Anyone who comments on middle east issues should read Michael J. Totten’s blog.
He actually goes to the places that are in the news and shows what is happening first hand, bringing out angles that the MSM just doesn’t bother with.
His latest post is no exception.
The southern Israeli city of Sderot sits right next to the border with Gaza, and it is the target of choice for Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s Qassam rocket barrages. The first time I visited the city under fire was immediately after the Second Lebanon War in August of 2006. Israeli civilians were still on their way back to Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, and other urban areas that had been emptied of people when Hezbollah turned the northern sixth of the country into a free fire zone. Lebanese villages were still smoldering, and their dead were still being cleared from underneath rubble. Sderot, by contrast, seemed downright sedate even though rockets packed tight with metal fragments and ball bearings still fell from the sky every day.
The city had been under fire for years before I got there, but the barrages were tolerable, albeit barely. Sderot had never been abandoned. Its residents were never made into refugees. Only a handful of people had been killed by the time I first visited, and not even a dozen more have been killed in the meantime. It’s easy to callously ask “what’s the big deal?” I wasn’t remotely nervous when I showed up myself, and even many Israelis thought the attacks weren’t worth going to war over. That’s the main reason Hamas got away with it for so long.
Something changed in December of 2008, however. Suddenly Hamas found itself in possession of Grad rockets that can be aimed with much greater precision than the home-made Qassam rockets that make up the bulk of their arsenal. And Hamas fighters found that they could shoot those rockets much farther into Israel and strike the cities of Beersheva and Ashdod, as well as Ashkelon and Sderot.
“The shorter rockets, the improvised rockets, have a short range,” Major Chezy Deutsch told me. “So a smaller percentage of the population are under that threat. But when they can pull out new rockets and hit a new city, a city that up until now hasn’t been hit, the terror affect is much larger. People who, up until then, thought they were fine and didn’t have anything to worry about are suddenly within range of the threat. So it has a much larger effect than hitting Sderot again.”
What? They had a change in the situation? But I though “they just want to win the elections”!
Another idiotic talking point seriously dented.
But the question is, how many Israeli cities could now be within range?
Every major population center in the country would be under attack except Haifa. Yet Haifa is within Hezbollah’s rocket range out of Lebanon in the north. When Hezbollah fired its medium-size Katyusha rockets at Haifa in 2006, Haifa was on fire and emptied of people and cars. It was like a city at the end of the world. It’s possible, though very intolerable, to live under Qassam rocket attack. It isn’t possible to live long at all under Katyusha rocket attack.
So you can’t just empty the areas under potential attack – they’re all under potential attack. Israel is a small country, carved out of formerly desolate areas, beset on several fronts by people who simply hate them.
How much do they hate them?
Well, Israel set up a clinic to treat Palestinians.
I tried to imagine how different this conflict would be if Hamas set up medical facilities for Israeli civilians wounded by Qassam rocket attacks. The very idea, of course, is absurd.
“I wonder what Hamas thinks of all this,” I said to Rick Francona. “Do they even understand it?”
“They probably think it’s a trick,” he said.
Perhaps Hamas understands very well what it means that Israelis opened a clinic for wounded Palestinians. Perhaps they feel like it’s a different kind of threat altogether.
The Israelis had to close the place down. Only a handful of patients ever came through, which didn’t surprise me. I didn’t see any Palestinian patients there when I visited. Hamas didn’t allow their wounded to be treated by Jews.
There is so much more, read it all.