Gaza front – “We feel the hand of God”

So much of what is read and seen of the war in Gaza is opinion, speculation or propaganda, it’s hard to know what is real. It’s a terrible action, as all war is, and one that has worked more against Israel in public relations terms than for them. But one has to ask why HAMAS insisted on the continual barrage of Israel with thousands of rockets aimed at civilian neighbourhoods, and why Israel should be asked to do nothing against it.

Here’s a note from an Israeli soldier at the front which brings home something of the perspective from one side.

Aryeh, a former hesder yeshiva student and a soldier in reserves who spent a week fighting terrorists deep inside northern Gaza, spoke with IsraelNationalRadio’s Yishai and Malkah Fleisher on Thursday about his personal experiences during the war.


I’ve been in Gaza for a week; medics and others in my unit went in a week earlier to get the lay of the land. We’re in an armored reconnaissance unit, which means we are infantry that goes in front of the tanks, first of all to clear a path, either in open area or clearing houses in built-up areas, making sure there are no anti-tank forces against us, and secondly, we scout ahead and point out targets for the tanks.

The army was very tight with us about security – they took away our cell phones, made sure we don’t have cameras, etc.

No Atheists in Foxholes

[Asked what it is like when they actually enter Gaza:] Right before we went in, there were a lot of jokes, black humor, like, ‘I’ll leave you my boots,’ etc. And you know how they say there’s no atheist in a foxhole – it’s really true. Rabbis were giving out Tehillim [little books of Psalms], and every soldier took one, or two, or three, or four – even the guys who just two days ago were arguing with me against religion. They act as if the Tehillim are bullet-proof, and they put them all over their body, saying I don’t want to get hit here, and here, and here. Anyway, before we went in, there were jokes – but then, when we actually start going on, it gets very, very quiet, people thinking their own thoughts, like who might not be coming back, or about their families, or whatever.

When we actually went in, it was very surreal. On the Israeli side, even with all the rockets and shells falling around us, you sort of feel safe – but when you cross over, you feel like you have left the safe cover of Israel. . You hear a lot of booms, mostly from our jets and copters and tanks and things. The first kilometer or two was open area, and then, when we got to the built-up areas, it really was pretty scary. There are snipers and stuff – but there were two things that were particularly hard for me. One is that almost every single house is booby-trapped – even with families inside! Because it looks good on the news [against Israel] to have a whole family killed. the people are forced to stay there, or sometimes they stay on their own – this is insane, we can’t comprehend this… It’s scary kicking in a door and thinking that the entire house might collapse on you.

Fear of Being Snatched

But even more scary is the fact that there are tunnels everywhere in Gaza – not just the ones that people know about in southern Gaza. I don’t know how many there are, but there are tunnels between houses and headquarters and the like, not only for reinforcements but also because one of their main goals is to kidnap soldiers. That is really terrifying. You see a bush and suddenly the bush moves and a hand sticks out, trying to grab a soldier’s leg and pull him inside. It happened a lot. Or we’re in a house trying to get some sleep, and you don’t know if a floor tile will suddenly move and someone will try to grab you. So on the one hand, you try to sleep very little, but we also work very closely together, looking after each other, helping each other, and certainly not doing anything by oneself.

The Old-Man-and-the-Cane Trick

The top Hamas guys are dug-in and hiding pretty well under hospitals and schools, and they don’t even know what’s going on outside. We’ve cut their phone lines, including cell phones, and they communicate by sending children with notes to each other; we’ve caught kids carrying notes. We once saw an old man hobbling down the street with a cane, looking very bent over and wretched, and when he saw Israeli soldiers, he suddenly threw away the cane, ran over to them and tried to blow himself up on them; the soldiers were able to shoot him first.

No Concern for Life

[Asked what the feelings seem to be among the Arabs:] The mindset of the enemy is so alien to us; by us, the death of any one soldier is terrible, a national tragedy – but by them, it seems that they want as many deaths as possible. In Israel, schools even dozens of kilometers from Gaza are closed in order to minimize the risk, which is pretty small – but in Gaza, where there are bombs all over the place all the time, we’ve seen kindergartens filled with 150 or 200 children, and the kindergartens are boobytrapped! They even shoot rockets from inside mosques and these places.

