- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israel is defending itself. Damascus-based Hamas has taken Gaza’s population hostage, while staging repeated cross-border attacks targeting Israeli soldiers. It now wants to blame Israel for Palestinian casualities that result from this week’s airstrikes? Don’t be duped. Israeli Foreign minister Tzipi Livni had it right when she told Fox News yesterday, “Hamas is targeting deliberately kindergartens and schools and citizens and civilians because this is according to their values. Our values are completely different. We are trying to target Hamas, which hides among civilians.”

Hamas, which receives $20 million annually from Iran, was awarded a $50 million bonus by the Islamic Republic after staging a grisly June 2007 putsch against the opposition Fatah organization. Since the purge, Hamas has exercised one-party rule in Gaza, turning it into a full-fledged terrorist state. More than 900 Hamas operatives have received training in tactical warfare, sniper tactics and bombmaking from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in the summer of 2005, relinquishing homes, farms, businesses and military bases. Hamas responded to Israel’s unilateral pullout by firing more than 6,300 mortars and rockets into Israel, killing 10 civilians, wounding 780 people and traumatizing thousands more, many of them children in Israeli towns like Sderot, located less than one mile from the border with Gaza.

For more than three years, Israel has tried unsuccessfully to use a combination of economic and diplomatic pressure, together with “targeted” strikes against terrorists operating from Gaza, to stop the rocket fire into Israel. None of those tactics has worked, and Israel’s intelligence services have been reporting for months that Hamas has used a ceasefire agreement to strengthen the military arsenal confronting Israel. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the most prominent terror groups operating in Gaza, already had 122 mm. Grad rockets with a range of 12 miles. But last week, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service, told the Israeli Cabinet that Hamas now has rockets with a range of 24 miles, large enough to put two of Southern Israel’s largest cities within range of terrorist fire.

In July, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, after visiting Sderot, stated that if someone “was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” Mr. Obama was exactly right and that is exactly what Israel is doing today. Yet, on Sunday, Mr. Obama would only say he’s “monitoring the situation” in the Mideast. That won’t do.

Despite at least 17 attempted attacks by Hamas and its allies on the Israeli-operated Gaza border crossings during the past year, substantial amounts of humanitarian aid continue to enter Gaza - more than 3,000 tons of medical equipment, dairy products, meat, baby food and other items entered between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17 alone. It is unquestionable: Israel’s current military operation constitutes a legitimate act of self-defense against Iranian terrorist proxies.

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