‘Armed and desperate’
Hebrew media review

‘Armed and desperate’

Hamas, squeezed into a corner, has rained fury upon Israel's south. But what kind of victory is the death of a 4-year-old, the press wonders

Daniel Tragerman, 4, who was killed in his home at Kibbutz Nahal Oz by a mortar shell fired from Gaza on August 22, 2014  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Tragerman, 4, who was killed in his home at Kibbutz Nahal Oz by a mortar shell fired from Gaza on August 22, 2014 (photo credit: Courtesy)

By Sunday morning, Friday’s tragic death of Daniel Tragerman had been processed, as much as one could process, or begin to try to understand the death of a 4-year-old at the hands of a mortar shell.

And as papers hit the newsstands Sunday morning, there he still was, standing tall as Yedioth Ahronoth’s A1, next to a Duplo block tower in his Argentina soccer jersey; put alongside, as if to illustrate (falsely) cause and effect, a picture of a real tower in Gaza falling to the ground in Israel Hayom; and remembered in the first item of a laundry-list headline and postage stamp-sized headshot in Haaretz (draw your own conclusions).

Under the headline “Only Daniel didn’t make it,” Israel Hayom lays out the heartbreaking scene that befell the Tragerman family just before the mortar slammed into their home. “The suitcases were already packed, two days ago. The Tragerman family planned to quickly leave Kibbutz Nahal Oz for the center of the country after another volley of mortars hit the area. Daniel, 4, was playing in the meantime in a tent inside the house when the siren went off. The family ran for shelter, but the deadly explosion caught Daniel on the way to the safe room and cut short his life,” the paper writes.

As it did on the nation’s collective psyche, Tragerman’s death also leaves an indelible mark on the papers’ various commentators, none more than in Yedioth, which features a handful of personal takes.

Daniel Tragerman (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Tragerman (photo credit: Courtesy)

Hanoch Daum, for one, sees in Tragerman his own children, noting as many other Israeli parents have (this author included) that his kid also has a blue and white Lionel Messi jersey, and his kids also build Lego towers.

“It’s impossible not to have this takeaway. It’s impossible to look at Daniel without thinking of your own kid at home. It’s impossible to see the pictures of this sweet kid dancing at a family wedding and not wonder how the organization against him is still standing. Do they really see a victory in the death of Daniel? Was the launching of a mortar that crushed his head really a successful launch for them? When they see in the morning his picture full of enchanting naiveté in the paper, do they feel they got what they wanted out of launching a bloody volley of rockets at the battered Gaza periphery towns Friday?” he writes.

The anger dripping from Daum’s missive is evident in other commentaries as well, but Haaretz’s Amos Harel takes a more analytical view, noting that despite the killing of top Hamas commanders, and shortages of long-range missiles with no way to replenish them, Hamas is still in the fight for the long haul, with enough short range rockets and mortars to continue to make life hellish for southern residents in an ongoing war of attrition.

“Hamas embarked on this war for lack of choice, driven into a corner by the Egyptian-Israeli siege which crushed Gaza’s economy. After all they have sacrificed, it won’t be easy for Gaza’s people to yield easily to pressure. Hamas consoles itself for now with disrupting daily life in Israel, first by postponing the soccer season and more importantly, by threatening the opening of the school year. It is still looking for a more significant achievement, such as kidnapping a soldier through an attack tunnel, which may upset the cart yet again,” he writes.

Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua notes that the inability of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to visit Nahal Oz for security reasons is among the biggest victories Hamas could have asked for (“This is an insufferable situation. Hamas has caused a whole area to evacuate and the army is sitting on the fence,” he cries out), and indeed, the paper notes that anger on the kibbutz is rampant about the seeming abandonment by the army in the face of a Gazan onslaught.

“This signals weakness,” a resident tells the paper. “We are raising kids here, dealing with the situation day to day and he (Ya’alon) doesn’t come here because of mortars. What kind of message are we supposed to take from that?”

However, Yedioth quotes a senior security official saying that its possible that Hamas is tracking when senior officials visit the south and targeting those areas, which could lead to an even worse message being sent out: “We’re not sure we would like Hamas to get a picture of the defense minister lying on the ground with his hands on his head, or worse than that, a defense minister injured by a mortar.”

Messages are important, and the one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently trying to sell is that Hamas and ISIS, currently on top of the world’s blacklist, are one and the same.

In Israel Hayom, editor Boaz Bismuth takes the idea and runs with it. “ISIS and Hamas are brothers,” he writes. “Brothers in arms, brothers in religion, brothers in disgustingness. One is a villain and one is a predator. One hates anything that isn’t like it, and one hates anything that isn’t Sunni. One has established an Islamic State, and one is trying to create one meters away from us.”

Analysts may disagree that the two are actually the same, but Hamas has shown it can reach similar depths of depravity, such as with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in June which sparked this summer of fire.

Haaretz offers new details about the two men who carried out that act, particularly how they managed to evade detection, according to what Israeli security officials believe:

Marwan Kawasme (left) and Amer Abu Aysha (right), suspected by Israel of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teens. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Marwan Kawasme (left) and Amer Abu Aysha (right), suspected by Israel of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teens. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“Both Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha hid in an unused cesspool, which was covered in earth and furnished with a small breathing pipe. Marwan’s late arrival indicates that he was active after the murder, and thus quicker action by search teams may have led to his early capture,” the paper reports, before adding chillingly that: “The two emerged after five days, sleeping unobserved under a tree. Then they disappeared, despite the presence of several IDF battalions and special units in the vicinity. Security forces assess that they are still in the area, armed and desperate.”

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