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Operation Cast Lead: Stories You May Have Missed

Against All Odds: The Story of Aharon Karov

"In December 2008, after constant rocket fire from Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead. The operation began with airstrikes and subsequently ground forces entered the coastal enclave.

Second Lt. Aharon Karov was among the many soldiers called up to defend the nation. Less than 24 hours after his own wedding, Karov left his bride and drove to an army base in Tze’elim, southern Israel. For the young couple, there was no doubt that Karov, as a commander and a soldier, had the obligation to lead his soldiers into battle and protect the people of his nation.

On the night of January 12, 2009, Karov and his soldiers entered the northern Gaza Strip. They followed detailed intelligence information which led them to various houses and structures where terrorists were hiding. When they arrived at one of these houses, a powerful explosive was activated.

Karov was critically wounded. Between 300 to 500 metal fragments penetrated his body and he suffered from a major injury in his head and upper body.

Moments later, a complex rescue mission began to save the wounded officer. IDF medics performed life-saving procedures on the battlefield and in the air as Karov was evacuated by helicopter.

Over the next 12 hours, Karov underwent a set of complex and dangerous surgeries in order to remove part of his skull. His family was told that he was in critical condition and Karov was named the most severely wounded soldier during Operation Cast Lead.

Three weeks later, against all odds, Karov was released from the hospital to begin rehabilitation.

Karov began his recovery with a deep commitment to the treatments prescribed to him by the doctors as well as a bundle of support from his family. The process was long, exhausting, and touched the heart of the entire nation. Thousands of letters of encouragement and blessing strengthened him and aided him during his journey towards recovery.

This officer’s remarkable improvement is considered a miracle. When he regained the ability to speak, Karov’s first words were dedicated to his wife. He called her on the phone and told her, “Tzvia, I love you.”

Roughly two months after the incident in Gaza, Karov’s soldiers finished their training. Karov, who insisted on being a part of the ceremony for his soldiers, stood on his legs for almost 2 hours despite his physical condition. At the end of the ceremony, he pinned his soldiers with a pin declaring them fighters, and was then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant by the Paratroopers’ Brigade Commander.

Step-by-step, word-by-word, Karov inspired the entire nation. His condition improved faster than anyone would have believed and not long after his injury Karov did the impossible and participated in various races and even a marathon. The young couple also grew their family and Karov’s wife gave birth to two children: a girl who was born a year and a half after the incident and a boy a few years later.

Today, Karov shares his story across the country, mostly with young men and women who are about to join the army.

In a way, Karov’s story is a Hanukkah miracle – even though the physical injury was deep and severe, his spirit was strengthened. Operation Cast Lead restored quite in southern Israel for a couple of years, but the legacy established by Karov and many other soldiers will last for many generations to come."

— The IDF, December 25 2014

Another Day, Another Rocket

“I am presently at home in the northern Negev spending much of the day going in and out of the bomb shelter in my home as Grads drop from the sky nearby. The small space is shared with 6 grandchildren and parents. We make the best of it. We actually welcomed in the new year in the place as another missile was landing nearby. Spending time in the shelter is actually less troubling this time since we have not yet been asked to put on our gas masks. When we exit and see foreign newscasts, the BBC and Sky for example, we wonder what reality are they describing.  It certainly is not ours.”

— Email from Professor Ilan Troen of Brandeis University, January 1, 2009

Miracles Do Happen

“A Grad rocket slammed into a residential building in Ashdod on Thursday [January 1, 2009], hitting the top floor and sending several chunks of concrete tumbling down to the street below. Thirty-two people were treated for shock, but no one was wounded in the attack, thanks to residents' adherence to Home Front Command directives to enter and remain in safe rooms after hearing a siren, officials said. 'This is nothing less than a miracle,' Magen David Adom chairman Eli Bin told the Jerusalem Post.” (January 1, 2009)

Jerusalem Post, (January 1, 2009)

The Difference Between Hamas and Israel

“Maintaining a night vigil along the border with Israel, Hamas fighters sat Wednesday within reach of a device connected to underground wires. The wires were attached to a battery-like device that might have been a detonator for a landmine. Clutching assault rifles and hiding behind trees, masked Hamas gunmen in military clothing reported by field radio their observations of Israeli movements. 'The difference between us and them is that they wait passionately for the day they can return home safely, while we bid farewell to our families and hope to die as martyrs,' one of the men said.”

