I had the privilege of being on an informational call Saturday afternoon with David Siegel, Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles. He is the former chief of staff for Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister for Israel. Here is a summary of what he told us:
Israel has had 1000 rockets fired at them from Gaza or the Sinai this week, 800 of them since the start of the Pillar of Cloud operation on Wednesday. The Iron Dome units have halted the 250 of the 800. Those 250 were headed into highly populated urban areas. With the updated weapons supplied to Hamas from Iran they now have 4-5 million of the 8 million people in Israel in their sights. Closer to Gaza, people have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter when the alarm goes off. Further away, they have a minute. Imagine living under such conditions.
Israel has shown tremendous restraint. Over the past three years alone, over 3000 rockets have rained down on Israel from Gaza. In the past 12 years, over 12,000 rockets were fired. Israel withdrew from occupying Gaza in 2005. After repeated attempts to stop the rockets in 2009, they did a ground invasion and then withdrew.
Israel is committed to the defense of its citizens and their citizens are unanimous in their support. Up to 75,000 reserve soldiers have been called up if necessary for a ground invasion. Israel will avoid that if the firing of missiles stops.
President Obama and the Congress have shown tremendous support and because of US funding or sharing of technology, a fifth Iron Dome anti-missile system is in place in Tel Aviv. It shot down incoming missiles hours after installation.
Despite the incessant firing of rockets from Gaza, Israel has kept the crossings open and humanitarian aid flowing to Gazans. Also, wounded Palestinians have been treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors. In addition, Israeli has dropped leaflets, made phone calls and sent text messages to Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from Hamas members and rocket launching sites for their own safety.
An illustration of their strong desire to also protect the lives of Palestinian civilians is the decision of one of their F16 pilots. He was tasked with taking out a long range missile firing platform. Before he fired on it he saw women and children around it. He did not fire. Hours later that rocket was fired on Tel Aviv.
While Israel takes such precautions, the jihadists do not. Hamas intentionally places their rocket launching sites and ammunition storage facilities in civilian areas and they use civilians for human shields. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip from the Fatah party, they threw leaders of Fatah off the rooftops of buildings to kill them. So they do not care even about their own people. Their only goal is to destroy Israel.
Iran backs Hamas in Gaza and also Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the northern border with Israel. The Syrian government is also backed by Iran. Reports indicate that the tons of biological weapons that Syria possesses potentially could get into the hands of Al Qaeda elements. That is not good news for either Israel or the US. This is one other reason, besides the Biblical mandate to pray for the peace of Israel, for us to show our full support. It is not only about their future, but ours.