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July 04, 2006

Guardian Editor Reverses Cause and Effect

The Guardian's diplomatic editor, even while criticizing Palestinian rocket-fire in a column a few days ago, suggested that the main problem is Israel's "over-reaction," and implied that the Qassam rockets rained on sovereign Israeli territory by Gazans are a response to Israelis targeted killings:

The problem is Israel's over-reaction. The Israeli army, in an attempt to deter the rocket launching, has been laying down artillery barrages into Gaza that are reminiscent of the first world war. And would there be rocket attacks at all if the Israeli army, having pulled out of Gaza last year, had not continued with its policy of assassinations, taking out militants - and civilians - in Gaza with missiles fired from helicopters. Which came first? The rocket attacks or the targeted assassinations?

The editor, Ewen MacAskill, did not go on to answer this last question, and instead left it as a rhetorical question which implied Israel's "assassinations" caused Palestinian rockets to be launched from Gaza.

So we'll answer it here. "Which came first?" Let's look what happened in Gaza leading up to any Israeli airstrikes or Palestinian rocket attacks.

• On Sept. 12, 2005, Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza.

• The following day, "A grenade was thrown after nightfall Tuesday from Gaza toward the village of Netiv Haasara just north of the territory ..." (AP, 9/13/05)

• On Sept. 15, "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told a U.N. summit of world leaders ... that the Palestinians are entitled to their own state, and his country has no desire to rule over them." Meanwhile, "the Qatari foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, said in New York that Arabs should make a gesture toward Israel after it ended its 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip this week." (AP, 9/15/05)

• Then, on Sept. 23, "A pickup truck filled with masked militants and homemade rockets blew up in the middle of a Hamas rally, causing mass panic and killing 15 Palestinians and wounding 80 others.

"The blast, apparently caused by the mishandling of explosives, triggered a rapidly escalating series of attacks in the worst Gaza violence since Israel pulled out of the region last week.

"Hamas blamed the explosion on Israel and launched a volley of homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, injuring five Israelis, one moderately.

"Israel, which denied any involvement in the blast, responded with airstrikes early Saturday on what the army called Hamas weapons facilities. Three people were lightly injured in the strikes, the first such attacks since Israel's pullout ...

"The Palestinian Interior Ministry issued a statement calling on Hamas 'to shoulder its responsibility for these ... explosions instead of making accusations against others.'" (AP)

• "... Hamas militants fired nearly 40 rockets from Gaza at southern Israeli towns. The rocket barrage, which slightly wounded six Israelis, was the Islamic group's first major attack since Israel concluded its Gaza pullout last week." (9/24/05, AP)

• "Israel rattled the Gaza Strip on Saturday with a deadly missile strike, massed troops and artillery cannons along its border and threatened harsh retaliation, after Hamas militants fired 35 rockets on Israeli towns in their first major attack since Israel pulled out of the coastal territory. ...

"The strikes meant Israel is resuming targeted killings of Palestinian militants, a practice it suspended during the truce." (AP, 9/24/05)

• "Shrapnel found in the bodies of people killed in a blast at a Hamas rally last week came from the militant group's own homemade rockets, according to a forensic report published Tuesday by the Palestinian Authority." (AP, 9/27/05)

From then on, Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza continued (along with suicide bombings from the West Bank), and Israel continued to try curbing these attacks.

So "which came first"? Hamas Qassam rocket attacks against Israel came first. Unfortunately, Guardian readers likely think otherwise after Ewen MacAskill's column implied the opposite.

Posted by at July 4, 2006 11:30 AM


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