Scotsman, (January 1, 2009)

Egypt Hunting Hamas Operatives in Sinai

Egypt's Al-Ahram weekly quoted official sources as saying that Egyptian security forces are hunting for several Hamas operatives who have infiltrated Sinai and are aiming to target Egyptian forces. Egyptian authorities have called on locals to refrain from assisting the infiltrators in any way. Meanwhile, Mohammed Bassiouni, former Egyptian ambassador to Israel and currently chairman of the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, criticized Hamas Thursday on Cairo's state television, saying, ‘Where are the Hamas leaders now, when Gazans are being killed? They are all in hiding.’”

Ynet News, (January 1, 2009)

Hamas Goes to War with Gazans...

The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip. Fatah officials reported at least 75 of their supporters were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken. In addition, Hamas executed more than 35 Palestinians who were suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Jerusalem Post, (January 1, 2009)

...While Israel Tries to Protect Them

Israeli TV reported that minutes before the targeted killing of a Hamas terrorist in his apartment or home, all the neighbors get a phone call warning them to get out of the area. Some of the defiant ones go to the roof hoping to dissuade the IDF from firing at which point a small, harmless missile is fired to a corner of the roof. This convinces the defiant to get away. Then and only then is the hit performed.

There is no other army in the world that takes such extreme measures to protect noncombatants.

— Channel 10, Israel TV, (January 1, 2009)

Two Palestinian Girls Killed By Qassam Misfire

Five-year-old Hanin Abu Khoussa and her 12-year-old cousin, Sabah Abu Khoussa were killed in their home on December 27, 2008, by a missile fired by Hamas. These two young girls don't live in Israel; they lived in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza. They died when a missile intended to kill Israelis misfired and killed them instead.

Jerusalem Post (December 27, 2008)

Humanitarian Aid for Gazans

On January 7, 2009, the IDF suspended its operation for three hours to allow Palestinians to acquire basic necessities, replenish stock and seek aid from the various international organizations operating within the Gaza Strip. Israel also allowed approximately 80 trucks carrying medicine, medical supplies and basic food commodities to pass into Gaza along with approximately half a million liters of heavy duty diesel and 60,000 liters of fuel.

The day before Israel allowed into Gaza 57 trucks loaded with flour, powdered milk, barley, animal feed, medical supplies and medication. Israel also transferred a shipment of hypochlorite to meet water needs and worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to repair a power line leading in to Gaza City.

Also, Nahal Oz fuel depot operated and conveyed 215,000 liters of heavy duty diesel (required for the Gaza power station), 93,000 liters of diesel for the use of various UN organizations and 50 tons of cooking gas for domestic uses.

In addition to allowing thousands of tons of humanitarian aid into Gaza, Israel has transferred 2,000 units of blood donated by Jordan; 5 ambulances donated by Turkey; and 5 ambulances transferred from the West Bank on behalf of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

—Embassy of Israel, Washington, DC, (January 6-7, 2009)

The Fundamentalism of Hamas

On “Meet the Press,” David Gregory read an excerpt from a book by panelist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, who wrote about Nizar Rayyan, the Hamas leader who was killed by Israel during the current offensive. Goldberg, who had interviewed Rayyan, wrote:

“The question I wrestle with constantly is whether Hamas is truly, theologically implacable. That is to say, whether the organization can remain true to its understanding of Islamic law and God's word and yet enter into a long-term nonaggression treaty with Israel. I tend to think not, though I've noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. ... There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don't need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.’ There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. ‘Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.’ ... What are our crimes? I asked Rayyan. ‘You are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah,’ he said. ‘Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.’ Can Israel achieve deterrence with someone like that?”

—“Meet the Press,” January 4, 2009

Life Under Rocket Fire

“Last night, as we were descending into the shelter, my son asked me a barrage of questions, ‘Why can’t I go to kindergarten? Are they going to kill us? Why do we need to go the shelter? Is our house weak? Will the shelter stop us from dying?’ shared Batsheva. “It broke my heart. I just tried to explain calmly that the shelter was more protected.”

