Angry and frightened Israeli civilians in southern Israel are imploring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to unleash an IDF military strike against Hamas and its terrorists allies in the Gaza Strip in response to the recent spate of rocket and mortar attacks emanating from there. Those attacks have caused damage to commercial and residential structures and have sent thousands of residents to local trauma centers.
According to the Sderot Regional Mental Health Center, doctors and psychologists are currently treating over 5,000 people who are suffering from various shock and post-trauma symptoms. Many of the patients are still suffering from the lingering effects of repeated missile attacks in 2008-2009.
Hospitals in Beersheba and Ashkelon reported a substantial increase in the number of men, women and children seeking a respite from the stress of enduring rocket fire in their cities. “Maybe from most people’s point of view this is just another escalation of the rocket fire, but for those of us who live near the Gaza Strip, this has become part of our regular daily lives. We have been in the midst of a war here for a long time and we just don’t see the end of it,” Meirav Cohen, a mother of four who lives in Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha, wrote in Yisrael Hayom earlier this week.
Over 150 projectiles, ranging from short-range mortars and Kassam rockets to mid-range Grad and Katuysha rockets (smuggled into Gaza via a series of tunnels along the Egyptian border), have been fired at kibbutzim along the border. Towns and cities also targeted include Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Netivot and Ofakim. IDF military intelligence officials believe that Hamas also has a small arsenal of Hizbullah- supplied, long-range rockets that can reach downtown Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz are reportedly weighing a series of military options to thwart future attacks, ranging from a massive aerial barrage that could destroy the tunnels used for smuggling in arms to precision ground attacks aimed at eliminating terrorist leaders and perhaps topple the Hamas regime. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who visited IDF troops stationed along the border, said, “We do not intend to allow, in any shape or form, the continued harming of the day-to-day life of our citizens. And we intend to reinforce the deterrence, and strengthen it, so that we are able to operate along the length of the border fence in a way that will ensure the security of all our soldiers who are serving around the Gaza Strip. As far as we are concerned, Hamas is responsible for what is happening in the Gaza Strip. Even when other organizations are carrying out [certain attacks], Hamas is not free from responsibility.” Earlier this week, Netanyahu tried to rally international support for Israel’s plight by bringing foreign ambassadors and diplomats to Ashkelon, where the Israeli leader introduced local children who had spent several nights in bomb shelters to the visitors. Netanyahu repeatedly asked his guests if their countries would tolerate such attacks on innocent children.
The attacks on southern Israel also coincided with the ongoing military drills between the IDF and U.S. armed forces. High-ranking U.S. Army officials conducted a joint Patriot anti-aircraft missile drill with IDF commanders at the Palmachim air force and missile base on Monday. The Patriot batteries would be used by the two countries in the event of a multi-front Middle East war launched against Israel, whereby American forces would be rushed to the region to assist Israel. During the joint military drills, U.S. Army commanders are evaluating the efficiency of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile systems in real time. They witnessed the ability of several units to shoot down Grad rockets aimed at Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and Sderot.
The situation in southern Israel also spurred innovation. According to Yediot Aharonot, Liron Bar, a 13-year-old would-be hi-tech whiz from Beersheba, has created a free iPhone app that enables potential users to track rocket attacks against southern Israel by sending out an instant notification whenever a Color Red alert is activated by local municipalities.