Friday, January 4, 2008

The Day After

If anyone wants to find a silver lining from yesterday's cloud, then do not read this. First, the local reaction:

Should Ashkelon activate its rocket warning system? ... It was the second time a Katyusha has hit northern Ashkelon, and nine shorter-range Qassam rockets have hit the southern part of the city. The defense establishment installed a warning system in Ashkelon some time ago, but it has never been activated.
There's tax money well spent.
Mayor Roni Mehatzri argued at Thursday's meeting that this remained the right policy because activating the system would merely increase residents' fears.
Now, if they can only do something about the pesky exploding sounds the rockets make that increase residents' fears.
"Statistically speaking, there are 80 alarms for every hit, so there should already have been at least 400 alarms in the city," he said. "Is that what we want? For our children to go in fear?" Warning that such fear could destroy the city, Mehatzri argued that it was better to live with the risk.
Actually, this is not a choice here because we have had both elements for quite some time.
Moreover, even if the system were activated, there is not enough time between the alarm's warning and a rocket hit for people to reach a public shelter. Yet ordinary buildings offer limited protection because neither Ashkelon's houses nor its schools are reinforced.
So what we have is the worst of all possible scenarios.
"We don't need reinforcement, we need to end the terror," Mehatzri concluded.
How about some reinforcement in the mean time?

On the national level it's not any more optimistic either.
The Katyusha rocket that hit the northern part of Ashkelon Thursday does not herald a new situation in the fighting on the Gaza border. Katyushas and even enhanced Qassam rockets have landed in Ashkelon before. The only difference is that this one landed a few hundred meters farther north.

But that, of course, is not the whole story. A rocket hitting Ashkelon's northern edge means that another several thousand people are suddenly in rocket range of Gaza...

Though television cameras hastened to record the (justifiably) worried reactions of Ashkelon residents, the city fathers are trying to play down the incident and return to normalcy. But it is clear that the threat to Ashkelon is now greater than had previously been thought.
Obviously not an Ashkelon resident reporting.
If they so desire, Palestinian groups are now capable of bombarding Ashkelon regularly, and with an ample number of rockets. They have enough Katyushas and enhanced Qassams, the rockets can be stored for relatively long periods, and the ruins of the former settlements in northern Gaza provide a launching ground from which the rockets can reach northern Ashkelon.

The only reason this has not yet happened is that Hamas does not want a major clash with Israel. Most rockets hitting Ashkelon are launched by Islamic Jihad, albeit with Hamas' consent. If Hamas decides to attack, it will not make do with a lone Katyusha...

Israel's response to Thursday's Katyusha attack was nothing out of the ordinary: It bombed a few Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets. It is far from declaring war on Gaza. The timing is poor - at the height of winter and on the eve of U.S. President George W. Bush's visit and publication of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. And in any case, Israeli leaders are doubtful that any real military gains can be made against Hamas right now.
*Yawn*, nothing out of the ordinary here.
But before complaining about Israel's lack of response to the rocket fire, it is worth remembering the following: The biggest price of the recent low-intensity warfare is being paid by the terrorists, who are being killed by the dozen. Thus it is not just Israel that is exercising restraint. So is Hamas.
Anyone feel better now? Anyone?

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