There was a cease-fire along the Gaza border. We have somehow wriggled out of the previous escalation, and residents on both sides of the border got a few days of quiet. And then somebody decided to send planes to liquidate three senior Hamas members traveling in a car in the southern Gaza Strip.
It was just after a new head was appointed for the Shabak, Israel's Security Service - Yoram Cohen, a.k.a. "The Afghan". A senior Prime Ministerial aide proudly told Yediot Aharonot reporter Nehama Duek that Cohen is the Father of the Targeted Killings Doctrine, and that the Palestinians are afraid of him but also respect him, and that he is indeed the right man to head the Shabak in time of a drastic change in the Middle East because he is "a broad minded person who is able to see beyond the horizons" (Yediot Aharonot, April 2, 2011).
So why was it so urgent to target and kill three senior Hamas members in the southern Gaza Strip? Well, they had been on their way to the Sinai Peninsula, where they intended to kidnap Israelis, and the state of Israel was determined to prevent it. So it was told by the Army and the Shabak to the media, and the media passed it on the public, whose majority accepts this kind of announcement - no questions asked. Also, most Israelis living in the border area, who on hearing the news immediately went on high alert, in the expectation of retaliation.
Several days passed and nothing happened. Then something happened far away, in Sudan, where a mysterious plane emerged from the sea and fired into another car in which senior Hamas members were driving. And exactly who sent that plane? Prime Minister Netanyahu smiled mysteriously at the reporters and declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Police Minister Aharonovitch, of Foreign Minister Lieberman party, visited the border town of Sderot and announced that the ceasefire will not and should not last and that a total war should be launched into Gaza. At least some residents of Sderot, already in a state of high alert, did not like to hear this message and intended to hold a protest vigil at the Yad Mordechai Junction and call for ceasefire and dialogue and oppose escalation.
And then suddenly the blow fell. A Cornet anti-tank missile, a sophisticated missile whose existence in the Gaza Strip was hitherto only rumored, was shot - not at a tank but at a yellow school bus. 16 year-old boy was critically wounded and taken to hospital, struggling for his life. The despicable act of deliberately firing at the bus was condemned througout the world, as it deserves to be.
Israel Defense Forces immediately embarked on a rapid, continuous, open-ended series of retaliations. The immediate first strike killed five Palestinians, including a fifty-five year old civilian (which happens to be exactly my own age). This was an unfortunate, regrettable mistake. In no way was it deliberate.
The Palestinian organizations in Gaza called for an immediate ceasefire and promised to immediately stop shooting. This offer was contemptuously rejected by the Israeli side and the bombings in the Gaza Strip continued and intensified. Alex Fishman, the unofficial IDF spokesman. yesterday wrote in Yediot Aharonot: "Hamas must pay dearly. This time, officials will not accept a Hamas request for a lull via secret channels of UN officials in the area, as happened in the past. In the coming days, the cannons, missiles, tanks, jets and rockets will do the talking. Until the blood quota is filled. "
Until the blood quota is filled. As of this moment in which I write, the blood quota filled by the Israeli Defense Forces has reached the number of seventeen dead Palestinians. Including Hamas fighters and launchers of missiles and rockets. Including also a mother and her daughter killed in a direct hit on their home, which was undoubtedly not intentional. Indeed, it was an unfortunate, regrettable mistake which the IDF recognized as such and expressed sincere regrets. And a bit further on, a farmer was killed by a bomb while working his land, and this too was recognized as a mistake and sincere regrets expressed.
Apparently, the blood quota is not yet filled. General Tal Russo of the IDF Southern Command spoke last night on TV and explained that many of the tools in the army's toolbox have not yet been used. And if all these tools are taken out and made use of, more civilians might get killed. But of course, if this happens it will all be an unfortunate and unintended mistake, and no doubt the appropriate words of regret to will be duly uttered afterwards.
A bit more than two years ago, at the Cast Lead time, the number of Palestinian civilians killed through the unintentional and regetable mistakes of the most moral army in the world was about a hundred times the number of Israeli civilians killed through deliberate targeting by nasty terrorists But there is no doubt that this was an unfortunate mistake, or rather an accumulation of several hundred unfortunate mistakes. Even Goldstone this week admitted that it was not intentional.
Incidentally, the police strictly prohibited residents of Sderot and the Gaza border area to hold the planned vigil at the Yad Mordechai Junction, and the area was declared a closed military zone. Now is not the time to demonstrate and wave signs calling for a ceasefire and dialogue with the Palestinians. Let these characters stay in their protected rooms and not interfere with the world's most moral army filling the quota of blood until the very last drop.