Ceasefire Halts Palestinian Terrorists’ Rocket Barrage . . . for Now

Israeli government divided.

A shaky ceasefire has put at least a temporary halt to the most serious violence in and around the Gaza Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. However, while the ceasefire managed for now to prevent the violence from spinning out of control into a much wider and destructive war between the Palestinian terrorists and Israel, it has left Hamas’s weaponry and military infrastructure intact for their use against Israeli civilians on another day. The terms of the ceasefire thus divided the Israeli government. Defense Minister Liberman resigned in protest, denouncing the ceasefire agreement as “surrendering to terror.” He said that his party would pull out of the ruling coalition, potentially precipitating early elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his government’s decision to enter into the ceasefire. He said that “in times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy.“ 

Before the ceasefire took effect on Tuesday, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists had launched approximately 460 rockets and mortar rounds towards southern Israel, about a quarter of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Enough of the rocket barrage aimed at civilian population centers in Israel got through, however, to cause multiple casualties and property damage, while sending terrified children to hide in bomb shelters. A Palestinian worker from Hebron was killed after a direct hit on a building in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.  At least two women were critically injured.

The Palestinian terrorists’ attacks followed on the heels of their confrontation with members of an Israeli covert intelligence mission inside Gaza last Sunday. Seven Palestinian militants, including a senior Hamas military commander, and an Israeli lieutenant colonel died during the confrontation. Rather than agree to treat the incident as an isolated skirmish and maintain the tenuous ceasefire that had previously existed between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorists deliberately put civilians in harm’s way by launching their barrage of rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities and towns. In a virtual declaration of war, Hamas warned that “millions” more Israelis would be subject to rocket fire.

Israel could not stand idly by while its civilians were under relentless terrorist rocket attacks with the promise of many more attacks to come. Thus, Israel’s military retaliated proportionately with attacks of its own, destroying multiple facilities used by Palestinian terrorists for military purposes.

“Israel hit scores of military posts and weapons caches across Gaza, and also leveled a Hamas television station, radio station and office building, and the group’s military intelligence headquarters,” the New York Times reported. The Israeli Air Force was also on the hunt to eliminate Palestinian terrorist rocket teams, Debkafile reported after a briefing by a senior officer of the Israeli Air Force. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, seven Palestinians were killed by the Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza, five of whom were reportedly militants.

Facing the prospect of more Israeli military attacks that threatened Hamas’s war machine, Hamas and its other terrorist allies in Gaza announced on Tuesday that they would agree to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt with the UN’s support “as long as the Zionist enemy does the same.” Israeli officials were at first not so sure. They have seen this movie before. However, after meeting for several hours, Israel’s security cabinet ultimately decided to go along with a ceasefire rather than let the violence spiral out of control. Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to put the best face he could on the decision. “Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why,” he said. “We’ll settle accounts at the right time.”

Not all of Israel’s senior government leaders were on board with the ceasefire, however, including the outgoing Defense Minister Liberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Mr. Liberman said at a news conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday that the Israeli military response to the Palestinian terrorists’ rocket attacks was “insufficient.”  He added that in agreeing to the ceasefire the Israeli government was “buying quiet for the short term at the price of serious damage to national security in the long term.“ 

Mr. Liberman has a valid point. Before the Palestinian terrorists’ rocket barrage, the Israeli government had taken concrete steps to address the humanitarian situation facing the residents of Gaza.  It did so despite Hamas’s months-long provocations along the border between Gaza and Israel and its launching of incendiary balloons causing widespread fires in southern Israel. For example, to increase the availability of electricity for the Gazan residents, Israel allowed new shipments of diesel fuel into Gaza for use in Gaza’s power plant. Israel also agreed to permit $15 million in cash from Qatar to be delivered by vehicle to Gaza for Hamas’s ostensible use in paying its civil servants. Mr. Lieberman had opposed these Israeli concessions. It turns out he was right. Israel had taken risks in good faith to ease tensions, only to be met with fierce attacks against its civilians from the estimated stockpile of more than 20,000 rockets and mortars that remain in the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

One thing most Israelis know for sure is not to trust the United Nations when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians. Every time Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups attack Israeli civilians, they manage to play the victimhood game and use the United Nations as their shield from criticism and as their diplomatic spear against Israel. As senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Risheq was asking the international community to condemn Israel as the aggressor, the Palestinians’ friends at the UN got the ball rolling. At the request of two non-permanent members of the Security Council who are hostile to Israel – Bolivia and Kuwait – the UN Security Council agreed to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Gaza situation. Israel knows that the UN charade always ends badly for the Jewish state.