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Israel at war with Hamas

Israel at war with Hamas

If I might clarify that headline a bit, Israel is basically always at war with Hamas, which wouldn’t have it any other way.  But the war has gone hot since the despicable kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students – one of whom was also a U.S. citizen, although you wouldn’t know it from the muted response of the Obama Administration.  That response consisted of a “condemnation in the strongest possible terms,” followed by encouragement for everyone to play nice:

On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel – who held Israeli and American citizenship. As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing.  The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth.  From the outset, I have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and I encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort.  I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.  As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States.

It wasn’t a “tragedy,” it was an outrage.  And this outrage was perpetrated against an American citizen, plus two citizens of our close ally Israel.  These three innocent teenagers were not swallowed by a freak earthquake.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu certainly seems to understand the difference between tragedy and outrage, and he minced no words at the students’ memorial service, reported by CNN:

One liked basketball and was a gifted musician who played a mean guitar as well as the flute. Another liked to bake cakes for his five younger sisters. The third would bring jars of cookies to study hall for his classmates.

Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar, Israeli Jewish teens, were buried Tuesday after a memorial ceremony watched nationwide. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the three were “gifted, pure, honest and decent” and were “cut down by the hands of evil men.”

Their deaths galvanized the country and sparked new Israeli military action, exacerbating the conflict.

“Exacerbating the conflict?”  What the hell does that mean, CNN?  It’s better for the Jews to shut up, bury their dead, and get the next set of graves ready without complaint?  The Western world tried hashtag diplomacy again, with a #BringBackOurBoys feed on Twitter, and once again it failed utterly.  Any response stiffer than a hashtag counts as “exacerbation,” I guess.  The day after the bodies of the students were discovered, Israeli officials met with Palestinian leaders to discuss the response… while “militants” in the Gaza Strip showered rockets on Israel.  Do you suppose that might have “exacerbated” the conflict a bit?

But give CNN credit for doing a good job of telling us at length about the three victims.  Here’s the section about Naftali Frankel, who has family in Brooklyn and upstate New York:

“Rest in peace, my child,” said his grieving mother, Racheli Frankel, according to ynetnews.com. “We will learn to sing without you. We will always hear your voice in our hearts.”

Frankel was the second-oldest of seven children. He was a gifted student and “a responsible and poised young boy,” the Israeli Embassy in Britain said in a profile of him after he was abducted.

His uncle was working to help bring more Palestinians into Israeli high-tech businesses, Forbes reported. The article by Richard Behar carried the headline: “Good vs Evil: Israeli Intel Exec Pioneers Hi-Tech With Palestinians. His Nephew, A U.S. Citizen, Is Abducted By Terrorists.” It reported on Yishai Frankel, the 44-year-old general manager of design and development at Intel’s headquarters in Jerusalem, who was spearheading integration efforts for the company.

“There’s no doubt that people who kidnap young kids are destructive and they hurt the Palestinian cause as equally as it’s hurting the Israeli cause. It doesn’t help anyone,” the uncle was quoted as saying. “So, am I surprised? No, I’m saddened. But that’s reality. Does that mean I feel bad things about the good people I work with, among the Palestinians? No. These are good people. It’s no secret that every society has bad people.”

Not exactly enemies of the Palestinian people, are they?  But that didn’t matter to the killers.  They were kidnapped and murdered execution-style.  The evidence against Hamas includes a horrifying cell phone call from one of the victims, heartbreakingly dismissed as a prank by the police at first, as reported by the New York Times:

The two-minute call — broadcast on Israeli television and radio Tuesday after an order on its contents was lifted — was considered a prank by the police, delaying the start of the search. On the recording, Gilad says calmly and quietly in Hebrew, “I’ve been kidnapped,” then one of his captors says — also in Hebrew — “Head down!” and, in Arabic, orders him to hand over the phone.

There are then what sound like gunshots, and a painful groan, before a police operator repeatedly asks, “Hello?” and then, “Where are you?”

As for the grieving uncle’s comments about the good people he works with, this is undoubtedly true, but we’re back to a lament that has been voiced around the world: the good and decent silent majority is shockingly ineffective, for decades on end, at keeping the extremists in check.  Shall we prepare a map of countries in the Middle East where the Islamic population has not been “hijacked by extremists,” to one degree or another?

As for the silent majority among the Palestinians, it was especially hard to pick them out when the streets of Gaza City were filled with people dancing and handing out candy to celebrate the kidnapping of the Israeli students.  Good folk are mixed in with that crew, and Frankel’s uncle is doing the right thing to connect with them, but the magnitude of the challenge should not be underestimated.

Such evil cannot be reasoned with, accommodated, or shamed into better behavior.  Here’s more from Prime Minister Netanyahu during, and after, the memorial service:

“Throughout the history of our people, we have proved time and again — in view of the horrors that we have experienced, the grief and sorrow — the force of life that pulsates within us overcomes the forces of death,” he said in Hebrew, according to a CNN translation.

The Israeli leader lamented the killings of the three “gifted, pure, honest and decent teens,” bloodshed that he said shows “a broad moral gulf (that) separates us from our enemies.”

“They sanctify death, we sanctify life,” Netanyahu said, comparing the teens to those who killed them. “They sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion. That is the secret of our strength.”

A short time later — after the burials of Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frankel, a 16-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, by each other in Modiin — the Prime Minister spoke again about the three before a security cabinet meeting, saying, “May God avenge their blood.”

“Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences,” Netanyahu said Tuesday evening. “We will neither rest nor slacken until we reach the last of them. And It does not matter where they will try to hide.”

The usual song-and-dance from Hamas and its apologists ensued, in which Hamas leadership “praised the kidnapping but have not claimed credit for it,” according to the New York Times.  Two suspects were identified and taken into custody, along with hundreds of Hamas operatives, several of whom resisted arrest – in one case tossing a hand grenade at Israeli soldiers when they approached him.  The old game of claiming that the two suspected killers were from a “rogue cell” of Hamas was played.

Just a thought, here, fellas: a good way to cut down on “rogue cells” would be strenuously denouncing the murder of innocent teenagers and helping to bring the killers to justice, rather than applauding their bloody handiwork.  Just watch your civilized neighbors in Israel, and they’ll show you how it’s done.  When a Palestinian teenager named Mohammad Abu Khdair was kidnapped and evidently burned alive, in what was immediately considered a revenge killing for the murder of the three Israeli teens, Netanyahu put Israeli police on the case and vowed to find the killers.  While the Palestinians rioted and howled for a new intifada uprising, Israel methodically tracked down and arrested several suspects.  From a BBC report:

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency issued a brief statement confirming the arrests, and said the suspects were being questioned at one of their facilities.

“In the wake of intelligence and operational information, the Israel Police and the ISA (Shin Bet) this morning arrested several Jewish suspects regarding the 2 July abduction and murder of Mohammad Abu Khdair,” the statement said.

The agency did not comment on any possible motive for the killing, saying details of the case were subject to a judicial gag order.

Several Israeli media outlets have reported that one of the six suspects has confessed to the killing.

The reports also claimed that the individual had given police information about the other suspects, but this has not yet been confirmed by officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond to the killings “with a firm hand”.

“We do not differentiate between the terrorists,” he said. “We will not allow extremists from wherever they come to ignite the region and shed more blood.”

Imagine if the gang of kleptocrats and terrorists who pass themselves off as a Palestinian “government” had done that in response to the murders of the Israeli students, instead of blasting Israel with rockets.  But history flowed through its well-worn riverbed of violence, and it looks like Israel is once again forced into war, as the Washington Post reports their army, navy, and air forces “launched a major operation Tuesday” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, “striking dozens of sites in the coastal enclave and mobilizing infantry troops along the border for a possible ground incursion designed to stop rocket attacks on Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the military to expand its operation in Gaza, including possibly sending in ground troops, Israeli media reported Tuesday morning.

Netanyahu was quoted as instructing the army to “take their gloves off”against Hamas and increase attacks on Gaza.

The Israeli military later said it killed Mohammed Shaaban, 24, who was described by Israeli officials as a senior Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip. The airstrike was described as a “targeted killing.”

Palestinians said three other people were killed in the strike that targeted Shaaban and that at least six more died in additional airstrikes.

Shaaban’s car was struck by a missile in the early afternoon Tuesday while crossing a busy intersection near the main market in Gaza City, witnesses said.

An hour after the strike, young men were using their fingers to remove bits of flesh and bone that had splattered across shop windows and stucco walls. They collected the remains in plastic bags to return to the families for burial.

Eyewitnesses at the scene said three other passengers were riding in the four-door sedan. They said the car exploded into flames after it was struck by at least two missiles.

“We saw one of the passengers beheaded,” said Munair Kitani, who works at a print shop across the street from the site of the attack. “The head flew into the street. The driver lost his arms. The others? It was hard to tell. We tried to count the hands or feet, but it was all mixed together.”

Sounds like maybe firing a swarm of random murder weapons at Israeli civilians wasn’t such a hot idea.  They’re still at it, of course, putting over a hundred rockets and mortar rounds into Israel, where the Iron Dome missile defense system – you know, the sort of thing American liberals spent decades sneering at as a technological impossibility – has stopped quite a few of the incoming strikes.  Here’s what that looks like, courtesy of the Israeli Defense Force:

Israel has hit 150 terrorist targets with air and naval strikes thus far, and called up over 40,000 reservists, in case ground action is necessary.  We’ve been here before, and nobody in Israel wants to be here now, but the rules of such conflict are set by the aggressors, and this is a road Hamas does want to travel down again… and again… and again.

“They chose the direction of escalation,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”

Lerner told reporters that Israel has offered “calm for calm” but that rocket fire from Gaza escalated in recent days and that now the Israeli military would seek to hit Hamas hard.

The military is taking “all the necessary steps for a ground operation if it is required,” he said.

Amos Gilad, director of policy and political-military affairs at the Israeli Defense Ministry, said in an interview that Hamas is “attacking civilians as usual, and we are determined to defend ourselves.” As for a possible Israeli ground offensive, he said, “all options are on the table.”

The Washington Post notes that the Obama Administration has been taking a “wait-and-see approach” to cutting off support for the unity government formed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  Have you seen enough yet, Mr. President?

Update: Just moments after this was posted, the Israeli Defense Force began sounding air-raid alerts in Tel Aviv.  That sounds exacerbating.

Update: The Jerusalem Post reports confirmed intercepts over Tel Aviv, plus alerts in Jerusalem (where there has been word of large explosions) as over 40 rockets are fired at Israel, “the biggest-ever salvo of long-range fire from Gaza.”

President Obama responded to all this with – I kid you not – a strongly-worded letter directed at both sides, published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

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