We Want to Finish the Job

The soldiers’ morale is very high, and all of them definitely believe that the war is just and important. No one likes fighting; people want to be with their families. I’ve seen some 35-year-old guys almost crying about how much they miss their families – but at the same time, no one wants to leave now. Of all sectors, it’s the soldiers who do not want a ceasefire, not because we want to fight but because we know the job is not finished yet. We don’t want to have to go back again in a year or two or three. The soldiers want to stay and finish the job, they really do. I think there has to be a hard push against Hamas, even harder than we have done until now; this will take a real sacrifice, we know – but to think that we might leave and the rockets will still fall, what did we do??! Killing 900 terrorists out of 20,000 is just not enough, we have to really decimate their ranks in order that they should know that they should leave us alone.

True, Gaza is now largely in ruins, but they’ll get lots of money to rebuild, and they’ll use a lot of the money to get more weapons as well. We have to go in deeper and stronger, and make them understand that it’s just not worth it. In addition, I think we can’t leave without Gilad Shalit; it would be terrible if not.

We Feel the Hand of G-d

[Asked about how spirituality and faith in G-d plays out:] Well, I would say that everyday religion is one thing; we take things for granted, we pray every day, some people concentrate more and some concentrate less. But here – you live it, you absolutely live it. Secular soldiers are whispering prayers, everyone wants G-d to be there, and we do feel it – we have seen the hand of G-d; we have been very fortunate, you can see it and feel it… [Regarding packages of sweets that the soldiers receive from the home front:] Even though we’re often hungry, the first thing a lot of soldiers go for in the packages that is not the food, but rather the letters and words of support. You can’t imagine what it does for us to read them. I have about nine of the really special ones, and when I had a little time, I would go over to some corner and pull them out and read them. They give so much strength.

I just want to tell this really special story that happened to me: Some of the letters have phone numbers on them, so I called one of them to thank her for her letter – an 8-year-old girl named Eden. Eden told me that she was so happy I called and that she had just been in the hospital for an ear operation. But then her mother got on and she was all emotional and told me, “It’s so amazing that you called because Eden’s two older sisters received calls of thanks from soldiers, and she was feeling sad that no one called her – and now you called!”

 by Hillel Fendel
 Israel National News

5 thoughts on “Gaza front – “We feel the hand of God”

  1. “We’ve cut their phone lines, including cell phones, and they communicate by sending children with notes to each other”

    Those sneaky G_dless Arabs!!! How could they do such a thing???

    The old man with the cane trick… Amazing that the Israelis were able to detect that he was a suicide bomber when he was running towards them, shoot him before he detonated and not set off the bomb themselves. The hand of G_D must be on them.

  2. ICEJ News report:

    ‘Reports by an Italian journalist inside Gaza have helped fuel a bizarre debate in which Hamas is contending that the IDF killed far fewer Palestinians in the recent fighting inside the Gaza Strip than Israel estimates.

    Based on his visits to hospitals and clinics throughout Gaza in the days since the fighting ended last weekend, correspondent Lorenzo Cremonesi of Italy’s leading daily Corriere della sera claims that the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead does not exceed five or six hundred. He also took first-hand testimony of Gazan families complaining of being used as human shields by Hamas militiamen.

    Hamas, meanwhile, insists that the number of its fighters killed was only 48. With public criticism of Hamas growing in Gaza, it appears the Islamist terror militia has incentive to keep the civilian casulaty count low as well.

    These figures stand in sharp contrast to official IDF estimates that around 1,300 Palestinians died, with well over half of them armed combatants from Hamas and allied terror militias.

    The IDF has already compiled a list with 900 names of Palestinians killed during the operation, out of which 750 are believed to be Hamas operatives. The IDF estimated that two-thirds of those killed were gunmen affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions.

    These figures are closer to those cited by Palestinian medical authorities and UN officials.

    The UN’s humanitarian chief in Gaza, John Holmes, made a tour of the area today and called the steep Palestinian casualty toll “extremely shocking.” The vast majority of the Hamas operatives killed were not wearing uniforms to disguise their affiliation, which has probably inflated the number of civilian casualties calculated by the UN.

    The IDF’s Military Intelligence has set up a team to come up with a comprehensive list including the names and affiliation of all of the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead. The list, officials said, would be completed in the coming two weeks.’

  3. FL, surely you know that the sources you are posting from are extremely partisan. Israel National News goes without saying, and the ICEJ is a Christian Zionist organisation created especially to support Israel.

    You say it is hard to know what is real but if you only read and quote from partisan sources you will be lead further from reality. You have to read from both sides, not just the ones that support your point of view.

