On January 15th, terror emanating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip sharply escalated. Over the next 24 hours, more than 100 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza on the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon, a city of one hundred thousand residents. Not only did the Palestinian's indiscriminate fire rain down on Israeli civilians harder than ever before, the Palestinian terrorists now began to single out civilian targets with precision weapons. A Hamas sniper murdered 20 year-old volunteer Carlos Chavez from Ecuador in the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha using a specialized .50 caliber (12.5 mm) snipers' rifle.
Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 in order to promote a peaceful solution - yet in return received Hamas-backed terror. More than two years ago, Israel removed all of its civilians, soldiers and settlements from the Gaza Strip and redeployed behind the recognized border.
Yet Hamas pursues cross-border terrorism - abducting Israelis and targeting civilians on Israeli soil. The rocket launches from Gaza are senseless, indiscriminate violence against the Israeli civilian population. Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June, approximately 1500 rockets and mortars have been launched at Israel. Israel has suffered dozens of casualties, hundreds of shock victims, thousands of traumatized children, and severe disruption of daily life.
No democracy would watch its civilian population being targeted on a daily basis without responding. Every country is obliged to protect its citizens and would act as Israel to defend them.
A clear distinction must be made between Palestinian terror attacks against Israel and Israel’s defensive response. Palestinian terrorists directly target Israeli civilians and use their own civilians as human shields. Terror groups produce, transport, and launch rockets and mortars from inside densely populated Palestinian residential areas, which are used for cover. These groups are intentionally trying to create a humanitarian crisis as a means of gaining international support, i.e. by attacking the very border crossings meant to deliver humanitarian relief to the Palestinian population, and by smuggling explosives disguised as humanitarian aid.
Israel does not view the people of Gaza as its enemy and is doing everything possible to prevent harm to innocent Palestinian civilians. Israel targets only the armed militants directly involved in the violence, rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli citizens. Tactical orders are given to IDF commanders that operations should be cancelled when civilians enter the combat area and missiles must be diverted as required. Despite the security constrictions, Israel makes certain that there is a continuous flow of humanitarian aid and supplies through the border crossings to the Palestinian population.
Unequivocally, Israel wants peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Israel believes that the Palestinian people are entitled to national self-determination and a state of their own. Israel accepts the idea of two nation states living side by side in peace - a homeland for the Palestinian people and a homeland for the Jewish people. Israel is negotiating with the moderate Palestinian leadership under President Abbas to bring that goal forward.
Unfortunately, the Islamic extremists gaining control of the Gaza street are the greatest obstacle to a two-state solution. The armed Palestinian militants targeted by Israel are not just enemies of the Israeli people, they are enemies of peace. They propagate an ideology that espouses violence instead of dialogue. These extremists in Gaza oppose reconciliation, oppose the peace talks, and claim that any Palestinian who negotiates with Israel is a traitor to Islam and to the Arab cause. For these reasons, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by international community, including by the European Union and the United States. The world does not need another terrorist state. There can be no peace when the Hamas leadership in Gaza in more interested in the obliteration of Israel than in the two-state solution.
Identified Kassam rocket hits January 2008
Identified mortar hits January 2008
Source: Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)