In Israel, the five-hour humanitarian cease fire ended with rockets from Gaza. The New York Times reports, “Gaza militants sent rockets into southern Israel starting precisely at 3 p.m., the end of the lull, and scores followed into the early evening, most landing in open areas.” Israel held off until 6 p.m., when it resumed strikes. In the meantime, “Israel foiled a predawn attack in which about 13 Palestinian militants emerged from a tunnel near a kibbutz,” a new step in Hamas’s war against civilians. And to top it off, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency confirmed Hamas’s use of children as human shields:
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is investigating the discovery of 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA condemned the incident as a “flagrant violation” of international law, adding that the rockets had been removed and the “relative parties” had been informed. Israel regularly accuses Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza of using civilian installations to store and rockets, including during the current conflict that began on 8 July.
The inescapable conclusion is that Hamas, unable to inflict damage or kill Israelis, is content to put its own people in harm’s way to raise the death toll. This monstrous game, intended to garner sympathy, illustrates the problem Israel faces: Continue air bombardments with collateral damage and deaths or go in on the ground where its own people may become targets? Given events today and the failure of either Egypt or the Palestinian Authority to broker a permanent cease fire, it is widely believed in Israel that a ground attack is imminent. This is an instance in which the absence of a trustworthy U.S. secretary of state is keenly felt. If the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Israel can agree on one thing it is to keep John Kerry out of talks. That’s as damning a sign as you will find about the diminished role of the United States and of Kerry’s personal failure. All the United States can do is hector from the sidelines for “restraint” from both sides.
No matter how long and how many times Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects or sidesteps a massive land operation, it’s hard to shake the caricature of a trigger-happy prime warrior. In fact, his resistance to a ground operation has already caused him to fire the deputy defense minister who harshly criticized the decision. Netanyahu knows all too well that with a ground attack may come more Israeli deaths, kidnappings and civilian casualties — not to mention new accusations like the since-repudiated (by its author) Goldstone Report. But events seem to leave Netanyahu no choice. President Obama might want to perk up. Here is an example of a world leader who acts with prudence and when given bad options doesn’t whine or complain. He doesn’t claim — although fully justified — war weariness. He will choose, defend the real and verbal assaults and take on one branch of the Iranian network. It would be nice if Obama could take the lesson to heart. Failure to respond to evil gets one no brownie points from hardened enemies and costs your own people dearly in blood and treasure.
UPDATED (4:15 p.m.): The Post reports that Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to begin a ground offensive in Gaza on Thursday night.