Why Israel Attacked a Densely-Populated Gaza Neighborhood

Monday, July 21, 2014 |  Ryan Jones

More than two weeks into the current Gaza war, Israel on Sunday suffered its first bout of serious international condemnation after a day of bloody fighting that left dead 13 Israeli soldiers and at least 70 Palestinians.

If Palestinian estimates are to be believed, the bulk of their dead were civilians, residents of the battered Gaza City suburb of Shejaiya.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon labeled the Israeli operation “an atrocious action,” and US Secretary of State John Kerry sarcastically quipped, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, explained that the assault on Shejaiya was absolutely necessary, given that the neighborhood had been used to launch some 150 missile attacks on the Jewish state over the past week, and that it continued to house a sizable arsenal of projectiles.

Situated less than a mile from Gaza’s border with southern Israel, Shejaiya was described by Israeli troops operating there as a vast Hamas stronghold, with a huge network of terror tunnels used to store missiles and infiltrate southern Israel.

Netanyahu said this was a strategic threat that simply had to be dealt with. Addressing a press conference in which he confirmed the deaths of 13 Israeli soldiers during the fighting in Shejaiya, the prime minister stated:

“Last night ’s action revealed more tunnels, in addition to others that we already uncovered, some of which reached Israel. We found handcuffs, sedating drugs. There is no question this is a strategic component for Hamas. …If these tunnels were not found, then the results would have been a lot worse.”

As for the high number of Palestinian deaths, Netanyahu stressed that Israel had very clearly warned the residents of Shejaiya to evacuate days before the assault.

“We urged the civilian population to evacuate for days, through leaflets, broadcasts, telephone calls. We urged them to evacuate, because we didn’t want to see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas,” the Israeli leader insisted. “But it is Hamas that ordered the civilians to stay put. It is Hamas that wanted those civilians to stay, so it would have a human shield for its terrorist machine.”

As former US President Bill Clinton explained last week, the high civilian death toll was likely part of Hamas’ barbaric plan.

Hamas has “a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them (Israel),” Clinton told India’s NDTV.

Some argue that if Clinton’s assertion is indeed true, then Israel should refrain from obliging the terror group.

But the situation is like that of a petulant child, incessantly kicking, biting and otherwise assaulting an older and stronger sibling until the inevitable retaliation comes, and then crying foul. Being a father of five, I am well acquainted with this scenario.

At some point, barring parental interference, the older sibling has to take some kind of action to halt the assaults and, if possible, deter future aggression. If not, the younger, belligerent sibling will simply continue escalating his or her attacks until a response of some sort materializes.

The very same is the case with Hamas. It has been steadily escalating its attacks against Israel, drawing out that inevitable response. And the international community, like a bad parent, all but ignored the long initial provocation, and only interfered in any meaningful capacity after Israel had become fed up and taken action.

If the world truly cared about the 70 or more Palestinians killed on Sunday, it would have nipped this problem in the bud months or even years ago by preventing Hamas’ military build-up, because for any reasonable observer, the ultimate outcome was obvious.

The same is true of our parent in the above scenario. If I, as a father, really care about preventing violence between my children, then I stop the unruly younger sibling in his or her tracks before the older child has need of responding.

Likewise, if politicians and pundits are genuine in their position that Israel has a right to defend itself, then why in their criticism of actions like yesterday’s do they not offer viable alternatives? If Israel shouldn’t have assaulted Shejaiya in such force in order to destroy the vast number of terror tunnels and rockets found there, then what should it have done?

Israel needed to do something, because its parent, the international community, clearly wasn’t going to. No one is happy about the deaths in Shejaiya. But no one is providing alternative solutions to a situation that couldn’t be permitted to continue.

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