I’m frightened. My younger sister, who will be a freshman at MIT next year, is currently hiding in a bomb shelter in Israel. My phone buzzes nonstop with worried calls from my mother, and texts from my sister with messages like “update: sirens went off, went to safe room, heard blast but out now,” and “wow that was loud … two more rockets fell near us, one was hit by iron dome and the other they say fell in the sea.” While my sister is handling the terrible situation well (she is mostly complaining that the rocket attacks are preventing her from seeing the new Twilight movie), the reality is that Israel has been thrown into turmoil by the constant barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza, which have made living everyday life impossible for millions of Israelis.
Since November 17th, Hamas and its terrorist allies in Gaza have hit Israel with over 700 rockets, frequently fired from schools, hospitals, residential homes, and other civilian areas in Gaza. This is done so that Israel cannot easily retaliate in self-defense, and is strapped with a moral dilemma: attack the Palestinian terrorists who are using innocent civilians as human shields, or do nothing and allow Hamas to continue terrorizing and killing innocent Israeli civilians. Israel has opted to prioritize self-defense, because as President Obama stated, “there’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
Accordingly, Israel does all it can to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza while still targeting terrorists. For example, when operational conditions permit, the Israeli Defense Forces calls residents in Gaza and warns them before any strike in civilian areas, as well as disseminates leaflets to avoid harming bystanders. While Hamas indiscriminately fires rockets at Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, trying to kill as many people as possible, Israel works to surgically strike rocket-launching sites and avoid unnecessary death while still upholding Israel’s inherent right to self-defense, as recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter that states “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”
Current estimates say that over 50 people have died from the violence since it escalated last Wednesday. Considering the fact that over 700 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza this week, it is extremely fortunate that the death toll is not higher. This is largely thanks to the United States’ support of Israel’s Iron Dome system, which is a mobile all-weather air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets fired at civilian centers.
But the fact remains that if these rocket attacks continue to be launched from Gaza, Israel may need to launch a ground operation to wipe out the terrorist infrastructure. This would be extremely devastating to both the Israelis and Palestinians, and would significantly increase the death toll on both sides. If Hamas truly cared about the people of Gaza, then they would stop launching rockets at Israel and prevent an escalating situation that, at this pace, will lead to much blood shed.
Currently, there are talks in Cairo trying to bring about a cease-fire, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would consider a comprehensive cease-fire if the launchings from Gaza stopped. This would be an ideal outcome, because it would end the violence and preclude a bloody ground operation. My sister delayed coming to MIT and took a gap year to tutor underprivileged children in Israel, not to sit in a bomb shelter. Hopefully, for everyone’s peace of mind, the violence will stop soon and normal life can resume.
However, it is important to note that even if a cease-fire is reached, there is nothing stopping Hamas from breaking that cease-fire at any moment, repeatedly plummeting Israel into a state of fear and terror. Israel needs to make sure that Hamas is crippled enough that repeated attacks are less likely and less damaging, if not impossible. After all, if Mexico were sending rockets into California, President Obama would not hesitate for a second in defending our nation and preventing future attacks. The same is true of the Jewish State, and Prime Minister Netanyahu must take action to prevent future violence from escalating, as much as possible, in the future.