On Wednesday night a Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the southern Israeli town of Beersheva (a resident, I heard the sirens and the boom). It damaged several homes and vehicles, and ten people including four children had to be taken to hospital for anxiety (I heard the ambulances too).
Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza—apparently hitting the responsible terror cell itself and injuring three of its members, and various other terror targets in the Strip, causing damage.
Amid a general escalation in rocket and mortar fire (and other terror) from Gaza in recent months, the Grad attack on Beersheva marked a specific escalation in two ways. For one, the Iranian-made Grad is a longer-range and more powerful rocket than the Kassams that Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, have mostly been firing from there.
For another, Beersheva is a larger and more distant target than any other that Hamas has struck since Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s war on Gaza terror) two years ago, during which seven rockets hit Beersheva and seriously injured two people including a seven-year-old boy.
The timing of Wednesday night’s attack is no mystery. Two Iranian warships—the first to have crossed Egypt’s Suez Canal since the 1979 Iranian Revolution—were simultaneously heading to the harbor in Latakia, Syria. Even a New York Times report acknowledges that the upheaval now sweeping the Middle East is, rather than a triumph of democracy, a boost for Iran and its allies.
In other words, the Grad firing represents growing Axis of Evil assertiveness and a further erosion in the deterrence that Israel partly reestablished with Operation Cast Lead. Add in Thursday’s news about four new nuclear sites in Syria, and the mood for Israelis is something other than the celebration that pundits like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart—shining optimists of a new, peaceful, liberal Middle East—have harshly demanded of them.
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