Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Israel Launches Operation "Pillar of Defense" (Pillar of Cloud)

Israel, refusing to just sit there and take in on the chin any more, has launched what appears to be a major operation. Israel's opening salvo included taking out Ahmed al-Jabari who is the head of Hamas' military wing. If reports are to be belived, they did it sticking his moving car at least twice, with apparently minimal (if any) collateral damage outside his car. Israel also struck at least twenty missile depots, with some reports indicating 'dozens' may be a more accurate number.

Undoubtedly, while they are trying to take out as many missiles as possible, their main target are the more advanced rockets which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. While Israel may have taken out a nice chunk of them, it is doubtful that they will be able to get them all. Expect to see reports of at least a few rockets exploding in and around Tel Aviv.

"The Israeli Air Force targeted at least 20 underground depots in Gaza housing Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets that can reach Tel Aviv, Israeli Army spokesman Avital Leibovich said in an interview in Jerusalem. “Hamas is backed by Iran, a large amount of their ammunition is provided or funded by Iran,” Leibovich said.

The army issued emergency procedures for Israeli communities within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Gaza, canceling school lessons for tomorrow and advising residents to stay close to air-raid shelters.

"Israel killed the head of Hamas’s military wing in an air strike today and hit other targets across Gaza in what officials said was the start of a broad operation in response to rocket attacks on Israeli territory.

At least two missiles tore through the moving car of Ahmed Jabari in Gaza, ripping the roof off the vehicle and setting it on fire. A passenger in the car was also killed.

Israel's 'Iron Dome' is about to get a workout (see also).

The IDF then sent out this tweet.

Picture (tweet) embedded below.

And this clip of the strike itself.

Video embedded below.

While still unconfirmed, it appears militants operating within Egypt are trying to open up yet another front (beyond the territories and Syria) in this conflict. Assuming that rockets were fired were indeed from Egypt, they may have been with the assent of Egyptian leadership, but it does not look as if the Egyptians are getting involved militarily; at least not yet.,7340,L-4305310,00.html

"Four rockets were fired at an Israeli town on the Egyptian border on Wednesday. Several rockets exploded inside the town. No injuries or damage were reported.

The Color Red alert did not sound. The defense establishment is checking where the rockets had been fired from – Sinai or the Gaza Strip. Security forces were called to the scene.

A short while later a mortar shell landed in an open area within the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injury or damage.

A resident of the community in which the rockets landed told Ynet, "We heard a whistling sound and then explosions. We initially thought it was the army because there was no siren and there are training grounds nearby, but we were later informed that one of the rockets landed inside the community, about 50 meters from a school. Other rockets landed nearby, but not as close to the homes."

Egypt has withdrawn their ambassador from Israel in protest, and have called on the United States to stop Israel.

"Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr called on the United States to intervene and end "Israeli aggression" on the Gaza Strip, state media reported on Thursday.

Amr "requested that the United States immediately intervene to stop Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza," MENA news agency reported, adding that Amr spoke to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone.

The move follows Wednesday's decision by Egypt to recall its ambassador from Israel after IAF strikes on the Gaza Strip killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari and at least six other Palestinians.

Obama has made a call to Egypt to try to prevent them from getting involved. It is not clear to me that Egypt would want to. They talk a good game, by necessity in that part of the world (if only to placate their people), but they have a lot of issues to deal with. Getting a beating at the hands of the Israelis will not reflect well on the new leadership. The Egyptian leadership may however think such a beating is worth it to galvanize the populace behind them.

"President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in an effort to ease tensions Wednesday after Israel launched a series of strikes in Gaza responding to Hamas rocket attacks.

"The President reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians," the White House said in a statement.

But he also urged Netanyahu to "make every effort to avoid civilian casualties."

More on the name of the operation.

"In English, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is calling its effort – launched Wednesday – to strike a blow to Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure “Pillar of Defense,” but in Hebrew the operation’s name has another, deeper biblical meaning. In Hebrew, the IDF named its operation “Amud Anan,” that is Pillar of Cloud, a clear reference to the flight of the Children of Israel from Egypt and how God protected them.

In the Book of Exodus 13:21, as the Israelites flee Egypt and the oppressive Pharaoh, the scene is described this way:

The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night.
The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire remained with them throughout their journey.

Now for some concluding thoughts on what could easily be the beginning of a protracted conflict between Israel and various surrounding terrorist groups (and terrorist supporting countries). We have been here before, in the not to distant past with Operation Cast Lead. This also should not come as a surprise. As I said in my Operation Cast Lead (Aftermath) post (bold added here);

"On the down side, Israel is also starting to show an unwillingness to complete the mission. Where is the captured IDF soldier that was taken two years ago? Why not break the back of Hamas when you have them on the ropes? Why not obliterate all of the tunnels? There are of course, no real good answers. Israel estimated that it destroyed 80% of the tunnels. The translation and unfortunate reality is that 20% of the tunnels Hamas started the war with are up and running smuggling weapons into Gaza.

I have seen conflicting reports about rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel. It seems safe to say that the trickle of rockets into Israel has, or at least soon will, continue. I doubt Hamas will fire the same numbers at Israel they did before Operation Cast Lead, if only because they do not have enough rockets. Once they do rearm, and have no doubt that they will. They have recent memory to act as a deterrent. The problem is that structural damage is really not that much of a deterrent to a group of people who want to die for their g-d while taking as many Jews with them as possible. You can not deter a group of people who have intertwined their religion with your destruction. Did Israel present enough of a deterrent to the people of Gaza to have them deal with Hamas? That is what Israel has to hope. Unfortunately, my money is on another massive flair up at some point in the not so distant future. In this sense Israel has bought themselves some time, but they have not ensured lasting security from Gaza.

Israel was justified in the actions it took, but they failed to go far enough. Hamas will relax their onslaught for a time, but they will rearm and try again. This was just another sad chapter in a sad story of a people under constant persecution who seem unable to go a generation without facing an enemy bent on their annihilation (the Jews), in a region that has seen almost unending war throughout history (the Middle East). It will not be the final chapter, nor will it be a turning point for either.

If Israel has decided that enough is enough, and I think Ahmed al-Jabari would tell you that they have, they should do what they can to finish the job this time. Hamas may rebuild in time; but make sure they have to rebuild from scratch.

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