— Batsheva Tamano, director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Atzmaut program in Sderot

“Since the conflict in Gaza intensified, seventy-five-year-old widow Polina has simply not moved from her apartment in Sderot's Kasdor neighborhood. Polina relies on a walker to get around due to a loss of sensation in one leg. Her reduced mobility prevents her from moving to safety when the blaring Red Color attack alerts sounds. Her top floor apartment lacks a protected room and the building's shelter is on the first floor, an impossible distance to cover in the allocated 15 seconds to get to safety.”

Joint Distribution Committee

“I respond as a Jew who grew up in Birmingham and who has been living in the southwestern corner of Israel for the last 30 years. I live three miles from the Gaza Strip and the same distance from Egypt....I want to preface my amendments to all of your misconceptions and distorted interpretations of the facts, by saying that I am a human rights advocate myself and for all the years that I have lived in Israel I have voted for the human rights party (currently, Meretz), which is politically left of center. What you seem to forget though is that the Israelis are also humans and we have rights too. As I write this, my human rights are being violated as I listen to the blasts of Palestinian-fired missiles falling all around me. At this very moment, a missile just hit a kindergarten in Ashdod and it is only due to canceling school in the south that a lot of children weren't killed.

— Margaret Kartus Duvdevani responding to an article criticizing Israel in the Birmingham News

“Our sense of calm was shattered on Friday afternoon when the Israeli army carried out a synchronized artillery, naval and air attack that was coordinated on the border of our Kibbutz, which is now a closed military area. I ran out with the other Kibbutz members to see what was happening, and it was here that I saw “Israel Yayafa” – beautiful Israel. Not the external beauty, but the internal beauty of the people of Israel. Basketball stars from our national team had come in huge trucks filled with toys, presents and food. A Nike truck was filled with sports goods for the kids. Israel's top artists came to our pub morning, afternoon and evening to perform for the area residents and soldiers. It was a classic example of everyone simply joining hands and doing what they could in this time of war.

—Ofer Baram is Jewish Agency Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region

“I also went to Sderot for the first time in weeks to get my haircut. What a simple task that sounds like. But in these days, nothing is simple. The minute I walked into the salon, I asked where the bomb shelter was. Not only did I ask I went to check it out to make sure it was OK. After I finished, I walked outside. To my surprise people were out. It was a beautiful balmy day, and there were actually people in the coffee shops sitting outside. Sderot, for once, was not a ghost town. Added to this, people were riding in their cars with Israeli flags blowing from the windows. It felt like Independence Day. And it brought me back again to the thought that we are an incredible people. In defiance of everything that is going on, people are riding in their cars with their flags waving and sitting outside, as if to say, we are here to stay.”

— Soni Singer is the director of the San Diego-IBIM Student Village, situated one and a half miles from the Gaza border

“Three schools in World ORT’s Kadima Mada (Science Journey) program have been temporarily closed in the face of continued Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. The security measure has undoubtedly saved lives – a long-range Grad missile, its warhead packed with ball bearings to inflict greater harm, pierced the concrete roof of a Grade 9 classroom at the Makif Aleph High School in central Be’er Sheva last week but the school was empty and no-one was injured. Normally, the classroom seats nearly 40 children.”

— World ORT

“I have 100 percent trust in our army. I am not afraid for myself. But I am terrified for my children. And my heart is torn in half as I try to balance my responsibilities as a mother and as a working woman. As the director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Department activities in Sderot, Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev, my staff and I are responsible for the children of Youth Futures, the Net@ pupils and the children and youth in Partnership 2000 (P2K) programs who have been suffering on the frontline for over eight years. They desperately need our help. But when my daughter calls me crying, and my son's kindergarten teacher calls to tell me to come pick him up as a rocket fell less than a quarter of a mile from the school, I want to rush home and protect them. It is a harrowing situation. But I need to stay strong, my staff people need to stay strong – for our children and the children we care for everyday.”

— Ravit Ohayon-Michal, Jewish Agency for Israel

UNRWA's Teacher/Terrorist

“By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.

In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq's work with explosives....But militant leaders allied to the enclave’s ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's ‘engineering unit’ — its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death.

After he was killed in an Israeli air strike, Qiq's body was wrapped in an Islamic Jihad flag at his funeral...and a handwritten notice posted on the metal gate at the entrance to the school declared that Qiq, “the chief leader of the engineering unit,” would now find “paradise.”