    Also check out the reports of normally neutral organisations such as Amnesty or the Red-Cross and see what they have to say about the actions of both sides.

  4. I’m offering another view actually, since most reports seem to leave Hamas out as an ‘aggressor’, as Hamas call Israel. Fair and balanced reporting would include the fact that Hamas have lobbed between 20 and 60 rockets on Israel every day since the previous cease fire.

    I received a report from the Director of Medecins sans Frontiers today which only attacked Israel’s involvement. nothing at all about Hamas’ sustained and continual deadly harassment of Israelis. This biased reporting is the direction many organisations will take. Israel won’t ask for help from the Red Cross, Green Crescent or MSF because they take care of their own, mostly. The world is gearing up to attempt to take Israel to a national war tribunal, and these groups will head the call. However, they neglect to report that Hamas doesn’t have a good record with Palestinians.

    I have read what Hamas says. They’re claiming victory! They say hey lost 48 fighters to Israel’s 49! The thing is, their leaders are still in hiding!

    This from a former cabinet minister on why it is so hard to negotiate with Hamas:

    ‘Commentary by Natan Sharansky

    Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Israel’s war in Gaza has been met with cries of protest around the world. They come from two sources.

    First, there are those who oppose any Israeli effort to defend itself, mainly because they don’t believe a Jewish state should exist at all. This is a form of anti-Semitism, and such a view should be rejected outright rather than argued with.

    Second, there are those who support Israel’s existence, but believe it is wrong to wage so harsh an assault on the Gaza Strip. This argument also takes two forms: First, that Israel’s response is disproportionate and therefore wrong; and second, that there are less violent ways to handle Hamas — through international pressure, sanctions or negotiations.

    Both of these claims, as logical as they may sound, ignore the lessons of history, including Israel’s recent history in fighting terror. In the 10 years I served as a minister in Israel’s security cabinet, I learned just how mistaken such arguments can be.

    On June 1, 2001, a suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv. Twenty-one Israelis, mostly young people, were killed, and more than 130 injured. This was the latest in a long string of suicide bombings that had been launched since the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000.

    Practicing Restraint

    The next day, I took part in a dramatic cabinet meeting to discuss our options — a Sabbath-day meeting, which only a true emergency could justify. Most of the ministers felt decisive action had to be taken. Military officials presented a plan for uprooting the terror infrastructure, through a complex campaign in the heart of Palestinian cities and refugee camps. Though the attack had been carried out by Hamas, it was clear that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had given them a green light. We had both the right and the ability to strike back.

    Throughout the meeting, though, our foreign minister kept going in and out of the room, talking to world leaders and reporting back. His message was clear: Right now Israel enjoys the sympathy of the international community. As long as we keep our military response to a minimum, the world will continue to be on our side, and increased diplomatic pressure will rein in the terror. But if we launch a full-scale attack on the terrorists, we risk losing the world’s support and turning Arafat from an aggressor into a victim.

    Proportionate Response

    Eventually the prime minister was convinced of this approach, and the decision was made to stick to a proportionate response — pinpoint attacks on terror cells, special operations, arrests — and to allow diplomacy to work its magic.

    Over the next nine months, Israel held its fire, and the world indeed condemned terrorism. But the attacks only increased. In the heart of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, suicide bombers blew up coffee shops, buses and hotels. Nightlife ground to a halt, tourism was decimated and hotels had to release most of their workers. One of my colleagues in the government, Rehavam Zeevi, was gunned down by terrorists. In the meantime, the U.S. suffered its own terror attacks on Sept. 11 and put intense pressure on us not to retaliate against the Palestinians, for fear of complicating its own war on al-Qaeda.

    The situation came to a head in March 2002, when more than 130 Israelis were killed in a single month alone — most infamously on March 27, Passover Eve, at the Park Hotel in Netanya. The next day, the cabinet convened — again, in an extraordinary meeting during a religious holiday. The meeting started at 6 p.m. and lasted the night. This time, however, the government decided to launch Operation Defensive Shield — the same plan the Israel Defense Forces had offered the previous year.

    Worst Fears

    In the international arena, our worst fears were realized. The United Nations condemned us, and the U.S. dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to tell us to stop the assault immediately. The global media mounted a brutal campaign depicting us as war criminals, spreading false rumors of the wholesale butchering of Palestinian civilians, describing the operation as the worst atrocity of modern history.

