December 31, 2008
The Hamas Charter proscribes peace with Israel. Ceasefires are possible only when advantageous to Hamas and always are temporary. Accordingly, as soon as the latest ceasefire expired, Hamas operatives fired a barrage of rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel. On Dec. 27, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded with air attacks on specific terrorist targets including training camps, command centers, rocket manufacturing facilities and military storage areas. While there will be collateral damage and innocents killed or maimed, the majority of the nearly 300 persons killed so far are Hamas operatives.
As soon as the first strikes went in, Hamas released video images of children being carried to ambulances. The world will continue to see homes and apartments turned to rubble, lots of injured children and weeping mothers. In most — not all, but most — cases this is pure fiction. Hamas provides the pathos the Western press craves.
Israel’s concerted response has also been measured. As of Dec. 28, 210 fighter-bomber and attack-helicopter sorties had delivered 240 munitions of various sorts from laser-guided bombs to Hellfire anti-tank missiles. These precision-guided munitions limit collateral damage. The word “response” is important.
Absent provocation, there would be no Israeli attacks on Gaza. Hamas launched over 300 rockets and countless mortar shells in the six days following the cease-fire. Evidently the terrorists used the ceasefire to rebuild and restock their arsenals. Nevertheless, a United Nations condemnation of Israel is almost certain. Passions in the Arab world run high with promises to avenge the deaths in Gaza. Many Western governments will add their condemnations as the American Christian left chimes in with a chorus of loquacious laments.
One wonders how the world would react if Spain moved forcefully to stop Basque terrorism or if the American Christian left would bleat quite so loudly if Mexican insurgents targeted San Diego with rocket and terrorist attacks. How would Britain react to similar attacks launched by the Irish Republican Army? Why should Israel be denied the right to respond to aggression? How many rockets does it take to warrant a strong and decisive response?
An Israeli ground invasion may be forthcoming. It will be bloody because Hamas is dug in and ready to make it costly for the IDF. Urban warfare, especially amid the rubble and ruin of city streets, is the most difficult form of modern warfare. Nevertheless, Israel is justified in moving decisively against Hamas.
Three years ago Israel pulled out of Gaza, using military force to remove Jewish settlers and relinquishing its southern border crossings to Egyptian control. Israel offered the Palestinians an opportunity to live side-by-side in peace. How did Hamas respond? Hamas fighters took over Gaza in a wave of violence, murdering hundreds of Palestinian political rivals and destroying much of the urban infrastructure left by the departing Israelis. One example was the destruction of greenhouses in northern Gaza, facilities that could have provided food and potentially agricultural exports for the Palestinian economy. Hamas destroyed these facilities because Jews built them. Israel offered its hand in peace and Hamas responded with shouts of “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Then came the incessant rocket attacks into nearby Sderot and Ashkelon, a major metropolitan area just north of Gaza. Over three years, Hamas fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel and in 2006 dug a tunnel into Israel to kill two Israeli soldiers and kidnap Israeli Private Gilad Shalit, whose fate remains unknown.
And what of Egypt? Israel’s “partner in peace” allowed Hamas to dig over 100 tunnels under its border with Gaza. Egyptian border guards looked the other way while weapons and ammunition flowed through those tunnels into Gaza.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in agreement over the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiations are over where the lines will be drawn. Hamas’ intransigence and terrorist attacks complicate those negotiations. Indeed, Hamas does not want any agreement with Israel. It is impossible for Israel to reach an accommodation with an entity dedicated to its extermination. The only hope for attaining a just peace in this tragically afflicted region is the complete destruction of Hamas.
Dr. Earl Tilford, a fellow with The Center of Vision & Values at Grove City College, is currently working on a history of the University of Alabama in the 1960s. A former Air Force intelligence officer and former director of research for the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University.