That poster was removed soon after Reuters visited the Rafah Prep Boys School, run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Staff there said on Monday that UNRWA officials had told them not to discuss Qiq's activities.

Reuters, (May 5, 2008)

Hamas Map Shows Strategy for Using Civilians

On January 8, 2009, the Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish, revealed a sketch by Hamas that details on the deployment of explosives and Hamas forces in the Al-Attara neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip. The map was found during Paratrooper Brigade forces operating in the northern Gaza Strip and was translated from Arabic during the operation. It describes, among other things, the location of explosive devices and firing positions in the middle of the civilian population in the dense neighborhood, which endanger the life of the civilians.

The map shows that snipers are positioned at the entrance of the A-Tawil mosque and in the mosques next to it and describes the directions the snipers are aiming. It indicates that explosives are planted in the entrances of civilian homes. In addition to that, the map also shows an explosive device planted next to a gas station - the detonation of the device would significantly damage the surrounding area.

The forces also discovered a booby-trapped doll at the entrance of a building, which, upon detonation, pulls the surrounding people into an underground tunnel to facilitate the killing and kidnapping of soldiers.

— Israeli Foreign Ministry

Hamas Blocks Warnings to Civilians

Palestinian terrorists and even the police in Gaza are fighting in civilian clothing, making it difficult to reduce civilian causalities. In addition, Hamas terrorists have planted explosives in civilian residence buildings so that in the event of IDF fire, the entire structure will explode. According to Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish, Hamas is preventing Palestinian civilians from receiving IDF leaflets asking Gaza residents to leave evacuate their homes. “They [Hamas] booby-trapped the entrances of civilian houses with explosives put close to them; the objective is of course to hit our forces but a local explosion also damages the houses of the civilians and causes great damage, and likely killing civilians.”

— Steve Erlanger, “A Gaza war full of traps and trickery,” The New York Times, (January 10, 2009);
“Israel's operation against Hamas in Gaza - Update Jan 10,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (January 10, 2009)

Media Access

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper or turned on the television in the last two weeks has seen plenty of coverage of the war in Gaza. Many reporters are complaining they do not have the access they would like, but there is no shortage of information coming from the battlefront.

It is true that Israel has restricted journalists’ access (they are now allowing some pool reporting and embedding some reporters); however, this is no different than the policy of the United States and other armies which do not allow reporters’ unfettered access during military operations. Israel learned a lesson from the degree of freedom it granted reporters during the war with Hizballah that journalists sometimes hampered military operations and endangered troops. Moreover, even after granting journalists access, much of the the reporting was distorted.

It is hard to argue that Israel has benefited in the conflict from limits placed on journalists as the story coming from Gaza has been largely told from the Palestinian point of view, with no pictures of Hamas terrorists or rocket crews but a steady stream of images of suffering and injured Palestinians. It is reminiscent of the observation by Marvin Kalb in his study of the last Lebanon war in which he said coverage made it appear the war was being fought by ghosts because you never saw a picture of any terrorists.

While the journalists sitting on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza complain and criticize Israel, we have heard almost nothing from the Egyptian side of the Gaza border. In fact, the UN reported, “Every day, local and foreign doctors, nurses, truck drivers and journalists, among others, wait on the Egyptian side of the border for the opportunity to enter Gaza during the daily three-hour ceasefire....On 9 January, the Egyptian authorities finally admitted a group of doctors from the Arab Medics Union to cross through to Gaza. Forty-six had arrived at the border two days earlier hoping to cross over and offer their assistance in Gaza....Foodstuffs and other aid are not allowed through the Rafah crossing, so are usually sent through the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4km away from Rafah, and which is under the control of Israel.”

Jerusalem Post, (January 7, 2009); IRIN (January 11, 2009)

Israeli School Children Traumatized by Rockets

On January 12, 2009, students in southern Israeli towns were allowed back to school for the first time since the operation began but under strict guidelines that required classes to be held in protected buildings and shelters.

Shlomit Amichai, director-general of the Ministry of Education, told a press conference last week: “It's a matter of national importance; we must return the children to their regular routine despite the fact that the current situation is not routine.”

