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Aftermath of the rocket that fell on a home in Beersheva on October 17. (Photo Courtesy)

A split second was all that averted a new all-out war between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. At about 3:00 in the morning of October 17, Palestinians in Gaza launched two long-range missiles at Israel. One of them was on target for the Israeli city of Beersheba miles away to the east. The IDF's anti-missile defense failed to intercept it but the sirens blared throughout Beersheba. This is how the Israeli mother, from Ethiopia, of three small boys, described what happened: "I was sound asleep in my bedroom on the first floor (her husband was at work on the night shift). When I first hear the wail of sirens I thought I was dreaming, but I woke up immediately and raced upstairs to where my three boys were sleeping. I grabbed them out of their beds and pushed them half asleep downstairs to our 'mammad' (a reinforced safety room for shelter from missile attacks). I shoved them inside and then slammed the door. Immediately, we didn't even have time to sit down, a huge explosion rocked the whole building. One of my boys yelled: "Imma (mother), it hit our house!"

The entire top floor, where the boys had been sleeping just seconds earlier, was totally demolished. If not for their quick-acting mother all three would have likely been killed or at least seriously injured. In this event, the Israeli government would have had no choice but to go to another war with Gaza. It turned out to be a powerful missile with a 40-lb warhead and not a homemade Qassam rocket. The Palestinians had also launched a second missile aimed apparently at the city of Tel Aviv. It crashed harmlessly into the Mediterranean.

he clock has started ticking for another bloody confrontation like the last one in the summer of 2014...

In any case, these were two serious provocations that Israel could not ignore. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Liberman issued grave warnings and scheduled an urgent meeting of the security cabinet which must approve major military operations - like going to all-out war with Gaza. The clock has started ticking for another bloody confrontation like the last one in the summer of 2014 which lasted over 50 days and resulted in severe damage to Gaza from which it has yet to recover.

As for the Hamas government in Gaza, which has launched a campaign of rioting along the Israeli-Gaza border for over seven months, it backed away from the Beersheba attack. Realizing the severity of the situation, Hamas claimed it had nothing to do with it - on the contrary, it was probably a "rogue Palestinian group" not under its control. However, IDF intelligence rejected this plea saying that nothing happens in Gaza without first getting the green light from Hamas. In a new twist, Hamas also suggested that during a thunderstorm at the time, a bolt of lightning may have accidentally triggered the missile launch (for a direct hit on a Beersheba home miles away!).

For seven straight months, Hamas has orchestrated a campaign of firebombing Israel with balloons and kites carrying incendiary bombs over the border into Israel.

In any case, while there was an outpouring of praise for the Israeli mother, there was a mounting public rage. For seven straight months, Hamas has orchestrated a campaign of firebombing Israel with balloons and kites carrying incendiary bombs over the border into Israel. The Palestinians have also made life miserable for many Israeli civilians, men, women, and children, by the dense, toxic smoke from burning tires.

At this point, Israel's ally, Egypt, entered the fray. Cairo dispatched a senior intelligence official to try and resolve the crisis, and it has apparently been successful. The Palestinians have toned down their protests along the border, and in return, Israel has agreed to increase foreign aid conveys across the Israeli border to Gaza. The problem is that Hamas in Gaza is at loggerheads with their Palestinian brothers on the West Bank. For example, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has refused to cooperate with steps to improve the dire economic straights in Gaza.

"I'm not eager about fighting wars."

But why has the Jewish state endured seven months of unbridled Palestinian violence along the Gaza border that almost boiled over with the missile attack on Beersheba? This week, Netanyahu stated: "I'm not eager about fighting wars." And with good reason. Israel's main concern today is Iran and its ongoing effort to build a new military base in neighboring Syria.

Although Gaza can be a dangerous irritant, it does not pose a strategic threat to the Jewish state. Iran is a completely different danger. Tehran has already built up a huge arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and missiles stored in and under Lebanese villages along the Lebanese-Israeli border and ready to be launched by its ally Hezbollah. Now the Ayatollahs in Tehran are trying to build a similar threat in Syria. In other words, the Israeli government is focused primarily on Iran and will do everything it can to keep the lid on Gaza.

Political Analyst David Essing


David Essing

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