Sunday 10 April 2011

Who Would Fire a Missile at a School Bus?

Just when I thought that I could no longer be surprised by the evilness of Hamas and its random missile attacks on Israeli civilians, the organisation has succeeded in surprising me even further. The event that has caused my shock, horror and outrage was an attack by a Hamas anti-tank missile on a school bus outside Kibbutz Saad near to the Gaza Strip on Thursday. This was one of 45 rockets and mortars fired at Israeli territory within a 3 hour period on that day.

The barrage of rockets and mortars coming from the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks has been unrelenting. The fact that most of the missiles have been fortunate enough to land in open territory not causing damage to property nor injuries is more good fortune than anything else. Hamas has shown its willingness to target Israeli civilians in an indiscriminate fashion, by firing missiles in the direction of residential neighbourhoods of any city, town, kibbutz or moshav within firing range. The missiles that it has been using have been increasing in their range and accuracy. This means that Hamas can no longer hide behind the notion that its fighters are unable to pinpoint the target towards they fire. It is clear that they increasingly have the ability to fire their missiles with a high degree of accuracy. How else can one explain the direct hit on the school bus on Thursday?

Surely, firing at a school bus is the lowest form of terror warfare available? In my eyes, it is the equivalent of bombing a kindergarten or a hospital. It is the most cowardly act available, and is used only by those wishing to attack the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. In the case of the Israeli school bus that was destroyed, it is only by the most miraculous of circumstances that most of the schoolchildren had got off the bus only moments before it was attacked. Nonetheless, 16 year-old Daniel Aryeh Wildfich remains in a critical condition in hospital after taking the brunt of the explosion at the back of the bus. The bus driver, who was the only other person on the bus at the time that it was attacked, was also badly injured.

During the entire period of conflict that Israel has been forced to endure with the Palestinians, IDF soldiers are constantly reminded of the fact that there are innocent civilians caught up in this war on our side and on theirs. Our soldiers are continuously trained to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible. Not only does this save death and injury to innocent bystanders to the conflict, I believe that it preserves our humanity and sanity in a very testing situation. Even where civilians are caught up in the conflict, it is important for our soldiers to be able to come home and to feel deep inside themselves that they have done all that they can to prevent innocent people from being hurt during the course of defending the safety of their homeland. I wonder to myself how it is possible to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you have been responsible for serious injuries caused to a 16 year-old child on a school bus, who had not quite reached his grandparents' home on his way from school. I also wonder how the world can stand on the sidelines and protect the rights of terror groups which follow policies to kill and injure innocent civilians. There is something inherently wrong in allowing this to happen at the same time that military aircraft are protecting the safety of innocent civilians in Libya.

Naturally, Israel has been unable and unwilling to allow such an evil attack to go without response. In this morning's newspaper, I read of 19 Hamas activists who were killed by Israeli missile strikes over the weekend. I also read of more than a hundred Hamas missiles which have been fired towards Israel over the past two days. Fortunately, none of these resulted in damage or injury. This simply continues the cycle of attack and counter-attack, despite Hamas announcing for at least the third time this week that it will implement a total ceasefire.

On the TV news last night, a reporter was sent to interview children at a school in the area which has been subject to missile fire over the past few weeks, months and years. The children were explaining to the reporter that they will be spending their Passover school holiday, which begins today, in secure areas which will protect them from missile fire. This means that they will not be allowed outdoors, but will forced to remain within reinforced buildings which have been built to withstand any rockets that may hit them. Entire communities around the Gaza Strip are currently living their lives and sleeping at night in such protected zones. Despite the fact that Pesach is the festival which celebrates our freedom from slavery in Egypt, unfortunately the same freedom will not be felt by all Israeli citizens this Passover.

I would like to think that somewhere in the Gaza Strip, somebody is feeling the same lack of freedom, and is asking himself how he could be responsible for firing a missile at a school bus. Unfortunately on this front, I fear my expectations are too high.

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