטף עזה, אני לא מאמין לכל הפוליטיקאים שפתאום איכפת להם מאיתנו, שנייה לפני הבחירות. במשך שנים הממשלה לא עשתה שום דבר כדי שיהיו פה פחות אבטלה, פחות עוני, פחות פערים חברתיים. הם גם לא עשו שום דבר כדי שיהיה כאן יותר ביטחון.

הבחירות הקרובות הולכות להיות הפעם הראשונה שבה תהיה לי זכות הצבעה. מי שתומכים במלחמה לא יקבלו את הקול שלי.

I've experienced eight years of bombing over my home, my school and my friends homes. Ever since I started Elementary school, bombs have been falling here. Every time they tell us that if it will happen just one more time “they will really get it”, and if they only bomb one more tunnel, one more targeted extermination… And if there will be just one more air force attack, then all of a sudden it will be quiet here. I do not believe it. I haven't trusted this government for a while now.

As an Israeli citizen who lives near Gaza, I do not believe all the politicians who suddently care about us, right before the elections. Its been years that the government has not done anything about the high unemployment rates, poverty and social gaps. The also did not do anything to provide us with security.

The upcoming elections will be my first. Those who support the war will not receive my vote.


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