Fifteen Seconds

Michael Totten has an amazing dispatch from the besieged Israeli city of Sderot, the most common target of Hamas rockets. He notes what it’s like for the residents of Hamas’ war zone:

Fewer than twenty Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza since Hamas and Islamic Jihad adopted the tactic. A few single suicide bombers inflicted more casualties all by themselves. Hezbollah killed around ten times as many Israelis in one month in 2006 than Hamas has managed with crude rockets for years. It’s no wonder, really, that critics slammed Israel for its “disproportionate” military response in the Gaza Strip.

It’s not just about casualties, though. Leave aside the fact that Hamas was escalating its attacks with bigger and longer range rockets and that a far deadlier scenario was on the horizon. Living under Qassam and Grad rocket attack doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s worse than the low body count makes it seem.

Thousands of rockets have fallen on Sderot. And every rocket launched at the city triggers an air raid alert. Everyone within ear shot has fifteen seconds to run into a shelter.

Imagine sprinting for cover 5,000 times.

What constantly amazes me about the Israelis is not that the respond in a “disproportionate” manner, but that they don’t. If Mexicans rained fire down on Texas like Hamas rains fire down on Sderot, right now US Marines would be storming the beaches of the Yucatan and Vincente Fox would be running for his life. Very few countries would possess the singular patience that the Israelis have. Had the Holocaust not been such a terrible formative event for the Israeli state, I wonder if Gaza would not be a smoldering ember right now.

The people of Sderot should not have to live in fear. There is no excuse for such wanton violence. Hamas’ terrorism has not only killed Israeli citizens, but it is unraveling the social fabric of the region. The Israeli people have acted with incredible patience and restraint in the face of indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians. It is unconscionable for the people of Sderot to have to live under such conditions.

Their story needs to be told, and thankfully independent and honest journalists like Michael Totten are out there to bring those important stories to light.

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