Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cease Fire Still Cooking Despite Attacks

I spent five days at kibbutz Ziqim, which is located just North of the Gaza border. Kibbutz Ziqim is bombed regularly by Hamas, and hiding from missile fire has become a way of life for them. This kibbutz is known for being very left wing politically, despite the constant attacks.

I made a movie in two parts. Part one was filmed during a period when there were no bombs for seven days, which is very unusual. Residents Rueven and Ora discuss politics during this relative period of peace and quiet.

Part two was filmed during and after a heavy missile attack. 20 qassam rockets fell inside the kibbutz over about 30 minutes, which is also very unusual. When I questioned the residents about why they thought the missile fire was resumed so heavily, they surmised that the period of quiet was actually a chance to stockpile more weapons, not Hamas' acceptance of a cease-fire agreement, which they originally thought.

As the dust settled, so to speak, on this whole matter, several facts came to light. The first news about the barrage was released barely an hour after it ended and stated that the heavy missile fire was designed to distract Israel so that a "heavy vehicle" which approached the border at "alarming speed" could carry out "a major terror attack."

Israel's Haaretz news says:
The IDF said that Gaza militants were planning to use the heavy barrage as a diversion in order to carry out a massive attack at the border fence between Israel and the Strip.

A heavy vehicle approached IDF troops stationed at the Gaza border fence at an alarming speed, the IDF described the attempted attack. The soldiers opened fire and forced the vehicle to stop. The IDF said that it was the soldiers' quick response that likely prevented a serious attack.
Could this be any more vague? Given that a major terror attack was carried out in the form of qassam rockets, it's understandable that Israel was desperate for news about the event, what caused it, and what the results were. But I'm left wondering where this information came from since it differs so drastically from later news reports.

A report released later said the missile attack was in retaliation for the destruction a Hamas member's house and the deaths of those inside:
The intense shelling was probably the result of an explosion in an apartment building in the town Beit Lahiya in the northern Strip yesterday afternoon, killing seven Palestinians and injuring dozens. Most of those killed were Hamas activists, and the two-story building and several other homes in the town were destroyed.
And then:
Hamas, which initially accused Israel of causing the explosion in the home of a Hamas man, later toned down its accusations after Israel firmly denied any involvement in the incident. Israeli sources said the incident was probably caused by Palestinians making a bomb.
If you look up "knee jerk reaction" in the dictionary, you will read a description of these events. If a Hamas member's house exploded, obviously it's because Israel bombed it. Or wait, if a Hamas member's house exploded, obviously it's because he was making a bomb.

You started it! No you started it! No, you! I'm telling mom!

The above article also states that, despite the attack, Israel is still pursuing a cease fire agreement with Hamas and is not seriously planning to attack Gaza.

And the latest update from Haaretz says that Israel is even planning to let the issue of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit drop for the time being, although this information, as usual, is not straight from the horse's mouth.
An Egyptian source said that Israel has agreed not to condition a cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip on the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday.
If this last information is true, it marks a turning point in Israel's attitude toward Gaza and toward a cease-fire. Which is not surprising after the damage caused on Thursday. The question remains whether Israel will still be so flexible after the dust has settled and the people are not so rattled.

Left wing Israelis favor securing Shalit's release, even if it means putting up with more rocket fire until a peace agreement can be reached. Right wing Israelis, especially those in Sderot, where the damage is the worst, favor a major Gaza operation, even if it means Shalit's death. It seems that, in the long run, this soldier's life depends upon which side is more vocal and who the government is listening to.

A letter from Shalit to his family was released Wednesday, wherein he revealed knowledge of current events. Which means he knows that he is the center of these negotiations and that no matter the result people are dying. Either from missile attacks or in a battle in Gaza.

And what of the supposed terror attack attempted at the border?
The IDF foiled a large-scale terror attack yesterday when Palestinian militants attempted to bring an apparently booby-trapped bulldozer close to the border fence. Israeli soldiers fired anti-tank missiles at the bulldozer and stopped it. The militants jumped off and fled back to the Strip.

The IDF said that Gaza militants had been planning to use the heavy barrage as a diversion while carrying out the attack with the bulldozer near the fence.
Apparently? Booby trapped? Bulldozer???

Everything about that news snippet is bizarre. Just...everything. I have so many questions.

Where did they get a bulldozer? What were they going to do with it? In what way was it "booby trapped"? How did they jump off and run away after their bulldozer was hit with anti-tank missiles?

Alternative sources (my Israeli friends who can translate the tv news for me) reveal that the bulldozer was outfitted with heavy armor and that, actually, the one man inside the bulldozer stopped his vehicle 100 meters from the border fence and ran away before the IDF fired on him. As he ran away though, they did shoot at him. And kill him. The IDF then shot at the bulldozer, at which time it exploded.