Natan, a 17-year-old high school student from Ashkelon is still scared. “We’ve had eight schools and kindergartens (in Ashkelon, Beer Sheba and Ashdod) hit directly by mortars while they stood empty. I’m not ashamed to say I’m terrified.”

Sderot has experienced eight years of rocket attacks from Gaza. According to a January 2008 report by the Israel Trauma Centre for Victims of Terror and War (Natal), at least 75 percent of children aged 4-18 in Sderot suffer from post-traumatic stress, including sleeping disorders and severe anxiety.

— UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Life Under Rocket Fire

A Chabad elementary school was peppered with shrapnel from a rocket attack. An employee at the school said it was a miracle that no one was hurt. “The rocket landed in the exact spot the buses unload the students for school. If there had been class today, the rocket would have hit at the same time the buses would have been there. It would have been a disaster.”

Jerusalem Post, (January 12, 2009)

“Egypt is not willing even to open its borders to wounded people from amongst the civilians. Israel does this. Do you know that several of the wounded are in Barzillai hospital in Ashkelon that is under constant missile attack? And in Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva? And at least one in Hadassah hospital?”

— Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor at the University of Colorado Naomi Gale, (January 12, 2009)

“People in Ashkelon have 20 seconds to find shelter from the rockets, lucky new homes have bombs shelters.But what can you do if you find yourself in the middle of the street?

The distance from my house to the bus station is five minutes. Last week, a minute after I got off the bus the alarm sounded, I ducked near a parked car until the sound of the rocket explosion was over. Two minutes after that another alarm sounded, this time I ran for shelter under a building, other people stopped their cars and left them with a running engine to run for shelter.

One evening my baby niece was in the tub playing with her rubber ducky, and the alarm sounded. We barely had 20 seconds to run for shelter. I instantly leaned over to cover my niece with my body to protect her in case that rocket hit the house.

My 85-year old grandmother also lives in Ashqelon and is confined to a wheelchair. For her, 20 seconds are not enough time to find shelter. My brother and I had to move her bed into the shelter room to make sure she was safe at all times.”

— Tzvi Raviv, Jewish Agency for Israel Shaliach and Israel Program Coordinator at Hillel Foundation of Orange County

Aid Comes In, Hamas Steals It

Hamas is confiscating food donations sent into Gaza. Reports point in particular to the confiscation of flour and its sale, often at outrageous prices.

On Sunday, in a Hamas Internet forum, surfers complained about the confiscations of flour donations in Dir-al-Balech by Hamas. There is also a description of how Hamas transfers the donations to its own warehouses and distributes them to only two bakeries - Albana Bakery and Al-Tzalah Union Bakery - both belonging to Hamas.

— Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories

Another Hamas War Crime

The Israeli Arab weekly newspaper Kul Al-Arab called Gaza Strip residents to find out what they were experiencing. Khaled, from A-Rimal, said: “We the children, in small groups and in civilian clothes, are fulfilling missions of support for the [Hamas] Resistance fighters, by transmitting messages about the movements of the enemy forces, or by bringing them ammunition and food. We ourselves are not aware of the movements of the Resistance fighters. We see them in one place, they suddenly disappear, and then reappear somewhere else. They are like ghosts, it is very hard to find them or hurt them.”

Kul-Al-Arab, (January 9, 2009) translated by Palestinian Media Watch

Newlywed Israeli Soldier Fights For Life

Aharon Karov was given leave from his paratroop unit so he could get married. Less than 48 hours after the wedding he was called back to his unit.

The newly married couple had a difficult time separating after such a brief time as husband and wife, Karov’s father said. “But it was clear to them that there are times when you have to sacrifice for the sake of the state of Israel.”

Karov was critically wounded in an explosion in a booby-trapped house in northern Gaza. Having fought Hamas, he is now fighting for his life at Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva.

Haaretz, (January 14, 2009)

Pilots Abort Missions to Spare Civilians

“We work very hard to keep civilian casualties as low as possible,” Apache helicopter pilot Capt. Orr said. “Each missile we shoot is pinpointed to the very meter we want it to go.”

Orr has flown dozens of combat missions over Gaza and said aborting some of his targets for fear of harming civilians were among his proudest achievements. “The ones I remember are when I have locked in on a target and I fire and then at the last second I see a child in my cross hairs and I divert the missile,” he said. “That leaves a mark.”

