The beleaguered Israeli town Sderot, only a ‘stones throw’ or in this case, a Qassam rocket launch away from Gaza, “celebrated” the new school year today, September 3, being once again under a barrage of Palestinian launched Qassam rockets. When it had been announced earlier by local municipal authorities that the town of 15,000 would start the 2007/08 school year like every other Israeli community, their “neighbors” in the Hamas led Palestinian Gaza Strip decided otherwise. These “good neighbors” shot not less than 7 home made missiles into Israel, one of them actually striking a kindergarten and sending more than 20 children to hospital for treatment from severe trauma and shock.
The afternoon news broadcasts, showing scores of Sderot residents and police scurrying for the shelters, was a sad reminder that this type of harassment is far from over. Despite Prime Minister Olmert appearing on television with a warning that these kind of incidents will not be tolerated by Israel, it can only be wondered if the Palestinians will take Mr. Olmert seriously. Most likely, they will not.
Previous retaliations against Palestinian terror groups who are involved in this kind of activity have not been very effective; and even if several key terrorists are ‘taken out’ by selective “culling”, there are plenty more volunteers to eagerly take their place. I say eagerly, because it must be understood by all that not only are these people (the Palestinians) not afraid to die, they look forward to the “opportunity” to become ‘Holy Martyrs’ for their cause.
Israeli communities like Sderot and several smaller towns and settlements, including kibbutzim, which lie near the border with Gaza, will most likely continue to suffer these attacks; and larger communities like Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat may soon be targeted as well. It’s no secret that Hamas and other groups have been smuggling many varieties of weapons and explosives into Gaza; and longer range rockets may be part of this new arsenal. Even benevolent people like Arkady Gaydamak won’t be able to do much to alleviate the suffering of the people in areas under fire.
Recently, exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal stated that relations between the Palestinians and Israel cannot improve as long as the Israeli military continues to “massacre” innocent Palestinian civilians. What Mr. Mashaal means by this term is puzzling as the IDF tries very hard to minimize civilian casualties among the Palestinians despite unfortunate incidents such as the deaths of three Palestinian children during a recent IDF military operation. With Palestinians having some of the most densely populated cities and towns in the world, it’s no wonder that occasionally some Palestinians are caught in the line of fire â€“ especially when many Kassam rocket attacks occur from within densely populated areas.
Such is the reality of “back to school” in both the P.A. and some Israeli communities; especially Sderot.