No sooner had U.S. President George Bush departed Israel when Hamas led Palestinians in Gaze began inundating Sderot again with Kassam missile fire. The IDF responded by not only striking Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants with air to ground missile fire by also by ground incursions into the Strip which has resulted in more than 22 Palestinians killed including the son of former P.A. Foreign Minister, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar. Zahar (a case of mistaken identity?), who now holds the same position for the Hamas entity, vowed during mourning for his slain son that Israel will pay severely for this act.
Zahar’s words seems to be taking concrete form as Israel’s southern town which borders on the Eastern edge of the Strip has been hit by more than 70 Kassam rockets and mortar fire in the course of three days. Several Sderot residents have been injured including a young girl who was sitting in front of her computer when a Kassam slammed into her family’s living room. She was injured, by miraculously survived.
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the beleaguered town and vowed that Israel will not tolerate this kind of action. Tolerate or not, the Kassams keep coming and more and more Sderot residents are evacuating the town, including a number being once again assisted by billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, who is financing the relocation of Sderot school children to safer locations. For the ones who have not left, increasing problems of trauma and hysteria have kept at least a fourth of the children away from school.
Israeli retaliation strikes has also resulted in another problem when exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal announced on Wednesday that Hamas has cancelled the negotiations aimed at gaining the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. “We will not resume these negotiations until the Zionest enemy discontinues their attacks on our people”, Meshaal said when interviewed in his headquarters in Damascus.
With what is currently going on in the south, which is literally a war of attrition between Israel and Hamas, it’s highly unlikely that the IDF will heed Mr. Meshaal’s warning as the Israeli public will not tolerate such actions against fellow citizens for much longer. Hamas leaders in Gaza, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh may be getting the message, as it was reported from a senior Hamas official that they would like to halt the rocket and other attacks that are resulting in a continuance of IDF selective targeting of Palestinian militants. Israel Defense Minister Barak replied that Israeli forces will increase their pressure on the Gaza Palestinians until they do cease these rocket attacks. Meanwhile, at least 15 Kassam rockets have hit Sderot Thursday morning alone, injuring one woman and traumatizing many other residents.
What now remains to be seen is who will prevail in this current “war of the wills”.