The reality of the situation existing between Gaza and Israel is very different than what many believe. The current round of conflict didn't begin with an Israeli operation on Nov. 14, but rather with an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas on Nov. 10. That attack was immediately followed by rockets targeting the civilian population of southern Israel. In the days before Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense, more than 120 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. This escalation wasn't the first in recent memory, but rather the third in the past month.
When Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, it did so hoping that removing every army base and civilian community would lead to a better future for the people of Gaza and Israel. Instead, Hamas grabbed control of the Gaza Strip and the attacks only intensified. A million people in southern Israel have been under attack. Schools are closed within a 40-mile radius of the border and families are forced into bomb shelters and stairways after every siren. Each rocket targets civilians, leaving no one in southern Israel safe.
As a matter of principle, Israelis pride themselves on their ability to continue with daily life despite the most difficult circumstances. This is no longer possible. Israel has demonstrated great restraint in the face of the ongoing bombardments, but it finally was forced to activate its right of self-defense. No state would allow its citizens to be constantly threatened by rockets. Governments have a right and a duty to protect their citizens from terrorists.
The Israeli military has taken action against Hamas' rocket forces, reducing Hamas' ability to launch its Fajr rockets which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv and beyond. The Israel Defense Forces also carried out a surgical strike against Ahmed Jabari, Hamas' military chief, who was responsible for all Hamas terrorist activity in Gaza during the last decade.
Israel didn't seek this conflict. It doesn't want to see the people of Gaza harmed by the operation. Israel is doing everything in its power to ensure precise strikes in order to minimize injury to uninvolved civilians. Israel has made thousands of phone calls to the residents of Gaza and dropped countless pamphlets warning them to stay away from terrorists and terrorist facilities for their own safety.
Unfortunately, Hamas has a long history of using its own people as human shields. It fires its rockets from amongst the population of Gaza and then aims them at the population of Israel. Under international law, this is a war crime.
To accomplish peace, the international community should make it clear to Hamas that using the population of Gaza as human shields won't be tolerated. It also must be stressed to Hamas that they must stop their attacks on Israel.
Kadosh is deputy consul general of Israel to the southwestern United States, including Oklahoma.