    The most outrageous of these rumors was the Jenin libel, which was portrayed in a film produced largely from the fertile imagination of its director, and then shown around the world. It didn’t matter that, in fact, Israel had taken unprecedented measures to minimize civilian casualties, including refraining from using either aerial or artillery bombardment, putting its own soldiers at unprecedented risk; or that the UN commission that was created to investigate Jenin was soon disbanded for lack of evidence; or that the director of the film admitted that he had misled his audience.

    Reputation Destroyed

    For years to come, the “Jenin massacre” was the centerpiece of the anti-Israel propaganda machine, reverberating across Europe and on U.S. campuses as the symbol of Israeli iniquity. Our reputation was in tatters.

    Yet all this was a small price to pay for what Israel gained. Within a few weeks, Palestinian terror was rendered ineffective, with the number of Israelis killed falling from hundreds per month to fewer than a dozen over the next year. Life returned to Israeli streets. Tourists returned by the hundreds of thousands. The economy started moving again.

    No less important, though, was the effect Defensive Shield had on the Palestinians themselves. With the terror infrastructure removed, Palestinians could begin rebuilding their civic institutions and changing their attitude toward violence. Over time, Arafat’s policy of promoting terror was replaced by the far more cautious approach of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

    West Bank Rebirth

    In more than six years since the operation, the West Bank’s economy has boomed. If there is hope in the West Bank today, it is because Israel abandoned the ideas of proportionality and diplomacy in handling terror. The West Bank Palestinians know this; for this reason, they have not joined in the world’s rampant condemnation of Israel in the current war. While tens of thousands protest in Europe, West Bankers are mostly silent.

    Understanding the war in Gaza means recognizing the lessons of 2002. During the three years that passed after pulling out all troops and settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel chose to respond to Hamas’s deadly, daily rocket attacks with proportionality and diplomacy. The result? More rockets, more missiles, more misery for Palestinians — and enough breathing space for Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip, devastate its society, build a much more powerful arsenal than it had in 2005 and become the vanguard of Iranian expansionism in the region.

    Cancer Treatment

    Terrorism is a cancer that can’t be cured through “proportional” treatments. It requires invasive surgery. It threatens not only democratic states that are its target, but also — foremost — the local civilians who are forced into its fanatical ranks, deployed as human shields, and devastated by its tyranny.

    The longer one waits to treat it, the worse it gets, and the harsher the treatment required to defeat it. In southern Lebanon, where Israel failed to defeat the terrorists in 2006, the disease has only spread: Hezbollah now has three times the missiles it had before, and the terrorists have gained a stranglehold on the Lebanese government. Israel is determined not to repeat this mistake in Gaza.

    Just as in 2002, Israel has chosen to fight the heart of terror, in the face of worldwide denunciation, mass demonstrations, UN resolutions, and talk of crimes against humanity. Now, as then, it is the right decision.

    The operation is painful: The number of civilians hurt and killed, while far fewer than in comparable operations around the world, is still intolerably high — a reflection of the size and depth of the terror infrastructure that has grown there over the last three years.

    As in 2002, the real beneficiaries of a successful Israeli campaign will be the Palestinians themselves. Peace can be found only when Palestinians are given the freedom to build real civic institutions, and a leadership can emerge unafraid of telling its own citizens that violence, fanaticism and martyrdom aren’t the Palestinian way. But this can happen only once the malignancy of terror is removed from their midst. As ugly as it sounds, it is the only source of hope for Gaza.

    (Natan Sharansky is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Shalem Center, a former deputy prime minister and the author of the recently published “Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy.” The opinions expressed are his own.)’

    (Via Saint)

  5. It’s not only pro-Israel commentaries which are denouncing the negative role Hamas has played in this debacle. This from a senior EU official:

    ‘JABALIA, Gaza Strip (AFP) – A senior EU official touring Gaza on Monday blasted the “abominable” destruction in the enclave and said its “terrorist” Hamas rulers bear overwhelming responsibility for the war.

    “It is abominable, indescribable,” Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, told reporters in Gaza after touring some of the areas worst hit in Israel’s deadly 22-day assault on the territory.

    “At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas,” he said. “I intentionally say this here — Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such.

    “In order for the EU to relaunch a political dialogue with a minimal chance of succeeding and a chance of moving forward towards peace, Hamas must accept the two little conditions that were put to it — one, the right of Israel to exist and two that it abandon the armed struggle, the terrorist dimension of its approach.”

    Michel, also known for his harsh criticism of Israel, ruled out any dialogue with Hamas, sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state and which the European Union considers a terrorist organisation.’

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