Ten missile attacks were launched on Tuesday and Wednesday from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel, seven of which landed in the general Sderot area and one of which was fired at an unspecified "strategic site" south of Ashkelon.
One of the rockets that was fired on Sderot landed Wednesday evening in close proximity to two 13-year-old boys, injuring one of them critically. The continued missile attacks, in light of Israeli military inaction, a policy that was adopted by the government in keeping with the cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Wednesday elicited angry reactions from both Israel's parliamentary opposition and the bombarded residents of Sderot. Against the backdrop of that criticism and of the nearly 100 rockets that have been fired in the course of the nominal cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert held a meeting this morning with top security officials to discuss a possible change in Israel's self-declared "policy of restraint."
That meeting led to a slight change in policy, which was that Israeli troops would shoot at those groups that are about to fire missiles. Yet Israel would retain its position of keeping to a cease-fire, regardless of the stance of the other side.
Israel Defense Minister Amir Peretz met Olmert Wednesday night and told him the Islamic Jihad must not be allowed to continue firing rockets. A defense source said Wednesday night's rocket attack on Sderot, in which the two teenagers were injured, has pushed the decision-makers into a corner.
Missile Falls On?Strategic Compound
For the second time in two days, one of the missiles fired by the Palestinians fell inside a strategic compound in Ashkelon, only a few meters from tanks containing dangerous substances.
It is well known that, over the past several days, the Palestinians have been trying to strike the strategic compounds in the industrial zone south of Ashkelon. Every day, a rocket lands either inside the strategic compound or adjacent to it.
In a meeting called by the mayor of Ashkelon, Roni Mehatzri, and Israeli Army Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Gershon, it was decided that if the government should approve the operation of the warning system in the city, it would be a general warning that would sound like a siren and not like the phrase "the color red," as in Sderot. The decision was made because of fears that not all the city's inhabitants would hear the verbal warning. Today a quiet warning system is in use that sends beeper messages to security officers at the factories.
A Policy Of Humiliation?
The Israeli military's new policy of restraint during the continued missile fire from the Gaza Strip has been referred to by a member of Israel's general staff as "a policy of humiliation," because, for more than a month, Israeli troops have been forbidden from firing at missile launchers, even when they see them on the launcher a moment before firing. Sources in the Israeli Army general command have been speaking to Israeli media and saying that they look terrible during the barrage of missiles, which has struck the communities of the Negev in recent weeks with no response. Since the fictitious cease-fire went into effect, nearly 100 missiles have been fired, and Tuesday night's casualties in Sderot only illustrate how dangerous the rocket fire is.
Israel's policy of holding its fire under such a protracted and massive attack is problematic, not only because of considerations of honor or because of the real danger to the lives of the inhabitants of the western Negev. What is grave is that this is a precedent that grinds away the remnants of deterrence that the IDF still had in the eyes of the Arab world and that was critically damaged in the fiasco of the Lebanon War. After Israel's unilateral withdrawal of troops and civilians from Gaza during summer 2005, Israel had repeatedly claimed that it would not allow any launching of any missiles from the Gaza Strip, yet these statements have nothing to back them up.
No one in the Israeli security establishment is ready to say where the policy of humiliation stems from, how it happened that Israel is taking dozens of missile attacks so quietly while the Israeli army only watches from the sidelines as the missiles are launched.
There are those policy analysts who posit that, from the United States' perspective, for the sake of the chances of a process in whose framework Prime Minister Olmert and Abu Mazen have already met, it is better for Israel not to shoot at all. The unanswered question is whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is eager to please them in every way possible, and if this is the reason for Israel's policy of restraint. No one in the Israeli government will give a straight answer to that question.
Yet the principle that has guided Israel for decades, that the security of its citizens will not be forsaken, seems to have been abandoned.
Key Member Of Israeli Knesset Against Egyptian Foreign Minister
On Dec. 22, The Bulletin reported that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had demanded that Israel's southern port city of Eilat should be transferred to Arab sovereignty.
On Wednesday, this claim produced outrage when the Egyptian foreign minister visited Israel. "The Egyptian foreign minister should be declared a persona non grata, and he should be prevented from visiting Israel until he apologizes for his statements as if Eilat belongs to the Palestinians," said MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), the deputy chairperson of the Israeli Parliament's all important Defence and Foreign Affairs committee, in advance of the anticipated visit to Israel by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Steinitz was furious about the statements Aboul Gheit made before the parliament in Cairo in the course of a disagreement that erupted over whether Egypt ought to demand sovereignty over Eilat and the southern Negev or hand it over to the Palestinians. Aboul Gheit rejected the demands made by the extremist opposition in parliament, by saying that "Eilat belongs to the Palestinians."
"A sovereign state cannot abide such talk. It is insufferable that 25 years after a peace accord Egypt should still place a question mark over our sovereignty over Eilat and the southern Negev," said Steinitz.
A Muslim Assistant
Commander In The Israel Police
For the first time in the history of the police force, a Muslim officer will be promoted to the rank of assistant commander. Asst. Cmdr. Jamal Hakrush, currently the commander of the Nahariya police, was appointed Wednesday as the commander of the Zvulun district police and will be promoted in rank.
Deputy Cmdr. Jamal Hakrush, 49, the commander of the Nahariya police, will be promoted to the rank of assistant commander. This is the first time in the country's history that a member of the Arab minority of Israel has received such a high rank. Israeli Arabs constitute 18 percent of Israel's population.
Hakrush, a resident of the Arab village of Kafr Kana, who is married and the father of four, joined the police force 28 years ago. In the past, when Haifa suffered a series of terror attacks, the patrol unit of the Haifa police, which he directed, received a number of citations of appreciation from national headquarters. When he commanded the Afula police, the station received a citation for excellence from the commander of the northern district, and last year, as the commander of the Nahariya police, he received a certificate of excellence from the inspector-general.
Hakrush, who has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Haifa, won praise for the performance of the Nahariya police during the second Lebanon War. "I believe in hard work, and the results are not long in coming. I will continue to keep the high level of service to the public as my top priority," Hakrush said Wednesday.
©The Bulletin 2006