Postcard from Israel – ‘Colour Red’

We have a single, short word in Hebrew- “HaMatzav” – which translates as “the situation”, but to any Israeli carries a loaded meaning which belies its brevity.

This past week, “HaMatzav” has been especially difficult, with incessant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on civilian population centres, attacks on our soldiers patrolling the borders (and not just in the south) and many of our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, called up and ready to do their part in trying to secure nothing more complicated than a normal life for their own families and their fellow citizens.

This week’s postcard will depart from our usual custom of visiting places of interest in our tiny country. Instead, the images here (taken from news outlets and social media) will try to give a sense of “HaMatzav” during the ‘Colour Red’ alerts which have been going on almost non-stop during the past week – and for the past twelve years.  

Israelis run to take cover as a warning siren sounds for possible incoming rockets in the Southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi. November 15, 2012. (Credit: Flash90)

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Flash90

Israelis react and seek cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi November 15, 2012. A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, drawing first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 13 and the military showdown lurched closer to all-out war.  (Credit: REUTERS)

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Reuters

Israelis take cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi November 15, 2012. A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, drawing first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 13 and the military showdown lurched closer to all-out war.  (Credit: REUTERS)

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Reuters

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man with his three sons and a daughter huddled outside their car when they stop in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachai, 15 November 2012 as a 'Red Alert" sounds, signaling a rocket attack. At least one woman died in this town, and some say as many as three died when an apartment received a direct hit from a Grad missile fired by Palestinians militants in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: EPA)

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit EPA


‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Reuters

‘Colour Red’ alert

Israelis run for cover in response to sirens warning of rocket attacks in the southern city of Ashkelon.

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit AFP

Sderot kids hiding

Tel Aviv residents bracing themselves as rocket alarm sirens sound.

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Daniel Bar On

‘Colour Red’ alert. Photo credit Getty

Intense rocket fire on southern Israel

Earlier, I took part in a briefing with Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich of the IDF Spokesman’s unit regarding the intensified rocket fire upon the south of Israel over the past few hours, which –at the time of writing – the Guardian has not yet seen fit to report 

Lt. Col. Leibovich reported that 68 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip in the past twelve hours. Two foreign nationals – farm workers from the Kissufim area – were critically wounded by rocket fire and three or four additional civilians are suffering from lighter injuries. Several homes have been damaged. 

Scene of the rocket attack which critically injured two farm workers. Photo credit: IDF blog, 24/10/2012

Lt. Col. Leibovich also gave details of the IDF’s responses to the rocket attacks:

At midnight last night the IDF targeted a rocket-launching squad comprising three Hamas terrorists.

At 5 a.m. this morning the IDF targeted another squad which had just launched a rocket. 

At 7 a.m. the IDF targeted a rocket launching site: one of the pits dug by the terrorists in which the rocket-launcher is placed.

At 8:20 a.m. the IDF targeted a weapons smuggling tunnel and other sites in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system has successfully intercepted 7 additional rockets.

The Home Front Command has ordered all civilians in the region to stay near their air-raid shelters and safe rooms as, due to their proximity to the Gaza Strip, they have only 15 seconds in which to find cover. All schools and kindergartens in the area are closed. 

Lt. Col. Leibovich stressed that all the targets of today’s rocket fire were, once again, civilian targets including small agricultural communities. She also noted that the majority of the rocket fire took place – as is frequently the case – during the early morning when children are on their way to school and adults travelling to work.

I asked Lt. Col. Leibovich for her view of the claim frequently appearing in the Western media that Hamas is not interested in an escalation of the conflict. She described it as “not a reliable statement”.


Harriet Sherwood and the ceasefire that never was.

Harriet Sherwood appeared to wake up rather late to the fact that one million Israeli civilians have been (and still are at the time of writing) under constant attack from missiles fired from Gaza since Monday afternoon, producing her first report on the subject on Wednesday morning

In both that report and the one she produced on June 21st, she seems to be trying to promote a rather curious concept. 

In her article from June 20th Sherwood states: 

“Hamas has largely adhered to a series of ceasefires since the three-week war in Gaza ended in January 2009, although it has not contained rocket fire from other militant groups, notably Islamic Jihad. Hamas was weakened by Israel’s military onslaught, known as Operation Cast Lead, and is reluctant to provoke another major confrontation with Israel.”

In her June 21st piece, she writes: 

“Hamas had earlier announced its militants had fired rockets into Israel for the first time for more than a year. It has largely adhered to previous ceasefires because it is unwilling to provoke Israel into a major military confrontation.”

So Sherwood would have us believe on the one hand that Hamas has ‘largely adhered’ (a strange concept in itself) to various ‘ceasefires’. On the other hand, Sherwood admits that Hamas has turned a deliberate blind eye to the activities of numerous other terror groups operating out of the Gaza Strip and so –as the residents of southern Israel know only too well – there actually was no real ceasefire at all

Hamas is the (albeit unelected) governing body in Gaza. It is responsible for everything that goes on in its territory, just as the British government would be responsible for preventing ‘militants’ in Dover from firing Grad missiles at Calais. And Sherwood must know this full well, because the opening paragraph of her June 21st piece states that: 

Hamas has said it will commit to a ceasefire after more than 100 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel in the past three days and eight Palestinians, including three teenagers, were killed in Israeli airstrikes.”

In other words, according to Sherwood’s patronizing approach, Hamas is ruler enough to broker a ceasefire, but not ruler enough to be expected to enforce it across the board. 

Equally patronizing –this time to her readers – is Sherwood’s euphemistic description of “eight Palestinians, including three teenagers” having been killed in Gaza. 

Among those killed in Gaza during the past week  are, (according to various Palestinian sources), Mohammed Bassam Abu Mueliq and Yousef Talbani (both 16) who were killed whilst handling an explosive device near the border fence between Gaza and Israel, 21-year-old Ghaleb Armilat (according to Hamas, a member of the Al Quds brigade of Islamic Jihad), Ismail Abu Ouda and Muhammed Shabat (both members of the Islamic Jihad en route to carrying out a terror attack), and Mahmoud Abdo Za’anin and Ibrahim Abdel Fattah (both members of Hamas ‘Defenders of Al Aqsa’, with the latter apparently belonging to its ‘youth brigade’). Hamas also claimed that a member of its Izz al Din al Qassam brigades named Jihad Abu Shabab (23) was killed.

Here are pictures of Abu Ouda and Shabat taken from the Islamic Jihad website (courtesy of Challah Hu Akbar). 

Ismael Abu Ouda

Ismael Abu Ouda

Muhammed Shabat

Muhamed Shabat

Abu Ouda & Shabat

And here is a video – released via Twitter by Hamas – of its Al Qassam Brigades firing ‘home-made’ rockets at what it describes as ‘military bases’. 

It really is hard to decide which is more patronising: Harriet Sherwood’s assignation of a childlike diminished responsibility to the rulers of the Gaza Strip or her apparent belief that her readers need to be shielded from the realities of an ongoing terror war through employment of delicate euphemisms.