Israel and Gaza
Madam, – In response to your report on the testimony of Col Travers at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs (World News, November 19th), I wish to make the following comments. Eight EU countries, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, voted against the UN General Assembly Resolution which endorsed the unbalanced and one-sided Goldstone Report. Another 14 abstained, including Belgium and Sweden which currently holds the European Presidency. Ireland was only one of five EU states which voted in favour of the resolution, alongside Cyprus, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia.
Col Travers, a member of Justice Goldstone’s mission, has admitted it was not part of the mission’s brief to inquire into the rocket and mortar fire directed by Hamas at southern Israel prior to the conflict.
In other words, an entire half of the relevant facts is omitted from his mission’s report. I wonder what Col Travers would do if the city where he lived was subjected to sustained rocket attack designed to kill, maim and terrorise its citizens. I wonder how he would react if 12,000 rockets and mortars were fired by a terror organisation for eight years on Ireland, landing on houses, streets, hospitals and schools.
The Goldstone mission ignored another important fact – the ideological basis for the Hamas attacks. The Charter of Hamas, with its calls for the destruction of Israel and for the killing of Jewish people, says “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Hamas refuses to renounce terrorism or recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Internationally respected military experts familiar with the type of warfare practised by Hamas have given very different evaluations of Israel’s military operation in Gaza from that of Col. Travers.
Col Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, has testified that “Israel’s Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare . . . the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over two million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.”
With regard to Senator David Norris’ letter (November 23rd) seeking to blame Israel for the breakdown of the Hamas “lull” in late 2008, the following facts prove that the firing at Israeli civilians never stopped: During the first part of the “lull”, from June 19th to November 4th, a total of 74 rockets and mortars landed in Israel from Gaza. Three attempts to blow up the border fence were made by Hamas but were prevented by the IDF.
The most serious incident occurred on November 4th, when the IDF acted on intelligence that a tunnel was being dug from 250 metres inside the Gaza border as part of a plan to abduct another soldier. An IDF incursion to destroy the tunnel led to an exchange of fire with Hamas that left six IDF soldiers wounded and six Hamas dead. Between November 5th and December 19th, when Hamas officially ended its “lull”, it fired 336 rockets and mortars into Israel.
Hamas returned to full-scale attacks despite the pleas of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Egyptian foreign minister.
Between December 20th and 26th (just before Israel launched its operation) 147 rockets and mortars were launched at Israel. This is an average of 21 attacks per day. Not only did the number of attacks escalate dramatically after December 19th, but Hamas used Iranian-supplied Grad 122mm. rockets to strike deeper than Sderot and hit the city of Ashkelon, placing half a million Israeli civilians within range and making their lives unbearable.
The only way to end the suffering on both sides is for peace negotiations to start. Israel is ready to open peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions. Hopefully, eventually, Israel and moderate Palestinians will be able to forge a lasting peace, based on two states for two peoples: the state of Israel that already exists as the homeland of the Jewish people and a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. – Yours, etc,