AP, (January 13, 2009)

Life Under Rocket Fire

“Yesterday, I set my alarm for 8:30. But it was not to be. At 8:15 the red alert siren sounded and almost before I could open my eyes my younger daughter, 2, was already running to our protected shelter, her older brother, 4, hot on her tail. My children seem to think this is some sort of game, and I am glad it is so. For them it is a place for the family to be together to play and sing songs. I pray that this war will be over before they are old enough to understand that this is a different game – one of life and death.”

— Soni Singer is the director of the San Diego-IBIM Student Village, situated one and a half miles from the Gaza border.

Classes at both Shikma and Sha’ar HaNegev have endured countless interruptions as red alert sirens give students and staff about 15 seconds’ warning to find shelter from incoming high explosive warheads packed with ball bearings and other objects calculated to cause maximum death and injury.

“Many, many times our lessons are disturbed by the attacks,” Tammy said. “And if you are taking an exam, when you come back to the class after a red alert you have forgotten what you wanted to write.”

“When there’s a red alert we run out of the classroom into a safe room,” 17-year-old Lihi Va’anunu said. “We wait one minute and go back to the classroom. But it’s very difficult to focus on study after that. We try to, but it’s hard. So when I get home and I feel calmer I study to try to catch up with what I missed in the lesson.”

Yael adds: “When I hear the alarm I get scared for my family. You can’t focus on learning when you hear the alarm at school. Some people are very, very scared. There are school days when there are no alarms but there are also days when the alarm sounds six or seven times.”

— World ORT

“Both children went to Ori's gan in the morning, and I was very glad. I was able to continue to work in Sderot. In the afternoon, I was completely engaged in a car call when suddenly I noticed cars and trucks stopping in the middle of the street, and people running to the side of the road. It seems that I'm really feeling like things are normal, because my initial thought was that it was an accident. And then I noticed that people were not running to the roadside, but to houses nearby. And suddenly it registered that I had heard a red alert alarm. I stopped immediately and ran quickly to a protected place. This was terribly frightening.”

— Ravit Ohayon-Michal is director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Department activities in Sderot, Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev

US Public Backs Israel

Forty-four percent of Americans support Israel's use of force, while only 18 percent considered Hamas' use of force appropriate. Fifty-seven percent think that Hamas is using excessive force, while only 36 percent said Israel was.

Forty-four percent blame for the latest Middle East crisis Hamas, 14 percent said Israel and 29 percent said they weren't sure.

When those polled were asked whether the United States should favor a Palestinian state, 45 percent said it shouldn't, 31 percent said it should and 24 percent said they didn't know.

McClatchy Newspapers, (January 13, 2009

A Mad Source of Lies From Gaza

The source of many stories accusing Israel of human rights abuses is Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who has been treated by the media as a nonpartisan observer, and quoted accusing Israel of conducting an “all out war against civilians,” “deliberately targeting the [Palestinian] population,” and causing “a man-made disaster.”

Gilbert is a radical Marxist and a member of the political Red (Rodt) party, a revolutionary socialist party in Norway. He has been a pro-Palestinian activist since the 1970's and travelled to Lebanon in support of the Palestinians during the first Lebanon war in 1982. He has long been a vocal opponent of Israel and the U.S.

In Sweden’s biggest morning newspaper, columnist Lisa Bjurwald stated that Gilbert and his colleague Erik Fosse did work for the Norwegian aid organization NORWAY, whose partners include Hezbollah’s Martyr Foundation, which collects and distributes money to suicide bomber’s families.

Little Green Footballs; CAMERA

Fighting Ghosts

During the second Lebanon war, Hezbollah would not publish the names of killed operatives, preferring instead to bury them in secret, without media coverage, to reinforce the “divine victory” myth it sought to create. Reporters abetted this strategy, Marvin Kallb noted in a study of war coverage, by rarely publishing photographs of terrorists and creating the impression that the war on the Hezbollah side was being fought by ghosts.

Hamas has adopted a similar policy. On January 10, 2009, the main Hamas online forum announced that it was forbidden to publish photographs, names, or details of those members of the resistance (i.e., terrorist organizations) killed or injured in the fighting until the end of the “Israeli aggression” in the Gaza Strip. The moderator said that any message violating those principles would be removed from the forum. He added that they were all “soldiers of the resistance” who should avoid providing assistance to the enemy.

