Latest Gaza Operation Failed to Boost Sense of Security in Israel's South, Study Finds

Only 10 percent of Gaza border residents said the campaign made them feel safer, while 63 percent said nothing has changed

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
Gaza rocket intercepted over Ashkelon during November's 'Operation Black Belt'
Gaza rocket intercepted over Ashkelon during November's 'Operation Black Belt'Credit: Ilan Assayag
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

The majority of Israelis living in the south of the country do not feel any safer as a result of Israel's latest operation in Gaza in November, an academic study found.

The targeted assassination of senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata led to the recent round of violence, in which 450 rockets were launched at Israel over several days, paralyzing life in the south, though most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Researchers from Tel Hai College and Tel Aviv University conducted a study to measure the resilience of Israelis living in southern communities two weeks after the campaign ended.

Professor Shaul Kimhi, Dr. Bruria Adini, Dr. Hadas Marciano and Professor Yohanan Eshel asked 503 Jewish residents living within a 40 kilometer radius of Gaza how the fighting had affected their sense of security. Dozens had been treated for psychological trauma after the attacks, officials reported at the time.

Sixty-three percent of the responders said they did not feel any safer after the operation, 27 percent said they felt less safe than previously while 10 percent said they felt safer as a result of the military action.

Many southern residents have told Haaretz that in recent years they have felt their lives are controlled by terrorist organizations operating in Gaza, which hurts their sense of personal security.

Ashkelon residents run to take shelter during Gaza rocket fire in November.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Residents complained that they feel like second-class citizens in comparison to Israelis living further up north, saying the IDF responds more severely to rocket fire aimed at the greater Tel Aviv area.

Moreover, residents in the south say they often learn about efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to achieve cease-fire agreements through the Palestinian media rather than from their own government or the IDF.

Kimhi told Haaretz that he was not surprised by the results.

“Their experience is not a good one. You can never trust the other side, and even when they’re hit hard there is some rogue group that fires after some time. These residents have had much experience with this. I call this ‘a low level of hope’. Hope is a very important factor in building fortitude during these rounds,” he said.

Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi addressed the shaky sense of security felt by Israelis living close to the Gaza border while speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya last week.

“The IDF’s role is to provide a sense of security, not just security,” Kochavi said. Although the IDF had operational successes in Gaza, "every time a red alert warning breaks the silence, halting some party or festivity or a Friday gathering, the feeling is that there is not enough security,” he said.

Liraz Levy, a resident of Eshkol region near Gaza, told Haaretz that the last operation did nothing to change her feelings of insecurity.

“For two years our lives have been controlled by Hamas, and that’s what happened this time,” Levi said. “Decision makers have no policy, and firing at civilians is considered normal by the government.

"This was evident in Netanyahu’s speech in Ashkelon, when he was whisked away when a rocket was fired. For him and the cabinet, there’s firing at the prime minister and there’s firing at residents near the Gaza border, two very different things,” Levi said.

She added she no longer believes in these operations, extensive as they may be. “I don’t think that’s the answer to our sense of insecurity,” she said.

Sima Gal from the southern town of Sderot said that her sense of security has eroded from operation to operation in the past two years.

“It’s only deteriorating. We don’t feel that quiet has been achieved. I feel they are following some blueprint that connects the dots, like in a children’s game. We move from dot to dot, having to cheer when we make it safely to the next one, as if we’ve achieved something,” Gal said.

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