Hamas takes aim at Tel Aviv airport again as UN demands cease-fire; Update: Kerry proposes 7-day truce

posted at 8:41 am on July 25, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Alan Dershowitz told Hugh Hewitt earlier this week that the first rocket attack near Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv more or less killed any hope of a cease-fire in Gaza. Israel could not allow Hamas to have the capability of shutting down its main international transportation center, and would have to fight to erode that capability from Hamas forces. While demands for a cease-fire continue, though, so does the rocket fire on Ben Gurion, perhaps in answer to it:

Hamas said it fired three rockets at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Friday, anapparent bid to cripple operations there. There was no word of damage at the site, but its passenger hall emptied at the sound of sirens. It was the second such salvo in as many days.

A Hamas rocket intercepted near the airport on Tuesday prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to halt American commercial flights to Israel’s main international gateway. Some European carriers followed suit. The FAA’s ban was lifted late Wednesday.

That may change again soon, after an Air Canada flight had to circle around Ben Gurion in order to avoid rocket fire, according to the CBC:

An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv had to circle before landing Friday to avoid rocket fire in the area, media reports said today.

Al Jazeera reported on its website that, according to flight trackers, Air Canada’s flight 84 “appeared to have circled over southern Israel several times on Friday, unable to land in the airport.”

The flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv left at 6:17 p.m. ET Thursday and landed at Ben Gurion airport at 12:07 p.m. local time, according to Flight Track. The scheduled landing was 12:05 p.m..

The airline’s experience may not have been unusual, however.

“Flights have been told to circle over the Mediterranean to wait for several weeks now,” CBC correspondent Sasa Petricic said from Jerusalem. “It happened to me and several others I know. The patterns have also been moved so that planes fly in from the north.”

Air Canada had previously canceled flights at the same time as US carriers did, prior to the temporary ban from the FAA. If the rocket fire continues to interfere with flight patterns, the Israelis may have to work overtime to convince international carriers to keep flying into Tel Aviv. In the meantime, the economic threat from the attacks on Ben Gurion will only incentivize Israel to expand its operations in Gaza rather than accept a cease-fire that leaves Hamas with the capability of shutting down the airport. It also underscores Israel’s need to control security in the West Bank, which is closer to Tel Aviv than Gaza.

That isn’t the only security issue that Israel has to resolve. According to the IDF, captured Hamas terrorists have told them of a plan to use the tunnels to conduct large-scale attacks on nearby villages, abducting civilians and killing others. The attacks were to take place at Rosh Hashanah, according to a translation from Jeff Dunetz of a Maariv report:

The terrorists planned to kill and/or kidnap dozens of Israelis, depending on circumstances, and transfer them to the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed some things yesterday when he said that Hamas had intended to use dozens of tunnels dug between Gaza and Israel at the same time. At the Government meeting said Netanyahu “those tunnels that are designed to allow the enemy to hit simultaneously and attack Israel civilians” [en masse]. 

Michael Mukasey explained that a week ago in the Wall Street Journal in arguing that the tunnels, not rockets, were Hamas’  main weapons — and had to be Israel’s strategic objective in the war. Hamas, he wrote, wants to stage a Mumbai-style terrorist attack, but needs the tunnels to gain ingress and egress to Israel, thanks to the embargo/blockade. So on top of the attack on Israel’s commercial life at Ben Gurion, they also have an existential issue with the tunnels.

Don’t expect them to stop that operation until they decisively cripple the means for that Mumbai-style attack. That’s not stopping everyone else from demanding the cease-fire, though:

The World Health Organization called on Friday for a humanitarian corridor to be set up in Gaza to allow aid workers to evacuate the wounded and bring in life-saving medicines. In a statement, the U.N. health agency said that four hospitals, including al-Aqsa hospital in the coastal strip, had been damaged in the conflict that began on July 8 when Israel launched airstrikes, followed by a ground invasion.

“WHO calls for the creation of a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of the injured, as well as for the supply of life-saving medicines,” the statement said. “The humanitarian corridor should extend to protect the safe passage of patients to access crossing points and exit outside the Gaza Strip for medical care.”

So far, Israel has remained open to a humanitarian cease-fire of short duration to get aid to Gaza civilians, but only if they keep working on the tunnels. They’ve been let off the hook by Hamas, which has refused all demands for a cease-fire. One would think that Hamas would want to stop Israel from demolishing their tunnels with a politically-adept move that could tie their hands, but Hamas has never been politically adept, and is increasingly irrational now. They want to draw Israel further into Gaza to fight an urban war, where they believe that Israel’s military advantages will dissipate, but so far the evidence shows that Israel is pretty good at urban warfare, too.

This one looks like a fight to the finish. Both sides want a surrender, and neither side can afford a truce in place. Until Hamas gets to a point where they’re about to lose everything, they won’t stop firing rockets, and Israel can’t afford to let them keep flying — or let Hamas keep tunneling.

Update: John Kerry has proposed a seven-day truce that shows just how badly this war is going for Hamas, emphasis mine:

Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday.

As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending.

Important details of the plan remained under negotiation early Friday, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the negotiations were at a delicate stage. Among the unresolved issues is an Israeli proposal that its troops be allowed to remain in Gaza during the temporary truce.

This is the same deal that Egypt proposed originally, and which Israel accepted. Now, though, the Israelis want the current status quo and not status quo ante, in order to keep demolishing Hamas’ tunnels. There isn’t a chance in hell that Hamas will accept that, and not a chance in hell that Israel will withdraw the IDF without destroying the tunnels going into Israel first.


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