The Hamas policy has three objectives:

  1. to avoid undermining the morale of Hamas operatives as a result of the death of many terrorists during the IDF's ground operations (according to IDF reports, more than 200 operatives were killed). With that in mind, and possibly owing to the difficulty of evacuating many bodies from the battlefield, it was reported that Hamas was not holding proper funerals for its fatalities.
  2. to deliver to the Palestinian target audience (and to other target audiences worldwide) the message that Israel has no achievements in its ground operation and thus strengthen Hamas's status and bargaining power when the fighting comes to an end.
  3. to confirm (through Al-Jazeera and other media) the false propaganda message that Israel's military operations are aimed against Gaza Strip residents and that only the civilian population is being hit by the IDF and is paying the price.

IICC, (January 13, 2009)

Israeli Medic Risks Life to Save Palestinians

“Israeli medic Moshe Vaknin drove an ambulance to the Erez Crossing, between Israel and Gaza, and got ready to evacuate an injured Palestinian child. With Israeli mortars fired on one side, and bullets passing overhead from the other, Vaknin, the deputy director for the south district at Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s version of the Red Cross, risked his life to bring the Palestinian child out of Gaza and take him to an Israeli hospital for life-saving treatment.

Since then, he's brought out two more wounded Palestinian children for treatment in Israeli hospitals, and last week, was one of a team of medics who drove in to the checkpoint, the most dangerous in Israel and possibly the Middle East, in a special bulletproof ambulance to rescue Palestinian truck drivers, hired by the United Nations, and attacked while delivering humanitarian aid....

Over the last four years in his job working for the MDA, he has helped bring thousands of sick and injured Palestinian children and adults from the Gaza Strip to Israeli hospitals for vital medical care, often on a daily basis....Hamas sniper fire and rockets have been aimed many times at both Vaknin and the Palestinian patients he was transporting....“I really don't know why they were firing at us. They don’t care, even if we were transporting a child or baby,” says Vaknin....

‘Every day, almost, we’re taking injured and sick people to Israel through the Erez crossing,’ he says. ‘We have a coordinator in Gaza working with us. He will tell us if it’s a baby in an incubator, a child, an adult, or an elderly person. It’s pretty unpredictable, and I’ve stopped asking questions. Sometimes they will tell us to expect a five-year-old child. When we get to the crossing it’s a one-month-old baby....’

It’s a bit strange, he admits, that living about a mile from the Gaza border in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, he knows that he’s treating the same people who are throwing rockets on his family....‘We’ve learned to live like this. It’s not a normal situation,” says Vaknin....‘They're throwing rockets at my family and I am still helping them.’”

— Israel 21c

Life Under Rocket Fire

“Let people know that there are four agricultural municipalities bordering Gaza. Forty-thousand people live here. We want to farm, to cultivate the land, to love life. But for the past eight years we cannot send our children to school, we can't gather for community events, we cannot live normally. We have been forced to go out to fight for the right to live normal lives....

From the other side, I can understand there is also loss. But don't forget that three years ago we evacuated from Gaza. We were trying, by this action, to bring a solution to this area. And instead, they dug tunnels and smuggled weapons and ammunition.”

— Ofer Baram is Jewish Agency Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region, (January 15, 2009)

“Again we started our morning with two red alert sirens. In our protected room I hugged my children and said "good morning." My four-year-old son looked at me and said, "It's not a good morning, it's a morning with Kassam rockets." Sometimes our kids understand much more then we think they do.”

— Soni Singer is the director of the San Diego-IBIM Student Village, situated one and a half miles from the Gaza border

An Israeli Dove’s Reply to a Friend’s Critique of the War

“When I asked you after the disengagement from Gaza, Gideon, explain to me why they are firing missiles at us, you replied that they want us to open the crossings. I asked you whether you truly believe that if they fire missiles the crossings will be opened, or the opposite. And whether you truly believe that it is right and just to open crossings into Israel for those who declare openly and sincerely that they want to destroy our country. I did not get an answer from you. And even though the crossings were in fact opened many times, and were closed in the wake of the missile attacks, regrettably I still did not see you standing firmly behind a moral position which says: Now, people of Gaza, after you expelled the Israeli occupation from your land, and justly so, you must hold your fire.

