Israel has ‘opened the gates of hell’: Hamas vows revenge in assassination’s wake
From Reuters and Associated Press in National Post, November 15, 2012
Israel exchanged the fiercest fire with Hamas in years after assassinating its military mastermind and threatening a wider offensive in the Gaza Strip to stem Palestinian rocket salvoes.
Launched on Wednesday during a deceptive lull in almost a week of surging cross-border violence, Israel’s air assault had an intensity recalling the outset of the 2008-09 Gaza war though this time the Palestinian death toll of 13 was far lower.
Israel shelled the enclave from the land, sea and air Wednesday, killing 13 people, including five militants, three children and a pregnant woman. More than 100 were wounded.
Hamas, reeling at the strategic loss of top commander Ahmed Jabari in a devastating strike on his car, resumed rocket attacks against the Jewish state’s desert south.
Police say three Israelis were killed in a rocket attack from Gaza early Thursday morning. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday’s attack struck an apartment building
The attack is likely to exact a harsh response from Israel as it wages its offensive against militants in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.
On Wednesday, immediately after Jabari’s assassination, Hamas called for revenge were broadcast over radio.
“The occupation has opened the gates of hell,” Hamas’s armed wing said. Smaller groups also vowed to strike back.
“Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,” Islamic Jihad said.
Israel “will not tolerate a situation in which there is incessant [rocket] fire on our citizens,” Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday. “No life-loving country would accept this situation….We are still at the beginning of the event, not at the end, and we expect some complicated tests ahead.”
The Israeli Defence Forces said in a statement that “all options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza.”
The onslaught shattered hopes that a truce mediated on Tuesday by Egypt could pull the two sides back from the brink of war after five days of escalating Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes at militant targets.
Egypt, whose new Islamist-rooted government pledged to honour the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, condemned the new Israeli raids as a threat to regional security. It recalled its ambassador from Israel and called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
Pro-Western Qatar demanded the Israelis be “punished” and the Arab League called a meeting to discuss Gaza on Saturday.
The United States, by contrast, placed the onus for the Gaza escalation on Hamas and said it backed Israel’s “self-defence.”
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organisations are employing against the people of Israel,” said Mark Toner, deputy State Department spokesman.
Israel its strikes were the beginning of a broader operation against the Islamic militants codenamed “Pillar of Defence.” Israeli defence officials said a ground operation was a strong possibility in the coming days though they stressed no decisions had been made and much would depend on Hamas’ reaction. There were no immediate signs of extraordinary troop deployments along the border.
“Today we relayed a clear message to the Hamas organization and other terrorist organizations,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And if there is a need, the [Israel Defence Forces] are prepared to broaden the operation. We will continue to do everything in order to protect our citizens.”
The world has been watching and waiting for a spark, especially one that would once again ignite the hatred between Hamas/Hezbollah and Israel. The two terrorist groups have consistently demanded the "wiping of Israel off the map" of world countries, and in putting missiles behind those words, they have awakened the Israeli military.
In even more threatening words, "Israel has opened the gates of hell," Hamas sends a signal to the world that a wider, more violent and less contained conflict is on the horizon. Islamic jihad, another of the many voices from the Muslim corner of this fight is attempting, along with others, to lay the responsibility for the most recent violence on Israel, while others like the U.S. are clearly supporting Israel's right to defend herself.
Should any of the regions neighbours enter the fray, either overtly or covertly, (and Iran will certainly have a supportive role for Hamas as it has in the past) this conflict could easily, quickly and uncontrollably slip out of the control of the two original combatants, Israel and Hamas.
Are we to see this skirmish as the prologue to an expanded and extensive conflict between Iran and Israel a mere week following the U.S. elections?
Are these shots being choreographed from Tehran, from Moscow, from Bejing?
Without exacerbating the explosive potential of these incidents, and without presuming what no one really knows, there is clearly cause for both alarm and for a serious debate in the General Assembly, where talking, while it may not completely resolve the dispute, could provide cooling time in order for less venomous thought and emotion to enter the scene.
The Islamic radicals' contempt for Israel's existence, linked to the Iranian determination to acquire a nuclear weapon along with Iran's insistent and persistent support for and encouragement of Hamas and Hezbollah could make the U.S. fiscal cliff look like a family picnic, if this "thing" spirals out of control.
And this is a cliff from which none of us is immune, given the economic, geopolitical, cultural and religious implications.
If the "gates of hell" have opened, both Israel and Hamas hands have their fingers on the door-knob, and if and when it opens, it will take a global effort to close it.
Is the world ready to both keep those doors from opening wide, and ready to close them after then open fully?