A glimpse of life near the Gaza border: #IsraelUnderFire

I spent the day participating in a media tour of Sderot and other Israeli towns close to the border with Gaza.  

The day included a security briefing, several Code Red (Tzeva Adom) alerts, an unexpected view of the immediate aftermath of a rocket which landed in Sderot, a play by children at a local kibbutz and an analysis of the military situation with Col. Richard Kemp.

Here a brief account of my day via updates on Twitter and Facebook.

11:45

11:48

We then went to Sapir College, near Sderot.  All classes were cancelled due to rocket fire.  

We were listening to a presentation by an academic expert on the psychological trauma caused by terrorism when the Code Red alert sounded.

12:14

The rocket landed in a neighborhood nearby, so our guides took us to the site of the blast.

12:42

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

A boy whose home was right next to where the rocket landed displayed a bit of bravado and claimed a souvenir.

12:47

A minute later there was another Code Red and we were able to get to a bomb shelter in a home near where we were standing.

Sderot residents have 15 seconds to get to safety once they hear the alert.

This was a tiny glimpse into the intolerable situation which residents of Israeli towns within close range of Gaza must deal with constantly.  

12:48

We then toured Kibbutz Alumim and saw the children perform a play dramatizing how they deal with the constant threat of rocket fire, entitled ‘Code Red’. 

We then listened to a military assessment of Israel’s current operation by Col. Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, who explained the extraordinary efforts of the IDF to avoid civilian casualties – resulting in a civilian to combatant ratio in Cast Lead, and Pillar of Defense, far superior to recent NATO operations.

Finally, we took a brief detour to get a glimpse at an Israeli tank stationed near the Gaza border.

More than 1200 rockets have been launched at Israeli towns since November 10, and over 12,800 since 2001.

Three lessons from military intervention in Libya

A guest post by AKUS

I have no idea why “we”, whoever “we” are, are in Libya.

The Libyan adventure, which may one day be seen as the last gasp of European colonialism aided initially by a reluctant USA, seems to be nothing other than a bizarre outcome of the “right to protect” (“R2P”) doctrine. This doctrine has suddenly become fashionable in some circles as it appears to provide quasi-legal, UN-sanctioned cover for those who wish to meddle in other countries’ affairs.

It seems to me that R2P emerged as one of the side-effects of global meddling in the Israeli-Arab conflict created by those who would try to force Israel to end its blockade of arms entering Gaza. As usual, what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. Now R2P is being used to justify bombing Libya.

However, the Libyan adventure is providing some unexpected lessons for Europe and Israel – and despots around the world.

The Washington Post has a front-page headline from Saturday, April 16th, that demonstrates the weakness and divisions inside NATO, and, by extension, Europe:

NATO runs short on some munitions in Libya

Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time, according to senior NATO and U.S. officials.

In contrast, Gaddafi seems to be able to roll out tanks to attack his foes despite the air bombardments by three supposedly powerful NATO countries. As soon as the US limited its involvement Gaddafi gained the upper hand in his fight against the rebels. (It appears the US is still involved in some way which is not being fully reported, and which will make for some interesting politics and journalism back home if it turns out that the administration led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama is involved in a Nicaraguan-style covert war).

First lesson: Europe is so weak that the combined forces of three NATO countries cannot defeat the dictator of a third-world desert country like Libya if the US and Germany stand aside. European economic interventions other countries may have some force, but the lesson despots in Africa and beyond are learning is that as a military power Europe is useless. The Saudis and Bahrainis, where American interests prevent America from intervening, have understood this perfectly.

Ha’aretz noted that Gaddafi launched hundreds of Grad missiles and cluster bombs into Misrata on Saturday:

Three killed as Gaddafi forces fire mortars at residential areas in Misrata

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi fired at least 100 Grad rockets into Misrata and fired mortars at residential areas on Saturday, killing at least three during clashes in the coastal rebel-held Libyan city, a rebel spokesman said. 

…Rebels in Misurata alleged that Gaddafi’s forces have been using cluster bombs, which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. New York-based Human Rights Watch reported Friday that such munitions were used, saying its researchers inspected remnants and interviewed witnesses.

Second lesson:  Even if your air force is grounded, destroyed, or non-existent, if you can get close enough, you can terrorize populations with hundreds of cheap unguided munitions like Grads. Those who have Grads, like Gaddafi, Hamas and Hezbollah will use them indiscriminately against civilians. Hamas already does. In light of the attempt by the PA to gain unilateral statehood, the concept of a Gaddafi-like regime on the West Bank like those in Gaza and Lebanon cannot be countenanced. Israel may need many more Iron Dome batteries than it currently has or can afford, even with the latest US investment of $205 million for Iron Dome and Chetz.

Third lesson: Gaddafi has no compunction about firing cluster bombs into towns. By extension Nasrallah and Haniyah will not either. Israel was accused of using cluster bombs in Lebanon in battle grounds, but never fired them into towns and villages. We can expect no such restraint from Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel may have to find ways to deal with this threat either by identifying and destroying the source, wherever it may be, which could mean many civilian deaths in Gazan and Lebanese villages since the terrorists prefer to fire from civilian areas, or methods of safely destroying any bomblets in the centers of Israel’s towns and cities.

Finally, a question – at what point does it become “disproportionate” to respond to hundreds of Grads and cluster-bombs landing in your cities with a massive air and ground invasion against the attackers, even at the cost of civilian casualties among whom those attackers hide?

On “martyrs” and enablers

As a follow-up on our earlier post regarding the recent “martyrdom”(via a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan) of British al Qaeda leader Mahmoud Abu Rideh, note the astonishingly sympathetic piece the Guardian did on him in June 2009 entitled “A Day in the life of a terror suspect.”

Here’s some background:

  • Abu Rideh had been detained by the British government in December 2001 for having links to al Qaeda.  In 2005, after a British high court ruling, Rideh was released from prison but was subject to a “control order” – a house arrest which restricted his movements.
  • Rideh was said to have had close ties to the senior leadership of al Qaeda, including its deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, along with Abu Hamza, the radical preacher.

The portrayal of Rideh (who was then under house arrest) as a victim of government oppression by the Guardian – and NGOs like Amnesty and Human Rights watch – once again demonstrates that much of the British intelligentsia possess a seemingly unlimited capacity to cast reactionary jihadists as victims, as well as what can only be described as a willful blindness to the threat posed to Western society by radical Islam.

We may never know how many Americans and Brits lost their lives as a result of Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s involvement with al Qaeda, and his wish to become a “martyr.”  But, what we certainly do know is that those who continue to make excuses and even advocate for such jihadists are not innocent in the crimes committed by those whose freedom they assisted in securing.