Operation Lead Balloon: some likely consequences
Seth Freedman - Guardian
Extremism flourishes in a culture of violence and hostility, as has been witnessed time and again in the region. I found as much the other day – and, when my conversation with a resident of Gaza was interrupted by the roar of an incoming Israeli missile, it was easy to understand why Gaza refugees have swung just as hard to the right as the entrenched citizens of Sderot.
"I don't agree with the Kassam rockets, or with violence at all," Rami told me as the aftershock rumbled through the streets. "But Israel is making a grave mistake here. Hamas's military is still very strong [despite the IAF bombardment]: none of the al-Kassam leaders have been killed, and they're still firing at Israel every day, aren't they?"
"Hamas are much stronger now," he continued. "The public support them more, and Hamas have nothing to lose so they'll keep shooting back".
According to Alia, a resident of the West Bank, it's not just Hamas who have nothing to lose, but the entire populace of Gaza. "Frustrated people will resort to anything if there's nothing else to be done," she told me. "We're humans, not angels. It's not surprising [that Kassams are fired] when the people are in jail, with no futures, living in terrible conditions. Not even animals should live like that."
She felt "totally hopeless", she said, especially with her brother and his family in the line of Israeli fire in Gaza. "He called me today and told me that their house was like a swing last night, no one slept, the children were crying non-stop – no one expected this level of aggression." Her message to the people of Sderot was simple: the Kassams won't stop until the siege on Gaza is lifted and people are allowed to live a normal, free life there. "Pressure your government," she urged. "Because if Gazans have good lives, they won't even think of sending over rockets."
A friend of Alia's preferred not to concentrate on the issue of Kassams, but rather on the wider context in which the two sides exist. "The rockets are not the real issue: the siege is," she explained. In her eyes, the residents of Gaza have no other way to resist, and she believes firing rockets across the border to be legal under international law. "The aim is not to fire at civilians," she asserted, "and, anyway, the territories [aimed at] belong to refugees in the first place."
Neither a supporter of Hamas nor Fatah, she maintained that now was a time for Palestinian unity, for the rival factions to come together and unite against Israel's aggressive actions. Her words reflected the views of a man I spoke to last week in Bethlehem, before the strikes had even begun, who told me that in general there is little love lost between West Bank Palestinians and their Gazan counterparts, "but we come together as one when defending ourselves against Israel".