According to Conservative Friends of Israel, over the past week more than 300 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza by Hamas and other militants at Israeli villages and towns. More than 560 have been fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on 4 November. This is on top of the 5,000 which have been fired from Gaza this year. The media seem to think these rockets are fairly harmless. They are not. They are weapons of terror.
BBC reports suggest that in recent days none of these rockets has resulted in any Israeli deaths or injuries. Not true. CFI report today that: "An Israeli man was killed and four others were seriously wounded when a missile hit a house in Netivot. Another man was seriously wounded when a rocket struck at the community of Mivtahim later this afternoon." Over the last four years, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 people) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. Sixteen Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed.
Israel should have dealt with this situation long before now. Instead, it allowed itself to be persuaded to call a truce with Hamas. It may have gone down well in the international community, but all it achieved was to allow Hamas time to regroup and rearm. According to CFI:
Under cover of the truce, Hamas engaged in a major campaign to upgrade its terrorist capabilities, manufacturing and smuggling massive quantities of weapons into Gaza – including rockets, explosive charges and machine guns – and constructing a network of underground tunnels for combat purposes. Israel cannot acquiesce to the presence of a Hizbullah-like organization on its southern border.
Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets into Israel. Imagine if this had happened here. Imagine if France fired rockets onto Dover from Calais. Would the British people expect its government to stand idly by and do nothing? Of course not.
British politicians are calling on both sides to act with restraint. Fine words, which are totally hollow. It is not right to treat both sides equally. Israel is a democratic ally, while Hamas are nothing more than an Iranian backed terror group, which is subjugating the people of Gaza in order to radicalise them. Once they have done that they intend to repeat the experience on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas are well aware of this and their condemnation of the Israeli action is notable for its reticence. It's easy to understand why. They know full well what Hamas is like, and what its endgame is. This report is from the Press Association...
In a news conference today from Cairo, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas placed the blame for the violence in the Gaza Strip squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. He described how he repeatedly made contact with Hamas and implored them not to break the ceasefire. He lamented that the violence in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had Hamas not broken the ceasefire. The following is Mahmoud Abbas's statement at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.
"I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it."
The US ambassador to the US Zalmay Khalilzad has suggested Hamas held the key to restoring calm. "We believe the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end," he said. CFI reports that Khalilzad was "implicitly backed up from Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed the current situation could have been avoided had Hamas renewed the ceasefire before it lapsed and ceased all violence towards Israel."
If you doubt my interpretation of Hamas's motives and are deluded enough to think that they are genuine freedom fighters, just click HERE. To the horror of the Egyptians Hamas are not even allowing ambulances in to Gaza to treat the injured.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the wounded were "barred from crossing" and he blamed "those in control of Gaza" for putting the lives of the injured at risk.And we shouldn't forget who funds Hamas - the Iranians. Without their money and weapons Hamas wouldn't be half the force it is today, either in Gaza or in the Lebanon. Hamas is classified as a terror organisation by the UN. Virtually every Middle East country won't have any dealings with Hamas, yet in this country they seem to be treated by many as a legitimate organisation with whom the Israelis should negotiate. The only country which exalts Hamas is the one to whose President Channel 4 disgracefully gave a platform on Christmas Day.
People blame Israel for the terrible state of living standards in the Gaza Strip. They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority. They had an opportunity to run it themselves. Instead, since Hamas took power, they have done everything in their power to keep their people in poverty and use it as an excuse to radicalise those who are inclined to believe their propaganda. But even despite this, Israel was providing huge amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza - more than 4,000 truck loads a month as well as fuel and electricity (despite the ongoing rocket attacks). Conditions were by no means good, but there was no humanitarian crisis, according to Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza. He said this month that "this is not a humanitarian crisis... It's an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving."
It is highly regrettable that more than 250 people have been killed over the last few days. If Hamas hadn't been firing their rockets from residential areas the death toll would have been much lower. But Hamas have sited them there deliberately, so they can portray any Israeli response as heartless and disproportionate.
Gordon Brown was absolutely bang on with his response to what's happening in Gaza. He said: "I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by president Abbas. I understand the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population."
William Hague, though, was perhaps a little less unequivocal, which I think is a shame. He said: "We deeply regret the loss of civilian life in Gaza today. We call on the Israeli government to show restraint. At the same time we call on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks which are an unacceptable threat to Israel's security, so that the ceasefire, which Hamas failed to renew, can be urgently restored."
The trouble is that any Hamas backed ceasefire isn't worth the paper it is written on. If we have learned nothing from recent history, surely we have learned that. Israel will only be able to restore open borders with Gaza and cease its military action when it is clear that no further rockets are being fired. In the meantime they should have the backing of every right thinking democrat in destroying the sites from which rockets are being fired and the tunnels through which Hamas are smuggling arms from Egypt.
As you can tell, I support Israel 100% in their actions in Gaza. But I fully recognise that there is an opposing viewpoint, which others are espousing on other blogs - mostly on the left. Whenever I write about Israel or the Middle East it provokes the loonies to come out of hiding. Let's keep the debate moderate and insult free in the comments please.
UPDATE: Courtesy of Dizzy...
Quote of the Day by the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit
The Israelis have been warning you that this was coming if you continue your cross border rocket attacks. Egypt has been imploring you to stop firing rockets into Israel, but you ignored our words. We have been urging you to renew the cease-fire with Israel, but you refused. You have brought this upon yourselves. You are responsible for what is happening to the people of Gaza.