OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Don’t get your signals crossed

As long as the terrorist groups in Gaza call for what is basically a genocidal plan for Israel, children on both sides will continue to suffer.

Rockets being fired by Hamas at Israel, as seen from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Rockets being fired by Hamas at Israel, as seen from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Erick Stakelbeck
Erick Stakelbeck

It’s hard to describe the feeling that comes the first time you’re forced to take cover in a bomb shelter. The sirens blare and people begin running but everything seems like it’s moving in slow motion.

As you dash towards the shelter, pausing only to scan the sky for incoming rockets, a determination to survive takes over. For mothers and fathers, the determination to see their children survive is even stronger.

I experienced this first hand back in November 2018, while filming in Sderot for my TBN program, “The Watchman.”

At the time, Hamas was in the midst of yet another rocket bombardment of southern Israel. As we headed south from Jerusalem that morning, my Israeli production team prepared me for the very likely possibility that rockets might begin falling while we filmed.

Sure enough, sirens blared not long after our cameras began rolling. But no one panicked. My Israeli colleagues displayed the kind of teamwork and focused resilience I’d grown accustomed to in my many Israeli production trips over the years.

They calmly but quickly guided me to a nearby bus stop—a fortified, walk-in bus stop that doubled as a bomb shelter. That’s life in Sderot, thanks to Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups.

We soon found ourselves huddled inside the bomb shelter, shoulder-to-shoulder, with about a dozen Israelis of all ages. No one said a word. After a few tense minutes, someone said, “All clear,” and we slowly walked outside.

I asked one man who was holding his young daughter’s hand how often this had been happening. “Today,” he answered wearily, “Five times.” The scared look on his daughter’s face told the tale.

Pro-Palestinian advocates would surely counter that Palestinian children in Gaza have experienced similar terror over the years due to Israeli airstrikes.

My heart sincerely goes out to those suffering Palestinian children—the conditions they are forced to live under are horrific. But their suffering is ultimately not due to Israeli airstrikes, which are an understandable response to constant rocket barrages fired by Hamas and its fellow Iranian-backed terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), at Israeli cities and towns.

The misery of all Palestinians in Gaza—not to mention of the communities of southern Israel that surround the Strip—is due to their Hamas overlords and by extension, the Iranian regime, which is the main benefactor of both Hamas and PIJ.

Indeed, while Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties—frequently calling off airstrikes at the last minute if civilians are seen near a Hamas target—Hamas callously positions rocket launchers in densely populated civilian areas, deliberately using Palestinian children as human shields.

Of the 4,000-plus rockets that Hamas and other terror groups launched at Israel this month, hundreds never reached their intended targets. Instead, they fell inside Gaza and killed Palestinian civilians. The international media has been strangely silent about this troubling phenomenon.

The ongoing Hamas terror war against Israel is not about “occupation.” No Israelis have lived in Gaza since 2005. And to call Israelis living in their ancient capital city, Jerusalem, or the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria “occupiers” ignores over 3,000 years of Jewish history and connection to those lands.

It’s also not about a lack of desire for peace on Israel’s part. Israel has made peace with four Arab Muslim nations in the past nine months alone via the Abraham Accords and has longstanding peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.

As recently as 2008, Ehud Olmert, who was Israel’s prime minister at the time, offered Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas half of Jerusalem and most of Judea and Samaria as means of ending the conflict. Abbas refused.

Simply put, the real reason for the latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, and the continued suffering of Palestinian children in Gaza, can be found in Hamas’s founding charter, which calls unequivocally for the destruction of the State of Israel.

As long as Hamas insists on following that blueprint and the Iranian regime continues to arm and supply Hamas and PIJ in pursuit of its own genocidal plans for Israel, children on both sides will suffer—and bomb shelters will be sorely needed.

Erick Stakelbeck is the news director for TBN, the world’s largest Christian television network, and hosts The Watchman on TBN, which focuses on events in Israel and the Middle East.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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