Not all the news was good today, but some of it was heartening. In response to days of rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, and targeted attacks – with anti-tank missiles – on Israeli infantry patrols near the fence between Israel and, the IDF launched an operation on Wednesday 14 November to eliminate terrorists in Gaza and destroy weapons caches. One of Operation Pillar of Defense’s first achievements was taking out multifarious Hamas terrorist Ahmed Jabari.
Here’s the video of the pinpoint strike on Jabari – who, it is to be remembered, is responsible for attacks over the last two decades in which dozens of Israelis were killed. Jabari organized Hamas for the Second Intifada and for the Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007, as well as overseeing the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Jabari and at least three other Hamas terrorists have been killed in Pillar of Defense, which is also targeting rocket launch sites in Gaza and weapons storage facilities.
According to the IDF blog, as of the time of this writing, Iron Dome has been used to intercept 25 rockets since the operation in Gaza began. This indicates that the rocket barrage has been extensive. Iron Dome isn’t used to intercept rockets that will fall harmlessly in unpopulated areas, nor can it intercept shorter-range rockets with a low-altitude trajectory. Its intercepts typically represent a small percentage of the total rockets launched.
IDF image: Hamas rocket launch site in Zeitoun, Gaza Moreover, it was reportedly confirmed that four rockets were launched into southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula (Egyptian territory). These rockets were probably launched by Hamas operatives, but may have been launched by other jihadis in the Sinai.
It’s too early to predict how extensive this will become, but it can be said that in the first day of Pillar of Defense, Hamas (and possibly another terrorist group) has kept firing.
Mohammed Morsi recalled his ambassador to Israel over the new military operation, and summoned Israel’s ambassador in Egypt for a dressing down. I don’t think Morsi is prepared right now to exploit an unstable situation in Gaza and the Sinai – and in any case, he’s not interested in bolstering Hamas’s political fortunes, because he’s got his own vision for Jerusalem and the land of Israel.
A little-noted event this week tended to confirm that. Foreign ministers from the Arab League and the European Union, meeting in Cairo this week,failed on Tuesday to offer endorsement for the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid in the UN, which Mahmoud Abbas plans to take up on 29 November. The foreign ministers agreed that a two-state solution needs to be negotiated, but fell short of endorsing the unilateral statehood bid.
For the Arab ministers, the reluctance to endorse a bid their nations were keen on only a year ago is due to the paradigm shift in the wake of the Arab Spring, something I wrote about in August. The “Palestinian narrative” is being sidelined, because of the new prospect of Islamized nations – e.g., Egypt – prosecuting a radical-Islamist vision involving Jerusalem.
The European ministers are a separate issue. Some of them may have been eager to endorse the unilateral statehood bid, but the truth is that the paradigm shift has reduced its importance. Europeans are worried about Syria, and a posture on Syria is what they agreed on in Cairo. As long as Israel can defend herself and remain the enduring fact of her region, the most proximate concern for Europe is who gets hold of Syria. EU bureaucrats may see Syria through a silly ideological lens, but most of the foreign ministries are undeceived about the quality of much of the Syrian opposition. The point of working with it is pragmatic: to gain leverage by supporting it, and possibly be a moderating influence. Several of the Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq – want the same thing the Europeans do.
There is a post-American air to the whole series of events in the last two days. There is no noticeable expectation that American influence will be an active factor in the unfolding of this crisis. The US State Department posted an interesting statement on the events in Gaza, condemning Hamas but referencing no US policy stance. It is gratifying, of course, to see State endorsing Israel’s right to self defense. It’s not clear that the final two sentences, which form a lecture to Hamas, were worth saying.