The doleful thought sometimes crosses my mind that it is not the children of Gaza or of Israel that you are pining for, but only for your own private conscience. Because if you are truly concerned about the death of our children and theirs, you would understand the present war - not in order to uproot Hamas from Gaza but to induce its followers to understand, and regrettably in the only way they understand in the meantime, that they must stop the firing unilaterally, stop hoarding missiles for a bitter and hopeless war to destroy Israel, and above all for the sake of their children in the future, so they will not die in another pointless adventure....And if they start building, developing and pursuing social endeavors, even according to Islamic religious law, they will prove to the whole world, and especially to us, that the moment we terminate the occupation they will be ready to live in peace with their surroundings, free to do as they wish, but also responsible for their deeds.

There is something absurd in the comparison you draw about the number of those killed. When you ask how it can be that they killed three of our children and we cause the killing of a hundred and fifty, the inference one can draw is that if they were to kill a hundred of our children (for example, by the Qassam rockets that struck schools and kindergartens in Israel that happened to be empty), we would be justified in also killing a hundred of their, Gideon, who live among the people, know very well that we are not bent on killing Palestinian children to avenge the killing of our children. All we are trying to do is get their leaders to stop this senseless and wicked aggression, and it is only because of the tragic and deliberate mingling between Hamas fighters and the civilian population that children, too, are unfortunately being killed. The fact is that since the disengagement, Hamas has fired only at civilians. Even in this war, to my astonishment, I see that they are not aiming at the army concentrations along the border but time and again at civilian communities.”

— Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua responding to criticism of Gideon Levy, Haaretz, (January 16, 2009)

Americans Stand Behind Israel

A new bipartisan poll  shows that Americans blame the Palestinians for the current conflict in Gaza (56%-18%).

By a wide margin (66%-17%), Americans blame “Hamas leaders who control Gaza” for the current humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip

Despite the ongoing operations in Gaza, Americans side with Israel over the Palestinians by a 57%-8% margin, virtually unchanged from the pre-Gaza War November 2008 polling (57%-6%). 

Within the context of the current conflict in Gaza, 73% of registered voters think the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is about ideology and religion, and the two sides will live in peace only when they acknowledge each other’s right to exist. Only 19% think the conflict is really about land.

In response to an open-ended question, 46% of Americans correctly identify Iran as a principal supporter of the military activities of Hamas. Despite the problems America faces at home right now, 79% of voters think we must still work hard to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Among possible approaches to deal with Iran, Americans support increased diplomatic pressure (47%), followed by direct negotiations (43%) and increased economic sanctions (39%).

Nearly all Americans (91%) think getting Palestinians to stop shooting rockets into Israel is important to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Americans also think getting Palestinians to stop teaching hate (90%), stopping Iran from arming, funding and training terrorists (87%), and getting Iran to stop its nuclear program (76%) are important conditions to bring peace to the region. 

Americans clearly hold different opinions of Israeli and Palestinian leadership: 48% say Israeli leaders want peace and are working towards it while only 5% believe the same to be true of the Palestinian leaders. A plurality (55%) hold Palestinian leaders responsible for the violence and 11% blame Israeli leaders. Additionally, 54% think Israeli leaders only want to defend their people, not hurt others, while only 8% say Palestinian leaders want the same. 

The Israel Project, (January 14, 2009)

Where Are The Rockets Coming From?

“Every day, the Hamas rocket teams sneak through the fire and fury of Gaza to launching sites such as trucks, rooftops, school courtyards and mosques. Groups of three to five militants scramble to set up short-range Qassam rockets made in clandestine workshops in the Gaza Strip and longer-range Grads smuggled from Iran. Wary of Israeli jets hunting above the squalid urban maze, the rocket teams aim with the aid of Google Earth and landmarks such as the twin smokestacks of an Israeli power plant. The militants ignite the rockets and run; white smoke trails slash across the sky.”

Los Angeles Times, (January 14, 2009)

“No one seeks sanctuary in the mosques, because Hamas fighters are known to store weapons there.”

Washington Post, (January 16, 2009)