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All Quiet on the Southern Front

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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"What have you learned in school today, my son?"

"There was no school today. There is an emergency!"

"And what have you learned from that, my son?"

ACTUALLY, QUITE a lot.

This week's "round," as the army likes to call it, followed a well-established pattern, as formal as a religious ritual.

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It started with the assassination (or "targeted elimination") of a hitherto unknown Palestinian resistance ("terrorist") leader in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians responded with a rain of missiles, which lasted for four whole days. More than a million Israelis around Gaza stopped working and stayed with their children near their shelters or "protected areas" (meaning nothing more than relatively safe rooms in their homes.) One million Israelis roughly equate to 10 million Germans or 40 million Americans, in relation to the population.

A proportion of these rockets were intercepted in their flight by the three batteries of the "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense. There were some Israelis injured and some minor material damage, but no Israeli dead.

Israeli manned and unmanned aircraft struck and there were 26 Palestinian dead in the Gaza Strip.

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After four days and nights, both sides had had enough, and Egyptian mediators achieved an unwritten Tahdiyeh (Arabic for "Quiet").

Everything as usual.

EXCEPT FOR the details, of course.

It all started with the killing of one Zuhair al-Qaisi, the General Secretary of the "Popular Committees." He has been in this position for only a few months.

The "Popular Committees" are a minor resistance/terrorist group, the third by size in the Strip. They are overshadowed by Hamas, which did not take part in this round, and "Islamic Jihad," which took up the cause of the "committees" and launched most of the rockets.

The number of launches was a surprise. During the four days, 200 rockets were launched -- an average of some 50 per day. 169 fell in Israel. There was no sign that the Jihad was running out of stock. Hamas, of course, is a much larger organization, with a much bigger arsenal. In the Gaza Strip, one must assume, there are now huge quantities of missiles, almost all the more sophisticated ones provided by Iran. How they made the long journey can only be guessed.

One must assume that in Hizbollah-dominated South Lebanon, the stockpiles of missiles are even greater.

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On the other side (ours) the Iron Dome has chalked up a huge success, a source of great pride for the contractor, the army and the country at large.

This is a sophisticated system, made in Israel, which initially evoked a lot of skepticism. For that reason, there are at this moment only three batteries in action, each protecting one city (Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva). A fourth battery is scheduled to be provided soon.

The system does not intercept every rocket, which would be enormously costly. Instead, the system itself calculates whether a rocket would fall in open space (and could be ignored) or on a populated area (when the interceptor would be launched), all in seconds. Of these, more than 70% were intercepted and destroyed, a great success by any reckoning.

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