Three Palestinian children were killed by Israeli fire in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The three were cousins from the al-Ghazale family - Yihiye, 12, Mahmoud, 10, and Sara, 10. The Israeli public reacted to these killings, just like it did to the killing of two other children several days earlier, with near complete apathy. It might as well be an act of god, or an acceptable price that balances out the frustration at the continued Qassam rocket attacks.
This indifference is dangerous because it does not encourage greater care in identifying targets. The automatic expressions of sorrow by government officials, and the argument that "the terrorists organizations send children deliberately to places where they become targets," does not suggest that anyone is attempting to learn the necessary lessons from the mistakes. This is all the more true when the targets are in areas housing civilians, and the risk is known in advance. Israel cannot behave like a terrorist organization that targets civilians, even when the shooting comes in response to an attack. After all, this is the main reason why Israel is encouraging the boycott of Hamas the world over.
There is no dispute over the fact that the children were killed near rocket launchers. However, the people near rocket launchers are usually civilians, and not the operating crews. The crews operating the launchers do so from a distance, and later they send others, including children, to collect the launchers for further use. Even though the Palestinians claim that the children cannot lift such launchers because they are too heavy, the Israel Defense Forces thinks otherwise. It believes the launcher is light and the rocket is heavy, and therefore launchers can be collected by children.
The Qassam rocket attacks against Sderot and the other communities bordering the Gaza Strip are fully controlled by Hamas, and can no longer be attributed to rogue, undisciplined gangs. Hamas subcontracts other groups and provides them with rockets, while it concentrates on the more "respectable" task of attacking military targets, but it is Hamas that controls the entire gamut of activities.
Faced with the continued rocket attacks, which are showing no signs of abatement in spite of the ground incursions and the killings from the air, the IDF has no proven means of minimizing the fire. The killing of Palestinian children is certainly not contributing to the safety of the children in Sderot, but rather only increases the urge to avenge their deaths and to harm children on the other side.
Were it possible to distinguish between Israel's attitude toward the Palestinians in the West Bank and those living in the Gaza Strip, and were it clear to the Palestinians that in places where there is less terrorism, Israel takes a more considerate attitude toward the civilians, then maybe they would understand that ending the attacks is worthwhile. While there are signs that the atmosphere in the West Bank is changing - the rescue of an IDF officer by Palestinian security forces is an expression of this - but talk of making the daily life of civilians easier by decreasing the number of roadblocks has, for now, proven to be empty words.
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