Monday, March 12, 2012

All’s Not Quiet on Israel’s Southern Front

Mark Levy

In Jerusalem, the 5:00 PM news broadcast generally follows the mood of a country getting ready for its day of rest. Stores are closed, traffic is generally light and the country as a whole goes into relaxed mode.

But last Friday, when the lead story announced that IAF aircraft killed the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhir Musa Ahmed Qaisi and his deputy, those of us who were still listening to the radio knew that this was not going to be a peaceful weekend.

In a well rehearsed game of “tit for tat”, the Israeli Army (whose precision attack on the car the two were driving and subsequent attacks on terrorists on motorcycles highlighted Israel’s intelligence resources in Gaza) and Hamas traded rockets and other deadly firepower in an attempt “to teach the other side a lesson they would not soon forget”.

The exchange of fire continued through Friday night and all day Saturday, with neither the Hamas Palestinians nor the Israeli army gaining a clear upper hand. The intermittent exchange of firepower was periodically intercepted by rumors and attempts to seek a cease fire, but as of Sunday night in Jerusalem, there was no sign that either side felt the need to hold their fire.

While both sides claim they don’t recognize each other (one wonders how you can aim a missile at a party who is ostensibly not there), with rockets and bombs falling on both sides of the fragile border, they sought the wisdom, guidance and “best offices” of the Egyptians who, notwithstanding their own political, military, social, and economic problems, and the occasional chaos in the streets, are attempting to walk between the raindrops and bring the parties to a degree of peaceful coexistence, if only temporary.

In the meantime schools from nursery through university were closed on Sunday (which is otherwise a regular weekday in Israel) in much of the southern part of the country, and it looks like they will remain closed at least for the next 24 hours.

With government leaders proclaiming that no ground incursion is planned and everyone trying to put the “Jeannie back into the bottle”, this weekend’s military confrontation is a reminder, if one needed one, of the accuracy of the comment once made by Ze’ev Chafetz, the former Director of Israel’s Govt. Press Office, that “Israel is a good country in a dangerous neighborhood”.

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